Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How To Take Quotes Out of Context

I took the liberty of writing down some statements my pastor (Tommy Sparger) said during his sermon this weekend. They just struck me as funny, and I imagine that if you read them standing alone you wouldn't think he was being very responsible in his preaching...which is of course not the case.

I thought I would share them with you, for some glorious examples of how to take things out of context. Enjoy his apparent irresponsibility! ;)

"It's OK, you can give in to temptation if you want to."

"Jesus didn't heal his own zits."

"God is not a nazi."

and my personal favorite...

"Jesus is a sucker, he'll forgive you later."

Context is a funny thing.

Ripping statements out of his sermon gives a completely different perspective on what he was actually saying, and changes both the message he was preaching and even our interpretation of his character. And yet, we do the same thing with just about everything we read or say.

We're constantly quoting statistics, stories, books and other people. Completely ignoring the settings and circumstances surrounding their original statement. It happens in the news, online, or just talking with other people.

I'm obviously most angered by this when it happens with scripture. We can pick and choose just about anything out of the Bible to condemn or reinforce any attitude, theology or behavior that we'd want. It's all a matter of taking a verse; ignoring the original circumstances, setting, target audience, meaning of the words to the original listeners/readers, and reading our own interpretation into it....and BAM!! We're now the proud owner of a verse that can say anything we friggin' please.

The problem is that when we do this as Christians, using texts from the Bible, we are attempting to invoke God's authority into the situation that we're talking about.

Seems like it would be an important thing to try to get right, wouldn't it?

Just think about the way that we use "proof texts" to "prove" our points.

No matter what the issue is:

  • Living a strict moral code....or not
  • Condemning slavery....or condoning it
  • Allowing women to serve in leadership roles in ministry....or excluding them
  • Letting people drink alcohol....or saying they can't
  • Promoting violence...or staunchly discouraging it
  • Speaking of God's mercy & love....speaking of God's hatred and judgment

By taking things out of context, we do the same thing I did to Tommy. We change the message, and we change the character of the person giving it.

We destroy God's integrity, change his character into something it isn't and completely distort the message he's trying to give us.

But it's in the Bible, see, right here!

Surely you're familiar with this wonderful out-of-context phenomenon.

When have you experienced it? What kind of issue? More importantly, how do we respond to being force-fed a point based upon out of context proof-texting? And what can we do to not do it ourselves?