I was a fervent member of a church for most of the last twenty-five years. You could count on my being in a church pew almost every Sunday morning. Of course part of that time was listening to the current clergy leader give his sermon. After a while I tended to see a pattern to most sermons. They would always contain at least a dozen different tidbits from Biblical text. Most often these tidbits were to reinforce the message he (no female ministers were allowed in my church) had chosen for the day. Many times when I was familiar with the story around the tidbit I questioned , at least in my mind, what that had to do with that day’s message. Some of the words fit but the underlying message was just not aligned.
Many tend to think that it is acceptable to mine Scripture for these little tidbits that would fit a particular agenda we might have. We weren’t often shown the importance of appropriating the Bible holistically, of taking care to consider each and every part within its own context. Of course with our Bible now accessible through computerized search engines this practice has become more dominant than ever. I always wondered, but never voiced, why the sermon could not concentrate on one biblical story and carry its meaning to completion.
One only need to consider the haphazard way that Scripture mining is being used today by both the political left and right to understand that this is taking place outside the church sermon as well. Pulling tidbits out of text and putting them into our dialog leads to an inadequate view of God’s messages as well as the politics supposedly being supported by it.
Now that I am no longer sitting in that pew I can think things that were uncomfortable then but enlightening now. It seems that no matter what your conclusions are about most issues of the world you can mine Scripture to find a small saying here or there when often taken out of context will back up your message.
- If you want God to be on your side in your current war there are tidbits available to say that.
- If you despise homosexuals or some other minority groups, you can find tidbits support your bias.
- If you were a member of the KKK you could cite tidbits where God condones slavery and tells slaves to be satisfied with being owned.
- If you were in many mainline protestant churches in the 1950’s and 60’s you heard many tidbits about civil rights for minorities being against God’s will.
- If you were against women gaining the vote in the 1930’s you could cite tidbits about women obeying their husbands.
Maybe even more critical than Scripture mining is ignoring those “other” words that speak counter to your targeted message. That also seems to be in wide practice by so many today. But that is for another post.