Bible-Loving Liberals

Bible-Loving Liberals January 15, 2014

The quote above comes from an article by Derek Penwell challenging the notion that liberals hate the Bible. Here is a slightly longer sample including the quotation above:

Liberal Christians aren’t liberal in spite of the Bible, but because of it. They don’t pursue justice for LGBT people because they haven’t read Scripture, but precisely because they have. And in the arc of the narrative of God’s interaction with humanity, liberal Christians find a radical expansiveness, an urgent desire to broaden the embrace of God’s hospitality to include those whom the religious big shots are always kicking to the sidelines.

In fact, on behalf of liberal Christians, I’m calling for a moratorium on the Liberals-hate-the-Bible meme. I’d like to suggest that the burden of proof should be on those who would read the Hebrew prophets and the Jesus of the Gospels and come away thinking that God has no problem tightening the screws on the abused and the powerless…

Click through to read the rest.



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  • Jim

    And for the non-liberal King Jimmy lovers, there is
    the recent Daniel Wallace post:

    (btw, I thought he did a great summary, except I
    don’t know how point 8 fits into the discussion)

  • Marta L.

    I agree with this as far as it goes, but I do find it frustrating that it appeals to the “arc” of the Bible. I do believe the Bible gives us a God with what I call radical hospitality, but I also believe specific passages and teaching, read appropriately, point to inclusion of LGBT people and others specifically. And when I say read appropriately I don’t just mean that “Paul was writing thousands of years, his concerns no longer apply to us” or “Leviticus condemns man lying with a man the same way it condemns my blouse that’s made from blended fabric.”

    Here’s what I do mean: When Paul refers to what’s translated as homosexuality, it is my earnest and studied (albeit amateur) belief that he is not referring to what we today think of as homosexuality. One Bible I was using in church not too long ago (I forget the exact translation – an older NIV? NASB? NKJV? Something like that) had an official footnote on one of the Paul verses, saying that what was translated above as homosexuality really refers to pederasty, which is something different entirely than what most people today think of when they read the word homosexuality.

    That’s the kind of thing I mean when I say liberal Christianity has more going for it than just the arc of the Bible. We have the actual, specific words of the Bible as well, when we read what they actually say.and how they were meant to be read. Arc is important, too, no doubt. I just hate to see us give up the ghost in the battles over the actual words.

  • So how did liberals get on the wrong side of the great Philistine-Hebrew weapons disarmament conflict that ended with David killing Goliath?

    Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears. 1 Samuel 13:19

    Especially when the Second Amendment is all about egalitarian power-sharing—which is necessarily disdain of hierarchy—a supposed liberal ideal?

    Call no man your boss. ~Jesus

    And when Jesus specifically forbid colluding with the State to stick thy nose in thy neighbor’s behavior?

    Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. ~Jesus

    The best touchstone to tell the tolerance of a christian is the Pink Pistols. Usually, the reaction is anti-gay bigotry from the right, and anti-gun bigotry on the left.

    • This isn’t a liberal/conservative issue, at least not historically and globally. I know many liberals who support gun ownership as long as there are good checks in place to make it less easy for guns to end up in the wrong hands. And conservative Christians in the Mennonite tradition oppose guns because they are pacifists, and they are pacifists because they are aiming to follow Jesus rather than David. 🙂

      • In current politics in the US, liberal Mennonites have gleefully allied themselves with the disarmament crowd, and posit themselves as, not Jesus, but a “David” fighting the “Goliath” iron weapons owners, hoping to defeat us with a rather un-pacifist “one shot…to the forehead,” (see Part V – The Church’s Role in Preventing Gun Violence in that link) which is ironic since the Bible puts the conflict the other way around.

        I know, I offered the President of Eastern Mennonite College $10,000 to reconsider his disarmament politics, to which he responded no. The President of Goshen College, while he begs for money from me, never responded to my first inquiry.

        I’ve also inquired with MCC as to the violent imagery of “one shot…to the forehead,” and they basically use Romans 13 as a talisman to supporting State violence to furthering MC-USA’s disarmament agenda.

        Conservative “pacifist” Mennonites, well, most of them around here own guns. I buy my ammunition, for what little I shoot, from a Mennonite gun shop owner, who is a member of the third closest Mennonite church to my farm, 5 miles away.

  • Commentor

    This is a stupid article it is obvious that the author has not read the bible — instead of proof people I will tell you to go read the bible it does not lie – go to bing and put a quesiton in and find scripture it is that easy… if you fine a bible called the homosexuals new bible of love you know there is a problem

    • This is a blog post, it is hardly an “article.” You seem not to even have noticed that it is almost entirely quotations from someone else. But if your comment was aimed at me rather than Derek Penwell, the fact that I study and teach the Bible for a living, as well as teaching Sunday school at my church, is presumably ample evidence that your attempt to dismiss what I have to say by attributing it to lack of knowledge of the Bible simply will not work. Might I suggest that, if you read the Bible with the same carelessness with which you spell, that might more likely be where the problem lies?

      • Commentor

        LOL – studying the Bible and sunday school – well satan studies the Bible too and could likely teach the Bible better than any one of us – those experiences do not make a sound teacher – A sound teacher will read Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is
        unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence
        of their error which was meet.” You could try a greek review; aothought, the translation is fine the way it is,but you would not likely agree – I am sure you know all the other verses. G-d obviously sees homosexuality as a sin – one must ask who wants to defile and seperate men from G-ds love – the answer is satan. If you cant plainly read the scripture regarding and easily see that God hates homosexuality I am sorry for you but at this point only G-d can help you not me.

        • Satan also leaves poorly-worded comments, too, but that is scarcely proof of anything, is it?

          If I know the relevant verses in Greek, and do not reach the same conclusions as you, then obviously the issue is not with the text. And so God certainly can help you, but so can those who study the New Testament professionally. Your dismissal of scholarship is hypocritical, since you obviously depends upon English translations which are made by scholars and depend upon the very scholarship you treat with such disdain.

          • dan

            You must disdain past scholarship if you think every bible interpretor has erred on the romans verse translation? ‘If I know the words in greek’… you should clarify this do you know them, and how are they not referring to homosexuality? It is not a kind or loving thing to tell people God approves of sexual sin, whether it is adultery fornication or homosexuality. God’s hospitality includes all us sinners, but he does require we humble our will to his.

          • This has been discussed on this blog before, but since you have chosen to ignore those earlier posts and pretend they do not exist, might I encourage you to read an article that deals with the relevant terminology and the history of hiw they have been translated?

            But the issue is not a matter simply of words and their translation. It is also one of context. When the Bible prohibited adultery in the context of the Mediterranean world’s patriarchal society, that left room for married men to have concubines, while today that would be considered adultery. And so the question is whether you embrace ancient patriarchal martiage norms or modern ones, and what changes we might further embrace which, even if they are at odds with the assumptions of Biblical authors, are in keeping with their core principles.

        • MMorse

          Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Let God worry about the supposed sin of being gay. Try loving your neighbor – as clear and crystal a command as there is in the Good Book.