Let’s talk about the garbage “Christian” “satire” publication The Babylon Bee for a minute here.
First off, context. The Bee sometimes writes amusing stuff about megachurches and church culture and whatever. I’ll grant that. But it’s an off-shoot of the Calvinist webcomic Adam4d, which means it has predestined legacy of ignorantly dismissing every Christian whose view is anything other than Reformed Evangelicalism (see Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, ad nauseam). Basically, no critical thinking skills but lots of arrogant condescension. Which, is fine. Whatever. The Calvinists can elect to have their own webcomics just like anybody else.
Secondly, the Babylon Bee has a stick up its butt about Jen Hatmaker. A while back when she mentioned in an interview that her diligent study of the Bible and ongoing relationships with LGBT people had led her to affirming LGBT relationships, the Bee published some bullshit suggesting that she was just “updating out-of-vogue beliefs into something cutting-edge and trendy” — ignoring the depth of study and contemplation that went into the Hatmakers’ decision, as well as the personal cost that the decision came with. But, that’s fine too. Never let facts get in the way of some half-assed satire.
This brings us to the latest bit of bullshit from the Bee. Over the weekend, Politico reported on the pushback Jen Hatmaker has received after voicing anti-Trump and pro-LGBT views — pushback that included burned books and death threats. The Bee’s takeaway from this, of course, was not “wow, Christians sure are unmitigated assholes to anyone who challenges their right-wing political beliefs.” No, the Babylon Bee thought this was a good time to release a new shitpile of jokes about how Jen Hatmaker doesn’t like the Bible — because in the small minds of Calvinist webcomics / satirists, the only possible reason that somebody could have a different interpretation of Scripture than you do is because they don’t respect the Bible as much as you (it couldn’t possibly be because they respect the Scripture enough to read it in a historical and cultural context that results in different conclusions).
So let’s talk about the actual content of Jen Hatmaker’s Fake 1-Star Amazon Review of the Bible As Seen on the Garbage Publication the Babylon Bee:
I’m going to go out on a limb and make the argument that this review actually isn’t that bad. It’s probably not something Jen Hatmaker would say about the Bible, but as an actual review of the Bible, it kinda works.
“this book is just so problematic in a profoundly systemic way”
We’ll ignore the fact that the Bee thinks it’s funny to mock words like “problematic” and “systemic” because in their tiny worldview, only trendy godforsaken liberals care about things like systemic injustice or addressing the problematic aspects of our religious heritage. Here’s the thing: the Bible IS problematic. If you’ve read the Bible much at all, you know that it contains a lot of internal conflict, records several morally ambiguous stories, and even offers some questionable advice. If you’re going to be a person who claims to follow the religion of the Bible, you’d better be ready to honestly engage its problematic content. The Bee helpfully lists some of these problems next in their fake review:
Yep. If your reading of the Bible leads you to conclude that God elects to love some people and elects to create other people for no reason other than to be burned forever in hell, that’s just so problematic in a profoundly systemic way. Your theology is bad and you should feel bad.
Yep. It’s there. And faithful followers of Jesus are going to have to wrestle with how to interpret and reconcile those ancient ideas with what it means to be a person of faith today — just like we sometimes have to wrestle with seemingly Biblical endorsements of slavery, genocide, kidnapping, polygamy, and telling women to sit down and shut up in church.
Yep. The Bible contains dozens of super-fucked-up stories of violence, many committed by the people of God, some of them even attributed to God. If you want to be a Christian whose faith can withstand even the most basic scrutiny, you’re going to have to face that. If not, you’re going to use the Bible to justify your own violence against whoever you currently hate — the way we used it to justify genocide against the Native American people.
This isn’t a actually a thing that’s inherent to the Bible. But don’t tell the Evangelicals that, because their theology of Scripture is all-to-often rooted in a narrow-mindedness that they attribute to the Bible but which is actually a product of their own fundamentalist worldview. You can tell, because they love to say “the Bible clearly says” — which it doesn’t. The Bible is the inspired record of how a multitude of people of faith throughout history have sought to interact with the Divine. And (according to itself), it serves as a mirror to show us what sort of people we are when we read it. So yes, a narrow-minded person will see a reflection of their own narrow-mindedness when they read at the Bible. And then they’ll tell you that their reflection is what the Bible clearly says. It will never occur to them that if a person (say, Jen Hatmaker) reads a more generous, loving, nuanced meaning in Scripture it may because they are a more generous, loving, nuanced reader.
“the Bible is clearly a product of the conservative Christian machine. Jesus is not pleased.”
Yep. I affirm that the Bible, as it exists today in American Evangelicalism, IS a product of the conservative Christian machine. And it IS an agent of ideas that are completely contrary to way of Jesus. Here’s why I say that:
“The Bible” is a relatively modern invention. For most of history, sacred texts were rare and when they were read, they were read in the context of communities. Much of what we know as “the Bible” existed only as oral traditions for entire generations of God-followers. Much of what we know as “the Bible” was personal letters written to small groups of religious radicals. But when we say “the Bible” today, we think of 66 separate books crammed together into one leather-bound mega-book, littered with modern chapter-and-verse markings. When we read “the Bible”, all too often we fail to read it as a multifaceted cultural, historical, and spiritual text and instead dissect it to death with a modern hermeneutic that is completely anachronistic and antithetical to the Scripture’s original spirit. The result is a religion that dismisses the teachings of Jesus as some hippy-dippy nonsense while pulling shards of Scripture out of context and using them to build scientific, political, cultural, and religious agendas that are antithetical to the nature of a God who is Love.
Honestly, it’s ok if you give the Bible one star on Amazon. If one star was enough to lead the Wise Men to Jesus, one star is enough for me.
But don’t pretend like your privileged, homophobic, violent, narrow-minded reading of the Bible is in fact the Word of God. You can make the Bible say damn near anything you want, and if you choose to make the Bible exclusive and judgmental and generally dickish, don’t that gives you some sort of moral high ground over your fellow Christians who choose an arguably more charitable reading of the text.
Also, don’t pretend like the Bible doesn’t contain some shit that’s just so problematic in a profoundly systemic way. It really does. Ignoring that stuff won’t make it go away; it will just lead you to create a religious structure that can’t withstand honest scrutiny. This sort of religious structure won’t actually hold up to regular use in the real world, and it’ll wind up crumbling under the weight of human existence. You’re not doing anybody any favors by turning a blind eye to the difficult passages of of the Bible. If you really want to honor the Bible and take Scripture seriously and all that stuff, read it on its own terms. Respect the genre. Embrace the contradictions. Acknowledge the difficulties. You might just wind up with a spirituality that is more resilient, more honest, and more faithful to the heart of God.
SUBSCRIBE (AND GET MY FREE E-BOOK TOO!)
I wrote "10 Things I Hate About Your Blog (and How to Fix Them)" to help you make your blog kick ass this year. I'd love to send you a copy; just put your name and email right here and I'll hook you up.