Naked Hunch

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Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)

Most of the time the Bible minds its own business. It’s a great source of religious information and reassurance for those who need that kind of thing. It can provide sermon illustrations for preachers who are hard up for material. And if you count its sordid tales of adultery, murder, and incest, the Bible can actually be entertaining from time to time. Yet, for most of us, the Bible works best when it just sits there and leaves us alone.

The Bible does have some cool verses in it, like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” and “God helps those who help themselves” and “God bless America” and “Jesus is just alright with me,” and “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” My favorite Bible verse is “Don’t worry, be happy.” These are thoughts that rank the Bible right up there with iTunes and Facebook.

But every once in a while you stumble across some stupid verse that mucks up an otherwise smoothly running religious system. Now we’ve got James lobbing a religious hemorrhoid at us. He takes a perfectly sensible approach to the Bible and twists it into a butt-burning regimen of religious obligation. He has the audacity to suggest that Christianity is about doing something. In one fell swoop he axes Paul’s faith-alone invention which was the one thing that made Christianity tolerable in the first place. James is a bona fide, died in the wool, twenty-four carat legalist who apparently didn’t have access to Jesus’ sermon notes.

But not only is James trashing the whole grace thing which is what makes our religion better than anybody else’s, he seems to think that putting the Bible into practice is somehow feasible. What a joke. Maybe it was back in his day when there wasn’t much else to do, but in our day to actually put the Bible into practice would not only be ludicrous, it would be downright impossible. Anybody who’s read A. J. Jacobs’ bestseller The Year of Living Biblically knows only a comedian would try it, and even then only if he stood to gain a hefty paycheck from the ordeal. Uncle James, my friends, is out to lunch and he ain’t coming back.

What’s even freakier is that James says that us Pauline faith-alone believers who are set free from the Bible’s rules are actually self-deceived. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Does he mean to suggest that 99% of all us Christians are fooling ourselves? (The other one percent are religious fanatics that nobody wants to have around anyway.) Is he suggesting that we think we’re something we’re not? How would he know? Faith is a personal matter between each of us and our nice God. Does James think he has the corner on inner space?  He’s not only grace-impaired, he’s freaking arrogant about it too. How in the world did this guy get into the New Testament, for crying out loud?

Besides, if I’m self-deceived how am I supposed to know it? If I know I’m self-deceived then I’m not. The only way I can be self-deceived is if I don’t know I am. Sounds like a lot of  psycho jabberwocky to me. James is a certifiable nut case. Stay away from his Kool-Aid stand, kids.

Still, just to be safe, I’m going to stop listening too.

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