The Bible's For Losers (And Why That's a Good Thing)
By Derek Penwell
Taking everything into consideration, the Bible was written mostly by losers for the benefit of other losers.
That’s not a value judgment, just an observation.
Think about it. The various authors of the texts we call Scripture, both the Hebrew and Christian versions, generally occupied the less aspirational end of the socio-political/economic spectrum. Much of the Hebrew Scriptures (which includes the Torah, the Prophets [Nevi’im], and large sections of the Writings [Ketuvim]) were written by people who were defeated and living in exile, or about to be defeated before adopting their new identities as exiles, or having just got back from a semi-extended stay in the Hotel Exile.
And not one writer of the Christian Scriptures (from Paul to the Gospel writers, to the authors of Revelation and the General Epistles) composed their work from any ancient Near Eastern Oval Office on a burled walnut desk with a Mont Blanc in hand. Each of the Christian writers labored in the shadow of the Roman Empire, a form of reverse exile in their own homeland.
In other words, the Bible was mostly written by the folks everybody endures their misspent youth trying to avoid winding up as—that is, losers. Bottom-dwellers. The wrong lunch table crowd. (Again, not an evaluative statement, just reporting.)
So, when I hear mostly white middle class Americans like Lawrence W. Reed, president for the Forum for Economic Education, offer up Biblical interpretations that sound as if they were merely Jesus-y versions of Atlas Shrugged, I get cross. Reed advances the argument that progressives have lied for years about Jesus when they suggest that Jesus would have supported “redistribution to help the poor.” Jesus requiring people, as a function of following him, to give up their wealth to help the poor? An obvious “canard.”
According to Reed, “It may disappoint progressives to learn that Christ’s words and deeds repeatedly upheld such critically-important [sic], capitalist virtues as contract, profit and private property.” He goes to great lengths to discuss passages in the Christian Scriptures that seem to touch on the issue of money, in the process painting a picture of a Jesus much less concerned with the “have-nots” than with making certain that no one takes anything from the “haves.”
But it’s hermeneutically dishonest to contort the Bible into a narrative that sees the fine folks on the low end of the power/wealth scale (i.e., the ones who gave us the Bible) wasting a whole lot of time writing a book meant to ensure that, above all else, rich people get to keep their toys from the hands of the predatory poor and their agents—the government.
The Bible was written by people the rest of the world would call losers to empower those who've been systematically dispossessed; it was written to show them that God has a special place in God's heart for the people everyone else has historically been willing to write off. People who've always taken for granted that they're God's A-team can't help but see this as threatening. But if you're among those who feel forgotten or left out, the Bible is good news indeed.