In early March of 2003, a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq, relatives sent me the tape recording of a then recent sermon by the Rev. Dr. Charles Stanley entitled “A Nation at War”. Rev. Stanley is not some minister on the religious fringe: his credentials are very mainstream. As senior pastor of the 16,000 member First Baptist Church in Atlanta, his “In Touch” TV broadcast is heard on more than 200 TV stations, 7 satellite networks, and 450 radio stations. It reaches over a million viewers a week. A former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Stanley has written 45 plus books of which more than 3,500,000 copies have been sold.
The focus of Stanley’s sermon was two-fold: God loves war, and it was wrong for protesters to oppose the Bush administration’s forthcoming invasion of Iraq. Since I was both atheist and protester, the tape was undoubtedly sent my way in an effort to change my outlook on each count.
Instead, I responded with a long emailed reply, which follows:
A Reply to Rev. Charles Stanley
Let me start by summarizing Stanley’s message. He begins by asking how it is possible to reconcile going to war and killing the enemy in light of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor”. To find the answer we should look in the Bible, he tells us. So Stanley asks, “What does the word of God say about this whole issue of war?”
Part of the answer is found in Romans 13:1-4 which Stanley quotes as saying that “every person is to be subject to the governing authority”. In my King James it says “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…” but the context bears Stanley out: “higher powers” here means the government, and in particular, the Roman government. As the King James says, “the powers that be are ordained of God.”
He follows this by quoting Romans 3:10-18, which declares that no one is righteous, no one is seeking God, no one is doing good, and ends (in my translation) with the lines, “And the way of peace they have not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Stanley quotes this to tell us that God has a plan and purpose which people have largely turned away from.
“Naturally God doesn’t like bloodshed,” he continues. However, Stanley adds, “The truth is though He hates war, He also uses war to accomplish His purpose and His plan. There are times when God has chosen—does choose—will choose—to use war as a vessel, as a vehicle, to accomplish His divine will.” Stanley then quotes from Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for peace and there is a time for war.” (Eccl. 3:8).
“God is in favor of war,” Stanley continues, referring to Deut. 20:1-19, “He, through His servant Moses, gives them the blueprint by which they are to carry out war.” Stanley summarizes God’s plan thusly: when approaching “cities which are very far off” (Deut 20:15) God told the Israelites to first offer them the chance to surrender peacefully, and if they surrender they will be made into servants (“forced labor” Stanley says; “tributaries” says King James) of the Israelites.
However, Stanley tells us, if the city refuses to surrender peacefully, then God ordered the Israelites to attack, and once they have captured the city, God’s order was to kill all the males and to take the women, children and cattle as spoils of war. (Deut 20:10-14)
But, says Stanley, God has a different plan for the cities which lie in the land promised to the Israelites by God, the “promised land”. These cities should not be offered the chance to surrender, but should be utterly destroyed. “You shall not leave alive anything that breathes,” quotes Stanley from Deut. 20:16. In the passages that follow God orders them to utterly destroy the men, women, children, cattle, everything, including cutting down all trees that do not provide food.
Stanley then tells us he will explain why a loving God would order such wanton destruction (which is precisely the question in my mind).
In particular he points out Deut. 20:17-18 which says that God wants these cities and all their people (the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Jebusites) killed rather than enslaved because they believe in pagan gods and because they do immoral and detestable things.
Stanley thus lists two reasons these cities and all their people must be killed, but he leaves out an obvious 3rd reason: they live on land which God has promised to the Israelites. They are in the way.
There appear to be 3 reasons, therefore, why God is advocating war against these cities, and beyond that, why God is insisting that Israel slaughter them all:
(1) they are in the way, located on land which God has promised to the Israelites
(2) they worship Gods other than Jehovah
(3) they behave immorally, and if not killed off they will be a bad influence on the Israelites.
The Israelites, Stanley tells us, did try to follow God’s bloody plan, attacking cities and slaughtering the inhabitants—for a season or two. But then they began to tire of war and killing, and in fact decided to stop fighting. This made God angry, and He warned the Israelites that He would punish them severely if they became peaceful. To back this up, Stanley quotes from Numbers 33:55, where God tells the Israelites, “If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you…they will become thorns in your side.” He then quotes the even more ominous warning of the next verse, where God says, “Moreover, it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.”
