Laying a new foundation, part 3

We’ve laid science and history as the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith. They intersect with scripture and inform the way we read those ancient stories. Perhaps most importantly, our modern scientific understanding of nature and our incredible advances in archaeology have helped us understand that the Bible is ancient literature, like Homer’s Odyssey or the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which influenced Genesis.

The Bible is not a magic book that lays out the will of God. It does not predict the future, and its interpretation of the past is extremely biased by the circumstances of the people who wrote it. This does not make the Bible worthless. In fact, understanding these facts about the Bible makes it an extremely valuable book. In its stories, we read about the struggles of other people just like us. People with jobs and debt, people with hungry mouths to feed at home who felt they were overtaxed and underserved by their government. We read about people who have mystical experiences they can’t explain, and who have the faith and conviction to follow what they perceive as the voice of God, even if the cost to their own human survival is treacherous. We read about people who selflessly put the needs of the many over the needs of the few.

The stories in the Bible reflect an age when humans treated other humans as chattel, when people felt empowered by their gods to commit genocide, and the slow evolution of thought that eventually leads us to understand these ideas are heinous—even if too many of us today still act as though it’s our God-given right to take what others have and treat them as slaves (*ahem* minerals in the Congo, slave-labor in Indonesia, etc., etc.). Jesus represents a breakthrough in human thinking. Like Buddha before him, and like ancient Jewish wisdom texts before Buddha, Jesus teaches that everything belongs to God—especially us. See how everything is linked? There is nothing in the history of human civilization that exists in a vacuum. Everything we have ever done, thought, and created has affected everything else. Today, we are the product of 250,000 years of intersections. We have a responsibility to move the world forward.

Part of our task is to teach others that The Bible, the Qur’an, the Dhammapada and other ancient texts are not to be taken literally. When we were children, did we read Aesop’s fables and think the hare and the tortoise actually had a race? No. We understood the moral of the story. Of course, it helped that Aesop laid the moral out right there at the end. With our classical faith scriptures, we have to discern the moral of the story—and that’s part of the beauty of scripture. These are timeless stories, by humans for humans, about our struggle to make sense of the meaning of life. They show us how difficult it has been to simply get along with each other and the danger of ideologies. As the world has changed, and we have become one global economy, our interactions with each other are more precarious and important than ever before in human history.

We are at a turning point: We can continue along in the manner our ancestors portray in the Bible, killing each other over land and property and fighting over resources that aren’t ours in the first placed, or we can finally begin to grasp the moral of the story: There is only one foundation in the entire universe, and we have given it many names. Yahweh. Moses. Jesus. Mohammed. Buddha. Confucius. Kali. Ganesh. String theory. Chaos theory. The Big Bang. It is all, and always has been, God—the mortar that holds every other bit of our foundation together.

Prayer: Awaken me, Being of All Being, and make me an instrument of truth, peace, justice, logic, reason, and over all, love. Amen.

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