L.B.: Selective literalism

Left Behind, pg. 165

Rayford Steele has not yet, himself, converted to what Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins call "true" Christianity, but he's already started trying to convert his daughter Chloe.

"I always called myself a Christian, mostly because I was raised that way and I wasn't Jewish."

"Now you're saying you're not a Christian?"

"Chloe, I think the Christians are gone."

"So I'm not a Christian either?"

"You're my daughter and the only other member of my family still left; I love you more than anything on earth. But if the Christians are gone and everyone else is left, I don't think anyone is a Christian."

"Some kind of a super Christian, you mean."

"Yeah, a true Christian. Apparently those who were taken were recognized by God as truly his."

This idea of true versus false Christianity, genuine versus inadequate faith, is at the heart of Left Behind. It's built into the fabric of the book, as the title itself suggests. Some will be "recognized by God as truly his." Everyone else will be "left behind." Explaining and describing who falls into which group, and how to distinguish between the two, is an essential part of the story's structure. This distinction — shibboleth, litmus test — is one of the book's primary themes.

The problem is that such a distinction, the Bible makes very clear, is none of our business. It is, in fact, something Jesus explicitly commanded his followers not to do:

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

"'An enemy did this,' he replied.

"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

When this little allegory was met with blank stares from his disciples, Jesus took the unusual step of spelling out explicitly what he meant:

"The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

This is some fairly trippy eschatology — harvester angels and fiery furnaces and the like. If you insist, as L&J do, on reading everything in the Bible "literally," at face value, then you're going to have a very difficult time reconciling the figures of speech in this passage (Matthew 13) with the equally vivid, but very different, literary details of this same end-of-the-age sorting that Jesus provides in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25) or that of Lazarus and the Rich Man (in Luke 16).

The point of all three stories, of course, is that the kingdom of God is made up of those who do good, not those who do evil — and particularly not those evildoers (weeds, goats, Dives) who ignore the needs of the poor. To read such stories and ignore this point is perverse. To interpret them as primarily about the specific mechanics of the End Times — the role of Abraham and angels, the heat-setting of the fiery furnace — is even more perverse.

Such a reading makes a good defense mechanism, however, if you're the rich man or the goats or the bad seed. If you've been ignoring the beggar at the gate, giving him only crumbs from your table — if you've been neglecting to feed the hungry, tend the sick, clothe the naked and comfort those in prison — then stories like these can be very disconcerting unless you're able to distract yourself with some contorted "literal" reading of all the tangential details.

The criteria for the sorting that Jesus describes in all three of these parables is nothing like the criteria Rayford, LaHaye and Jenkins have in mind for distinguishing between true Christians "recognized by God as truly his" and those who will be left behind. L&J's criteria involves a magical prayer of conversion and a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" that has nothing to do with feeding Jesus when we encounter him in the hungry, or clothing Jesus when we encounter him naked, or visiting Jesus when he has, yet again, been thrown into prison.

L&J, like many American evangelicals, insist on what they call a "literal" Hell. Most of their literal idea of this literal Hell comes from a fuzzy cultural memory of a literal reading of Dante, but it is supported by hints from these various Day of Judgment stories told by Jesus. In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus says that those who neglect the needy will be cast "outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In the parable of the Wheat and Weeds, the mature weeds will be "pulled up and burned in the fire." The Rich Man who neglected poor Lazarus is sent to "Hades, where he was in torment." (I would love to read an explanation of a "literal" interpretation of Jesus' reference here to the Greek god of the dead.)

The most vivid account of this "literal Hell" is from L&J's favorite book of the Bible, Revelation, in another tale of end-of-the-age sorting:

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

I don't want to get into a debate about the theology of Hell. What interests me in all of this is the glaring contradiction and inconsistency in L&J's and other evangelicals' supposedly "literal" reading of the Bible.

Every one of the passages above is cited in defense of a "literal Hell" by people who insist on a "literal" reading of scripture. Yet every one of these passages also explicitly states that people will be judged "according to what they had done." This is true of every passage they might cite in defense of their literal reading of a literal Hell. And in every case, these literal readers will insist that the passage's emphasis on deeds, works and actions should not be read literally.

That's rather interesting, isn't it?

I don't believe that such passages are irreconcilable with the idea of justification by faith, but what's interesting here is the selective literalism employed by L&J and others like them to dismiss such "strawy" passages. This selective literalism allows them to disregard explicit teachings about the poor and the needy while still insisting that they have the wisdom, the authority and the right to judge who is and is not a "true" Christian, who will and who won't be left behind. That arrogant and contrabiblical assumption pervades Left Behind, beginning with the cover of the book and saturating every page.

