Ephemera, 8/21/23

Yesterday’s lectionary included Matthew 15, featuring the infamous Canaanite woman and the dogs-eating-crumbs metaphor. It’s a cringe-inducing gospel that lately has been used by certain mainline preachers as a way to show Jesus experiencing a “teachable moment” about his own racism, which is really a bizarre sort of anti-Christian Christology.

In this fascinating essay, Ben Crosby reveals why so many clergy are falling into the trap of calling Jesus a sinner based on this passage, and it’s because they have apparently been taught to do so by seminary professors who insist that each book of the Bible should be read independently of all the others. In other words, if Matthew 15 reads like Jesus is committing the sin of racism, then that’s what it says and how you should learn from it, irrespective of all of the other Biblical passages pointing out that Jesus was God incarnate and thus did not sin.

I can see the appeal of this approach to preachers: if all you have to do is read a passage and think about it for a minute, you can quickly come up with a sermon that wraps up with a neat little moral at the end. But it’s a pretty useless approach for teaching your congregation an accurate theology for Christian living, which is what I think you should be doing.

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“The great hypocrisy of our skeptical age is that its greatest moral accomplishment — a moral vision founded upon universal human rights — depends on enchantment, a belief in the sacred character of human beings and life. No scientific equation or empirical test reveals this truth to us. The inviolate dignity of human persons doesn’t show up in petri dishes, brain scans, or Hubble space photographs. Our shared belief in the sacred value of human beings is not a factual, empirical, testable, observable, data-driven claim. Our dignity is an enchantment, the ghost of God still haunting the machine, and it’s the bit of supernaturalism that keeps the secular world from tipping into the moral abyss.”

— Richard Beck, Hunting Magic Eeels

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