Freedom From Bad Bible Bullies
By Kalinda Rose Stevenson Ph.D.
Personal Freedom From Nagging Bible Verses
Freedom From Bad Bible Bullies Blog is designed for a specific group of people who share a common experience.
You can’t quite get free of the Bible verses in your head. These are the Bible verses that nag you constantly with guilt about what you are doing or not doing. They’re like the annoying ad jingles that you would love to forget but can’t, because they are imprinted in your mind and play over and over again.
Maybe you haven’t been inside a church for years. Or maybe you attend church several times each week. Maybe you have read the whole Bible more than once. Maybe you memorized some Bible verses in Sunday School. Maybe you just know a few verses.
What Everybody “Knows” About The Bible
Whether you are Christian or not, whether you are religious or not, it is impossible to live in this world without being exposed to “what the Bible says” about all kinds of topics.
You hear the Bible quoted by politicians who want to pass laws based on the Bible.
Movies and TV shows and books are full of biblical references and allusions.
Cartoonists assume that everyone knows about Adam and Eve and the apple, or Moses holding two tablets with the Ten Commandments etched in them, or Noah who marched the animals two by two into the Ark.
And we all “know” that women must keep silent in church, homosexuality is an abomination, money is evil, and that Jesus said a rich man can’t get into heaven.
This widespread exposure to “what the Bible says” leaves all of us vulnerable to claims about the Bible at a time when fewer and fewer people have actually read the Bible in whole or in part, with any kind of critical awareness about the tools of Bible scholarship, such as biblical exegesis and biblical hermeneutics.
How Bible Verses Are Like Email Spam
This means that so-called “biblical” ideas are like the spam emails that flood your inbox everyday.
- They promise you college degrees without all of that bothersome time and effort to work for them.
- Bankers and lawyers and pious widows in Nigeria and Hong Kong inform you that someone you never heard of just left you 72 million dollars.
- You get warnings about holds on bank accounts you don’t have.
- And most of all, you get endless offers to buy cheap drugs to enhance body parts that half of the human race do not possess.
Unless you are brand new to the internet, you recognize spam the moment you see it, and hope that your spam blocker does too. You know you are being scammed. You don’t want these annoying emails. But you can’t make them stop.
For a lot of people, Bible verses are like spam. However they got into your head, some Bible verses are always there, always nagging you with “thou shalt nots” and “you must.”
Do You Need A Bible Spam Filter?
But unlike the spam you recognize as unwanted junk, how do you know if what you hear about the Bible is even remotely true? How can you protect yourself against unwanted Bible verses playing in your head? Where is the “bible spam filter” that can sort out what is truly biblical from what is unbiblical in a society that is steeped in “biblical” images and ideas that can’t be found in the Bible.
When The Bible Becomes A Weapon
The focus of this blog is how the Bible is used as a weapon by “Bad Bible Bullies.” Bad Bible Bullies use the Bible as a way to control others.
You will know if the nagging Bible verses came to you from a Bad Bible Bully if you can associate a particular Bible verse with the memory of a particular person.
If any words from the Bible fill you with guilt or shame or fear, do you remember a particular person who used those words to tell you what you had to do, or what you shouldn’t do?
If you can connect the nagging words to a nagging person, you will know that you learned them from a Bad Bible Bully.
My goal is to teach you how to set yourself free from the tactics of Bad Bible Bullies. Bible scholarship, with its tools of Bible exegesis and Bible hermeneutics, can separate the words of the Bible from the words of the Bad Bible Bullies.
Bible scholarship is a powerful tool to claim your personal freedom to read the Bible without fear, shame, or guilt.
Here is an overview of the perspectives, definitions, and methods of the blog. More titles will be added soon.
You can read an excerpt here and then click on the title to read the whole post.
As I see it, unless we each conform, unless we obey orders, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free.
Major Frank Burns, “The Novocaine Mutiny,” M*A*S*H.
This absurd statement by Frank Burns captures the fundamental conflict between claims about personal freedom and claims about Bible authority.
The Christian church has always considered the Bible as authoritative. At the same time, the Christian church has always claimed that Christian faith offers freedom to believers.
The conundrum here is how to put together the promise of personal freedom with the claims about Bible authority without sounding like Frank Burns.
This is the inherent conflict at the heart of Freedom From Bad Bible Bullies.
What if the way to set yourself free from the oppressive power of Bad Bible Bullies is as simple as asking better questions?
One thing is certain about Bad Bible Bullies. They already know the answers. Ask them a question about the Bible, and they will give you the definitive, authoritative answer about “what the Bible says.”
The only way to set yourself free from the suffocating answers of the Bad Bible Bullies is to go back to the Bible with a different set of questions.
“Freedom From Bad Bible Bullies” exists to address a problem created by particular claims about Bible authority within certain Christian churches.
The best way I know to illustrate the problem is to begin with a true story about my first day at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a large evangelical theological seminary north of Boston, Massachusetts.
Bad Bible Bullies are a special type of bully. They use the familiar strategies and tactics of other bullies to force vulnerable people to do what the bullies want them to do. What sets Bad Bible Bullies apart from other bullies is their primary weapon. They use the Bible as a weapon of power.
The Protestant Reformation laid the foundation for Bad Bible Bullies because of a dramatic claim about the location of authority within the Christian church. The core claim of Protestantism is that Bible authority trumps all other types of authority.
There is a direct connection between Protestant claims about Bible authority and the use of the Bible as a weapon in the hands of bullies. The foundational Protestant claim that God speaks directly to anyone with a Bible provides license for Bad Bible Bullies to claim the authority to speak for God.
Christian preaching is supposed to proclaim good news. The Sunday sermon gives the preacher the opportunity to speak to the gathered congregation on some topic. Most sermons are monologues rather than conversations. This means that the preacher speaks to a captive audience. A good news preacher can fill a congregation with hope. A bad news preacher can plunge the congregation into fear.
The sermons of Bad Bible Bullies are prime examples of Christian preaching as “bad news.”
What is the connection between Bible scholarship and Christian belief? Put another way, do all biblical scholars share the same Christian beliefs about God, the Bible, Jesus, the church, personal piety, and religious practices?
For your freedom.
Kalinda Rose Stevenson, Ph.D.