See how the Christians love each other

2010-09-03 00:00

NO one, I suspect, was happier to see the end of the World Cup and the backs of all the tourists clutching vuvuzelas, beaded key rings and carved giraffes, than God.

God had had a hard time of it, under constant harassment to give divine endorsement to particular teams. Just about everyone but some African animists and North Korean atheists claimed God as their team deity. The preponderance of teams from Catholic and former-Catholic countries like Italy, France, Spain and Brazil kept God’s inbox full with their beseeching, but the Evangelicals from the United States, the “frozen chosen” from the Church of England and the Lutherans from Germany and Holland applied a lot of pressure too.

God was just looking forward to a well-deserved rest when a battle broke out. It was a war waged through the letters column of a daily newspaper and fought with volleys of words, deadly anti-personnel insults and sharpened scriptural texts.

Hostilities first broke out between some Muslims and Christians, before the Christians turned on each other. “See how the Christians love each other,” sighed God, flinging down the paper in disgust. “I wish the different brands of Christianity wouldn’t claim me as theirs and realise that I’m nobody’s but my own. And they’re all mine too, though sometimes I’m tempted to disown the lot.

“And I wish they’d stop misusing and abusing the Bible, each claiming that their interpretation is correct. Why can’t they realise that divinely inspired though it may be, scripture is not an absolutely coherent monolith of meaning but a text open to contestation?

“When they say: ‘The Bible says… ,’ what they actually mean is ‘We believe that the Bible says … ’ or ‘I interpret the Bible as saying … ’. The contradictions between their beliefs are often as wide and numerous as the contradictions in the Bible itself. Whether it’s about war, sexuality, the role of women or creation, different sides raise their flags on opposing positions constructed from bits of scripture often flimsily held together by varying combinations of eisegesis*, arrogance, ignorance, conjecture, prejudice and, oh yes, exegesis. More often they define themselves in terms of what they’re opposed to, rather than what they stand for. They miss the point that I and the Bible are more about what I’m for, not what I’m against; what I’m about, rather than what I’m not about.

“They overlook the main message of the Bible that I inspired my scribes to write about and my son to die for: love. They miss the point that love is what holds up the universe and keeps the world turning. It’s so important that the Greeks had four different terms for its nuanced states. Why can’t those who call themselves by my son’s name catch on?

“As that former U.S. president might say: ‘Don’t you get it? It’s about love … ’”

* Reading meaning into rather than drawing meaning out of, or exegesis.

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