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Source: (consider it) Thread: Should the whole Bible be read aloud?
Raptor Eye
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There are two aspects of the question:

A friend complained furiously about this morning's service, as the gospel was read in which Jesus mentioned divorce. This should never be read in church, apparently, as it isn't relevant to people today, no wonder the churches are losing people yada yada.... Although I think it ludicrous to 'filter out' any of the Gospels in a Christian church, I do find myself wanting some of the Old Testament passages to disappear.

At the Bible Study group I go to, we read whole chapters at a time of the Old Testament, and complete a book or theme before moving on. The group find this far more interesting and enlightening than analysing verses or passages. Somehow the difficult parts are lessened in their impact when read this way.

The questions I'm pondering are:
Should we be filtering 'difficult' passages or verses out of the readings given within church services? Is it for the preacher to be the 'bridge' between problematic verses and the congregation?

Is there a place for reading out whole books of the Bible in church? Would you go to listen?

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leo
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I felt a bit uncomfortable when I read that gospel passage this morning.

But i tend to think that we should not censor the Bible but argue about it. Otherwise we escape challenge and end up choosing which bits to believe in.

I note that the reading about women keeping silent in church was set for the day that General Synod debated women bishops last week. They chose NOT to read it. Leadership or cowardice?

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pydseybare
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:

I note that the reading about women keeping silent in church was set for the day that General Synod debated women bishops last week. They chose NOT to read it. Leadership or cowardice?

Or perhaps they did read it and everyone was too engrossed with their conversations, posting on twitter and sending SMS messages to notice.

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Anglican_Brat
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The RCL already IMHO, ignores a lot of the nasty stuff in the Bible. We don't for example, read much of Judges or Joshua on Sunday mornings.

The Sermon/Homily is the appropriate place for the preacher to reflect the congregation's wrestling with the text.

[ 16. February 2014, 13:24: Message edited by: Anglican_Brat ]

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SvitlanaV2
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If a difficult or challenging passage is read out in church then it should be explored and unpacked in the sermon (or small group, etc.). Otherwise, I can't see the point.

Regarding the CofE Synod, this article in the Telegraph implies that the awkward lectionary reading was read but quickly left to one side. The reading seemed (on the surface??) to contradict the outcome of the whole event, yet it wasn't seriously addressed by any of the speakers. I find this pretty shocking, myself!

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
A friend complained furiously about this morning's service, as the gospel was read in which Jesus mentioned divorce. This should never be read in church, apparently, as it isn't relevant to people today, no wonder the churches are losing people yada yada....

I guess that this reading was from the Sermon on the Mount:
quote:
Matthew 5:31 (NKJV) “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
This was included in an assigned reading I did in church one week. We had recently had a seminar that was in part about avoiding "cringe moments" in church. So naturally people came up to me afterwards wondering why I hadn't left that "cringe-worthy" part out of my sermon. When I explained that it was part of the assigned reading from the Sermon on the Mount they were amazed. They said "We don't believe this do we?"

But as far as the "no wonder the churches are losing people" comments go, I think the evidence is just the opposite. It's churches that avoid those teachings that are losing members.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
A friend complained furiously about this morning's service, as the gospel was read in which Jesus mentioned divorce. This should never be read in church, apparently, as it isn't relevant to people today, no wonder the churches are losing people yada yada....

I guess that this reading was from the Sermon on the Mount:
quote:
Matthew 5:31 (NKJV) “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
This was included in an assigned reading I did in church one week. We had recently had a seminar that was in part about avoiding "cringe moments" in church. So naturally people came up to me afterwards wondering why I hadn't left that "cringe-worthy" part out of my sermon. When I explained that it was part of the assigned reading from the Sermon on the Mount they were amazed. They said "We don't believe this do we?"

But as far as the "no wonder the churches are losing people" comments go, I think the evidence is just the opposite. It's churches that avoid those teachings that are losing members.

as per this particular passage, perhaps we need to go back and have a sermon the relationship between grace and law.

As a divorced person, I don't have a problem with this passage. God hates divorce-- of course he does. God hates divorce because, as every divorced person is acutely aware, divorce causes immense, heartbreaking human suffering-- for both of the persons involved (regardless of who initiated it) as well as often innocent bystanders. So, it's not at all surprising that God would hate such a thing.

The fact that Jesus gives at least one "exception" demonstrates that this is not a "law" so much as an act of grace. It's a description of the way life should and one day will be in the Kingdom-- a world where people are valued and treasured and love is eternal. Who could argue with that?

Back to the broader question, I'm with others that we shouldn't avoid the hard passages, but if/when we bring them out, we need to be prepared to address them.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Depends how how you hear it. And the context. Highly suspect or dangerous in the hands of an inquisiton or zealot. Kind of similar to a hammer or chain saw. Useful tool but could also be used to pound or dismember people you don't like. Or if you like to replace, say "Canaanite" with "Islamist".

