Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Politics and the Word of God, notes from tonight's debate

So I turned in to tonight's YouTube debate just in time to see the candidates questioned if they believe the words in the Bible. That's a pretty loaded question, in fact it was prefaced with, "how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you." Not only is it loaded, but it's also misleading. Many people wrongly equate believing that the Bible is the Word of God and believing that every word is true. At the same time, believing that the Bible is the Word of God also isn't the same as believing that every word applies to you. But that's a nuance that is often ignored in the public debate about the influence of Christianity on many political issues, namely evolution and homosexuality. The way the argument goes is that if you believe the Bible is the Word of God then therefore you believe every word is true and you are a strict creationist. At the same time, you also therefore believe that every word applies to us today and thus are homophobic based on the Levitical Law calling homosexuality an "abomination." See how suddenly by being "prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pt 3:15) now has painted you into a corner on two very hot political topics? Like the questioner said, "how you answer this question will tell us everything you need to know about you."

But that's just not true. Just because I believe the Bible is the Word of God doesn't mean I take every word literally. It's obvious that some is poetry and some is allegorical. And I admit that my faith isn't strong enough to take a literal view of creation. When it comes to homosexuality, unfortunately many christians (intentional little c) quote Leviticus to condemn homosexuality. I sure hope they don't eat shrimp because that too, is an abomination according to Levitical Law. And since Jesus died "once for all" (Heb 10:10) and established a "new covenant" (Lk 22:20) and "fulfill[ed] them [the law]" (Mt 5:17) the Levitical Law no longer applies to us today. (After all, where's our temple?)

But it's intentional to not ask the specific questions regarding these issues. Instead the question is framed to require candidates to dance around their faith. So how did the candidates do tonight? Well, Mayor Giuliani answered the question pretty much like I did. Governor Romney answered it directly saying he believed the Bible is the Word of God but then tripped all over himself to expand on that. And Governor Huckabee hit it out of the park. I'll paraphrase: "Yes, I believe the Bible is God's revelation to his people. And there are parts that are up to interpretation that are the center of debates. But there are parts that are so clear that everyone can agree on them, 'love your neighbor' and 'what you've done for the least of these, you've done to me'. I think we can all agree in these principles. But we get too distracted by the other debates that we don't live out what we do agree on." (for direct quote, go here) Of course, would we expect any less from a minister?

Huckabee's answer was honest and direct. And unlike either Giuliani or Romney, you could tell from his body language, his tone, and the words themselves, that he really meant it. And I have to respect that. I saw him on "Real Time with Bill Maher" and he held up pretty well against attacks on his creationist stance. He said point blank that it doesn't matter what he thinks about that issue because it doesn't affect how he would govern. And Bill Maher couldn't say anything against that, other than going off on a rant against Christianity as a whole.

While this entry might look like a political endorsement, it's not. Instead, it's a lesson on exactly how we, as Ambassadors of Christ, should "be prepared to give an answer... with gentleness and respect."

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