Now, the Bible

Now, the Bible:

The other matter was the Bible and its use in American politics and culture.

President Obama... has said that he hopes to be “an instrument of God.” (Shouldn’t we all.) And, the other day, I saw a photo of him next to a neon cross (pretty garish). I also read what he said about critics of his health-care plans: They were “bearing false witness.”


Kind of a funny country we’re living in. A beauty-pageant contestant says that she is opposed to gay marriage, believing that marriage is between a man and a woman — and she is pilloried as some kind of modern-day witch. But when Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Bill Clinton — pretty much all major Democrats — express the same opinion: Everyone’s cool.

I know the standard answer: The Left (broadly speaking) realizes those Democrats don’t mean it; and they’re pretty sure that Miss California does.
He has more examples, but these are enough.

I think the issue is that the Left (again, broadly speaking) tends to hear religious rhetoric as a kind of bipartisan outreach. They forgive it in their own because they think 'well, the President has to reach out to the Right, and explain things in terms they'll understand.' They assume the speaker (being a left-wing politician) is 'with them' on questions of right and wrong, and don't get nervous that his faith might lead him to something they wouldn't like.

From a Right-wing politician, the Left tends to receive the rhetoric as outsiders. They assume the speaker isn't one of them, and he's speaking to others who are also not 'one of them.'

For the Right, the division isn't about whether the speaker is 'one of you' or not; it's about whether he's sincere or not. I assume most politicians who invoke God are doing so for purely cynical reasons, like a used car salesman telling you that he used to be a minister. While these people are annoying, they are not worrisome: I expect politicians to lie and wheedle, so it seems entirely within the nature of the beast if they do it.

However, a few men of genuine faith do become involved in politics. George W. Bush seems to have been one of those men. He spoke little about faith, and I think it was less to avoid scaring people, than because sincere faith isn't trumpeted. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."

That kind of faith reassures the Right, when it is present; but it terrifies those who do not share it. I can understand why. It is what the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote about: what do you do if God calls you to something? What if that something is awful?

They were afraid that Bush was following his faith into Iraq -- remember the stories about how Bush believed it was the land of Gog and Magog? They were afraid he was following it everywhere. That would mean he was making decisions for reasons they couldn't understand or predict, and given the power of the office, that was terrifying.

In any event, this leaves us here:

1) Politicians who are insincere leftists may freely quote the Bible without scaring anyone, but they won't convince anyone, either.

2) Politicians who are insincere rightists would be better off not quoting the Bible, as it convinces the Left they are insane and the Right that they are liars.

3) Politicians who are genuine believers on the Left may freely quote the Bible, but probably won't. It won't scare anyone if they do, because the Left will assume they are 'one of them,' and will therefore receive the religion as unthreatening; the Right will respect the sincerity of the faith, even if they disagree about where it lead the believer.

4) Politicians who are genuine believers on the Right may freely quote the Bible, but probably won't: and they will terrify the Left regardless of their choice in this matter.

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