published Saturday, January 25th, 2014

So many crosses. So little time. Do we want to be Bible-minded or Bible-purposed?

Chattanooga is the No. 1 Bible city. More correctly, we're the No. 1 Bible-minded city, according to a recent study by the American Bible Society.

It's true, there's a church on nearly every corner. And there certainly is never a shortage of someone wanting to wag a Bible verse at anyone and everyone for any number of reasons.

But it's hard to argue that Chattanoogans and Tennesseans (Knoxville was the No. 1 Bible-minded city last year) take the message of the Bible completely to heart. If we did, perhaps we'd be a bit more virtuous. Perhaps we'd be a bit more Bible-purposed.


• Chattanooga, with its 122 shootings in 2013 certainly is well on the way to helping Tennessee retain it's FBI-dubbed title of "most violent state." We Tennesseans were among the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies, and we were No. 1 for aggravated assaults.

So much for "love thy neighbor."

• Chattanooga also is a city where a bicyclist in a nearby suburb recently was bull-horned and maced by teens (and no this editorial page did not condone it: Sixth paragraph -- "No one condones the road rage or poor humor.")

This also is a city where more than a dozen police officers streamed by and did not stop two fellow officers from brutally beating a black man to the point of breaking both of his legs in eight places.

And we're a city where many vocal residents waving Bibles want to recall an openly gay council member and want to stop city officials from extending employee benefits to its workers' domestic partners, including those in long-term same-sex relationships.

So much for tolerance.

• We've not made much progress here on poverty or on a goal to end chronic homelessness. In fact, the numbers of homeless in Chattanooga have been ticking up while the number of shelter beds has fallen from 200 two years ago to 60 now. Just this month, the city had to amend its budget to provide an emergency $50,000 for cots and security to open the Community Kitchen on dangerously cold nights.

Thank heaven for city officials with warm hearts, but in general, so much for charity.

• Chattanooga has a long legacy of pollution, most of it only stopped when the businesses producing that pollution were forced to close because their buggy-whip-like products became too outdated to make money. Toxic coal tar was ditched into Chattanooga Creek. Foundry sand was spread around the city as fill dirt. The city's own combined stormwater/sewer system still is so outdated that there are regular overflows of sewage to the Tennessee River.

So much for our stewardship of the earth.

Of course, we do have bright spots.

We've also made the top of lists like "most philanthropic," and we're quick to raise money and lend a shovel or shoulder to tornado, flood and fire victims. And many churches have special missions that are community minded: Witness the 51 churches that take turns providing weeklong stays in their basements and classrooms to homeless families while they seek means to get permanent homes again.

We're also very welcoming. Southern hospitality is real here. Most of the time.

Yet, in Chattanooga, as in any city, there are many crosses to bear.

In a city with about 2,000 churches, just think what we could accomplish if we put Bible-purposed over Bible-minded.

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hotdiggity said...

Sadly. we have too many so called Christians that follow the Old Testament rather than the teachings of Christ in the New Testament.

January 25, 2014 at 12:43 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Bible-minded. Bible-purposed. What does that even mean? The entire book is nothing but a compilation of contradictions and absurd tales that have little or no meaning to the world today. Even if you whittle away and remove the far-fetched and nonsensical Old Testament tales and the silly parables which have little or no real meaning, and the many ugly and obscene demands made by God (and yes, God in the Old Testament is nothing but a vindictive, obscene deity, sanctioning slavery, misogyny, genocide, infanticide, rape, and incest for his "Chosen") and retain only the little bit of truly inspirational and uplifting messages preached by Christ (and even he contradicted himself time and again) you are left with something that is not the Bible but... something else entirely.

So forget the Bible. No one needs the Bible to be good or do good deeds. It is not the fear of going to hell or the anticipation of going to heaven that should motivate us to be kind to one another and to strive to live in peace and harmony, but simply the very human quality of empathy and compassion. The Bible could actually be reduced to one simple sentence: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." All of religion and all of the religious books of the world could be pared down to that. How about we not be "Bible-purposed" but rather peace-purposed or loving-purposed?

January 25, 2014 at 5:37 a.m.
librul said...

Unless humanity matures beyond tribal religions, there can be no assurance that it will have the opportunity to mature at all.

January 25, 2014 at 10:20 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Tribal religions? Please clarify what you mean.

January 25, 2014 at 10:41 a.m.
LibDem said...

Rickaroo said..."Bible-minded. Bible-purposed. What does that even mean?"

Indeed, Rickaroo, it appears to be a writer reaching desperately for something that isn't there. Trying to rationalize an irrational text.

Rev. Billy Graham said: "Our salvation does not depend on us and our good works but solely on God's grace to us in Jesus Christ." Even he acknowledges that the "Do unto others" was a bait and switch. Salvation comes from bowing down to the prophets alone.

