What to do with pesky Scriptures when you play the “God card”?

October 2, 2013


Thanks.  I’m grateful – obliged, even. Representatives of the supposedly more religion-friendly political party have deepened our understanding of the Bible and clarified the need for its amendment, contextualization and application.  We can be relevant now. 

For starters, they’ve finally tidied up chaotic Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you …” Obviously, the letter’s inspired writer didn’t hear the qualifier: “… except when a bill you oppose passes both Congressional houses, receives the presidential signature, and is upheld in court.  You shall then continue to portray the president as an anti-constitutional would-be terrorist and fume over all his real and imagined flaws, ignoring your party’s recent travail in the 2012 election.” It’s plain: The author sweated under deadline pressure and mailed the letter too soon.  He missed his deity’s anticipation of 21st-century political necessity.

And there’s Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by each other!”  Kudos for the subtle-yet-evident interpretive nuance: Democrats and Republicans are not, strictly speaking, of “each other,” given that one party belches in the eternal pit while the other protects the nation against conspiratorial legions – including, but not limited to, hordes of oceanographers and geophysicists. 

Don’t say law-abiding American citizens belong to both parties.  Just don’t.  Clogging the argument with known facts is patently unfair.     

We now have a firmer grasp of Galatians 5:19: “The works of the flesh are evident: … discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions … and the like.”  How much wax clogged the apostle’s ears?  Archaeologists have tested his room’s walls and confirmed the bounce of a divine echo: “… except when you face disagreement, whereupon you shall throw fits like drooling two-year-olds who embarrass their parents in public places.” 

Our representatives have done well.  They’ve publicly embarrassed America and her citizens before the world.  Such is their steadfast obedience to this fuller theological and Scriptural understanding.

Other passages, such as Ephesians 4:25, present superficial difficulties: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”  No genuine guilt here: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t next door to anyone, so lie like a rug about this neighbor-to-nobody.  Fib more when his family boards Air Force One for the annual Hawaiian vacation; he’s really far away then, a veritable anti-neighbor neighbor, rendering two-faced dishonesty a patriotic duty.   Some scholars even urge responsible citizens to hurl tasteless barbs about his wife and kids.

James 5:1-6 is a sticky wicket needing careful analysis: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.”

A hard saying, to be sure, but note the following: Modern America features mothballs, guaranteeing the safety of those Ralph Lauren garments, and our funds are stored electronically, encoded and encrypted on multiple servers and data bases.  No more silver and gold in damp caves.  Strictly speaking, the modern rich don’t “heap up” treasure, so no corrosion testifies against them.  And oil barons own no “fields” per se (only lawns), so we needn’t worry over wages to the corporate-headquarter mowers.  We feel for Monsanto and other Ag-business execs, but most 21st-century billionaires are off the hook.  

So this passage isn’t so clear after all.  Surely it maintains its symbolic value, but its practical implications are obscure at best.  Perhaps we should call a conference for further study and schedule follow-up annual gatherings in advance.  Meanwhile, please remember that James grants the rich no permission to halt their huge donations.  The author’s silence on that issue is deafening.

Thanks again, party representatives.  You can ignore that scraping noise, which is the sound of Everett Dirksen, Hugh Scott, and Gerald Ford spinning in their graves.  They led your Congressional tribe in previous eras and often befriended the likes of Sam Rayburn, Mike Mansfield, and Lyndon Baines Johnson.  They don’t understand the pressures you face.  They never portrayed themselves as God’s politicians.








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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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