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Who Owns What?

January 18, 2016

I read a couple of weeks ago that Barack Obama has quoted the Bible more during his presidency than any president going back to Truman.  I remember thinking at the time that this was sure to leave some Republicans sputtering.  It turns out I was right.  A short time later I saw this quote about Obama from Congressman Dave Brat (R-Va):

“He’s using the Christian tradition and trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible,”

The quote was complaining about Obama using biblical quotes to support the case for permitting Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.  Brat’s testy comment evoked both my fascination that he had some problem with compassion and my laughter at the mental image of Obama hitting him on the head with the Bible.  And here I thought Bible thumping was exclusively in our evangelical purview.  But Brat continued his quote and explained that, no; it is actually the exclusive purview of Republicans:

“Our side, the conservative side, needs to reeducate its people that we own the entire tradition.” 

Seriously?  Does he seriously think that conservative Republicans are the sole owners of biblical tradition?  Frankly, his call to “reeducate” strikes me more as brainwashing than education.  I shouldn’t have to say this but no one owns Jesus and no one owns Christian tradition.

I think that Brat has committed a gaffe, which is defined by Michael Kinsley as “accidentally telling the truth.”  He truly believes that Republicans, and only Republicans, speak for God.  And it is just scary that he is arrogant enough to believe that.

We evangelicals are free to vote for anyone we want.  We cherish our freedom to interpret the Bible and apply it to our lives.  We don’t need anyone to tell us what “politics according to the Bible” is.  While there is an overlap between my political beliefs and some aspects of Republican theory I continue to believe that the evangelical/Republican alliance is bad for our faith.  In the words of evangelical pollster Ed Stetzer “When you combine religion and politics you get just politics.”

No, Congressman Brat, you don’t “own” Christian tradition.

 

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