Since ancient times, mankind has struggled against chaos, often seeking to control differences and manage conflicts though violence and war. The Bible has played an insidious role in this history, though an alternate interpretation of its opening chapter would recognize an appeal to do good, not to harshly impose order, says Rev. Howard Bess.
In the 1980s, the Reagan administration decried “liberation theology” as Marxist and quietly approved when right-wing regimes murdered priests and nuns. But new scholarship reveals that “liberation theology” was carrying forward the real-life demands of Jesus for social justice, as Rev. Howard Bess explains.
An irony of modern politics is that many conservative Americans view themselves as devout believers in the Bible yet they ascribe to right-wing, dog-eat-dog economic theories that Jesus and other Biblical figures would condemn. The contradiction has pushed Biblical economics out of mainstream debate, says Rev. Howard Bess.
Religious fundamentalists object to same-sex marriage as a violation of Biblical standards. But the actual Biblical marriage standards treat women as chattel and let men have multiple wives, along with concubines and sex-slaves, an inconvenient truth that Rev. Howard Bess notes.
Historically, ardent Christians have been among the most bloodthirsty of religious believers, justifying wars and genocides around the world, ironically, in the name of Jesus, an avowed pacifist. Now, many devout Christians rally to Israel’s side in its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Holy Land, Lawrence Davidson notes.
Many Christian fundamentalists impose a literal interpretation on Biblical myth, thus missing the larger moral messages and rejecting later scientific discoveries, a mistake most apparent in their reading of the Genesis creation story, as the Rev. Howard Bess explains.
With the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, a question before Americans is how the late civil rights leader would have responded to the nation’s recent decades of greed, war and decline. Rev. Howard Bess poses the same question as to how ancient Israelites reacted to hostile empires and to their own.
Among Republican presidential hopefuls, several – such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry – have stressed their commitment to fundamentalist Christianity, which bases its approach to cultural issues on a literal reading of the Bible. But the Rev. Howard Bess notes that many of those ancient traditions are repugnant to modern society.