‘Bible Believers’ who do not know, or care, what the Bible says

‘Bible Believers’ who do not know, or care, what the Bible says June 21, 2012

Joe Jervis relays a Twitter exchange between Anderson Cooper and some other Joe:


For those who can’t read that image, the guy tells Cooper that “Jesus calls homosexuality sin and calls them [sic] to repent.” Cooper replies, “actually, Joe, factually speaking, Jesus never mentioned anything about gays.”

It’s disappointing that some folks who want to call upon a Bible vs. Gays appeal to authority don’t realize that. Many do, of course — plenty of anti-gay conservatives are extremely well-versed (pun intended) in what the Bible does and does not actually say about their favorite topic.

But then there are people like this guy who seem to have no idea. They’ll tell you that “Jesus calls homosexuality sin” or that “the Bible says abortion is wrong” despite neither claim being true.

If Jesus had anything at all to say about “homosexuality” or about abortion, then none of his followers considered it something worth recording. In the Bible, Jesus is completely silent on those two topics — the same two things that many American Christians seem to believe are of paramount importance.

The problem seems to be that these folks like the idea of the Bible more than the actual Bible we actually have. This idea of the Bible can be cited as an authority against gays or against abortion without ever needing to consult the actual Bible.

Those of us who read the actual Bible find only a tiny handful of passages dealing with homosexuality — the so-called “clobber verses” condemning it, the meaning and application of which is open to dispute. And as for abortion, there’s nothing anywhere in the Bible that can even be twisted into a “clobber verse” condemning it. (Although very recent politicized translations have tried to manufacture one.)

Cooper’s patient response to his Jesus-invoking critic is commendable, but probably pointless. Cooper is dealing here with someone who invokes Jesus and the Bible as an appeal to authority, but who doesn’t really know or care what Jesus or the Bible have to say. When people like that shout about “Jesus says …” or “the Bible says …” it doesn’t help to ask where, or to point out what Jesus or the Bible actually say, because such people don’t care. They just like pretending that some unquestionable authority is on their side, because they think that this makes their authority unquestionable too.

See also: Tea-party appeals to the idea of the Constitution, which tend to be wholly ignorant of, and unconcerned with, the actual content of the actual Constitution.

* * * * * * * * *

For another good — or, rather, appalling — illustration of the way that many people who regard themselves as “Bible Believers” do not seem to know or care what those Bibles actually say, see this report from Leah Nelson at HateWatch, “Armed With Pig’s Head, Christians Confront Michigan Muslims“:

Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., were once again targeted for their beliefs on Friday when a group of protesters calling themselves the “Bible Believers” confronted celebrants at the city’s annual Arab International Festival with a pig’s head on a spike and signs decrying Islam as a false religion, the Detroit Free Press reports.

In addition to the pig’s head – presumably intended to offend observant Muslims, who do not eat pork – Bible Believers reportedly carried signs calling Islam “a religion of blood and murder” and describing the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a “liar,” “false prophet,” “murderer” and “child molesting pervert.”

… Bible Believers is headed by Ruben Israel Chavez, a self-described “street preacher” from Los Angeles who runs the website Official Street Preachers, on which he rails against “homo sex,” Mormons, “drunkards,” Mardi Gras, “Pot Smoking Devils,” Billy Graham, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

“Among others.”

Writing for Christianity Today, Jeremy Weber refers to the so-called Bible Believers’ outreach as “an evangelism FAIL.” Weber also notes that Arab Christian leaders in Dearborn have asked these purportedly Christian outside groups to knock it off with this stuff already.

Arab Christian leaders in Dearborn criticize such efforts by outside groups, including a high-profile 2010 incident involving Acts 17 Apologetics, as ill-informed and counter-productive. One reason: The majority of Arab Americans are Christians not Muslims.

I would clarify that last point: That many of the people being harassed by these belligerent “evangelists” are themselves Christian is “one reason” that such harassment is ironic and darkly comic. But it’s not “one reason” why such harassment is wrong.

Crusaders of one form or another have always wound up attacking just as many fellow-Christians as the Muslims they first intended to attack. Such behavior is wrong for a host of reasons that do not depend on the religious identity of its victims. It is no less wrong when  directed at Muslims than when directed at Christians. It’s just wrong, period.

* * * * * * * * *

Here’s a bet: In the bit above about the Anderson Cooper tweet, I mention that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality and abortion. At no point did I attempt to leap from that factual statement to the unsupported conclusion that therefore Jesus must have approved of both. But I’m betting that won’t stop at least one person from criticizing that factual reference to Jesus’ silence as an “argument from silence.”

This seems to be one of those phrases memorized by certain people out of the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook of Fallacies. They seem to understand just enough of the idea to think that it means any mention of silence constitutes an opportunity to whip out this smart-sounding phrase and use it to denounce the mentioner.

Second bet: Someone will criticize that bit above as an “argument from silence” even despite my making the prophylactic bet in the previous paragraphs.

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