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Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

Fox News, American Sniper, Jesus, and…well…I can’t even

The Bible for Normal People

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

Word is making its way around the blogosphere that Fox News is doubling as a theological think tank.

I don’t like picking on Fox News when they talk religion of any sort, including Christianity. It’s too easy and it gets boring.

But I can’t help myself here.

According to the Fox News website, Michael Moore–who really hates this movie, I mean really, really hates it–tweeted about how inconsistent this movie is for Christian faith–hardly a sign of Moore’s Paul-like blinding light conversion, but more a dig.

Fox News took the bait. Correspondent Todd Starnes, after telling us twice that he’s “no theologian,” nevertheless makes a rather hefty theological claim in response to Moore: Jesus would be saying “well done thou good and faithful servant” to snipers plucking off Muslims, thus sending them to hell where they belong.

I think Starnes is mistaking Jesus for…well…not Jesus. Jesus had plenty of chances to wage war on people he didn’t like, and he had his enemies, but he preferred his sniping to remain verbal.

At least according to the Bible. Which I’ve read. More than once.

If anything, Jesus would have stepped in front of the target and taken the bullet.

“You mean, even for someone from the wrong religion?”

Yes. That’s how Jesus rolls. Jesus came to save, not condemn. And certainly not to reward snipers for killing the enemy.

I understand that the realities of modern warfare are such that snipers aren’t going anywhere–and dare I suggest they are a necessary evil? But what do I know? I’ve never seen war.

But rather than thinking of Jesus as giving a sniper a good ol’ boy slap on the back, maybe Jesus would have compassion on him when PTSD sets in and the burden on his conscience got too heavy for him to bear. That’s sounds more like the Jesus I’ve read about.

Maybe Jesus wouldn’t pick sides. Maybe Jesus isn’t American. Maybe Jesus would have compassion on the Muslim, too. That’s not too hard to imagine–if you’ve read the New Testament, even just parts of it.

The real problem here isn’t the spat between Moore and Starnes, and whatever, who cares. It isn’t Starnes’s cluelessness about Jesus 101. It’s not even that Starnes–like so many others–confuses his own nationalistic agenda’s for Gods.

It’s that, in the public eye, such extremist rhetoric is seen as an acceptable form of Christianity–if not its normal expression.

I’m tired of people like Starnes who for some unknown reason have access to a microphone, a camera, and get paid to talk.

I’m tired because letting people like Starnes talk about Jesus without adult supervision is like letting Justin Bieber discourse on Bach.

I’m tired because I have to explain to people that, even if they think Starnes is wrong, this is the kind of smug character Christianity seems to produce.

I’m tired–and angry–that many people will listen to Starnes and not conclude as they should, “What a complete fool; why is he talking?,” but “Wow, there goes another Christian.”

This isn’t personal. I don’t know Starnes and I can’t judge his deep motives. Maybe it’s all just about viewers. But don’t drag Jesus into it.

And when you have to preface a comment about Jesus by saying, “I’m no theologian,” you should probably trust that instinct and zip it or at least check for journalistic accuracy. Although at Fox, since when….Oh forget it.

Maybe people like Starnes give me job security.

[For related commentary see here and here.]

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