By the way, the parable of the Wheat and Weeds, cited above, raises another difficulty for L&J and the other selective literalists of the premillennial dispensationalist persuasion. The premise of LB is that all the true Christians, all the good and the innocent, will be "raptured." They will, as Irene Steele put it, be rescued by "Jesus coming back to get us before we die." After that happens, L&J believe, the wicked and the guilty and the false Christians and the Jews will all be destroyed in an outpouring of God's wrath. A "literal" reading of Jesus' parable, however, would suggest they've got things in the wrong order. The parable has the weeds harvested first, then the wheat.

This is a contradiction only if one accepts L&J's alleged insistence on a "literal interpretation." I find this to be a foolish and illiterate hermeneutic, but these are the rules they claim to be following. When these rules become inconvenient, however, L&J casually toss them aside.

  • Rasselas

    As for the fetishization or commodification of Hell so rampant in the LB universe (not as much fun as the DC or the Marvel universe), Hans Kung says (I found this passage online a while ago, luckily):
    . . . . . To insist on the problematic character of the idea of eternal punishment in hell — which on the whole only plays a small part in the New Testament — is not the same thing as questioning the biblical idea of judgment which runs right through the New Testament. Dying into God, as we observed, has a judicial-purifying character. As will become clearer later, a superficial universalism which regards all human beings as saved from the very outset would not do justice to the seriousness of life, to the importance of moral decisions and the weight of the individual’s responsibility. Whether the punishment of hell is eternal or not, a person is fully responsible, not only before his conscience — which is the voice of his practical reason — but also before the absolutely final authority, before which his reason is also responsible. And it would certainly be presumptuous for a person to seek to anticipate the judgment of this absolutely final authority. Neither in one way nor in the other can we tie God’s hands or dispose of Him. There is nothing to be known here, but everything to be hoped.
    ["Presumptuous" is a key word in the passage, for me, together with the rejection of the fantasy that we can "tie God's hands," whether with magic spells or the criteria that men set for others.]

  • Scott

    “Yeah, a true Christian. Apparently those who were taken were recognized by God as truly his.”
    Leaving aside how The Elect (such as L&J) would know who is ‘true’ and who isn’t, how would a nominal Christian/semi-agnostic like pre-salvation Steele know or care about the distinction? Wouldn’t they point to the regular churchgoers (and good people, in their eyes at least) still around (and the Muslim and Buddahist children gone) and think “well, Christainity isn’t what those gone had in common and those left don’t”?
    Given the ages of most of the people taken, and the inverse relationship between advanced degrees and fundamentalism among adults (in the West, at least), I’d conclude that God just didn’t want anyone around who got intellectually past middle school. :-) Irene dropped out of college and was saved, Rayford didn’t and wasn’t. Chloe is planning to graduate and wasn’t saved, the younger kid who hadn’t hit high school yet was taken.

  • aunursa

    “I always called myself a Christian, mostly because I was raised that way and I wasn’t Jewish.”
    It amazes me the number of people — including both Christians and Jews — who naively believe that Christianity is simply Judaism + Jesus … or that Judaism is just “Christian lite.”

  • cjmr’s husband

    FWIW, I had to check. The Unbound Bible http://unbound.biola.edu/ shows the Latin Luke 16:23 saying “inferno” but the Greek saying “Hades” (alpha delta eta). But I wouldn’t read anything into it.

  • Constantine

    I would love to read an explanation of a “literal” interpretation of Jesus’ reference here to the Greek god of the dead.
    Well, the Greek translation of the OT translated the Hebrew “She’ol” as “Hades,” so in the tradition of rendering Hebrew religious concepts into the Greek language, this would be pretty much par for the course.

  • ajb

    Good to see LBFs back. It’s been, err, Hell, without it.
    Two points:
    You’re right that L&J get the order of things backwards. Remember that the new Testament compares the end of times to Noah and the Flood. In that tale, it isn’t the righteous Noah and his family that are wisked away, it’s the evildoers who are wisked away by the flood.
    And L&J’s comments (through Rayford) about folks who thought they were “true Christians” directly contradicts their once-saved-always-saved theology. How can anyone be “assured” of their salvation, in the sense that some fundamentalist evangelicals think they are, if in the end they wake up alone in their house and realize they weren’t a “true Christian” after all?