Nonetheless, the Israelites were so tired of killing that they still refused to attack any new cities. Instead, they began to trade with the cities God wanted destroyed. Worse, “they began to inter-marry, inter-marrying into a pagan society, into a pagan religion. And so what they were doing, they were destroying God’s purpose for themselves. They lived in a society of paganism, in a word, of paganism and immorality. And God knew that He must keep his nation pure.”
“God uses warfare as a form of judgment,” Stanley explains, even “as a judgment on his own people when they fall into idolatry and immorality.” And he quotes Jeremiah chapter 5, and Deut. 9:4-6. God, apparently, is quite aware that the Israelites are an unrighteous and “stiff-necked” people, and not deserving of the lands the Lord has promised to them. Instead, Stanley says, God wants these cities slaughtered—not because the Israelites are deserving—but because the cities are wicked. (What their wickedness consists of is not mentioned, nor how it differs from the Israelites own behavior, but it is clear that at the very least these cities did not believe in the right God, which is Jehovah, the God of the Israelites.)
Stanley summarizes by saying, “God was committed to keeping Israel pure no matter what” and he then quotes God as saying “they will spoil my chosen people by their paganism and their immorality.” Thus, Stanley tells us, God is an advocate of war. “There is no question,” he tells us, “God favors warfare, and He favors war for a very specific reason: punish the wicked.”
Jesus Was Not a Pacifist
Having made his first point, Stanley now turns to the present. He tells us that God favors America because of our Christianity. Furthermore, Satan targets the United States for the same reason: we are Bible-believing Christians. Therefore God also favors war when carried on by Americans, and it is part of His plan for us that we should go to war and fight certain chosen enemies. (Remember this, because soon he will tell us that protesting against the U.S. getting involved in a war goes against God’s will.)
Next he explains that when a soldier kills the enemy, it is not murder. Why not? Because his government has ordered the soldier to kill the enemy. Since governments were ordained by God, as we were told in Romans 13:1-4, obeying the government in warfare is not merely acceptable, it is what God wants soldiers to do.
Furthermore, Stanley says, don’t say that Jesus was a pacifist. He then quotes Luke 22:35-36, where Jesus tells his followers to buy swords, even if they have to sell their clothing to afford it. Nor does it work to argue that Jesus was a pacifist because he did not resist arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus didn’t resist or fight back, Stanley tells us, because “he came for the purpose of laying down his life.”
“Do you think the Romans killed him? The Jews killed him?” Stanley asks the audience. “No. Do you know who killed Jesus? The Father. He sent Him to die. He came to die.”
Stanley next says the Bible provides 2 reasons for war:
(2) to eliminate dictators who enslave their own people
This appears to be a reference to Saddam Hussein, and the proposed war in Iraq. But Stanley does not provide any Biblical quotes to back up these two reasons for war. And, as we saw earlier, the quotes he used previously to justified warfare led to 3 quite different reasons or justifications:
(1) when they are in the way, located on land promised to the Israelites
(2) when they worship Gods other than Jehovah
(3) when they behave immorally, and will be a bad influence if not killed
In other words, Stanley seems to have changed God’s reasons for war to fit the situation of Iraq today—but he neglects to provide any Biblical justification for this change. He fails to tell us where in the Bible we are told to oppose corrupt or vicious dictators. No mention of dictatorship was included in the rationale for attacking and wiping out the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, or Jebusites.
In fact, the very passages from the book of Romans which Stanley quotes as showing God instructs us to obey the government—these very passages repudiate his claim that the Bible tells us to fight against dictators. Why? Because the Roman Empire at the time was a dictatorship!
It’s worse than that, actually. For the Roman Empire was also thoroughly pagan. Its people overwhelmingly preferred and worshipped pagan gods, engaged in pagan rituals, and were entertained by pagan debaucheries in the colosseum. Yet here we have Stanley quoting Romans 13:1-4 that Christians should honor and obey such governments, and not oppose them.
Where does Stanley get his notion that dictatorship is bad? Not from the Bible, it appears. This becomes clear when we read the Old Testament, for we see that Moses was essentially a petty dictator. Although he didn’t have poisonous gas to work with a la Saddam Hussein, Moses nevertheless wiped out whole cities. And in passages not quoted by Stanley, he ordered many of his own people deliberately killed for opposing his policies.
It is difficult, in fact, to find much in the Bible that is democracy-friendly.
