Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof


Word on the street has progressives engaged in a “war against religion,” or if not a war, then at least a Monty Python-esque call to “run away” from all that is good, Christian, and decent.

A column by Russ Douthat in yesterday’s New York Times, as Diana Butler Bass points out in her wonderful response , rehearses the old trope that liberal mainline denominations are dying because they are liberal. Without naming it, Bass draws attention to the fallacy of the liberal-kills-churches meme, that is, the confusion of correlation with causation, by offering the reminder that conservative churches are also experiencing decline.

The tired charge that liberal mainline churches are dying is, ironically, itself difficult to kill off. This fact has caused liberal churches for at least forty years to find themselves always on the defensive. Underlying this indictment of liberal Christianity is the assumption that a progressive reading of scripture and its ethical conclusions are somehow an accommodation to a purely secular system of meaning, while conservative interpretation is self-evidently the gold standard of biblical faithfulness.

What I want to challenge is the persistent and difficult-to-kill assumption that conservatives occupy some kind of religious and ethical high ground, and that any deviation from a particular kind of conservative orthodoxy isn’t merely a matter of interpretation, but is tantamount to initiating hostilities against God, motherhood, and the flag—all of which, interestingly enough, are conflated in some people’s minds. But that’s another article.

The smug certainty with which some conservative religious and political types believe not just that they occupy the side of truth on every issue, but that they occupy the side of God’s truth is alarming—not because they believe these things of themselves so uncritically (self-righteousness is a time-honored religious and political posture on both sides of the ideological divide, after all), but because so many in the culture agree to cede them this authoritative land of milk and honey.[1]

In fact, I not only want to challenge certain popularly held assumptions about the rightful place of the Right at the center of theological discussion, I want to suggest that if a war on religion is being waged, it’s main combatants aren’t progressive Christianity, Barack Obama, or left-leaning political types at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. I want to set down a more radical charge:

The real war on religion is being waged by those on the Right who read the bible not as the story of God’s saving interaction with the world through the unfolding of God’s reign, but as foundational for a conservative politics of self-interest or as a blueprint for a post-Enlightenment cult of individual piety.

There. I said it. The greatest damage to Christianity comes at the hands of those who display their devoutness with such practiced conspicuousness.[2] Jesus spends the better part of the Gospels crossing rhetorical swords with those who have arrogated unto themselves the mantle of God’s special emissaries for a publicly muscular show of religious devotion.[3] Ironically, Jesus, when faced with an opportunity to cash in on his religious popularity, always seems to strike out in the opposite direction.

I am weary of playing defense against fundamentalism, as if it holds some sort of privileged theological position that requires a special deference, as well as the expectation of an explanation from those who would deviate.

It’s not that I resent having to come clean about my own hermeneutical presuppositions, to be required to set down the story I’m telling about how I interpret scripture. What makes me unutterably weary is the popular assumption that a fundamentalist reading of scripture is somehow the hermeneutical true north by which all interpretations are to be judged. The assertion that the bible is to be read in a common sense fashion, as close to literally as possible, is not only itself merely one interpretative strategy among other strategies, it’s also a fairly recent development in the history of interpretation.

If, for example, one holds that LGBTQ people should be embraced and welcomed as full participants into the life and ministry of the church, the popular assumption among some is that one makes such moves in spite of rather than because of one’s reading of scripture. I have been asked on more than one occasion why I don’t “just quit pretending to be be a Christian,” since I “obviously don’t believe the Bible.”

Apart from the general incivility of such dismissiveness, claiming that Christians who don’t read the bible in a “literal” or “common sense” way are cynically attempting to circumvent taking scripture seriously is captive to its own set of prejudices, which are most often transparent to the speaker. That form of biblical interpretation (viz., “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it”) is question-begging in its most basic sense.

My hunch is that much of what gets put forward as the practical policy implications of fundamentalism have at least as much to do with conservative economic systems as with biblical interpretation. If progressive Christians have merely uncritically baptized liberal ethical systems when it comes to issues like homosexuality—as is often suggested by our fundamentalist brothers and sisters—why is it not the case that the conservative embrace of tax breaks for the wealthy, the adoption of a do-it-yourself attitude toward healthcare, welfare, and unemployment benefits, and the enthusiastic correlation of patriotism and militarism are merely a baptism of conservative (or worse, libertarian) ethical systems?

