This Is Almost What We Need…

6 comments May 15th, 2005at 11:15am Posted by Eli

Kristof in NYT today, talking about a book by an ex(!)-bishop:

John Shelby Spong, the former bishop, tosses a hand grenade into the cultural wars with “The Sins of Scripture,” which examines why the Bible – for all its message of love and charity – has often been used through history to oppose democracy and women’s rights, to justify slavery and even mass murder.

(snip)

This book is long overdue, because one of the biggest mistakes liberals have made has been to forfeit battles in which faith plays a crucial role. Religion has always been a central current of American life, and it is becoming more important in politics because of the new Great Awakening unfolding across the United States.

Yet liberals have tended to stay apart from the fray rather than engaging in it. In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?) – and some biblical passages seem not so much morally uplifting as genocidal.

“Can we really worship the God found in the Bible who sent the angel of death across the land of Egypt to murder the firstborn males in every Egyptian household?” Bishop Spong asks. Or what about 1 Samuel 15, in which God is quoted as issuing orders to wipe out all the Amalekites: “Kill both man and woman, child and infant.” Hmmm. Tough love, or war crimes? As for the New Testament, Revelation 19:17 has an angel handing out invitations to a divine dinner of “the flesh of all people.”

Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene.

(snip)

Bishop Spong particularly denounces preachers who selectively quote Scripture against homosexuality. He also cites various textual reasons for concluding (not very persuasively) that St. Paul was “a frightened gay man condemning other gay people so that he can keep his own homosexuality inside the rigid discipline of his faith.”

The bishop also tries to cast doubt on the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus. He notes that the earliest New Testament writings, of Paul and the source known as Q, don’t mention a betrayal by Judas. Bishop Spong contends that after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem in A.D. 70, early Christians curried favor with Roman gentiles by blaming the Crucifixion on Jewish authorities – nurturing two millennia of anti-Semitism that bigots insisted was biblically sanctioned.

This book almost sounds like a great thing, but I fear Spong undermines his own credibility by making provocative and sure-to-be-rejected claims about Paul, and Jesus and Mary. But he does attempt to fill a gaping and scary void that desperately needs to be addressed: The lack of discourse about the vast discrepancy between the Christ of the New Testament and the extremist Christians who have appropriated his name to defile His message.

More like this, please, but a little more mainstream-friendly next time, mmkay?

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Favorites,Politics,Religion,Republicans

6 Comments

  • 1. oldwhitelady  |  May 15th, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    Oh, shoot! Were we supposed to be blogging about religious writings, today?

    In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?)

    Exactly!

  • 2. Eli  |  May 15th, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    I think more needs to be made of the difference between the Old and the New Testament. You can find all kinds of vengeful intolerance in the OT, but it’s the *NT* that’s supposed to put the Christ into Christianity and give it its unique identity.

    I’m sure Jesus would approve of football. Really I am.

  • 3. oldwhitelady  |  May 15th, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    I don’t think the religious fundies read the New Testament.

  • 4. Eli  |  May 15th, 2005 at 6:41 pm

    I always thought the only takeaway the fundies had from the NT was that the Jews killed Jesus.

  • 5. watertiger  |  May 15th, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    I always thought the only takeaway the fundies had from the NT was that the Jews killed Jesus

    well, that and it’s OK to bugger your narcoleptic wife while she sleeps…

  • 6. Eli  |  May 15th, 2005 at 10:25 pm

    I’m pretty sure that’s Leviticus, tigre.


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