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Stetson
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cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
As a divorced person, I don't have a problem with this passage. God hates divorce-- of course he does. God hates divorce because, as every divorced person is acutely aware, divorce causes immense, heartbreaking human suffering-- for both of the persons involved (regardless of who initiated it) as well as often innocent bystanders. So, it's not at all surprising that God would hate such a thing.


And I hope this isn't too kergymaniacal, but wasn't it the case that in Jesus' day, divorce was even more unpleasant an experience, especially for the women, than it is now? I think a woman casually divorced by her husband stood a pretty good chance of falling into social and economic ruin.

If that's true, then perhaps the cleric could frame the message as "For our purposes today, we don't need to read this as being about divorce per se, but any case where one treats a husband, wife, or other romantic partner as someone to be exploited for short-term gain and then discarded. Yes, I'm looking at YOU, Mr. Trophy Wife Brandishing CEO in the front row here."

Well, okay, maybe not that last part, but you get the general idea.

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Raptor Eye
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The Bible can clearly be dangerous in the wrong hands! I think it better to read the whole thing, perhaps even to extend what's currently read so that the context may be more apparent, and then to bring it into today's lives in a way which challenges and affirms at the same time. A tall order, but surely not beyond those called to preach?

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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I note that the reading about women keeping silent in church was set for the day that General Synod debated women bishops last week. They chose NOT to read it. Leadership or cowardice?

Leo - whilst I assume it wouldn't be mentioned in the debate, was it not even read at the General Synod's Morning Prayer? And is that in the context of Morning Prayer at Synod normally following any particular pattern of readings etc.?

As to the general question, surely if we start 'editing' Scriptures in the way implied in the OP, then that way Marcionism lies?

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:


At the Bible Study group I go to, we read whole chapters at a time of the Old Testament, and complete a book or theme before moving on. The group find this far more interesting and enlightening than analysing verses or passages. Somehow the difficult parts are lessened in their impact when read this way.

Indeed. I saw a comment, I think on slacktivist, that one of the problems of the lectionary is that it encourages us to read each passage as an independent anecdote with an improving moral lesson, when much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, isn't written that way.

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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:


At the Bible Study group I go to, we read whole chapters at a time of the Old Testament, and complete a book or theme before moving on. The group find this far more interesting and enlightening than analysing verses or passages. Somehow the difficult parts are lessened in their impact when read this way.

Indeed. I saw a comment, I think on slacktivist, that one of the problems of the lectionary is that it encourages us to read each passage as an independent anecdote with an improving moral lesson, when much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, isn't written that way.
I'm not sure there is an easy answer there though (beyond getting people to engage with Scripture beyond the service). Is it really practical to read an entire story unit in every service?

At least in the Anglican tradition, we accompany the Mass lectionary with the Office lectionary, which does have continuous reading. (Or for that matter the pre-conciliar Roman approach of reading the OT continuously at Matins and the Epistles sort-of continuously at the Mass)

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LutheranChik
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Traditionally there's been a distinction between the Sunday lectionary and the texts one uses in daily reading/meditation. Yes, the Sunday lectionary is a crafted, redacted thing -- and I think with good reason; because there are texts that, frankly, I don't think are appropriate for a general audience of worshipers on the Lord's day, especially if they're not going to come with some contextual commentary/explanation. A case in point are some of the imprecatory Psalms; I don't think it's a good idea, for instance, to have a congregation blithely chanting about bashing enemies' children against rocks.

Which begs the question of when churches can try to educate the faithful about how to thoughtfully and responsibly read "texts of terror," "hard sayings" and the simply long, boring stretches that don't lend themselves to inclusion in corporate worship. I myself like some of my clergy/educator friends' thematic studies -- "Weird **** in the Bible" type small-groups (which I'm told do quite well in attracting the curious).

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by TomM:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I note that the reading about women keeping silent in church was set for the day that General Synod debated women bishops last week. They chose NOT to read it. Leadership or cowardice?

Leo - whilst I assume it wouldn't be mentioned in the debate, was it not even read at the General Synod's Morning Prayer?
The account in the Telegraph which SvitlanaV2 linked to above is ambiguous.

I understood it to mean that they changed the reading.

But it could also mean that they had the reading, laughed and then got on with the debate without any further reference to it.

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Amos

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According to the Synod Twitter feed on the day, it was read and remarked on. The Bishop of Buckingham's Chaplain was particularly mordant.

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Stetson
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quote:
A case in point are some of the imprecatory Psalms; I don't think it's a good idea, for instance, to have a congregation blithely chanting about bashing enemies' children against rocks.


That one would at least grab the auduence's attention, and give them something to talk about.

What's even worse are the the passages where the writer clearly has no purpose beyond conveying some mundane technical details, but the sermonizer is obligated to make it sound like something profound.

