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2/13/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Small but Powerful

By DagoodS

It is amazing what power a few words can have.

“This means war!”
“Will you marry me?”
“You’re Fired!”

Each sentence can be stated with less than a breath, yet those syllables will have far-reaching implications. We even can vividly bring to mind powerful images, and broad implications from just a snippet:

“I have a dream…”
”Fourscore and seven years ago…”
“One small step for man…”

Hollywood is well-aware of the power of just a few words. I’ll bet most people could immediately state the movie in which we heard:

“I’ll be back.”
”Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
“You had me at ‘Hello.’”

Think of the impact a smattering of words have, when labeled with the ostentatious sticker of “God said,” on the world at large.

1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12 consist of only 85 English words out of the more than Three-Quarter of a Million of English words in the entire Bible. Less than 1/100th of a percentage. Yet those few verses, and their clear statement of “Women be silent in Church” have resulted in centuries of the female gender being subjected to lesser status.

We can have female leaders of countries, leaders of business ventures, leaders in social organizations and leaders in any field imaginable. Yet within the Catholic church, there has never been, and will never be a female bishop, cardinal or pope. Because of 85 words.

Within the Evangelical Church, no Female Pastors. No Female elders. No Female Deacons. In the 21st Century, it is amazing to me that a church I attended for more than two decades had to re-work its entire Sunday School format because some adult males enjoyed the teaching of a certain adult female. And, as much as they enjoyed it, the Bible doesn’t allow it. 85 words prohibit it. (They now meet all together for a period of “exhortation” and then divide off so the men can be “taught” by a man. And no, I am not kidding.)

In America we could gain a female President. Which means, depending on the church she attends, on Sunday Morning at 10 a.m. she would not be allowed to stand up and say certain things to certain males. At 11 a.m. she could sign the order to send them to war and die.

Churches are splitting and fighting and ostracizing, as well as whispering, gossiping, pointing fingers and dragging out the “true Christian” stamp regarding the controversy of where women can fit in the hierarchy of a church. Over 85 words.

One of the largest divisive topics in the United States is how many rights do we grant a homosexual. Can they marry? Can they adopt? Can they dare to be seen in public holding hands without a death threat?

Rom. 1:26-27. 64 words. Even less than women leadership in church. Oh, I know about the Mosaic Law. But parts of the Mosaic Law were fulfilled in the New Testament. In Christianity, the New Testament trumps the Mosaic Law. The best the homophobes have is two little verses in Romans.

Think about all the hate that is poured out from Evangelical Christians. The literal killings. The discrimination (all done under the guise of “love,” of course). People attempt to deny who they are because they think it is a “sin” so they enter a heterosexual marriage in the hopes that God will bless them; only to be racked with guilt, and divorce (hurting another person) or worse—commit suicide.

64 words that are defining the world we live in. Oh, you can talk about not liking it because it is “unnatural” or because of procreation, or because of whatever excuse you want to make up, but underneath it all is the long-standing Christian tradition that homosexuality is a sin.

Can you believe that fewer words then John Belushi’s speech in Animal House (“Was it over when the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?”) have caused states to change their constitutions, 100,000’s of peoples to rally, churches to hold services and people to die? Because of a few, simple words.

797 words. In light of the numbers we have seen, that seems like a lot! Genesis 1. The story of creation. But how many millions and billions of words have been expended over whether Genesis 1 literally happened?

A quick search of “creationism” on Amazon.com revealed almost 5000 books on the topic! That is more than 6 books per word, dedicated to the proposition that Genesis 1 is completely literal, partially literal, wholly allegorical, or completely irrelevant.

Through research, scientists produce cures and medicine, and data, all based upon the proposition of evolution. Christianity takes their pills and shrugs. Scientists propose the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, and atomic theory. Christianity reads and learns. But if a scientist dares to invade what is considered sacred ground, by even suggesting that natural processes caused species to evolve, the axe must fall. Because such language speaks against 797 words.

How amazing that we have become so militantly engaged in this debate, to the point of bringing to bear the American Judicial system in an attempt to resolve it. And the Dover School district had to pay $1 Million dollars as a result. $1,250 per word.

