Panderbear recently reread the King James version of the Holy Bible with an eye toward its possible relevance to the formulation of effective value-based public policy. Below, in the form of a book review, are Panderbear's first impressions and conclusions.
Bible as Literature: Its religious significance aside, the Bible utterly fails as a work of literature. Precious few passages rise to the level of John 3:16 or the 23rd Psalm. It turns out that Panderbear was already familiar with the good bits. Much of the rest was a tough slog and a trial of perseverance.
Old Testament: An alternative history replete with depictions of incidents of appalling carnage separated by vast wastelands of repetitive, nearly content free verbosity. Panderbear is not really criticizing the OT on the grounds of excessive violence, but perhaps it should be rated PG-13. With all the smoting going on, the OT is at least as violent as any first-person shooter video game and equally inappropriate as a basis for domestic public policy or foreign affairs.
New Testament: Much the same as the OT with the carnage reduced to a more human scale. The protagonist in the OT was an erratic and terrible God the Creator, while the NT features Jesus Christ, a far more sympathetic, if irasable, figure. One lesson here is that change is not always a thing to be feared. It can be a good thing.
Personal Reflection: The dismal prospect of suffering through all eternity in a Hell of fire and brimstone pales in comparison with Panderbear's abject terror of being condemned to a Heaven of infinite, unremitting bliss and the everlasting tyranny of a jealous, capricious, and insufferably vainglorious God. (Are bliss and tyranny compatible?) Perhaps the relative merits of heaven versus oblivion should have been played up a bit more. In any event Panderbear thinks good public policy must take into account a diversity of views regarding desirable policy goals.
Jesus the Man and His Politics: The New Testament Jesus was neither politically nor socially conservative. He was a Jew, a revolutionary, and a heretic. That's what got him crucified. Jesus loved and ministered to the wretched poor while holding the rich and powerful under suspicion and often in contempt. He dispensed free medical care in the form of miracle cures. He fed the hungry and clothed the naked - more miracles. Jesus neither blamed nor despised the less fortunate for their diminished circumstances.
Christians vs Christ: Jesus was in many respects the polar opposite of those who today self-identify as conservative Christians. No doubt today's Religious Right can cite chapter and verse to support their conservative views. After all there is plenty of fodder in the New Testament to bolster almost any argument. But those who search out particular passages in the Holy Bible as confirmation of their personal conservative biases are missing the forest for the trees. The big picture of the man Jesus of Nazareth is that he was, in context, a liberal activist who loved and uplifted the downtrodden. Far too many modern Christians are anything but Christ-like. Mahatma Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Amen to that.
Recommendation: A must read for lovers of antiquarian history and Christians who aspire to leave hypocrisy behind. You can get it free online.
Panderbear thinks that Christ's liberal activism and uplift of the downtrodden can positively inform the formulation of humane and rational public policy, even though the intolerance and magical-thinking inspired political agenda of today's Religious Right cannot.