Two summers ago, I served as a chaplain at Children’s Hospital in Dallas. I will never forget one particular conversation I had with the mother of a fourteen year old male patient. It went something like this:
Jimmy: I think that your son would really enjoy the book of Judges. It’s got some great action in it.
Mother: Book of Judges? Do they sell that at Barnes & Noble?
Jimmy: Actually, it’s a book of the Bible.
Right now the Daily Office is taking us through that book that is not sold at Barnes & Noble, but is part of the Bible, Judges. Yes, it’s got some great action in it, perfect for fourteen year old boys. But it’s also quite mean. There are accounts of child sacrifice, litmus tests for execution based on pronunciation of words, and just a whole bunch of bloodshed. Yikes, when did the Bible get so mean? Can we just forget about all that violent stuff and concentrate on Jesus?
Well, no, is the answer. We have to recognize the tension that resides within the pages of our Bible. We have to understand the fact that the dissonance we find in the Holy Scriptures is really just a mirror of our own lives. There is peace and violence, justice and iniquity in the world. The stories of scripture acknowledge that.
The question shouldn’t be “when did the Bible get so mean?” But, “isn’t that crazy that we have so much in common with the Bible?”