Saturday, March 16, 2013

The evangelical left

Nowadays we have professing Christians on the evangelical left (for want of a better term) who brazenly reject the inspiration of certain OT commands they deem to be too harsh. So-called “texts of terror.” This usually begins with their repudiation of commands involving “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” From there this may extend to commands involving war brides, POWs, shotgun weddings, indentured servants, and whatever else the evangelical leftist deems to be too harsh or horrific for God to command.

However, there’s another set of passages presenting the polar opposite. For not only does the Bible contain commands that are allegedly too brutal and barbaric, but the Bible also contains commands which look like they are too ivory-tower. I’m alluding to the Sermon on the Mount.

On the face of it, the Sermon on the Mount is hopelessly idealistic. If the Mosaic law is too dystopian, the Sermon on the Mount is too utopian.

Historically, the Sermon on the Mount has posed a problem for Christians, because it appears to be too unrealistic to put into practice. The Amish pride themselves on taking the Sermon at face value, but even they are quite selective. They seize on the passages about nonviolence, but the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond that. What about private property?

If Christians obeyed the prima facie meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, that would reduce us to naked, homeless beggars. Defenseless street people, dependant on handouts to survive.

If someone demanded our shoes, we’d have to give them our shoes. If someone demanded our house, we’d have to vacate our house. If someone demanded our wages, we’d have to hand over our greenbacks, credit cards, debit cards, &c. If they demanded our glasses or contacts, we’d have to give them our glasses or contacts. If they demanded our car, we’d have to give them our car. If they demanded our bicycle, we’d have to give them our bicycle. If they demanded our bus pass, we’d have to give them our bus pass. If they demanded our wheelchair, we’d have to give them our wheelchair. If they demanded our wristwatch, we’d have to give them our wristwatch. If they demanded our cell phone, we’d have to give them our cell phone.

It would be impossible to hold down a job. Impossible to maintain a family. Impossible to feed and clothe your family. Impossible to put a roof over their heads.

We could never plan for the future. Never make preparations. Carpe Diem. Live for the moment, with no forethought for the morrow.

On the face of it, the Sermon on the Mount appears to be utterly Pollyannaish. Francis of Assisi was one of the few Christians who made a good-faith effort to consistently put that into practice. He took it far more seriously than Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Stanley Hauerwas, or John Howard Yoder.

Indeed, critics of the Mosaic law often like to quote the Sermon on the Mount. But I dont see them doing everything it ostensibly commands. Not by a long shot. They dont even try.

So why are evangelical leftists so vocal in attacking the Bible when it’s (allegedly) too harsh, but fall silent when the Bible is (apparently) too otherworldly? Why be so outspoken when the Bible is (allegedly) too mean, but suffer from instant laryngitis when the Bible is (apparently) too starry-eyed? Too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly use. Shouldn’t evangelical leftists be more consistent? Shouldn’t they attack the Sermon on the Mount with the same superior attitude as they attack the Mosaic law?

No comments:

Post a Comment