  • aunursa

    How can anyone be “assured” of their salvation, in the sense that some fundamentalist evangelicals think they are, if in the end they wake up alone in their house and realize they weren’t a “true Christian” after all?
    The book suggests that the reason is that these people didn’t really believe as fundamentalist Christians do … they were insincere and/or just faking it.

  • Scott

    directly contradicts their once-saved-always-saved theology
    They were (supposedly) never saved and knew it – everybody knows the fundies are right but they are just too stubborn to admit it.

  • coriolis

    “When these rules become inconvenient, however, L&J casually toss them aside.”
    How I wish you had said:
    For L&J, when these rules become inconvenient, they are left behind.

  • Garnet

    Wouldn’t they point to the regular churchgoers (and good people, in their eyes at least) still around (and the Muslim and Buddahist children gone) and think “well, Christainity isn’t what those gone had in common and those left don’t”?
    Especially since Rayford’s whole pool of knowledge, at this point, consists of his immediate family and a ‘correct’ church that’s been half-raptured. These are the only people who’s religious convictions he actually knows about, which makes his assumption that it’s a super-Christians-only thing about as useful as me deciding that convenience stores are an asian-family-only thing from looking at my local corner shop.

  • none

    Gamet… This seems to be another case of the authors leaping ahead in the narrative, because everybody in the story knows it’s a PMD End Times tale. They could’ve spent a chapter or two doing some detective work, trying to figure out what the disappearances are about. But it’s enough for daddy & daughter to cogitate on the problem and figure it out that way.
    The parable has the weeds harvested first, then the wheat.
    Is it possible that LaHaye equates the “wheat” with the new, post-Rapture Christians? Thus, in the final book, they get to witness the burning of the “weeds.”

  • KenH

    Perhaps a bit too late, but I want to go back to what our friend said several chapters ago. He said that the miracals (That every charicter in this series ignored) mentioned in “Left Behind” would be devistateing socialy, politicly and otherwise in THE REAL world. There is a good example on the net. (The last part is to the point. The story is just a set-up)
    http://www.further-adventures.com/radio/entries/twg.html

  • pharoute

    It’s incredible how backwards selective literalism is. “Hell is a lake of fire and it’s real and the Raptured will meet Jesus in the sky” (which has been pointed out before that in “Left Behind” world they didn’t meet Jesus, they just disappeared).
    “Love thy neighbor?” Not if they’re sinners (ie gay)
    “Thou shall not kill” Unless they’re terraists
    “Sell your belongings” But look at the deal on this SUV!

  • pharoute

    “Yeah, a true Christian. Apparently those who were taken were recognized by God as truly his.”
    This is a joke right? L&J didn’t really write this? The “Left Behind” series is sold in Christian bookstores??? We’re all TRULY His!!!
    UNLESS L&J are showing that since Ray came up with this completely off the mark idea of Christianity that it explains why he wasn’t Raptured! All their readers at this point are shaking their heads going “Nope Ray, that is such narrow view of God and imposes on God a terribly temporal and undivine way of working the universe that you’ll never be saved.” Good job L&J! Very subtle…

  • Chris

    The odd thing about Sheol is that it isn’t actually part of the Jewish religion. Some years ago a prominent Israeli rabbi raised the possibility that those killed in the holocaust hads been evil in past lives – that is, countenanced reincarnation. And on checking this with other rabbis I discovered that the jewish faith doesn’t have a firmly settled position on the afterlife. Not eating giraffes, yes; afterlife, no. It’s hard to get my head around it, because it’s had such a massive share of Christian theology over the years, but the afterlife is apparently not necessary to a complete theology. The general rabbinical view seems to be that it’s none of our business (and by ‘our’, there, I mean the living).

  • VKW

    “This idea of true versus false Christianity, genuine versus inadequate faith, is at the heart of Left Behind.”
    I can’t claim to have studied them in depth, but Saint Paul’s letters spend a lot of time on this topic, don’t they?

  • Sophist

    Well, the Greek translation of the OT translated the Hebrew “She’ol” as “Hades,” so in the tradition of rendering Hebrew religious concepts into the Greek language, this would be pretty much par for the course.
    Don’t you know that God protects his word, heathen? So if the one real version of the bible says “Hades”, it’s because God damn well meant it to! Every word is true, and is meant to be taken literally, even that one time in Luke where he refers to our savior as “Mesus”.

