“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.”
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 of 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.
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.”