On 06 September 1651 , 359 years ago tomorrow, Obadiah Holmes, a Baptist layperson who’d been arrested for preaching without a license, was given 30 lashes with a bullwhip in public. During the beating, Holmes was so enraptured with God’s love that he swore he was being “struck by roses.” His witness not only helped undermine the theocratic laws of Massachussetts Bay Colony, it also led to the founding of First Baptist Church of Boston. Holmes’ witness also led to the conversion of Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College, to Baptist views (which led to his forced resignation when he refused to have his infant son baptized).
Nonviolent witness to the truth of one’s convictions can lead to greater religious liberty for all, but it is shameful that today many Baptists are working to deny Muslims the religious liberty for which they once suffered and struggled. (In Holmes’ day, Baptists argued for religious liberty even for “Turks” which was the common term for Muslims in that day.)
Over at her excellent blog (on the intersection of philosophy and Christian theology), Per Caritatem, Cynthia Nielsen is calling for a series of guest posts by Christian writers on several questions related to violence, slavery, and the interpretation/authority of Scripture. The essays should be 500-1500 words long (strict cut-off at 1500) and should deal with one (0r more, but a question at a time seems more reasonable in the space allowed) of the following questions:
- How should a Christian community interpret the divinely commanded mass killings (genocide) commanded of the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 6, 10, etc.)? Should we read these allegorically, literally, or what?
- How should a Christian community interpret passages in the Old Testament (e.g. Exodus and Leviticus) that at least appear to permit slavery?
- How does a Christian community make sense out of seemingly opposed views on slavery (e.g. Philemon, and I Cor 7:23 verses 1 Peter) in the New Testament?
- Does a Christian community’s theology of atonement make a difference as to how it interprets the violent acts recorded in Scripture? If so, how?
I will probably contribute to the series (perhaps more than once, one question at a time), but haven’t decided which question to tackle and how to begin, yet. I think Cynthia hopes to get a range of different answers (conservative, liberal, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) on each question. I think this is a worthy blogosphere discussion and urge all biblio-bloggers and theo-bloggers to contribute. As David Horstkoetter comments on his blog, Flying Further, this could lead to fresh engagement with the kind of passages Phyllis Trible has taught us to call “texts of terror.”