Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Fisking the Clickbait

For the uninitiated, Grunge.com is the online equivalent of those tabloid news rags you find next to the gum and chocolate bars at grocery store checkouts — perhaps not quite so tacky, but at least as trivial. Today’s brilliant bits of journalistic intrigue include pieces on where Elvis is buried, how Vladimir Putin feels about religion, what happens to your body when you choke to death, and — my personal favorite — how David Hasselhoff is connected to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Come on, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t click on that! Which is the whole point, of course.

Reasons to be Disturbed

Among all this detritus I happened to come across Grunge’s most recent effort at theological commentary, a piece enticingly entitled “The Most Disturbing Parts of the Bible, Ranked by Grunge”, where I was shocked to discover that “many parts of the Bible would be totally inappropriate to bring up at a wedding, let alone tell to children”. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I’m raising a family, so I can be sure to do it right.

In the spirit of “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself”, I tried not to lunge at the proffered bait too enthusiastically, but given the frequency with which such articles pop up on the Web — all adopting the same snide, knowing, superior tone — I thought it was probably worth attempting a few very brief Christian responses to their complaints. In some cases I suspect a single sentence will do the job.

13. Skeletal Visions

Objection: The vision of a valley of dry bones coming to life in Ezekiel 37:1-14 seems “like a scene from Hellraiser”.

Response: A living being reduced to bones is legitimately disturbing; a nation resurrected from the dead is a scene only God himself could direct.

12. Division

Objection: The reason God was alarmed by the building of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 was that it showed “how much humans can accomplish by working together”, so he confounded their speech to prevent future human collaboration.

Response: The very first instruction God gave mankind after it left the ark was “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. The tower of Babel was mankind’s explicit rejection of God’s command — not the most promising way to start the world’s first official reboot.

11. Gruesome Deaths

Objection: “The Bible is full of violent deaths, but the fates of two enemies of Christ — King Herod and Judas Iscariot [Acts 12:20-23; Matthew 27:3-10] — are particularly grisly.”

Response: Yes.

10. Casting Stones

Objection: The instructions in the Law of Moses concerning stoning are barbaric.

Response: Israel learned stoning from the Egyptians, not the Law of Moses. The Law limited the existing practice to a few very serious crimes, rather than permitting it whenever the nation was in a bad mood. There are fewer than ten recorded stonings in over 1,800 years of Israelite history, an average of one every 200 years or so, and the vast majority of these were unlawful.

9. Slavery

Objection: Exodus 20-21 has rules about buying and selling human beings as servants and how they should be treated by their masters.

Response: The laws concerning slaves were designed to limit abuses within the Israelite version of an institution that at the time was common to every nation on earth, and was even entered into voluntarily at times in order to discharge debt. Stealing and selling men into slavery was a capital crime in Israel.

8. Misogyny

Objection: Purification rituals (Leviticus 12) and rape laws (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) discriminated against women.

Response: Purification rituals also applied to men, and depending on the circumstances, rape in Israel could be a capital crime. Try getting that kind of justice anywhere today.

7. Human Sacrifice

Objection: The stories of human sacrifice in Genesis 22:1-13 and Judges 11:30-31 are shocking.

Response: The most infamous story of human sacrifice in the Old Testament (Abraham and Isaac) literally never happened. It is not 100% clear what was done in the case of Jephthah’s daughter, but what is crystal clear is that the Law of Moses strictly forbade human sacrifice.

6. Killer Bears

Objection: 42 children were mauled to death for mocking a prophet.

Response: Can’t do that one in two or three sentences! See this post.

5. Testing Loyalty

Objection: God decides to test Job’s loyalty by taking away everything he has.

Response: The narrative is explicit that everything that happened to Job was the work of Satan, not God.

4. Murder and Dismemberment

Objection: The story of the fate of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 is horrific.

Response: Agreed. The passage vividly illustrates the degradation into which human society can fall when God’s laws are set aside in favor of everyone doing what is right in his own eyes.

3. Sexual Violence and Incest

Objection: The stories in Genesis 19:4-8 and 30-38 are objectionable for various reasons.

Response: The Bible presents such stories as distasteful matters of historical record, not remotely as encouragement to do the same.

2. Cannibalism and Infant Death

Objection: 2 Kings 6:24-33 records horrific violence against infants (starving women ate their infant children).

Response: See my last two responses.

1. Genocide (and Incest Again)

Objection: The story of the annihilation of the human race by flooding the planet is “anything but kid-friendly”. Also, we are all descended from the “incestuous coupling of Noah’s descendants”.

Response: Perhaps you should avoid using the Flood as a bedtime story. Cousin marriage accounts for over half the marriages in some Middle Eastern nations and is legal in all but 16 states of the U.S. Referring to it as incestuous is technically correct but a little overdramatic. But any non-creationist theory of origins that involves small numbers of humans becoming large numbers runs into exactly the same problem: early men must have married sisters or cousins.

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