So, here’s what I’d like to see: A turning of the tables (or perhaps better, a “turning over” of the tables)—a rebalancing of the burden of proof.

  • I’d like to see a fundamentalist defense from scripture of such policies as cutting taxes for people who already have enough for several lifetimes. How does one “literally” read the prophets or the Gospels and come away thinking that protecting the ability to purchase another yacht or vacation home at the expense of those just struggling to feed their children is something Christians ought to have any stake in?
  • I’d like to see someone defend from scripture fighting for a healthcare system, the chief motivation of which is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it.
  • I’d like to see a scriptural justification for treating undocumented workers not with Christian hospitality—if not as potential friends and neighbors, then at least as fellow children of God—but as an insidious threat to “our way of life” (in which “our” refers to American and not Christian).
  • I’d like to see how scripture works as a legitimator of arms stockpiling in the service of military adventurism in other countries (see, in particular, Iraq).
  • I’d like to see how the bible comes to the aid of those who would stand idly by while LGBTQ kids endure the dehumanizing and often deadly effects of bullying.
  • I’d like to see how the bible can be put to use defending the belief that our ultimate loyalties to flag and faith are interchangeable, that to have invoked one is ipso facto to have named the other.

I don’t see these arguments being made in convincing ways; and my fear is that this is so because these arguments don’t need making in our culture, since everyone already knows that if Pat Robertson, or James Dobson, or Gary Bauer, or Ralph Reed, or John Piper, Albert Mohler, or Mark Driscoll say it the burden of proof is on anyone who would disagree with them.

If Jesus is any model, turning over tables in the temple is a necessary, if potentially perilous practice.


  1. Before you start emailing me, let me just say that I know, love, and am related to some fine people who read scripture differently from me. I regret, however, that the hard won devoutness of these folks is a moral commodity traded on by religious entrepreneurs and politicians hoping to plant the victor’s flag on the cultural landscape.  ↩
  2. I am using Christianity and religion interchangeably, not because I assume that Christianity is predominant or that other religions are merely placeholders for the “real” truth of Christianity, but because some Christians do assume something very nearly like this. Other religions, generally speaking, stand to lose considerably more than Christianity when a “war on religion” has been identified in the United States, since certain constituencies within Christianity tend to protect a form of Christian hegemony against all other religious comers—often with deadly enthusiasm.  ↩
  3. See, for example: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1); “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them” (Matt. 23:14); “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to sit at the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38–40). You get the point.  ↩
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This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, ethics, LGBTQ, Social Justice and tagged , , , , by Derek Penwell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Derek Penwell

Derek Penwell is an author, editor, speaker, and activist. He is the senior minister of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Kentucky and a former lecturer at the University of Louisville in Religious Studies and Humanities. He has a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Louisville. He is the author of The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World, from Chalice Press, about how mainline denominations can avoid despair in an emerging world. He currently edits a blog on emergence Christianity, dmergent.org, and blogs at his own site at derekpenwell.net.

31 thoughts on “Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof

  1. Pingback: Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof | [D]mergent « The Company of the Eudaimon

  2. Thanks again, Derek.

    I propose we recognize first that the historical political/economic power-structure has deliberately drawn lines between us for the purpose of social control. So long as we are kept arguing among each other about the proper Biblical hermeneutic, we are blind to see what Jesus and the prophets were so passionately trying to show us: that human beings are being crushed by the greed and fear-fueled juggernauts of systemic sin.

    Our conservative sisters and brothers have been manipulated -their anxieties and insecurities exploited- to believe that nationalist, neoliberal and militaristic idolatry will protect them from the external threats of an inherently wicked world.

    Our liberal/progressive (and Leftist -wherever such blocs sparsely remain in the American landscape) sisters and brothers have been led to false conclusions that the institutional church can no longer carry the liberation mantel of the Gospel. Their sin often involves the exaltation of intellectualism to idolatry. Many have left the church altogether, for the right reasons.

    What is presupposed in the framework as true is the assumption that the existent power-structure, a multilateral collusion of political, economic, intellectual and cultural forces, is legitimate in the first place. On one hand, we have the ultra-right faction of the Christian tradition blessing the atrocities of the power elites, and on the other hand, you have a fragmented center-left faction that wavers between impotent avoidance of confrontation or total irrelevance. The so-called liberal progressives are divided between two fronts: trying to win back the disillusioned non-religious (albeit spiritual) folks, and bickering with the ultra-right conservatives.

