This quote is from an interesting article on a website called Faith Street, a site that helps people locate faith communities (including DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church) when they move to a new town. Peter Eric Enns, a biblical scholar, theologian, and writer, was asked to list ten things he wishes everyone understood about the Bible, and this is one of those ten things. You can read the entire article at http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/10/06/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-the-bible.
As I read this article, I thought about how many Unitarian Universalists experience the Christian Bible. We certainly don’t accept it as an authoritarian God-given “Terms and Conditions” agreement. I realize that some Unitarian Universalists see the Bible as relating to some other religious tradition, but not ours, and some Unitarian Universalists believe the Christian Bible has no place in our churches. Yet, the Bible and the Christian religion are part of our history. So how do we discuss the Bible and Christianity (and even god) if we don’t at least look at this part of our history?
Going back to the quote above, some Unitarian Universalists would have trouble with the sentence “The Bible is more like a grand narrative that reorders our imaginations and holds out for us an alternate way of seeing reality—with God at the heart of it rather than ourselves.” I don’t think some Unitarian Universalists would have trouble with the first part of the idea that the Bible is be a grand narrative that has the potential to reorder a person’s imagination and/or holds out an alternative way of seeing reality. Though many of Unitarian Universalists might not be attracted to that particular alternative way of seeing reality; my experience of Unitarian Universalists is that many would not find that statement deeply offensive. I do think that the last part of the sentence “with God at the heart of it rather than ourselves” would give most Unitarian Universalists some trouble.
Many Unitarian Universalists have trouble with this word “god.” Many Unitarian Universalists have come from a faith-home where that word was used to manipulate, abuse, control, and harass others. And many Unitarian Universalists have a difficult time finding a new way to understand the word god that can make sense to them. Certainly those Unitarian Universalists who understand the word “god” as representing supernaturalism would say the word has no meaning. But words do have meaning. And we, individually and collectively, decide what that meaning is.
For me, the word “god” means that there is a life-advancing force within the universe, within all things, that connects us to one another and all creation. This meaning is not based on Biblical writings, but I guess I would also say it not in conflict with Biblical writings either.
If we look at the last part of Enns’ sentence and keep in mind my definition of god, I wonder how many Unitarian Universalists, how many people who see themselves as spiritual but not religious, and how many humanists would reconsider the Bible as useful in their spiritual journey: “The Bible is more like a grand narrative that reorders our imaginations and hold out for us an alternate way of seeing reality—with a life-advancing force within the universe, within all things, that connects us to one another and all creation at the heart of it rather than ourselves.” I believe that the Bible was written by people of faith for people of faith to use as a narrative to aid them on their life journey. So consider this: the Christian Bible is a grand narrative of stories: stories that might open up our imaginations, stories that might help us see the world in a different way, and stories that might help us find new ways to connect with one another and all creation. Sit with those concepts for a little while, and notice what meaning percolate up through your mind and spirit. Words do have meaning and our Unitarian Universalist congregations offer a place where questioners and seekers can not only explore the Upanishads, the Koran, and the Torah, but also the Bible in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.