Self Defense from a Fundamentalist Attack:
12 Scriptures No Fundamentalist Believes
(Part 3 “The Sabbath is made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath”)
Fundamentalists often attack humanism as arrogant. In today’s scripture, we will see that Jesus was a humanist. The word “Sabbath” could either refer to an actual day, or to religion in general. One way to translate the saying would be “religion was made for human beings, not human beings for religion.”
Notice that Jesus says religion was “made”. The symbol “God” is a human image for those parts of our experience that are too large, too deep and too strange to think about. We give that mystery a face, not to capture its image, but to remember we are intimately connected to it. It is our source, our foundation, our eventual home. Our human reason bears the stamp of a cosmic source, but can never plumb its depths.
Jesus is saying that religion is the lamp but never the flame. It is an artifice to illumine and enrich human life. To paraphrase the theologian Karl Barth, religion when we reach for the mystery, revelation is when we let the mystery speak to us. Religion is the vocabularies, rituals, and practices communities make in reverential gratitude to life’s mystery.
Humanism, it is true, can be arrogant. When Protagoras claimed that “humanity is the measure of all things” he projected human subjectivity upon the cosmos. But humanism can also be the very heart of humility. It can be the recognition that we can only know reality or God within our human compass.
When fundamentalists claim that humanism is arrogant they are unconsciously masking a desire to control others. When they say the word of God is not to be questioned, they unconsciously protect their own claims about that book from critical thinking as well. When they say God wants obedience, they unconsciously protect their own hierarchies of power as well.
So the humanism of the Bible says that God needs nothing and is not served by human hands. Jesus is saying we were not made as servants of some invisible being, but for freedom. He said, ”I came not to be served but to serve.”
The Sabbath is a call to take responsibility for our lives and for our world. The Sabbath was a warning label put on religion that told us that sometimes we would need to break the letter of the law to fulfill the spirit of the law. If an ox falls in a ditch on the Sabbath, we break the Sabbath to get it out. Jesus said if we are on our way to the temple and remember someone has something against you, leave the offering and make up with that person. If someone is hungry and needs food, we break the Sabbath.
In the story of the Good Samaritan pious people were on their way to perform religious duties in Jerusalem, and passed by the wounded traveler so they would not be made impure. The Good Samaritan was Christ’s positive example of choosing human need over religion. Jesus said to the fundamentalists of his day, “You do not know the seasons.” He was saying that they lived by rigid rules and were causing unnecessary suffering. The music of life cannot be captured by the black and white of scripture’s sheet music.
Long before Marx or Feuerbach., Jesus was advocating humanism when he said, “religion was made for human beings, not human beings for religion.”