    The result is that the existent power-structure is legitimized and unchallenged. If I were the CEO of Mammon, Inc, I would be tickled pink.

    We as church leaders must draw new lines. Once we remove the blinders of social control, we can clearly see that we have far more in common with one another as those being exploited by the System than we have reason to remain divided. It would be like UK and UL fans all gathered in a room together. It might make sense to argue about which is the better team so long as that is the most important issue of the day, but if the building suddenly caught fire, I don’t think our NCAA allegiances make a whole lot of sense. Folks, the building is burning to the ground.

    I think that by recognizing the prevailing framework in which we are all caught, which is better understood as political/economic, and by reestablishing the common currency of wealth as human dignity, many of the issues which have deliberately used to divide us will be easily resolved. Then we as the Body of Christ, called by God to be the Kingdom until it comes, will be able to enter the broader justice struggle through any and all of its portals: LGBTQi equality, racial justice, mass incarceration, health care, immigration, antiwar, economic inequality, environmental advocacy, labor protections.

    The work of harvest is enormous and the workers are few, so let us not waste any time!

  3. “I’d like to see a scriptural justification for treating undocumented workers not with Christian hospitality—if not as potential friends and neighbors, then at least as fellow children of God—but as an insidious threat to “our way of life” (in which “our” refers to American and not Christian).”

    Paul valued his Roman citizenship and held it in high regard. He even declared before the Roman authorities that he was born a Roman citizen and did not purchase his citizenship, implying that his citizenship was better. Therefore, Paul’s views about citizenship are very much in accord with legal immigration. Therefore, your undocumented workers euphemism should be replaced with illegal aliens in keeping with Paul’s statements about his citizenship.

    “I’d like to see how scripture works as a legitimator of arms stockpiling in the service of military adventurism in other countries (see, in particular, Iraq).”

    Are you saying that the US stop providing military aid to Israel because that may be viewed as military adventurism by Israel’s neighbors?

    I’d like to see someone defend from scripture fighting for a healthcare system, the chief motivation of which is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it.

    It’s a stretch to conclude that the chief motivation of the healthcare system is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it. The challenge of the healthcare system is to provide and continue maintaining a high quality service. The healthcare system has done an excellent job and it takes money to keep the system going.

    “I’d like to see how the bible can be put to use defending the belief that our ultimate loyalties to flag and faith are interchangeable, that to have invoked one is ipso facto to have named the other.”

    It is our flag that protects our freedom of religion (any religion, not only Christianity). Therefore, loyalties to our flag and faith go hand in hand.

    “I’d like to see a fundamentalist defense from scripture of such policies as cutting taxes for people who already have enough for several lifetimes? How does one “literally” read the prophets or the Gospels and come away thinking that protecting the ability to purchase another yacht or vacation home at the expense of those just struggling to feed their children is something Christians ought to have any stake in?”

    Its all relative. I’ve always told pastors that if they are so concerned about ill-fed children, etc. why don’t they set the example and get jobs in the real world like Paul. Remember, he was a tent maker.

    • Hi Joe,

      I have a few questions–

      I’d like to know how your views on immigration and citizenship square with Leviticus 19:34, which says in part: “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.” (CEB)

      I’m curious how your views on “faith and flag” interact with Paul’s belief that “in Christ there is neither Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28).

      The temple-based health care system of Jesus’ time also required money (or in-kind pay) to keep itself going. But Jesus healed people for free. Why didn’t He charge a $20 co-pay to each leper to ensure they were not taking advantage of Him?

      And speaking as a full-time pastor, how on earth is being a pastor not a job “in the real world?” I am there for people when they are born, when they marry, when they die, and at all points in between. All that stuff is real.

      More to the point, how does being a pastor relate to not being able to act on concern for ill-fed children? I pastor a parish that literally feeds impoverished children by giving lots of food to the elementary school next door to us.

      Thanks.

      • Rev. Eric – Here are my responses,

        Question: “I’d like to know how your views on immigration and citizenship square with Leviticus 19:34, which says in part: “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.” (CEB)”

        Response: Leviticus 19 records what Moses said to the entire assembly of Israel. The part of Leviticus 19:34 you left out is very important. Moses gave the reason for this treatment because, “Israel were foreigners in Eqypt.” The entire assembly or “nation” of Israell was living within Eqypt. Moses’s instructions are a quid pro quo. That is not the situation here with the US. Additionally, citing Leviticus 19:34 raises another question – Does all of Leviticus apply to Christians today or do we pick and chose certain verses?

