Three Ways to Know When Someone has Weaponized Scripture

September 1, 2014 Article

If you were Satan and you wanted to damn the world to hell, wouldn’t this be a great place to start, getting parents to reject their children?

I listened with sadness to this video of parents using religion as a weapon against their son as he came out to them as gay. Weaponizing Scripture saddens me for this young man and all who have been abused by Bible-wielding parents or preachers.

As a minister, I also find it sad in the same way that a chef would weep to see a beautiful meal used in a food fight.

This resource that can nourish community and family relationships has been slopped around as a crude weapon; a tool for healing has been used for physical and emotional violence. A source of ancient wisdom about God, in the hands of fools, has been turned into a weapon for evil.

And make no mistake, rejecting one’s own child because of his sexual orientation is an evil action. It’s not just “being in disagreement” or “raised in a different generation.” It is a choice.

Rejecting one’s child is not something anyone was born to do. It is a lifestyle choice.

If you were Satan and you wanted to damn the world to hell, wouldn’t this be a great place to start, getting parents to reject their children?

As the witness of our ancestors in the faith, Scripture gives voice to stories and wisdom and songs and theological ideas that sifted through generations of the community’s thinking before they were included in a Book that believers call the Word of God. Any culture or family that ignores its own canon risks getting cut off from its past, unmoored, and adrift in the mephitic sea of pop culture.

To use the canon of literature we call Holy as a weapon against others reveals a total misunderstanding of what Scripture claims for itself and how Jewish and Christian communities at their best have been fed and nurtured by it.

If you are in a theological conversation or listening to a preacher who cites Scripture, how do you know when someone has weaponized the Bible? Here are three indicators.

  1. He or she assumes that every passage of Scripture was written in order to tell us what to do. The Bible contains all kinds of literary genres, songs, stories, the record of angry tirades, and a record of rules that the community later amended or rejected. Just because it is in the Bible does not mean it was included for the purpose of directing the actions of later generations.
  2. He or she recites a verse without any reference to context. Every word of the Bible was written by a person in a particular community with a culture different from our own and in a particular literary genre that may or may not be familiar to us and influenced by the historical events of the time. Cut off from its context, Scripture, even the parts that sound beautiful, will not yield the full blessings of its wisdom and insight.
  3. You have an immediate emotional reaction that is either hyper-positive or hyper-negative. Whether or not that emotional reaction coincides with the moral high ground or mob violence, it indicates that your amygdala, that primitive part of the brain that provides immediate and automatic reactivity, has been stimulated and engaged. A highly stimulated amygdala overwhelms the cerebral cortex, the seat of reason.

The undifferentiated herd instincts of our amygdala have evolved for a variety of adaptive purposes. They served our ancestors well while hunting together. They continue to serve us well when we play team sports. They do not, however, serve us well when we want to discern God’s call for our lives with the full faculties of our cerebral cortex. That calls for self-differentiation, that uniquely human ability to take a calm and thoughtful stand in the middle of an anxiety storm; or, as Kipling put it, to

“keep your head when all about you/ 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

 [If you wish to read this Kipling poem in its original context, it is here.]

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