Monday, July 25, 2011

Picking and Choosing

As a pro-choice organization, we are used to getting criticism from our anti-choice opponents. But our last blog entry received an intriguing comment questioning the “faith” part of Faith Aloud, and we thought it was intellectually stimulating and worth engaging. Here’s the comment:

"Its strange to me how people quote the bible to vilify conservatives. Nice Zacharia quote! But the bible also says to stone homosexuals, burn witches, slaughter cows and sprinkle their blood and a lot of other things. Either accept it or do not, this is America, who cares, that is your right. But do not be so intellectually dishonest as to pick and choose which parts you like and which you do not to establish some sort of moral high ground. It is as though you are shaking your finger at those who disagree with you. If you are not against homosexuality, promiscuity and religious tolerance (which are all condemned throughout the bible) throw the damn bible away, don't pick the solitary pieces that further your agenda and ignore those that do not."
By Anonymous on Sluts of St. Louis Unite on 7/19/11

We’d like to thank this blogger for posting his/her unique perspective, but also humbly defend our mission here at Faith Aloud. As a pro-choice organization we do openly disagree with people who try to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare. And that’s not something we’re willing to be wishy-washy about. But by quoting the Bible, we were trying to communicate the values we as an organization stand for: compassion and love. If standing for compassion somehow “vilifies” our opponents, that probably says more about our opponents than it does about us.

At Faith Aloud our goal is not to convert or evangelize. We have tons of followers who identify as ethical atheist and we love them and what they do for our organization. But we believe that scripture and faith can be a great source of inspiration and strength. The bottom-line is, a majority of women who obtain abortions identify as religious and they especially need a little extra spiritual support that empowers them.

As an interfaith organization, we believe wisdom can be found in many forms and many languages, and we look to a variety of religious traditions to gain inspiration and insight into how to live ethical lives. But it is important to read any text with a critical and thoughtful eye. So let’s clear up any “dishonesty” about our stance on scripture. When it comes to scripture, everyone “picks and chooses.” We acknowledge and absolutely agree that there passages in the Bible we choose not to follow: case in point, we do not believe in using Leviticus 18:22 to try to keep our LGBT friends from obtaining the rights they deserve. We also enjoy eating shrimp from time to time.

The Bible has been interpreted in countless different ways throughout history; any time a religious leader reads a passage of scripture and delivers a sermon, he or she is actively interpreting that scripture. Every different denomination within a major religious tradition sets itself apart from the other sects within that religion by the way in which it chooses to interpret the same major text. Few would argue that the Christianity we see today is different from the kind of organization in place immediately following the death of Jesus. Throughout history, religion has been used for both good and bad. We at Faith Aloud choose to “pick” verses that we think promote a positive, empathic, and just approach to the social issues we are faced with.

Just because we don’t follow every verse of the Bible or any other text literally, does that mean we should throw out the entire text? This all or nothing approach is unrealistic rhetoric. The world is not black and white, and to answer this particular blogger, neither is the Bible. The Bible was written by many men in very different times and cultures, and some passages no longer apply to us. Does that mean there is nothing left in the Bible from which to learn or gain inspiration? Absolutely not. Do we all have to follow a religious tradition in exactly the same way? Sure don’t. Is it okay to doubt, ask questions, and seek all over for answers to life’s hard questions? We think so.

What do you think? If you have a thought or opinion (and we know you do), please leave a comment. We’d love to have some healthy (and respectful) discourse.