Trumping Jesus

I wrote a letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr, the other day (you can read it here). Peter Enns also wrote an important and helpful article available here. Enns writes:

Biblicism is the idea that the Bible functions as something like a Christian field guide to faith and action: Since the Bible is God’s word, and therefore inspired by God, every word of it reveals true, reliable, and incontrovertible information about what God is like — and what it means to follow God faithfully.
This Bible happens to contain quite a bit of tribalistic, violent rhetoric against the enemies of God, the most famous of which is God’s command that the Israelites exterminate the Canaanites and take their land. Elsewhere, Israel’s enemies are impaled, and women and children are taken as spoils of war. In the final book of the Christian Bible, the apocalyptic book of Revelation, the blood of the ungodly flows for 200 miles as high as a horse’s bridle.
Divine violence in scripture, either done or commanded by God, is hardly a momentary lapse. According to fundamentalist logic, this revealed aspect of the divine must be taken seriously.
Falwell’s rhetoric about arming young Christians against the enemy isn’t difficult to justify on Biblicistic grounds.

Enns concludes:

Falwell’s rhetoric isn’t an expression of true Christian faith. It is a problem that true Christian faith seeks to correct.

I couldn’t agree more. This will be a central theme of my 2016 book, Converting Christianity.
Just as peace-loving Muslims must find a way to distinguish their faith from the hostile distortions of apocalyptic cults like ISIS, peace-loving Christians must find a way to distinguish our faith from fundamentalist biblicism.
While peace-loving Christians revere the Bible as a library of sacred documents that reach their culmination in the life and teachings of Jesus, Biblicists treat the Bible as an infallible, inerrant, timeless constitution that allows them to justify anything they can find a chapter and verse in the Bible to justify, including gross and heinous violence done in God’s name.
As a result, even though Jesus taught his disciples to respond to evil with good, this biblicist form of religion teaches its students to respond to bullets with bullets. Where Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,” this biblicism decenters Christ and allows its adherents to teach, “Blessed are those who shoot first” and “Blessed are those with better weapons.” Where Jesus taught to love the stranger, outcast, outsider, and enemy, biblicists choose verses from Deuteronomy, Joshua, the Psalms, or Revelation to justify profiling, shunning, hating, and harming “the other,” trumping Jesus (pun intended).
Where authentic Christianity sees the Bible (as Martin Luther said) as the manger on which Christ is presented to the world, Biblicism is a clever way of submerging Jesus, and even drowning him, in the 783,137 words of the Bible.
Biblicism is one of history’s most effective means of trumping and burying Jesus and his good news of peace and reconciliation for all people. But anyone who needs to be buried so often must have a power greater than those doing the burying understand.
The power of love and reconciliation will not remain buried by the powers of fear and hate.