"May I join you?" I asked as I took the last chair.
"Certainly." The leader began, handing me a small book. "We're doing a Bible Study by Anthony Markwell* called 'Fortress'*. We're on chapter 4, 'Resistance'"* (*Not a real author, book, or chapter.)
"I've heard of it, it's been 6th on the best-selling Christian Book list for the better part of the year. My friend gifted it to me a few months ago, so I know the parts that I've missed." I said.
"Oh good - then we won't have to review the first few chapters ... just don't spoil the rest of it for us..."
The Bible study was pretty typical - we were looking over a book that wasn't the Bible, the leader's version had pre-selected questions that were answered thoroughly and anytime a question that wasn't covered was asked, he found a way to return to the topic without answering the question. It wasn't long before the Bible Study had concluded.
"You didn't say much, but you looked like you were lost in thought." The leader noted.
"I'm always thinking a little more than most people would like. May I ask, why are you studying Markwell's book and not the Bible?" I began.
"Everybody knows the Bible, especially around here - they're steeped in it from Vacation Bible School, Sunday Morning and Evening and Wednesday Evenings too, Markwell brings in a fresh perspective that's easier to understand. He's also pretty popular, the radio show, the t.v. show, his books seem to come out one right after the other." He said.
"Markwell may be popular, but he also has a talent for putting his foot in his mouth - he tends to offer apologies that begin with: "I'm sorry if you feel offended, but ..." Even in this book, his assumptions lead to erroneous theology." I said.
"Really? I don't see that." The leader said.
" ... 'I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.' says Jesus. He later instructed his disciples; "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." We are to do like-wise, to sell our coats and buy swords - that is guns so that we may resist the Devil and he will flee before us... As quoted from chapter 2, 'The Best Defense' I have to ask, what evidence is there that a gunshot is enough for the Devil to be so afraid that he will flee - can a bullet even hurt him? It could only harm people that have not yet chosen serve God and they must be afforded every opportunity to chose to follow him, not be shot and told about how great God is by the guy that shot him. Even that section of text had the verses taken out of context and out of different books of the Bible being mashed together. Doing that, you could make the Bible say anything." I pointed out. "Look, I know scripture does use war-related metaphors to get it's message across, but just because it says 'Every fighter wants to please his commanding officer' does not mean that everybody should join the military. Or just because it says that many people from the island of Crete have a reputation of being lazy it does not mean that they all are lazy nor that they will be lazy for all time because the Bible says that there lazy at a specific point and time."
"Then I take it that you would use the same reasoning to say that the Ten Commandments don't apply." The leader said.
"The Ten Commandments were spoken to ancient Israelites, not modern Americans. I believe that Jesus' death permanently satisfied the law, including the requirements of the Ten Commandments. Look at Romans 14, "5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord." The one that considers one day more sacred might remember the 4th commandment to honor the Sabbath, but say the one that considers all days alike doesn't have a Jewish background and was never told what the Ten Commandments were, would he be sinning to consider all days exactly alike? Today, we know of the Ten Commandments and have adopted them as a general moral guideline, but I sincerely doubt we would punish blasphemy or people who work on the Sabbath. We certainly don't follow these commandments as if they are enforceable rules. No, the only rules we must concern ourselves with is to love God and love each-other. If the church could do away with all forms of inequality, racism, sexism, ageism, judgmental attitudes, and just loved each other, seeing to each other's needs, and supporting each other in tough times - then we would do so much better."
"You've given me a lot to think about." The leader said, which meant, 'Can we hurry up and get this conversation over with? I really can't take much more of this.'
After a few more polite words, we parted ways. I was more than ready to go home and I suspected that he was anxious about missing Markwell's evening show. Just outside of my place, I took a moment to look up at the only constellation I recognized and I realized how I had always filled up the silence around me with my own world of contemplation. I couldn't help but wonder what direction Christianity was heading in and whether or not I wanted to be strapped in blindly for the ride.