You gotta give ’em credit for creativity

There’s a report out that a Michigan company has been producing rifle scopes with verses from the New Testament etched on them. Talking Points Memo discusses it here.

The company is not shy about its belief system. It confirmed to ABC that its scopes have the Biblical codes. Trijicon’s Web site even says under a section titled “Values” that, “We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”

I suppose I will never cease to be surprised by the outrages perpetrated by the Religious Right. The verses are tiny, probably illegible, but I’m sure that among them are not Jesus’ sayings from Matthew 5: “Love your enemies…” and “If anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other also.” I would be thrilled if the scopes were produced with those verse printed large enough so the soldier would see them while sighting the gun.

Among the ironies, apparently the scopes have been issued to soldiers in the Iraqi army as well.

The Earthquake in Haiti

Others are keeping much closer track than I. I’ve posted on Grace’s home page links to Episcopal news sites, ERD, and our diocese’s Haiti project. Bishop Miller’s appeal is here.

Natural disasters bring out the best and worst in Christians. The best is the immediate response to help; the worst is the inevitable assertion that the earthquake is God’s will, or even worse, statements like that of Pat Robertson today.

Of course, it’s the same Pat Robertson who thanked God after praying that Virginia Beach might be spared a hurricane and not caring that the hurricane instead hit North Carolina.

Scary blog stats

WordPress provides all sorts of info about blog hits: number of hits per day, per month, per week; referrers; i.e, where hits came from (most of mine come from; and most popular searches. It’s the latter that has me scared. I posted several months ago a photo of a guy with a tattoo of the verse from Leviticus that states If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” I pointed out at the time another verse from Leviticus 19:28: You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

But apparently, they haven’t gotten the message: “You shall not … tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

In fact, I don’t have any particular problems with tattoos, although I will admit I come from a generation where they were only seen on people of a certain class, and especially men who had served in the military. They were considered tacky. But why conservative Christians would want to tattoo bible verses on themselves, when it is so clearly forbidden by the Bible which they claim to take literally, I simply don’t understand. That’s why I found the original tattoo so absurd.

On praying for the death of one’s enemies

I alluded in my sermon to the current fad in some right-wing Christian circles for merchandise that sports the following: Psalm 109:8 “May his days be few;
may another seize his position.” There’s been considerable discussion in the press concerning this phenomenon. One interesting take on it comes from Frank Schaeffer. You can see it here:

A former colleague of mine at Furman, Shelly Matthews will soon be publishing a book in which she argues that the “forgiveness” prayers, beginning with Jesus’ words on the cross in the Gospel of Luke (“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”) and continuing with Stephen’s in Acts, are interpreted in early Christianity as just the opposite.

We often hear that Christianity is a religion of peace (usually contrasting with the violence of Islam), yet the fact of the matter is that Biblical language is very violent and can easily be interpreted as Ps. 109:8 seems to be, as advocating God’s destruction of one’s enemies.

We will be hearing again from apocalyptic texts as we do every Advent. Apocalyptic is predicated on the radical opposition between good and evil and the ultimate, and usually very bloody destruction of the enemies of God.

There is another strand of the biblical tradition. It’s seen in Romans 13, the pseudo-Pauline texts, and in I-II Peter: the urge to pray for those in power, because they have been ordained by God. In the long run, that attitude is hardly more comforting than praying for the destruction of one’s enemies. But in fact it is the position that conservative Christianity maintained up until the present.

creative prooftexting

I always wanted to teach a course called “Creative Prooftexting,” the premise of it finding the most absurd and outrageous ways to take individual verses of the Bible out of context. Here’s a prime example:

6a00d8341c730253ef0120a5e967c0970b-800wiIt’s a tattoo quoting the Christianists’ favorite verse against Gays. Of course Leviticus prohibits tattoos:

“You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” Lev. 19:28

Rewriting History

The Christian Right has long insisted that the Founding Fathers were all good Christians and that Constitution was written on Biblical principles. This would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerously incorrect. Washington, for example, though a vestryman in his Episcopal parish, apparently never received communion, at least according to reminiscences of Bishop White. His speeches frequently refer to Divine Omnipotence or Creator, but almost never to a personal God.

So when stuff like this comes up, it is nothing less than outrageous.

But it’s nice to see the critics at work, too. Here and here.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think patriotism is wrong, but I do think many Christians come very close to idolatry and there’s always the danger of assuming that if God is on our side, then we are fighting a holy war. I don’t think God takes sides in war, any more than God takes sides in football games–but that’s a subject for another post.

A conservative translation of the Bible

I’m not making this up. It’s priceless.

Read the whole article, but note the examples cited.

One is a complaint about replacing words that have lost their meaning: “Word” in the opening verses of the Gospel of John;  suggested alternative is “truth.” Now “word” isn’t the best translation for “logos” but it’s pretty darn close and this would fly in the face of nearly 2000 years of Christian theology. What’s “conservative” about that?

Another suggestion: replace “socialistic” words like “laborer.”

It’s mind-boggling and perverse. The authors of the article complain about “liberal” scholars who take liberties with the text, but they themselves see no reason to offer a translation that is close to the original languages.


Occasionally things come in my inbox (email or the old way) that boggle the mind. An email message was forwarded to me a few days ago that invited me to lunch next week at a local hangout. The email came from an organization that purports to bring churches, “ministries,” and individuals together to network in Greenville. I suppose that’s a worthy effort. They weren’t just promising a lunch (not free, by the way) and conversation, however. There’s going to be a program. The email cited the statistic that 87% of Upstate South Carolina is “unchurched.”

In order to help ministers, churches, and ministries understand this phenomenon, this organization has brought together a panel of three “Unchristians” to explain why the church is failing. Isn’t that a little like the Cattlemen’s Association inviting vegetarians to explain why they won’t buy steak?