I have not read the Bible.
Reading the Bible has never been on my things-to-do list. It isn’t on my bucket list, either.
Yes, I have a bucket list. You know, things I wish to do or see before I cease taking in oxygen and move forward to discover what is on the other side of this lifetime.
The bucket list, understand, is a product of aging. It is not something to which we grant substantial thought during our youth because, until we arrive at a station in life whereby we recognize our mortality, we seldom give credence to the notion that none of us gets out of here alive. I have arrived at that station in life. Thus I have a bucket list. Included are items such as singing the song Summertime with a live band. I would like to write a song that is recorded, not in search of fame and fortune but to just say I did it. I would like to watch a daytime ball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. I would like to write something that will change another’s life forever. I would like to find a life partner, just to see if I can finally get love right. But reading the Bible? Not going there.
It’s not that I am uninterested in what people were saying and thinking 2,000-plus years ago. Quite the contrary. I subscribe to many of Jesus’s life offerings. More to the point, I recently drew the Stephen Mitchell tome The Gospel According to Jesus from my bookshelf and began re-reading it for perhaps the sixth time. Fifteen years after I initially opened it, I am still rendered dewey-eyed when reading the teachings of Jesus. Some of them are truly beautiful. So, my reluctance to read the Bible is not the child of a distaste for things biblical.
My difficulty with the Bible rests in the interpretation. It seems to me that people pick and choose passages simply to prop up their agenda while, at the same time, pooh-poohing the notions of another. It’s as if they are at the market shopping for groceries. I like this tomato so I shall place it in my bag, but I don’t like the look of that other tomato so I shall reject it.
For example, it has come to my attention that there exists a debate with respect to Jesus’s teaching on homosexuality. This to-and-fro has been heightened due to 21st century matters such as the legality of same-sex marriage, now the law of the land in Canada and gathering momentum in the United States. The gospel sharks tell us Jesus made it abundantly clear that the act of homosexuality is a sin. They quote scripture to support their belief. Many in the gay community, however, insist that Jesus never once spoke for or against homosexuality. They insist his silence on the issue indicates it is, in fact, a non-issue. Therefore, it cannot be a sin.
I ask this of you (and I know it will sound blasphemous): Why do we care what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality? Must we rely on someone from 2,000 years ago to tell us what to think about, and how to act toward, our gay brothers and sisters in the 21st century? Can we not think for ourselves?
This is not a rebuke of Jesus. As I have written, I’m a big fan. I do not, however, care if Jesus viewed acts of homosexuality as a sin or not. In this area, I don’t need him to tell me what to think.
Here’s what the Buddha taught about matters such as this:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
There are bigots among us not because they were born bigots. Bigotry is the offspring of the words and actions of others. When we are children in the playground, we care not if our playmates are black, white, Christian, Muslim, gay or straight. We are just happy to have playmates. It is not until we observe and listen to our parents and other adults long enough that we developed notions and concepts. Eventually, however, we are old enough to process what we have learned and make decisions, as the Buddha suggests, with our own reason and our own common sense.
That is why I say I don’t need Jesus to tell me anything about homosexuality.
The majority of my dear ones are gay. I love them. If they are sinners, it is only in the sense that each of us is a sinner because each of us has performed misdeeds. But the love between two human beings who have arrived at an age of reasoning and common sense is not a misdeed. It is love. And to act on that love is not a misdeed. It is an act of love.
If your god tells you these things are sinful, then shame on your god.
I prefer the interpretation of God as submitted by my favorite teacher, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. At a Dharma talk in Plum Village, France, in 1998, Thay was asked what Buddhism says about homosexuality.
“Sometimes those discriminating against us act in the name of God, of the truth. We may belong to the third world, or we may belong to a particular race, we may be people of color, we may be gay or lesbian, and we have been discriminated against for thousands of years. So how to work on it, how to liberate ourselves from the suffering of being a victim of discrimination and oppression? In Christianity it is said that God created everything, including man, and there is a distinction made between the creator and the creature. The creature is something created by God. When I look at a rose, a tulip, or a chrysanthemum, I know, I see, I think, that this flower is a creation of God. Because I have been practising as a Buddhist, I know that between the creator and the created there must be some kind of link, otherwise creation would not be possible. So the chrysanthemum can say that God is a flower, and I agree, because there must be the element ‘flower’ in God so that the flower could become a reality. So the flower has the right to say that God is a flower.
“The white person has the right to say that God is white, and the black person also has the right to say that God is black. In fact, if you go to Africa, you’ll see that the Virgin Mary is black. If you don’t make the statue of the Virgin Mary black, it does not inspire people. Because to us the black people, ‘black is beautiful,’ so a black person has the right to say that God is black, and in fact I also believe that God is black, but God is not only black, God is also white, God is also a flower. So when a lesbian thinks of her relationship with God, if she practises deeply, she can find out that God is also a lesbian. Otherwise how could you be there? God is a lesbian, that is what I think, and God is gay also. God is no less. God is a lesbian, but also a gay, a black a white, a chrysanthemum. It is because you don’t understand that, that you discriminate.
“When you discriminate against the black or the white, or the flower, or the lesbian, you discriminate against God, which is the basic goodness in you. You create suffering all around you, and you create suffering within yourself, and it is delusion, ignorance, that is the basis of your action, your attitude of discrimination. If the people who are victims of discrimination practice looking deeply, they will say that I share the same wonderful relationship with God, I have no complex. Those who discriminate against me, do so because of their ignorance. ‘God, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.’ If you reach that kind of insight, you will no longer get angry at that person who discriminates against you, and you might have compassion toward him or her. You will say: ‘He does not know what he is doing. He is creating a lot of suffering around him and within him. I will try to help him.’ So your heart opens like a flower and suffering is no longer there, you have no complex at all, and you turn to be a bodhisattva in helping the people who have been discriminating against you. That is the way I see it, out of my practice of looking deeply, so one day I made the statement that God is a lesbian, and this is my insight.”
I like to think Jesus would agree with Thay.