Good Shepherd vs. Evil Shepherd

Just came across this sermon from last year; looks like I missed posting it the first time around.

Written for St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN + 4th Sunday in Easter + April 26, 2015

Readings: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday — as you might have figured out from all the pictures of sheep and shepherds in the bulletin. It’s a day to read and sing that psalm we all know and love; a day to hear Jesus tell us once again how much he cares for us, his sheep.

Maybe you’ll be surprised to hear that a lot of preachers don’t look forward to writing their sermons for today — at least from what I’ve heard over the last week. These passages are so familiar and so comforting. After reading “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want,” and “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” what can we say besides “Amen”?

So as I was trying to find a little more to say to you all this morning, I tried out a little experiment. I re-wrote Psalm 23, trying to make each line say exactly the opposite of the original — to refresh what this familiar Psalm tells us about God by hearing what God is NOT.[1] We might call it “Psalm 23’s evil twin.” If the original psalm paints us a beautiful picture of the good shepherd, this version is the haunting image of an evil shepherd. It is the opposite of who God is and what God wants for God’s people.

My master is my slave-driver. None of my needs are met. He makes me march on gravel without shoes. He pushes me towards blazing fires.He exhausts me. He tricks me into doing wrong just to watch others mock me. Even when I walk in the sunshine of a new spring day, I’m always on guard, for he could be anywhere with his rod and his staff, threatening me. He makes me watch, hungry, while everyone else feasts. He throws the leftover bones at my face, while my bowl remains empty. Surely torture and rage will stalk me all the days of my life, for I am jailed in the house of my master for all of my short life.

Writing this was painful. Not just because I was taking such a beautiful, sacred poem and turning it into something horrible, though that made me tremble. But the sharpest, most surprising pain I felt — the pain that stuck with me after the task was done — came from how familiar these images felt. It wasn’t the familiarity of the real psalm, the kind where I can close my eyes and whisper along and remember the great God who brought me into the Good Shepherd’s fold.

It’s the kind of familiarity I feel along the cracks of my heart in the places that it has been wounded; it’s the kind of familiarity I feel when I hear the news of yet another shooting; it’s the kind of familiarity I feel when I hear so-called street evangelists telling the strangers passing by that they are going to hell. It’s familiar because it’s true — it describes a real and common set of experiences. And it’s been true for a long time.

When I re-read the Evil Shepherd Psalm, I couldn’t help but think of how many times I’ve heard people talk about God as if God were that Evil Shepherd. I expect you each have your own memories of hearing about God as that angry judge just waiting to smite us. I think of a close friend, whose young ears picked up more fear and guilt than grace at her childhood church. Even though now she has rejected that view of God, sometimes she still struggles with crippling guilt over acts she doesn’t even believe are sins anymore.

Then I thought of the many rulers throughout history who claim that God gave them the right to kill or steal or enslave. That God gave them the right to ignore the suffering of others. How can the people they rule this way hear and feel the message of God’s love?

Finally, as I read over that Evil Shepherd Psalm, I thought of how many times we let others become our masters, from abusive husbands who say the Bible gives them the right to abuse, to bosses who demand too much and fill our lives with anxiety, to friends who take and take and take without giving. None of this is what God wants for us — or from us.

When Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” he is taking a strong, dangerous stand against the long tradition of evil shepherds. And I’m not just saying “When you compare what Jesus said to what other people do, you can see it.” But, literally, Jesus is giving this little speech to a crowd that includes some of the evil shepherds of his day. And he knows it. He’s doing it on purpose, because he’s been arguing with them for a while.

About two chapters before we get to today’s gospel is really where the story starts. Jesus is talking with a crowd of people at the Temple in Jerusalem, and it includes a bunch of the Jewish leaders: some of them are starting to — maybe — believe in Jesus, some are already plotting to kill him. They’re all trying to figure out who he is and what he’s up to. They start getting into it about being children of Abraham, and since this is an all-Jewish crowd, it’s a really important topic. They are God’s chosen people, and they know this because they are descended from Abraham and God’s promises to him. But Jesus says they are not children of Abraham or children of God, because they are rejecting him and even trying to kill him. When he says, “before Abraham was, I am,” the crowd can’t take it anymore, and they pick up rocks and take aim at Jesus. He escapes.

