When I saw that Joey Farah was going to school the left on biblical illiteracy, I knew this was something I’d be writing about. Because if there is one thing you can count on where Farah is concerned, it is that he will be wrong 100 percent of the time.
In other words, if Joey Farah says that the religious left got the Bible wrong, the religious left got the Bible right and Joey Farah has proved his ignorance again.
Joey complains in a WND commentary that Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, “in his opposition to free expression of opinion against Islamic jihad,” (in other words, his objections to Pamela Geller’s hateful subway posters) said this in a press release dated Sept. 26:
“The second of the Ten Commandments is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'” he was quoted as saying. “It didn’t come with stipulations. It didn’t come with extra addendums, with added qualifiers. Christians around the world need to put that into action as often as we can, especially where we see hatred like this.”
Though he acknowledges that “A spokeswoman for Jim Wallis contacted WND to say the misquoted biblical reference was corrected an hour after initially issued”, Joey let’s his criticism of the religious left stand. He has a few pointers for Wallis and the rest of us biblically un-eddicated libruls. He says:
The second of the Ten Commandments has nothing to do with loving one’s neighbor, as any Sunday School child should be able to tell you. It is “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (KJV).
Joey complains, “Now, how does a so-called “Christian minister” make a mistake like that? Is it stupidity? Is it deliberate distortion? In fact, the statement Wallis suggested was the second of the Ten Commandments is not to be found in any version of the Ten Commandments.”
Sure it is. It’s in Jesus’ version.
You know, the Son of God guy fundamentalists claim to worship but utterly ignore:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gravitated together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
As Biblical scholar Geza Vermes writes, “We are thus confronted with the kernel of the Jewish religion.” He goes on to point out that according to Matthew, then, verse 40, Jesus’ statement that “On these two commandments..” means that “the whole biblical revelation – the Torah and the prophets – is summed up in those two commandments.”
That’s heady stuff. Two Commandments that sum up the whole of Mosaic Law, as part of what Vermes calls “the culmination of a tendency attempting to reduce the many laws of the Bible into one.” He gives a couple of other examples: Rabbi Simlai in the third century who cut down the 613 precepts of the Torah of Moses “into one imperative: ‘Seek me!’, uttered by God in Amos 5:4” and Jesus’ extra-biblical employment of the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31).
Now Joey doesn’t agree with me on this. He claims that the Pharisee was asking a completely different question. He says Jesus was just reiterating Leviticus 19:18. But he wasn’t. Leviticus renders all the commandments given to Moses; it’s just a dreary’s accountant’s listing. It doesn’t put “love your neighbor” as second in importance. Ity says nothing about embodying the law in just two short sentences.
Farah has illustrated the Religious Right’s biblical illiteracy by getting it all wrong, as usual. The scribe wasn’t just asking “a different question” as Farah claims. He was asking what, in Jesus’ view, the most important commandment was. What he got from Jesus was the Law of Moses in two sentences; the entire basis of the Jewish religion, as Vermes puts it.
The scribe, apparently, went away satisfied. Matthew doesn’t tell us differently.
How can Farah miss this? Love God/Love your neighbor. Jesus could have answered No Gods before me/No graven images, but he didn’t. He said to love God, and to love your neighbor. Joey really wants the jealous, not the loving God. But that isn’t what Jesus gave his followers or that Pharisee lawyer. He gave them love.
What is it about this that the right has so many problems with? And that was Wallis’ point: to stress the need to love your neighbor. In this case, your Muslim neighbor. As Wallis wrote in a HuffPo op-ed, “‘Love your neighbor’ wasn’t just a suggestion.”
Jesus was serious about this. He wasn’t being flippant. He didn’t expect a few vague nods and then for people to walk away and forget. He expected people to remember. And they did, at least for a time. Even Paul of Tarsus remembered, citing Jesus words in one of the few examples we have of Paul actually doing so (Gal. 5:14). These words must have been pretty memorable. A stress not on a jealous God wanting his followers to kill all the heathen idolators, but a loving God wanting his followers to love him, but also, to love each other.
We should ask here: what’s so terrible about that?
Wallis’ great sin, and the religious left’s great sin, is not ignorance of the Bible. Their sin is that they are actually willing to hear the words of Jesus. Even “infidels” like Thomas Jefferson appreciated wisdom when he heard it. Wallis’ great sin is to compound that audacity of putting Jesus back into Christianity - where fundamentalism seems to have lost him - with the suggestion that people love Muslims.
For Farah, hung up on the whole jealousy thing, this proposal is as wicked as idolatry. As Farah tendentious puts it, “Apparently, [Wallis] believes criticizing violence, brutality, savagery and barbarism – not to mention false religions – is a violation of the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I would just like to remind Farah here that Jesus didn’t tell you to slap the person who slaps you; he told you to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39): “But I say to you, Do not resist an evil-doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” And Jesus also said to love your enemy.
Joey Farah has shown us that he has a hard time listening to Jesus, a problem all too common with conservative evangelical Christians in these fallen times.
But here is the thing, and this is what Joey doesn’t want you to think about: as I showed here the other day, Geller wasn’t criticizing just violence and brutality and so forth: she was criticizing Arabs and Muslims as a whole by quoting Ayn Rand’s hateful words which did in fact (shame on you, Joey) accuse all Arabs of being savages.
If there is one thing you can count on the Right to leave out, it is the context. Well, and facts…and okay, the truth.
Lastly, Wallis is not only turning biblical morality on its head with his confusion of loving one’s neighbor with tolerance of sin, he is also doing something here that is quite un-American. He is attacking the constitutionally protected, God-given, inalienable right of free speech by attacking a judge’s ruling supporting it.
And here is Joey attacking Wallis’ “constitutionally protected, God-given, inalienable right of free speech”. He clearly does not understand how this works. The right to say something does not preclude the right to be offended. If Geller has the right to post her hateful, bigoted message, Wallis has the right to respond. He has the right to be offended. He still has the right to his point of view.
Joey seems to think because a judge ruled in Geller’s favor that Wallis now has no constitutional right to respond.
That’s not true at all. And if that’s the way the Right translates the First Amendment, we’re all in trouble if they get back in control of this country.
“But that’s what we have come to expect from the religious left and Jim Wallis,” Farah laments.
Yes, that’s what you can expect from the religious left and Jim Wallis: a) to remember to include Jesus in Christianity, and b) to stand up for free speech for everybody, not just for fundamentalist Republicans.
 Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (Penguin, 2003), 188-189, 198.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.