The Bible Paradox

by Big Think Editors, October 20, 2013

Excerpt

Nearly 80 percent of all Americans think the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of God. And yet, most Americans have no idea what is actually in the Bible…so we have the paradoxical situation in which we as a culture “have invested the words of this book with amazing authority even when we don’t know what these words are and what they mean.”

So says Joel Baden, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School…“The Bible has effectively ceased to become a text,” Baden argues, but instead has become a symbol of power and authority “that is undergirded by the relatively uninformed faith commitments of the majority of the American public. To speak in the name of the Bible is to claim a piece of that authority.” And this is a power that can be abused, and often is…Our religious traditions have taught us to read the Bible this way. Since we are conditioned to search the Bible for one meaning, we have lost the ability to be careful readers…if we are to continue to invest as much authority in the Bible as we do, Baden says, we – as serious readers of the text – cannot pretend that the Bible is a single, clear statement of belief. Rather, “it is a jumble of beliefs…This text that our culture holds most sacred is a living reminder that human interaction is founded on dialogue and not monologue – the inclusion of differences, not their exclusion.

Full text

Nearly 80 percent of all Americans think the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of God. And yet, most Americans have no idea what is actually in the Bible, as Stephen Prothero notably demonstrated in his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t.

(To test your religious literacy, take Prothero’s quiz here.)

And so we have the paradoxical situation in which we as a culture “have invested the words of this book with amazing authority even when we don’t know what these words are and what they mean.”

So says Joel Baden, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School. Baden gave a recent talk called “What Use is the Bible?” (see video below) at The Nantucket Project, a festival of ideas on Nantucket, MA.

“The Bible has effectively ceased to become a text,” Baden argues, but instead has become a symbol of power and authority “that is undergirded by the relatively uninformed faith commitments of the majority of the American public. To speak in the name of the Bible is to claim a piece of that authority.”

And this is a power that can be abused, and often is. When people invoke the Bible, they are often seeking to invoke a deeper Biblical truth, one that represents a singularity of message and meaning. In other words, in order for the Bible to work as a prop, it needs to function like a sledgehammer. ”Nobody wants a wishy-washy authority,” Baden says.

Our religious traditions have taught us to read the Bible this way. Since we are conditioned to search the Bible for one meaning, we have lost the ability to be careful readers.

In the video below, Baden does something radically different. He walks us through the two contradictory creation accounts in Genesis. On what day did God create the plants and the birds and land and sea and Adam and Eve? If you read Genesis I and II back-to-back you are bound to be thoroughly confused. So why couldn’t the authors of the Bible get their stories straight?

“Whoever put these stories together effectively privileged form over content,” Baden says. The Bible’s author “was willing to sacrifice easy meaning and singularity of perspective for the presence in scripture of multiple perspectives.” The author was “happier with an incomprehensible plot – an impossible story – than to have to give up one of these two viewpoints.”

And so if we are to continue to invest as much authority in the Bible as we do, Baden says, we – as serious readers of the text – cannot pretend that the Bible is a single, clear statement of belief. Rather, “it is a jumble of beliefs,” Baden says, “a combination of voices…embedded in the text right from the word ‘Go.’”

So of what use is the Bible? This book is both the ultimate source of authority and completely indecisive. But that does not mean we should throw it away, Baden says. “This text that our culture holds most sacred is a living reminder that human interaction is founded on dialogue and not monologue – the inclusion of differences, not their exclusion.

http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/the-bible-paradox

Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical

by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on Huffingtonpost.com, Oct 3, 2013

Excerpt

…the people who will lose the most during a government shutdown…are those who live day-to-day on their wages, those at the lower end of the nation’s economy, and the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like this. And what happens to those people is the focus of the faith community; that is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to them…The government shutdown seems to have gotten the attention of the nation…The only positive I see in this crisis is that the right issues — the moral issues — might finally get our attention...The issues here are deeper than politics now; they are moral, and, I would argue, theological….The Bible speaks clearly about the role of government, and that is what really is being challenged here…pressuring the nation to shut down the government, instead of keeping debate within the political process, is contrary not only to our best political traditions, but also to what our Scriptures say. And underlying this current crisis, there is a clear hostility to government itself, government per se, from a group of political extremists that I believe is unbiblical. It is a minority of our elected officials who are demonstrating their anti-government ideology. But that extreme minority has captured their party and the political process, and has driven the nation into dangerous crisis based upon fear...The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good — protect and promote. Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security, and peace, and promote the common good of a society — and even collect taxes for those purposes. Read Romans 13 by the apostle Paul and other similar texts…Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and even the book of Kings to see that God will judge kings and rulers (governments) for how they treat the poor.…There is a powerful vision for promoting the common good here, a vision of prosperity for all the people, with special attention to the poor and to “deliverance” for the most vulnerable and needy. That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again…To be opposed to government per se, especially when that opposition serves the ultimate power of other wealthy and powerful interests, is simply not a biblical position. Transparency, accountability, and service are the ethics of good government. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” is still a good measure and goal of civil authority…

Full text

One of the most depressing things I heard on the first day of the government shutdown was that it was a record fundraising day for both parties. Washington, D.C., is no longer about governing; it is just about winning and losing. But the people who will lose the most during a government shutdown — and then an impending United States government default on paying its debts — are those who live day-to-day on their wages, those at the lower end of the nation’s economy, and the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like this. And what happens to those people is the focus of the faith community; that is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to them. Faith leaders have been meeting to discuss what we must do in response to this political crisis brought on by absolute political dysfunction.

The government shutdown seems to have gotten the attention of the nation. And if this ends in a default on our debt, the potentially catastrophic crashing of the economy will certainly wake us up. The only positive I see in this crisis is that the right issues — the moral issues — might finally get our attention.

Let me make myself clear on the politics here: Debates over fiscal matters — budgets, taxes, and spending — are supposed to take place within the political process, in negotiations, compromises, conferences between the Senate, House, and White House, and settled by elections. We can’t use government shutdowns and debt repayments as bargaining chips in these debates. Most political leaders I know, both Republicans and Democrats, believe in government and governing. They may differ over how big or small or limited, but they are not hostile to government itself.

