“And we’re going to protect Christianity. And I can say that — I don’t have to be politically correct — we’re going to protect it….. And I asked Jerry (University chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.), and I asked some of the folks, because I hear this is your major theme right here, but Two Corinthians — Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. ‘Where the spirit of The Lord is, there is liberty.’ And here there is Liberty College – Liberty University.” – Donald Trump speaking at Liberty University while on the campaign trail
“I want to remind you of the promise of Scripture — weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning….. Tonight Iowa has proclaimed to the world, ‘morning is coming, morning is coming.'” – Ted Cruz after winning the Iowa caucus
“But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’” – President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2012 justifying his taxation plan using a passage from Luke 12:48 which in context has nary to do with paying taxes or responsibility to government
Several weeks ago I wrote an article about Christian America and where we’re trying to take America back to.
I wrote about some of the concerns that I, and likely many other Christians have about our country and culture. I also talked about the rhetoric we hear from both politicians and common folk in regards to getting back to the way things used to be. Unfortunately, much of that rhetoric doesn’t hold water as there really has never been a time in which America was truly or fully “Christian”. I finished by expressing that maybe our biggest concerns shouldn’t be with taking our country back for God and rather with how we conduct our lives as Christians and spreading the gospel, because ultimately our hopes are not in the United States of America but in Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world.
Some of my thoughts and ideas in the article were derived from or influenced by Dr. John Fea and his excellent book, Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. (Editor’s note – An updated second edition of the book is being released in September.) Dr. Fea is an Early America Historian and in the book he attempts to take an objective and comprehensive approach in finding how the past informs us and speaks to us. While avoiding the cherry picking of information just to make one’s political case today.
Last week I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Fea speak on this topic. He covered many engaging ideas and interesting assertions. One point he made that got me to thinking a little bit more is that using the Bible to promote political ideas is nothing new in America. I would imagine it’s probably nothing new in world history wherever and whenever Scripture has had influence in a culture.
Dr. Fea specifically mentioned Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Thinking back to the beginnings of this country, it’s pretty easy to see how those on the side of the American Revolution co-opted this verse for their purposes. And apparently this was done quite regularly and liberally at that time. He gave a specific example of a minister from New Jersey whose historical sermon notes showed the minister preaching on this verse in the 1760’s and holding to a pretty standard and orthodox meaning of the text. However, when preaching on the same text in 1775, the minister seemingly applied a whole new meaning to the verse and now suddenly there were strong parallels between freedom and Christ and the Continental Army.
Dr. Fea also brought up the passage of Romans 13:1-7 – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…..” Guess who was using these verses to make their case? Yup, the Loyalists, of course.
So this is nothing new. When we see people today, politicians and non-politicians alike, using Scripture to make political points, we know this practice goes all the way back to the beginnings of our country.
Now, this is not to say that it is always wrong to use Scripture to make a political point. Assuredly, there are times that God’s Word can be aptly used to support a political point, cause, or idea. However, we also have seen plenty of cases where the Bible is incorporated into a political cause and quite a bit of violence is done to the authentic meaning of the text.
This goes well beyond politics. I would be disposed to believe that we all at one time or another, if not more, have mis-used Scripture for our own purposes. Whether it be to make a political point, or to manipulate a situation for our own gain, or to win an argument on the Internet. Or how about in wanting to selfishly hold onto a belief that we don’t want to give up when the evidence is starting to show that it might not be true. If we thought about it long enough, we could probably come up with a really long list of the ways Scripture has been mis-used.
I am not a Biblical scholar or theologian and so I can’t expertly speak to the optimum ways of handling and interpreting Scripture in all of its fullness. But I know enough to identify some sloppy eisegesis going on out there sometimes. Even at times catching myself at the transgression.
The Bible is God’s Word.
It is the book where God tells His story to us.
It speaks to and brings life to those who read it and believe.
It is the most important book ever written.
Let’s treat it as such.
Let us not use it as a tool for our own selfish benefit, political or not.
God deserves more than that. Much more.