A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

False Assumptions with Lethal Consequences

There are false assumptions related to American Christianity which I believe have weighty consequences.

The first assumption is this: literal interpretation of the bible is the one and only historical and true way of reading scripture. Some research, and understanding of history reveals this not to be the case.  It can be argued literalism, as it is thought of today, is a phenomenon of the last few hundred years.   At minimum, one can find examples of important theologians throughout history who did not take a literal view of scripture.  Looking to Judaism, which is part of the Christian heritage, is eye opening as well.

Why is this important?  Because many good, faithful people believe the only way to be a “true Christian”  is to believe in the literal interpretation of scripture. The particular point of view which is claimed as the literal interpretation of scripture includes things such as anti-homosexual attitudes and negative attitudes toward women.  Thus, loving people are led to behave in unloving ways, because they believe being a Christian requires it of them. 

When politics are added to the mix things get even messier.  Another assumption often made of Christianity in the United States is Christian faith requires conservative political views.  This assumption leads to people of Christian faith passionately supporting ideals  such as seeing money as free speech.   Money as free speech is really the same as “might makes right.”   If I have the money to do something I should be able to do so.  The practical consequence of this is effectively silencing the poor.  This is traditional Christian values?

Conservative politics combine with supposedly traditional Christianity also means I more frequently hear church people talk about lazy welfare recipients than talk about how we can help the poor.  How does that jibe with any interpretation of scripture?  (BTW, “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the bible.)

There are devastating consequences to these two false assumptions which go far beyond my own political frustration.  If the church is no longer a voice for the poor, if we allow money to be the only voice, the consequences to those living in poverty can be lethal. Without the support of religious justification provided by “biblical literalism”  discrimination against women and homosexual people could only be seen as the bullying oppression it is.  Discrimination against women around the world leads to violence, rape, neglect of female children, and economic disempowerment all with deadly results. Discrimination against homosexual people leads to violence and suicide.

So called “literalism” and its accompanying politics is literally killing people.  And it is doing so with the assent of good people trying to be “true Christians.”


Phil Yandel said...

I was one of the lucky born again Christians that learned to properly interpret the bible when applying it in my life. Ultimately, I still lost my faith, but today's Christianity is puzzling to me.

Sheri Ellwood said...

I hear you, Phil Yandel (and thank you for the comment) though I do wonder how much Christianity has changed and how much it is the media's tendency to report the extremes of every issue. Us mainliners are so boring. But, it is hard for me to tell from here in Kansas where it seems the 700 Club folk have taken over our religion much as the Koch brothers have taken over our politics. Not that I am bitter or anything:)