Abortion and the Death Penalty (To Rakesh)

Frances Bolton (PHI) fbolton at chuma.cas.usf.edu
Wed Jun 10 07:29:06 PDT 1998

This example of Charles Watts is illustrative of one of the problems christians, as well as anyone else who tries to use the bible to support an argument, run into. The book is inconsistent, and for every quotation Watts is going to use, someone else is going to have a counterquotation that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that jesus was a socialist feminist. There are alot of lucid thinkers who do close readings of the bible and come up with compelling arguments. There are alot of radically different close readings of the bible, and Watts is certainly not the last word, or even a well-known voice. Gloria Naylor's novel *Bailey's Cafe* has a wonderful scene with two characters having a ferocious argument--solely through throwing conflicting bible quotations at one another.

Alot of theologians are moving away from just reading the bible, and doing more stuff around the "historical jesus." when looked at historically, one sees better how radical the jesus movement was. Just from Watts title, you can see there's a problem. He uses "christ," (meaning messiah) rather than "jesus"--his name. So there's already alot of theological baggage attached to his work. If yu're interested, I'd look at some recent work on jesus and then decide if you still think Watts' argument is so compelling.

Take a look at Gustavo Gutierrez *The Truth Shall Make you Free,* Mev Puleo, *The Struggle is One*, an edited volume, *The faith That Does Justice*, Karen LeBacqz, *Justice in an Unjust World: Foundations for a Christian Approach to Justice*, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza,*In Memory of Her: A Feminist theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins*,and gayraud Wilmore*Black Religion and Black Radicalism* The latter has good account of the different ways in which the bible was read by slave owners and slaves, and how each group took from the jesus stories the theology they needed.

I can't stress enough the fact that bible interpretations are ideologically driven and there is absolutely no reason to believe that Watts presents an objective read.

Yours, Frances

On Wed, 10 Jun 1998, Carl Remick wrote:

> One problem with "explicitly socialist" Christians is that they are
> (regrettably) walking on thin ice, doctrinally speaking. There is an
> excellent discussion of this in an essay by 19th century ethicist
> Charles Watts titled "Was Christ a Political and Social Reformer?"
> (which may be found at
> http://freethought.org/library/historical/charles_watts/christ_a_politic
> al_reformer.html). Watts' answer, supported by a close reading of the
> gospel, is an emphatic no. Watts is a very lucid thinker and writer and
> is worth a look.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list