Reading the Bible to Relieve Discomfort: A Lament

Early American evangelical ancestors like Jonathan Edwards saw themselves as committed to the gospel and faithful to Christian Scripture, while they enslaved and visited unspeakable horrors upon African people.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

In my city there is an ever-growing crisis of homelessness, hunger and displacement. An evangelical mega-church recently spent $25 million beautifying and expanding their facilities.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

Evangelical men will trumpet biblical authority and insist on biblical literalism when it comes to subordinating and controlling women in their churches. These same men will speak evasively, issue qualifications, talk about personal responsibility and the importance of capitalism when discussing Jesus’ clear teachings on feeding, clothing and serving the poor.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

Evangelicals will hear on Sunday Jesus’ words that you cannot serve both God and Mammon, and then discuss their vote on Tuesday speaking only of Mammon.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

Evangelical pastors will read aloud Jesus’ words that when you welcome the foreigner, you welcome me; when you did not welcome the foreigner, you did not welcome me. And they will praise the man who promises to keep out foreigners.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

Evangelicals will insist they are pro-life and then support and celebrate the military-industrial machine that unleashes a holy hell of death and destruction on God’s good world.

There is a way of reading the Bible that relieves the discomfort of holding these two realities together.

This way of reading the Bible has me in its grip. I was trained in it. It has infected and colonized my imagination.

I am scratching and clawing my way toward liberation from it. That’s difficult to do with so much traffic going the other direction.

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