As Jesus is getting away, he notices a man who has been blind since the day he was born. His disciples are curious about the man and his situation, and since the Son of God is right there with them, they take advantage of the situation and ask Jesus a question only God could answer: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” In one sentence he transforms this man from a sinner into a man chosen by God for this special moment. And Jesus bends down towards the dusty ground, spits, mixes up the spit and the dust, spreads it on the blind man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash it off. This must be where they coined the phrase “God works in mysterious ways,” because that saliva-mud did the trick, and the man could see for the first time in his life.

When the religious leaders find out about this miracle, they are still divided about whether this Jesus guy is good or bad. Some of them say, “Well, he healed this man. God wouldn’t give a sinner the power to do a miracle like that.” But others said, “No, this man can’t be from God. He healed on the Sabbath. That’s a sin.” (John 8:31-9:16).

I discovered this week that there’s a place in the Old Testament where God gives us a description of evil shepherds (Ezekiel 34). Actually, it’s God speaking to the evil shepherds, and condemning them. And what God condemns them for sounds a lot like those religious leaders plotting against Jesus. It goes like this:

“Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.” (Ezekiel 34:1-4)

The religious leaders aren’t at all concerned about the blind man, this sheep of their flock who could use some help. They don’t even seem to feel joy when this man is healed. Instead they seek to rule, to be the most righteous, and they condemn the good shepherd, the one who did care and did heal, for doing it on the holy day of rest.

They question the healed man about whether he thinks Jesus is a sinner or sent by God. When he calls Jesus a prophet, they don’t like that answer, and they go to his parents. The parents are like, “Why are you asking us? He’s a grown man. He can answer for himself.” So the religious leaders go back to the healed man, and, I guess hoping for a different answer, they question him again. But he answers with even more faith this time: “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” The religious leaders don’t hear his logic, and instead they get angry and defensive: “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” and they throw him out.

Jesus, the good shepherd, hears about what happened. And whereas the evil shepherds condemned by God in the book of Ezekiel do not seek after lost sheep or bring back strays — and clearly, neither do these religious leaders — Jesus seeks out this healed man. This man who probably grew up hearing and believing that he was born in such great sin that God made him blind, this man who had heard Jesus say that he was not so horribly sinful, only to be condemned and cast away by the religious leaders. Jesus finds this lost, hurting sheep, and welcomes him into the fold, and in doing so he condemns the religious leaders who claimed to be so much better than everyone. He calls them sinners to their faces. (John 9:17-41)

This is when Jesus starts talking about being the good shepherd. It’s almost as if Jesus is rewriting Ezekiel like I rewrote Psalm 23, in both his words and his actions. He is the good shepherd. He cares about his sheep. He heals them. He seeks them out. When he speaks or acts, they recognize him. And he does not rule over the sheep with harshness and force, benefiting from their expense and their suffering. No. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He says that three times in that tiny speech. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

The religious leaders aren’t getting it. A little while later they’re questioning him again. And they’re trying to keep ruling over their sheep, so again they pick up stones to kill him. (John 10:19-31)

I imagine it was hard for that man who was blind to see anything good about God, not because he was blind, but because other people told him — over and over — that he was blind because he was a sinner, and treated him like one. I bet he thought of God as an Evil Shepherd, because that’s all he’d ever heard. It took Jesus — his words and his actions — for this man to begin to see his world and himself clearly as created and loved by God.

There many people in our own world and our own lives who only know of God as angry judge, because that is what the church has been to them. Let’s change that. Let’s be the Good Shepherd to them, in word and in action, so that God may heal them and bring them in to God’s flock — where they can finally feel that they matter and they are loved.

-Katherine Museus-

[1] This idea comes from Dick Murray’s Teaching the Bible to Adults and Youth, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993), p. 72-76. He calls it “reverse paraphrasing.”