Moving on, Stanley asks, what is the proper response of citizens when their nation goes to war? Again he quotes our passages in Romans. “Paul in Romans 13 says it is your responsibility to submit to the government and go to war” no questions asked. In fact, there is only one reason ever to protest your government, and that is when a government “requires you to commit some act, behave in a fashion to disobey the clear word of God”. Even here, it must be the clear word of God, and “not based on some little opinion you have.”
The fact that you think a particular war wrong is insufficient to take a stand against it, for the clear word of God, says Stanley, supports war.
To back this up, Stanley quotes from Numbers 32:6-23 with its cautionary tale about the children of Ruben and Gad. They were ranchers who were quite content to stay in Gilead instead of crossing the Jordan to the promised land and destroying the cities that stood in the way. This reluctance to go to war made God very angry, and He punished the Israelites for it by making them wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Here is Numbers 32: 20-23, which Stanley quotes: “And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the Lord to war, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, And the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterwards ye shall return, and be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel; this land shall be your possession before the Lord. But if ye will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.”
This convinced the children of Ruben and Gad, who agreed to cross the Jordan with arms and attack the cities there. But God never relented on the punishment of 40 years in the wilderness.
The point, says Stanley, is that it is wrong, in God’s eyes, to protest your government when it is about to go to war. “It is a violation,” he says flatly, “of the word of God not to defend your country if the country calls you to do so.”
Stanley then addresses protesters directly (those who protest the proposed war against Iraq, presumably): “And what are your sons and daughters going to say one of these years when you’re an old man or an old woman and this nation is in havoc, occupied by someone else, and you have to say to your sons and daughters, well, you know, back in those days we didn’t fight, we protested.”
Of course, it’s not clear that Iraq or Al Q’aeda or anyone else is a threat to take over the United States and occupy us. In believing they are a threat to invade and conquer us, Stanley makes it clear how little regard he has for our armed forces. For while on one hand he praises our soldiers for being good Christians, on the other he apparently considers them incapable of defending us from a 3rd rate military like Iraq’s.
The Fragility of the Christian Religion
I will quote the next thing Stanley says in full, because it drew a standing ovation from the audience. “And when I think about those organizations that do their best, one in particular, to take God out of our society, out of the schools, off our money, you name it, take the name of God off of it, I’m here to tell you, we must not be quiet. While those—please listen!—place us in a position that God, to be true to himself, would one day have to send a foreign army into our land to punish us, because we allowed ourselves to become a pagan nation, of immorality and disbelief in God because we allowed somebody to erase the name of God from our society. It must never be allowed to happen.”
Now it becomes clear why, in Stanley’s view, Iraq or Al Q’aeda is a threat to take over the United States: because if we don’t keep the correct religious beliefs then God will join on their side against us!
How quickly Charles Stanley has forgotten the Bible passages he quoted from Romans. For there, Christians are instructed to give their complete allegiance to a pagan government: the Roman Empire. Indeed, the message of those passages he quoted seems to be that Christians have a duty to separate religion from government: that if the government is not Christian it is ok; if it is thoroughly pagan, if like Rome it does not even recognize the God of Christianity, that is ok.
But what is most remarkable about Charles Stanley’s quote (and the standing ovation which followed) is how fragile he believes Christianity to be. For he fears that if the words “In God we Trust” are taken off the dollar, and if “under God” and school-led prayers are removed from our schools, then Americans will abandon their Christian beliefs for paganism. How very insecure Stanley’s sort of Christianity is.
It is very much like God’s fear—in the Biblical passages quoted earlier—that unless the preexisting cities in the promised land are completely destroyed, they will influence the Israelites to abandon their chosen religion for foreign ones. Instead of “faith” this appears to be a complete lack of faith in His chosen people, just as Stanley seems to have a complete lack of faith in Christians to remain Christian if the government is no longer pushing God.
For a religion that has 2 billion adherents worldwide, it is rather surprising that it is so fragile, that without the help of government it will disappear!
There is also, in Stanley’s words, an implied threat: if we stop being Christians then God will lead the attack against us. Now, in all honesty, this is ludicrous. But because Stanley and his audience sincerely believe it is so, they must commit themselves to suppressing anything they believe will make God turn against us. To not be a Christian, in their view, endangers the nation, and consequently non-Christian viewpoints ought to be suppressed. That is the logical consequence of what Stanley is saying, and as such it is a complete betrayal of the principles of our American Revolution and our Constitution. It is un-American through and through.
It is also nearly identical to what the Islamic extremists say when they insist on putting Sharia, the religious laws, above those of civil government. God will punish us if we fail to enforce Islam, if we fail to call for fatwa against unbelievers, they say.
