To the Editor:
I greatly appreciated Craig Biddle’s article on the Ground Zero mosque, which treated the issue with a depth and completeness that has been lacking in public conversations. I do, however, take issue with one sentence in the article. As part of his argument for the inherently violent nature of religion, Biddle writes, “in the New Testament, Jesus says, ‘Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me’ (Luke 19:27).” While Biddle’s criticism of religion in the article is generally well reasoned, using this verse from the Bible to insinuate that Jesus commanded his disciples to commit murder is a cheap shot. This verse is part of a parable that Jesus is telling to his disciples. The words are those of a character in the parable, not a command of Jesus. Jesus is no more guilty of commanding his disciples to commit murder here than Biddle is by quoting this passage.
Craig Biddle replies:
Mr. Eriksen is correct that the quoted verse is part of a parable, namely the Parable of the Pounds, that Jesus told his disciples. Jesus frequently taught by means of parables; in fact, the method was central to his teaching. And his parables, like all parables, are not meant to be taken literally; they are meant to be interpreted.
In the Parable of the Pounds, Jesus tells of a man who was to be king, his servants, and his subjects. After becoming king, the man praises and rewards some of his servants for having obeyed his orders, chastises and punishes one of his servants for disobeying his orders, and then orders his servants to round up the subjects who did not want him to be king and kill them in front of him: “Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”
Now, one could take this parable as a threat about the stakes of Judgment Day, or one could take it as an (indirect) injunction for Jesus’ followers to kill those who refuse to accept their proper king as their king. I take it as the latter—as have countless Christians throughout history, which is part of the reason why they have killed so many people who refused to accept Christ as their Savior. . . .