A number of years ago, I sat through a sermon based on some passage in the Old Testament. I can't exactly recall the details, but it was something along the lines of "Some Israelites were looking for something, so they checked behind a rock, but it wasn't there, so they checked behing another rock nearby and found it". The minister then had to somehow make this sound applicable to the general lives of Christians. He gave it the old college try.

[ 17. February 2014, 16:21: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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Og, King of Bashan

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One of the points that our rector made yesterday was that Jesus uses irony and deliberately provocative statements as teaching tools, so you miss the point if you just try to explain away or edit out the tough sayings rather than approaching them. Her take was that Jesus is showing just how impossible it is to be one of those whose way is blameless.

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HCH
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I am reminded of a friend's anecdote in which his sister, asked (in Sunday School, I think) for her favorite Bible verse, quoted a prohibition on having sex with animals.

There are lots of things in the Bible I do not need to hear aloud in church.

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Rev per Minute
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quote:
Originally posted by HCH:
I am reminded of a friend's anecdote in which his sister, asked (in Sunday School, I think) for her favorite Bible verse, quoted a prohibition on having sex with animals.

There are lots of things in the Bible I do not need to hear aloud in church.

SO glad that that happened far from me...

We had a family Eucharist and an informal service on Sunday, and in neither did we use the verses on divorce. In the first service we focused on 'Let your yes be yes, and your no be no', and in the second we looked at controlling anger (calling your brother a fool - my take was that as I only had sisters, I was safe... [Razz] ). In neither case was it appropriate to use the divorce verses.

But we have used them in previous years and I clearly remember preaching on them. It has to be addressed carefully because we all know people who have been divorced and remarried - and I for one don't believe in the prohibition of divorce in the way this has always been interpreted. Difficult for all of us, then, but not avoided.

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Hedgehog

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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
A case in point are some of the imprecatory Psalms; I don't think it's a good idea, for instance, to have a congregation blithely chanting about bashing enemies' children against rocks.

Although, depending on how the children are behaving in church, it could come in quite handy at times. [Devil]

My pastor's take on this selection did not dwell on the divorce stuff, but on the dramatic exaggeration of "pluck out your eye, cut off your hand"--Jesus clearly not advocating self mutilation. But, in keeping with the difficult tenor of the passage, my pastor pointed out that what it does drive home is that we don't get to decide what is or is not sin. We don't get to say "I think it is okay to do this, so it is not a sin." Nope. Not within our scope of authority. And recognizing this is necessary in order to seek forgiveness of the sins we do commit. We can only ask for forgiveness of sins that we recognize as sins--and don't delude ourselves by deciding something is "okay" because we want to do it.

And that sort of gets back to the OP topic--if you cut out the difficult parts of the Bible (instead of including and discussing) are you not basically deciding what is or is not sin? "Gee, this says that I shouldn't yell at my brother. But that's hard to do because he is such an idiot! Oh, well, Jesus probably didn't mean for that to apply in my case so let's just drop that out...snip, snip."

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Lamb Chopped
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I'd prefer to have it all left in rather than snipping away on account of good taste, modern sensibilities, etc. The preacher can hopefully use some common sense in deciding what to emphasize, taking into account the needs of the congregation, but in the readings I'd prefer to have it un-prettied up. First, because you never know what's going to speak to someone (Luke 23:29 was oddly comforting to me when I was grieving for infertility). Second, because the more shocking verses have the salutary effect of shutting up the noisy know-it-alls in Sunday School as they realize that the older generations are not the clueless, innocent idiots they thought we were. [Devil]

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I'd prefer to have it all left in rather than snipping away on account of good taste, modern sensibilities, etc. The preacher can hopefully use some common sense in deciding what to emphasize, taking into account the needs of the congregation, but in the readings I'd prefer to have it un-prettied up. First, because you never know what's going to speak to someone (Luke 23:29 was oddly comforting to me when I was grieving for infertility). Second, because the more shocking verses have the salutary effect of shutting up the noisy know-it-alls in Sunday School as they realize that the older generations are not the clueless, innocent idiots they thought we were. [Devil]

As so often, I agree with Lamb Chopped.

I also feel uncomfortable at the notion that we should sit in judgement over scripture, and decide what should be included and what not. That seems the wrong way round.

[ 17. February 2014, 21:50: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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Gwai
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
Yes, the Sunday lectionary is a crafted, redacted thing -- and I think with good reason; because there are texts that, frankly, I don't think are appropriate for a general audience of worshipers on the Lord's day, especially if they're not going to come with some contextual commentary/explanation. A case in point are some of the imprecatory Psalms; I don't think it's a good idea, for instance, to have a congregation blithely chanting about bashing enemies' children against rocks.

On the other hand, I'm very glad that I'm part of a church that does read that psalm as well as the other more "comforting" ones. I actually find the horrors of Psalm 137 to truly be comforting. It really helps me to know that that kind of anger is acceptable to feel. Nothing could excuse actually doing the violence? But I'm very glad I'm not evil for wanting to do inappropriate things when I'm angry!