I used to believe that Christianity had outgrown this sort of thing—now I am not so sure.
Stanley finishes by praising President Bush for his Godly character and for “beginning the day with the word of God and on his knees.” He then calls on Bush’s political opponents to rally behind the President and not oppose his war policy. “And I would say to those politicians who only act politically, not what’s best for the nation but what’s best for their politics, either God change their attitude or remove them!” Stanley then tells the audience that other than for this last statement, “I’ve not given you my opinion. I’ve simply told you what God said.”
He ends with the statement that he is not trying to force his religion on anyone. It is a comment for which I’m grateful. At the same time I can’t help but notice that he does seem to want to use the power of government to push his God on a captive audience in the schools.
Christianity vs Democracy
Let me now make some comments about Stanley’s position. Although it is clear that he favors the U. S. attacking Iraq, he doesn’t present any reasons in support of doing so. Therefore I will not address the wisdom of attacking or not attacking Iraq.
What Charles Stanley does say is that citizens should obey their government and not protest or object to the government’s war policy. He doesn’t argue that this is because the current administration’s war policy is the correct or best policy. Instead he argues we should not object because governments are ordained of God, and it is God’s will that we should obey our government and go to war. He believes, apparently, if our government orders us to fight, then it is God’s desire that we fight. And that God will condemn us for questioning war.
As stated, this seems to put God’s approval and authority behind any government that chooses to go to war. And since war usually involves two sides, it follows that God gives his approval and authority to both sides.
I doubt if Stanley wants to say this. Instead, I imagine, he wants to say that God is on the side of His chosen people, and never of the enemies of His chosen people. And that Americans are His chosen people.
But the Bible does not say that we are His chosen people. (Possibly the Book of Mormon does, but Stanley is not quoting that book.) The fact is that Americans are not Israelites, and the quotes Stanley uses from the Old Testament were directed at the Israelites, and were in reference to the “promised land.”
Furthermore, the Israelites were Jewish, and Christians are not Jewish. And though it is true that some Americans are Jewish, the vast, vast majority are not. So it is unlikely that Christians—or Americans—are God’s chosen people, no matter how much we would like to flatter ourselves that we are.
But there is a more serious problem with Stanley’s viewpoint. He sets Christianity up in opposition to the principles upon which our nation was founded. For he tells us that it is wrong for citizens to object to a government policy even before that policy has been enacted. (Since no war with Iraq has begun yet, protesters are objecting to a policy that has not yet been enacted.) Despite the Constitution, despite the Bill of Rights, Stanley insists that God is against citizens who contest a war policy—that to oppose our government on a matter related to war is immoral and unGodly.
What it is, in reality, is democracy. Our nation is founded on the notion that people must have a voice in their own government. This is accomplished, of course, through elections, but also (as guaranteed by the Constitution) through petitioning the government and through peaceful assembly. Furthermore, even after a war has actually begun, it is the right (and I would say the duty) of those who object to the war to say so publicly. Otherwise their voices are not heard. John Lock’s theory of government, the theory upon which the Founding Fathers acted when they created our nation, is predicated on the importance of everyone’s voice being represented and heard. Without all interests having their proportionate voice, government will inevitably veer off-balance.
So to shut people up because you don’t like what they say, that is to fail to understand the whole principle of representative government which inspired our forefathers. It is a betrayal of American values—out of ignorance undoubtedly, but a betrayal nonetheless.
Two Peas in a Pod
Another difficulty I see with Dr. Stanley’s position is in how closely it parallels Osama Bin Laden’s own explanation of why God wants him to attack the American people. We have committed abominations, we flaunt our sexual perversions, do immoral things, and worst of all, we are infidels who have abandoned God and separated church from state—so says Bin Laden. And he bases the necessity for attacking Americans on the claim that God supports it and indeed orders it. And like Stanley, he points to God’s Word as proof of this.
The similarity between Stanley and Bin Laden is frightening, but instructive. For where Stanley fears that Americans will abandon Christianity and embrace pagan religions, leading God to join with our enemies, Bin Laden says simply, that has already happened. God has already joined the other side—the al Q’aeda side against us.
But to see how similar Bin Laden and Stanley are in their arguments, it is necessary to read Bin Laden’s own words, his “Letter to America” published in November (but ignored by the U. S. press).
