Opinions on faith and life

Red-Letter Christians

2009-10-07

I came across an article today by Jan Markell called “Red-Letter Christians: Neo-Marxism in the Church?”. Interesting timing, since the last few days I’ve read so much about the evil “Christian Right”. Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of evil in the “Christian Right”. But this hardly means there is less evil in the “Christian Left”. Related misconceptions include the idea that only the “right” is political, or only the “left” adds or removes things from scripture. Neither side has a right to point fingers at the other.

But these “red-letter Christians” want to throw out pretty much the entire Bible, except for the words of Jesus typically printed in red ink in many editions. Yet at the same time, they are the most likely group to dispute what He actually said! Many who espouse the fundamentals (oh, the irony!) of this view believe that much of what Jesus taught was derived from earlier ones, e.g. Hammurabi, or that His disciples embellished His actual words. They are quick to accept as fact the likes of the Gnostic “gospels” but dismiss out-of-hand the much more thoroughly studied Bible.

Anyone who disagrees with the “left” is labeled backward, “fundy”, uneducated, blind, or just plain stupid. The “right” dishes out labels too, but what’s important always must be the essentials of the gospel— the “good news” about Jesus. To take only His quoted words is to take them out of context, and to ignore His own statements about why He came and who He was is to be unfaithful to His teachings, regardless of one’s political leanings.

I’ve already written about Jesus’ purpose and claims for Himself, so I’ll just list some here. Please let me know if there’s a broken link.

Now if the “red letter” group can accept ALL the words of Jesus, even if they choose to ignore the eyewitness testimonies and the teachings of those inspired to write, they will have to choose between that and their views about the gospel, the Bible, and the Christian life. They should also consider the consistency of their view in light of the fact that Luke wrote both a Gospel and Acts, the latter of which tells us a lot about that “bad guy” named Paul. Any view can be painted as “Christian”, but only if we ignore its inconsistencies. Yes, the “right” has its issues to deal with too, but my point today is that we need to be impartial and consistent when deciding what the gospel is, what Christianity is, what truth is.

Let’s trade “left” and “right” for “straight and narrow”.

15 Comments

Lin

Let’s trade “left” and “right” for “straight and narrow”.

Now that is a good one. I may have to steal it.

Paula Fether

Steal with impunity, sis. :-)

Joel

Paula, like Jan, you are making gross generalizations of those Christians who do focus on social justice.

I am a political liberal, yet very biblically conservative. I focus on the social gospel and could be classified by some - against my own ideas - with Jim Wallis among others politically and socially. Yet, I take the bible very conservatively, etc... What’s more, I am not the only one like this, but you classify us all together.

I know of some on the Religious Right who do not take the bible as literal as I, so where do they fit in? The idea of labeling bothers and sisters is a bad habit to start with equally bad results

Red-Lettered Bibles are Tools of Satan | The Church of Jesus Christ

[...] (Also, you can read Paula’s take on this as well) [...]

Paula Fether

Joel,

Please itemize the "gross generalizations" I made. My post was about "red letter", and I used terms like "likely" and "many".

Also, you use the term "religious right". Have you not issued a label as well?

Joel

The label I issue was one which they claim. Further, the comment was not directed squarely at you so much as ’neo-marxists, so-called Christians, leftist Christians,’ of Jan’s deplorable letter.

But these “red-letter Christians” want to throw out pretty much the entire Bible, except for the words of Jesus typically printed in red ink in many editions. Yet at the same time, they are the most likely group to dispute what He actually said!

If I am wrong, I apologize, Paula.

Paula Fether

The label I issue was one which they claim.

So, is it okay to label people if they use it themselves then? I’m just trying to figure out where the line is drawn, since I see others using labels all the time, yet if I happen to use them I get called out. I really wish I knew where that line is, and whether it keeps changing. :-)

Further, the comment was not directed squarely at you

Now I’m confused, since you said "Paula, like Jan, you are...". I realize Jan doesn’t seem to have comments enabled, but it would help if in the future you’d make it clearer if you’re referring to someone else.