The issues here are deeper than politics now; they are moral, and, I would argue, theological. Too often our political affiliation drives our theological worldview instead of our theology driving our politics. The Bible speaks clearly about the role of government, and that is what really is being challenged here. It’s time for those people of faith who want to shut down the government to read their Bibles. Because pressuring the nation to shut down the government, instead of keeping debate within the political process, is contrary not only to our best political traditions, but also to what our Scriptures say. And underlying this current crisis, there is a clear hostility to government itself, government per se, from a group of political extremists that I believe is unbiblical. It is a minority of our elected officials who are demonstrating their anti-government ideology. But that extreme minority has captured their party and the political process, and has driven the nation into dangerous crisis based upon fear.

This kind of crisis should cause people of faith to fast and pray and read their Bibles. And whether or not you are a person of faith, you might find it interesting to see what the Bible says about the mess we are now in.

The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good – protect and promote. Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security, and peace, and promote the common good of a societyand even collect taxes for those purposes. Read Romans 13 by the apostle Paul and other similar texts. The Scriptures also make it clear that governmental authority is responsible for fairness and justice and particularly responsible to protect the poor and vulnerable. Read Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and even the book of Kings to see that God will judge kings and rulers (governments) for how they treat the poor. And it wasn’t just the kings of Israel who were held accountable for the poor, but also the kings of neighboring countries — all governments. That’s what the Bible says; so let me be as clear as I can be.

There are two ways the political extremists are being unbiblical. First, to be hostile to the role of government is unbiblical according to the Scriptures. Second, because of their hostility to government, many of those who are promoting this crisis are also hostile to the poor, who are supposed to be protected by the government. They blame the poor for their poverty instead of asking how government can protect the most vulnerable and even help lift them out of poverty.

The facts and the faces of those who suffer first and worst from these crises must be lifted up — and that is the role of the faith community. Already, thousands of children are losing their Head Start programs, mothers with children are losing WIC (Women, Infants, and Children program), and many of those most dependent on their paychecks are now losing them.

Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.” The subsequent line is very revealing: “‘Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 22:16). Of Solomon, the Scriptures say, through the words of the queen of Sheba, “Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9). Psalm 72 begins with a prayer for kings or political leaders: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. … May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor” (Ps. 72:1-4).

There is a powerful vision for promoting the common good here, a vision of prosperity for all the people, with special attention to the poor and to “deliverance” for the most vulnerable and needy.

That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again.

For people of faith, government is never ultimate but needs to play the important and modest role of servant. The criteria for evaluation and judgment of civil authority is whether it is serving the people, whether it is guarding their security, whether it is maintaining a positive and peaceful social order, whether it is helping to make the lives of its citizens better, and, in particular, whether it is protecting the poor. To be opposed to government per se, especially when that opposition serves the ultimate power of other wealthy and powerful interests, is simply not a biblical position. Transparency, accountability, and service are the ethics of good government. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” is still a good measure and goal of civil authority.

But people of faith will ascribe ultimate authority only to God, to whom civil authority will always be accountable.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/why-the-government-shut

Why We Must Reclaim The Bible From Fundamentalists

by John Shelby Spong, Retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church, HuffingtonPost.com, 10/13/2011

Excerpt

The contrast between the way the Bible is understood in the academic world and the way it is viewed in our churches is striking…issues and insights, commonplace among the scholars, are viewed as highly controversial and even as “heresy” in the churches. The result has been that the majority of people who have remained in the church have become more and more rigid and fundamentalist, while those who have left have become more and more dismissive of everything, good or bad, about Christianity… there are other ways to view Christianity.

In the world of Christian scholarship, for example, to read the Bible literally is regarded as absurd. To call the words of the Bible “the Word of God” is more than naïve…There are some biblical facts that cannot and should not be ignored, if Christians really value truth… Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue. I am tired of seeing the Bible being used, as it has been throughout history, to legitimize slavery and segregation, to subdue women, to punish homosexuals, to justify war and to oppose family planning and birth control. That is a travesty which must be challenged and changed…

Full text

The contrast between the way the Bible is understood in the academic world and the way it is viewed in our churches is striking. I know because in my life as a priest and a bishop I have both served typical congregations and been privileged to study and to teach in some of the best known Christian academic centers in the world. In academia I discovered that issues and insights, commonplace among the scholars, are viewed as highly controversial and even as “heresy” in the churches. The result has been that the majority of people who have remained in the church have become more and more rigid and fundamentalist, while those who have left have become more and more dismissive of everything, good or bad, about Christianity. We also now have a crop of writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchen, who have totally demolished the fundamentalist approach to God with their clever and penetrating books, yet they are seemingly unaware that there are other ways to view Christianity.

In the world of Christian scholarship, for example, to read the Bible literally is regarded as absurd. To call the words of the Bible “the Word of God” is more than naïve. No modern person can still believe that a star can wander through the sky so slowly that wise men can keep up with it, that God actually dictated the Ten Commandments — all three versions, no less — or that a multitude can be fed with five loaves and two fish. No modern person understanding genetics and reproduction can believe that virgins conceive, nor can those who understand what death does to the human body in a matter of just minutes still view the resurrection as the resuscitation of a deceased body after three days. Biblical scholars know that the accounts of the crucifixion read in Christian churches on Good Friday are not eye witness reports, but developed interpretations of Jesus’ death based on a series of Old Testament texts selected to convince fellow Jews that Jesus “fulfilled the scriptures” and thus really was the “messiah.” These issues and many others are assumed in the world of biblical scholars, but are viewed by many church-goers, together with the vast majority of television evangelists and radio preachers, as attacks on divine revelation that must be resisted in order to save Christianity. They thus, knowingly or unknowingly, join in a conspiracy of silence, ignoring truth when they feel they can and viewing biblical scholars, strangely enough, as the church’s ultimate enemy. At the same time secular critics attack what Christian scholars know is nonsensical about both the Bible and Christianity and act as if they have discovered something new.

