Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses

 

For a hundred years, the Canadian government took children from their parents and incarcerated them in Indian Residential Schools. For their own good.

            The feds have since issued apologies. They’ve paid around $5 billion in compensation. And all governments have paid many billions more in welfare, prisons, and social assistance.

            In the 1950s, the B.C. government took Doukhobor children away from their families, and locked them up in a prison camp in New Denver. For the children’s own good, of course.

            In the 1960s, various governments did the Sixties Scoop. Once again Indigenous children were separated from their parents and placed with white foster families. For their own good, of course.

            We’re now reaping a bitter harvest of alcoholism and drug dependency, of depression and suicide, of adults who don’t know how to be parents.

            I know about the trauma of foster parenting and adoption personally. My grandson was adopted from Ethiopia. At 11, he’s still working through the after-effects of being torn from his natural family, shipped from orphanage to orphanage, and finally brought to Canada.

            Adoption data suggests that if you can adopt during a child’s first year, separation anxiety will fade in two or three years. Separation at two will probably take five years. Separation at seven or eight may never be overcome.

            And then the Trump administration set a policy of removing children from parents who enter the United States illegally, and locking the children up in detention centres.

            Can’t we ever learn from past mistakes?

 

A policy in search of justification

            Last Sunday, Father’s Day, William Rivers Pitt wrote that there were already 1,469 children locked into in “an old Walmart outside of Brownsville, Texas… which was given the grimly Orwellian name Casa Padre, or ‘Father's House’.”

            To his credit, the president overruled his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Children can now stay with their parents. In jail.

            Sessions had claimed earlier, to a gathering of law officers in Fort Wayne, Texas, that St. Paul himself endorsed strict enforcement of immigration laws -- which, by Sessions interpretation, included ripping children from their mothers’ arms. He quoted Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, saying, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…”

            Sessions didn’t get the quotation quite accurate, but that never matters when using the Bible as a back-up authority. Claiming that the Bible says so is usually sufficient.

 

Collection of mixed messages

            In reality, you can use the Bible to prove almost anything. I have yet to encounter a topic that can’t be defended by quoting some biblical verse.

            If you know the right verses, the Bible commends incest, polygamy, betrayal, treason, adultery, civil disobedience, drunkenness, cold-blooded murder, slavery, genocide, and ecocide.

            The Bible contradicts itself. The prophet Isaiah had a famous instruction: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…”

            Another prophet, Joel, reverses it: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.”

            Which one y’ gonna choose?

            Two days before Sessions quoted Paul in support of strict immigration enforcement, the Southern Baptist Convention cited Scripture six times for immigration reform.

            Once again, which one y’ gonna choose?

 

Not anyone’s final word

            The standard Protestant Bible contains 66 books, written by at least 50 different people –not counting the Psalms, known to have at least 57 more authors -- over about 1500 years.

            I’m an editor. I have worked with books where multiple authors contributed chapters. It was almost impossible to achieve consistency. Even though they were all writing about the same subject, to the same standards, in the same time period.

            Expecting consistency in a text created over 15 centuries is like expecting pigs to do long division.

            And don’t quote me the verse that says, “All scripture is inspired by God.”

            That verse was not written to be part of the Bible; it was a personal letter to a young man named Timothy. When it was written, the only scriptures it could refer to were the Jewish scriptures, which we now condescendingly call the “Old Testament.” The New Testament didn’t get finalized until 367 AD.

            But that doesn’t matter to Jeff Sessions.

            All that matters is finding a verse he can quote to support his policies, to people who think the Bible is the final word on everything.

            Even if that policy goes against everything we have learned from family studies, psychology, and post-trauma treatment, and against the message of the Bible as a whole.

            Anytime politicians quote the Bible to prove their point, beware!

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Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                       To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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YOUR TURN

 

“I enjoyed the lighter view this week,” Bob Rollwagen wrote. “I always wondered how you could come up with something worth writing about every week and do so in an informative thought provoking way.

            “Much of what is happening is not worth the current levels of consideration being given by the media. We should have a Twit-free month. My morning coffee would be more enjoyable.”

            Bob somehow anticipated this morning’s column: “What’s this I hear about the Twit wanting children removed from their families. Are the kids being deported, are they ending up in camps? European leaders did similar things 78 years ago. Is this a racist action, as it was then? Where does it end?” 

 

Tom Watson took a satiric view: “My barber implored me not to tell who cuts my hair (what there is left of it). I guess he doesn't want to risk getting involved in some international incident.”

 

Stephanie McClellan commented, “Though you have touched on some serious issues here (and I felt sorry for the beautiful doe) I have to thank you for the laughs -- at Trump’s expense! With the chaos and fear of the world weighing heavily on any of us who follow the news, a laugh was likely the best response to it all for, no doubt, the events have also caused us to shed some tears. I really needed a giggle.”

 

And Cliff Boldt wrote, “Your simulated conversation between two world leaders was a good one!”

 

Several others also thanked me for a chuckle, but fellow journalist Rob Brown took me to task: “Jim, Jim, Jim! You’ve got to quit giving away professional secrets! Like ‘The problem is having too much to write about.’

            “If people know important things like that, they’ll think they can write as well as we can. (Which is probably true.) Then they’ll want to take over our jobs, for even less money than we are being paid now! You’ve shot all of us in the foot, Jim! How are we going to be able to get along now?”

 

The rest of last week’s letters were about, you guessed it, your letters.

 

Jean Hamilton continued “commenting on the comments on the comments.  Please stay with e-mail. Facebook is the most irritating form of communication ever devised.”

 

Clare Neufeld responded to Ruth Shaver’s letter on marriage: “If Christian theology were to be applied to any/all marriages, they would rightly he called ‘equal’ though not necessarily the ‘same’ -- no matter the specifics of the partners.

            “Why require adjectives of any kind, if/when all marriages are considered to be on equal footing?”

 

David Milne-Ives: “I think Isabel Gibson has Lawrence Weschler (no ‘n’) in mind with her reference to the quote ‘receive them ignorant, dispatch them confused’.  He’s an interesting, ambitious writer, but I get the impression that he’s one of his own biggest fans (which can be a bit off-putting).

            “Certainly I don’t receive my high school students ignorant -- I’m in the happy situation of learning quite a lot from them about their world and mine, every day --  but many of them would concur with the second part of the quote. Instead of ‘confused’, though, I would substitute ‘bewildered’. There is an implicit, original sense of ‘wilderness’ in this term; that the ‘civilized’ orderliness and ‘rational’ control of the pre-frontal lobes are no longer readily accessible or reliable, even in the relative safety of the classroom. And, while the rhythms of naturalwilderness are unfamiliar to most of these adolescents, they are very familiar with the psychologicalwilderness that we all navigate on our way to adulthood.”

 

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

                       To subscribe or unsubscribe, send me an e-mail message at the address above. Or subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message) to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at sharpedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                       My webpage is running again -- thanks to Wayne Irwin and ChurchWeb Canada. You can now access current columns and five years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

                       I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                       And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetrywhere I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca,  or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blankemail (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

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PROMOTION STUFF…

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton ’s latest project is called “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                       Ralph’s HymnSight webpage is still up, http://wwwDOThymnsightDOTca, with a vast gallery of photos you can use to enhance the appearance of the visual images you project for liturgical use (prayers, responses, hymn verses, etc.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                       Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet

 

 

 

 

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