Rich Paxson

The stories about human sacrifice made Marcion so queasy that he suggested we ditch such passages from our Scriptures. Do you feel any sympathy for Marcion’s position? Why would you want to exclude stories of human sacrifice? What value is there in including them?

My neice Kara received a Precious Moments Bible http://bit.ly/1J8mPIy from a friend at her church as a High School graduation present. This was a loving and very thoughtful gift, first of all, because it recognized her accomplishment. Kara, who is Downs Syndrome, graduated from high school. Secondly, and equally significant, the gift reflected the reciprocity of an embrace within Kara’s faith community that continues to this day.
While I wasn’t aware of the Marcionite fallacy back when Kara finished high school, I did see the Precious Moments Bible as a reflection of Sunday School ‘nice religion.’ The point I want to recognize here is the cultural prevalence of the Marcionite fallacy. I’m sure James’s explication of the various interpretations of the Abraham and Isaac story were not brought out as precious moments in Kara’s Bible.

I took a New Testament class as a college sophomore. One of the things I remember from that class is Rudolf Bultmann’s notion that the Bible comes alive only as it is read. My introduction to that idea began a long stream of learning about demythologizing the Bible. Forgiving Victim adds quite significantly to the volume of that stream, which continues carving a deeper, broader channel into both my understanding and my excitement for scriptural interpretation.

One final reflection, this one on the calling of Matthew. Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew hangs in my treasurer’s office at St. John’s church. As a former IRS revenue agent, this painting seems particularly apropos. Jim, a parishioner at our church, on seeing the painting for the first time yesterday and hearing its name, immediately responded by saying it couldn’t be The Calling of St. Matthew. Just look at the way they’re dressed, he said. How could the subject possibly be St. Matthew when the figures are dressed in sixteenth century attire? http://bit.ly/1J8ydUR Jim’s an attorney, a smart man. He understood my explanation quickly when I compared the artist’s choice of clothing to the use of modern dress for a staging of, for example, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Marcionism is like a Precious Moments Bible, or the blindness of Jim’s initial response to Caravaggio’s painting. We are conditioned to look for what the powers of this world call good, making them into idealized representations of God’s self or God’s intention. And yet, no matter how skillful the conditioning, it cannot obscure the light of our vocation, which Jesus calls forth in faith, even in the particular darkness of Matthew’s ancient, tax-collecting booth.