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Stetson
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Gwai wrote:

quote:
On the other hand, I'm very glad that I'm part of a church that does read that psalm as well as the other more "comforting" ones. I actually find the horrors of Psalm 137 to truly be comforting. It really helps me to know that that kind of anger is acceptable to feel. Nothing could excuse actually doing the violence? But I'm very glad I'm not evil for wanting to do inappropriate things when I'm angry!


This makes it sound as if the Psalmist was engaged in Primal Scream therapy, helping the reader to come to terms with what were recognized by both parties as negative emotions.

But is there any reason to assume that he would actually have had a problem with slaughtering Babylonian infants?

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
Gwai wrote:

quote:
On the other hand, I'm very glad that I'm part of a church that does read that psalm as well as the other more "comforting" ones. I actually find the horrors of Psalm 137 to truly be comforting. It really helps me to know that that kind of anger is acceptable to feel. Nothing could excuse actually doing the violence? But I'm very glad I'm not evil for wanting to do inappropriate things when I'm angry!


This makes it sound as if the Psalmist was engaged in Primal Scream therapy, helping the reader to come to terms with what were recognized by both parties as negative emotions.

But is there any reason to assume that he would actually have had a problem with slaughtering Babylonian infants?

Probably not. But the purpose of the Psalms is not to dictate doctrine-- that comes elsewhere. The purpose of the Psalms is to show us how to worship. I would agree with Gwai that what Ps. 137 does is show us that prayer should be most of all honest. If we have all this murderous rage bottled up inside it does us no good to come to worship with a false smile and pretend "no I'm fine, really just fine". Ps. 137 expresses feelings & thoughts we would never ever admit to another living soul-- but maybe shows us that we can bring those ugly, horrible secrets to God.

Where, I assume, there's still some work to be done.

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Anglican_Brat
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The question is always context.

I have heard the reading of the entirety of Psalm 137 is justified because it allows Christians to express the depths of their anger and pain. Now, expressing one's feelings are good, but it depends on the context. Someone who is really angry, may need to work through that in the context of a pastoral or a counselling context. However, while the feeling of anger is neither good nor bad, some expressions of it are inappropriate in public church settings. Destroying sanctuary vessels for example [Ultra confused]

Psalm 137 read in its entirety may be justified if it was followed by a homily expounding on its context. Simply having it sung as a response to the reading (AKA typical mainline church setting) with little interpretation is irresponsible and will leave your parishioners with a WTF feeling.

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
The question is always context.

I have heard the reading of the entirety of Psalm 137 is justified because it allows Christians to express the depths of their anger and pain. Now, expressing one's feelings are good, but it depends on the context. Someone who is really angry, may need to work through that in the context of a pastoral or a counselling context. However, while the feeling of anger is neither good nor bad, some expressions of it are inappropriate in public church settings. Destroying sanctuary vessels for example [Ultra confused]

Psalm 137 read in its entirety may be justified if it was followed by a homily expounding on its context. Simply having it sung as a response to the reading (AKA typical mainline church setting) with little interpretation is irresponsible and will leave your parishioners with a WTF feeling.

Oh, yes, definitely!
[Ultra confused]

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On Sunday I heard a good homily on the Gospel passage mentioned in the OP. The preacher remarked that Jesus is really calling us to consider the inner thoughts and motivations lying behind our violence towards others.

Most of us can never dream of murdering someone, but we do from time to time, end up harboring nasty thoughts about people we don't like. We may not physically murder people but we can for example, hurt their feelings or destroy their reputation.

The Church has gotten a good beating from secular culture about its problematic relationship with sexuality. That being said, the Gospel passage does point out in the "lusting after a woman's heart" passage that it is good to discern our drives towards intimacy towards others. It is motivated by a genuine sense of love and care for the other, or it is motivated by a sense of possession of the other. This does not solely refer to sexual relations but any interaction.

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Stetson
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cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
I would agree with Gwai that what Ps. 137 does is show us that prayer should be most of all honest. If we have all this murderous rage bottled up inside it does us no good to come to worship with a false smile and pretend "no I'm fine, really just fine". Ps. 137 expresses feelings & thoughts we would never ever admit to another living soul-- but maybe shows us that we can bring those ugly, horrible secrets to God.


That's kind of like if in the year 4214 someone finds a copy of a sermon, dated 1983, by an Orange clergyman from Belfast, in which he talks about how much he wants to shoot random Catholics in the head. And then some textual critic in 4214 says "See, this shows us how we can cope with ugly, horrible secrets."

But of course, that would be a distorion of the sermonizer's orignal intention, since there is a pretty good chance that he didn't regard shooting Catholics in the head as something ugly and horrible. In fact he was probably quite proud of those feelings, and happy to express them to a sympathetic audience.

