Texts of Terror

By Marty, Martin E. | The Christian Century, August 23, 2005 | Go to article overview

Texts of Terror


Marty, Martin E., The Christian Century


CREDO: I am a Christian for the reasons stated in the Letter to the Ephesians, especially wherein "Christ is our peace." I believe that the Bible as a whole (see Second Isaiah) and the New Testament especially culminate in a vision of reconciliation.

CONFESSION: I am more scared than many of you about the menace of fanatic, fundamentalist, low-life hijackers of Islam, having studied them in a six-year, five-volume effort called "The Fundamentalism Project."

APOLOGIA: I am put off by Christians who reproduce pages of the Qur'an that celebrate militancy and believe they have demonstrated how evil Islam is in contrast to Christianity, which is always on the side of reconciliation. They are unfair and unhelpful.

ILLUSTRATION: On a summer day when I had been reading militant Christian boasts that our Book is better than their Book because ours is about shalom and theirs is about war, I had the thrill of attending a performance of Handel's Israel in Egypt, a beautiful and stirring work based entirely on texts from Exodus and Psalms--our Bible, not theirs.

When baritones Douglas Anderson and Peter Van De Graaff sang a bass duet, I paid special attention. The papers the next day said the moment was charged with testosterone. The song boasted: "The Lord is a man of war: Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea."

The chorus took over: "Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy ... Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" Oh, yes, we are not aggressive--as we take the promised land. "All the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away." And "we" were later commanded to commit genocide, and more. Our Bible contains 1 Samuel 15:2-3: "Thus says the Lord of hosts ... Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. …

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