In the March 3, 2011 Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham answers a question about reading the Bible. His answer is partially correct and partially slanted to misinform his readers.
Billy’s reader asks, “I know I ought to read my Bible, and I try to, but I just can’t seem to make much sense of it. How can I get more out of my Bible? Maybe I need one of those modern translations?” You can read all of Billy’s answer here.
Part of Billy’s answer is correct. He encourages the reader to read the Bible. It may sound strange coming from an atheist, but I also encourage everyone to read the Bible. I must admit that I have not read the Bible as a novel, that is, from page one of Genesis to the last page of Revelations. However, I do read the Bible; I have several copies. Anyone who reads the Bible with an open mind soon finds fairy tales such as talking donkeys, contradictions such as two incompatible creation stories, rules against acts we consider acceptable such as planting mixed crops or wearing clothing of mixed fibers and passages that violate our modern ideas of morality: religiously sanctioned murder and genocide, acceptance of brutality and slavery, and so on.
Where Billy and I differ is the way he suggests people read the Bible. He says, “First, start at the beginning of a book (e.g., Psalms, or one of the Gospels such as John), and read a portion each day. In other words, don’t skip around or start at the very beginning of the Bible (like you would with most books), but concentrate instead on something that will be easier for you to understand.”
It would appear that Billy is concerned that a reader might start with Genesis and discover the terrible things Billy’s loving God inflicts on the people He created. Parts of Genesis show God acting like a spoiled child taking the ball and going home. God creates people with free will, but when they exercise that free will, He punishes them. Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. Almost all humans, plus almost every living land animal, is destroy in the flood because God saw His creation was wicked, and He struck them down rather than help. In the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, the sacking of Jericho, and the slaughter of the Midianites, and others, God shows how different He is from what the popular image.
This vengeful and malevolent God is not who Billy or any other modern Christian worships on Sunday. There is a good reason that most modern Christians are “Christ followers” and “Jesus lovers”. Jesus is seen as kind and loving, but the God of the Hebrew testament is cruel and hateful.
Don’t take my word for it, or Billy’s word, or any other preacher’s word. Go to the source. Open your Bible at page one and start reading. When you have had a stomach full of violence and hatred, go out into the world and be nice to someone.
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