There are some biblical facts that cannot and should not be ignored, if Christians really value truth. For example, the time separating when Moses lived (ca. 1250 BCE) from when the stories of Moses were written in the Bible (ca. 950 BCE) is about 300 years, representing 15 generations of oral transmission. Can anyone knowing this continue to be a literal believer? The gospels were written 40 -70 years after the crucifixion, which means that most of what we read about Jesus in the Bible was handed down orally for two to three generations before one word of it achieved written form. The gospels were also first written in Greek, a language which neither Jesus nor his disciples spoke or wrote! How can anyone claim “inerrancy” for such material? Other facts well-known in the academy, but seemingly unknown outside by either believers or critics, are that scholars can find no evidence that miracles were associated with the memory of Jesus before the 8th decade of the Christian era, that there is no mention of the virgin birth anywhere before the 9th decade and that the narratives of the ascension and Pentecost did not appear until the 10th decade. The New Testament does not agree on such basic issues as the identity of the twelve disciples or the details of Easter. Why has none of this been made available in churches or been discovered by those who pose as the church’s secular critics?

The New Testament also introduces us to a group of characters who are far more likely to be literary creations than they are to be literal. Was Judas Iscariot a figure of history? I do not think so. There is no mention of him in any source before the 8th decade. Paul, writing between 51 and 64 CE, appears never to have heard of the tradition that one of the twelve was a traitor. In addition to that, every detail of the New Testament portrait of Judas can be located in other traitor stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. If a major figure like Judas is not real then what about such lesser characters as Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman by the well, Lazarus, miraculously raised from the dead four days after being buried, or even the “Beloved Disciple?” All of them, I now believe, were created to illustrate a theme.

It was fascinating for me in writing this book to explore the scriptures from these perspectives by journeying through the entire biblical landscape from Genesis to Revelation. That enabled me with both integrity and conviction to challenge the literal assumptions of the past and to open the biblical story to new levels of understanding that I believe are profoundly real. Who would have thought, for instance, that Hosea’s domestic life would illumine his understanding of the love of God; or that Amos, a keeper of sycamore trees in the village of Tekoa, would be the one to redefine God as justice? The book of Jonah is seen as a readable mythological tale, deliberately designed to hook its audience emotionally in order to break them out of the bondage of prejudice. The book of Job explores the universal theme of why innocent people suffer. There is great stuff in the Bible that needs to be opened in new ways.

Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue. I am tired of seeing the Bible being used, as it has been throughout history, to legitimize slavery and segregation, to subdue women, to punish homosexuals, to justify war and to oppose family planning and birth control. That is a travesty which must be challenged and changed.

I wrote “Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World” to do precisely that.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shelby-spong/why-i-wrote-re-claiming-t_b_1007399.html

Why my Bible seems to differ from Billy Graham’s

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor, Tue October 23, 2012, CNN.com

Excerpt

To those of my fellow evangelicals who are on the religious right, please, stop your fake trumpeting of biblical values if you’re going to run roughshod over your biblical convictions and let your partisan views take center stage…[Billy] Graham is urging Americans to vote for candidates who base their decisions on “biblical principles,” “support the nation o fIsrael,” “protect the sanctity of life,” and “support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”

That’s it. Nothing else.

The teachings of Jesus Christ are filled with examples of him helping the needy, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and wounded, and taking the haves to task for ignoring the have-nots…

Graham, and so many others on the religious right, apparently want to narrow the Bible’s teachings down to only abortion and same-sex marriage.

Does the rest of the Bible matter, or are we to tell Bible believers that one or two issues matter more than any other?…Should Bible believers not be concerned with Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals to massively cut programs that help the poor?…

What has happened over the last 30 years is the religious right has perverted the Bible to fit its narrow view of what Christians should pay attention to. Abortion and homosexuality. Nothing else matters.

Well, my Bible is bigger than that. My faith is bigger than that. And my Jesus Christ cares about more than abortion and homosexuality….

I refuse to think the biblical and social justice issues touted by the Revs. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, and countless other pastors during the civil rights movement aren’t worth considering today.

Support who you want, Rev. Graham, but don’t dare limit the biblical values to what I can count on one hand.

Full text

To those of my fellow evangelicals who are on the religious right, please, stop your fake trumpeting of biblical values if you’re going to run roughshod over your biblical convictions and let your partisan views take center stage.

When Mitt Romney was running for the GOP presidential nomination, many on the religious right were highly critical of his faith. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association characterized Mormonism as a cult.

But Billy Graham’s association scrubbed that view from its website in the wake of the Rev. Graham meeting with Romney. And at least one prominent Southern Baptist leader who called Mormonism a cult has put that aside in order to endorse the Republican nominee.

Graham, “America’s pastor,” has run full-page ads in national newspapers like the Washington Post andUSAToday that are thinly veiled endorsements of Romney. In them, he shows he has forgotten big portions of biblical teaching.

The ads read: “I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Billy Graham: Vote based on faith
CNN Explains: MormonismIn a similar full-page ad that ran inOhio’s Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, Graham said: “We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. … Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn out hearts back toward God.”

Graham is urging Americans to vote for candidates who base their decisions on “biblical principles,” “support the nation ofIsrael,” “protect the sanctity of life,” and “support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”

That’s it. Nothing else.

The teachings of Jesus Christ are filled with examples of him helping the needy, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and wounded, and taking the haves to task for ignoring the have-nots.

The Bible talks about Jesus spending his time with social outcasts and not basking in the glow of the 1%. So, Rev. Graham, why no mention of the poor, sick or needy in your newspaper ads?

Graham, and so many others on the religious right, apparently want to narrow the Bible’s teachings down to only abortion and same-sex marriage.

Does the rest of the Bible matter, or are we to tell Bible believers that one or two issues matter more than any other?

I know the history of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as well as Graham’s son Franklin, helping the needy through Samaritan’s Purse. But isn’t it worth mentioning and advocating these issues to our presidential candidates?

I wonder how Catholic bishops and nuns feel about Graham not advocating that Bible believers cast their ballots on the issue of health care? Should Bible believers not be concerned with Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals to massively cut programs that help the poor?

Should Bible believers know about the fatherhood initiative launched by President Obama to shore up families and to confront the crisis of fatherless homes?

