Among Republican presidential hopefuls, several – such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry – have stressed their commitment to fundamentalist Christianity, which bases its approach to cultural issues on a literal reading of the Bible. But the Rev. Howard Bess notes that many of those ancient traditions are repugnant to modern society.

The essential messages of the Bible are justice, peace, love, reconciliation and hope — messages that have the power to operate in every age and every culture. But the list of clashes between the Bible and modern culture is long.

For instance, the Bible reflects an absurd understanding of the structure of the universe; it shows little understanding of physical and mental illnesses; and it was and is on the wrong side of patriarchal authority, marriage, equality for women, homosexuality, slavery, and the rights of an older son.

That is because the Bible is a collection of writings by many authors who wrote in ever-changing circumstances in ancient times. Today’s Bible readers live in circumstances that could not have been imagined by the original writers.

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