Department of Corrections


My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

One of the most under-appreciated things about the Bible is its provision for stupidity. Everybody knows about the mandates for godliness, holiness, and all around squeaky cleanness, but few appreciate the Bible’s generous allowance for human idiocy.

From the record, it’s clear that humankind’s greatest talent is ineptitude. Even when we do something cool—like, say, build a workable nuclear weapon or discover the social virtues of fermentation—it usually ends up going bad for us. History is one long documentation of the vanities, inanities, and downright insanities of the human race. One quick look at the scoreboard and you conclude that our only consistent products are hubris and mutual assured destruction.

It is in the spiritual realm, however, where we most shine like dim bulbs. No matter how many times God explains the game to us, we just can’t seem to grasp the concept. Even when Jesus reduces the whole thing down to a couple of simple rules—love God and love your neighbor—we seem pathologically disposed toward idolatry, blasphemy (my personal favorite), and interpersonal mayhem—and that’s on a good day.

To deal with this troubling spiritual autism, the Bible offers a range of correctional applications, from gentle instruction to soul-blistering napalm. In certain incorrigible cases, there’s even consignment to Satan’s dungeon of bodily horrors. Whatever it takes to get the straying pilgrim back on the path is what it takes. The Bible says to correct, rebuke and encourage spiritual Neanderthals, using carrots or electric cattle prods if necessary.

The Bible insists on a righteous life but also acknowledges the basic boneheadedness of its clients. On one hand, Christians are supposed to be free from the power of sin (yeah, right). On the other hand, the evidence suggests that they are dunderheads who need a swift kick in the butt. As is so often the case when you’re talking religion, theory tends to breaks down at the level of practice.

From what I’ve seen, we could do with a whole lot less butt kissing and a whole lot more butt kicking around here.


One Response

  1. Amen.

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