A little over a year ago, a few of the bloggers of the Times Union newspaper met at the home of retired television news reporter Ken Screven, in the foreground of this picture. All the other bloggers I knew: historian/environmental activist Don Rittner; photographer Chuck Miller, and Unitarian minister Sam Trumbore.

The person I did not know was Liz Lemery Joy. She was a very charming and articulate woman. Her blog focus is “A Biblical stance on political/legislative issues.”

In March, she first promised to write about Christians and voting. “We’re going to go to the Word of God, and I’m going to show you what God says about the political and legislative issues we’re facing as a state and a nation.”

Later that month, she declared that It’s the Christians fault our country is in such a mess, because they do not vote in sufficient numbers.

Finally, she described Ted Cruz, a breath of fresh air in Upstate! He is, she describes, a “level headed candidate, who actually respects the Constitution, come and address voters in our area. People in upstate are hurting economically and the power hungry Albany machine has done nothing to help.”

Her chief issue, though, is his opposition to abortion: “How a person values other people’s lives absolutely determines how they will govern in office. Why? Because how they regard the worth of another human life, determines where their moral compass is and how they will carry out everything they do in political office… If a leader doesn’t value life, they will also disregard and be callous to other matters of governing and legislating that require principle and virtue.”

This, unsurprisingly, generated lots of comments, many of them unrepeatable. TU blogger Heather Fazio, who disagrees with Liz, solicited, then summarized some comments about Liz’s posts here and here.

A TU blogger named Michael Rivest declared The Bible does not tell us how to vote, pointing to the scriptural inconsistencies in the arguments people from both sides of the political fence.

While I certainly would not come to the same conclusion as Ms. Joy did, I tend to agree with her premise, so I don’t think Mr. Rivest is correct either. Cherry-picking Scripture, one can “prove” anything, or nothing, about how God wants us to vote, or anything else.

Walter Ayres addresses this point quite well.

Any talk of using the Bible should start with a few acknowledgments, the first of which is that the Bible is not a book, rather it is a collection of books. It is more like a library and, just as libraries do not all contain the same books, neither do Bibles… These books vary in nature; e.g., some are historical, some are legalistic, some are poetry.

Many times, when people claim that the Bible says something, what they really mean is that a particular book of the Bible says something. Another book of the Bible may say something else.

This brings us to the issue of proof-texting, a method of claiming Biblical support for a position by choosing selected texts, often out of context, to support a particular position. One example is using select verses to support or oppose to the death penalty without regard to the original intent of the author. Proof-texting does not lead to good theology.
Bernie in ALB
And it gets more complicated…

In other words, interpreting the Bible in not always as easy as it might seem. People of good will can reach different conclusions. And we all should be very careful before we claim to speak for God.

What he said.

In a follow-up post, Ayres, who is a self-described Roman Catholic, quotes Pope Francis when he wrote: “An authentic faith… always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.” He also writes about four principles of Catholic social teaching in the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

In the New York Times magazine article Donald Drumpf, American Preacher, Dartmouth professor Jeff Sharlet writes:

Drumpf…returns [faith] to the roots of Christian business conservatism, which is where he has been all along: Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 best seller, “The Power of Positive Thinking”…

“Positive Thinking” isn’t about serving God; it’s about “applied Christianity,” using God to achieve “a perfected and amazing method of successful living.” The method is like a closed loop, a winners’ circle of the soul. “The man who assumes success tends already to have success,” Peale writes, a tautological spiritual­ity as instantly recognizable in Trumpism as the drumbeat of his words: “success,” “amazing.” Peale’s message resonated most with the upper middle class — those, like Drumpf himself, who saw themselves as winners. The prosperity gospel recasts the same promise to those, like Drumpf’s followers, who feel lost.

On the surface, the prosperity gospel is a simple transaction. The preacher is blessed, and you can be, too. All you have to do is invest. How? The usual way: You give him your money. Only, your money is just a metaphor. The good news is that faith will be repaid in kind. The deal — belief in return for relief, belief as a form of relief — is as old as religion, too fundamental to human consciousness to dismiss simply as a con. Pray for rain, sacrifice to the gods, keep kosher — you needn’t believe to recognize the power of trading devotion for the hope of well-being.

