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Attaching Divine Mandate to other purposes.


Question & Answer

Q: By Dean
Can’t say I disagree on your article: A White Man Makes the Case for Reparations, but it raises at least one question. When God’s people chased inhabitants out of the ‘Promised Land’ I don’t recall any discussion of reparations for the displaced people. Perhaps that is our rationale (excuse) for claiming reparations as a non-issue.
A: By Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
Dear Dean,

Thank you for this question. It is an interesting one. My response will reveal my overall view of Scripture.

I see our sacred texts not as God’s literal words revealed to some human scribe who simply served as an empty vessel recording all that God poured into her.

I see them as the faithful and authentic testimonies of those who experienced something sacred in the otherwise profane matters of human existence.

I see them as creative, poetic, and memetic – products of human experience and imagination with the purpose of shaping hearts and minds and of generating a fundamental faith in a God with whom we entered into covenant and from whom we received the promise of protection, comfort, and eventually the promise of eternal life.

There were no cameras to record events, no journalists trained to record history without bias.

With every story told, there was an agenda – a need to perpetuate along with the story a bias, be that legal, moral, or ecclesial. In the best of circumstances, that bias reflected the perceived will of God – but not always.

Biblical records of the conquest of the land we call promised are far from historically accurate. They are idealized accounts filtered through the lens of the victors who wanted to attach to their victory and conquest both the aid of God and the approval of God.

White slave owners did the same thing. They attached divine mandate and approval to their conquest and enslavement of captured African natives. They mythologized their white skin and dehumanized black skin. That myth will survive as longs as whites maintain control of the public narrative.

In the same way, Biblical authors justified the conquest and enslavement of another people by attaching God to the story and making their God the agent of their bloodlust. Passages that describe God as commanding the enslavement and slaughter of innocent children and livestock does not sound to me like the God we would come to know in the writings and teachings of Jesus.

What does sound more divine to me are the invitations for peoples of the Earth to love their neighbor, to turn the other cheek, to pray for those who persecute you, to love your enemy, to give to the poor and the widow and the orphan. When it is written in the epistle of John that “God is love,” I take that as instructive. Scripture that reveals a God whom we know as love I receive as authentic and revelatory. On the other hand, passages that cannot be reconciled with the God whom we know as love are little more to me than the human attribution of our capacity and lust for evil to God.
~ Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer

About the Author
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer is the author of two published books, Beyond Resistance: the Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World and Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Hijacked Mainstream ReligionHe is a recipient of Eden Seminary’s “Shalom  Award,” given by the student body for a lifetime of committed work for peace and justice. John currently serves as the 9th General Minister of the United Church of Christ.

*** This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

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