Open Forum: ‘Un-American’

Posted: August 2, 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Jenkins’ opinion titled “Self-styled or God-styled?” (Open Forum July 15). The distinction he made between a “self-styled Christian” and a “true Christian” was entertaining and insightful. His opinion really should have been titled, “Why I’m a bigot, and you should be one too.”

Mr. Jenkins spent a lot of space discussing what scripture says, and what he says it means. The modern Bible offers many opportunities for people to find just what they want to support their position du jure. This is a shining example of why revealed religion is dangerous in the wrong hands, and not part of our founding ethos.

Mr. Jenkins says, “Any effort to force Scripture to accommodate my will and ‘lifestyle’ is opposite of (sic) and rebellion to the Divine intent.” This is absurd and untrue. There are volumes of interpretations of scripture (e.g., Paul, Luther, Henry VIII, etc.) where the authors seek to do just that — find support for their positions post hoc.

For example, it used to be un-Christian to collect interest on loaned money (usury), but it’s commonly done now. The Mark of Cain was used to justify slavery, which is long gone in most places. Catholic Mass was in Latin, and fish was the meal every Friday — both are no longer the common case. We don’t see flagellants on the streets, and divorce is no longer a direct path to excommunication.

There are more than 30,000 changes in the Bible from Jesus’ time to now. Christians have argued over whether or not Jesus was born divine or adopted divine after his baptism by John. They have killed each other over iconography. Surely, Mr. Jenkins knows that Erasmus added the final 12 verses of Mark himself when he created the King James Version. All of these and more are evidence of “forc(ing) scripture to accommodate” someone’s will.

Mr. Jenkins and his ilk are not seeking anything other than their own self-promotion. He has found a convenient victim and an easy way to attract support. He believes he can argue his position from the safety of only following God’s orders, thus avoiding criticism for an intellectually weak argument.

Think of it this way: Imagine a man who seeks power and prestige. He believes he is special and has been placed on this earth to lead people, because he is truly unique. He recognizes that in order to attract and increase followers he must create a cause — a cause that he can say is a matter of life or death, that has an identifiable but weak enemy, and overtly states that being defeated by this enemy would mean his followers’ souls would roast in hell and damnation, and their way of life gone forever.

This is the well-traveled road to dictatorship. It starts small, and it’s easy for many to overlook the things that do not impact them directly. But make no mistake, this seemingly minor argument is the fight between right and wrong. Mr. Jenkins may claim he speaks for God — as if He needs a spokesperson — and is only, in essence, following orders. For me, however, it doesn’t matter whether he calls himself Pastor, Reverend, Fuehrer, Il Duce, or Commissar. His views are plainly bigoted, and bigots are un-American.

John B. Tidwell is a resident of Winchester.