Monday, 16 March 2015

Would her Majesty be amused?

“The Koran has “over 100 verses inviting people to violence” which Christianity “doesn’t have,” one of the Queen’s chaplains has claimed. Reverend Canon Gavin Ashenden, one of the Queen’s 35 chaplains, made his comments on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show. He claimed that the passages in the Koran “tell you to kill your enemies” and to “strike of the heads” of “those who disbelieve,” the Daily Mail reports. “

“Dale countered Reverend Ashenden by stating that many Muslims would describe their faith as “entirely peaceful,” and warned that his opinion could offend people who practice Islam. Reverend Ashenden said in response: “If they are offended by my quoting the Koran they are not offended by me, they are offended by the Koran.”

I find it extraordinary that a Christian Minister, and one of the Queen’s Chaplains – as he is always at pains to describe himself – should come out with such abject nonsense. Of course it is possible to “proof text” and drag out verses to support violence in the Koran, but the Old and New Testaments also provide plenty of scope for violence. I don’t think her majesty would be amused by what he has said.

“Wolf Hall” has just finished on the television, in which Sir Thomas More goes to death because his Christian principles do not accord with that of Henry VIII. And people have been taken and tortured and killed as heretics all by Christians over many centuries, all with various verses cited in support.

There are fewer verses in the New Testament, but there are still some which hark to violence

Luk_22:36 "But now," Jesus said, "whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever does not have a sword must sell his coat and buy one.

Rev_2:16 Now turn from your sins! If you don't, I will come to you soon and fight against those people with the sword that comes out of my mouth.

Mat_10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

But when you come to the Old Testament – which Christians still use in worship and reading – there is violence and bloodshed in plenty, all endorse by or praised by God.

One of the early Christians, Marcion, put a gospel of grace against one of law, discarded the Old Testament, and cut out of the New Testament anything which smacked of the bloodthirsty tyrant who seems to appear in the Old Testament.

It is certainly no wonder that Richard Dawkins found much to cite in “The God Delusion”, along with the burning of heretics, the burning or hanging of witches, the holy wars like the crusades, the French wars of religion – the list is full of examples in which Christianity uses verses from the Bible to justify violence.

In fact, a recent book, "‘Jesus Wars': Violence in the Bible vs. Violence in the Quran", Penn State professor Philip Jenkins notes that “Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible.”

About the only group which wholly eschews violence are the Quakers. If Gavin Ashenden was a Quaker, I might have more respect for him. Instead he comes from a church which has, in its Anglican incantation, seen those it regarded as heretics imprisoned, tortured, killed, and justified slavery. I’d ask him to look at the records of those Anglican Ministers – and there were many – who invested in the slave trade because it was a lucrative return for a small investment. I’d ask him to look at an Empire which used Christianity to further its domination of other countries.

Now I think that many Christians today would reject the use of verses that advocate killing those who do not believe and follow God, and I would hope that Gavin Ashenden does as well.

Christians today largely set aside these verses for various reasons, partly to do with historical context, the complex relationship between New and Old Testaments, and the ability to see some matters as events of their time. I don’t think that is all special pleading: I think that there is some merit in seeing development in religious thinking over time. As one writer put it:

"If we read the Bible as a proof-text, then we will find there are passages that command violence in God's name, and those that forbid it. However, if we instead step back, taking a larger narrative view that recognizes the Bible's developing trajectories, then we do not need to try and justify or embrace these violent passages any more than we need to cling to passages that advocate slavery (or food laws for that matter). Rather, we look to identify the upwards trajectory away from violence, oppression and dehumanization that the biblical record chronicles."

[With regard to Islam, I suggest a reading of "
Does Islam Teach Violence?"]

But Gavin Ashenden does not allow the same leeway in Islam, where he treats it as a proof-text, and perhaps he should note the "proof text" approach also can cite these text from the Old Testament:

Exo_32:27 and he said to them, "The LORD God of Israel commands every one of you to put on your sword and go through the camp from this gate to the other and kill your brothers, your friends, and your neighbours."

Deu_32:42 My arrows will drip with their blood, and my sword will kill all who oppose me. I will spare no one who fights against me; even the wounded and prisoners will die.'

Isa_41:2 "Who was it that brought the conqueror from the east and makes him triumphant wherever he goes? Who gives him victory over kings and nations? His sword strikes them down as if they were dust. His arrows scatter them like straw before the wind.

Isa_66:16 By fire and sword he will punish all the people of the world whom he finds guilty---and many will be put to death.

Jer_46:10 This is the day of the Sovereign LORD Almighty: today he will take revenge; today he will punish his enemies. His sword will eat them until it is full, and drink their blood until it is satisfied. Today the Almighty sacrifices his victims in the north, by the Euphrates

2Ki_1:10 "If I am a man of God," Elijah answered, "may fire come down from heaven and kill you and your men!" At once fire came down and killed the officer and his men.

Eze_25:13 Now I announce that I will punish Edom and kill every person and animal there. I will make it a wasteland, from the city of Teman to the city of Dedan, and the people will be killed in battle.

Eze_16:38 I will condemn you for adultery and murder, and in my anger and fury I will punish you with death.

Num_21:2 Then the Israelites made a vow to the LORD: "If you will let us conquer these people, we will unconditionally dedicate them and their cities to you and will destroy them."

Num_25:17 "Attack the Midianites and destroy them,

Num_33:52 you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land. Destroy all their stone and metal idols and all their places of worship.

Num_33:56 If you do not drive them out, I will destroy you, as I planned to destroy them."

Deu_7:16 Destroy every nation that the LORD your God places in your power, and do not show them any mercy. Do not worship their gods, for that would be fatal.

Deu_20:17 Completely destroy all the people: the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as the LORD ordered you to do.

1Sa_15:3 Go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Don't leave a thing; kill all the men, women, children, and babies; the cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys."

1Sa_28:18 You disobeyed the LORD's command and did not completely destroy the Amalekites and all they had. That is why the LORD is doing this to you now

2Ki_24:2 The LORD sent armed bands of Babylonians, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites against Jehoiakim to destroy Judah, as the LORD had said through his servants the prophets that he would do.

Psa_18:37 I pursue my enemies and catch them; I do not stop until I destroy them.

Psa_18:40 You make my enemies run from me; I destroy those who hate me.

Psa_59:13 destroy them in your anger; destroy them completely. Then everyone will know that God rules in Israel, that his rule extends over all the earth.

Jer_1:10 Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant

Jer_50:21 The LORD says, "Attack the people of Merathaim and of Pekod. Kill and destroy them. Do everything I command you. I, the LORD, have spoken.

Jer_50:26 Attack it from every side and break open the places where its grain is stored! Pile up the loot like piles of grain! Destroy the country! Leave nothing at all!

Zep_2:5 You Philistines are doomed, you people who live along the coast. The LORD has passed sentence on you. He will destroy you, and not one of you will be left.

For further reading:

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