Red Letters

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Filed under “argument,” one of the classic defenses of christianity, is the notion that “yes there is negative and evil teachings in the bible, but the reader should focus on the positive, only the things that Jesus taught.” This is the red letter defense, named after some bibles who print the words of Jesus in red lettering.

This defense is interesting, in that it concedes the nature of the bible. The bible is after all, a toxic form of barbarianism. It asserts men above women, and embraces doctrines of rape, mass murder and even the killing of children. Rather than attempt to defend the bible, this argument retreats to the teachings of Jesus.

While we could nitpick the teachings of Jesus, it is more likely a palpable doctrine for most. Many verses ascribing long suffering, forgiveness, and compassion to even one’s enemies, are attributed to him. Yes, he made a whip of chords and drove out the money changers from a temple. Yes he said to a disciple that they should sell their cloak and buy a sword… but over all the teachings are less problematic.

Counterpoints

The first problem with this argument, however, is in the concession itself. The teachings of Jesus amount to only 0.001% of the christian bible (1026 words ascribed to Jesus, out of a book of 800,000 words).

A book of deviance, detailing a god who murders in the millions (for the “sins” of a few), the blood sacrifice of animals, the laws that put women under the thumb of men (and their abuses), that makes up the rest of the bible (99.99%). Hoping the “red letters” balancing out all the corruption, is a futile quest.

The second problem with this argument, relates to the overwhelming hostility described as the god of this book. This god demands blood, and lots of it. From the animal sacrifices of old, to the blood of innocent people. In order to make the bible more “modern friendly,” a person has to cherry pick their way through the bible, tip toeing around the mind fields of evil verses.

This is how Sunday school operates. They indoctrinate children early on to know only specific stories, and even then these stories are told in such a way to neuter the graphic elements, normalizing brutality in the process.

The problem with cherry picking verses to form a religion, is that others can do it too. While one person might cherry pick a few verses in the bible to form a religion of love and compassion; others can cherry pick the bible to form a doctrine of intolerance, cruelty, and hate.

The American KKK movement founds its racist doctrine on the teachings in the bible. Each person will say, they “have the true intent of the bible,” and in the end it’s all a reflection of who they are inside.

If the bible can become any doctrine, determined only by the intent of the reader and their inherent bias, then what truth could a person possible find? All they’ll discover is a convenient tapestry of illusion. Personal forgiveness, with a judgmental eye cast towards others – this is the typified christian. This is what we see shouting on the border, “we don’t want your kind here.” It’s the old, “I’m here, I got in, but you’re not welcome.”

“But that’s not ‘real’ christianity,” I can hear the apologist stammer. So you say. But the other, that bigot with a fist in the air, that person says the same about the liberal christian. Who’s right? The very same book that talks about freedom, also demands “slaves obey your masters.” The bible is a complete contradiction. Where Jesus tells his followers that to feed the hungry is to feed him, and those who don’t feed the hungry will be cast into “outer darkness,” the same bible also says, “if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat.”

See this very divide in politics. The liberal christian promotes social policies be put in place to benefit the poor and needy, while conservative christians demands people work hard to earn their own way. Each cite the cherry picked doctrine to defend their points and each claim their version of the faith is its “true form.”

What good is a book like this? One group finds passages to defend mass murder, another group finds passages about non-violence. Each does as it will, and each claim to be the “true christian.” Such a book has no value, in that it has no consistency.

Following the so-called “red letters” (teachings of Jesus), is simply a choice to follow 0.001% of the words of the bible. Every other group will do the same, to their own result and in this way the bible becomes a mirror, reflecting whatever the reader wants to be.

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