The following is an editorial written by AU Louisville member Linda Allewalt.
Courier-Journal, August 22, 2017 Leave religion, Bible out of policy
LINDA ALLEWALT, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
On the Courier-Journal’s Community Forum page of August 15, there were two lengthy op-eds by two representatives of Protestant Christian groups, Michael Jinkins of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Derek Penwell of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.
Both men tried to address the political issues surrounding the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the looming nuclear stand off between the United States and North Korea. Both used their own interpretations of the biblical texts in order to address these questions and address other religious points of view. And, both wrote things that I found upsetting and nonsensical.
Jinkins wrote in a message intended for President Trump, “God sent Christ to make us human…. God calls us to be human in the image of Jesus Christ.” He was challenging Trump’s claim that we should be “Americans first.” Of course, Trump was trying in his sloppy way to inspire political cohesiveness.
It had nothing to do with religion.
Also, I would ask Jinkins to think about his own statement on what it means to be human. Were there no philosophers or writings examining this question and exhorting people to morality and humanistic goals before the era of Christ? People who don’t believe in Christ or God don’t know what it means to be human? This makes no sense to me. Jesus Christ in many of his reported statements made it clear that there was only one path to being “saved”… belief in his God and baptism into his faith; “but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Now I don’t find that particularly inclusive, nor do I find it a goal or value for humans to aspire to. It is exclusive, not inclusive. I don’t see the lecture for Trump here because the underlying texts sabotage the lecture and have little to do with the statements by the President or their context.
Penwell delved into the futile and insulting exercise of who has the correct interpretation of the Bible and who really is or isn’t a Christian. He lambasted Robert Jeffress on both counts when the real problem is the fact that any sitting President even has a religious advisor standing in the Oval Office talking to him about government policies.
This has gone on for many years through Republican and Democratic presidents. This is a clear violation of our constitutional principles on separation of church and state, but Penwell is more interested in using Jeffress as an example of why certain people shouldn’t be allowed “to roam about in scripture” without “adult supervision.” I guess Penwell would rather have a class of scholars who tell all of us what those texts really mean. I think he needs to contact the Gideons and tell them to stop making the Bible so accessible to the general public in hotel room drawers.
In fact, I became an atheist in good part by reading the whole Bible cover to cover, so maybe he has a point. Freedom of thought and freedom of interpretation is sometimes a dangerous thing. It’s why Christianity has so many different sects. I see Jinkins’ views in the Bible, I see Penwell’s views in the Bible and I see Jeffress’ views in the Bible. And I see points of view that all of them ignore at their convenience.
Bottom line here is that the Bible is fraught with inconsistencies and immoral tales and acts by the main characters, often including the main protagonist. There is no one interpretation that is correct. And no one should be the judge of who is a Christian and who is not. You are if you say you are.
So my suggestion here would be that we consider leaving the Bible and religion out of considerations and solutions when it comes to government, foreign policy, domestic policy etc.
Let’s criticize ideas and opinions based on reason and evidence, on current ideas of humanism and what science has taught us so far about human behavior.
Linda Allewalt, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, is a retired science educator and a long time activist for separation of religion and government.