Two recent news stories: The biblical prophets respond (and we agree!)

Published: June 11, 2013

A Catholic hospital, known for its routine vocalization of the belief that life begins at conception, denies a widowed husband two wrongful death claims for his unborn twins, who, along with his wife, died at the negligent hands of the hospital’s doctors…on the grounds that technically no fetus is “alive” until birth.

A conservative Evangelical college fires a pregnant faculty member for having premarital sex…then later replaces her with the father of the unborn child, a man whom she married shortly after her firing.

Whence this alarming disconnect between two religious organizations’ staunchly held moral views and their cold legalistic actions?

Students who were in my Spring 2013 Old Testament class will recall considering these two stories at length in the context of our study of the biblical prophets. We discussed the notion that, just as we do today, the prophets likewise chafed at the rote enforcement of legalism in their society, at the expense of what they believed to be genuine moral principles. When we seek atonement, they said, what good are countless sacrifices if our hearts do not truly repent? Or what purpose is served by our own supposed righteousness, when the marginalized and downtrodden in our society continue to suffer?

In the inaugural post on my blog In the Field, I explore this symmetry between our own dismay and that of the prophets as we witness the subjugation of compassionate moral action in favor of legally engineered profiteering. Visit and read about how our perspective on such matters has already found expression in the biblical canon.

20110707moyer3706Clinton J. Moyer
Postdoctoral Fellow in Hebrew Bible