GOD–the Almighty Racist and Misogynist: a laywoman wrestles with how to interpret the Bible

The original witch hunt.

Women on a laundry list of “plunder”–well, only virgins. The sexually experienced were just massacred. 

Territorial racism.

Institutionalized slavery.

Unjust punishment.  

These are the footprints in the sand of an Old Testament God who is temperamental, severe…and let’s just say, not a God I want to be like or serve. Is this my God?

Or is this a god as revealed through the cultural, historical, and economical lens of the times?

I have been slowly working my way through the Bible this year. Many mornings I listen to an audio version in the car on the way to work. Stories of slaughter, sacrifice, sexism, slavery, severity swing in the car’s space like a noose.

I have been taught to hold high on a pedestal the idea that all Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the faultless word of God. His Spirit has protected its delivery. I am not a Bible scholar, but I just can’t buy this. I cannot bring to the center of my commoner’s faith the conviction that God is cruel; I. just. can’t. Or I won’t.

One of my favorite books to teach is The Things They Carried. Through it, I can stress to my students–and to myself–the importance of story-truth versus happening-truth.

I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

And this is what I hold onto as I wrestle with the way God is portrayed through Scripture. Ultimately, it is not about facts or events or data… it is about the truth behind the story. And this truth can exist even in a lie. Just as Grace told her Mom on The Good Wife:

I think of it like poetry… it doesn’t have to be literally accurate, but it’s true.

So, then, what is the story-truth?

  • God is what we need:
    • When the Israelites were in danger of disease: let there be laws about sanitation, eating, purification, etc.
    • When the Israelites were frustrated with Pharaoh: let it be said that God hardened his heart.
    • When the Israelites needed to expand and enlarge their territory and progeny: let there be many wives and concubines as well as savage war.
    • When the people needed motivation: let there be a harsh Judge for sinners and their successors.
    • When the people needed a second-chance: let there be Mercy.
  • God’s story (HISstory) is told through the lens and with the language of the current culture:
    • In the Old Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the BCE Biblical Middle East.
    • In the New Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the CE Biblical Middle East.
  • Jesus, hallelujah, dismantles both aforementioned points entirely.
    • The Old Testament books and the New Testament books reveal a God who is what we need as reflected in our current culture. However, gloriously, Jesus the renegade comes along and simultaneously nullifies and fulfills these obligations.
      • Jesus spends his time with the sinners, not the elite.
      • Jesus surrounds himself with women.
      • Jesus takes time on those society has deemed unworthy–the foreigners, the sick, the unclean.
      • Jesus unravels the idea that God perpetually punishes the posterity.
      • Jesus challenges the leaders who represent the dominant culture.
      • Jesus counters the cultural norm that as the Messiah he was to overthrow the government with violent revolution. Instead, he loves–subversively.
    • Jesus is neither Old Testament or New Testament. He is THE testament, the truest testimony of a God who all along has just wanted an authentic relationship with His people. A relationship that means He will mirror the culture to find a way in, but also that He will supersede the culture to show the better relationship that He offers.