        Question: “I’m curious how your views on “faith and flag” interact with Paul’s belief that “in Christ there is neither Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28).”

        Response: The gospel message was initially preached to only the Jews. When the message was heard by the Greek (non-Jew), they also believed. Thus, Paul became the missionary to the Greek. Because the gospel was accepted by the Greek, there is no difference between the Jew and Greek. Galations3:28 has nothing to do with the faith and the flag.

        Question: “The temple-based health care system of Jesus’ time also required money (or in-kind pay) to keep itself going. But Jesus healed people for free. Why didn’t He charge a $20 co-pay to each leper to ensure they were not taking advantage of Him?”

        Response: Yes, Jesus healed people for free, He also fed people for free and He turned water into wine for free. We have non-profit religious affiliated hospitals, religious resue missions, etc. The issue today isn’t a $20 copay. The challenge is maintaining health care system that can continue to provide quality health care and not having the system collapse because it is stretched beyond its capabilities.

        Question: ” And speaking as a full-time pastor, how on earth is being a pastor not a job “in the real world?” I am there for people when they are born, when they marry, when they die, and at all points in between. All that stuff is real.
        More to the point, how does being a pastor relate to not being able to act on concern for ill-fed children? I pastor a parish that literally feeds impoverished children by giving lots of food to the elementary school next door to us.”

        Response: Please read “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin. She is a Christian and a religious editor for a major newespaper. You will read through her interviews of pastors that they clueless about the real world and what it takes to have standing in the corporate world or manufacturing plant where the every day Joe earns a living. You state that you pastor a parish that gives lots of food, etc – that’s fine, but isn’t what you are doing as a pastor is simply taking someone elses money (congregation) to purchase food or take someone elses produce (vegetables, etc) that they grew and giving it to the school. In other words, you are just a middle man unless you personally grow produce for the school.

      • Ken,

        I appreciate your attempt to answer Derek\’s questions. I think the answers entail loving action not just quick response, but here is my effort to dig deeper…

        Your statement \”This is not the situation in the U.S.\” begs the question: Are not we – of European, Asian or African descent – foreigners in this land of the Native American? To believe otherwise is ignorant arrogance, and to fall back onto Plato\’s noble lie on which all civilizations are built: that \’we\’ citizens were the first ones here and have legitimate ownership of the land. Rather, isn\’t the truth that the Earth and all that is in it belong to the Lord? We should treat each other as equals – equally indebted to God (and not our nationality or state-allegiance) for all the good gifts we have.

        I agree with you that many pastors do not understand the sociopolitical context in which they work, and are contributing to the system of inequality or living off its means, rather than truly engaging it… let alone radically transform it. However, I question your definition of the \’real world.\’ Did Jesus have a job in the \’real world\’? I believe working among the poor, helping the least, the lost and the left behind, is all \’real work\’… whether you\’re paid or not. That\’s not to say other paid work isn\’t \’real work\’ in the \’real world.\’ I\’m just trying to expand one\’s definition of the \’real world.\’ If a pastor can repair a broken relationship, is that more valuable than a repairman repairing a broken refrigerator? Both are worthy endeavors. It isn\’t helpful to degrade others\’ effort to add value to society and others lives and relationships.

        Yes, there is a challenge to maintain the quality of healthcare. However, for whom and at what cost? If we are leaving out 50 million people (or well over 10 percent of Americans), many of them children, is the system really working? Jesus came to heal the sick, not the righteous… or wealthy… or law-abiding. I believe we need to risk transforming a system that leaves so many out, or else find a new one. Having a system that only works for a few and not the poor, widow or orphan is EXACTLY what many of the OT prophets railed against.

        Blessings along the journey as we all wrestle a way forward for a more just and peaceable kingdom for all.

    • I’m not sure if we are supposed to take your reply seriously, but I’ll take the bait on one statement, because I can’t figure out exactly what is supposed to mean. Could you please explain the following?:

      “It is our flag that protects our freedom of religion (any religion, not only Christianity). Therefore, loyalties to our flag and faith go hand in hand.”

      Certainly a cloth “flag” literally does not “protect” anything from anyone, especially an abstract concept such as “freedom.” I love a good functioning metaphor, but this kind of vague, emotionally-evocative language drives me nuts, because either it doesn’t mean anything, or it means whatever you want it to mean. Could you please translate this?

