There’s a cheeky meme doing the rounds at the moment that suggests the Bible is against lefthanders. Its argument is that, since the Bible supposedly states 25 times that southpaws are sinful, it is obviously a ridiculous book and so what it says about matters of history, ethics and sexuality must be equally ridiculous.

The lefthandedness meme doing the rounds online.

The lefthandedness meme doing the rounds online.

Frankly, the whole effort is itself ridiculous.

The Bible is no more against lefthanders than it is against blondes.

For the claimed 25 mentions that might be interpreted (by deranged orcs) as anti-lefthandedness, I can find just as many that might be considered positive or completely neutral on the topic.

Here’s an allegedly negative verse: “He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” (Matthew 25:33,NIV). OK, the left side does seem to receive those under God’s judgment, but can this really be stretched to suggest that lefthandedness is itself wicked?

The fact that we are even talking about it shows how ridiculous religious discussion has become.

Other verses are interpreted as preferring righties: “Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power” (Exodus 15:6). In the Bible, the right hand is definitely used as a symbol of authority and strength. It’s hardly surprising, since 85-90 per cent of us are right-handed, and thus our right hands are our strongest.

So, here’s a different biblical take on lefties: the hero of Israel in Judges 3 is Ehud, who used his lefthandedness to surprise the wicked King of Moab and bring victory to his people. He did it with an unexpected left-handed sword thrust to the belly.

But this is still silly: Ehud’s lefthandedness gave him an advantage, but it had nothing to do with his spiritual state.

The fact that we are even talking about it shows how ridiculous religious discussion has become.

The level of discussion about religion in our times has got to improve. It has to move beyond the point-scoring meme to genuine engagement with each other, with the texts and practices of religion, and with experts who can guide the discussion. Experts really will help us more than the current suite of comedians, actors and internet trolls.

Be sure of this: lefties aren’t singled out for special treatment. They are just as sinful as the rest of us.

This kind of “flat-earth” Bible reading is a staple of the anti-Christian brigade. Where they may require exacting standards in a field such as genetics or geology, those who feel angry at religion seem to be willing to throw their brains out the window when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

Huffington Post describes the man to whom the quote in the cheeky meme is attributed, Nicholas Ferroni, as “a revered educator and historian”. He may well be those things, just with a gaping hole in the area of Bible interpretation.

The level of discussion about religion in our times has got to improve. It has to move beyond the point-scoring meme to genuine engagement with each other, with the texts and practices of religion, and with experts who can guide the discussion. Experts really will help us more than the current suite of comedians, actors and internet trolls.

Of course, we Christians are also to blame … We have often given onlookers what might be described as a “free hit”.

Religion is the most important factor in world affairs. History bears this out, as do the news headlines most days.

The line of contempt and ridicule that Richard Dawkins and others have encouraged in our times has bred a generation of ignorant loudmouths with keyboards. Grace must return, along with informed discussion.

In fact, the level of basic public understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith simply has to improve. I am fed up with hearing people criticise something they call “Christianity” which bears no resemblance to the teachings of Christ.

Of course, we Christians are also to blame and, as Jesus taught us, we are to take the log out of our own eye before worrying about the specks blurring the vision of others. We have often given onlookers what might be described as a “free hit”.

Maybe we could start by gaining a clearer grasp of the Bible ourselves. Intelligent, informed Bible reading is about the best social service we can give. It grows in us an understanding of ourselves, our neighbours, our environment and our God, and that can only bring about good.

Raise your hand and promise to get on with this: right hand or left, either will do just fine.

Greg Clarke is CEO of Bible Society Australia.

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