Circumcising the Bible

I recently read the horrifying news story of a 20-year-old mother who was tortured with a branding iron, doused with fuel, and then burned alive in Papua New Guinea on the accusation that she was a sorceress. Police and firefighters were unable to intervene because of the angry crowd. Ironically, the news story also contained this:
Local Christian bishop David Piso told the National that sorcery-related killings were a growing problem, and urged the government "to come up with a law to stop such practice".
I found myself wondering if bishop Piso is aware his Bible contains this verse:
You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
Exodus 22:18 (ESV)
From what moral high ground does he condemn the very thing his sacred book commands? Witch killing is one of many bad ideas contained in the ‘Good Book.’ Atheists would reject the idea of witchcraft and sorcery as being mere superstition. Humanists would condemn the killing of witches on the grounds of barbarism and cruelty. Bishop Piso should be embarrassed to represent a faith which has not bothered to purge cruel commandments from the texts it holds sacred.

Christianity seeks to manage the embarrassment of barbaric, dehumanizing passages of the Bible through theological sleight of hand. “That was under the Law, but we are under Grace.” “God had to judge sin, but Jesus reveals God’s love.” “God had to deal with them according to the culture they lived in.” Such are the weak excuses given for the dark side of scripture.

Cruelty, slavery, genocide, misogyny, racism, and superstition are woven into the fabric of the Bible. Times have changed and Christianity has reluctantly bowed to societal pressure, as humanity has become enlightened. And yet, the vile verses remain – in a book proclaimed by many to be inspired! Can you imagine any other organization which would keep barbaric relics of unenlightened thought in their official handbook? Especially an organization which claims to promote love and goodness? It would be like the Boy Scout handbook including instructions on lynching Jews and blacks! “Well, of course we don’t do that anymore, but there was a reason for it at the time.”

If Christians had a shred of integrity, they should take a pair of scissors to their Bible, much like Thomas Jefferson did to the gospels. A textual circumcision, if you will. Remove the offending verses once and for all. Until then, we cannot but view their moral pronouncements as lacking in sincerity.

J. M Green