A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quit with the "Scriptures clearly state..."

I have been trying to eliminate a word from my vocabulary. I am trying to stop using the word "clearly".   

Seems like a fairly harmless little word but consider its use in a phrase like "scripture clearly states..."  On the surface it may seem harmless enough although perhaps unnecessary.  If something is truly clearly stated in scripture we don't feel it necessary to use such phrases. We don't often hear people saying "scripture clearly states that the carpenter from Nazareth was called Jesus," or "scripture clearly tells us God exists."  Generally, when someone says, "clear words of scripture tell us..." there is a disagreement afoot.  And usually what is really being communicated is that it is impossible to disagree unless you don't care about scripture or your sin is getting in the way of your interpretation of scripture.    When used in this manner such statements serve to shut down conversation.  They become the equivalent of saying "I am right and you are wrong. End of discussion."  
It is especially irritating to me when such phrases are used in conversation with people who don't believe in scriptures.  In such cases the intention can hardly be to convince anyone or to further the conversation.  People who believe the bible is just another book are not going to change their minds on any topic because of a reference to the clarity of scripture.  Then "scripture clearly states" becomes another way of saying "you are going to hell and I am not."  

There are difficult conversations taking place in this country and in this world.  Conversations are happening around homosexuality, global warming, economic justice and so on.  These are important discussions that make a difference in the way we go about being God's love in the world.  We need to participate with open hearts.  We cannot afford to bandy about phrases that belittle the opposition or serve to shutdown conversation.  

We are all guilty of doing similar things.  My tendency, at times, is to assume those who disagree with me are either heartless or ignorant.  I know better if I stop and think.  So, let's all stop and think about how we approach conversations on controversial topics.  Let's listen carefully and learn from each other.  

It would be a violation of the clear words of scripture to do otherwise :)


Charlene said...

How often do you come across "the scriptures clearly state ____", unless that's getting in the way of arguing that your way is the only/best way, in which case the scripture on that topic is clearly very muddy? Having believed, and now not believing, it seems like I come across this quite a bit. What the scriptures clearly said when I was a believer is now, suddenly, not so clear. Once I let on that it's much of why I don't believe anymore, anyway. I find myself afraid that I'll be lured back in with promises of unconditional love, only to be told once I'm in that now I have to follow all these rules to "be a good witness" and "avoid the appearance of evil" and all.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks for the comment, Charlene. Little In life is black and white. When religious folks try to pretend it is, they lose credibility and damage hearts along the way.