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Annual Scripture Day looks at God as ‘creator’ versus ‘deliverer’

Southwest Kansas Register

Violence in the Old Testament was the topic of the annual Scripture Day held Oct. 20 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. More than 135 people from throughout the diocese were in attendance.
Sister Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., a professor of biblical studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago was the English presenter. Jose Antonio Medina, a consultant for Hispanic Affair for Liguori Publications was the Spanish presenter. A synopsis of his presentation is in Spanish on Page 8.
Sister Dianne spoke about the Bible as having the three essential parts of any piece of literature: the writer, the reader and the message.             
“There are different ways of reading the Bible. Historical background helps to understand the original meaning.”
She said that interpretation of a writer’s message would be different depending on the experiences of the reader. “A person living in an oppressed society would read about violence differently. When we are praying for peace, aren’t we actually praying for victory?”
She spoke of passages that present God as violent and as a warrior, and the religious legitimization of violence. “These are frequently used in liberation theology,” stated Sister Dianne. “People say, ‘God is on our side,’ or (they think) they succeeded because of (their) oppression. But this is not always right. God is greater than every characterization and metaphor.”
She said that the primary goal of God in the Old Testament is one of “deliverer,” and not “creator.” Deliverer, she said, is a military term, referring to a God that “fights on our side.”
“I find that very troublesome. A superpower should never publicize that image of God.”
Sister Dianne noted that after giving a past presentation, a man challenged her notion.
“He grew up under Nazi occupation,” she said. “I grew up in ‘free U.S.A.’
“Theology is not neutral. It always comes out of a situation that has biases.”
After an examination of violence and violent acts in the Bible, Sister Dianne shared a message of hope.         “We need each other to survive, because the world is harsh. We can break cultural stereo-types by getting to know people.”
Sister Dianne ended the day by speaking about forgiveness and stopping violence.
“The way to end violence is not to retaliate or perpetuate the violence, but to take it as a lightning rod and ground it,” she said. “It ends there. That is exactly what Jesus did. He took it and grounded it. We must pray for peace, but we must be peace.”
She challenged those present to be peacemakers.
“Make peace with those who you have some alienation with,” she said. “We need to care that we are at peace with each other.”

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