Chainsaw Bible Verses

Last Sunday’s Old Testement lesson was Isaiah 6:1-8.  It is the first half of Chapter 6 which is subtitled in my Bible as Isaiah’s Commission. This beautiful reading, in elequent metaphorical language, describes how the great prophet Isaiah, imperfect as he was, was called to deliver God’s message to Israel.  I was quite moved by the whole reading as I read it aloud to the congregation, especially at the end in Verse 8 as Isaiah accepts and responds to the Lord’s call by saying simply, “Here am I. Send me!”

As much as I enjoy reading the lessons at church, I admit that I am wary of the Bible. To me it is a powerful tool that if used carelessly or improperly can be quite dangerous. I regard the Bible as sort of a spiritual chainsaw. This description probably applies to holy books of every faith. The wisdom and insight in these ancient texts can help clear the tangled undergrowth of our lives, assist with the clean up of damage and debris of storms and crises, and can help prepare the fuel that warms our lives and sustains us. There is no other tool like a chainsaw.

Certain verses however, interpreted improperly or taken out of context or even used maliciously can cause irreparable harm.  Verses 6 and 7 from this reading provide an example of what I’ll call “Chainsaw Verses” and should be used with extreme caution:

Then one of the seraphs (6-winged servants of the Lord in Isaiah’s dream) flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

I shuddered as I cinematically imagined a dark-robed Inquisitor in some 16th Century church touching a live hot coal to the lips of some free-thinking peasant or a folk healer for using dogmatically unacceptable methods to ease someone’s pain. The victim’s subsequent inability to speak with a horribly burned and disfigured mouth is then declared as proof of the presumed guilt.  In my mind’s movie, the rest of the villagers recoil in fear and learn that they must never challenge the Inquisitor or they too may suffer the same fate.

Any master carpenter will stress to an apprentice that they must learn to understand, respect and properly use the tools their trade. Many of Jesus’ lessons were exactly in this form.  We all must learn and be wary of holy “Chainsaw Verses.”  They are being used even today by those who wield them like weapons to rationalize and impose their own narrow interpretations of the unknowable mysteries of faith. We must deny the Inquisitors of every religion, in Wichita and throughout the world, the tools of their destruction.

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