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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jon Meacham Just Doesn't Get Religion


I can't say that I've ever been impressed by the theological insights of Jon Meacham. After his recent Newsweek editorial which comes in response to Lisa Miller's lousy cover story article on gay marriage, I'm left with the conclusion that Jon just doesn't Get Religion or at least Jon doesn't get traditional Christianity. Here's Meacham:
No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.
First, as my readers now, I'm no fan of the Religious Right. Nor am I a theologically conservative Christian. Politically, I'm quite friendly to gay rights and civil marriage equality.

But Meacham's conclusion in the paragraph above is just downright offensive. Argument from the Bible is the worst kind of fundamentalism? What? Fundamentalists are not the only type of Christian who appeal to biblical authority. More than a few theological progressives and liberals throughout history and even today make arguments based on biblical injunctions on a regular basis especially in the political arena. Has Meacham not read Dr. King on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount or Walter Rauschenbusch on the Hebrew Prophets? Would Meacham argue that these great modern-day prophets are intellectually bankrupt because they too argued that "something is so because it is in the Bible" ?

To suggest that one is a fundamentalist simply because their argument invokes Scripture is just nonsense. Meacham doesn't seem to get religion nor does he seem to take religion very seriously. For Meacham, the Bible is simply a book - a book that offers no insight into how we should live our lives and deal with problems in the 21st century. And, if you disagree with Meacham's extremely low view of Scripture, you're an intellectually bankrupt fundamentalist.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Meacham probably wouldn't argue that the great civil rights progressives like MLK were intellectually bankrupt because he agrees with their political views.

He's a scoffer. But he probably didn't intend to upset you. He may simply be having a difficult time reconciling certain of the Christian progressives'/moderates' moral/social positions (abortion and homosexuality) with a high view of scripture.

As you know, I have the same difficulty.

But, your indignation is refreshing.

7:22 PM

 
Blogger Roger said...

I'm pretty sure Meacham is a very active Episcopal layman who, I think, does "get religion" but is taking a very typically liberal slant on this issue...

9:11 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Journalists often don't "get religion" when they conveniently fail to take traditionally conservative religious viewpoints seriously usually on issues related to supernaturalism, etc. Stephen Carter, also a liberal Episcopalian, has written about this failure of the "liberal elite" to take religion seriously in his 1990s book, The Culture of Disbelief.

It is quite convenient when Rawlsian liberals like Meacham ignore the countless examples of theological progressives who have made Bible-based public policy arguments in order to take a swipe at conservatives and fundamentalists. For folks like Meacham, it's o.k. to bring your faith into the public square and to allow your faith to play a role in how you vote ONLY IF you support liberal policies.

1:29 AM

 
Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:22 AM

 
Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

See www.christianitytoday.com for biblical coverage on this issue.
Also, the following article offers clear biblical guidance on this issue: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/september/11.36.html

6:26 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Meachum is an Episcopalian. I heard him defend gay marriage from a Christian perspective to the scoffing uber-atheist, Bill Maher. But Meachum is criticizing the prooftexting WAY that anti-gay folks cite the Bible.

12:37 PM

 
Anonymous KGray said...

Welcome to the non-Baptist world, where you in fact ARE a fundamentalist because you believe the Bible. To them, on a the scale from 1 (extreme fundamentalism) to 10 (Bill Maher), all Baptists are about a 3. You can argue otherwise all day, to no avail. So get used to it.

No one really enjoys being called a fundamentalist.

But I think we all should expect it more and more.

5:42 PM

 

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