I struggle with Catholics embracing scripture in a way that leads to casually tossing around interpretations and application based in the individual’s emotion without concern for tradition.
One day, as I heard Song of Songs yet again impaled on the altar of personal emotion, I was struck by how much the person speaking loved God and the Bible. Since love is what allows knowledge of God, perhaps the ones who so easily speak of their personal truth found in scriptural phrases know far more about the Bible than the greatest scholars. Perhaps her passionate reading of this ancient text was at least as valid as Saint Bernard’s since she loved so truly.
Then one day I noticed that my husband had posted a poem on a social networking site. It was liked by people who knew that the day was significant to us for reasons described in words which are included in the poem’s first line. But the poem itself had nothing to do with our situation. When I asked, my husband confirmed that it was a coincidence and he had not considered that his friends and family would think he was posting a literary commentary on the significance of the day.
I wondered then about the love of those who responded to the poem as if it were my husband’s expression of the importance of this overwhelming time. Is it really love if you’re making something up based on how you’d feel, and not even bothering to read carefully to see what the words mean? What is the value of love that celebrates one line without pondering what it might mean to the beloved?
God can speak through any beautiful text, so what’s the point of focusing on the Bible if it’s only about the passion of the person reading a particular passage without context history or tradition?
I don’t have answers. I am convinced that the love of those who daily delve into scripture with joy is worth far, far more than my hesitant poking at a hope for truth. I can also see that Biblical scholars often have little connection to God left in their amazing knowledge of important facts.
It’s challenging for me to accept that those who love God so much are satisfied with a reading of the Bible that is no closer to truth than my husband’s friends’ liking of the poem he quoted. What does it mean when we ignore significant parts of a book in order to happily skim off the bits that fit with our ideas of what it should be?
And yet I know that passionate skimming is of much greater value than exhausted ignoring.
I value insights you are willing to provide.