The Pharisees of American Politics

The Pharisees of American Politics

Since November 2006, there has been a political whirlwind of controversy surrounding the Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison’s announced that he would take his Congressional oath of office on Islam’s holy book, the Koran.

According to reports in the Washington Post, it would seem that once again some Christian groups are keenly focused on the political ramifications.

Still, some conservative Christians have taken Prager’s editorial as a clarion call. The American Family Association in Tupelo, Miss., for example, sent out an “action alert” to its 3.4 million members urging them to write their legislators “to pass a law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and Senators.”

Since when was the goal of our Faith to make politicians swear an oath on the Bible? Let me give you several reasons why this kind of political activism demonstrated by the American Family Association is destructive to our faith in Jesus.

First, anyone promoting this kind of legislation is breaking God’s Law that forbids idolatry. The ritual of putting ones hand on a copy of the Bible is nothing more than a superficial custom. This practice is not consistent with anything in our faith tradition and making this a human “law” will not in any way promote the Good News.

Second, Jesus condemned the swearing of public oaths; especially when they led to hypocrisy. Republican and Democrats alike break God’s Old Testament Law and the Law of Christ every day. Asking them to swear a public oath using a book they do not live by is exactly the thing that Jesus rejected.

Third, by focusing on passing meaningless laws, we distract Christians from the real importance of this event. Swearing an oath on the Koran and not the Bible does mark a significant change in our culture. We no longer live in a country dominated by a Christian worldview. But let us not forget, the Bible was not used in American tradition as a way to createChristian values, it reflected the worldview that already existed among the people of our nation. It does not work the other way and using the Bible in some outdated ritual will not change our culture one bit.

Finally, the biblical ignorance and moral arrogance of groups like the AFA is astounding. Next time the folks over at the AFA put their hand on the Bible, they should think about opening the book up and reading it. God gave Israel an entire book of Law, but it did not alter their moral compass (it was not supposed to). Does anyone think King Saul would have been a better leader if he had to swear an oath with his hand on the Torah? I guess the folks at the AFA think they can do a better job than YHWH and make more effective laws. The Pharisees would be proud!

Now its time for a reality check; we, the followers of Jesus, need to be less focused on such vain political activism and more concerned with honoring the Bible in our churches and personal lives. If we did a better job of submitting ourselves to the Spirit, we would not have to pass laws to honor the Scripture; it would already be in the hearts and minds of these elected leaders.

Let’s stop worrying about passing such foolish laws, and start getting serious about leading people into a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

* NOTE: I wrote the AFA on July 17, 2007 to make them aware of my criticism and have given them a fair opportunity to respond.

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