Alright, calling out a personal acquaintance here. Someone on my FB friends list, an old acquaintance from college and current right-wing evangelical, recently posted the following:
The article that is referenced in the image can be found here. It’s about people objecting to AG Sessions and the Trump administration citing Biblical prescriptions that Christians should obey the law to justify the separation of families at the southern border. Specifically, it’s about those who raise Biblical passages commanding compassion for strangers and the oppressed to refute that position.
Literally everything about that post is an illustration of the poison of right-wing evangelicalism (and, to an extent, religion itself) in life and politics.
Let’s start with the claim that Democrats booed God. That is a lie. I normally try to give benefit of the doubt, but not on this. It’s too easily debunked to believe that the author wrote it honestly. Even if he believed it, it’s because he wanted to believe it so badly that he ignored the easily discoverable truth. He. Lied.
If you follow the link to the article, you’ll find that what the author is referencing is an incident at the 2012 Democratic National Convention where the chairman attempted to add to the party platform, on a voice vote, statements affirming God as the source of moral and political convictions. If you watch the videos (which the author conveniently links, presumably on the assumption that anyone reading his article would either not watch them or would be just as biased as he was), you can see that the chairman clearly and obviously lied about the outcome of the vote. That is what the boos were about. They weren’t booing God, who was clearly not the person speaking on the stage; they were booing a person standing in front to them and blatantly lying to support his preferred outcome on a political procedure.
And, sad as I am to say it, even the majority of Democrats are still Christians. So the idea that they were booing God is clear nonsense.
Nor is it even remotely realistic to interpret the volume of “no” votes as a “booing,” of God. Those delegates were voting against a political statement that happened to reference God, for the very good reason that it has no place in a document purporting to represent a religiously diverse political organization. Furthermore, many Democrats recognize the importance of the establishment clause, and take its defense seriously enough to actually vote accordingly. Nobody voted against God (who, it should be noted, did not put in an appearance to state his preferred outcome on the vote), but against the inclusion of sectarian religious language in a political document.
Plus, of course, there’s the fact that there was still a substantial volume of “yes” votes. So it’s pretty damn disingenuous to suggest that, because of this incident, no Democrat has a position to speak on Biblical issues. The party is pretty clearly divided on this topic.
So, lying about what happened and what it means is the first way this is poison. The second is the framing of the objections as summed up in the quote my acquaintance chose to accompany his post: “The Devil knows the Bible better than almost anybody – certainly better than you or I…” Basically, making the point that anyone who would use the Bible to support a different political policy than the one the author wants you to support, even (or especially) if that person seems to know the text better than you do, is simply lying.
This is poisonous on multiple levels. On the general level, it seems to be part and parcel of the general right-wing push to undermine the value of expertise. It contains within it the idea that someone who knows a subject better than you is, almost by definition, someone who will use that knowledge to lie to you. That expertise is a tool to mislead you, not one you can use to discern the truth. Note that the article does not, in any way, encourage readers to improve their own understanding of the Bible or any of the topics at hand. It doesn’t say that, if someone knows the Bible better than you and reached different conclusions, you should try to study how they reached those conclusions and see if they hold water. It tells you to reject them because the author (and perhaps his faith tradition) says to, and because experts lie.
On the more specific level, it encourages the demonization of other Christians. In the viewpoint presented by the author, Christians who conclude that their god’s call to show compassion to the stranger supersedes the injunction to obey the law aren’t merely believers who have interpreted their god’s desires differently from you or your political leaders. They are liars who are manipulating scripture to mislead you. They are, on some level, literally the Devil.
More subtly, this speaks to the problematic nature of religious beliefs in political policy. Because, ultimately, how does one decide which side is right (or whether either of them is)? It’s not like God has issued, or is going to issue, a press release telling us which policy to pursue. All any of us has ever seen, or is likely to ever see, is just people arguing about how to interpret an opaque, ancient book to make policy in the present. And occasionally calling each other evil for coming to different conclusions. It’s a recipe for sowing rancor and division. And, in case you’re wondering, I think that’s a bad thing.
By the way, what’s the difference between the following two statements?
1) I don’t want to separate these children from their parents, but I will because the Bible says I have to obey the law.
2) I don’t want to bake this cake for this gay couple, but I will because the Bible says I have to obey the law.
Because suddenly the religious right is very concerned about the Biblical injunction to obey the law in the first case, and not so much in the second. The Big Book of Multiple Choice seems, as usual, to be merely the thing you can draw on to justify doing what you wanted to do in the first place. What you choose to justify says much more about you than about the book or the desires of any celestial being.