When we review the Bible, it is fascinating to see how few words are dedicated to a prospect, yet result in vast schisms, and debate and argument. Not very many regarding divorce, slavery, how women should dress, or the unpardonable sin. Yet within those scant words, divisions of churches have separated and entire libraries created over how those words must be applied.

Why? What makes words that constitute less than a child’s paragraph so contentious? Because unlike any other words, people believe that these, in some way, came from God. These are not mere human words, but edicts from the very creator of the Universe. 20 or 30 words in the Bible are more valuable than all the laws and all the statutes of all the countries ever enacted.

(As a sidenote, isn’t it humorous that on the one hand the Bible is held in such reverence, yet on the other, Christians have to create regimented schedules, actively commit time and pursue with all their willpower just to read it? Most Christians have not even read the entire Bible!

They don’t need “Read through Harry Potter in a Year” to read the up-coming book. Yet to dredge through the very writing of the creator, it takes all they can muster.)

And how do we know it is from God? Because it says so. In one (1), tiny hyphenated word. “God-breathed.” 2 Tim. 3:16. “All scripture that is God-breathed is profitable for doctrine…”

Of course, we don’t even know what qualifies as “scripture” nor what the author meant by the word “God-breathed.” We have no other instance to compare the word to, for explanation.

Similar to my saying, “All blogs that are God-infused are edicts for what you must do.” The first question is what does it mean for something to be God-infused, and the second question is what method we use to determine which blogs qualify and which ones don’t. We have the same problem with determining which scriptures are God-breathed.

Completely baffling is that God appeared for a moment in time, inspired a few books, with only the briefest of mentions on some important topics, and then disappeared for 2000 years to let the humans wrestle over their meaning.

Think of the issues God’s Church would never have encountered if He had bothered to provide a succinct plan of salvation. Or mentioned the trinity. Gave direction regarding divorce, church hierarchy, sola scriptura, slavery and speaking in tongues. Or, even better, as new issues arise, explain His demands in…I don’t know…maybe some more writing?

We are fighting over mere sentences in books written by a different culture in a much different millennium. If those sparse words are impacting our world today so significantly, it is time we fully investigate and are fully knowledgeable as to why it is claimed to be from God. Hearing from a pastor or on Sunday morning is not enough.

If you want to tell me those words are as powerful as a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12) you ought to be fully researched as to what method you use to claim they came from God. Otherwise, they are significant words, but not edicts.

Because if these ARE just words…

“Words do not pay for my dead people.” - Chief Joseph.

20 comments:

Micah Cowan said...

DagoodS, you have a way of writing that is delightful to read. I think I'm becoming a fan. :)

As a sidenote, isn’t it humorous that on the one hand the Bible is held in such reverence, yet on the other, Christians have to create regimented schedules, actively commit time and pursue with all their willpower just to read it? Most Christians have not even read the entire Bible!

Reminds me of something I wrote in a comment on "The Love of the Bridegroom" (excerpt:)

I mean, Christians feel vaguely guilty about the poor amounts of time they typically spend in the Bible or prayer, but why should anyone feel guilty over symptoms? If every time one spends time reading the Bible, one suddenly gains new insight into his life and is able to apply them for immediate improvement, who would need to make themselves read it?

Jamie G. said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TheCapetonian said...

DagoodS,

Excellent post. Most definitely, I enjoyed your analogies and also the power of your writing.

Anonymous ?

What are you talking about? If you are not inclined to comment on the post, do us all a favor and keep your unrelated, stupid comments to yourself!

Theresa Frasch said...

Great post DagoodS. Thanks for the insights.

Jim Arvo said...

A quick note about the Anonymous (formerly known as "Shirley"):

He/she has been spamming this web site like a petulant adolescent ever since his/her assertions had been rebuffed/refuted in another thread. He/she is clearly angry, and is looking for a way to exact revenge. I'm sure this person rationalizes his/her actions as somehow standing up for god or Christianity (or some such claptrap). To me what is interesting about this is that he/she never once produced anything even resembling a cogent argument for his/her position, and simply turned hostile rather than attempt to reason along with us. That reveals more about this person's beliefs than any number of exchanges could.

