I should let you know, in the interest of full disclosure, that Pope Erick Erickson of the Church of Fox News hath decreed that I am not “really” a Christian.
“You really aren’t a Christian,” his eminence writes. The antecedent “you” there applies to any “damned” (his word, meant in the literal theological sense) “liberal” who rejects his claim that the book of Leviticus means that all Christians must for all time condemn all LGBT people as reprobate sinners.
I think you have to be a damned fool (my word, meant in the profane colloquial sense as an emphatic intensifier — but also in the theological sense because, well, 1 John 4:16-21 is fairly unequivocal) to read that clobber text in Leviticus the way Erick son of Erick reads it.
And you have to be even more of a damned fool to compound the error by thinking that Acts 10 means you can eat shellfish while hating gays.
Yes, we’ve been over this again and again. But I’m sorry, class, young Erick there in the back still isn’t getting it, so we’ll have to repeat the lesson yet again.
Acts 10 & 11 is not about shellfish or bacon or cheeseburgers.
Peter — the apostle Peter, the main character in this little story, who was there and who remains the sole eyewitness to his rooftop vision — said this. Peter said his vision was not about food or diet, but about people.
Peter said his vision was about the people the law says are profane or unclean. Peter said his vision was about refusing to use the law as an excuse to reject any people as profane or unclean.
Peter said his vision was a command from God to do exactly what it is that Erick Erickson insists Christians must never do.
So who should we believe? Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 original apostles whose words in Acts 10 & 11 are regarded as part of the canon of Christian scripture? Or Erick Erickson who … who, um, claims to know more than Simon Peter?
Well, it was Peter’s vision, in which God spoke to Peter. It was not Erick Erickson’s vision in which God spoke to Erick Erickson.
So when Erick Erickson contradicts and rejects Peter’s interpretation of Peter’s vision, then I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to side with Peter.
Peter’s logic also makes sense. Erickson’s doesn’t.
Peter’s reasoning is congruent with the teaching of Peter’s master, Jesus Christ. Erickson’s isn’t.
Peter’s interpretation of Peter’s vision is consistent with love, the greatest commandment. Erickson’s contradictory interpretation of Peter’s vision is not.
Peter’s interpretation of Peter’s vision was presented to and accepted by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Erick Erickson’s interpretation of Peter’s vision was not.
Peter’s interpretation of Peter’s vision was recorded in the New Testament, and is therefore what we Christians refer to as “biblical.” Erick Erickson’s interpretation of Peter’s vision is not.
You don’t have to take my word for it. You can look it up. The story in question is found in Acts 10:1 through Acts 11:18. That link will take you to this passage in the NRSV, but you can read it in whatever translation you prefer. Read it in the King James Version. Read it in the NIV. Read it in Eugene Peterson’s The Message version.
It doesn’t matter what version of the story you read — it ain’t about shellfish or dietary law. It’s about people. It’s about — as Peter himself said, repeatedly, of the lesson God was teaching him — “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Not even the very people that Leviticus says are profane and unclean and “abominable.”
It’s not about food. It’s not at all about what Erick Erickson says it’s about. It’s about what Peter says it’s about.
Here’s British evangelical leader Steve Chalke’s extended reflection on this very passage (among other things): “A Matter of Integrity.” Here’s American Jesus blogger Zack Hunt discussing this story: “Does God Approve of How We Use the Bible?” Here’s Malaysian Christian Joseph N. Goh preaching a sermon on this story: “Inclusivity as Another Name for God.”
For those keeping score at home, that’s Christians from three different continents who think Peter understood Peter’s vision better than Erick Erickson does.
For a bit more context, you could also read the rest of the book of Acts, which is — start to finish — a relentless repetition of that same theme: God has shown us that we should not call anyone profane or unclean. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Asians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Cyrenians, Romans, Jews, proselytes, Cretans, Arabs, Alexandrians, Cilicians, Samaritans, Ethiopians, eunuchs, Syrians, soldiers, Macedonians …
(For those keeping score, that is, again, Christians from three different continents.)
God has shown us that we should not call anyone profane or unclean. If you miss that, you’ve missed the entire book of Acts. If you miss that, you miss the entire gospel.
Erick Erickson missed that. Yet he’s the one pontificating about who is or is not “really” a Christian. OK, then.