by Robert J. Phillips,
Illinois Great Rivers Conference of United Methodist Church
Last summer there was a minor dust-up among some clergy colleagues over an article published in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference newspaper. A college student penned an eager article about how her Wesley Foundation spent the summer, with heavy emphasis on the study of ‘clobber passages.’
It turns out there are the seven passages in the Bible that speak directly to same sex behaviors. All seven take a unanimous dim view of the behaviors. The students spent the summer discerning how all of these passages have been historically misused and misunderstood from 1200 B.C. until roughly October 5, 1985, in Claremont, California, presumably with the founding of the Jesus Seminar. A subsequent article in the next edition made clear that the students did other things with their summer also, a reassuring thought.
The problem I have is that none of the passages in question rise to the high and noble level of ‘clobber.’ They ding, they thump, they itch but ‘clobber’ is a term rightly preserved for a different class of scripture. Its rightful place is beside scriptures that slug, hammer and knock flat any reader who has ever sinned, i.e., everyone. Bluntly, there is nothing in the seven suspect passages that bothers me in the least, as a self-avowed practicing evangelical Wesleyan orthodox, conservative heterosexual Christian. Bible passages that anyone can use exclusively against “them,” (whoever them may be) but leave “us” unscathed do not qualify as clobber. Snarky, perhaps; clobber? No way. It is time for full inclusion confrontation with scriptures that clobber.
In that spirit, consider these examples of 7 true clobber passages:
1. “Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). This clobbers everyone living content in a consumerist world or practicing the secular synthetic martyrdom of denying oneself food staples while paying ten times the amount for boutique and chic food and fad consumerist items.
2. “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). This clobbers everyone who either reject the words flat out or live like those who reject the words flat out with lives reflecting nothing of Christ-like qualities.
3. “Love your enemies…” (Matt. 5:44). This clobbers everyone because no one naturally does this in our fallen world. If you want proof, simply follow Facebook and blog comments from ‘Christians” about other Christians on the gay marriage spat, from all quarters, no quarter given.
4. “…Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me “(Lk 9:23). This clobbers everyone for whom self-esteem and self-affirmation has seeped into all sorts of versions of preaching and church ethos as well as the worship of self in secular society. To mis-paraphrase the classic Westminster confession, “The chief end of man is to glorify man and enjoy himself forever.” Not!
5. “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18) This clobbers everyone, and that includes everyone. This is about sex between folks not married to each other, despite Gallup poll findings that 84% or more of Americans have no such hang-ups. Then again, when Gallup took his poll in the Roman empire in 40 A.D. that figure was 98%, with the 2% being those crazy Jews and Christians with their Puritan ways. That’s why both religions died out. Then again…
6. “How often to forgive? Not seven times but seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). This clobbers everyone who keeps a pet grudge in a little wire cage in the bedroom where it sings them to sleep every night with memories of that lousy so-and-so. At different times, this is us, all of us.
7. “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire…” (Mt 25:41) This clobbers everyone, ‘liberals’ with blunt truth on the Second Coming and Last Judgment, and ‘conservatives’ who scramble to rationalize away 90% of what Jesus said in the parable about a major indicator of what drops people into Hell, and it isn’t failure to memorize John 3:16 or tithe.
Now these are real clobber passages. They spare no one. They confront everyone, this way or that. They resist “them” and “they” and focus on “we” and “us.” And they point everyone who takes these words seriously not to this or that cause but to the Christ who is preeminent above all causes (however noble or trite), the One who really is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)…clobber verse #8! If nothing else, preachers who read this now have a sermon series…if you dare.
Bob Phillips retired after serving as Sr. Pastor at Peoria First UMC. Prior to that he served in the United States Navy as a Chaplain. Bob served several times at as a General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegate. He is married to Christine Phillips.
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