The Bible from an empowering point of view
If there is something good about Sen. Manny Pacquiao quoting the Bible, it is that it opens conversations about the role of the Holy Book in religion and in the lives of Christians and churches.
The senator has used the Bible to justify death penalty and mining, as well as to criticize members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
While I believe that religion is a private matter and that specific religious traditions and beliefs should not be imposed as public policy, I maintain that religion has at least a role in society. If religion is a manifestation of the sacred, then religion must promote the timeless and boundless teachings and practice of love, justice, hospitality and solidarity.
For Christians, the Bible is a source of information and a guide to one’s moral choices, decisions and actions in life and in social relationships. It is also a documentary on human experience and belief in God. For Christian churches, the Bible is meant to help us to become better persons (as individuals)—loving our neighbor; acting according to the standards of love, justice and compassion; and caring for creation.
The Bible is a collection of stories about many things—events like wars, triumphs and defeats; behavior like vengeance and forgiveness; emotions like love and hate, etc.—even crimes like murder and rape. But just because stories of rape are found in the Bible, this does not mean that rape is right. It just tells us, for one, that violence against women is real—since ancient times.
There are also stories of Jesus preaching and healing. Which begs the question: “Are these stories mere narratives or are they prescriptive?”
A sacred book like the Bible is not meant to be invoked for bigotry. Nor to promote sexism, racism or any other form of discrimination. Nor to justify patriarchy, greed and abuse; nor to subjugate and oppress communities and peoples in the name of faith.
Unfortunately, there are people who readily quote the Bible to silence women and deny them leadership positions in church and society. A favorite of those who object to the participation of women in decision-making in church and society is I Corinthians 14:34: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” While using this verse to justify the marginalization of women, they downplay the role of women as disciples of Jesus who were faithful through his preaching and teaching ministries (Luke 8:1-4).
The Bible should be interpreted from a liberating and empowering point of view. It is imperative for the faithful to read and interpret the Bible like drinking clean water as a thirst-saving grace, not recycled waters from the sewage of bigotry, patriarchy and narrow fundamentalism.
NORMA P. DOLLAGA, Kasimbayan Women’s Collective, Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan, firstname.lastname@example.org