As I listen and view the debates on marriage equality and all the issues during this election season, I cannot help but remember a conversation I had with a professor while attending seminary. She said, “do not get into a debate about whose interpretation of scripture is wrong or right, it is a discussion that you will never win.” I think she said this because there are so many chapters in the Bible, so many verses that can be read one way or the other, that is possible to “proof-text,” or pull out what one needs to prove one’s point.
Some say that the bible is inerrant, that each verse is the word of God–but is that not easier for the issues that one wishes to highlight and a little more difficult for those verses that time, customs, and culture have changed? I love that line they use in The West Wing from Leviticus 11:6-8 about how one should not be touching the skin of a dead pig because it makes one unclean, but I sure know a lot of deeply religious people of all denominations that love football. Another favorite is Exodus 35:2 – “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.”
My point is it is not just about the words, but about the spirit of the whole idea–what is the overall message of the Bible? Since we all choose passages, here are my two texts I would like to “proof:”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
1 Corinthians 13
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
As a raised-Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, agnostic, mystic, post-Christian Jesus appreciator, I am really far from a biblical scholar, which detractors would be happy to point out, but this seems pretty clear to me: “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” I can have all the faith in the world, but it means nothing if I do not have love. Love is the be-all and the end-all message of almost all of the wisdom traditions. Relationships of mutual love, of mutual respect, of mutual understanding, and of mutual commitment are heralded in the wisdom literature.
So whether or not I read or understand the Bible as detailed poetry, incredibly wise metaphoric lessons, or literal interpretations, I choose to err on the side of love. I choose to spend my time on earth praying that love conquers all, not praying with others that love be kept on the sidelines of that football stadium, (with perhaps the pigskin). I choose to spend my time on this earth taking from these wise and timeless lessons, that love is the request, love is the rule, and love is the reason. That is why I intend to be kind to those who hold views in opposition to mine, support love everywhere possible, support the right for two people who love each other, whoever they are, to marry and, in this and all elections, intend to cast my vote on the side of love.