January 25, 2014 at 11:10 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

LibDem, methinks that Ms. Sohn is trying too hard to placate the large number of Christian readers of the paper. According to her brief bio that I read when she first became editor for the left side of TFP she is more "spiritual" than religious but I suppose that she feels compelled to coddle the Christians. I generally like what she has to say, but the thrust of this particular article seems to be a real cop-out on her part.

January 25, 2014 at 11:19 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Rickaroo and libdem, you should explore those contradictions in both historical and spiritual perspectives. Rickaroo is half-right about distilling it all down to one simple sentence but a little reading shows there are two.

In addition, the editorial emphasizes a perspective that is both secular and theological, "practice what you preach."

January 25, 2014 at 1:45 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

LibDem, regarding what you said about Billy Graham: He is a saint in the eyes of most Christians and he even has the respect of many non-believers, for the simple fact that he is simple and direct in his preaching and doesn't come across with the airs of pretention like most televangelists. He doesn't preach that bodacious "prosperity gospel" BS that so many of them preach, nor does he try to swindle - not overtly, at least - his viewers/audience out of their money. But then, he doesn't have to - his reputation alone has assured him of an unending flow of cash from dedicated followers, and he has a very pro-active mailing campaign through which he hits them up for donations. My mom used to send him money all the time.

But I have not one ounce of respect for the man because someone as intelligent as he ought to be able to easily see the nonsense of the Bible and to cease and desist with his preaching about a literal hell and a literal Satan. He still subscribes to the notion that you point out above - that a belief in Christ is necessary for "salvation" and he makes that the focal point of his message. Of course, he, like many Christians, believes that being "saved" somehow purifies you in the spirit and transforms you, such that you don't want to commit sin any more and want to live a moral life, but I think that is a bunch of hooey. All it does is to give Christians, like conservative who posts his maniacal BS here all the time, a sense of phony holiness that sets them apart from other people and makes them feel entitled to point out what they deem to be their sins.

January 25, 2014 at 2:04 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

IM, what makes you think I haven't explored those contradictions in both historical and spiritual (whatever you mean by "spiritual") perspectives? I was raised a Christian and I have studied what many Christian theologians and scholars have said and written about the Old Testament Mosaic laws and how the things that supposedly transpired then relate to the age in which they happened. My personal conclusion: most of them are still pure hogwash and don't make an ounce of sense, at least not when it comes to leading a moral life. There is nothing about them that is inspiring or uplifting, all they do is reinforce the notion for most Christians that obeying God, no matter how sadistic and barbaric he may be, is essential, and that obedience is preferable to thinking for oneself and living in accordance with his/her own conscience.

As for Jesus, he contradicted himself all the time: There is no amount of putting into "historical" perspective that is going to clear up his wishy-washiness.

January 25, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

Rickaroo, sorry I inflamed a sore spot. You've got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself...there is nothing to stop you but yourself from struggling to live a moral and compassionate life like the rest of us hypocrites.

"The side of town I grew up in" has great difficulty finding sadism and barbarism in Christianity (and God) or that that being a Christian makes you immune from desire to sin, but rather acknowledges that non-believers don't have a corner on the hypocrisy market. BTW, have you ever heard the saying, "Reformed and always reforming"?

January 25, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

IM, you must not have read from the same Old Testament that I have been reading from for all these years. It is nothing but an orgy of barbarism and sadism instructed by God to be carried out by his "Chosen" people against their enemies, and oftentimes the only thing their enemies were guilty of were not being God's "Chosen."

What is to be learned from a God who is so petty as to decide to have a favored tribe of people anyway? There is nothing merciful or loving or compassionate about the God in the Old Testament, except for those times he shows mercy towards his chosen. And oftentimes he literally lets them get away with murder, incest, rape, enslavement, and pillaging. There really is nothing to be learned from the OT, other than to see it for what it is: an anthology of myths and primitive tales based on how the ancient Jews imagined God to be, and that is as a deified warrior who happened to be aligned with them, as a means of protection against their enemies.

Now, some Christians have the good sense to see that the Old Testament is not meant to be taken literally, and, even though I still disagree with them about who Jesus really was or wasn't, I have a degree of respect for them. Unfortunately there are too many Christians who see the entire Bible as literal and historical and do not have the good sense to see it for what it is. I have NO respect for them whatsoever. In fact they disgust me because they are the ones who tend to be holier-than-thou and who are intent on forcing their beliefs on the rest of society, through government intervention and other insidious ways, claiming that America is supposed to be a Christian nation.