I think you have to face the fact that the author of Psalm 137, while granting that he probably had some legitimate gripes against the Babylonians, was, in the final analysis, what we would today call A Very Bad Man.

[ 18. February 2014, 00:20: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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He may have been, and then again, he may not have been. It's poetry, dude. And it's a curse, not a formal Statement of Intent™. If someone intentionally puts a rock through my windshield, you may hear me shout and shake a fist, "I'm gonna kill you, you little bastard!" That doesn't mean I'm going to even step out of the car.

Similarly, "God damn this chair" as I stand hopping on one foot, nursing a broken toe, does not mean that I truly and literally implore the deity of your choice to send the furniture to hell.

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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
I would agree with Gwai that what Ps. 137 does is show us that prayer should be most of all honest. If we have all this murderous rage bottled up inside it does us no good to come to worship with a false smile and pretend "no I'm fine, really just fine". Ps. 137 expresses feelings & thoughts we would never ever admit to another living soul-- but maybe shows us that we can bring those ugly, horrible secrets to God.


That's kind of like if in the year 4214 someone finds a copy of a sermon, dated 1983, by an Orange clergyman from Belfast, in which he talks about how much he wants to shoot random Catholics in the head. And then some textual critic in 4214 says "See, this shows us how we can cope with ugly, horrible secrets."

But of course, that would be a distorion of the sermonizer's orignal intention, since there is a pretty good chance that he didn't regard shooting Catholics in the head as something ugly and horrible. In fact he was probably quite proud of those feelings, and happy to express them to a sympathetic audience.

I think you have to face the fact that the author of Psalm 137, while granting that he probably had some legitimate gripes against the Babylonians, was, in the final analysis, what we would today call A Very Bad Man.

When you asked me earlier "But is there any reason to assume that he would actually have had a problem with slaughtering Babylonian infants?" and I answered "probably not" did you take that to mean that I thought he was a good man???

My point was that the point of the Psalms-- the reason they're in the canon-- is not for doctrine, but as a model for worship. My point was not to reframe what the author was thinking-- I think you are pretty much spot on, which is why I agreed with you. My point was to reframe why it is in our canon. Why Christians believe there is something of "eternal significance" here.

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Is it just me, or is anybody else hearing echoes of "The Bible is too dangerous to be out there where the un-educated/enlightened/whatever might get hold of it"?

I mean, we've got all this crappy violent porno whatsit all over the TV and the Internet, and freako evangelists spouting dangerous shit for doctrine in the same places, and even the kids are wading hip deep in it ... and we're worrying about the Bible? [Killing me]

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quote:
I'd prefer to have it all left in rather than snipping away on account of good taste, modern sensibilities, etc.
That's a rather inaccurate and unfair description of a lectionary. As others have articulated, the issue isn't a matter of "good taste" or "modern sensibilities" but rather a matter of purpose. There are texts better suited for general corporate worship, and texts better suited for personal study/devotion, or some small-group setting where one can assume some commonality of biblical literacy on the part of the worshippers.

And, again, context matters...and it's not always easy to provide contextual notes on every lesson without the worship service starting to sound like a university lecture, and the overriding theme of the Sunday beginning to get lost in the details.

And yet I've been in enough Bible studies and conversations to know that one can't always count on common sense to lead a listener -- especially someone intimidated by the Bible -- to be able to discern the bigger contextual picture beyond the literal words on the page; to figure out, for instance, that the imprecatory Psalms are personal, honest, primal prayers of anger and desperation and not sentiments about treating other people that have gotten a divine benediction as good ideas
. Or that negative comments directed toward "the Jews" in the Gospel of John are not a God-approved assessment of Judaism and Jewish people because The Bible Says. (I have some scary stories of fellow students in my lay ministry class who had to be pulled aside by our professors and disabused of their Bible-based anti-Semitism.)

Of course in a perfect world you'd have a faith community where everyone was actively engaged in "diligently searching the Scriptures" in an ongoing process of Christian formation, and pastors and other educators having unlimited time and resources to assist in that to the point where they didn't have to worry that if they didn't read a particular passage of Holy Writ on a Sunday during the Church Year the people would still be familiar with it and be able to think and talk about it in a thoughtful and informed way.

[ 18. February 2014, 01:28: Message edited by: LutheranChik ]

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
[QB] He may have been, and then again, he may not have been. It's poetry, dude.

It's art, dude.

quote:
If someone intentionally puts a rock through my windshield, you may hear me shout and shake a fist, "I'm gonna kill you, you little bastard!" That doesn't mean I'm going to even step out of the car.


Well, let's make that example a little more symmetrical to the Judah/Babylon situation.

Adjusting for scale, imagine that within, say, the last year or so, there have been several violent and sometimes fatal vigilante attacks on rock-throwing vandals. With this as the backdrop, you record a video rant in which you express a desire to kill not only rock-throwers, but their families as well, including infants. You then e-mail it off to a bunch of like-minded friends.

