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The problem with using the Bible as the basis for running a society is that it would always be somebody’s interpretation of the Bible, and a worst case scenario is that it might be your interpretation, Mr. Klinghoffer.
I too have read and studied the Bible all of my life, and I just can’t recognize the Bible in so much of what you have said in our “dialogue.” I really work at finding common ground with people across the political spectrum on moral issues that transcend ideology and politics. But we have been unable to find much common ground in this dialogue. I still find many of the things you have said absolutely astonishing.
I still can’t get over your contention that most of what the Bible says about the poor don’t apply to America because our poor people are so well off here. I replied that most Christian clergy and Jewish rabbis that I know would find that statement incredulous, but got no direct reply from you. In your latest post you say, in an equally unbelievable way, that wealth is the most consistent test of whether a society is righteous in God’s eyes. I read the Hebrew prophets in a totally different way–that the best test of a nation’s righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable. That is always how God judges a society. Read Isaiah, Amos, and Micah.
Then you say that war is just a “tool of statecraft.” Really? The Hebrew Scriptures warn against militarism–“not trusting in horses and chariots”–and Jesus calls we Christians to be peacemakers and love our enemies. In fact, you note in your book Christians who believe that:
Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites, among others, can point to the teachings not only of Jesus himself but of ancient and medieval sages – Tertullian, Origen, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, down to a twentieth-century figure like Thomas Merton.
It’s interesting that “Jesus himself” and the earliest church fathers were all opposed to war. So, what happened? You say, quite correctly, “With the conversion of the Emperor Constantine (324 C.E.), all that changed.” Indeed, it did. And you then cite such esteemed theologians as Oliver Cromwell and Gen. George S. Patton. When you say in your latest post that war is merely the normal tool of statecraft, does that mean all wars? Every time a nation decides to go to war as an expression of its statecraft is justifiable? What about when one nation with Christians and Jews decides to go to war with another nation with Christians and Jews? Are both nations justified? Is there any religious critique or discrimination possible here? Let me guess, you support all the wars America has fought. I could never get you to tell me what you think about the war in Iraq.
I could go on, issue after issue, but I don’t think that would be productive. We just disagree, profoundly, on what biblical imperatives suggest about society and politics. I am very glad that America has a separation of church and state and that people who would prefer a more theocratic vision of society (as I interpret you to prefer) don’t get to run things they way they would like. We both have to convince our fellow citizens that what we believe is best for the common good. That’s a good thing and I welcome that debate. Thanks for this one.