Well, this is precisely why we cannot allow religious dogma to go completely unchallenged. I'm all for civil discourse, and for accepting that people have differing views, but such indoctrination must be called out when it leads to such contempt for others.

(And by the way, there is nothing even remotely troubling about "Shirley's" accusation which, I trust, will be scrubbed.)

religionkills said...

Hey Jim! Is this the one that a update came into my email about? If this is the spammer, then I hope Webmaster rips them a new ass. Isn't it just like a crispie to get so pissy when an point hits home so well that it puts just that least little bit of doubt in their mind and heart? To use one of the phrases from their little book, "Do not throw your pearls before swine lest they turn and rend you..." And, they WILL turn on you faster than a rabid dog. HAH! So much for the luv of jeezus in his/her heart.

Anyhoo, DagoodS, this is one of the best posts I've read. Delightfully succinct and straight to the point. I hope to read more of your writing soon. I think you said it best when you quoted Chief Joseph.

.:webmaster:. said...

You addressed Jim, religionkills, but I'll take the initiative to answer.

Yes, that was one of the posts. I deleted them, but every post is archived in several places, and the server logs are being analyzed.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing. I truly wish that I could vocalize these words with such eliquence in a heated debate with Evengelists that have been trained to answer the usual questions. I'm looking forward to more. Thank you!

infidel666 said...

Great Post!
For as much as Christians say they believe the Bible. Why is it that most have never read it? The most important book to a Christian yet they prefur to read the Davinci code or something from Sam Harris. Personally I think inside their head they kinda know the Bible is bullshit. And they can't handle the truth.
Also why weren't these books of the bible written by eye witnesses? Because it never happened! period!
Fundies want us to believe God waited till everyone was dead and then had a few people write down his words? Har Dee Har Har.
Really the Bible is nothing more then stories written down by nut cases like Joseph Smith.

Steven Bently said...

Great Post! At an early age we associate words on how we view the world, we tend to associate words with absolute truths, we get scolded and warned by words, if we do not behave, then we are warned of consequences, if we are warned not touch a hot stove, and do not listen, hopefully we just suffer a slight minor burn, so we soon see that warnings have meanings and consequences.

We often hear people say my parents were much smarter than us, well they had more time to experience and to test those warnings than we have because they have lived more years than us, but what they have been told to believe does not make them smarter nor wiser than us.

Then we get warned with words by the high priest, that we will suffer a burning hell if we do not believe as him, we presume he knows what is best for us because he has been lectured so we have been told, by the Holy Spirit, surely the preacher knows more than us, because they adamantly say they do.

We are all just a product of our culture, so we tend to associate words with truth, when will we learn words do not necessarly represent absolute truths, words represent ideas, concepts and beliefs, words also represent falsified ideas and envisioned concepts.

So people have mistakenly associated words written down by ancient peoples to be somehow less corrupt and more true than words written down today, not so, in fact, things written down thousands of years ago, is much less reliable and much less acurate than what is known today.

What people believed thousands of years ago, should be dismissed and disposed of as being totally false.

DagoodS said...

Thank you all for your kind comments.

I like to write. I enjoy the topic. To have others have a moment of pleasure in it is just frosting on the cake.

Micah Cowen, I was stunned to see on your blog you pulled out some old blog entry of mine from last year. There really ARE people who read archives? Hmmm… better clean up my act a bit.

Religionkills, my wife is Native American. Thus I like to quote ‘em.

Nvrgoingbk said...

Yes Dagwood, fine post, indeed.

Perhaps the most abhorrent word that has ever been devised by man is the word: "Hell".

The concept of Hell has driven many a man or woman to commit suicide rather than live in some "sin" that would cause them to go there. The concept of Hell, has driven many a nation, army, or religious group to justify heinous crimes against humanity.

The word, "Hell" conjures up terrible images of torture and endless pain, and has caused men and women to live in mind-numbing fear all their days.

