DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

December 14, 2007

                                                           

                                      

Everything I Need to Know

The only thing more grating on the nerves than a politician talking about religion is a minister talking about politics. Today, this minister is going to talk about politicians who talk about religion.

Over the years, I, like every minister have had a parishioner say to me, “Bob, I really don’t like it when ministers get involved in politics.” Yeah, well, these days, politicians are constantly getting involved in religion. And if you really think about it… “religion” and “politics” intersect everywhere in modern life, you can’t separate them. But one of the more interesting things about politics over the past couple years is that I seem to be seeing a bit more balanced discussion about the intersection of religion and politics. Let’s look at one of the recent Presidential Debates of the Republicans. You can find it on “You Tube” on the internet. And before some of you start to shudder as you think about Tussing commenting on the Republicans…Relax. Read on.

In the debate and on “You Tube” you see ordinary people asking questions (immigration, guns, religion, war, taxes etc) and then the candidates respond. I am not certain if all candidates responded to all questions but there was one question that particularly interested me and it concerned The Holy Bible. It was answered by three Republican candidates (Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee). What I heard, gave me some reason to hope. No, this is no endorsement of the any of these three, though they all seem like honest, hardworking public servants with impressive credentials for the office of President. No, this is not an endorsement of the Republican Party, but it does give me hope for more balanced discussions on this topic of religion and the Bible in the Presidential campaign.

So, at the debate they show a video clip of a 25 year old man who says, How you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you…do you believe every word of this book (holds up the Holy Bible)…And I mean specifically this book (holds up the Holy Bible) that I am holding in my hand. Do you believe this book?”

The questioner gave a pretty direct question though he seemed a bit angry about this entire Bible-thing. The question appeared to be more of a threat than a question but Rudolph Giuliani was the first to respond. Giuliani is a Roman Catholic and has had some issues with the more theologically conservative portions of the Republicans, but he jumped right in by saying… “I believe it, but I don’t believe it necessarily literally in every single respect. Parts are interpretive, allegorical…parts meant to be interpreted in modern context. I find wisdom in it but don’t believe it in the literal sense.”

I have to give Giuliani credit for putting his thoughts right out there and talking about not believing it in the “literal sense.” That line of discussion would earn points in New York City and Boston and San Francisco but it could be risky in the Republican Party in Iowa. But, I found it comforting that no one in the audience was booing him and they were allowing him the dignity to answer this question about his relationship with the Bible.

Next came Mitt Romney who answered the same question. Romney is the ex-Governor of Massachusetts and a member of the Mormon Church. He too, has been highly suspect in the more theologically conservative portions of the Republican Party but he looked the camera in the eye and said… “The Bible is the word of God. I try to live by it. I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word.”

I’m not sure if Romney addressed the exact question that was asked (“Do you believe every word of this book?”) And you can be certain that he was prepared for such a question and skated around it a bit, but gave an affirmative answer to the Bible being an important part of his life. But, I found it interesting that he too used that word, “interpret” and no one booed. Everyone listened respectfully, wanting to hear his answer.

 

Finally, Huckabee had his chance. He is the ex-Governor of Arkansas and was (is) a preacher who was trained in a theological seminary. (Probably the only candidate of either party with those credentials). Here is how the Governor responded… “I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It’s the word of revelation to us from God himself….None of us believe that we should go pluck out our eye – that’s obviously allegorical. There are some passages that cannot be confused and are not left up to interpretation. But the larger question is do we act upon them? Do we believe them? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “In as much as you have done it to the least of these my brothers you have done it to me.

Again, the audience was respectful and listened. Huckabee, Baptist preacher that he is, was quite good on this question and if you think about it…he deftly sidestepped the crucial question… “Do you believe every word of this book?” when he spoke of not plucking one’s eye out and saying that it was “obviously allegorical.” Pretty tough for the other candidates or the audience to argue with a Baptist preacher on that one. So, in essence Huckabee said, “No I don’t believe every word”…if one takes it literally. And in essence he said, “Yes, I do believe every word’…if one takes parts of the Bible allegorically.

We preachers and politicians certainly have something in common. We ride the fence quite often. But, could that be because theological and political answers are not always conveniently black and white? If that is news to you, then you are obviously in the wrong church.

But, what I see as hopeful for religion in the realm of politics these days is that the debate seems to me, to be a bit more civil. I note that the Democrats are comfortable at least talking about religion (and that has not lately been the case) and the Republicans are at least talking about it civilly (and that has not lately been the case). Have I equally offended both major political parties with that last statement? It was meant to be a compliment.

I appreciated Gov. Huckabee’s final statement… “Until we can get these simple real easy things right (referring to ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘as you have done it to the least of these my brothers you have done it to me.”) I’m not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts (of the Bible) that are a little bit more complicated.

That comment, while obviously one that he had used dozens of times before, brought a well-deserved round of applause from the audience (and from me). And though…I may agree that “love your neighbor” is simple to comprehend, it seems to be quite difficult to put into practice.

I hope that you are paying close attention to all the Republican and Democratic candidates. It is your duty as a citizen to listen to reasoned debate on issues that affect your home, country and the entire world. As for me, I want to know how Presidential candidates feel about war and diplomacy and food pantries and the exporting of jobs and healthcare for all and I want to know if they care to read books and listen to music and support the arts and if they think the Big Ten is highly overrated as a football conference. I want to know lots and lots about these candidates who will soon be Commander in Chief; Leader of the Free World. Answering one question doesn’t do it for me.

The question about the Bible did not “tell me everything that I need to know” about the candidates, but it did tell me everything that I need to know about the questioner.

Peace,  Bob