My fortnightly church group has been slowly reading Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. They write: “Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal and powerful.”

It’s no secret that on Tuesday, I’ll be supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Presidential primary, who is the gold standard in presidential politics “on matters of economic equality, social justice, combatting poverty and human rights that Pope Francis has placed before the world and at the center of his papacy.” For ME – no, I’m NOT telling you how to vote – he is my clear theological choice.

Or maybe the “Ted Cruz” in this parody article is right, that Jesus IS too liberal to follow:

The most disturbing thing about Jesus, said Cruz, “is his obsession with caring for and hanging out with a bunch of losers, like poor people and homeless beggars, sick and unemployed people, strangers and immigrants (some of them undocumented!), and even prisoners.”

“I’m not making this up,” Cruz continued. “He — the real Jesus — is as radical as any longhaired punk camping out with street people in Boston or Philadelphia. If you don’t believe me, you can go read it for yourself, in the Gospel of Matthew, 25:31-46. Check it out. And don’t miss the part where Jesus says that showing kindness and generosity toward the least fortunate is the same as showing kindness and generosity toward Jesus himself. Now that’s just dangerous left-wing nonsense, worse than Obamacare.”

4 Responses to “How God wants us to vote”

  • In a perfect world, we should all follow our conscience when it comes to where we choose to place our vote, and a Christian conscience is just as valid as Muslim, Hindu or Pastafarian or secular. However, the world isn’t perfect and we tend to fall for the people who are right for us, often down to one issue – like an anti-abortion stance. Or in the UK, whether the candidate is pro or anti Europe.

    Where Joy’s argument falls down for me is her assumption that because Ted Cruz is right for her on the abortion issue, he must automatically be right for her on everything else. It ain’t necessarily so.

  • lisa says:

    An excellent post, with much to ponder during this election season. Cruz is correct in saying Jesus wouldn’t get elected in today’s world based on his past actions and behaviors towards others (left and right). But his focus was not on the legalistic. Rather, he was focused on the condition of the heart as it related to God. I do not adhere to the prosperity gospel, but do believe JC wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor….understanding that there are many fruits not associated with money. I agree so many passages in the bible are cherry picked to support a particular position. While true that the bible is a collection of books, there is a unifying theme throughout the “library.” It’s the Big God Story about redemption and restoration. We are always swayed by the latest shiny, new thing and those tend to receive most of our attention and loyalty. Cherry picking Scripture irks me as the passage simply cannot be taken out of context and made to fit a personal agenda. It also irks me when those who call themselves Christians take the low road and resort to name calling, personal attacks, twisting the truth and other behaviors that are not in keeping with the ideals of authentic Christianity.

  • Chris E says:

    Make Donald Drumpf again! <3

    I agree about Bernie. I also like your quote on considering the Bible as a collection of books with different purposes and authors.

  • As you may well imagine, I start shifting uncomfortably in my chair whenever I read someone talking about how Christians “should” vote, since that almost always means voting for rightwing candidates. I’m uncomfortable partly because, as you so ably point out, not all Christians see the world the same way, so not all are rightwing extremists, even though the rightwing has better P.R. than mainstream Christians. The main reason I get uncomfortable, however, is because I’m part of a community that’s long been demonised and oppressed by self-described Christians—and, they’re still doing it, of course. In principle, I have absolutely nothing against religiously inclined people—even extreme rightwing Christians—voting in accordance with their religious principles, but for that to work in the real, complicated world, there must be an impregnable wall of separation between church and state, something the rightwing seeks to abolish altogether.

    So, when I hear people deciding to talk for their Jesus and declare how he wants them to vote, I get very uncomfortable. Good thing I can rely on you to provide a sensible religious viewpoint to serve as an antidote to their far-right nonsense.

Leave a Reply

Contact me
  • E-mail Contact E-mail
  • RSS Feed Blog content c 2005-2017, Roger Green, unless otherwise stated. Quotes used per fair use. Some content, including many graphics, in the public domain.
I Actually Know These Folks
I contribute to these blogs
Other people's blogs
Popular culture
Useful stuff
Get your own free Blogoversary button!
Networked Blogs
wordpress analytics