Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Over the last few days I have fielded hundreds of angry e-mails from pro-Mitt Romney evangelicals about a recent Belief Blog post in which I took Billy Graham and other white evangelicals to task for turning Jesus into a water boy for the Republican Party.
A disturbing number of these complaints about my alleged "evangelical bashing" have been hateful, ill-informed and explicitly racist. But the more intelligent responses have taken two tacks.
First, readers have told me that they are voting for Romney not because Mormonism is proper Christianity but because Romney is the lesser of two evils. Some in this camp, convinced (wrongly) that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, say they would rather vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.
Second, readers have argued that Romney's political views are more biblical. And repeatedly they have referred me to two central issues: abortion and same-sex marriage.
One pastor who reports he is working on a doctorate in theology says he believes “that the Bible is the literal word of God.” Because of this belief, he will vote for Romney: “ If you claim Christ as your king, how on earth can you justify the murder of God given life through abortion or any other means?" he writes. "If you accept Christ as your king, how on earth can you accept the moral deviancy of homosexuality as normal?”
In my book "American Jesus," I demonstrated how American views of Jesus, rather than adhering strictly to the unchanging biblical witness, have shifted with the cultural and political winds. Over the course of U.S. history Jesus has been a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior.
In other words, he has been used, by both the left and the right. Or, as I put it, “The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king, pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess, sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.”
This problem of mistaking your God for the God – the problem, that is, of idolatry – was captured beautifully by Albert Schweitzer, who suggested that scholars on a quest for the “historical Jesus” were looking down into a deep well and seeing not the real Jesus but reflections of themselves.
This is what is happening, in my view, to my angry evangelical readers. In this case, however, they are looking down the well and seeing some mashup of Ronald Reagan and Romney. Instead of the biblical Christ, they are seeing the Republican Jesus.
There are many ways to support my argument that the preoccupations of the Christian Right today are not the preoccupations of the Bible.
One is to point out that abortion is never even mentioned in the Bible. (Yes, Jeremiah 1:5 reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” but when did that formation happen? At conception? At quickening? At birth?)
Another is to point out that American evangelicals didn’t care about the abortion question until the GOP taught them to care.
As Jonathan Dudley observes in a recent Belief Blog post, U.S. Catholic leaders began to take on abortion right after Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973, but American evangelical leaders continued to teach that life begins at birth until the late 1970s and early 1980s. If the Bible clearly teaches us that our politics should center on the abortion question, why did it take nearly 2,000 years for Bible believers to figure this out?
Here is my basic proposition: Bible-believing Christians who want to base their politics on the Bible ought to get the Bible straight, which is to say (a) correct and (b) directly from the page, rather than filtered through the spin of the GOP.
To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of “The Official King James Bible Online,” which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity.
Not surprisingly, “and” and “the” are the top two. But how do more meaningful words rank?
Abortion, of course, is not on the list. Neither is homosexuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male homosexuality (and either one or zero to lesbianism, depending on how you read Romans 1:26).
So these issues are not central. But which issues are? Well, faith, grace and salvation, for starters. (They appear 231, 159 and 158 times, respectively.)
But if you turn to the political questions that beset us today, what does this quantitative approach to the Bible yield? First and foremost, a preoccupation with "war” (280 times) and “peace” (470). Second, a preoccupation with economics, and especially with the rich (109) and the poor (233).
The Bible also seems far more concerned with “prison” and “prisoners” (109) than we are in U.S. politics today. And, I might add, with famine (101).
Finally, the Bible mentions Israel a lot (2,509 times) – even more than heaven (644). So that seems to be something that both candidates got right in the third debate.
To conclude, I have no problem with evangelical Christians voting for Romney. My complaint arises when they say they are doing so because the Bible commands them to vote for the candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage.
The Bible itself is relatively unconcerned with these matters. It is far more concerned with questions of poverty and wealth, war and peace, and (need I add?) theology.
If you think otherwise, it's not the Bible speaking. It's the political operative at the bottom of the well.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
Could you define the big bang theory a little better? (i.e. NOT in a "nutshell"?) What is your scientific background? Should you really be arguing with people about scientific theories on this forum? It seems as if your knowledge lies more within the religious studies realm, which I respect, but as a scientist I take issue with people who claim to know something about science without any real background (i.e. formal studies or the reading of primary literature and scientifically-written books).
I don't know the Bible well, so I don't speak about the Bible and I especially don't make claims about what the Bible does and does not condone, having not read it much since my Catholic high school days. I also don't argue with people about faith. I'm not that type of person and I hope you aren't, either. I see nothing wrong with having faith in a divine creator. But please do not compare the Big Bang theory or any other scientifc theory (that people have devoted their lives to studying) to "blowing up a forest of trees." It's insulting.
It's interesting how athiests are so passionate about convincing others to believe the same things they do. Is it a really big deal if I believe something different than you? Do you also go around convincing children that santa and the tooth fairy don't exist with the same passion? I wonder where that burning inside of the athiests comes from.........
God's plan for each of us is great, and he loves us and has a future for us. He offers eternal paradise for our earthly commitment, which is only a speck in eternity. It shows how much pride this world is full of when they say "no way, IIIIIIII, IIII can do it all myself". If athiests don't want to accept God, then that is their choice. It's just so sad how they have no God behind them, no reason to do anything, yet they're out there pushing their beliefs on others and belittling them. At least Christians have a mission and desire to see people come to God. Athiests just do it for their own pride.