I doubt the police, or any other interested party, would consider that to be just someone blowing off steam, even if, in and of itself, it doesn't constitute a direct incitement to murder.

Cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
When you asked me earlier "But is there any reason to assume that he would actually have had a problem with slaughtering Babylonian infants?" and I answered "probably not" did you take that to mean that I thought he was a good man???


Well, I have to admit I find your attitude toward him a little confusing. On the one hand, you seem to regard him as a model for prayer, while at the same time agreeing with me that he expresses some pretty murderous impulses in his work.

Now, yes, I realize that no one is perfect, and if we're going to eliminate all fallen mortals from our canon of prayer-writers, we wouldn't have anyone left. But when the person's worst tendencies are exemplified right with the prayer itself, well, that's probably not one that I'm gonna wanna have in my supplicatory repertoire.

The way people are defending the Psalmist, it's as if he had written "Okay God, I really wanna kill these guys and their whole families, so please help me overcome those sinful implulses." But that's not what's going on at all. He is openly celebrating those impulses.

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quote:
Is it just me, or is anybody else hearing echoes of "The Bible is too dangerous to be out there where the un-educated/enlightened/whatever might get hold of it"?

I mean, we've got all this crappy violent porno whatsit all over the TV and the Internet, and freako evangelists spouting dangerous shit for doctrine in the same places, and even the kids are wading hip deep in it ... and we're worrying about the Bible?

Just for the record, I'm not particularly worried that people are gonna read the Bible and go off and smash babies against rocks. And I have no problem with anyone reading Psalm 137, in fact, I wrote a paper about it in university.

But it's one thing to say that something can be read by anyone who wants to, and saying that it an serve as a model for prayer. If it was from any other book besides the Bible, I don't think too many Christians would be going the extra mile to find anything but violent jingoism in its final two lines.

[ 18. February 2014, 13:37: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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No need to actually answer this, Stetson, but don't you sometimes want to do unacceptable things? Off the top of my head, for instance, I know I sometimes want to scream at my kids. Fortunately I usually don't, but if the baby's been teething and yelling for a while, even a mild annoyance from the five year old may make me want to turn and yell at her whether or not she's really the problem. I personally find a quick prayer for peace very effective to center on such occasions. However, until I acknowledge that I'm feeling unfairly angry, I'm unlikely to do anything about it. In other words, praying about my emotions that make me want to scream make me much less likely to scream at anyone. Would the psalmist actually have slaughtered children? I don't assume so, but it wouldn't bother me if they would. I don't think that only good/unbroken people should turn to God, so I am very fine to pray as someone else did even if that person was a sinner. As the tax collector in Luke said, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."

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A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.


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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
quote:

Cliffdweller wrote:

[QUOTE]When you asked me earlier "But is there any reason to assume that he would actually have had a problem with slaughtering Babylonian infants?" and I answered "probably not" did you take that to mean that I thought he was a good man???


Well, I have to admit I find your attitude toward him a little confusing. On the one hand, you seem to regard him as a model for prayer, while at the same time agreeing with me that he expresses some pretty murderous impulses in his work.

Now, yes, I realize that no one is perfect, and if we're going to eliminate all fallen mortals from our canon of prayer-writers, we wouldn't have anyone left. But when the person's worst tendencies are exemplified right with the prayer itself, well, that's probably not one that I'm gonna wanna have in my supplicatory repertoire.

The way people are defending the Psalmist, it's as if he had written "Okay God, I really wanna kill these guys and their whole families, so please help me overcome those sinful implulses." But that's not what's going on at all. He is openly celebrating those impulses.

Well, I thought this was rather obvious, but for the record, I don't think anyone here is suggesting that bashing little children-- Babylonian or otherwise-- against the rocks is a good idea.

We are certainly reading into the text if we suggest the psalmist is penitent. You're also reading into it when you suggest he is "openly celebrating". The fact is the text does neither-- it just lays it out there, w/o really giving us a clue one way or the other why it's included.

And yes, those of us who have a de facto assumption that all of Scripture is "inspired" (of various definitions) almost inevitably end up engaging in all sorts of gymnastics to defend the hard texts and even more so the terror texts. All too often that leads to horrific results so your concern to apply the brakes is probably wise.

At the same time-- and this was the point I was making-- regardless of the original psalmist's motive or intent, the text has remained in the canon for several millennia. It was placed there by a redactor. There was something there, then, something that the redactor and worshipping community saw, that they considered worthy. Something that drew them to God, despite the horrific bottom line. At the very least, it's worth asking why.

[ 18. February 2014, 14:07: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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quote:
No need to actually answer this, Stetson, but don't you sometimes want to do unacceptable things?
Oh God, yeah. And much, much worse than your example of screaming at kids. In fact, I've composed pretty much the moral equivalent of Psalm 137 in my head, numerous times(in my defense, this was after I had been the victim of a violent assault).