  • Bill S

    “Mesus”? Sounds like a Freudian slip to me. Wonder what that says about Luke.

  • Constantine

    So if the one real version of the bible says “Hades”, it’s because God damn well meant it to!
    Very funny. :) Well, I didn’t mean to write my statement in the sense that I was disagreeing with the choice of translation. I guess “par for the course” sounded too negative. What I was trying to say was that in the already-existing religious tradition of the day, use of the Greek term “Hades” to translate the Hebrew concept of “She’ol” (whatever that is), and it had been there for many years (more than 2 centuries, if the traditional dating for the formation of the Septuagint is correct), so the authors of the New Testament would have used the same Greek terminology that their own Jewish tradition had already adopted.

  • AJ

    I’m too lazy to link it, but you can find the differences of mentions to Hell by looking it up on Wikipedia–it’s near the middle of the entry, I think. I can’t recall if S’heol was the one that was actually a Middle Eastern garbage dump at the time the Bible was written or not…

  • Andrew Reeves

    AJ–You’re thinking of Gehenna.

  • kim

    In addition to selective literalism, fundamentalists also have a contradictory view of the totality of scripture. They believe that God more or less dictated the entire Bible, so that the influence of the dozens of human beings who wrote the individual books is virtually nil. Yet they rarely refer to the Bible as a coherent whole with themes that carry throughout the different books. Instead the Bible consists of a bunch of verses cherry-picked to support their views on Christianity. That is how issues like caring for the poor – which is central in the pentateuch, the prophets, the gospels, and the epistles – are so easily dismissed, because one verse of their choosing can be interpreted to trump all the other verses they don’t agree with.

  • http://www.bloodlesscoup.com/blog/001609.html Bloodless Coup

    The Only Post I Will Ever Make On What You Should Believe As A Christian

    I try to avoid telling people, with respect to religion, that their beliefs are wrong or right. It’s religion: it’s supposed to be between you, God, and your pastor (if you so choose to have one). However: You will get…

  • Doctor Science

    Giraffe actually *is* kosher.
    My experience with Reform Judaism is that issues of the afterlife and the future (eschatology) are very minor compared to their emphasis in Christianity. An important part of the Yom Kippur service, for instance, is remembrance of the dead of one’s own family and of Jewish martyrs past. But there’s not much talk of a heavenly reward or even of what it might be like to be reunited with them, just prayers that we may all be brought together under the shelter of G-d (the Shekinah). Nor is there much about a future Messianic era. From the perspective of someone brought up as a Christian it can be quite a startling gap.

  • Tim Lehnerer

    Kim:
    >>Instead the Bible consists of a bunch of verses cherry-picked to support their views on Christianity.<<
    I've referred to this as "salad bar spirituality" for about ten years now. Strangely enough, it comes from a line in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.

  • Kristin

    I’ve run across some intersting contradictions in interviewing people for my thesis (on LB). Most of the people I interviewed would say that L&J get it right, that it will happen in the rapture, tribulation, second coming, judgement order and they eat these books up, most of the interviewees have read all 12 books and bought the kids series for their grandchildren (but kids are excempt, right?) Many of them have also quoted or responded to the saying “I would be a Christian even if there were no Hell to shun or Heaven to gain” I’m not sure what to make of that since they are obviously obsessed with the ideas of both. Why would that phrase be so popular given the popularity of these books?

  • Merlin Missy

    Kristin —
    Some theories:
    1. When you’re told to say and think something, especially something that sounds like a good and noble idea, after a while, it becomes rote and imprinted on your brain. At this point, for rare individuals, it becomes true knowledge, but for most, it’s just What We Say When We Want to Come Across As Cool.
    2. To someone who’s got the selective literalism bug (“Gay marriage, while not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, is wrong and therefore must be outlawed and punished, but it’s up to the Lord to judge, pass the ham and cheese loaf, please.”) a simple case of choosing to believe one doesn’t need a carrot-and-stick to love one’s religion is easy to have while at the same time fervently believing Hell will swallow up all the people who aren’t like us. Remember, if it looks like a contradiction, it’s really a holy mystery.
    3. They’re right, but not in the way they think they are. Many of the people involved really would be Christians without the threat or reward, simply because they have been told from birth that this is what good people do. Most people end up practicing the same religion their parents did, or else one within a stone’s throw of it. (I am reminded of someone I knew who grew up Lutheran, Missouri Synod, and then converted to Southern Baptist, and this was a great change in her life, because now she’d seen the Truth.)
    4. Since they’re on the inside track as PMD Christians, they know the threat and reward are there regardless, so it’s a safe thing to say, winning points with The Big Guy and also coming across as righteous and good to everyone else. (see also “sin of pride”)
    And yes, it’s taken a long time for me to reach this level of cynicism; it was enabled by twelve years of Catholic school.

