The Common Good

Pick-and-Choose Theology

Recent discussion on Jews and Israel reminds me of a joke we used to hear as youngsters. The joke begins with a person, who, looking for direction in life, decides to go to the Bible. Opening the New Testament and randomly searching for a verse, he gets the verse of Judas, where, after his treason, it says he went and hanged himself. Not happy with what he got, he returns to the Bible for direction, hoping that this time he will be satisfied. Then the person randomly opens the pages again and gets the verse that says, "Go and do likewise."

It is perfectly appropriate to love Jews in the same manner as God wants us to support women's equal rights, fight poverty, and love the poor. But it is very difficult to look at the Bible on such a pick-and-choose basis. You can't look at the verses about the Jews, women, or the poor without also looking at the verse that says in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no man or woman, no lord or slave (Galatians 3:28). If we don't look holistically at the general ethos of the Bible we miss out on what is of extreme importance in our Christian life. Prophetic interpretation cannot, and should not, be done in such a manner. As Christians, we must defend life that is created in the image of God. We also must look for justice and fight against cruelty and injustice. That, rather than today's headlines, or the warped interpretation of the Bible based on a particular theological point of view, should be the barometer for us.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist, professor at Princeton University, and founder of the Arab world's first internet radio station, Ammannet. His e-mail is

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