Bags of Bran


Biblical Precedent for Mixed Multitudes
March 3, 2015, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

I would like to pseudo-apologize to evangelical church leaders who have bravely made the executive decision to use whatever means necessary in their worship services to attract and retain people with only vestigial compunctions toward Christianity. It turns out I was wrong mistakes were made: there actually IS Biblical precedent for what they do, as well as the results that it brings, as I discovered while preparing for a lesson on modernist Christianity.

I recognize that it’s not an infographic. It’s a longer passage–with few breaks and no pictures–which will simply kill off the starveling ambition of the unambitious reader. I also realize that there is a whole exilic and post-exilic context that you need to grapple with in order to understand what is going on (if understanding is your goal). Why is it worth reading? I hope that you find conceptual parallels to our present situation in American Christianity. It was written, after all, for our instruction.

The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sephar-vaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which killed some of them. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the custom of the god of the land.” Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile and let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.

But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves priests of the high places, who acted for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord and served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from among whom they had been carried away into exile.

To this day they do according to the earlier customs: they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances or the law, or the commandments which the Lord commanded the sons of Jacob, whom He named Israel; with whom the Lord made a covenant and commanded them, saying, “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them. “But the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice. “The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods. “The covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. “But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” However, they did not listen, but they did according to their earlier custom. So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.

2 Kings 17:24-41

I have to grudgingly admit that American Idol Christianity is Biblical after all. Finney’s Warrior Children have been right all along. All this time I’ve been wringing my hands about pulpits as shrines to Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism; Hymns to the Worth-Redeeming-Self; the Christianization of fetishes plundered from paganism; and the purposive undermining of any shred of normative Biblical morality. I’ve marveled that people could be so dense as to think that following a half-step behind the world (minus cussing; plus Victorian prudishness) was okey-dokey. But here are some Bible verses that clearly state that you can fear the Lord and serve your idols, and that, at least for a time, you can think it’s normal and get away with it.

Perhaps the context holds some interpretive keys that we might profitably ignore in order to continue enjoying ourselves.

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