It is this word that makes my skin crawl up like the burnt skin on a chicken leg every time I hear it.

"Hell" is the word pastors and priests toss around every Sunday to keep their followers in line and to keep their pockets filled. It is the concept of Hell, that prevents many from seeking out the truth for themselves so that they can find freedom, and instead remain tethered to self-loathing and trepidation, lest they be guilty of the deplorable act of apostasy.

The power of words can not be underestimated, but it goes both ways. With our words we can help to enlighten and subsequently free the masses.

Thank you, Dagwood for another insightful and inspiring post.

Epicurienne said...

DagoodS, you are a powerful thinker. Please write more!

Pete said...

From your article:

2 Tim. 3:16. “All scripture that is God-breathed is profitable for doctrine…”

Of course, we don’t even know what qualifies as “scripture” nor what the author meant by the word “God-breathed.” We have no other instance to compare the word to, for explanation.

Similar to my saying, “All blogs that are God-infused are edicts for what you must do.” The first question is what does it mean for something to be God-infused, and the second question is what method we use to determine which blogs qualify and which ones don’t. We have the same problem with determining which scriptures are God-breathed.


I was interested to read that because the version of the Bible that I'm most familiar with (the NIV) says:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching..."

A subtle difference from the version you quoted but a significant one. Yours implies that not all scripture is God-breathed but the NIV implies it is. Thus, according to that translation there's no difficulty in determining which scriptures come from God because they all do. (I'm tempted to say even the ones that contradict the other ones!)

Strangely, I did a Google search for the phrase "All scripture that is God-breathed" and it returned precisely 7 results, all from posts in blogs and forums. A search for the phrase "All scripture is God-breathed" on the other hand returned 65,800 results. On checking a dozen different versions of that verse at biblegateway.com, only one - the American Standard Version - gives your version of the quote whereas all the others (even the New American Standard version) agree with the NIV.

If the NIV and the others are right (assuming you put any faith in the Bible at all), at least it would remove the problem of determining which scriptures are God-breathed and which aren't. Was there a particular reason you quoted a version that seems to be the only one that translates that verse in the way you describe? I'm just curious.

.:webmaster:. said...

Pete, you missed the point entirely. The point isn't whether it is all scripture, or some scripture, but what does the writer mean by the word "scripture." Surely he didn't think his little letter was the very scripture he was writing about, did he?

When the writer uses the word "scripture" does he mean the first five books of the Old Testament? Does he mean the entire Old Testament? Does he include the Apocryphal writings? Is he thinking about the Gospel According to Thomas?

What does he mean when he uses the word scripture?

Keep in mind that the writings that were eventually chosen to be combined into today's New Testament were democratically picked at a council meeting ordered by the Roman Emperor Constantine, hundreds of years after Jesus' death and burial.

Pete said...

Hmm you're right...that meaning had gone completely over my head. In my defence (hehe), I have been and still am a member of a fairly fundamentalist church where every word of the Bible is officially considered to be divinely inspired and therefore useful for teaching etc as that verse implies. However, I've had a lot of long standing issues with this and many other teachings of the church although I've only recently become a regular visitor to this site, which I find very useful and informative btw. Anyway, I had never stopped to think that the logical extension of that particular doctrine is that it would mean that Paul was writing about his own letters and others which may not even have been written yet at that time. I know that the books of the Bible weren't collected together in their current form until hundreds of years after Jesus' death and I've always questioned why certain things were considered divine and were therefore included while certain other things weren't. It all seems a bit too convenient. I just never made the connection with that particular verse in 2nd Timothy.

I'm still fairly new to this skeptic business but I like to think I'm learning all the time.

.:webmaster:. said...

I'm learning all the time.

A sincere welcome to the club!

Jim Arvo said...

Hi Pete, I like the way you think. Hope you stick around.

Dave8 said...

DagoodS, thanks for the writing, it was enjoyable and a very good read. Words are powerful, because they are so easily created and flexible as to assign them to the object of one's thoughts/ideas.

My wife is Native American as well; her middle name is "dawn" as in morning rays of life. Hope to hear more from you, take care.