Should Bible believers be concerned about the candidates’ stance on guns and gun violence? Is that not a biblical issue, Rev. Graham? Should Bible believers be concerned about who prefers to end wars across the globe?

Should Bible believers vote on who is best able to tear down the `-industrial complex that is destroying this country fiscally? Should Bible believers know who is more concerned about the rich getting richer?

Seriously, Rev. Graham, are these not moral issues that should be considered?

What has happened over the last 30 years is the religious right has perverted the Bible to fit its narrow view of what Christians should pay attention to. Abortion and homosexuality. Nothing else matters.

Well, my Bible is bigger than that. My faith is bigger than that. And my Jesus Christ cares about more than abortion and homosexuality. Please, make your case about those two issues. But don’t talk to me, Rev. Graham, Franklin Graham, or any other right-wing evangelical, about the sanctity of life when you are silent about such things as Trayvon Martin being gunned down or police brutality taking the lives of innocent Americans.

I refuse to think the biblical and social justice issues touted by the Revs. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, and countless other pastors during the civil rights movement aren’t worth considering today.

Support who you want, Rev. Graham, but don’t dare limit the biblical values to what I can count on one hand.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin

Editor’s note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House.” He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, “WashingtonWatch with Roland Martin.”
http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/22/opinion/martin-billy-graham-politics/index.htnl

Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil

By Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2011

Excerpt

While the assault on unions by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors and legislators seems driven mostly by the billionaire Koch brothers and corporate-funded groups, religious right leaders and activists have spent decades creating fertile soil for anti-union campaigns through the promotion of “biblical capitalism,” which researcher Rachel Tabachnick describes as “the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated.”
Pseudo-historian David Barton, a frequent guest of broadcaster Glenn Beck, is using his newly enlarged audience to promote American exceptionalism (America was created by its divinely-inspired founders as a country of, by, and for Christians) and Tea Party-on-steroids economics (Jesus and the Bible oppose progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and minimum wage laws). The Religious Right has a long practice of claiming divine mandate for its policy agenda as it makes for an exceptionally potent political argument: if God supports radically limited government, then progressive policies are not only wrong but evil, and supporters of liberal policies are not only political opponents but enemies of God.
Two days after the November 2010 elections, Barton, Newt Gingrich, and Jim Garlow (who runs Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership group), held a conference call with pastors to celebrate conservative political gains. On the call, Garlow and Barton asserted a biblical underpinning for far-right economic policies: Taxation and deficit spending, they said, amount to theft, a violation of the Ten Commandments. The estate tax, Barton said, is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes. Jesus, he said, had “teachings” condemning the capital gains tax and minimum wage.
Barton also enlists Jesus in the war against unions and collective bargaining…and went on to explain why the Bible is anti-union…
It’s clear that the attempt to once again “break the spine of labor” is meant to cripple any opposition to the vision of a country in which corporations are given free rein to maximize profits without concern for workers’ safety, community well-being, and environmental protection. The seeds of that vision were first planted by Christian Reconstructionists and The Family and today’s conservative Christian leaders are only too eager to take advantage of the fruits of those labors to make the case that Jesus opposes efforts to ensure a living wage to workers, and that workers should accept as good slaves whatever treatment their employers dish out.

Full text

While the assault on unions by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors and legislators seems driven mostly by the billionaire Koch brothers and corporate-funded groups, religious right leaders and activists have spent decades creating fertile soil for anti-union campaigns through the promotion of “biblical capitalism,” which researcher Rachel Tabachnick describes as “the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated.”

Pseudo-historian David Barton, a frequent guest of broadcaster Glenn Beck, is using his newly enlarged audience to promote American exceptionalism (America was created by its divinely-inspired founders as a country of, by, and for Christians) and Tea Party-on-steroids economics (Jesus and the Bible oppose progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and minimum wage laws). The religious right has a long practice of claiming divine mandate for its policy agenda as it makes for an exceptionally potent political argument: if God supports radically limited government, then progressive policies are not only wrong but evil, and supporters of liberal policies are not only political opponents but enemies of God.

Two days after the November 2010 elections, Barton, Newt Gingrich, and Jim Garlow (who runs Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership group), held a conference call with pastors to celebrate conservative political gains. On the call, Garlow and Barton asserted a biblical underpinning for far-right economic policies: Taxation and deficit spending, they said, amount to theft, a violation of the Ten Commandments. The estate tax, Barton said, is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes. Jesus, he said, had “teachings” condemning the capital gains tax and minimum wage.

Barton also enlists Jesus in the war against unions and collective bargaining. Two years ago Barton devoted his Wallbuilders Live radio show to celebrating a Supreme Court decision that upheld anIdaho law ending state withholding of public employee union political funds. Barton’s co-host Rick Green called for activists to “spark a fire” and encourage other states to take up the effort to disrupt unions’ political activities. Barton called the Supreme Court’s decision “the right historical position and the right biblical position,” and went on to explain why the Bible is anti-union.

According to Barton, a parable from the 20th chapter of the book of Matthew about the owner of a vineyard making different arrangements with workers was about “the right of private contract”—in other words, the right of employers to come to individual agreements with each employee. Jesus’ parable, he said, is “anti-minimum wage” and “anti-socialist-union kind of stuff.” (This is just one of the parables of Jesus cited by Barton and others in support of laissez-faire economic policies.)

The religious right’s anti-union roots are long and deep. Researchers have traced them through the teachings of R.J. Rushdoony, an intellectual godfather of sorts for much of the increasingly dominionist religious right; Gary North, a leading Christian Reconstructionist; and through fundamentalist textbooks used by homeschoolers and Christian schools. The roots of the Family, as Peter Laarman notes in his examination of religious indifference to the decades-long war on workers’ rights, are in anti-unionism. Back in 1942, according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power:

[T]he National Association of Manufacturers staked [Family founder Abraham Vereide] to a meeting of congressmen who would become students of his spiritual politics, among themVirginiasenator Absalom Willis Robertson—Pat Robertson’s father. Vereide returned the manufacturers’ favor by telling his new congressional followers that God wanted them to break the spine of organized labor. They did.

