As people of faith we need to face the sobering fact that some parts of our Bible command us to love our enemies, while other parts command mercilessly slaughtering them.
Genocide, infanticide, cannibalism, and rape are all attributed to God in the Old Testament.
A big part of the problem has to do with the assumption that faithfulness to Scripture means accepting everything it says unquestioningly.
Fulfilling Scripture for Jesus means lovingly bringing it into its fully intended purpose.
All the so-called â€œheresiesâ€ throughout history pale in comparison to the hurtful ways that people have been ostracized, threatened, and wounded by those who act as the champions of so-called orthodoxy.
The New Testament is therefore a protest-narrative constituting a major critique of religiously justified violence. But it is more than this: It goes beyond mere critique and protest, and articulates a radical alternative way, characterized by forgiveness and enemy love. This is the core narrative of the New Testament.
Properly interpreting the New Testamentâ€”not as detached scholars but as followers of Jesus and his wayâ€”thus involves recognizing the redemptive trajectory it sets away from religious violence, and then continuing to develop and move forward along that same trajectory ourselves. In other words, we cannot stop at the place the New Testament got to, but must recognize where it was headed.
The New Testament itself does not represent an ultimate ethic, but instead is representative of the first steps in that new direction. We need to recognize therefore the trajectory they were headed in, and then work to continue to move in that same direction.
In the end, the real problem of violence in the Bible is not so much the particular passages that seem to endorse it, but more significantly a particular way of reading Scripture that shuts down all questioning and conscience.
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