let's burn the bible

I think it’s time we burned the Bible.  Fred Phelps uses the Bible to say that God hates fags and that the U.S war casualties are God’s revenge for our country’s permissive culture.  The Rev. Terry Jones in Gainesville, FL threatened to burn the Quran because he says that the God of the Bible tells him that Islam is the Devil.  For nearly two millennia there have arisen groups of Christians, many of them mainstream, which have found in the Gospels warrant to eradicate Jews.  It’s time to call a stop to it.  It’s time to recognize the evil contained in this book.  I say, it’s time to burn the Bible!

Now, of course, I have no intentions of burning the Bible.  I have a deep, abiding love for the scriptures.  To this day, when I hold the Bible in my hands, its sacredness makes me tremble.  I can never think of the Bible except I think that through it God is calling me to be more than I am.  The Bible coaxes me to forgive, to love my neighbor and even my enemy, to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, to trust in the loving presence of God through whom all things are possible and through whom I may live and move and have my being.  None of these things come naturally.  Be I alone, they are beyond me.  The sacred scriptures are one instrument by which God intends to make more of me than I am.  Burning the Bible would incinerate my soul, for it would be to deny God’s claim on me.

The scriptures of every religious tradition create such responses.  The Quran of Islam, the Torah of Judaism, the Sutras of Buddhism – and all the others, too–are holy.  To burn any of them is an unthinkable atrocity. Nonetheless, the scriptures of most traditions have been marshaled for terrible purposes; certainly the Bible and the Quran have.  The scriptures of every tradition call their followers beyond themselves, beyond their own possibilities, beyond and their own greed and self-centeredness, beyond their fear and prejudice.  But these human failings are nothing if they are not enduring, inventive and seductive.  Our most egregious human instincts, given half a chance, will trick us into believing that our scriptures call us to hatred, condemnation and vengeance.  It’s enough to make you want to burn the books – until you remember that the books would call us to be better than we are.  It is our sin, if you will, that gives voice to our worst selves.

So, let’s not burn the Bible, or the Quran, or any other holy book.  Indeed, let us remind ourselves that, as the Bible would say it, the very idea comes from that within us which is corrupt, not from God.


Thanks to Dudley Rose, Associate Dean for Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School, for this provocative post and to Bogdan Bârlea for the picture of this beautiful Bible.