Reading the Bible Like Conservatives Read the Qur’an

There’s an unfortunately popular meme going around conservative social media depicting some horrific doctrines of “radical Islam and ISIS.”

In at least one case, from the Conservative Post, the meme’s accompanied by a message suggesting all American Muslims should have to deny the doctrine listed or “leave our country” [my emphasis].

The list includes things like: enslaving for sex, approval of beating slaves, and killing non-Muslims.

This is an example of a hermeneutic (which is a fancy way of saying “method of interpreting a holy text) which seeks to prove a point by cherry picking verses from the Qur’an rather than having a larger understanding of the overall text. It completely (and conveniently) ignores verses like:

But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace. – Qur’an 8:61

And good and evil deeds are not alike. Repel evil with good. And he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend. – Qur’an 41:33-34

Just to show the folly of approaching a text in such a simpleminded and shortsighted way, I thought it might be interesting to pull a few verses from the Bible, apply the same kind of hermeneutic and consider the results.

1) Kill all those who do not worship God.

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. – 2 Chronicles 15:12-13 (NAB)

2) If a town is beginning to not worship God, kill them all! Oh – and burn it to the ground!

Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. “The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him.” – Deuteronomy 13:13-19 (NLT)

3) Kill you own relatives if they try to lead you away from worshipping God.

If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. – Deuteronomy 13:6-8 (NRSV)

4) Not only is it okay to have slaves, you can beat them to near death as long as you don’t kill them.

When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished.  If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.  – Exodus 21:20-21 (NAB)

5) You can sell your daughter as a sex slave, just make sure everyone treats her a little better than other slaves.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. – Exodus 21:7-8 (NRSV)

6) Spanking is probably good, but never rule out death.

Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. – Exodus 21:15 (NAB)

7) The only penalty for unfaithfulness is death.

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death.  – Leviticus 20:10 (NLT)

8) Premarital sex is punishable by death! Well, for women.

But if this charge is true (that she wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night), and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst – Deuteronomy 22:20-21 (NAB)

9) It’s perfectly fine to rape an unmarried woman, but if you’re caught you must give her Dad 50 shekels and marry her.

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. – Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (NIV)

If conservatives really want all Muslims to renounce the most horrific verses in their holy text, it would seem that Christians will need to do the same.

It’s time to stop masquerading hate and fear around in costumes of concern and piousness.

If you are not willing to apply the same scrutiny to your own faith that you insist on applying to other people’s faith, then at some point, you are going to have to admit that your issue is not with their actual faith but with the fact they are different from you and that scares the bejeebers out of you.

Like the Bible, the Qur’an has an over-arching theology which, ultimately, overrides the worst parts of the text.

For Islam, it can be summarized by the words with which they greet each other: “Assalamu alaykum” or “peace be upon you.” To which the response is: “Wa alaykum assalam” or “and peace be upon you also.”

For Protestants, it might remind you of this: “Peace be with you.” To which the response is: “And also with you.”

When you find those overarching points of commonality, it’s of little surprise that Muslims and Christians share a common ancestor in Abraham and believe in the common God Abraham worshiped.

With that in mind, let’s all put a little more time into peacemaking and stop the nonsensical fear-mongering.

Frankly, it’s what the God of Abraham would want.
 

 

 
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About Mark Sandlin

Mark is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) from the South. He currently serves at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. He is a co-founder of The Christian Left. His blog, The God Article, was recently named as one of the “Top Ten Christian Blogs.” Mark received The Associated Church Press' Award of Excellence in 2012. His work has been published on "The Huffington Post," "Sojourners," "Time," "World Church Services," and even the "Richard Dawkins Foundation." He's been featured on PBS's "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" and NPR's "The Story with Dick Gordon." More than anything (other than peace and justice), Mark wants to have a beverage in one hand and a book in the other as he sits on an island beach.