One of the most striking examples of this theory reaching into the political realm is found in an early Christian Coalition Leadership Manual, co-authored by Coalition founder Ralph Reed in 1990. A section titled “God’s Delegated Authority in the World,” which argues that “God established His pattern for work as well as in the family and in the church,” cites four Bible passages instructing slaves to be obedient to their masters, including 1 Peter 2:18-19:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

And then, the astonishing lesson drawn by Christian Coalition leaders from these slaves-obey-your-masters passages:

Of course, slavery was abolished in this country many years ago, so we must apply these principles to the way Americans work today, to employees and employers: Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man.

Slavery also makes an appearance in “Indivisible,” a booklet of essays being aggressively promoted by the Heritage Foundation as part of its campaign to assert that genuine fiscal conservatism cannot be separated from social conservatism. In one essay, anti-gay activist Bishop Harry Jackson writes that minimum wage laws “[remind] me of slavery.”

There’s no reason to believe that religious right and anti-union forces won’t continue to join forces. Later this month, the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation will join anti-gay activists, anti-immigrant groups, and other groups primarily associated with social conservatism, at a gathering in Iowaconvened by religious right favorite Rep. Steve King to discuss “American Exceptionalism.” National Right to Work promotes a guide for employees with religious objections to joining a union:

To determine whether your beliefs are religious instead of political or philosophical, ask yourself whether your beliefs are based upon your obligations to God. Do you simply dislike unions or hate this particular union’s politics? Or, does your desire to stand apart from the union arise from your relationship to God? If your beliefs arise from your decision to obey God, they are religious.

And in April, religious right and Republican leaders will gather for the second year in a row at LibertyUniversityat the invitation of the Freedom Federation, a collection of religious right groups launched in 2009 with a Declaration of American Values, which added opposition to progressive taxation to the religious right’s usual issue agenda. While the Freedom Federation refers to itself as a federation of faith-based organizations, its founding members also include Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded group that has funded attacks on Democratic lawmakers and mobilized Tea Party activists on behalf of right-wing candidates.

Just last week, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins tweeted his support for the Wisconsin Republicans’ union-busting: “Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/ liberal social agenda.”

It’s clear that the attempt to once again “break the spine of labor” is meant to cripple any opposition to the vision of a country in which corporations are given free rein to maximize profits without concern for workers’ safety, community well-being, and environmental protection. The seeds of that vision were first planted by Christian Reconstructionists and The Family and today’s conservative Christian leaders are only too eager to take advantage of the fruits of those labors to make the case that Jesus opposes efforts to ensure a living wage to workers, and that workers should accept as good slaves whatever treatment their employers dish out.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/4366/jesus_hates_taxes%3A_biblical_capitalism_created_fertile_anti-union_soil

Holy Book Learning – Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions — including their own by Christoper Shea

Boston Globe, March 4, 2007

Excerpt

This ignorance about basic religious and Biblical matters crosses all sorts of sectarian lines…  it’s about citizenship. Because religion isn’t going away — on the contrary, it’s booming — and because it is central to so many of the most important issues facing us today, knowledge of religion matters more than ever. “You need religious literacy,” he writes, “in order to be an effective citizen.”religious literacy has been held hostage in the culture wars between Christian activists, who believe nothing short of returning “Judeo-Christian” moral instruction to the schools will stop America’s moral slide, and secular activists wary of any mention of religion by public-school teachers… 

Full text

CRITICAL FACULTIES – . That’s a problem in today’s world, a BU professor argues. But it won’t be easily fixed.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religious studies and chair of the religion department at Boston University, thinks he may have found something that conservative Christians and liberal secularists can agree on: It’s not a good thing if students, whether religious or not, think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife — or stare blankly when a teacher (or President Bush or Hillary Clinton) refers to a “Good Samaritan.”

In his new book, “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t,” Prothero lays out the evidence of what he considers Americans’ paradoxical, and troubling, religious ignorance. According to various surveys conducted since 1990, half of all Americans can’t name even one of the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the cornerstone of the New Testament. A majority can’t name the first book of the Bible (Genesis). This suggests a curious unfamiliarity with a text that two-thirds of Americans believe contains the answers to all of life’s questions.

This ignorance about basic religious and Biblical matters crosses all sorts of sectarian lines. In a survey from 2000, 60 percent of evangelicals, but only 51 percent of Jews, answered yes when asked whether Jesus was born in Jerusalem (the New Testament says he was born, as we’re reminded by all those Christmas carols, in Bethlehem). Less surprising, students do even worse when asked almost anything about religions besides Christianity. Prothero has replicated these findings in surveys of his own students at BU.

For Prothero, there’s a lot more at stake than basic cultural literacy of the E.D. Hirsch variety, though that’s an important part of his argument. (“I am convinced,” he writes, “that one needs to know something about the world’s religions in order to be truly educated.”) And his concern is not morality, though he believes it’s possible that students who are more knowledgeable about the Bible “would have smarter discussions about moral questions,” as he put it in a recent interview. Strengthening morality, he says, “is not my issue.”

Instead, it’s about citizenship. Because religion isn’t going away — on the contrary, it’s booming — and because it is central to so many of the most important issues facing us today, knowledge of religion matters more than ever. “You need religious literacy,” he writes, “in order to be an effective citizen.” When biblical teachings are invoked by politicians and activists on issues from abortion and same-sex marriage to poverty and global warming, how, he asks, can a person engage in political debate without at least some fluency in the language being spoken?

“For me,” Prothero says, “the hope is that we can have more and better political conversations. My hope is that a huge portion of the American population won’t feel disengaged from political debates because they don’t know enough about religion.”

Unfortunately, for Prothero, religious literacy has been held hostage in the culture wars between Christian activists, who believe nothing short of returning “Judeo-Christian” moral instruction to the schools will stop America’s moral slide, and secular activists wary of any mention of religion by public-school teachers. 

Prothero plunges straight into this thicket. He proposes that high schools require one Bible 101 course (given the Bible’s particular importance in European and American history) and one on world religions. These courses would, he stresses, abide by guidelines the Supreme Court has laid down: They would be objective and not “devotional.”

