To say I find the Bible inspiring is not to say I find everything in it attractive. On the contrary, there’s a lot that I find repulsive. The Bible doesn’t shy away from bearing witness to the ugly side of humanity, and indeed, the ugly side of religion. And we are supposed to see that ugliness as tragic. It’s doubly tragic when fans of the Bible don’t. That’s an exercise in missing the point.
Personally, I find the book of Judges from the Old Testament one of the ugliest and tragic books ever written. It was meant to be read that way. The conclusion makes that abundantly clear. But there’s plenty of stories of people falling into depravity and callousness in the New Testament books as well, not least those featuring religious leaders. It’s a thread that runs through the Bible. One of the functions of these books is to hold up a mirror to ourselves, particularly those of us who consider ourselves religious or spiritual. If only we care to look without flinching.
But there’s more. The Bible also functions as a window. It offers us glimpses of redemption, of beauty breaking into even the ugliest situations. Therein is the message of hope. That there’s no situation ugly enough that beauty can’t break in. And its in the ugliest situations that beauty shines most brightly.