Our son David was in church recently and, during one of the less hectic moments, was leafing through the less-well-thumbed part of the Book of Common Prayer. “There’s a part in one of the psalms where it says
‘I destroy those who hate me…I beat them small like dust…I trample them like mud in the streets… ‘
Is that compatible with Christianity?” He wondered. “If not, why is it in the Prayer Book?”
Good question. As we read through the psalms and scriptures at Morning Prayer we encounter many such ruthless texts that offend against our notion of Christian ethics. What’s up with this?
ONE IDEA: The Bible is a work in process: our understanding of God has changed over the centuries, and is changing still. In the future, believers will look back on our times and say, “what were those people thinking?”
ANOTHER IDEA: Even when the psalms and scriptures seem off-base about religion, they are right-on about human nature. People who have been drastically abused are not likely to proofread their prayers carefully. But even when we can’t accept their ethics, we can identify with their feelings.
STILL ANOTHER: The Bible is NOT a PR document designed to meet our doctrinal or spiritual needs. Its production was a chaotic mishmash, more like a scrapbook than a history text. For it to truly become the Word of God for us it must be mulled over, prayed over, and critiqued within the community of faith. To become the Word of God it must move off the page and become flesh… our flesh, that is, our humanity that has, in baptism, been buried with Christ in his death, shares in his resurrection, and reborn by the Holy Spirit.
STILL OTHER IDEAS… ?