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“The Bible Says . . .”

Nov 20, 2009 — Categories: ,

“The Bible says I can have sex with my 8-year-old child . . .” “The Bible says I can beat my wife because she is to be subject to me . . .” These and other biblical justifications haunt my consciousness.

“The Bible says I can have sex with my 8-year-old child . . .” “The Bible says I can beat my wife because she is to be subject to me . . .” These and other biblical justifications haunt my consciousness.

We continue to hear them from abusers who misuse and distort scripture to justify their choice to harm another person because they have power over that person. It is very easy to misuse and distort sacred texts. All you have to do is to lift something out of context with no understanding or appreciation of its history and meaning and use it to justify your personal beliefs. When you combine that with a blatant disregard for the fundamental teaching of the faith tradition, you end up with a perverse, dangerous distortion which can fuel hatred and violence in direct contradiction to the teaching of the faith.

For me as a follower of Jesus, I have to ask if Jesus would justify violence and harm to another by quoting scripture. For too long passages like “Wives be subject to your husbands . . .” [Ephesians 5:22] and “Children, obey your parents . . .” [Ephsesians 6:1] have been misused in this way.

Currently we are seeing the same thing played out politically in the latest attack by the religious right on President Obama. They are selling T-shirts that say, deceptively, “Pray for Obama,” followed by “Psalm 109.8.” When you go there, here is what you find:

“May his days be few; many another seize his position. May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow.”

The combination of distorted thinking, a propensity towards violence, and religious fervor and justification are an affront to the teachings of our faith communities and a threat to our democracy. Frank Schaeffer grew up watching his father lead the Christian right. Yet now he repudiates his history and his part in shaping the current atmosphere of far right hatred.

He labels the religious right as the American Taliban. He is correct. The Taliban misuses the Quran to justify violence against civilians. The religious right in the U.S. are doing the same thing and need to be named as such. If we can understand the threat posed by the Taliban and Al Quaeda to freedom and democracy around the world, then we have to understand that the religious right represents the same threat within the U.S. It is the “Christian” Taliban.

We know what happens when people begin to use the Bible (or the Quran) to justify acts of violence against others. It encourages the fringe to act with complete disregard for the values of democracy or respect for law.

Schaeffer makes the point that the right wing is always asking where are moderate Muslim leaders condemning violent acts by assailants who happen to be Muslim. [In fact, Muslim leaders are speaking out frequently.] But, he asks, where are the moderate Republicans and Christians condemning this bizarre misuse of scripture to encourage acts of violence against the President?

There is no question that we share a value of freedom of speech in the U.S. but our legal tradition has always acknowledged the limits on free speech. Crying “fire” in a crowded theater is the legal limit. Threatening the President’s life, regardless of how you feel about his politics, and justifying it with scripture is the moral limit. It is unpatriotic and dangerous. It needs to be isolated and confronted by patriotic citizens.

Those of us who work to end violence against women and children in faith communities know full well the harm done by those who proof text a justification for sexual and domestic violence. The same principle applies to political violence. And we need to speak up and speak out.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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