  • Hopea

    Kirstin: I think they are dimly aware that this whole punishment/reward business degrades the morality their religion is supposed to be providing, turning it basically into a business proposition.

  • chris Borthwick

    No, Doctor Science, giraffe may conceivably be kosher. Or not. And so a cautious observant will refuse it. Another site (http://www.aish.com/rabbi/ATR_browse.asp?s=giraffe&f=tqak&offset=1
    ), while himself agreeing with your citation that the g. is k., does add the further information that
    “So why don’t we eat giraffes? Because we no longer have a continuous tradition of eating this species, and we may not introduce any animals that we do not have a distinct tradition, even if they possess all the kosher signs. (source: Shach YD 80:1 and Chochmat Adam; Chazon Ish YD 11:4)”
    That would appear to be a debate as to whether the kosher species specifically listed are comprehensive or exemplary.
    “And although Rav Sa’adya Gaon (in “Tafsir HaTorah”), Rabbenu Yona, Radak, and others translate “Zamer” (listed among the ten types of kosher animals in Deut. 14:5) as the giraffe, we follow the opinion of Rashi (Chullin 80a) and Ibn Ezra (Deut. 14:5) that we do not have an accurate tradition for what is the “Zamer.””
    Parenthetically, let me here flag the difficulties of following the inspired word of the bible when you don’t know what the bloody word means.
    My source also says
    “But don’t worry. When Moshiach comes and re-establishes the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, this issue will be resolved. Then we could all go out for 15-foot giraffe deli sandwiches. I can hear it now: “Pass the mustard and the ladder, please!” ”
    I look forward to that scene appearing at the appropriate place in LB.

  • Lila

    I am having a great time imagining the 12-year-old Jesus discussing this issue with the rabbis in the Temple before being interrupted by Mary and Joseph.

  • aunursa

    Jewish theologians will debate in excruciating detail about such subjects as the kosher status of a giraffe … and the length of time for Shabbat observance if one is near the North Pole (or in space.)
    By contrast many Christian theologians will argue on and on about such issues as the marital status of couples in heaven … and whether or not a person, once saved, can lose his salvation.
    The difference in areas of concern between Jewish fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists never ceases to amuse me.

  • Scott

    Coming Soon to a Church Near You
    Hollywood Skips Movie Theaters With 3,200-Screen Opening
    “Left Behind: World at War,” the third movie based on the Left Behind series of novels about Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus, will open tonight on 3,200 screens across the country. But it will not be shown in a single commercial theater.
    Although more than 70 million copies of the novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have been sold, the previous two movies flopped at the box office. So, this time, Sony Pictures Entertainment is leaving the multiplexes behind. “World at War” will break out exclusively in churches.
    Marketing executives say the decision is part of a major trend. The entertainment industry has discovered there is power, power, product-moving power in selling movies, books and music through churches — particularly the suburban megachurches that draw thousands of well-heeled worshipers….

  • Scott

    From the same article:
    …The leading apostle of marketing through churches is the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, a much-emulated megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif. Since January 2003, he has sold 23 million copies of his book “The Purpose Driven Life” without any significant print, radio or television advertising, or even a conventional book tour.
    He did it, he said, by creating “a whole new distribution channel,” offering the book directly to ministers and congregations in bulk quantities, along with suggested sermons and study guides.
    Although Warren calls his network of pastors “a stealth movement,” his huge sales have registered on publishers’ radar screens. “More than anything else, the success of Rick Warren’s book has proved to a lot of marketing folks that tapping into churches is a profitable strategy,” Thumma said….

  • grenadine

    i seem to remember something about money-changers and temples… something about not mixing the two… ah, well. it probably wasn’t important anyway.

  • Cactus Wren

    … how would a nominal Christian/semi-agnostic like pre-salvation Steele know or care about the distinction? Wouldn’t they point to the regular churchgoers (and good people, in their eyes at least) still around (and the Muslim and Buddahist children gone) and think “well, Christainity isn’t what those gone had in common and those left don’t”?
    Particularly since for every voice that dared hesitantly suggest the possibility that this incident might have been the Rapture, there would be at least twenty proclaiming loudly and publicly, many on religious television programs: “Of course this could not have been the Rapture! After all, **>>I<<** am still here!"