The point is, though, I would never expect my sociopathic musings to be read by anyone for inspiration on how to live their lives.

Cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
We are certainly reading into the text if we suggest the psalmist is penitent. You're also reading into it when you suggest he is "openly celebrating". The fact is the text does neither-- it just lays it out there, w/o really giving us a clue one way or the other why it's included.


Well, it's like in my earlier example of the Orangeman's sermon from Belfast 1983. Even if he doesn't openly come out and say that he wants us to go out and shoot random Catholics in the head, it really doesn't take much deep textual analysis to figure out what he's getting at if he says "Happy is anyone who shoots a Catholic in the head", and leaves it at that.

I will admit that I am not a trained historian, and am making certain assumptions about the relationship between Judah and Babylon at the time. Specifically, I am assuming that at the time, the idea of doing violence to Babylonians, including innocent civilians, would have been a relatively respectable one among the Jewish population.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:

Cliffdweller wrote:

quote:
We are certainly reading into the text if we suggest the psalmist is penitent. You're also reading into it when you suggest he is "openly celebrating". The fact is the text does neither-- it just lays it out there, w/o really giving us a clue one way or the other why it's included.


Well, it's like in my earlier example of the Orangeman's sermon from Belfast 1983. Even if he doesn't openly come out and say that he wants us to go out and shoot random Catholics in the head, it really doesn't take much deep textual analysis to figure out what he's getting at if he says "Happy is anyone who shoots a Catholic in the head", and leaves it at that.

I will admit that I am not a trained historian, and am making certain assumptions about the relationship between Judah and Babylon at the time. Specifically, I am assuming that at the time, the idea of doing violence to Babylonians, including innocent civilians, would have been a relatively respectable one among the Jewish population.

And again, no one is disagreeing with that-- that is clearly the case. However, I don't think that changes the point I'm making.

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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
quote:
No need to actually answer this, Stetson, but don't you sometimes want to do unacceptable things?
Oh God, yeah. And much, much worse than your example of screaming at kids. In fact, I've composed pretty much the moral equivalent of Psalm 137 in my head, numerous times(in my defense, this was after I had been the victim of a violent assault).

The point is, though, I would never expect my sociopathic musings to be read by anyone for inspiration on how to live their lives.

Would you also get rid of the other sinners in the bible who are held up as examples? For instance, David, that man after God's own heart is a murderer, a rapist, and many other things too. The tax collector from Luke was probably a thief considering that was how tax collectors made their money, and certainly he says he's a sinner. Why are they better examples of how to live our lives? You can say the tax collector is repentant, but if that's your reason than you can't ever mention David without mentioning his later repentance. I haven't checked, but I'd be very surprised if there aren't parts of the lectionary that include David's sins but stop before we get to his eventual repentance. Aren't those equally un-edifying?

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A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.


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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by Gwai:
quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
quote:
No need to actually answer this, Stetson, but don't you sometimes want to do unacceptable things?
Oh God, yeah. And much, much worse than your example of screaming at kids. In fact, I've composed pretty much the moral equivalent of Psalm 137 in my head, numerous times(in my defense, this was after I had been the victim of a violent assault).

The point is, though, I would never expect my sociopathic musings to be read by anyone for inspiration on how to live their lives.

Would you also get rid of the other sinners in the bible who are held up as examples? For instance, David, that man after God's own heart is a murderer, a rapist, and many other things too. The tax collector from Luke was probably a thief considering that was how tax collectors made their money, and certainly he says he's a sinner. Why are they better examples of how to live our lives? You can say the tax collector is repentant, but if that's your reason than you can't ever mention David without mentioning his later repentance. I haven't checked, but I'd be very surprised if there aren't parts of the lectionary that include David's sins but stop before we get to his eventual repentance. Aren't those equally un-edifying?
But even you admit that the sins of David and the tax collectors are criticized in the same parts of the Bible in which they are described.

Psalm 137, by contrast is the equivalent of a tax-collector writing a book called How To Have Fun And Make Money Breaking The Skulls Of Deadbeats, and someone trying to argue that, in and of itself, the book can help us learn to grapple with the sin of greed.

Can you point me to a passage in Psalms, or anywhere else in the Old Testament for that matter, where God or someone credibly speaking on his behalf says something like "Okay, the lesson we need to learn here is that the Psalimist was pretty messsed up morally when he wrote 137, and was therefore a grave sinner in the eyes of God"?

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As you imply, editorial notes like that or like anything else are not in the psalms. And I for one thank God of that. For one thing, if there were then the psalm would imply that praying to God with inappropriate anger implied you are a bad person. I would not feel I could bring my anger to God.

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A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.


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The Bible is a mirror of us. We're dangerous.