      • You wouldn’t be confused if you were ever in a position to see that the blood, sweat and tears of those who defend our freedoms are symbolized, even represented by, the flag. The flag is one point of physical presence we can use to proxy for showing our respect for all a country stands for. Attend a military funeral, visit the tomb of the unknown soldier, see a veteran salute his flag… Maybe then you would get it. But if you stay tied up in this word or that word, you’ll win the battle of individual discussions and lose the war of understanding respect for our country.

      • Jeppedy,

        You say:

        “The flag is one point of physical presence we can use to proxy for showing our respect for all a country stands for.”

        “All a country stands for.” Do you really mean that? Do you mean to say that every single thing that the United States of America has ever done deserves respect? Think hard. Everything?

        I must be less patriotic than you, because while I am proud to be a citizen of a country that helped liberate the Jews from concentration camps, who allows unprecedented freedom of expression and association, who respects the conviction of both civil and military servants who are willing to sacrifice their lives for others in preservation of the things that do make our country admirable, I do not and will not give my blanket acceptance, approval or consent to many things that have been done under that same flag.

        Slavery was a horrendous sin, which was instituted and protected under the US flag. Genocide and forced displacement of Native Americans was committed under this flag. Jim Crow laws of legal segregation were upheld under the flag. Chemical warfare on southeast Asian peasants, torture of human beings, military and financial support of ruthless brutal dictators all committed under the American flag.

        Now does that mean that I am unpatriotic or hate my country or disrespect soldiers? Of course not. It means that I believe slavery, segregation, genocide, torture and oppression are wrong. Surely this is reasonable.

        My point is that when we say something loose and vague like “flags protect our freedom,” we are showing the dangerous power of propaganda to exploit people’s emotional tendency to condone atrocities through blind patriotism. If one means that the flag stands for everything that has been done under it, then to exalt the flag to the status of God means that we are worshiping unconscionable sin. If we say, “of course we don’t mean ‘everything,’ we don’t mean slavery too,” then my original question still stands: “exactly what do you mean by a flag protecting our freedom?” The memory of African and Native Americans deserve at least that much. In either event, I think that an honest reckoning says that we live in a complicated nation with a complicated past, with a whole lot of good people who want the best for it. But we should never, ever elevate a flag to the level of God. If you disagree with me, great. But I would love to hear an argument that appeals to something higher than “shame on you for not supporting the troops.”

      • Joseph, you are cursed with the unhealthy and terribly unhelpful gift of seeing everything in polarized Black and White, coupled with a warped interpretation of things.
        I love my wife. I don’t believe she is perfect. She has done things she isn’t proud of. I love her for who she is and her best intentions. Same too with our country.

      • Jeppedy, I may be a lot of things, but I don’t know if I am cursed with black and white thinking. You actually made my point in another way. To love a country or the flag or a community or a country is natural and normal. Warts and all. But idolatry is another thing altogether. Which is the context of this thread from the beginning. Only God is God and only God deserves our allegiance, our worship and praise. And you and I should not allow the existent power-structure to exploit our love for complicated things of this earth to divide us and coerce us to consent to things we would never agree to under the name of patriotism.

      • You don’t speak Japanese, do you? You probably would and live in a country with emporer worship and no religous tolerance, had it not been for the men who died protecting our liberties after we were attacked on December 7, 1941.

  4. Pingback: Theoblogical | THEY are captive to purely political distortions (HT to @reseudaimon, @christianpiatt @dianabutlerbass)

  5. You assume that all theologically conservatives are also political conservatives. That is a faulty assumption. I personally think that the same Bible which tells me that God intends for sex to be explored only in marriage and that marriage is between one man and one woman also tells me that a civilization should show mercy on the poor and on the immigrant. You cannot justify liberal mistreatment of the Biblical text by pointing out that conservatives are equally guilty. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • When you correctly identify the Bible’s imperative to care for the poor and immigrant, would you be willing to expand that imperative to include all those who are marginalized and/or oppressed?

      • I don’t see why not… Though we are told to LOVE one another. That doesn’t imply I have to like or approve of their actions. I don’t have to tolerate any random behavior out of love for God’s creation. Oh, and do recall that Jesus too encouraged us to follow man’s law. “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…”

      • Terrific. I do too.