The Inspired Word of God
My next objection—and this is a fundamental one—is this: the Bible is not God’s word and therefore to quote the Bible as evidence that God loves war is futile.
Why do I say that the Bible is not God’s word?
First of all, even the Christians who say the Bible is God’s word, don’t actually believe that. They don’t mean, for example, that God actually wrote the Bible. They recognize that men wrote the Bible. Moses, for example, is said to have written the first 5 books of the Bible. Moses is not God, but a man.
The same goes for the other books of the Old and New Testament—most of them have titles which identify their supposed authors (or in the case of Paul’s letters, his audience). Each book is attributed to this man or that man, but in every case, men. They were not written by God Himself but by human beings. Thus the Bible is quite literally not the word of God but of men.
Ah, but they were men inspired by God!
Perhaps, but that does not make it God’s word. It makes it at best man’s word with inspiration from God. And whether the inspiration is really there is up to our judgment. Perhaps it was the Qur’an that God inspired, or the Kama Sutra, or the Book of Mormon, or The Prince. How are we to know which book or books are inspired by God without reading and using our own judgment?
So, how do we judge? For one thing, we can read a passage and decide whether it’s worthy of God—does it represent, in a reasonable way, the perfection, the beauty, the goodness of God?
Well, I can tell you right now that many of the passages in the Bible—particularly some of those preferred by Dr. Stanley—do not represent the perfection, the beauty, or the goodness of God. If anything, they slander God. And I think it is clear that a passage which slanders God is not likely to have been inspired by God.
Of course, maybe I’m wrong to insist on God’s beauty, goodness, and perfection. Maybe Stanley is right in his belief that God wanted to see every man, woman, and child in the cities of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites utterly destroyed. But if so, as my daughter asked, why didn’t God just destroy them Himself? Why did He put so much effort into talking the Israelites into doing His dirty work for Him?
The answer is that He didn’t. The answer is that Stanley and Deuteronomy slander God’s good name. They tell lies about God.
It seems to me that at one time Christianity was different. At one time most Christians preferred the Golden Rule and ‘love thy neighbor’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ over the debaucheries that fill too much of the Old Testament.
Perhaps I only imagined it. But I thought that Christianity was once a religion of love rather than a religion of war, a religion of tolerance rather than a religion of killing people because they believe in the wrong God or do immoral things. Jesus embraced sinners—or so the rumor goes. But Stanley tells us that God wipes out entire cities because they worship the wrong deity and behave improperly.
Is this Christianity? Or is it Christinsanity?
As many of you know, I am an atheist. But whether I believe in God or not, I insist on His perfection. If there is a God, He is a perfect God. Not a devil or demon or some kind of imperfect, immoral godlet. Yet Dr. Stanley and his brand of Christianity insist on just such an imperfect God, a God who loves blood and slaughter.
A Modest Analogy
Let me suggest an analogy. Assume for the moment that your name is John Doe and you live at 1234 Heaven Place in your current city or town. Let us assume also that you are a good person with a good reputation.
Now imagine that you learn that two people you have never met, Bob and Sally, are making widely disseminated public statements about you. In short, Bob has announced that he adores you and follows your advice in everything he does. Sally, for her part, has declared that Bob is making it up and furthermore has said that you, John Doe, do not even exist.
Imagine, furthermore, that more details come in. You learn that although Bob is fanatic about you, always tooting your horn, he also makes claims about your opinions and desires, and about your past behavior, which do not put you in the best light. For example, he claims (positively, in his mind, apparently) that you have both advocated and committed mass murder in the past, that you have no objection to torture — and in fact you learn that Bob has declared that you intend to torture huge numbers of people in the future. Bob has even named a few specific individuals (and indeed whole groups of people) who he says you will torture and torment.
Now imagine, as I said before, that you are a good person with a good reputation, that you have never killed or tortured anyone, and have no intentions to do so in the future. How are you likely to react to Bob’s statements?
May I suggest that it is quite possible that you would look at them more as accusations than as “statements”, and although Bob thinks he is praising you, most likely you would find this sort of “praise” not to be praise at all, but character assassination.
You also learn a bit more about what Sally is saying, which is that if Bob is telling the truth then you, John Doe, are evil. But in fact Sally thinks Bob has made you up, and made up 1234 Heaven Place as well, and that you do not even exist.
Put yourself in this situation, and try to “feel” your reaction to Sally and to Bob.
