“Concordance-ism”

I love this new term from Slacktivist: “concordance-ism.” It is fantastic.

“Look up eunuch in the whole of the Bible.” That’s white evangelicalism in a nutshell. It’s irrelevant that Wellington Boone is, himself, black. This is the crux of white evangelical biblicism — the white theology that was designed and tailored and mandated in defense of whiteness.

It doesn’t ask us to read the Bible. It asks us to “look up” things in the Bible — to consult the Bible without reading it.

Scot McKnight is working through Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible in a fine series critiquing this standard white evangelical biblicism. But I’m not even sure “biblicism” is the right word. It’s more like Concordance-ism.* A concordance is, after all, the only way to “look up” something “in the whole of the Bible.” (Or you can use the concordance-like search function of an online Bible.)

I would say this is a terrible, terrible way to read the Bible, but, again, it doesn’t actually involve reading the Bible at all. And it often winds up being terribly misleading. Such concordance-driven “word studies” abstract and obscure the meaning of the specific passages they extract from the text and context around them. They obscure more than they reveal — obscuring even the fact that they’re obscuring. The choice of search terms shapes the outcome of the search. And, of course, the whole project is based on the illiterate premise that every relevant passage will include an explicit term labeling it as such.

Must read: White evangelicalism is white nationalism.

Fred Clark nails it. Please go read the whole thing.

And then read his other posts on biblical inerrancy that are the foundation for his claims about how inerrancy came to be. It is well sourced.

Yesterday, white evangelicals again voted for white nationalism. They supported a candidate who explicitly and unambiguously made white nationalism the centerpiece and driving passion of his campaign. The fig-leaf for this support was abortion. And once again we are asked to believe — after centuries defending slavery, segregation and Jim Crow — that it was only about abortion, and that the 100-percent correlation between this anti-abortion politics and white nationalist politics is just an unfortunate and unforeseen coincidence.
That’s not believable.
White evangelicalism is white nationalism. That’s how it came to be. That’s what it’s for. If you can’t see that after yesterday, you’re choosing not to see it.

Has America really changed that much?

Jim Bakker has fascinated me this election season. I’ve watched him go from cautious about supporting Donald Trump to all-in shilling for him.

If you listen to Bakker talk about politics for more than a few seconds, you’ll hear any number of unsupported assertions, but in the clip below, one jumps out specifically:

I’m not entirely sure what changes Bakker has observed that are so dramatic. Yes, gay marriage is now legal in the entire country, and I suppose that’s his issue.

But to claim that this change is the biggest change in the history of the country? That seems staggeringly ignorant of our history to me.

The Civil War, World War I, World War II…I guess those events and the changes that came about as a result were a bit more significant. The Civil War on its own literally reinvented the country.

But history aside, this is a great example of how Bakker operates. Stir up fear through histrionics; claim that the only way to survive the coming apocalypse is through these really great supplies that I just happen to be selling; profit.

Trump and the televangelists deserve each other.

Very good question: Would you vote for a flat-earther?

Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil asks a really good question.

Would you vote for someone who thinks the Earth is flat?

I couldn’t, and it’s obvious why. To claim the Earth is flat is to deny reality.

Phil points out that:

At this point in our understanding, I see very little difference between denying climate change versus someone who thinks the Earth is flat, or that the Moon landings were faked. All these people deny the overwhelming evidence and substitute their own fevered imaginations and biases for reality.

I think he’s right, and that’s yet another reason among many to not vote for Donald Trump.

Jim Bakker believes that God has raised up Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States. Thanks to the internet, you can see and hear for yourself. Somehow, in spite of being convicted of fraud, he still has a TV show funded by his viewers. I wouldn’t trust Bernie Madoff with my retirement investments any more than I would trust Jim Bakker with my charitable donations, but I digress.

There is a lot I’d like to say about Bakker. I met him as a young man, and he spent a significant amount of time with my family. I believed he was sincere in his repentance at that time, and because I believe in second chances, I took him seriously.

Oops.

Suffice it to say, his TV program/ministry is the same song and dance as it was in the 80’s, and I was just a naive kid who got manipulated by a snake oil salesman. He manufactures panic and fear about the end of the world, and then sells food in bulk to those who want to survive God’s judgment on everyone else. He offers ridiculous merchandise that costs pennies to manufacture and then offers to his viewers for meeting certain donationa thresholds obscene profit margins (which is just a sleazy way to get around not for profit laws).

I could go on and on, and the list of abuses and lies could grow very long but I’ll stop there, because that’s not the point of this post.

I’ll get to the point, but first, please watch this clip, which at the time of writing, has over 1 million views:

 

 

My concern isn’t fundamentally about politics (although I am concerned about politics). There are good reasons to be a conservative and to vote for Republicans and/or Libertarians. I don’t always agree with those reasons, but I understand the rational thinking that leads to those conclusions. Moreover, it’s possible to have rational disagreements with people of opposing political viewpoints when both sides are willing to engage rationally.

My concern is fundamentally about theology and the implications of taking a position like “This is what God says about insert-political-issue/candidate-here.”

If you take that position, you have ruled out disagreement as a possibility by definition.

If God cannot be wrong, and Jim Bakker is speaking for God, then Jim Bakker cannot be wrong. And, if I disagree with Jim Bakker, then I cannot be right. It doesn’t matter what I think or why, because I disagree with God, and thus me being right isn’t even a possibility.

It gets worse for me, though. if I have a different view than Jim Bakker,  I am not just someone with a different opinion on a political candidate or issue; I am someone who is in direct opposition to God.

 

And that scares me.

It scares me for all sorts of reasons. It scares me because being open to the possibility of being wrong is fundamental to rational thinking. It scares me because it is the ultimate form of tribalism, and in-group/out-group dynamics can be extremely powerful. It scares me because of the inevitable feedback loops that get created as a result.

And in the context of an election in a democracy like ours, it scares me because no real conversation can happen. Good-faith disagreement isn’t even a possibility. We can’t ever get to a debate about tax reform, or health care, or economics, or moral foreign policies,  or insert-political-topic-here because the only option is to be for or against God.

 

And when you choose to think in those terms, there’s no real decision at all. It’s been eliminated as a possibility from the very start.