Abundance for All

Written for St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN + 24th Sunday After Pentecost + November 8, 2015

Readings: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Ps. 146; Heb. 9:24-28; Mk. 12:38-44

I have to start off by saying how awkward I felt reading today’s gospel. Standing there in the midst of you all, in my beautiful long robe, and repeating the words of Jesus: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes…” Coming up from my special seat to read, “Beware the scribes, who like to have the best seats in the synagogues…” Proclaiming the faith of that poor widow, who gave everything she had to Temple…from a gold-covered book. I gotta wonder what’s running through Jesus’s mind this morning.

But at least that experience reminds me of my place in this story. I am one of the scribes. I’m educated about religions matters, I wear a collar around my neck that sometimes gains me special privileges, and I sure say a lot of long prayers in public. And — although it still feels weird to say — I have a place of some authority and leadership within the church. Yep, I’m a scribe. And this morning I think Jesus is warning me not to let myself get too much like “those” scribes: those scribes who get caught up in their honor and neglect the people God called them to serve.

There are a few of you out there who share this obvious connection to the scribes with me. But I want to invite everyone to see themselves as scribes in the story this morning: after all, we’re a pretty educated bunch, and Lutheran churches are run by the congregation, so you each have authority and leadership in this place. Plus, we subscribe to the “priesthood of all believers,” which is a reminder that each of you is called by God to a life of service in God’s mission. So, imagine with me that we are all scribes trying not to be one of “those” scribes that Jesus warns people about.

If we’re going to read Jesus’s words here as having a message not just for some Jewish scribes in the first century, but also for us today, I think that message is about faithful leadership and faithful stewardship, and that is something that applies to all of us — fancy robe or not. We are all stewards of what God has given us; we are all part of the miracles God is performing around us.

The Widow’s Mite, Jesus Mafa. (Image from Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s “Art in the Christian Tradition” project.)

This scene at the Temple comes soon after Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem. He’s already made a public demonstration against the way the Temple is being run by flipping over some tables, chasing people out of the place, and proclaiming that its leaders have turned it into a “den of thieves” (Mk. 11:12-17). Since then he’s been arguing publicly with the religious leaders.

By the time we get to today’s reading he is once again condemning them in the Temple itself. He accuses them not only of hypocrisy, but of abuse: “They devour widows’ houses,” he says. And then he watches a poor widow give everything she has to the Temple. He points out how much she gives: it looks insignificant, just two small copper coins, but it’s everything to her. The widow is a beautiful image of trust in God and total dedication to God. And the question hangs unsaid in the air: Are the temple leaders doing right by this widow? Are they good stewards of her pure, faithful gift?

The Gospel of Mark continues: As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” (Remember: these are country bumpkins seeing the sites of the big city for the first time. I hear in this disciple’s voice the feelings of awe I get while standing in the streets of Chicago and looking up at the skyscrapers towering above me.) Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (Mk. 13:1-2).

When all these passages are read together, we get a clear message: God is not happy with the way these religious leaders are running things. They are not good stewards of their position, nor of God’s commandments, nor of the faith entrusted to them. They seem to be under the impression that being chosen by God for their position means receiving a greater share in God’s blessings, means deserving the lion’s share of status and wealth.

How often does our culture give us the same message? It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that “God’s abundance” means God gives an abundance to each individual faithful person. Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6:20).  But that’s hard to remember or understand when we’re surrounded by a different message: “Blessed are the wealthy, because…well, look at ‘em!”

But God’s abundance is not for individuals, but for the community. As Bishop Julian Gordy is fond of reminding us, when we see the word “you” in the New Testament, it’s almost always not “you,” but “y’all.” God works through the whole lot of us for the good of the whole lot of us.

