In Response To ... Chuck Poole on
                                   Biblical Christianity












  More Writings by Bruce Gourley 


Note: This essay first appeared in the July 2006 Baptist Studies Bulletin.

            The Christian Right wants us to believe that they believe in a literal Bible.  They sometimes throw out phrases such as “biblical Christianity” or “biblical worldview,” the latter a new construction employed by the theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement, now a mainstream part of the Religious Right and including names like DeLay, Dobson, and Richard Land.  (See Michelle’s Goldberg’s excellent volume, Kingdom Coming, for further analysis.)
            But is the Christian Right really biblical?  In a
well-documented exposé of the Christian Right’s own published materials, Margaret M. Mitchell, professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, reveals that the Christian Right does not believe in the entire Bible, nor do they believe in a literal Bible.  Biblical references within the online literature of the Christian Right are sparse; the few references are typically vague.  Instead, the Christian Right most frequently employs such non-biblical language as “family values,” “traditional values,” “Judeo-Christian heritage” and “Christian worldview.”  Mitchell concludes that the Christian Right is biblical only in the sense of “seeking biblical support for an agenda” and in using select passages as “weapons to define themselves against their enemies.”
            Mitchell’s conclusions come as no surprise to many traditional Christians who have long watched fundamentalists slice and dice the Bible to fit their own agendas, while placing their faith in personal interpretations of a neutered biblical text rather than in the Bible itself.  The key for fundamentalists is “belief.”  As their literature emphasizes, one must “believe” in a certain way, in a certain “worldview,” in order to be a true Christian.  Unfortunately for the Christian Right, the Bible which they largely ignore does not support the concept that belief in overtly political, non-biblical and quasi-biblical positions equates with righteousness.
            Biblically speaking, belief in and of itself is meaningless.  Obedience to God is about doing the will of God as revealed in scripture, rather than mentally affirming any given doctrine or theology.  And there are few people I know that understand and embody the biblical mandate of active obedience more than Chuck Poole.
            While the Christian Right rants and rages over the sins of others, such as abortion (a topic not addressed in the Bible) and homosexuality (one of the most rarely referenced subjects in the entire Bible), Chuck Poole consistently challenges the people of God to simple obedience to the commands of Christ:  helping the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the less fortunate—in short, the helpless.  By some calculations, more than 2000 Bible verses speak of God’s love for, and our responsibility to, the poor, the marginalized and the needy.  Yet as Chuck reminds me each month, believing the Bible is not enough: doing the Bible is what counts.  By obeying the overwhelming biblical mandate to help the helpless, we bear witness to the love of God.  And in Chuck’s own life, his actions on behalf of the poor and the helpless speak even louder than his biblical preaching.
             There is nothing more biblical than being the presence of God to the poor, oppressed and marginalized, for the Bible itself is the record of God reconciling helpless humanity to Himself across the ages.  Whether or not those to whom we extend the helping hand of God ever stand on their own or embrace our faith is beside the point.  After all, God loves us regardless of how we respond.  Biblical Christianity is about doing what God asks of us.  In the midst of a “Christian” world filled with the cacophony of angry voices demanding allegiance to a watered-down bible and a god fashioned piecemeal from self-righteous human agendas, Chuck Poole’s quiet yet insistent voice and ministry clearly demonstrates genuine biblical Christianity.  His words often make me wince in the knowledge of the sin of my own inaction, but they convey the Jesus of the Gospels, and they compel me to live out that which I profess to believe.