Process and Torah
a sermon by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
Why the Bible is a horrible book.
Below are excerpts from the first part of the sermon; but please make sure you listen to the whole sermon. Rabbi Artson makes a strong case for loving the Bible and reading it on a regular basis, even as we also read it with critical eyes. He also makes a case for thinking of God, not as a bully in the sky who is almost always outraged, but as spirit of love and justice who cares for all people and for the whole of life deeply. He proposes that we read the Bible with this image of God in our minds, such that we are free to reject what needs rejecting and embrace the spirit of love and inclusion and also leaps forth from the pages. In one short sermon he captures the spirit of a process approach to scripture. Christians have at least as much to learn from his approach as Jews; the New Testament has its awful sides, too.
It's an awful book. If you were coming up with a book that was making a sustained argument that women aren't actually people and they're only important when they come into contact with men, you would go to the Torah for support. If you wanted to make an argument that the only people that can have sex are straight males, you would go to the Torah for that argument. If you wanted to make an argument that the earth is there to be plundered however we choose to plunder it, you might want to use...sections in the Torah to bolster your point. If you wanted to argue that God was a distant, paranoid, guy with anger-management issues, you would go to the Torah. Do I need to go on? If you wanted to make an argument that enslaving most human beings, wiping them out after war, kidnapping women and raping them as the fair bounty of a war well-fought, well, I have the book for you. And every week we take out this atrocious iron-age book and we read it!. And we kiss at it...So what's a Jew to do?...If you believe that the book is literally describing reality as it actually is: in fact, that the world was created by a God who is almost always outraged, and who worries the little things while seeming to ignore typhoons and harvests of control and global climate change being a disaster and the fact that we are surrounded by militant enemies who want to kill us, and that we created a state by mostly ignoring them -- if that's the literal world, then this book you'd better read all the time, because otherwise you are next to be zapped. And there are an awful lot of Jews who venerate the Torah because they think there is a guy in the sky who is in complete control and this is his book, and if we don't follow it to the letter, we're doomed.
And worth reading on a regular basis.
I would like to offer you a relationship to the Bible that allows us to do what, I think, it was originally intended to be, which is a source of light, a source of affirmation, a source of deeper humanity. The Bible that you hear preached by some is a bible of rules, a bible of rigidity; occasionally, a bible of fear. This is not what draws me to the Bible, and it is important that somebody publicly present a different take.