Prothero’s proposal dovetails with the agendas of several other organizations. The Bible Literacy Project, based in Front Royal, Virginia, has produced two reports, with funding from the Templeton Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports efforts to bridge the divide between religious and secular culture – one on what teenagers actually know about the Bible and one on what teachers at various levels think they should know. Yet it finds that only 8 percent of American schools teach the Bible in any way.

On the Bible Literacy Project’s advisory board sit such leading scholars as Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School. Its proposed curriculum, which includes a textbook called “The Bible and Its Influence” and a Bible of the student’s choice, has been praised both by the conservative evangelical leader Charles Colson and Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt.

The Project in Religion and Secondary Education at the Harvard Divinity School has also worked to make clear to teachers and administrators that teaching about religion in high schools is appropriate and desirable. It is co-sponsoring a conference next fall at which teachers can learn from scholars about the latest thinking on religion, and offers joint degrees in theology and education.

So are we all on board with Prothero’s project? Well, the middle ground of non-devotional Bible education may be more controversial than he thinks. The National Council for Biblical Curriculum in Public Schools, another group advocating “non-devotional” Bible courses, has attacked the Bible Literacy Project as the tool of secularists. Language on its website speaks of “reclaiming our families” while a letter posted on that same site, from the televangelist John Hagee, refers to the statements about theology in the Bible Literacy Project textbook as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” — and equates discussion of other religions’ creation stories with a celebration of polytheism.

Prothero says such fighting is a fringe phenomenon: “There is more conflict in theory than in practice.” Still, this remains a contentious field. Daniel Mach, a lawyer in Washington with the ACLU specializing in church-state issues, says Supreme Court precedent certainly leaves room for teaching the Bible in a non-devotional way. In practice, however, “the problem is that it is rarely taught objectively.”

Daniel Dennett, the Tufts philosopher and noted defender of atheism, has made the case that a course on world religions ought to be mandatory for high school students, given the enormous influence of faith. “The toxic forms of religion thrive only under conditions in which the ignorance of the young can be enforced,” he writes in an e-mail message. But, he adds, “a class that only taught the Bible would not be appropriate at all. It is important for students to compare the different religions frankly.”

And it’s not only church-state watchdogs and atheists who are skeptical about whether teachers can pull off the non-devotional tightrope walk. “My own sense,” says Mark Noll, an acclaimed historian at Notre Dame who is an evangelical Christian, “is that the Bible is a pretty explosive book. If students read it carefully, they’d be changed in a way that public schools couldn’t handle — and appropriately so.

TChristopher Shea’s column appears biweekly in Ideas. E-mail critical.faculties@verizon.net.
http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/03/04/holy_book_learning/

 

 

The Bible is a Good Book, But God Didn’t Write It – Bishop John Shelby Spong

The Bible is a Good Book, But God Didn’t Write It – Bishop John Shelby Spong interviewed By Candace Chellew-Hodge, Religion Dispatches, January 8, 2012

Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World by John Shelby Spong, HarperOne , 2011 

Excerpt 

Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong…has been taking religious literalists to task for over 40 years…Spong’s new book Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

“I do not think for one moment that Bible is any literal sense the ‘Word of God.’

…the Bible [is] more than a manual for morality, but a living document….We’ve encouraged people to think about the Bible as this kind of book, a source of authority, the final word, not to be debated….

I think the Bible is a great book and I think if we can get people to look at it properly and not use it as a weapon to enforce their prejudices we’d be making a major step forward.

In this strange political climate we’re in, the Bible seems to be getting tossed around an awful lot… I think it’s sick….

Christianity is not about saving people from their sins. It’s about expanding the sense of what it means to be human…What Christianity does is lift us beyond the survival mentality into a kind of humanity that can give itself away in love. That’s what the Jesus story is all about. 

Full text

Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is used to being a lightning rod for religious debate. Known affectionately as “Jack” to his friends, Spong has been taking religious literalists to task for over 40 years. 

The bishop made a big splash a couple of years ago when he issued a “Manifesto” in which he declared: “I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler responded that this was fine with him as “Bishop Spong rejects any claim that the Bible is the Word of God.” 

Mohler will find verification of his view in Spong’s new book Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World. Right there, on page 15, Spong writes: “I do not think for one moment that Bible is any literal sense the ‘Word of God.’” This book is Spong’s way of putting the Bible back in its right perspective—as a collection of “tribal” stories that sprang from “the experience of human beings seeking to make sense out of the life they are living and the things they are experiencing.” 

Spong invites readers to consider the Bible more deeply. His approach opens up the Bible in a new way and invites us all to engage the texts, argue with them, and use it make new meaning for our own experiences and lives. This, Spong argues, makes the Bible more than a manual for morality, but a living document. 

Religion Dispatches had the chance to talk with Bishop Spong about his new book, as well as his take on how religion has been shaping—and misshaping—the political landscape.

__________

RD: One of the things you are fighting against in this book is a literal reading of the Bible. Why do you believe people insist on reading the bible literally and not daring to ask, or even trying to form, the questions?

 

JS: We put an aura around the Bible that makes it very difficult to look at it any other way than as some mystical book that dropped from the sky. In some church processions, they walk in and somebody is holding the book on high as if it’s to be worshipped. We read from it and say “This is the word of the Lord” no matter what the lesson said. You do that often enough and people don’t think that’s a book to be read. It’s an untouchable.

 

Also, we publish the Bible in columns. No other book is published that way except encyclopedias, dictionaries, and telephone books. You don’t want to read those books, you go to them for authoritative answers and you don’t argue with the dictionary. If you’re playing Scrabble you go to the dictionary to settle the argument. We’ve encouraged people to think about the Bible as this kind of book, a source of authority, the final word, not to be debated. I think that helps people to think that it’s inappropriate to ask questions.

 

As a kid, our family Bible was on the coffee table in the living room. We never read it. We’d open it to put in somebody’s baptism or death. It was a family record book. I remember one day I put a Coca-Cola bottle down on top of it and I thought that the Lord would strike me dead.

 

I think the Bible is a great book and I think if we can get people to look at it properly and not use it as a weapon to enforce their prejudices we’d be making a major step forward.

