Most people know "Love is patient, love is kind" and "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." But here are some less celebrated verses from the Bible and how some people have tried to defend them.Note: The terms "liberal" and "conservative" here are used theologically, and used throughout as broad, non-exclusive simplifications, as the nuances of centuries of biblical interpretation are impossible to fully explicate here.
In general, "conservative" is used throughout to denote a more traditional approach that treats the biblical text with some measure of divine inspiration, whereas a "liberal" perspective might be more interested in a historical-critical approach that views the text as a document, or literarily.
What more conservative readers might say: It's a metaphor wherein the babies are "the sadness of the Babylonian exile" who should be “dashed against the rock of faith," or "dashing your sins against the rock of reason."
What more liberal readers might say: Noted Hebrew Bible scholar Robert Alter writes, "No moral justification can be offered for this notorious concluding line. All one can do is to recall the background of outraged feeling that triggers the conclusion.”
What more conservative readers might say: Though most modern scholars and pastors interpret this verse a bit more leniently, many churches and religious institutions throughout history have used this verse to bar women from leadership positions, ranging from ordination to teaching Sunday school.
What more liberal readers might say: The verse was directed at a specific church context, perhaps "feminist" women congregants who were usurping authority - radical at the time -- or women who were attempting to spread Gnostic doctrine. Some also note that that the Greek verb authenteo (to "have authority") has a long and weird history of meanings, including committing suicide, murdering one's parents, and being sexually aggressive, and thus shouldn't be interpreted as some sort of administrative injunction today.
What more conservative readers might say: These terrible acts really happened, as a result of Israel turning its back on God.
What more liberal readers might say: The author of Jeremiah was picking up on the Deuteronomistic themes of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, which put forth the twin ideas of a grand nation united by God and then subjected to destruction for disobeying him. (FWIW, the historian Flavius Josephus reports that Jews starving in Jerusalem during the Roman siege of 70 CE ate their own children.)
Historical context: Addressed to Christians of all social strata facing social and/or physical persecution in the early church, likely under the reign of Domitian from 81–96 CE.
What more conservative readers might say: Submission to masters, even "cruel" ones (from the Greek word meaning "crooked") is commendable as an extension of the command in Luke to love one's enemies. One's response to unjust treatment can be an opportunity to praise God. Theologically, we see the author giving the idea of suffering a moral import; as Christ suffered his wounds, so slaves are to bear theirs with perseverance.
What more liberal readers might say: In the contemporary Roman Empire, there were as many as 60 million slaves who performed a variety of tasks, many of them menial labor. They weren't allowed to marry, and if they had children those offspring became the property of the master. Some suggest that the injunction here is political: that the intention was to suppress any social revolution or uprising. This passage was used during America's period of slavery by both abolitionists and slaveholders. For more, see Slavery in Early Christianity by Jennifer A. Glancy.
What more conservative readers might say: It's the author Mark himself. Or, he could be a metaphor for the disciples, who are now naked in the world after abandoning Jesus.
What more liberal readers might say: Various people have attempted to identify the man historically, but it's truly impossible to ascertain. He might be part of a literary motif crafted by the author; see Mark 16:5, which depicts a man in a white robe outside the tomb telling the women that Jesus has risen, and which uses the same Greek word for "young man."
What more conservative readers might say: God's judgment on the "gang of youths" was fair, as they were teasing a prophet of God and were likely set out to rob and possibly assault him.
What more liberal readers might say: Located in its literary context, it's a brutal fable meant to convey the idea that God should not be mocked.
What more conservative readers might say: To be fair, many churches have abandoned a literal interpretation of this verse, as the same Levitical holiness code forbids eating pork and wearing clothing made from two different fibers. But in both Christian and Jewish tradition, these verses have been used historically as a blanket prohibition against homosexual behavior. Here's one evangelical commentary that argues that "ceremonial" laws, like the one prohibiting consumption of pork, are no longer valid, but that the "moral" laws, like the one prohibiting homosexual behavior, still are.
What more liberal readers might say: The prohibition of gay sex must be read in the historical context of the time. There was really no contemporary equivalent of a loving homosexual relationship like we have today, much ancient same-sex activity involved pederasty. In addition, male "seed" was prized as valuable for producing offspring, and any activity that "wasted" it was frowned upon. (See also the injunction against "onanism" in Genesis 38.)