As for hypocrisy and "sinning" in general, I do not claim to be above those things. In fact, I admit my imperfections. But, unlike Christians, I do not feel the need to be "saved" from anything. If there is a God I am sure that she/he accepts me just as I am. That doesn't mean that I don't strive to be a better person, but I am not weighed down by some silly myth about "original sin." Imperfection is part of our DNA and it is quite liberating to be able to accept ourselves just as we are. We cannot truly love others unless we first love ourselves.

January 25, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
inquiringmind said...


I was only quoting you in your 2:21PM post, but as you say, it all boils down to exactly what we mean by your last statement, "We cannot truly love others unless we first love ourselves."

Keep at that last thought. I think you are on to something.

January 25, 2014 at 7:27 p.m.
Ki said...

If you need some book supposedly written over thousands of years ago to tell you to be kind to one another, what's to stop you from going rogue and committing heinous acts when that same book is used to justify wars, killings and slaughter?

January 25, 2014 at 7:37 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

Ki, you'll have to pose your argument a little more clearly, I think you are mixing apples and oranges. Are you trying to answer the question, "Why do folks go rogue (dishonest and unprincipled) and commit heinous acts?" Or are you trying to answer the question, "How do people (honest and principled) justify wars, killings and slaughter?"

January 25, 2014 at 9:30 p.m.
hotdiggity said...

We're No. 1. Hurray. -States Doling Out The Least Benefits

And hey, No. 1 in using tax dollars to teach creationism. Shucks, who needs to teach science to our children.

How about that poverty rate in Tn. and the other bible belt states? Of course it's more important to erect $700,000 metal sculptures than to help the poor.

January 26, 2014 at 9:21 p.m.
moon4kat said...

It seems that all that force-feeding of so-called Christianity just makes a lot of people mean and stupid.

January 27, 2014 at 10:02 a.m.
conservative said...

Ms. Sohn either wrote something that offended or encouraged her frequent Atheists.

January 27, 2014 at 10:23 a.m.
soakya said...

Ricky, you said "I was raised a Christian and I have studied what many Christian theologians and scholars have said and written about the Old Testament Mosaic laws and how the things that supposedly transpired then relate to the age in which they happened."

Just a couple of questions. How is one raised a Christian? Is it obtained by birth right? And what Christian theologians have you studied? Surely they pointed out one can not be raised a Christian simply because mom and dad professed Christ.

I believe what you mean is you were possibly exposed to Christianity as a child and have whole heartily rejected it as an adult.

January 27, 2014 at 3:20 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Soakya, you're just being ridiculous. If I have to spell out for you what I mean by being raised a Christian, you are dumber than I thought. We are all raised something, in whatever beliefs our parents choose to instill in us, whether they be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, or whatever else. Most people in America and especially the South are "raised" as Christians. For those of us who think for ourselves, starting in our teen years and going through young adulthood, we either continue believing the lies or we finally grow up and accept the truth. As a young adult I decided to think for myself and leave Christianity in my past. I have never looked back and the more I look at the world with eyes wide open the more obvious it becomes to me how ridiculous Christianity really is.

January 27, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.
soakya said...

No one is raised a Christian. You may have been raised in a Christian environment but unlike your last name you don't inherit Christianity. Do you mind answering the answering the other question I asked you about what Christian theologians you have studied? L. Ron Hubbard is not a theologian.

I guess I can assume you want others to call you names since you said you should treat others how you want to be treated.

January 27, 2014 at 5:23 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

If I am calling you a name it's only because you deserve it. You are acting like an idiot. You're squabbling over mere semantics.

As for what theologians I have studied... look, bubba, I am 63. I have read and talked to more theologians throughout my lifetime than I can possibly count, let alone remember all their names. What is it going to prove anyway, what theologians I have studied? You are going to find something to disagree with me about. So let's just agree to disagree.

January 27, 2014 at 5:35 p.m.
soakya said...

As for what theologians I have studied... look, bubba, I am 63. I have read and talked to more theologians throughout my lifetime than I can possibly count,-ricky. yet you can't name one.

January 27, 2014 at 8:13 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Actually I could name several if I give it some thought. But your question has no point, it would accomplish nothing. I personally couldn't care less what theologians or writers or scholars you have studied. I really don't care what you believe as long as you don't try to force your beliefs on me or others. I respect your right to believe however you see fit and be influenced by whomever you feel most inspired by. I have read a lot from Christian as well as secular writings, and I have come to my beliefs based on years of reading, studying, and thinking about Christianity, philosophy, and religion in general. I fail to see what the naming of any one theologian can matter in the least. But you seem to have ants up your pants about me naming a theologian. Well, keep squirming. I don't respond to such silly, needless questions that serve no purpose.

January 27, 2014 at 8:48 p.m.
soakya said...

your ignorance of scripture is comparable to your ignorance in economics and government and of course your hypocrisy is second to none as illustrated by your own comments

January 27, 2014 at 10:49 p.m.
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