Let me suggest that the normal reaction is that Bob is likely to make you far angrier than Sally does. It is Bob, after all, who is harming your reputation with accusations (but Bob calls them “affirmations”!) to which you strenuously object. Sally, on the other hand, has indirectly defended you by denying that Bob is talking about someone real.
Of course, you are real. You are very real. And you probably want Sally to know that (but you also probably want to assure her that Bob’s characterization of you is quite false). You might be tempted, in fact, to invite Sally over to 1234 Heaven Place just to show her that you (and Heaven Place) are indeed quite real. Instead of being angry at her when she arrives, I imagine you are more likely to take delight in needling her about her doubt. On a serious note, you might even thank her for speaking out against Bob.
As for Bob, it seems to me that you would be quite angry at him for sullying your reputation — the sort of anger that anyone who has been slandered feels. I imagine you would want nothing to do with such scum. And that if you did decide to invite him over to your place, the first thing you would do would be to give him a real tongue-lashing. (Or perhaps you’d have your lawyers present, and threaten him with a lawsuit if he doesn’t retract his statements.)
What might make your anger at Bob even stronger is the realization that not only does he describe you as a monster, but that he slavishly adores the monster he describes and calls you. Of the real you, Bob has no conception and no concern.
But actually, the situation is worse than that. For Bob does say a lot of good things about you. In doing so, however, he only makes the bad things he says appear more credible to other people. And since Bob is obviously such a fan of yours, since he claims to know you intimately, to talk with you often and so on, the net effect is to make it seem as though Bob was someone “in the know” about you.
This actually makes his statements far more harmful to your reputation than if they came from somebody who openly hated you. For in that latter case everyone would see that the speaker disliked you, and would at least want to hear your side of the story. But because you are being slandered by someone who adores you, people are likely to think “if that is what John Doe’s friends say about him, what are his enemies saying?”
Who needs enemies when you have a “friend” like Bob?
In short, as a fanatic who adores you and calls you his “friend”, Bob is in a position to do far more harm to your reputation than any “enemies” could ever hope to do.
But Is It True?
Do most Christians really talk as though God was a mass murderer and torturer? Does the average Christian slander God?
Unfortunately, as the affirmation by Charles Stanley’s audience shows, the answer is yes. Nor are they alone, unfortunately. Many—but not all—Christians slander God. As do many—but not all—Muslims. These two religions together account for about 3 billion people out of the world’s 5 billion, and the last thing the world needs is to have them angrily throwing damnation at each other, each using its God to condemn the other to hell and damnation.
As I see it there are two primary ways in which Christians damage the reputation of God.
First, by declaring the Bible (with all its atrocities from the Flood onward) to be God’s literal Word. Like Stanley, they make God out to look like a blood-thirsty demon — all the while praising Him. The Qur’an is used in much the same way. Claiming to have “God’s Word”, both Christians and Muslims declare that God destroyed all but a handful of people and animals with a worldwide flood. And they assert, as we have seen, that God ordered the slaughter of whole cities including women and children.
Second, by declaring that God will torture and punish people in hell for not having the right beliefs. Conversely, God will save others regardless of their behavior simply because they do have the right beliefs. Thus, according to many Christians, a rapist and murderer sitting on death row can suddenly accept Jesus into his heart repent and be saved; while the girl he raped and slaughtered goes right to hell for not believing in the right god. (The whole notion of prison ministries is based on this.)
Again, I want to stress that not all Christians slander God. Christianity doesn’t have to be a religion which imputes evil to God or denies His/Her perfection.
Christians, if they so choose, can decide to concentrate on Jesus’ moral teachings in the New Testament. They can repudiate or find a way to re-interpret the stories of floods and slaughter and eternal punishment and hell that dot the Bible, and concentrate instead on a view of God that is good and beautiful and perfect.
George Bush’s God
Stanley ended his sermon with the image of President Bush getting down on his knees every morning and praying to God. But what God does President Bush pray to?
Is it Stanley’s God? Is it the God who loves to see women and children—indeed, entire cities slaughtered?
When the President reads the Bible, is it Stanley’s Bible? Does he read the same passages Stanley reads and draw the same awful conclusions?
Does he pray to a God of power, raw and unrestrained, or to a God of love?
Does he condemn the Israelites for tiring of war and slaughter? Or does he praise the children of Ruben and Gad for their refusal to cross the Jordan to destroy another city?
What kind of God does our President believe in?
I’m afraid it is a God of war.
A God who thrives on war. And the question for today is this: Christianity—or Christinsanity?