 

In this strange political climate we’re in, the Bible seems to be getting tossed around an awful lot. Erstwhile candidate Michele Bachmann was even asked in one debate whether she believed the Bible required her to be “submissive” to her husband. Politicians are trying to enforce that aura around the Bible and competing to be seen as taking it the most literally. What do you make of that?

 

I think it’s sick, though I think there is less of it now than during the Bush years—we’re making progress, as strange as it sounds. The only one really talking this way now is Rick Perry. He keeps coming out against gays and in favor of being a Christian as if those are two things that go together.

 

I think it’s a reality show. I think it’s the strangest group of candidates I’ve ever watched run for office and I would be embarrassed at almost any one of them being the president of the United States. If the Democrats had any sense they’d run against the Ebeneezer Scrooge Republican Party because they keep running around saying, “Bah, humbug,” and anybody that’s poor ought to stay poor because they probably deserve to be poor and we’ll tax them a little more to be sure they remain poor. I don’t know why they think that’s a winning ticket.

 

The economy is so bad that I think Obama had a really slim chance to be elected, but I think the opposition has given him a good chance of being elected because it is so bizarre. Rick Perry who can’t remember anything, or Herman Cain—he was a comedy. Newt Gingrich? I’m too old, I remember too much about Newt Gingrich. Romney’s got the ability and I don’t think he’s an evil person but he’s been on every side of every issue so I’m not sure who the real Romney is. I don’t see a strong candidate in that crowd. Michele Bachman was comic relief!

 

I don’t want the Republican Party not to offer a strong alternative because democracy depends on both parties having competent people—one conservative, one liberal—and letting the people choose which direction it wants to take for the next four years. Anytime you play to the narrow, angry base of your party to get the nomination you jeopardize your chances of winning—and you should. This country is basically a center-right to center-left country and if we could rotate a competent center-right with a competent-center left person then I think we’d have a healthy country.

 

I think your book could help people make a critical assessment of how religion is being used in politics because if they understood the Bible then they would recognize when it’s being misused and abused.

 

 It seems to me that what the Christian faith says is that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called and empowered to be all that it can be. That’s not what you hear. Christianity has been a religion of victimization if you look at its history. We victimized Jews during the Crusades. We victimized Muslims in the 14th century. We victimized heretics. We victimized people of color. We victimized women. We victimized homosexuals. We victimized the environment. We’re currently victimizing immigrants. It’s all the same mentality.

 

What is it about Christianity that makes us constantly be a victimizer? I think it’s because we’ve adopted victimizing theology. We spend all our time in church talking about how sinful and evil human beings are. The only way you can tolerate listening to that is to pass it on. We have to pass on this hostility that we have. The idea that God killed Jesus because you were a sinner is a really strange idea. It makes God an ogre. It makes Jesus a sadomasochistic victim and it makes you and me guilt-laden.

 

Guilt never produces life. If guilt is your message, the best you can produce is a hidden righteousness. You repress your negative feelings in public and you pass this guilt on because it’s intolerable. I think what we’ve turned Christianity into is a sick religion and it comes out politically.

 

What do you think about the Occupy movement?

 

Finally, this negativity has been pushed to the extreme by the Tea Party that it fired up the other side. I think the majority is going to be on the Occupy side. That’s my hope. What they are doing is raising consciousness. I also think it’s dangerous.

 

America reminds me of France before the revolution in the 18th century. What you get is polarized politics with an increasingly right-wing mentality and then you get a left-wing reaction, the center disappears and that’s what leads to civil wars. We’re in a down economy, there’s a lot of anger. It was a depression that brought Adolph Hitler into power—and he had a victim he could denigrate. He united all the Germans against the Jews. It’s cheap politics, but we still have people who know how to do that. It doesn’t lead to anything but destruction.

 

How can reeducating ourselves about the Bible—and educating the non-religious about the Bible—help us regain the center?

 

One of my hopes for this book is that it will provide a textbook to talk about the Bible in a new way. A local pastor doesn’t have to actually say what I say in the book, but if he presents the book then he’s not alone.

 

I had a friend in Wyoming who used my book for a Lenten study and said he would preach against it and lambast it every Sunday. I asked him why he would do that and he said, “That’s the only way I can get them to read it.” I thought that was very clever. That opens the doors and I’m encouraged by that.

 

In your book you argue that there are universalist themes in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. How do you square that with the Christian exceptionalism we see today?

 

Exceptionalism is in every religious system. Religion is a human social invention to keep insecurity in check because being human is a very insecure thing to be. We’re self-conscious. We know we’re going to die and we have to relate to that. Animals don’t have to relate to that, they just live until they die. Human beings are the only animal that commits suicide or uses drugs. Religion is part of our defense system against the radical insecurity of life.

 

In order for religion to make you secure you have to make excessive claims. You have to say that, “We are the chosen people,” or “The Pope is infallible,” or “Our way is the only way,” or “the Bible is inerrant.” You have to make a claim that locks security up tightly. It doesn’t work, but it’s popular. There will always be fundamentalist churches. They will always promise things they can’t deliver and people will leave when a tragedy comes. Fundamentalist churches don’t tend to last past the charismatic pastor that got them started.

 

Christianity is not supposed to make you secure. Christianity is supposed to give you the courage to walk into an insecure world knowing that you’re not alone and to embrace the radical insecurity. If you’ve got to spend your time proving that you’re better than someone else—males are better than females, whites are better than blacks, heterosexuals are better than homosexuals—you’re always building yourself up by pushing somebody else down. But, you shouldn’t need to build yourself up unless you’re radically insecure. Religion feeds into that radical insecurity with triumphalism—ours is the only religious route you can take to get to God. That’s a really strange idea.

 

Religion is not about truth, it’s about security. The sort of thing I’m presenting is never going to be the majority view but it’s going to be the minority point of view for those who are bold enough to look at life as it really is and not to need a narcotic to get through it but as something that gives them the strength to embrace the radical insecurity of life, and I think that’s worth doing.