  • Erick Oppeen

    For the record…what Jesus was objecting to in the “throw the money-changers out” scene wasn’t their existence, but the fact that they were rooking people really badly. To offer to the Temple, you had to have money without a graven image on it…IOW, the local money only; Greek or Roman coins Would Not Do. Since most pilgrims to Jerusalem came from places where Greek or Roman money was current, they had to change it at the temple to make their required offerings. This opened up…opportunities…for the money changers.
    And considering the kind of muscle that pre-modern money-handlers had to have on hand, for Jesus to do anything of the sort implies that he was tough as whang-leather and might well have survived the Crucifixion naturally.

  • Erick Oppeen

    First, I should point out that the Jesus-vs-moneychangers bit wasn’t an attack on businessmen, but on fraud artists—those moneychangers were taking advantage of Jews from outside Judaea who had come to sacrifice at the Temple, and needed money without “graven images” on it for the offerings. Since such money was not used outside Judaea, or even in it much except at the Temple, these guys had a sweet deal going.
    Secondly—at what point am I allowed to say to the poor man: “You made your bed, now lie in it?” I spent thirteen years, and racked up my life beyond repair, playing Unwilling Enabler to two selfish, mentally-tweaked alcoholic relatives, and I. Am. DONE! My “give-a-damn” is busted, to quote that song. I’d help someone who’s in a jam through no fault of his own, but too many “Lazaruses” are there because they screwed up, and when helped, they run right back to whatever screwed them up.

  • KenH

    “When this little allegory was met with blank stares from his disciples, Jesus took the unusual step of spelling out explicitly what he meant:”
    It could be that they didn’t “get” it because the assembled knew that Jesus had discribed LOUSY farming practices!

  • Kim

    Erick — If your relatives are completely responsible for their predicament, then you, also, are solely responsible for your thirteen years. It goes both ways. As you know if you think about it, it’s more complex than that. You, and they, are PARTLY responsible. Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink….
    Shouldn’t “charity” be at least meeting the recipient halfway? Unless you’re a Christian, of course — then, your leader, Jesus (remember him?) said to help the poor regardless of who is culpable.
    Liberal helping programs allow for a less than perfect success rate — they help some people out of their predicament, and others don’t make it out of their hole. Some sink back again — but some, with a little boost, do make it out and go on to live good lives; productive and with some contentment.
    You have decided that because your relatives stayed in their holes, that no one who is responsible for their own situation deserves a chance to be helped. Isn’t that a little harsh? Can’t you just decide that YOU are worn out with helping and will “pass the baton” on to others to try? (Maybe I’m overreacting to what you said, but the emotional content was unmistakable and intense.) Maybe helping people who are more willing to help themselves?
    And what’s with being forced to do whatever you were doing for thirteen years? You were a slave? You have conservative family values and thus felt that you had no choice but to help your blood relatives whether you respect them or not? did you know that not everyone feels that way about non-chosen family?

  • steph

    as a recovering fundamentalist, i can’t say enough about how much i love this LB anaylsis. thanks, fred.
    also, regarding the selective literalism, there IS an emphasis on works and deeds in such circles. unfortunately, their works and deeds have nothing to do with Jesus’ command that we care for those in need. oh no. they are strictly referring to evangelism… yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

  • PK

    (“Gay marriage, while not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, is wrong and therefore must be outlawed and punished, but it’s up to the Lord to judge, pass the ham and cheese loaf, please.”)
    Matthew 19:3-6 (NIV):
    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
    How oddly prophetic that Jesus would superfluously reinforce the ‘heterosexual monogamy’ definition of marriage when teaching on divorce.

  • Ray

    And how mean of him to say orphans can’t get married.

  • Wesley Parish

    “A “literal” reading of Jesus’ parable, however, would suggest they’ve got things in the wrong order. The parable has the weeds harvested first, then the wheat.”
    Then that would account for the lack of crime etc, faced by the Steeles on their way to meet that pitiful excuse of a pastor, wouldn’t it? ;)
    You should seriously consider writing a short story or novella on that theme – that God will take the tares first, and the first and worst will be the preachers who misled them. ;)

  • uriveasia

    Was looking for Access group! But it gave me your link! You know anything about it?

  • VereToido

    When you do take out a payday advance loan we will guide you through the process and give you tried and true tips for success.


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