Not the end yet

I have never much appreciated the work of Bart D. Ehrman, so why did I sign up to receive his latest book on the date of its publication? I’m speaking of Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says About the End.

Actually, Ehrman’s book says very little about Armageddon. It’s mostly about the book of Revelation and the twisted history of its interpretation.

That’s why I wanted to read it. Revelation is a longtime interest of mine, and I like to know what others say about it. Erhman says nothing new or surprising, but he says it the same way he says just about everything: in a breathless, sensational, gee-whiz, Discovery Channel way that often sounds quite cynical.

He presents a straightforward account of how Revelation came to be the darling of crackpots and how its dreadful misinterpretation has infected public and private life worldwide. If you’re new to serious Revelation studies or want to be weaned off “end times” trash, this is valuable reading.

Then he gets into how he thinks Revelation ought to be interpreted, and here he gets into trouble.

After chiding fundamentalists and evangelicals for taking the bizarre symbols of Revelation too literally, he starts taking everything way too literally himself. John of Patmos, the author of Revelation, repeatedly warns his readers not to take what he says literally. Things are not this, he says over and over, only “like this.”

Even early on (page 31), Erhman snidely remarks that God apparently has body parts – and extremely wooden interpretation of John’s visions in chapter 5 of Revelation.

Ehrman’s jaundiced reading leads him to misread the lion and lamb symbolism. “The book is not about a lion that becomes a lamb; it is about a lamb that becomes a lion,” he says (page 160). No, no, no. You totally missed the point there.

Finally, he dismisses Revelation as revenge porn. “In the end, the right people will get what the wrong people have now” (page 172). He concludes: “…in my view, the God of Revelation cannot be the true God” (156).

The Jesus of Revelation is not the Jesus of the gospels, he says (206). The gospels present a unified portrayal of Jesus as the model of service to others. “I do not need to provide a full discussion of this here – that would require an entire book” (186).

I want to read that book, Bart. But this one and all the others like it, not so much.

Profiles in courage & cowardice

These are some recent profiles in courage and cowardice.

* Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, stands up to the Southern Baptist Church by appointing and standing by a female pastor. The SBC, a bastion of patriarchy, kicks the church out of the denomination.

Saddleback will do fine on its own. The SBC continues its slide into its own manmade version of hell.

* Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas is censured by the state partly because, among other things, he supports new gun safety laws after the Uvalde school shooting in his district.

He also opposes House GOP immigration proposals and stands up for same-sex marriage. And you thought it was tough towing the Communist Party line.

* Walgreens decides not to distribute abortion pills in Kansas and other states because of pressure from antiabortion politicians.

The Food and Drug Administration decided in January to allow brick-and-mortar drugstores to carry mifepristone, part of an abortion drug cocktail that is now thought to account for more than half of abortions in the United States.

In 20 states, Republican state attorneys general warned Walgreens of legal action if it carried the drug. In these states, an attorney “general” means one that defends only certain interests – and they’re probably not yours.

* Meantime, senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshal are quick to blame “woke” banking for the failure of that big California bank. More likely, the bank failed because of a Trump deregulation proposal that Marshal supported. (Hawley wasn’t on board the GOP doom train at that time.) So forget “woke.” Blame Marshal and his cronies for the bank failure. The opposite of woke, they’re asleep at the wheel.

I could go on like this all day. You can get in on the fun. Create your own list of profiles in courage and cowardice.