First, if you got past the title and before I really go off the rails, I fully admit that I am doing something I frequently speak out against: I am stereotyping the Republican Party in general, and Evangelical Christians in particular, as universally holding these views. But, until their chosen leaders and de facto voice boxes stop doing this, I find the correlation unmistakable. I will also be accused of taking some of these verses out of context, for which I am probably guilty. Finally, I suppose my personal agnostic views toward religion in general makes me something of a hypocrite for even writing this post. But I’m writing it anyway.
I have also said before that if following a religious tenet allows you to have a greater purpose for your life or enables you to deal with the stresses of getting through the day, I wish you well. My issue is when that belief infringes on others or when the belief is applied in an inconsistent way. Call that a warning for what is to come. If you stop reading now, I completely understand.
For the last several years, the religious right frequently references the Bible as justification for many policy stances. For instance, with respect to the LGBT community, this is a common citation when arguing against same-sex marriage or equal rights:
|Mark 10:6-9: 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”|
With this view, it is clear that homosexuality is a divergent choice that a person makes, thereby justifying the denial of basic rights that the straight population takes for granted. (Feel free to see my post ‘The Logic of Equality’ for more on my response to this.) This is writ large by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who, in November 2015, cited the Bible as justification for the execution of homosexuals:
|Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”|
Ted Cruz, along with a few other presidential candidates who have already dropped out of the race, actually attended the conference where Swanson made these comments. Since Cruz is still a viable candidate for the Republican nomination, I think it is a fair question to ask if he agrees with these views.
The Bible certainly plays a role when the right begins talking about issues such as abortion (Exodus 20:13 ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ probably leads the list), the death penalty (the Leviticus 24:20 ‘…eye for an eye…The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.’ argument), and just in the way many candidates trumpet their faith (Mark 15:16 ‘And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’) on campaign stops. I think the Bible might also be the basis for those that want every able bodied person to have a gun on their hip. To wit, there is no such thing as too many guns to have in possession:
|Luke 11:21-22: 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.|
And it is acceptable to sell whatever you have to as long as you can defend yourself:
|Luke 22:36: 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.|
While I suspect those same people see no contradiction in this verse from Matthew, I would be curious as to their full reasoning:
|Matthew 26:52: 52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.|
Anyone who cites the verses above for their views is well within their right to do so. But I do wonder how anyone that has shaved their beard, has a tattoo, lied, has used profanity, eaten a rare steak or eaten third-day leftovers, reconciles what Leviticus 19 says about all of those things.
This is the beginning of the hypocrisy, but it is not the end. I’m sure the most common retort regarding the restrictions on beards etc. would be ‘times have clearly changed from 2000 years ago’. A valid point – but has time stood still when it comes to LGBT rights and gun sense?
The hypocrisy of using the Bible to justify a political stance becomes more evident when it comes to much of the rhetoric on immigration. As I have illustrated above, Biblical verses fly when it suits to make a political point on some hot-button issues, but I don’t seem to hear much about it when talking about the plight of immigrants. I think I know why.
|Leviticus 19:33-34: 33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.|
|Mark 12:30-31: 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”|
|Hebrews 13:2: 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.|
There are several other passages that continue with the same theme: allow those seeking sanctuary into your borders, and welcome them to be a part of your community. The proposals set forth by the leading Republican candidates do not sound much like that.
Donald Trump advocates banning Muslims from entering the country, has proposed a national database of those practicing Islam and wants to deport millions of undocumented individuals (for the record, Obama has deported 2.5 million illegal immigrants, 23% more than Bush 43), all while building a wall along our southern border. Cruz (who also wants to build the wall) and Trump also want to prevent any immigrant from receiving government assistance, forcing them to ‘certify that they can pay for their own housing, healthcare and other needs before coming to the U.S.’ (https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/immigration-reform) How that would be determined at the border is unclear, but that aside I’m pretty sure the sojourners into Egypt didn’t have much in the line of personal resources.
Marco Rubio is, albeit quietly, a little more reasonable when it comes to immigration. He still wants to build a wall, but in his 2015 book American Dreams, he outlines a path to permanent residency (after another 10 years of living as a ‘temporary nonmigrant’), which is not to be confused with citizenship. During the current primary contest, he has had to move a little farther right since the term ‘amnesty’ has been flung at him from his opponents.
Each of the main GOP candidates wants to do away with DACA and have shown zero support for the DREAM Act. (I firmly support both of those policies, but they could go farther, particularly DACA. I should probably spend a couple hundred words talking about the details of those policies, but I’ll leave that to future blog post.) I openly invite any of them, or anyone else that opposes these policies, to come spend a day with some students at my school. Some of them are undocumented themselves. Some of them are citizens (through birthright, which Trump and Cruz both want to end), with parents that are undocumented. Regardless of their individual situation, they deserve better than our society is giving them.
Am I advocating for no border control whatsoever? Of course not. There should be a process for folks coming in from any country to be here legally. But, with the current situation as it is, there must be a way for those currently undocumented to come out of the shadows and have a path to full citizenship. Many people say this is rewarding their criminal behavior of being in the country illegally, sometimes for decades. But for the vast majority of those people, that is their only crime. They have been productive members of their community since their arrival. They are active in their churches, they pay taxes, their children do well in school and they often work jobs that many ‘natural’ Americans think are beneath them.
Religious freedom and freedom of expression is the foundation of our country. Each individual is free to worship express those beliefs. That freedom certainly includes citing a religious text to support an argument. I simply ask for consistency and confidence when making those citations.