Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's on you

This answer to an audience question from Tony Jones presents a huge dilemma to Christians. He is saying the political statements of the past that were justified by religion, but have since been determined to be wrong, must be addressed by Christians today. In my opinion, that they aren’t addressed accounts for many of the reasons people say they don’t go to church today.

It can’t be avoided. If you say Tony is wrong, you’re making a political statement yourself. The question (not shown in the video) was about how to address the centuries of anti-Semitism. If you say it was wrong, you’re saying great theologians throughout history, including possibly John the Apostle, were wrong, which leads to the question of what else they were wrong about. If you say it was right, then you are anti-Semitic. If you try to ignore the dilemma, it won’t go away.

When I have asked people questions about slavery or hell directly I have received a spectrum of answers, from being given books that describe the reasoning of the people in those times to blatant lies about what the Bible actually says. When I speak of those responses in general to others, I’m told I’m going to the wrong church, and that if I went to their favorite church, I’d get the right response. This is the run around on a grand scale.

To keep chasing the rabbit down this hole, I have to show up on Sunday to some new church, show I’m sincere, put money in the basket, get a meeting with the pastor, take an Adult Sunday School class, read the material, ask a specific question, and get one of those responses from the spectrum I mentioned above. If I ask enough of those questions, and continue to express dissatisfaction with the answers, I’m told that maybe religion is not right for me. Actually, in most cases I’ve figured that out for myself. Rarely do I need to be asked to leave.

What Tony is saying is, it’s time religion put that burden of asking questions on itself. He addresses specifically people who write about religion, I’m saying all churches and all religious people should be doing this. I should be able to walk into a church or have an open discussion with any religious person and ask a straightforward question about their stand on homosexuality, treatment of women, relationship with Jews and Muslims, slavery, smiting, or genocide, and I should get a straightforward answer. They don’t need to know every Bible verse, but if I show them one that disagrees with their views, they should agree it’s wrong, or the burden is on them to explain it.

Some people, when confronted with verses like these will tell you some abhorrent behavior is okay if God says so. Take the one about beating your slaves, some people have told me that they think slavery should be legal. More often people say something more generic about believing in the Word and not being open to argument about it. I don’t respect their logic or their conclusion, but I respect them for being clear and firm about their stand. I respect them more than the person who tries to make excuses for God’s behavior or starts out making a logical argument but then switches to a faith statement when their logic fails.

I could make an extensive list, but try a few for yourself. Think about what your view of morality is, how the world should work, then look at these Bible passages.

Exodus 21:20
20 If a man strikes his male or female servant with a stick and he or she dies as a direct result, the master must be punished. 21 But if the servant survives a day or two, the master is not to be punished because the servant is his property.

There is a beautiful passage in 1 Kings, chapter 19. You've probably heard it, the one about the still small voice of God. But the standard lectionary ends at verse 15, because at that point, God instructs Isaiah to build an army. In the pages that follow, those armies follow what God tells them to do here:
15 The Lord replied to him, “Go! Return to Damascus, and when you get there, anoint Hazael as king over Aram, 16 anoint Nimshi’s son Jehu as king over Israel, and anoint Shaphat’s son Elisha from Abel-meholah as a prophet to replace you. 17 Whoever escapes from Hazael’s sword Jehu will execute, and whoever escapes from Jehu’s sword Elisha will put to death. 18 Nevertheless, I’ve reserved 7,000 in Israel who have neither bowed their knees to Baal nor kissed him.”

This is from a parable in Matthew 3. You tell me what's going on here:

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Or this one. What the?

2 Kings 6:29

So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said to her on the next day, Give your son, that we may eat him: and she has hid her son.

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