The Judaic priesthood put Christ on the cross notwithstanding that Pontius Pilate found Christ’s kingdom no threat to Roman rule. The reigning religious hierarchy, the Pharisees and Scribes, judged Jesus’s teachings blasphemous and subversive. They could suffer the blasphemy but they could not abide Jesus’s threat to their ecclesiastical hegemony, their perks and power, and the challenge to their laws, laws they proclaimed to be promulgated by God and transmitted to Moses on a stage set on Sinai.

Christ’s alleged resurrection gave rise to Christendom, which added to the Hebrew bible the Gospels, Acts, St. Paul and Revelations. Martin Luther’s introspection convinced him that good works and the mass could not, but that faith and grace could, get him to heaven. Thus, came the Reformation and with it a modification of interpretation of the Scriptures and God’s words. And also followed sectarian wars whose perpetrators reduced to ruins by arson , pillage, rape and slaughter much of Europe.

Subsequently , Protestants splintered into hundreds of sects, each proclaiming that its reading and interpretations of the Bible to be in exact accordance with the spirit and letter of the words of God and His Son, thus, each sect asserting that one book was God’s revealed truth and that therefore no one need seek any further than the Bible for the Truth. And each taught his children so and his children taught his children so for generations. And this generation is no different.

In Missouri, Senator John Ashcroft , a Republican of the Christian right, was in a battle  with Democratic Gov. Carnahan for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The Wall Street Journal in a take on the race sized up Ashcroft: “There is a rock-hard certainty about him, a conviction that most issues come down to a simple right or wrong — and that he knows which is which. As he [Ashcroft] put it in a book he wrote about his preacher father: ‘Many people paralyze themselves trying to figure out the will of God, but Dad taught that where God’s will is clearly laid out in Scripture, we do not have to figure it out; we just have to do it.’”

Ashcroft was an anti-abortionist, an ally of the NRA, an advocate of the death penalty and had an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, whose president believed the Catholic Church is the Anti-Christ, and that blacks and whites should not mix maritally, all of which political postures Ashcroft no doubt believed to be God’s will. Because his daddy told him so.

I would guess that Ashcroft believed in Creation as opposed to evolution, in prayer in schools, in the capitalistic system, in the Trinity, the Resurrection, Biblical Miracles, etc., and believed that socialists, environmentalists and homosexuals are abominations in the eyes of God. All of which truths he believed because they are in the Bible, and thus are God’s will. And because his daddy said they are so.

The more conservative Baptists have recently met and have decided that only males are fit to be pastors and they have founded the decision on Scripture, specifically, the words of St. Paul, whose words they consider God’s words just as they consider every word in the Bible to be His word, and further just as they believe that every word of which is to be taken literally, even the myth that God put all this together in six days way back some few thousands years ago.

It is passing strange and it is the mother of all paradoxes that a religion that is called Christian is absent Christ, he who Christians believe was God. Nietzsche a century ago observed that Jesus was the last Christian. He had ample evidence to conclude that he was and were Nietzsche alive today he would have no reason to conclude otherwise. The Christian right of which Ashcroft is member is a misnomer. It is right, all right; but it is not Christian.

Anyone who reads the Sermon on the Mount and compares the moral concepts therein with Ashcroft’s interpretations of God’s will and the Christian right’s concepts will note a canyon of contradictions. In fact, there is little in American politics and in its religious principles that are compatible with the teachings of Jesus. Ashcroft, or anyone else, would have long been on a cross had he preached and lived the teachings and life of Christ.

The premise that the Bible is the word of God and manifests God’s will is palpably vulnerable to contradiction, not necessarily upon the ground of scholarly studies, but simply upon the ground of common sense and imagination. A close reading of the Bible, particularly, of the Old Testament, reveals man’s hand and mind everywhere, as evidenced by his biases and prejudices, his hopes and dreams, and his inferences and speculations writ therein.

Since Christians believe that God came to earth as Jesus in order to teach man His will face to face, how do they reconcile their insistence on prayer at footballs games with God’s Son’s exhortation that they pray in secret in their closets; or reconcile their thirst for vengeance in the death penalty with Jesus’ teaching that they should do good for evil, turn the other cheek and forgive not once but seven times seventy; or their cheers for welfare reform with Jesus’ reminder that to do unto the least is to do unto him; or their hard-rock certainty with his admonition that the meek shall inherit the earth?

Is God’s will to be found in the Old Testament or in the Gospels? Certainly, His will cannot be in both; for the former is morally primitive relative to the latter. An eye-for-an-eye is in the opposite moral pole from turn-the-other-cheek; thou shall not kill is easy morality compared with Christ’s word that one is in danger of damnation if he is so much as angry with his fellowman; for one to abstain from adultery is no big problem relative to not even lusting after a woman in one’s mind. And the omission by the Pharisees of tending to the wounds and needs of an ethnically undesirable measured by the empathic commission of the Good Samaritan emphasizes graphically the moral gulf between Leviticus and Luke’s Gospel.

To teach a child that God revealed truth to man and that the revelation is all bound in the Bible does an indelible disservice to a child; for it has a tendency to make of him a person with a hard-rock certainty, an arrogant person and a person intolerant of any other person’s perception of truth. To wit: John Ashcroft.

Further, it fosters fanaticism. Anti-abortionists are so certain of what is God’s will that some of them wait in hiding and shoot doctors in the back to the cheers of other anti-abortionists, all believing that God cheers with them.

Also, accepting the Bible as Truth and literally causes one to react defensively,

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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