Posted: 11 Feb 2011 02:00 PM PST
I remember reading the Bible in my younger days. Don't you?
I started before I became a Christian, at the tender age of nine, mainly because I had an unhealthy obsession with the end of the world. I ate up the book of Revelation, and even as an "unchurched" youth I clearly recall reading it to my friends at sleepovers.
When I became a Christian at twelve, my church family immediately put me on a "Bible in One Year" schedule which I stuck to diligently throughout the majority of my youth and young adulthood.
For the five years I spent in seminary, this was boosted up to four times over the course of one year, after a college professor my freshman year heard how I had also made it a habit to read through The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and the Chronicles of Narnia every year and challenged me to read the Word of God as often as I read my "worldly entertainment."
After all those readings (which, after a simple bit of math you may deduce was about 26 times), I can't to this day recall ever reading about some of the atrocities listed in the Bible. I clearly did read them, as I read and meditated on every word of Scripture, but somehow I missed them.
I remember reading about how Onan (Genesis 38:8-10) was punished with death for not impregnating his sister-in-law, but I didn't see it as the act of a God who despises women and orders men to treat them like cattle. I didn't see it an an act of incest. I didn't consider Onan's death as a pointless murder at the hands of a God who can't stand to be defied, and didn't view Onan as a hero for having a conscience and rebelling against a God who told him to do something he knew to be wrong. No, I saw it as a justified punishment for a man who defied a good, Holy, and just God whose beautiful purpose was to strengthen the family line of Onan's brother.
So here are a few of the things I failed to see in the Bible as a Christian which, if I had only chosen to think clearly and critically, I may have used to my benefit to escape religion much sooner than I did.
10: Being a good Christian means treating your slaves well.
Most people, when confronted with the idea that the Bible contains some terrible things, like to point out that that's just "Old Testament stuff," and that the bad things in the Bible were written for people living in a rougher and less civilized time. Gentle Jesus and his followers weren't responsible for any of the atrocities often attributed to the Patriarchs.
Slavery is a terrible thing that has occurred all throughout history. There's no doubting that the Old Testament does clearly allow for slavery, but surely, not the New Testament!
This brings us to the best part about Biblical slavery. Did you know…
9: Beating Your Slaves is Perfectly Acceptable
Yes, there is a verse in the Bible that tells us it's okay to beat your slave, as long as he's only bedridden for two days. From the context, it can be inferred that, if the slave does eventually die after a few days, that's okay too, because, well, he is property after all.
8: Boys Will Be Boys, and God Will Kill Them For It
I remember many times in my youth making fun of my pastor (often to his face) about his receding hair line. Of course, my pastor was a good sport about it and often made fun of himself. I'm glad that I live in a world where God doesn't exist, because if he did I may have received worse punishment than the fair recession of my own hair.
The natural response of a child, upon seeing a bald man, is to make fun of him. The natural response of a loving and just God upon hearing children making fun of one of his servants for being bald is to have them eviscerated.
I once looked on this with respect for the man of God. Now, I realize that whether the kids were saying "Ha ha, you're bald," or "Leave town because we don't want to hear your message" or "Have a great time in town, baldy, because we plan to stab you and take all your money," there is no moral way to explain sending bears to disembowel them.
This is actually one of the best-known stories in the Bible of God's atrocities. I still have a hard time understanding how I didn't see this as being awful back when I first read it, and the 25 or so times after that, and all the times I heard it preached as though it were something wonderful.
Next up is another story I never really picked up on, and which most people don't.
7: "One More Night With Them Stinkin' Frogs."
Everyone knows how Moses went to Pharaoh and said "Let my people go." When I was younger, I heard an evangelist sing a song about a very interesting part of the story: When Moses asked Pharaoh when he wanted Moses to take away the plague of frogs upon
The really interesting part of the story isn't Pharaoh's insistence that he spend "one more night in sin," as the preachers will tell you the passage means. It's that it was God, not Pharaoh, who made Pharaoh say no when Moses asked him to let his people go.
Because God hardened Pharaoh's heart, the people of
That's a lot of innocent deaths for God's punishment of one man . . . who did something God made him do. Sounds almost like . . .
6: 70,000 Innocent People Killed Because Someone Counted Them
God told David not to count the people. Most preachers I've ever heard will tell you it's because he didn't want the great numbers of
Whether or not you think this was a terrible sin, anyone of good conscience should be able to see that killing 70,000 innocent people because of the sin of one man (again, that sin was counting) is not the act of a loving, just, good God. Especially not when you consider that the method of execution was pestilence: It wasn't just the 70,000 fighting men of
Stay tuned for the next installment. So far these have been instances in Scripture any Sunday School student could drudge up and try to explain away. Don't worry: it gets much worse.
Posted: 10 Feb 2011 07:46 PM PST
Joseph L. Conn is the Director of Communications of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
President Barack Obama gave his personal testimony yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast in
I watched the address on a live stream from the White House website. It's still there if you want to take it in for yourself.
Obama's message was deeply personal and overtly Christian. I guess he's been falsely accused of being a Muslim so much that he feels obligated to make that point pretty bluntly one more time.
Obama also talked about how his faith influences his daily life, but the address largely steered clear of controversial political references. His remarks were charming and self-deprecating, funny and serious. Classic Obama.
I have to admit I have mixed reactions about all this.
Nobody questions Obama's right to participate in the religion of his choice. Presidents don't give up their constitutional protections when they move into the White House. I think it's perfectly appropriate for Obama to attend the house of worship of his choice – or stay home.
The National Prayer Breakfast – despite its official-sounding name – is privately sponsored. So participation in the event by elected officials doesn't directly raise constitutional concerns. This isn't a governmental event, it's a privately organized worship service.
But that's where one of the major problems comes in. The breakfast is privately sponsored by The Fellowship Foundation, a shadowy evangelical Christian outfit that is hymnal-deep in controversy. The Fellowship, also known as the Family, has a well-documented record of political shenanigans both here and abroad. (See "C-Street House.") Its leaders achieve power by holding networking events such as the prayer breakfast — officially non-political but unofficially very much so. (Search "National Prayer Breakfast" on Google News and see the list of political figures, great and small, who proudly announced that they were attending this year's heavy-hitter get-together.)
Most recently, Fellowship cronies have been involved in the disgraceful attempts in Uganda to impose the death penalty and other draconian punishments on gay people. That's why protesters gathered outside the Washington Hilton to call our national leaders to account.
Why, the protesters wanted to know, were Obama and a cavalcade of government officials, gathering under the aegis of such a reprehensible group?
I'd like to know that too.
The National Prayer Breakfast is a well-established fixture on the political scene, and I don't think it's going to go away. But at a bare minimum, the president and members of Congress ought to insist that this event be sponsored by another group. How about an interfaith network that includes the full array of
If that doesn't happen next year, Obama ought to exercise his constitutional right to stay home. Members of Congress ought to do so, too.
And one other thing: I don't think it's appropriate to broadcast this kind of event on the White House website. It's already on C-SPAN and a lot of the other news networks. Is it really in keeping with the constitutional separation of church and state for the president to use official governmental channels to tell
I don't think so.
We're getting to the point in
Email delivery powered by Google