The Misunderstood Bible

Not News; Just Weak

By Jeff Laird

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Continued from Page Two

Similarly, Eichenwald levels accusations of hypocrisy at Christians over homosexuality, which seems to be the ultimate cause of his beef with an Evangelical approach to the Bible. He strangely claims the word "homosexual" didn't appear until later English versions, and that Leviticus ought not apply. Here, Eichenwald misses the fact that Paul's language in several verses is explicit — as in, graphic — and difficult to mistake. And, that the conservative Christian view of homosexual acts is based on far, far more than a verse in Leviticus. His stance also requires a person to believe that every Christian theologian for the last two millennia has been grossly blind to what the Bible actually says, or that nobody understood the behavior until that English word was coined.

The piece also claims that Jesus was anti-family, based on an out-of-context reference to Matthew 19:29. Context, however, shows what Jesus meant, and it's nothing like the silly nonsense Eichenwald suggests. Consider, for instance, Mark 10 and Matthew 5.

Eichenwald claims Christians are hypocrites for praying in public, and in school, because of what Jesus said about practicing faith "in order to be seen", seemingly missing the point that it's the pride, not the publicity, which Jesus was targeting. Or, the fact that Jesus Himself often prayed in public. For what it's worth, I, and a great number of other Christians, are uncomfortable with celebrity politicians and pseudo-pastors turning prayer into a performance. On this, we agree, but Eichenwald's abuse of Scripture to make his point can't be excused.

According to Eichenwald, also, those who criticize homosexual behavior should also tell women to "shut up and sit down." This, because of what Paul says about the conduct of women in 1 Timothy. Once again, Eichenwald's approach is not only sophomoric, it's foreign to most of Christian theology. An unfair and inaccurate caricature, to say the least. The context of the passage is fairly clear that it refers to spiritual and intra-church issues, not the world in general, and it's been interpreted as such by the mainstream scholars Eichenwald deliberately chooses not to reference.

Perhaps most pathetically, Eichenwald tries to suggest that Christian attempts to change the minds of government leaders, or to oppose their policies, even in prayer, is a sin, based on Romans 13. Never mind that the same author, Paul, sticks up for his rights in Acts 16:37-38 and Acts 22:25. This same book, in Acts 5:29, recounts Peter and the apostles disobeying the authorities, in favor of obeying God. What Paul describes in Romans 13 is revolution and anarchy, not Christians who engage in civil disobedience and the punishment it entails.

Through all of this clumsy flailing, Eichenwald's point seems to be that Christians ought not take anything in the Bible seriously, since doing so would lead to all of these bad conclusions. And that we don't anyway, since we don't take his insipid approach to all of these issues. Taken as attempts to refute theology he doesn't like, through reductio ad absurdam, one could be tempted to brush these off as pointed caricatures, nothing more.

As shown, though, his counterpoint Biblical interpretation is so laughably juvenile it can't be taken seriously, and flies in the face of his admonition to respect the "history, complexities and actual words" involved. Actual Biblical scholars don't take that rice-paper approach, despite the fact they come to conclusions Eichenwald doesn't like.


These are dead-to-rights examples of what can only be called willful ignorance. It's not that hard to find a Christian theologian willing to explain the basis for Christian teachings on these passages. Or simple, common-knowledge facts to correct these silly claims. I work with a ministry giving scriptural answers to these kinds of questions literally millions of times a month! Even a mediocre effort could have given Eichenwald a better perspective, but he didn't seem to bother. Complexities? History? Objectivity? Please. Who has time for that, when you're skimming the Bible and quote-mining Bart Ehrman?

It's a sad commentary on modern journalism when something this childish is passed off as a cover story. Atheists, theists, theologians and skeptics ought to be insulted that Newsweek thinks so little of its readership. Though even sadder, perhaps, is how many of those readers will gleefully nod at every word, simply because it agrees with their general distaste for Christianity. And, how many self-styled Christians will gasp in frustration over what, truly, they ought to be rolling their eyes at.

In the end, Eichenwald and Newsweek have provided nothing other than a distilled version of ignorant, pop-culture, anti-Biblicism, something Newsweek ought to be embarrassed for having published. I can only say the mid-piece disclaimer is disingenuous, at best:
Newsweek's exploration here of the Bible's history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don't read it, in the process creating misery for others...This examination—based in large part on the works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries—is a review of the Bible's history and a recounting of its words.
Oh. Give. Me. A. Break.

That claim, in light of the piece itself, is insulting. What about the Bible being abused by those who revile it, but don't read it, and create misery of their own kind? At most, this is an "examination" of the author's own personal preferences, and a handful of biased sources, not the mainstream scholarship or theology involved. If "scores" of scholars back this up, what about the "thousands" who'd call it rank nonsense? It doesn't even pass the common-sense test.

Seeing Christianity misrepresented is nothing new, but a publication as high-profile as Newsweek wallowing in the dregs of ignorant arrogance feels like a new low. It seems Eichenwald's oh-so-deep-and-thorough reading of the Bible missed Romans 1:18, which talks about those who "suppress the truth." That is, those who know well enough to look in certain directions, but make a purposeful choice not to. Intellect and ability aren't his problem, nor his editors'. Willingness is the only legitimate explanation. This isn't merely poor journalism; it's condescension and prejudice writ large. Eichenwald, Newsweek, and everyone else deserve a more honest approach than that.

Consider the brain-melting arrogance Eichenwald levies at millennia of Christian thought, as he pontificates on his version of what the Bible really says:
There are also deep, logical flaws here that should be apparent to anyone giving the Bible a close read.
I guess the theologians of history, the scholars of renown, just never bothered to give the Bible a close read. Or, they were just too stupid. Dur-hurr, golly gee, thanks, Kurt, for shining the light of your edified brilliance on two thousand years of dullards and boobs. For reminding us just how far "journalism" has fallen, and how even the most prejudiced, obnoxious nonsense gets to print today, as long as it spits in the face of Biblical Christianity.

That's not news, but it's pretty weak.

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Published 12-29-14