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Religion-Free Bible Part 1: What On Earth Are You Talking About?

May 31, 2013

Is it time for a Religion-Free Bible?

That’s what Jim Palmer thinks. I was directed to his website for the Religion-Free Bible by a friend, who asked me to respond to it. Apparently Mr. Palmer hasn’t updated his website since December of last year, so perhaps the master plan for the spread of the Religion-Free Bible (RFB) has had some setbacks.

“Religion” has always been the whipping boy of people within the Christian community who are trying to be cool, and this site squarely fits in the “trying to be cool” category. The site has a very faux-hipster, Leftist-cool vibe–a little bit of Banksy, a little No Labels, a lot of pictures of people with tatoos. Still, there have been orthodox thinkers who have criticized things called “religion,” including Tim Keller himself, so it’s worth looking into.

Did I mention that there were lots of pictures of people with tattoos?

Unfortunately, Jim Palmer’s beefs against religion tend to be either mundane or heretical. The websites list of 25 Reasons Why It Is Time For A Religion Free Bible feels like a collection of Zen Koans for modern seekers–the goal of them is not to make logical sense, but to be meditated upon until one reaches enlightenment. Reason #13: “There are a myriad of options between Fundamentalist and Atheist.” Duh. Reason #10: “The Bible can be a profound inspiration for art in every form.” And if you don’t believe me, check out “Creeping Deth” by Metallica. Reason #24. “Our diversity as humankind is powerful and beautiful. We Are The World! We Are The Children! Reason #16: “No human being regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or culture should be denied their status as a card-carrying beloved child of God.” What is this even supposed to mean? And what is with this “sexual orientation” business? Is this a passive or active orientation? There’s a world of difference between being gay/lesbian and being same-sex-attracted, evidenced by how much people who identify as one hate being called the other.

Then there are the reasons that go from merely silly to heretical.Reason #8:” Humankind needs permission to walk away from the lie we learned about ourselves that we are bad, not good enough, unacceptable to God, and something is wrong with us.” Reason #14: Every human being needs to know of their inherent divine worth.” Reason #20:” Humankind is not separated from and condemned by God.” This amounts to a flat-out denial of the doctrines of sin and redemption. In fact, it is a denial of the gospel message itself.

This denial of any objective sin is the crux of the Religion-Free Bible’s message, and it shows up on almost every page of the website. In the “Letter From Jim,” Jim writes,

…[A]long the way I have discovered how religion thwarts people in their desire to be whole and free. It is very difficult to convince people that they are good and beautiful human beings when religion has convinced them that they are “sinners” and despicable to God The greatest need of all people has always been and continues to be to know there is nothing wrong with us, that we are loved and accepted by God without condition. This was the meaning of Jesus’s life. This is the highest truth that defies, fulfills and transcends all religion, and this is the truth that will set us free.

The site also has a list of goals for the religion free Bible, which consist of the following:

  • knowing your Self as whole, perfect and complete
  • honoring the divine in all people accepting every human being as your sister or brother
  • being an expression of love, grace, peace and goodness in the world
  • seeing God in all things
  • building a world that works for everyone
  • creating something beautiful that doesn’t exist now
  • living your purpose as showing up and fully present in the now
  • leaving no stone unturned in discovering, creating and being all you are

And, of course, there are the excerpts from the Religion-Free Bible itself, which are worth reading for the utter hilarity of the writing if nothing else. In the NKJV, Titus 2:11-12 reads: “For the Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” In the RFB, it looks like this:

“The truth is that you are perfect and complete as you are. You were created this way – it’s who you’ve always been and always will be. In every moment you meet every condition for being worthy of love and acceptance by simply being you. I know it’s difficult to get this in a world that is continually sending you the message there is something wrong, deflective, flawed or inadequate about who you are. It’s a story you carry about yourself that you think is real and so you play the part every day. We will never shed these stories that separate us from ourselves until we start relating to each other in the reality of who we really are. Start with yourself! The great opportunity of your life is to grow up and become who you really are in this world. There’s nothing preventing that but you.”

Not only does this completely change the meaning of the passage, it is also poorly written. It looks like what might happen if Rob Bell decided to take up smoking marijuana and doing an e-journal of his experiences. If a Pauline epistle could be turned into this gooey-gooey gumdrop prose, just think of what they could do to the Gospels.

“Anguish climbed from the bottom of his gut up through his chest and throat, and into his eyes with a power that even he could not contain. A lone tear quietly dropped from his eyelash and as it inched down his face, Jesus grieved the human condition, in which he was now inseparably a part. In the length of his face, the heartache of humankind washed through him like rain. Jesus knew full well the human experience and how it sometimes felt like your heart was being ripped right out of your chest. Life is beautiful. But life was also agonizing. That was the deal, and there was nothing Jesus could ever do to change that. Gravity had its way with this solitary tear and as it fell from his chin to the ground, Jesus was undone with sadness and compassion that seemed to stretch across every wound and scar that had ever been suffered. No divinity could save him now from his own human heart. Jesus wept.”- Jesus, John 11:35, RFB

It’s somewhat comforting to know that the shortest verse in the Bible has finally been translated into Fourteen Year-Old Girl. On the other hand, it’s probably no worse than Love’s Consuming Presence or whatever Amish-country romance novel is being peddled by Christian publishers.

Fred Rogers was consulted while translating some of the tougher passages of the RFB from the Greek. I kid, I kid. Mr. Rogers was actually an ordained minister in the PCUSA. If you ever taped his TV show, rewind the VHS and you’ll here secret messages condemning Biblical Inerrancy.

In the next post, I’ll dive more into Jim Palmer’s message, and see if his claims actually match up with what the Bible really says.

Current Listening: “Surf City” by Jan and Dean.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. through a glass darkly permalink
    May 31, 2013 2:32 am

    awesome send-up. way to be, House. Way to be.

  2. May 31, 2013 9:38 pm

    Thanks, Ritter. I’m glad you liked it.

  3. Edward Wilcock permalink
    May 28, 2014 6:40 pm

    Going round in circles, going off at tangents writing and speaking infinite tomes of words
    and getting nowhere, is a utter wasfe of time. The ‘Gospel Truth’ can be fitted into a
    nutshell. Since ‘adam and eve’ god has offered us an option to do bad things – top of the
    League is GREED and is the cause of ALL sin on Earth. Your God has exacerbated
    by taking a passive stance where his help is badly needed e.g. Areas of Drought where
    little poor souls are being born into hostile enviroments only to die through lack of water
    and food. Do I hear you say ‘it’s god’s will’ which is ultra contrarian to ‘gods image’
    It’s only generations of ‘god is good’ impregnation of childtren’s innocent minds that has
    created a one-way track for the devout. To deny young people of their natural riight
    to freedom of thought, is CHI:D ABUSE. It is ‘GOD’S OPTION’ which has been the
    instigator of sin.

    • May 29, 2014 2:07 pm

      If you’re interested, I can recommend several books on grammar, logic, and spelling, which I think could be very helpful to you.

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