So in contrast to the scribes and to the proclamation of our culture we have the story of Elijah and a widow. Elijah is held to be one of the greatest of the prophets. You may remember him from such stories as “Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire” (2 Kings 2). It is written that God will send Elijah back to usher in judgement day, the day the messiah comes (Mal. 4:5-6). So throughout the gospels, when people are trying to figure out just who Jesus is, someone always wonders “Could he be Elijah?” (ex., Mk. 8:27-30). When Jesus is transfigured for a few moments into a glorious, shining figure, Elijah and Moses appear alongside him (ex., Mark 9:2-8). Elijah still holds a very important place in Jewish belief and customs; places are set for him at holy ceremonies like circumcision and Passover. All that to say: Elijah was most definitely a man chosen by God.

But Elijah didn’t enjoy a high standing in his community like the scribes did. And Elijah didn’t have wealth or even comfort. Elijah appeared in the Bible for the first time to announce that God was going to withhold the rain from Israel because King Ahab was running around building shrines to other gods. And of course people were loading up to shoot the messenger, so Elijah went into hiding, where God sent ravens to bring him food. But then the brook that had been his only source of water dried up in the drought (1 Kings 16:29-17:7).

This is the point where we see God work the miracle from today’s readings. But it’s not a spectacular miracle; God doesn’t teach the ravens to make jugs so they can carry Elijah water; God doesn’t make water spring from the dry ground. It’s not even an everyday kind of spectacular miracle, like God sending a rich person Elijah’s way to offer him access to a private well and rich food and a soft bed.

Instead, it is a miracle of unlikely companions and survival. In the midst of a culture war between those who are faithful to the God of Israel and those who worship Canaan’s god, Baal, God sends Elijah to a foreign widow, a woman who in all likelihood had been raised to worship a foreign god. God says, “Go to this woman; I have commanded her to feed you.” The first part of the miracle is that Elijah trusts God and goes to her.

I love to read this part from the widow’s point of view: a foreign prophet of a foreign God shows up in her town and tells her to give him some food. And she clearly didn’t get a warning message from the God of Israel, because, far from having food prepared for this prophet, she seems resigned to starve. She says, “I have nothing. I have just enough to make a last meager meal for myself and my son, and then we’re going to die.”

But Elijah says, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake out of what you have, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” The second part of the miracle is that the widow does what Elijah asks. She doesn’t say “Who are you to ask for the first serving of my last meal?” She doesn’t say “Whatever, your God is not my god — why should I do what you say?” Instead, somehow she has faith enough to be generous with her last hope for survival.

And the third part of the miracle is where God is most obviously at work: the meal and the oil do not run out. Again, this is not riches: the jars do not suddenly overflow with milk and honey. But there is just enough supply to keep making bread so that the widow and her household can survive the drought. God gives them their daily bread.

Elijah and the Widow of Zarepheth, Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Both the gospel story and the story of Elijah are examples of God setting people up for miracles. God is putting people and circumstances in place for everyone to benefit from God’s abundance.

In the gospel story, in the Temple, the widow is doing her part in the miracle by giving two small coins, and the richer people are doing their part by giving some of what they have. But many of the scribes are not doing their part in the miracle: they are holding up the flow of God’s abundance, keeping too much of the money and the knowledge and the status for themselves instead of helping it continue to bless more of God’s people.

But in the case of Elijah and the widow, each person steps into the role God has called them to, taking chances in the faith that God will provide. And God does provide: through small miracles and through other people who put their faith into action.

May we also be people who seek God’s abundance, not for ourselves, but in ourselves, and in others. Our world is overflowing with opportunities to be part of God’s miracles: in relationships, in generosity, in service. We need only have the faith to step into the fountain and splash around.

May we also be people who seek God’s abundance, not for ourselves, but in ourselves, and in others. Our world is overflowing with opportunities to be part of God’s miracles: in relationships, in generosity, in service. We need only have the faith to step into the fountain and splash around.

The Kings God Warned Us About

Written for St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN + Second Sunday in Pentecost + June 7, 2015

Texts: 1 Sam. 8:4-20; Psalm 138; 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Today I’ll be focusing on the first of our Bible readings: the story of the beginning of Israel’s line of kings. And since we’re talking about kings and kingdoms, it seems only right to start off with a “once upon a time…”story. This one’s from the Bible, but it takes place a couple of generations after our reading.

