"The Sins of Scripture": Reducing Violence in the Name of Religion

In his book The Sins of Scripture, John Shelby Spong points out that Christianity has interpreted the Bible in ways that have allowed Christians to do much violence--to women, to children, to gays, and to nations and peoples in general.  In this article, I will talk about two lost doctrines that have actually resulted in what are misinterpretations of scripture in the name of violence.
Scholars generally believe that what we have as the Old Testament didn't generally begin to be written down until about 800 BCE.  A lot of water ran under the bridge of humanity before that point, so it's likely that those 8th century scribes missed a lot of doctrine that was revealed to our original parents.

In many languages, the word for "Gentile" simply means "other".  It become for the Jews a derogatory term that connotes 'those poor benighted souls that aren't as blessed and as cool as us.'  That mindset, whether associated with the word "Gentile" or with many other negatively connoted words such as Jew, Kraut, Atheist, Fundamentalist, or the like, can't possibly be ways that a loving God would describe his children.

Yet it is precisely these kinds of exclusionary words and actions--in the name of religion--that have resulted in perhaps the majority of violence in earth's history.

So, in a way, John Shelby Spong is correct.
Hordes of religiously inclined people have used their interpretation of Biblical scripture to commit the sins of violence against a variety of people who they think are not as human as they are.

Two doctrines, largely lost, but reintroduced to the world by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, illustrate how what Spong calls an interpretation of scripture are actually gross misinterpretations of scripture.  When these two doctrines are correctly understood, the idea that scripture can be used to permit violence against others nearly vanishes.

1. All Men and Women are Created in the Image of God.  The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ is that when God, in the opening chapter of the bible, is said to have created man in the image of God, male and female, that this statement can be taken literally.  In other words, the image of God is not just male; it is also female.  The Church of Jesus Christ teaches the long forgotten truth that each of us is a child not only of a Heavenly Father, but also of a Heavenly Mother.  And being created in that dual, divine image, each of us has the potential (as Paul taught in the New Testament) to become like our Heavenly Parents--to become Gods ourselves.

2. The Doctrine of Pre-Mortality.  This is a doctrine that has been and is believed by many individuals who do not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), but the only church to include the concept of part of its doctrine is the LDS Church. Some churches teach that Christ existed premortally, but none teach currently that each of us born to earth lived premortally as well.

Several people, having undergone near-death experiences, claim that their ability to comprehend and to know was greatly enhanced during the period when their spirits wandered from their bodies into the heavenly realms.

It is healthy for us to speculate, I think then, that we had such enhanced abilities in premortality, of comprehension and of association and of love.  It is entirely possible that we associated in friendships with others in premortality whose time to come to earth was hundreds of thousands of years different than our appointed times.  It is thus entirely possible that that "gentile" that crosses our path--whether they cut us off in traffic, make a terrible call as an official in a game that we are attending, or come from a distant land to go to war with us--was a dear friend of ours in our premortal state.

Knowing these doctrines, how can we even think to be violent with those who were our close associates in premortality and who, having been created in the divine image of Heavenly Parents, we would be strongly tempted to worship (C.S. Lewis)?



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