Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Sam Harris needs a good, confessional, two-kingdoms suckerpunch (given in the love of Christ, of course). With every page I read of his Letter to a Christian Nation, the more I wish I could spend some time with him to administer that, umm, corrective myself.

The next section of his book deals with ethics. He remarks that "the idea that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is astounding, given the contents of the book." He then goes on to cite all those verses about parents hitting their kids with rods, Israel chucking rocks at a guy for picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week, and how we should be nice to our slaves (unless, of course, they irritate us). The New Testament, he argues, doesn't offer much by way of improvement (despite the Golden Rule, which Harris likes but points out was somewhat well-worn by the time Jesus came on the scene). He then admits that someone like Martin Luther King is often seen as "the best exemplar of [the Christian] religion." The problem with this view, Harris argues, is that King learned his nonviolence not from Jesus but from Mohandas Gandhi. "The doctrine of Jainism," Harris concludes, "is an objectively better guide for becoming like Martin Luther King Jr. than Christianity is."

Where to begin?

Oh! I know: how about with the fact that Harris has no idea what the point of Christianity actually is?

Now, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he has been spending too much time with those evangeliberals whose entire understanding of Scripture is that it is essentially the same as William Bennett's Book of Virtues, only with a leather cover and those thumb-index thingies.

If I could explain one thing to Harris, as well as to the theonomists, Christian Nationalists, and others who have been fueling his crusade, I would say that the Bible is not intended to be read as a "perfect guide to morality," neither is the aim of Christianity to make the world a kinder, gentler place for our kids to grow up in. In fact, our religion is pretty useless for just about everything short of re-doing what mankind ruined by summoning a new, heavenly city from the ashes of the earthly one.

To put it more simply, I would explain the difference between the law and the gospel, (and hint: neither of them asks, "What Would Martin Luther King Do?").