Center for Ethics and Leadership

Friday, January 15, 2010

Contemptible Christianity

Working with my students in the introduction to theology last fall, I decided to assign them a few passages from Revelation. Chapter 19 speaks of the enemies of God being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. This is the beginning of Christianity's argument that God's judgment is terrible and swift for those who align themselves with the devil.

For centuries the church has wrestled with these texts, at times embracing them, and at others providing softer interpretations of them. My guess is that most Christians do not know that the inclusion of Revelation in the New Testament was hotly disputed in the fourth century as the canon was being closed.

The question of whom God judges and how was raised again in the worst way by politican and pastor Pat Robertson yesterday. Robertson has a track record in spiteful Christianity. Readers may recall that he and Jerry Falwell suggested that 9/11 might have been God's punishment for America's sins. Those of us with a special attachment to New Orleans will not forget his attributing that disaster to the Crescent City's unique ambiance.

Robertson has now crossed over into territory that is beyond reprehensible for a Christian pastor. Citing a Haitian legend from the late 18th century that claims that slaves made a pact with the devil to free them from French colonialism, Robertson has located the source of this week's earthquake in divine retribution.

Many have already called Robertson's remarks stupid and racist. Let me call it like it is: contemptible Christianity.


  • Here, here! If real followers of Jesus' teachings don't publicly denounce Robertson's comments, then only his corrupted version of it will prevail.

    But it should come as no surprise. If one believes that God himself intended from before creation to ultimately spend eternity torturing billions of people, why not cause some pain in advance for tens of thousands? No, it's a complete delusion to think God would hurt anyone for any reason, and this should be plain as can be from the original message of Jesus.

    I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website:, but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

    If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

    The historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus’ real, core message to love others, even the least, as if they were me.

    By Blogger Rick Lannoye, At January 18, 2010 11:23 AM  

  • He sort of undermines the 'love your neighbor' doctrine. One need not wonder why Christians and Americans in particular face scorn in less fortunate areas of our world. I wish for Rev. Robertson the 'wages of sin' he believes that others have earned.

    By Blogger kobe2, At January 18, 2010 12:13 PM  

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