Whether it’s owning women as property, slavery or God-sanctioned genocide: within the pages of the bible you can find all of these and more.

To make matters worse, these disturbing images are sometimes assumed to be read as instructions for what people claim God endorses and finds acceptable as well as who he rejects.

People will say it to each other all the time: “I don’t like what it says either but it’s in God’s word so…” And then they try to defend what they know deep in their hearts is exclusive, prejudiced, unjust, violent, or downright offensive and inhumane.

If you find yourself feeling gross about some of the realities of what is presented in the bible maybe you need to lean in to that and put truth and love before evangelical and fundamentalist teachings of inerrancy.

If you find yourself using scripture to justify homophobia, keeping women out of pulpits or the highest offices of leadership in your church, you are using the bible wrong.

Maybe the bible also contains the opinions and the fingerprints of man (from translations right down to the picking of which books were included in the canon) and not just the fingerprints of the divine.

Maybe the book contains an evolving portrait of people painting an idea of what they think God is like. And that’s why when scripture completely changes its tune on a particular thought or view of God or any set of facts, we don’t need to waste our time defending the obvious errors.

To quote from Rachel Held Evans:

I grew up an evangelical Christian with a pretty solid understanding of the content of Scripture and could find my way around the Bible very easily. I’m grateful for the gift of Bible knowledge that evangelicalism gave me, but I also had a posture towards the Bible that it had to be defended at all costs, that it was constantly under assault. I had an attitude that I had to defend the Bible as historically and scientifically accurate, as inerrant and infallible, and internally consistent. I was very busy, especially in my youth, defending a Bible that didn’t exist—because the Bible is not always consistent, and isn’t always easy to understand, and it’s not primarily science and history. There’s quite a few other genres represented in the Bible that don’t easily turn into an owner’s manual or an answer book or a position paper.

The Bible just didn’t seem to want to behave the way I was told it was meant to behave—as a scientifically-provable, historically-accurate account of God’s actions in the world and a cohesive, inerrant rulebook for how to think and live as a Christian. I began to wrestle with the Bible, and that led me to scholars and postures that helped me understand the Bible better. For instance, engaging Jewish interpretations of Scripture really changed how I approach the Bible; engaging womanist interpretations of Scripture; engaging it from different people’s perspectives kind of brought it back to life for me slowly but surely over time

Just thinking about the way Jewish interpreters approach the text has been really delightful for me. I’ve begun studying midrash and reading some Jewish commentaries, and there’s just so much more room to play, imagine, debate, guess and surmise. When you grow up learning that the Bible means one thing and every story has one meaning, and the goal is to find that meaning and then argue for it, to be immersed in this whole different way of engaging the Bible—where you’re encouraged to ask questions, to challenge and to read between the lines—has been surprisingly refreshing to me.

It’s helping me engage the Bible almost how I engaged it when I was a child—with my imagination connected and my questions engaged. It frees you up from the fear of “I have to get this right.” I wish more Christians would adopt that posture of the Bible [being] a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender; that we would go to the text looking for conversation and community and debate, not just ammunition to win theological arguments or political arguments.

Perhaps we were meant to use scripture as a tool combined with wisdom and without throwing out our consciences. Maybe it was meant to help us grapple and explore rather than being a device for pointing out error in others or as a gavel. It should be used to set people free and not to condemn them.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
If the bible is used to make people feel like hiding who they really are, or in a way that limits them or minimizes them then it is making people captives.
“Christ has truly made us free: Then keep your free condition and let no man put a yoke on you again.” Galatians 5:1
If a tool of construction is used as a weapon it will become a vessel of destruction.

Never use scripture to marginalize any group of people or to blunt your own conscience, and always avoid religious leaders who teach you to do that in the name of “following the bible.”

Jesus was all about making a wider table not building a bigger wall. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” And the best news he had was not for the rich & powerful but for the brokenhearted and the captives. For those unfairly treated and for those under oppression.

The outcasts and those who were disposable to the religious were the ones he sought out.

He had a pattern of lifting people up and not pushing the marginalized down. Of using those the religious deemed farthest from God to be the mouthpieces of her divine love.

“Now go and do likewise.”