Evil Is (Not) [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

I posted Tanya’s Question That Haunts a week ago. It’s taken me too long to get to it, but that’s fine because it gave all of you more time to post amazingly smart comments.

The timing of this question is poignant because, as several commenters noted, coming off of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we may be more keenly aware of evil in our world than other times. That is, a mass shooting of 6-year-olds seems to us even more “evil” than bombs dropping in Palestinian neighborhoods or the gunning down of a dozen adults in a movie theater.

But why is that?

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Theoblogy Book of the Year

In the past, I’ve awarded a Book of the Year award, usually to the best book that I’ve read, regardless of the relevance to Theoblogy readers. The 2011 winner is one example. In 2008, on the other hand, I picked a book that should be of enormous interest to you who read this blog.

I’ve read some great books this year. None has affected my day-to-day life more than 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust. Since reading it, I’ve made dozens of loaves of peasant bread — at least one per week. (I’m currently reading a book about 19th century cocktails that seems to be having a similar effect.) But, alas, it’s not a new book in 2012, and it probably interests very few of you.

More on topic for this blog is Brian McLaren’s Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. I agree with others that this is Brian’s best book yet (although I’ll always have a soft spot in my heard for Generous Orthodoxy). With this book, I think Brian has shown that he, more than any other figure in Christian leadership today, has both the intellect and the gentleness to walk us into a Christianity that can co-exist with other religions. I realize that’s a bold claim, and I don’t make it lightly. For that reason, Brian’s book gets runner-up.

And now, for the 2012 Theoblogy Book of the Year:

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James McGrath May Be Funnier than Me, But He’s Still Wronger

The Massacre of the Innocents by François Joseph Navez

Background:

James McGrath wrote that he’s happy that the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod didn’t happen.

I wrote that James is wrong, and that to denude that terrible text of its historicity silences the victims and lets God off the hook.

James replied that I’m wronger because I’m thinking theologically while he’s thinking historically. (His post also showed that he’s pretty damn funny.) Here’s the money quote from his response:

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James McGrath Is Wrong: Herod Really Did Massacre the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Brueghel (Wikicommons)

Fellow #progGOD theoblogger James McGrath is glad that Matthew got the infancy narrative of Jesus wrong. The Massacre of the Innocents never happened, he confidently proclaims in his post “Why I’m Glad that the Infancy Narrative in Matthew Isn’t Literally True,” because Matthew lacked sympathy and theological concern:

If Matthew had had more sympathy towards those who lose children, and more theological concern not to depict God in a manner that people would eventually find morally problematic, he could have used his imagination and added still more details to the story he concocted.

Like many liberals, he brushes off the deeper implications of the text in order to assuage his modern sensibilities:

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