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I'd prefer to have it all left in rather than snipping away on account of good taste, modern sensibilities, etc. The preacher can hopefully use some common sense in deciding what to emphasize, taking into account the needs of the congregation, but in the readings I'd prefer to have it un-prettied up. First, because you never know what's going to speak to someone (Luke 23:29 was oddly comforting to me when I was grieving for infertility). Second, because the more shocking verses have the salutary effect of shutting up the noisy know-it-alls in Sunday School as they realize that the older generations are not the clueless, innocent idiots they thought we were. [Devil]

As so often, I agree with Lamb Chopped.

I also feel uncomfortable at the notion that we should sit in judgement over scripture, and decide what should be included and what not. That seems the wrong way round.

That has been done more than once before, of course - in the creation of the canon of Old and New Testament in the 4th century, in the removal of the Apocrypha by some Reformed churches in the 16th/17th centuries, and so on. Why should we not make similar changes? (hypothetical question before I get hauled to a stake!)

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You can, of course; but I wouldn't dare mess with it unless I had a darn clear sign that I was supposed to be revising the canon. (and the Apocrypha situation is a bit more complex than that)

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As for you, Stetson, the position of the Jews vis-a-vis Babylon (and its predecessor, Assyria) was that of people who had been invaded and subjected to horrific acts, including the ripping open of pregnant women. It's no justification in the eyes of God for wishing much the same to your enemies, but it is IMHO understandable, human, and not particularly sociopathic. Unless you think that those who suffer modern horrors (in Cambodia, Rwanda, etc.) are sociopaths for having revenge fantasies of their own.

And you might consider that the Psalms were not written to be guides to how to live your life. They are prayers, expressions of worship, sometimes expressions of horror. But not "Here, do this, follow this pattern exactly 'cause it's perfect."

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

And you might consider that the Psalms were not written to be guides to how to live your life. They are prayers, expressions of worship, sometimes expressions of horror. But not "Here, do this, follow this pattern exactly 'cause it's perfect."

Yes, my point exactly.

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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

And you might consider that the Psalms were not written to be guides to how to live your life. They are prayers, expressions of worship, sometimes expressions of horror. But not "Here, do this, follow this pattern exactly 'cause it's perfect."

Yes, my point exactly.
But even allowing for that, don't you have to admit that it's a little bit odd to find inspiration in a prayer that so openly praises behaviour that you consider to be grotesquely immoral? Even if it's not technically advising us to go out and do that?

I suspect if the Psalmist were extolling the joys of rape or child-molestation, people would be less inclined to intellectualize away the sheer repulsiveness of it.

LC wrote:

quote:
As for you, Stetson, the position of the Jews vis-a-vis Babylon (and its predecessor, Assyria) was that of people who had been invaded and subjected to horrific acts, including the ripping open of pregnant women. It's no justification in the eyes of God for wishing much the same to your enemies, but it is IMHO understandable, human, and not particularly sociopathic. Unless you think that those who suffer modern horrors (in Cambodia, Rwanda, etc.) are sociopaths for having revenge fantasies of their own.


Thanks for filling in the blanks a bit.

Yeah, I didn't imagine that the Babylonians were behaivng like Oxfam workers in their cross-cultural interactions. But still, collective guilt is a reprehensible concept no matter what evils it purports to address, and I'm sure the guys who were disembowelling pregnant women could come up with similar atrocity stories to justify their crimes.

"Okay, we got a bit carried away with the rape and bloodlust there, but do you KNOW what those Judeans did in the first place to a couple of our merchants who tried to enter their city? And have you SEEN how they treat their women? Sheesh, they make us look like saints."

Or something to that effect. There's usually some plausible sounding rationale for why it was understandable for someone to go into an area and start killing everyone in sight.

[ 18. February 2014, 23:18: Message edited by: Stetson ]

Posts: 6574 | From: back and forth between bible belts | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

And you might consider that the Psalms were not written to be guides to how to live your life. They are prayers, expressions of worship, sometimes expressions of horror. But not "Here, do this, follow this pattern exactly 'cause it's perfect."

Yes, my point exactly.
But even allowing for that, don't you have to admit that it's a little bit odd to find inspiration in a prayer that so openly praises behaviour that you consider to be grotesquely immoral? Even if it's not technically advising us to go out and do that?

I suspect if the Psalmist were extolling the joys of rape or child-molestation, people would be less inclined to intellectualize away the sheer repulsiveness of it.

Well, as horrific as rape or child molestation is, I'd actually be hard pressed to say which was more repulsive-- that or a brutal child murder. So I'd say we'd be apt to respond pretty much the same way.

"Intellectualizing away" is not really what we're doing-- no one is trying to defend child murder here or suggest that what's being described is anything less than an inexcusably horrific genocide. If we're guilty of anything, it would be the gymnastics we're going to defend "inspiration"-- our belief that Ps. 137 belongs in the canon, and so has something of "eternal relevance" to us today.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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