        The argument that those of us make who appeal to the justice, love and mercy of God is that GLBTQ people are a part of the marginalized.

        I encourage you to exegete the “render unto Caesar” passage. It is not a directive to follow man’s law. Remember, Jesus was executed by the state as a political dissident. Render unto Caesar has a double meaning: a.) money belongs to the empire, so sure, it belongs to him. Give it to him. It has his picture on it. But give to God what belongs to God. What has God’s image imprinted on it? We do. b.) “Render unto” means to give someone what his got coming to him. In the context of an occupied colony, you can only imagine what “give Caesar what he’s got coming to him” means.

      • Have you read anything by George Whitefield? He was one of the founders of Methodism and participated in the “Great Awatkening” of the colonies. He also advocated for and had legislation passed in Georgia to legalize slavery. So according to George Whitefield slavery is not a sin.

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  10. The Bible is apolitical. Not political. The Bible is instruction on how to live in spite of adversity, in spite of any political system. Slavery. A bad marriage. A bad boss. It is a book about how and why purity, holiness, presents a better way of life. It speaks directly to how to rise above seemingly unsolvable problems–personally, not through politics. Through the heart. Relationship with God. The one political statement Jesus made was render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, render to God what is God’s. SO, pay your taxes is the message. The writer above assumes that the conservative does not want to help the person who needs health care. Conservatives have answers, different answers to the question of health care. Answers. It is a mistake for people, conservative or liberal, to use the Bible to promote political agendas–the Bible is a book for introspection, personal soul searching, not for imposing ones personal beliefs on politics to try and give them the authority of God. Use the Bible as it was intended–for self examination–here let me take that splinter out of your eye….

    Oh, and go ahead and pray for your leaders, we can all use a little help.
    I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    1 Timothy 2:1-4 KJV

  11. All this talk and dispute about the bible…you’d think we were all bible worshippers! In fact, I fear that’s where most of western Christianity has fallen short. Because of our desire to be certain, many Christians have turned to worshipping the bible, not God. It allows them to point at behaviors in the present and compare them to scriptures from the past, as if those scriptures were handed down to humankind by God as an instruction manual for how to behave. Nothing could be further from the Truth.

    Those who practice bible worship have frozen God in time, like an insect in amber. They can walk around it, point to it, describe it, memorize its tiniest detail, and feel smug in the thought that they possess all knowledge of it. Bible worship has, at its insidious root, the desire for control of God.

    Contemporary Christians would be wise to stop looking for answers in the pages of an ancient text that was deeply and politically edited by Constantine and the Council at Nicea, and instead, practice quiet prayer, then look into their hearts for God’s answer.

  12. I realize I’m joining this conversation late, but some of jeppedy’s comments are worth responding to.

    I am an Army spouse and have been through two deployments. I’ve attended multiple military memorial services. I’ve visited with young wives just hours after they found out their husbands were killed. I’ve counseled with spouses who are dealing with the tragedy of their husbands’ PTSD… and I myself have dealt with the same. I’ve never seen the brutality of war with my own eyes, but I’ve experienced the effects through the eyes of my spouse and close friends. I have lived at five military installations and met thousands of Soldiers.

    When we married, I was conservative, both theologically and politically, having attended a conservative Bible college. My experience with war has done more to convince me that American Exceptionalism is a myth than anything. War is tragedy. It saddens me that we have lost tens of thousands of lives (by “we” I mean “humankind” – Iraqi and Afghan casualties of war are just as much losses as American lives) for the cause of “freedom.” If “freedom” is what matters, REALLY matters, we’d be intervening in regimes worldwide, not just in the countries with oil.

    I digress.

    I HOPE America sees single-payer, universal healthcare in my lifetime. I hope that the income gap decreases (if the “answer” was trickle-down, then why haven’t Bush-era breaks led to significantly reduced unemployment these last few years?). I hope the path to citizenship becomes much, much easier, and that we extend grace (because, as others have pointed out, unless you’re a Native American descendant, this land is not really your land or my land). I hope that my grandkids are *amazed* to hear that, when I was a kid, not everyone was allowed to get married.

    I have found more peace with God and consistency of Scripture since leaving behind a literal interpretation. I find my politics and theology go hand-in-hand and make me a better person. I so much appreciate this article; I too have felt put down and judged because of the “true north” of conservative Christianity. I am proud to be an American – because I have hope that the future will be better.

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