Could He Really Have Meant It?

I’m always amazed at the way evangelicals who insist that the first, easiest, and clearest reading of Scripture is, without exception, the only way to read it — but then produce a convoluted sort of pretzel logic when it comes to Jesus’ admonitions in the Gospels to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, turn the other cheek, and seek peace with all people.

The role of women in the Church and home, for example, is dictated by a literal reading and firm application of three or four verses in the epistles. The condemnation of homosexual behavior found in a scattering of references in both the Old and the New Testaments is enough to fuel the fiercest homophobia, and the practice of tithing is read by those who give and those who don’t as a clear, unquestioned command of Scripture. The first and most obvious reading, context be damned, tends to govern our conduct as Christians — until we get to the red-letter stuff, the words of Jesus Christ. That stuff, taken literally? Seriously? The very idea is dismissed in a hermeneutical hurricane these days, roaring and relentless in its analysis of His clear, simple, and undeniably difficult words, but rarely concluding that they be taken and applied and believed at face value.

There’s nothing more dissonant than a fundamentalist who argues, from Scripture, for war and violence, cursing and hating. Here in Moscow and throughout contemporary Christiandom, we hear that Jesus wasn’t a pacifist and probably holds those who are in pity, if not disdain. The “turn the other cheek” thing? That’s for the millennium, or for the tribulation, or before the Rapture, or only for first-century believers. Pray for our enemies? Oh, but not “these” enemies, the ones we have now, and not for the ones we once had, or will have, or could have if we actually took Jesus’ words to heart. Seek peace with all? Give not only your cloak but your shirt, too? Walk the extra mile for an enemy? Certainly. But only some enemies, sometimes, under some circumstances, and only still if it’s raining on a Wednesday in Baltimore.

Jesus in the Gospels? Revolutionary, truly — but we’re in a different climate now, which Jesus likely knew about but didn’t address. He meant those things then, to be sure, but with a wink toward the post-millennial dominionists and Reconstructionists of our day who wrestle with how to take Scripture literally without, ummm, taking it ALL that way. There was a time when that sort of “love your neighbor, seek the good of all” ethic was, you know, appropriate — but the dawning of the Eschaton and the sure arrival of other words and ideas not easily understood simply HAS to provide needed context to Christ’s admonitions, lest we get all gentle and peaceful and humble.

You know. “Feminized.” Weak with “Father hunger.” “Heavenly-minded but no earthly good,” especially to a world soon to be tamed by Christians who can’t possibly do that if they’re constantly turning the other cheek . . .

But what if Christ really, seriously, honestly, meant for all of us, always, to follow His commands? Fear of feminization and disdain for peacemakers really ought not energize our theology; concern for “Biblical masculinity” and confidence in the “dominion” of the Church shouldn’t be the filter through which we decide to obey God. I pray to see evidence of “red-letter literalism” in my own life; I fear that I see little of it in the practice of the Church in Moscow.

2 Responses to “Could He Really Have Meant It?”

  1. Dontbia Nass says:

    Way to beat the snot out of that straw man!

    Your words on any subject might carry a little more weight if they were written subsequent to your public repentance for having supported the candidacy of mass baby murderer B.H. Obama. Or do you plan to go the whole ten yards and put a bumper sticker on your car proclaiming “I SPONSOR ABORTIONS FOR JESUS”?

  2. Thank you for the kind charity with which you write.
    Keely

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