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"Picking Cherries" - Monday Moment - March 30, 2023

Happy Monday, friends! Have you ever picked cherries? I haven’t. I’m not sure I could tell you where cherries grow. But I have been in discussions and debates where cherry-picking was a theme. Of course, I’m now referring to the rhetorical act of taking a quote out of context and using it to “prove” one’s point. Politicians, influencers, pastors, and others routinely have their messages cherry-picked to demonstrate something negative about them. During the 2016 election cycle, Hilary Clinton was decried as an elitist because a camera caught her struggling with an MTA pass on the NYC subway system. “Clearly,” Secretary Clinton was so rich that she had no idea how to use a subway pass. Have you ever tried to use a subway pass in New York City? This one I’ve done many times. The card is paper thin, and the readers don’t read much. I’m sure she did have trouble with her pass, particularly while being hounded by the press. That doesn’t mean she’s an elitist.

The Bible often gets cherry-picked. I’ve been guilty of it. Have you too? We home in on one passage and ignore the context—literary as well as cultural—and we ignore what has happened and will happen. In response to my posts on TikTok, folks often comment verses from the Bible, always out of context and on their own as if every sentence in the Bible was meant to stand on its own. Language doesn’t work like that, and most books don’t work like that, either. When we read a book, we look for context to give us clues about what’s happening and who the characters are. We do the same thing when we meet people and speak to them.

Without context, we can make the Bible say just about anything. Indeed, this is exactly what’s happened for centuries. The Bible has been used to oppress women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ people. The Bible has also been used to support slavery and to bolster both socialism and capitalism. Without context the Bible can be used to support almost any evil. This is why cherry-picking is so dangerous. Remember, the Bible is not a single book, it’s a library of books. To take verses from multiple books, written by different authors, likely at different times, which have been translated numerous times and then to put them together as if they could support each other coherently is at mildly irresponsible and at worst laughable.

Where have you seen the Bible be cherry-picked? Where have you cherry-picked the Bible?

Let us pray: God, who inspired writers to compose the books we now know as the Bible, help us remember that these books were not written by you. Guide us in our reading and interpretation of the Bible including how we listen to other people’s interpretation. Where we err in our interpretations, correct us. Where we succeed in our interpretation, calm our worry. May our words be your words and when our words are not your words, may those who hear and read our words know the difference. Amen.

Blessings on your week, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.




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