The other night we were reading about the exploits of the steroidally strong Samson in the Old Testament. He fell in love with some floozy from another country, and she got him to reveal a secret, which ultimately ticked him off as only Samson could be ticked off. In the last verse of Judges chapter 14 he dumps his wife out of spite. And you know... That's the first time in my entire life that I realized that before the tart named Delilah came along, there was another bimbo.
And how are these stories of a muscular, oversexed monster supposed to be spiritually uplifting?
In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins points out some the more bizarre entries in the Old Testament. Dawkins chortles:
To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents...In a big way, I can't blame Richard Dawkins for being an atheist, he having lived under the foot of the dogmatic, overwhelmingly improbable tenets of apostate Christendom. In a bigger way, I think that Article of Faith number 8 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is looking pretty prescient these many years later.
But unfortunately, it is this weird volume that religious zealots hold up as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.The superstitions and escapades of Moses's Israelites at Mount Sinai make it hard to imagine that the smoke-belching and lightning-bolt-wielding Jehovah of the Old Testament is one and the same character as the mild-mannered Jesus of the New Testament. The goings on at the foot of Sinai seem much more suited to the fantasies of an author of Greek or Roman mythology than to the spiritual teachings of prophet of God.
Remember Lot, who, with most of his family--except for his pillar-of-salt wife--escaped the ravages of Sodom and Gomorrah? It turns out, if we are to believe our current Bibles, that Lot partook of the ravages of the sister cities before his flight. When confronted with a group of men who targeted some of his guests for their homosexual conquests, Lot offered his daughters up to the men to be raped instead. Huh?
I'm suspecting that something got translated incorrectly in there somewhere...
Have you ever heard of Jephthah? As a great military leader, Jephthah prayed to God for victory over the Ammonites. As a covenant to God, Jephthah promised that, following victory:
whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.To his utter misfortune, his daughter, who happened to be his only child, was the first living thing to meet him upon his return from battle. What then happened? The respectable Jephthah did what any respectable Christian military leader would do--he murdered his daughter. It's right there in your Bible--and it's not the only Biblical instance of human sacrifice carried out to success.
What would God want us to learn from Jephthah's experience? Well, I certainly hope that it is that the Bible is not translated correctly. He wants us to learn that, during the large periods of time where no person on earth thought that God would speak to man, stories and teachings just might have crept into the canon that are not divinely inspired or otherwise spiritually enlightening.
God is not a fire-breathing, vengeful God. Yet this is the very "god" whose image millions of zealous Christian missionaries (including, I'm sure, several Latter-day Saints) worship in their quests for eternal salvation.
No. God is actually a loving God. His "yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light". But you wouldn't garner that insight if you took some portions of the Bible to be the infallible truth. Hard as it may be to believe, the mild Messiah in the meridian of time is the same gentle Jehovah of the Old Testament. How critical is it that this salient fact got lost in translation over the centuries? Look at the world around you.
One of the greatest contributions of Mormonism has been to point out one of the most important facts that would otherwise have gone unknown--and that still seems to shape political Christian Jihad--that God does not hate.
Unfortunately, it may yet take a long while for Christendom to get over its false traditions and pre-conceived notions in this regard. How pitiful is the vengeful but false banner under which, to this day, many Christians rally to their supposed god. How sad it will be for many Christians, having rallied for this spiteful mess of pottage, when they hear the words, "Ye never knew me."