As for the part of my post that you quoted here, I thought the "red letter" people Jan mentioned were happy to accept the label, and that they really did want to only keep those red letters and discard the rest. If you were listing that quote as one of my gross generalizations, I still don’t see how it can be defined as such.

Don’t know if you’re "wrong" or not, since I really am not sure who you think needs a lecture on labeling. ;-)

Paula Fether

Here’s a quote from the pingback (comment 4):

"This letter from Joseph McCarthy Jan Markell..."

Wow. If I were to say something like that, I can guarantee I’d never hear the end of it.

Joel

If the fearmonger fits...

Paula, I am not talking about the ’red-letter’ bit, as just like the religious right, it is a label adopted but the group. I mentioned the other labels which should not be used.

You have grouped biblical literalists with liberal Christians simply because they are ’red-letter.’ I’d say that was a generalization.

Considering how much Christ spoke of peace and justice, I have to wonder who is not holding to all the words of Christ?

Paula Fether

"You have grouped biblical literalists with liberal Christians simply because they are ‘red-letter.’ I’d say that was a generalization."

Huh? I’m a literalist and conservative, so this charge just astounds me. Plus the fact that I never mentioned liberals.

And after I saw that quote from your blog, I can’t take your objections to my article seriously.

Joel

Paula, I think you sorely misunderstand Jan’s article and your own support of it.

I am a biblical literalists - yet, you group me with liberal Christians who dismiss the word of God, associating me with their belief in this regard simply because we are both focused on teh red letter aspect.

Hey, you can refuse what you want, but the Truth is still the Truth.

Paula Fether

Joel, let’s clarify some things.

First, I never said anything about supporting Jan’s article. To agree with her on one point is not to agree with her on all, and for the record, I don’t.

Second, I did not place YOU in any group at all. Other people always tell me it’s not a personal attack to say something about a group, so it isn’t right for you to take personal offense

Third, who ISN’T focused on the words of Jesus? Your accusation completely misses the whole point of this post. This is about people who exclude the rest of the Bible, and I never would have suspected that you were in such a group. Conversely, you should not think that those of us who don’t agree with such exclusion thereby exclude the "red letters". We don’t, not by a long shot.

Fourth, I totally agree that the truth is the truth, and think that you have blind spots just like everyone else. I find your double-standard most disturbing.

Oh, and BTW re. "Considering how much Christ spoke of peace and justice": you seem to infer, as others I’ve talked with have done, that to be politically conservative is to care nothing for the poor or justice or peace. That’s a lie, so I sincerely hope I’m mistaken about your inference.

Paula Fether

For anyone still reading:

From my opponent’s quote, "Paula, I think you sorely misunderstand Jan’s article", one would think I had been trying to analyze Jan’s article instead of the "red letter" article she referred to. Can anyone point to something I said in my article which would have given the impression that I was focusing on Jan’s article instead? I’m still trying to figure out how my post and its purpose was so completely misunderstood.

Greg Anderson

I get misunderstood too Paula, you’re not alone.

When I rejected Reaganism and Milton Friedmanism as just the opposite extreme of old Soviet and Cuban style communism, I got a lot of heat too.

I jumped ship from political conservatism to the old school liberalism of FDR after I did my homework and found out that I was voting against my own best economic interests as a political conservative.

As touching matters of personal faith, it is just that, very personal, and it will land me in just as much heat from theological liberals as my political views will generate from the religious right conservatives.

For example, I reject Darwinism and hold to a literal six day creation scenario. But on the other hand, I believe that God is far more concerned with mercy, compassion and treating others as I would like to be treated, rather than following rote rules & regulations, Old Testament or Pauline.

Paula Fether

I know whatcha mean, Greg. A long time ago I made a list of my views on various topics in Christianity, and I can guarantee people will throw me under the bus at one point while contending by my side at another. But every now and then it’s good to "take inventory" and make sure I’m still open to correction.

I remember not long ago you mentioned that I’d never pass Neo-con 101 or something like that, which I’m sure some would not understand at all. ;-) But you and I know it’s true!