Some time ago, following a lesson about Lot’s wife, I got a letter from a student who was outraged about the hypocrisy of the believers in the Bible. We had a long discussion about how believers in the Bible, that claim to believe in Love and Compassion, judge others so easily without any compassion at all, as though they were the Inquisition aiming to condemn people and find the most horrendous way to punish them, all in the name of Love.
I could not disagree with her. I had to admit that I, too, see great hypocrisy among believers. And it pains me that judgement is more prevalent than compassion. So I decided to bring her letter here, as is, uncensored. I think we can all learn from it.
What triggers us to condemn or judge people we know very little about? Why do we tend to first believe the bad things we are told about of a person? And why does the Church promote this mindset?
In every story in the Bible there is the Good and the Bad. We are told to follow the Good and view the deeds of the Bad with abomination.
We have been told these stories since early childhood, so we all have stereotype images in our minds. We all see Abel as the tender, handsome and angel-like young man, Cain as the ugly and brutal looking, envious, cold antagonist. Nothing in him is good. In our minds, he will always be the first killer, forever. We learn to think of him as evil. We learn to hate him.
But did you ever start to ask yourself what type of a person he was? He had life, desires, hopes. He was first and foremost a person. But do you spend any time trying to understand him and what he did? Do you even try to read the text carefully to see what you know about him, and what God thought of him? As God simply transferred him from being a man of the land to a city builder, is it possible that God somewhat approved and supported what Cain did?
Let’s take another example. One of the biblical persons we hardly know anything about, other than disobeying God, is Lot’s wife.
We do not even know her name. All the Bible tells us is that she turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back to face Sodom during her flight.
Probably she was not a bad person. Why else would God spare her life from the destruction of Sodom?
Was she a good wife? A good mother? We know she and Lot had two daughters living together with them in the same house.
But in your lesson I learned that she had other daughters who were married. I was never taught that. I found it after your lesson when I started reading the Bible in detail, word by word. Does it change our opinion about her disobedience when we imagine that she had to leave those daughters and maybe grandchildren to be incinerated by fire and hot Sulphur? If you had children, won’t you have looked back? Would you even want to live, knowing that you left them behind for such horrible death, thinking that you could have talked them into coming with you?
Of course, most religious teachings tell us it is crucial to obey God, regardless of what the situation might be. Those meticulous teachers will explain that she deserved God’s so-called punishment. Some will go further to say that immediate death was too good for her, and she should have been burnt on the stake. I, for once, can’t believe that at all. Just put yourself in her place.
Running for her life, leaving family for a horrible death, knowing that everyone you knew and all you possessed is gone forever. You are exhausted from running, from the heat, and all you know that still exists is the unforgiving desert ahead. She does not even know if there are any other people left in the world. Does looking back at a time like this is a severe enough sin to warrant a death penalty? Isn’t it hypocrisy to claim it is?
I put this question on Twitter and Facebook. Most people commented that she deserved to die because she did not trust God enough. That she mourned the sinful life she would never have (again ?), that she did not look forward to a future given by God.
We can form our own opinion. I will be very happy if you share it with other students.
Still the question remains, why do we insist on condemning the woman so strictly, especially that if you read the text carefully, you could find a merciful God who tried to help her, not punish her.
But our teachers throughout the generation did not like the compassionate God version. Why?
Does it make us stronger, better people to look down on her? Does it make us feel righteous? Doesn’t the Bible, doesn’t Jesus teach us to be compassionate, to care for others, to help others when they are in danger?
Is condemning others truly the Christian mindset, the mindset a righteous person should entertain? Because the way we judge the people in the Bible is the same way we judge people around you, too. What you read in the text is who you are.
Whenever I read the Bible, I try to figure out what good can I learn from it, how can I make myself a better person, how can I help others more. This is how I find God, not by judging others. And for this reason, I want to share my different perspective on reading the holy scripture with you.
Here I add links to two posts I have written about the topic:
- Lot’s wife: https://hebrew-bible.net/sodom-lots-wife-the-humane-side-of-the-bible/
- Cain’s story: https://hebrew-bible.net/the-story-of-cain-and-abel-8-why-did-cain-kill-abel/
- To look at the original text both in English and Hebrew: https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0119.htm
Isn’t our opinion about other people judging others being judgemental too? i.e we are all contributing to the notion of being judgemental no matter how we say it. Is it possible to say that our opinion about others, positive or negative, is non-judgemental? Do people have the right to say… Read more »
This is a good and subtle point. Thank you. If you say “Look at this person, she is treating her mother so rudely” are you being judgmental or are you being factual? If I say: “she deserves to die” and you say: “try to be less judgemental” are you judgemental?… Read more »