 

Christianity is not about saving people from their sins. It’s about expanding the sense of what it means to be human. That’s a very big difference. I’m tired of being saved from my sins. People say, “You don’t believe in sin.” But, that’s not true. I believe that human beings are incredibly capable of doing evil. We do that because we’re survival-oriented creatures. That means we can’t help but be self-centered—and that’s what the church called “original sin.” Christianity doesn’t rescue us from that aspect of our humanity. What Christianity does is lift us beyond the survival mentality into a kind of humanity that can give itself away in love. That’s what the Jesus story is all about. 

What do you see as the future of Christianity? 

I’m encouraged that the Bible says to me over and over again that the Christian movement is always going to be a minority movement. It’s not ever going to be a majority movement. We’re going to be the little bit of salt that gives flavor to the soup, the leaven that causes the bread to rise, or the tiny candle that shines in the midst of incredible darkness. When we get back to understanding our role is to leaven the lump then I think we’ll be effective.

 

Right now we believe we should be the majority. I don’t think that’s ever been the biblical image. The saving remnant was the powerful idea in the Hebrew Scriptures and I think that continues in the Christian tradition. But, we’ve gotten triumphal. We turned Christianity into Christendom and we rule the world. We’ve seated kings and unseated kings. We got drunk with that kind of power and we forgot how to be a Christian. I hope we can recover that and I hope my book will help people see that—because I think the message of the Bible is a pretty powerful one.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008).
 

http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/atheologies/5527/the_bible_is_a_good_book%2C_but_god_didn%E2%80%99t_write_it

 

Biblical economics

 Prosperity Christianity, or what some call “health and wealth” religion…is the adoption of the logic of free enterprise and branding as a way of understanding, experiencing, and proselytizing Christian religious values.…. As a set of religious teachings and training, the theology is centered on the notion that God provides material wealth—prosperity—for those individuals he favors… the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings… How Christianity Became a Lucrative Brand By Sarah Banet-Weiser, New York Press, posted on Alternet.org, December 17, 2012

Biblical Capitalism – The Religious Right’s War on Progressive Economic Policy by Rachel Tabachnick, Talk to Action, Feb 01, 2011… “Biblical Capitalism” or the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated. The Religious Right is well known for its regressive social activism, but less publicized is the role it has played in the war against progressive economic policy, labor unions, the regulatory structure and social safety net. The sacralizing of laissez-faire capitalism predates the Tea Party movement and has been a major theme of fundamentalist textbooks for more than three decades…

Capitalism and Christianity by Peter Montgomery, ReligionDispatches.org, July 19, 2013

God Favors Supply-Side Economics, Post by Gordon Haber, ReligionDispatches,org, August 2, 2013

Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil By Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2011 – While the assault on unions by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors and legislators seems driven mostly by the billionaire Koch brothers and corporate-funded groups, religious right leaders and activists have spent decades creating fertile soil for anti-union campaigns through the promotion of “biblical capitalism,” which researcher Rachel Tabachnick describes as “the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated.”
Pseudo-historian David Barton, a frequent guest of broadcaster Glenn Beck, is using his newly enlarged audience to promote American exceptionalism (America was created by its divinely-inspired founders as a country of, by, and for Christians) and Tea Party-on-steroids economics (Jesus and the Bible oppose progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and minimum wage laws). The Religious Right has a long practice of claiming divine mandate for its policy agenda as it makes for an exceptionally potent political argument: if God supports radically limited government, then progressive policies are not only wrong but evil, and supporters of liberal policies are not only political opponents but enemies of God.
Two days after the November 2010 elections, Barton, Newt Gingrich, and Jim Garlow (who runs Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership group), held a conference call with pastors to celebrate conservative political gains. On the call, Garlow and Barton asserted a biblical underpinning for far-right economic policies: Taxation and deficit spending, they said, amount to theft, a violation of the Ten Commandments. The estate tax, Barton said, is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes. Jesus, he said, had “teachings” condemning the capital gains tax and minimum wage.
Barton also enlists Jesus in the war against unions and collective bargaining…and went on to explain why the Bible is anti-union…
It’s clear that the attempt to once again “break the spine of labor” is meant to cripple any opposition to the vision of a country in which corporations are given free rein to maximize profits without concern for workers’ safety, community well-being, and environmental protection. The seeds of that vision were first planted by Christian Reconstructionists and The Family and today’s conservative Christian leaders are only too eager to take advantage of the fruits of those labors to make the case that Jesus opposes efforts to ensure a living wage to workers, and that workers should accept as good slaves whatever treatment their employers dish out.

The Debt Ceiling Crisis and Biblical Economics by Julie Ingersoll,  ReligionDispatches.com, July 14, 2011 – An interesting week for biblical economics: the longstanding voice in the wilderness Ron Paul…In many ways prompted by tea party ideological intransigence, Paul has brought what were once considered extreme, fringe, even “crackpot” economic views to bear on the American economy and potentially the global economic system…his ties to the Reconstructionists…The new GOP coalition, built on tea party support, is breaking down over the debt limit crisis…now tea partiers like Michele Bachmann are saying they won’t vote to raise the limit at all and are claiming that the administration is exaggerating the impact a default will have. Moreover, they’re so sure about the tea party members staying in line on a vote, they’re going after Republicans who want to cut a deal.…
rooted in what I described at a “theocratic reading of the Bible…
It’s much harder to make something happen (eliminating the Federal Reserve) than it is to keep something from happening (raising the debt limit)…
for proponents of biblical economics, there’s a much deeper motive. As I explained in the November 2010 piece on the Fed:
North’s overarching schema is that there is an impending social collapse which will provide the opportunity for biblically-based Christians to exercise dominion by replacing existing humanistic institutions with biblical ones…
“people will at last decide that they have had enough moral and legal compromise. They will at last decide to adopt a simple system of honest money, along with competitive free market principles throughout the economy.”…
For North, default of the U.S. economy is inevitable; he argues that it has already begun. We know who he thinks will pick up the pieces.

Does God Want You To Be Rich?

Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics By Gordon Bigelow, Harper’s Magazine, May 2005

Why Taxing the Rich is the Godly Thing by Peter Laarman, Religion Dispatches.org, July 28, 2010