So: once upon a time, in the days of the kings of Israel, the famous Solomon died and left the throne to his son, Rehoboam. The people went to their new king, hoping for a change. “Your father made our lives hard,” they said to him. “Be easier on us. Make our burden lighter, and we will serve you gladly.” The king went to his advisors, thought on it for three days, and then gave the people his answer: “My father was tough on you? Well, I will be even tougher. He disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:1-14).

Soon after this the kingdom divides into two separate kingdoms: Israel and Judah. The kings and queens of these nations follow Rehoboam’s lead: of the 39 kings that come after Solomon, the scriptures compliment only two.[1] The rest are condemned based on these two criteria: they were not faithful to the one God, and they exploited the people.[2]

This is the exact fate described or predicted in our Bible reading, the story of the beginning of Israel’s kings. Up until this point in history, Israel had existed as a tribal culture, with people grouped together by family ties, more or less ruling themselves. But now the people say, “We want a king like the other nations have. We want someone to rule over us and to fight battles for us.” And God mourns, “They’re forsaking me yet again,” but God grants them their wish. “Fine. Have it your way. But you know what a king does, right? He will take your sons and daughters to work for him; he’ll take the best of your crops and your animals and your slaves. And you will basically be his slaves.” I don’t hear this as a punishment on Israel because they dared to ask for a human king. I hear it as a reminder of what is bound to happen – at least most of the time — when one human being has so much power over others. But the people don’t care; they want a king.

History tells us story after story of rulers who do exactly as this passage says. From Ahab and Jezebel, to those abusive lords in Bravehart, to Bashar al-Assad, we’ve seen the truth of the proverb: absolute power corrupts absolutely. But what really breaks my heart in this universal story is how often rulers claim that their power – the power they use to abuse and exploit – comes from God. So many rulers claimed they ruled by divine right, that God had given them their authority, and that to contradict the king was to contradict the will of God.

This idea of a “divine right” to rule over others had sort of a trickle-down effect. For generations and generations we have put our faith in a God-given pecking order. We have believed that some people are just naturally made to be rich and in-charge, while others are made of stupider stuff: they deserve little and need others to tell them what to do all the time, or to force them to do things.

Let me tell you another story.

Once upon a time, in the days of Columbus, on a Carribean island, there lived a young Spanish priest named Bartolomé de las Casas. But he didn’t live the life we’d expect of a priest, at least not today. He owned a plantation which was worked by slaves taken from the island’s native people. He helped to capture more slaves. He fought and killed to conquer new land. Even when a group of Dominican priests arrived on the island and denied communion to all those participating in the brutal slave system, las Casas argued that his actions as a slaveholder were just. What we would call violence and cruelty, he said were ordained by God. And many, many others agreed with him.

They said the natives were barbaric and pagan. They didn’t know the right ways to behave. It was for their own good that the colonists ruled over them. And if they refused to submit? Well, then violent force was for their own good, too. These natives must submit to the colonists, just as humans must submit to God.

This story raises a whole lot of questions. Questions about respecting other cultures, about seeing equality across differences, about the right to conquer. And I hope you’re all asking those questions. But I’m going to cut right to the obvious theological question.

The argument before us is that God’s will was for the colonists to conquer, capture, beat, kill, and enslave the natives for their own good, just as all of us humans submit to God for our own good. But is that how the Lord God rules us humans? Does God look down on us and say, “Compared to me, you humans are foolish barbarians. You have no idea how the world works. You just keep doing what is bad for you. I’ll keep you in line.” and then thwack us with a big stick to keep us from sinning?

Does God value us according to how close we come to measuring up to God? Does God make saints rich and powerful and sinners poor and weak?

No. The psalm we read today praises God for being the opposite of worldly rulers: “The Lord is high, yet cares for the lowly, perceiving the haughty from afar.” God doesn’t award social status based on how righteous we are. God sees past our social status to who we really are.

