There is a fundamentalist fear of the “slippery slope of liberalism,” which consists of the worry that allowing one fringe “immoral” behavior creates precedence to permit anything and everything wayward. In college, I wrote a short story satirizing the notion. In my ill-conceived tale, our young generation has become so difficult to engage – due to the Internet age and the immediate nature of our culture – that teachers begin using sexually explicit material as a pedagogical device. Yeah like they develop educational forms of pornography since the kids seem to be so obsessed with sex anyway. The story sums up with the students becoming increasingly bored with the salacious lessons, until the method becomes as equally ineffective as traditional teaching.
My creative writing classmates thought the story was “a little extreme.” The professor thought it was “oddly amusing at best.” Can’t win them all.
I actually understand the logic behind the fear; “We have to have some standards,” the conservative would say. This ties in with the idea of the infallibility of God’s word – that by allowing one crack in the foundation of the Bible (by disagreeing with a single verse or even word), the rest will inevitably crumble. Post-modern writers refer to this as the “destruction of the meta-narrative” – meaning that there really cannot be one singular ideology that fully applies to the universe. Instead, there must be a bunch of micro-narratives that apply to individual situations or time periods. This is a smack in the face of the Christian God – after all, His command, as well as that of most monotheistic deities, is for unilateral faith. There simply is no room for dissent among the beliefs of His followers. This presents a problem to the logical brain, something I’ve spent 5 months now trying to wrap my mind around.
So why not throw the baby out with the bath water? Remember my gay friend who warned me against this project? The one who said, “Why engage in a book that hates you?” The Bible does not hate me. It is one of the most enigmatic books ever composed, and it has been used as the inspiration for the greatest acts of love and evil on the planet. Yes, there are lots of people who read the Bible and hate me based on it, but the ones closest to me feel the opposite. They read it and love me for it.
In light of that, here is some of the great advice in the Proverbs. I have stated the danger in taking any one passage out of context, but I think that risk is mitigated when it motivates good behavior (rather than condemning evil).
A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)
Be a good person rather than a rich person.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court.
Proverbs 22:22 (NIV)
This seems to be something our courts often screw up.
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
Proverbs 24:11 (NIV)
Help those in dire circumstances.
Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
Proverbs 26:20 (NIV)
Boy do we as a society like to over share, particularly about each other.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Proverbs 31:8 (NIV)
Perhaps one of the most important verses in the Bible.
And finally, my favorite bit of advice:
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Proverbs 31:6-7 (NIV)
Thanks Solomon! I’ll get a case of Charles Shaw on the way home!
I’m going for a bit more positivity. And given how tomorrow’s reading in Ecclesiastes begins with “Everything Is Meaningless…” I pray that it won’t be short-lived.