ISIS (and Christians): Art Destroyers

destroying art

ISIS destroys art it seems just about every chance it gets.  In the photo above ISIS destroyed irreplaceable antiquities in Iraq.  One of the pieces was estimated to be 2,700 years old.  What ISIS is doing is awful.

Christians have destroyed their share of art too.  “When Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the bishops of Rome insisted on the destruction of pagan works of art on the grounds that they were idolatrous.  Notable among these early pontiffs was Gregory the Great (590-604), who commanded that all statutes of Roman antiquity be thrown in the Tiber (River).”  (John W. de Gruchy, Christianity, Art and Transformation:  Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice,  p. 11) The idea was that keeping the second commandment demanded such art destruction.

Christian antagonism toward pagan art angered the artists of the European Renaissance.  Lorenzo Ghiberti’s views are exemplary:

At this time the most severe penalty was ordered for anyone who made any statue or picture. Thus ended the art of sculpture and painting and all the knowledge and skill that had been achieved in it.  Art came to an end . . . (Gruchy, p. 12)

“Just as Christians initially refused to engage in military service, so too they were discouraged by some theologians (including Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria) from becoming artists, for that would have placed them in danger of creating idols or robbing God of the right to create.” (Gruchy, p. 13)

God save us from religious people who destroy the art of others and who resist the creative energies of other human beings.  Amen.


Hey Republican Conservative Christians, Where Are Your Scissors? (Think Thomas Jefferson)

Hey Republican Christians, where are your scissors?

scissors old

If you listen to Republican Christians you would think all the founding fathers think just like them.  Makes you wonder if they ever heard of Thomas Jefferson.

thomas jefferson

I’m in Washington, D.C. to officiate at a wedding and I’m finding myself particularly grateful for Thomas Jefferson.   Jefferson, unlike today’s Republican Christians, did not claim to follow or believe all the Bible.  In fact, Jefferson, in his senior years, took a razor and cut out parts of the gospels which he didn’t agree.  OK, he didn’t use scissors.  You got me.  But, Jefferson did use the razor generously.

Jefferson’s condensed Bible excluded all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and passages indicating Jesus was divine.

thomas jefferson Bible

Doesn’t sound anything at all like today’s conservative Christian Republicans!

There are things in the Bible which need to be ignored.  I don’t recommend using scissors or a razor to cut those texts out, but I do think it’s extremely important to be honest about the Bible.  And honesty requires admitting that some parts of the Bible are reprehensible and not worthy of our belief or practice.   What I find disturbing in the Bible is not the same as Jefferson’s list but like Jefferson I recognize the health of the world is connected to world religions critiquing their scripture.

Desperately Seeking A Usable Past – Biblical Interpretation

hebrew Bible

In her blog entry, Biblical women and Lifetime’s The Red Tent, Julie O’Brien refers to people “who are desperately seeking a usable past.” My experience is that many Christians seeking a positive word from the Bible on Jesus, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender equality, violence, and other issues of peace and justice often fit such a description.  The good news is there is some good news.  There are some minority repors that often go unnoticed by patriarchal, domesticated Christians and institutions.  However, there is much not to like in the Bible (and the scriptures of other religions).  In the quest to desperately seek a usable past, people of faith must not be in denial or be delusional, or at worst, dishonest, about the historical and cultural conditionedness of their scripture. Fortunately, there is within the Bible evidence of scripture being a living tradition.  Every generation must decide what to stress, what to ignore, what to critique, and what to add or alter.  The canon may be closed in an official theology sense but not in an everyday, practical sense.

May God give us the wisdom to know what to keep and what to chunk.

Predestination A Liberal Christian Can Believe In


Although predestination has its variants, predestination has typically been associated with the idea that God has chosen some to receive salvation and others to receive condemnation, an ideal abhorrent to liberal Christians who in response to such theological nausea flock to free will discourse.  I’m all for free will except I believe free will, in at least one respect, will be trumped.  I hold that God has predestined all of us to life eternal, that God’s love will not be defeated in one instance.  God’s love will not fail.  God’s love is so irresistible that even the strongest free will to resist will be unable to turn away from God.

Can you believe in a God whose love is so powerful that all are predestined to communion with God and each other?  If yes, how does this change your life today, in the here and now?