Continuing my response to Valerie Tarico’s article at Alternet (part one is here), we look at her second point,
The Bible both opens and closes with graphic descriptions of torment and fear inflicted by God and designed to keep the faithful in line.
What Bible is she reading? Anyway, she writes,
In the Torah, God’s reign of terror is described in a series of graphic histories. In the book of Revelation, it is described in a series of graphic prophecies. In the books between, threats of torture and death hang over every interaction between God and humankind. God himself leans into his role as terrorist-in-chief.
I wouldn’t say so much as “graphic” as just typical of the period and the style of literature. She acts like the Bible stands alone when it comes to recounting events in history. Further while she seems to recognize the difference in types of literature, she doesn’t seem to recognize the significance that Christians have placed on these. But she continues,
I will send my fear before thee, God promises the marauding Israelites (Exodus 23:27). This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee (Deuteronomy 2:25). The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, reports a narrator in Genesis(35:5).
“Marauding Israelites”? We’ll just call that poisoning the well, while she ignores or is just ignorant of texts like Leviticus 18, which describes the wickedness of the Canaanites, who were fond of throwing babies in ovens. They should have been afraid, and were, which is why they engaged in their pagan superstitions. And she seems to ignore that Genesis 35 comes after an accounting of a treacherous act committed by Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, who didn’t like how their sister had been treated in a marriage proposal had killed the suitor of their sister and his family, and that God had to protect Jacob, who had acted in good faith from being killed by the allies of the men who they had killed. Context is everything, but Valerie seems to ignore that. She continues,
The book of Proverbs advised Hebrew readers that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10 KJV). Centuries later, in New Testament times, the “fear of the LORD” is alive and well—and still useful. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men, says the writer of 2 Corinthians (5:11).
Why does Paul use that term in his second epistle to the Corinthian church?
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (5:10, ESV)
If that statement and everything that it implies is true, then it follows that there is a measure of terror that must be held by every person. I cannot see into anyone’s heart but my own but I have no doubt that Valerie is very afraid, which is why she has to work so hard and make deliberate misrepresentations.
In point 3,
In addition to inflicting terror directly, God does so via human and nonhuman agents.
Okay, I’ll bite.
He sends a bear to tear apart 40 boys who are teasing a prophet, presumably as a warning to others.
J.P. Holding over at Tektonics has given a great response to this, and made it fun.
In the story of Job, God gives Satan permission to destroy a house in which Job’s sons and daughters have come together for a celebration, killing them all—this time as part of a divine wager that will become a morality tale.
Actually, Job is about the fact of God’s sovereignty over all things, even the evil that comes upon man, not a “morality tale”.
He later gives superhuman strength to Samson (the Bible’s version of Hercules) so that Samson can complete an Iron Age suicide mission. He pulls down the pillars of a pagan temple so that it collapses, killing 3,000 civilians. Samson himself dies in a blaze of glory (Judges 16:27-30).
Actually, Samson was God’s judgment against a people who were terrorizing the people of Israel for about 40 years (Judges 13:1) and those “3,000 civilians” were, in fact the tribal rulers who had been directly acting against Israel, but I’m guessing that Valerie can’t be bothered by pesky things like “facts” and proper representation of them.
I’ll knock out a few more in my next post.