Las Casas — the priest from our story — caught on to this eventually. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit stepped in and transformed him. Just as Saul of Tarsus, the intense persecutor of Christians, became the apostle Paul, the great evangelist, Las Casas the slave-hunter became the loudest opponent of New World slavery. He argued that the native peoples were not inherently inferior to the Europeans. They, too, were created in the image of God. And furthermore, Jesus didn’t send his disciples to all nations to conquer and enslave, but to baptize and make disciples. To follow in his example of compassion and humility and sacrifice.[3]

Those colonists were not ruling like God rules. They were ruling like the kings God warned us about: by taking and taking and taking for themselves, with no regard for those they saw as inferior. By saying, “I deserve this. You don’t. Get back in your place.”[4]

“Fray Bartolomé de las Casas” (1875) by Felix Parra

So let’s go back to the Bible. To our reading, where God warns the people that a king will only bring suffering. There are lots of places in the Old Testament with this point of view. But, as I’m sure you know, there are also many promises about kings of Israel. God promises David that his descendants will reign forever. Even when Israel is conquered and all the royalty are dragged away into exile, God says, “David’s line is not dead. Israel will have a king again, and then the wicked will be punished, and the poor will be lifted up, and there will be peace and justice.” (For example, see Isaiah 11.)

It seems strange at first that our scriptures would say in one place “God thinks kings are a bad idea”, and then in another place, “God promises to send a king who will fix everything.” We could tease it out from a historical point of view, and say that the different writers had different opinions about Israel’s politics.[5] But we’re not here today for history; we’re here to figure out something new about our faith and our world. So what are we to do with this contradiction?

I think the answer is the simplest Sunday school answer. You know the joke: A pastor sits down for a children’s sermon about God’s love for the animals, and she asks the children, “Who is small and brown and furry, with a bushy tail, lives in trees, and likes to eat nuts?” and little Billy says, “JESUS!”

But really, this time I think Jesus is the answer. Because as Christians we believe that Jesus is that king God promised to send, the good king, the king who tears down all the ways that we use each other and restores things to how they should be. We say that in Jesus of Nazareth, we have a real view of how God would treat humans if God were one of us. Actually, we say more than that. We say we that in Jesus of Nazareth we have a view of how God did treat humans when God was one of us.

Jesus said the poor and the hungry and the grieving people were the blessed ones. Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth. Jesus rode a young donkey, not a warhorse. Jesus hung out with uneducated fisherman and the tax collectors everyone thought were the worst of society. Jesus didn’t claim the best place on the social ladder — he said over and over that our social ladder was all wrong.

Jesus was not the kind of king God warned us about. Jesus was and is the king God promised.

Let’s tell one more story. Not from “once upon a time,” but from here, in this time. In the story of our world today, there are still the kind of rulers God warned us about. There are people still saying, “God put me here and you there, so you do what I tell you.”

We’re all characters in that story. Sometimes we’re the ones being told to get back in our place: you can’t do that, you don’t deserve that, you’re not good enough. That’s for better people. But other times, we are the ones saying those things or hearing them said to others. And sometimes those things even sound reasonable. Like in the story of Las Casas: he had to argue against a whole lot of people who used theology and philosophy and common sense to say that it was good to conquer and enslave. And I don’t think he won against those reasonable arguments.

So I encourage you to be on the lookout for that old phrase, “God put us here, and them there; we deserve this; they don’t.” in all of its sneaky forms. And when you find it, hold it up to that old, worn-out Sunday school question, “But what would Jesus do?”

[1] Knight, Douglas A. and Amy-Jill Levine, The Meaning of the Bible, (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), pp. 412.

[2] Knight and Levine, pp. 407.

[3] Information about Las Casas and those who argued against him is from Paul Lim’s “Christianity in the Reformation Era” course, Spring 2011, at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN, and from Las Casas’s writings, “Only Method of Converting the Indians,” and “In Defense of the Indians.”

[4] I read up on early colonists’ interactions with Indians in the first pages of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

[5] Knight and Levine, 405-406.