Those of us who profess a Christian faith are called upon to conduct our lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible. Now, there’s plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree over the particulars, given the historical context in which the Bible was written and the various ways it has been translated over the years. That’s why we have about a million different sects and denominations.
Granted, there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible that has become dogma for up to three of the world’s major religions, but let’s put that aside and concentrate on what the Bible has to say about how we live our lives, as individuals and collectively as a society. The basics are pretty straightforward: Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t murder. Work for justice and peace. Be charitable to those less fortunate than you. Don’t be too full of yourself. Treat other people how you’d like to be treated. All that stuff is fairly non-controversial, right?
Most other religions share similar ethical teachings, and even the most ardent atheist can agree that certain ethical behaviors are desirable if only to ensure the continued functioning of civil society. Even if you don’t buy into the whole Christ being the Son of God thing, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Jesus was an all-around good guy and a model of moral behavior, and people of many faiths can (and do) strive to lead Christ-like lives.
However, if you find yourself engaging in behavior that directly contradicts the scriptural teachings you claim to follow, I figure you can do one of four things to remedy the situation:
Option 1: Renounce your belief in the scriptures, and continue following your behavior. If my religion’s holy scriptures told me that I wasn’t allowed to enjoy an occasional dry martini or own an iPhone, then I’d probably leave that religion when I got old enough to make an informed decision to do so. Lots of people follow this route, and there’s no shame in it. I may or may not approve of your behavior, but at least this is an intellectually honest way out of your predicament, and nobody will accuse you of being a hypocrite.
Option 2: Amend your behavior so that it is more in line with scriptural teachings. If your scriptures forbid martinis and iPhones, then you give them up. If your scriptures call upon you to lead a Christ-like life, then you at least make an honest effort to do so. I renounced my right-wing ideology a few years ago when I had spent some time getting my ass kicked by life, and when I finally reached the conclusion that Rush Limbaugh and the Holy Gospel couldn’t possibly both be right, as they directly contradict each other. And I was pretty sure that the Gospel writers weren’t the ones that are full of shit. (Sorry, Rush.) That’s not to say I no longer have any doubts or confusion, or that every Christian who votes Republican is a hypocrite, but when presented with two ways of thinking that are so diametrically opposed, you have to make a choice. It’s simply not possible to love your neighbor and hate your neighbor at the same time. (I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to love your neighbor when he’s blasting merengue music from a car stereo outside your bedroom window at 3 AM, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Option 3: Rationalize. Try to convince yourself and others that you really are following your holy scriptures even as you engage in behavior and advocate social policies that directly contradict those scriptures. Try to explain that the martini glass in your hand doesn’t really contain gin, or that your iPhone is actually a knock-off and is therefore kosher. Look for some obscure verse in Leviticus to justify persecution of groups of people you don’t like, or try to pretend that the two contradictory creation myths in Genesis mean that the earth is only 6000 years old, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. (Therefore, science itself must be the work of Satan and should not be taught in public schools.) Try to explain why Jesus turning water into wine and passing around a cup of wine at the Last Supper mean that nobody should ever drink anything alcoholic. Try to explain why “have compassion for the poor” really means that all poor people are Cadillac-driving freeloaders who deserve contempt, and that believing in Jesus is the ticket to a big mansion and a nice car. This third option has been the time-honored tactic of many Christians for the past few centuries, and we’ve become pretty successful at it.
But you know, all those mental gymnastics can get downright exhausting and confusing, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your story straight. People are more likely to call you out as a hypocrite, and it gets embarrassing when so many spiritual and political leaders who are most ardent about espousing “family values” get caught in bed with young boys or in motel rooms with gay prostitutes, or wiping out the retirement savings of millions of people while enriching their friends, or launching a bloody invasion of an impoverished country that was never a serious military threat. You get the idea.
So, Option 1 is out because you need that facade of piety to justify your behavior. Option 2 doesn’t work because that would show weakness and mean admitting you were wrong about something. Option 3 is just too hard and not very convincing for those who haven’t completely eradicated their critical thinking skills.
That, naturally leads us to: Option 4: Change the scriptures to match your ideology.
Lo and behold, the Bible has gotten too liberal, according to a group of conservatives. And it needs a little editing.
That’s the inspiration behind the Conservative Bible Project, which seeks to take the text back to its supposed right-wing roots.
Who knew that King James was such a bed-wetting liberal pinko?
Principles of the new translation:
Framework against Liberal Bias: Providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias.
Not Emasculated: Avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity.
Not Dumbed Down: Not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level.
Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: Using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
Combat Harmful Addiction: Combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census.
Accept the Logic of Hell: Applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
Express Free Market Parables: Explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.
Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: Excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story.
Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: Crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels.
Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: Preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”
One can only speculate what the new Conservative Bible looks like:
- The serpent in the Garden of Eden commands Adam and Eve to go forth and bury fossils all over the place so as to deceive future generations into believing in evolution.
- All those Hebrew prophets who decried the injustices of society are now cable news commentators who lead manufactured “Tea Party” protests against any efforts to remedy said injustices.
- For the woman who committed adultery, since she is neither a man nor a right-wing politician, Jesus commands, “Stone the slut!”
- The Beatitudes are re-written to say, “Blessed are the rich, for they got theirs. Fuck everybody else. Blessed are the warmongers, for they ensure high oil prices and continued wealth for the Saudi royal family. Blessed are the loud and arrogant, for they get good ratings on the Fox News channel.”
- Jesus turns the water at Cana into Kool-Aid.
- Matthew 6: “But when you pray, do not go into your room; get in front of a camera and pray to your Father, who sees you on television. Then your Father, who sees what is done for ratings, will reward you.”
- Jesus turns the five loaves and two fishes into enough food to feed thousands of hungry people, but keeps it all for himself and his wealthy benefactors. Others may partake of the leftovers, but only if they pay a thousand bucks a plate.
- Leprosy and blindness are preexisting conditions, and are therefore not eligible for Christ’s healing services.
- Luke 19: “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and sat down with all them that sold and bought in the temple, and asked of the welfare of the moneychangers, and further invited those of them that sold doves. And He said unto them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it into a brokerage and brought forth the miracle of derivatives.’ Thereupon Jesus adjusted the interest rates of all who leveraged financial instruments, and there was much rejoicing among the hedge fund managers who no longer would be taxed upon their income.”
- The Pharisees are changed to ACORN workers, and they crucify Jesus.
- In the John Galt Special Edition Bible, Jesus recites a 40-page monologue from the cross about the virtues of selfishness.
And that whole Matthew 15: 7-9 business
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
goes right out the window.