"It's interesting how athiests are so passionate about convincing others to believe the same things they do. Is it a really big deal if I believe something different than you?"
it is if you use that belief to deny others their civil rights
"It's just so sad how they have no God behind them, no reason to do anything, yet they're out there pushing their beliefs on others and belittling them"
No reason to do anything?
Talk about belittling
Is god the reason you do everything?
"At least Christians have a mission and desire to see people come to God. Athiests just do it for their own pride."
No, no, no, Brad...it's not that you desire people to come to god, it is that you desire that they accept YOUR god,
Atheists appeal to reason, not to the edited, translated hearsay of iron age sheep romancers
Why doesnt he just tell them that jesus is a false god? Expose the christian lie. jesus and satan cannot save you. You must hold yourself upright and champion the rights of the poor and oppressed. faith means nothing. a coward who lies in wait in hiding to murder his opponent might have faith, but that will not save him from his own cowardace once THE LORD OF THE EARTH has seen his cowardly deed. ODIN will show him no mercy if he murders the poor and the oppressed, no matter how much faith he has. lolollololololol. He who laughs last laughs loudest, and it is always ODIN who laughs at the oppressor, HE who laughs at the murderer of the poor, HE who laughs at the man who lies in hiding to murder after the coward has disarmed the poor and oppressed.
Looks like the author of this article was right! Prayers didn't really work for the conservatrolls last night. So sad! LOL!!!!
Humans, humans..stop it. I don't have a party affiliation. Okay, granted I voted once..for Ross Perot. But that was only because I thought his ears were interesting.
If you vote for a non-believe, like Romney, you allie byourself with darkness because whoever denies Jesus is the Christ has neither the Son nor the Father. The lesser of evils is Obama. Romney belong to and is a prelate in an anti-Christ cult. Period. No sugar coating it to make it nice. Romney is a anti-Christ and is aligned with darkness. Does it not seem strange that the two States that have 1st. hand knowledge of this man and his family have soundly rejected him? If he is elected, you'll see why Michigan and Massachutes did not want him in the Oval Office.
"whoever denies Jesus is the Christ has neither the Son nor the Father."
good. reading these blogs has shown that those with the son or the father are deluded
My take? If Democrats want to take back Jesus they're welcome to. But it doesn't seem like they're interested. Studies have shown time and again that as a whole, Democrats (and esp. liberals) are more likely to shy away from church, the Bible, traditional Christian morality, and yes, Jesus. Republicans (and esp. conservatives) are much more interested in Christianity and Jesus. If you exit the conversation, you are essentially forfeiting your chance to shape it. And a lot more Democrats than Republicans are forfeiting their chance to shape that conversation by exiting the Christianity they were likely raised with. That is absolutely their choice, but guess what? That means you really don't get to complain about Republican Jesus and what a fraud that is when you have voted with your feet by leaving the church. The problem is these conservations are framed as though both parties are equally likely to be church-going, Bible-believing, or whatever other measure we use to gauge religious fervor. They're not. Just "being nice" doesn't make you a Christian or any other religion. It makes you a nice person. When Democrats are ditching Jesus en masse and Republicans are sticking with him–however imperfectly–the perception of Jesus as a Republican is a given. Not because Jesus was a Republican but simply by way of default.
As a Christian and political Independent who has voted Democrat many times, nothing would make me happier to see Jesus and his teachings (ALL of them; not just the social ones that you like) get a warmer welcome in the Democratic party. But the way things are going I'm not holding out for it.
Democrats are simply too intelligent, in general, to believe in ancient mythology.
Nothing like a broad brush there
Athy... ancient mythology? At least the Word of God is never been wrong unlike all this new science and technology you are clinging to.
Rick W.: Which Word Of God (TM)? Seems there are many interpretations of it out there. Which is the CORRECT word of god?
So, you feel that Noah got two of every animal on a boat, do you?
The fact that science has been proven wrong on some things is a strength, not a weakness.
Yes @RickW, like when it says the earth is the center of the universe with the sun and stars revolving around it in a watery firmament surrounding the earth. When it says the sun goes into it's little house at night, and when it says the earth is a circle rather than a sphere. This is what you call being never wrong? Better stop listening to your preacher's BS and start reading the book yourself.
yeah, I've known a lot of christians that hold similar beliefs. I know a lot who voted for Obama. But that doesn't change the fact that the narative of the bible overwhelimingly advocates genocide and land theft which is what "christian america" has really stood for since it's conception.
Nice to see pho bic atheists abound here.
It seems to be Christians who are the most hom0phobic.
I see you're a fan and proponent of Jerry Sundusky. Nice job.
TIck, Tick, Tick....
I still haven't heard a non-believer explain why they waste those precious seconds of their life arguing with us creationist creatons.
There are Bigfoot boards too. Do you get this upset over those that believe in Bigfoot? Loch Ness Monster? Aliens? Ghosts? Or, even the teachings of Buddha?
Because religious nuts like you try to force your religion on the rest of the world instead of keeping it in the closet where it belongs.
None of those groups have ever tried to codify their beliefs via civil legislation.
Actually, I get a kick out of ridiculing religious nitwits who haven't enough rational thought capability to solve a child's riddle.
What the others said... plus, your penchant for wanting to hinder real science and to demand that your fantasies be taught as science in public schools.
You should get some help with those ticks - Lyme disease, ya' know...
Non-believers post to counter the hypocrisy and nonsense of many Christians. Pretending they read the Bible doesn't mean Christians actually follow passages such as the Golden Rule.
I think anyone who's here, religious or non-believer just enjoys debating. I sure hope no one's here because they actually think anonymous postings influence people's vote. Sure maybe one or two comments will knock around in the brain and influence you in a while, but that's a slow process. The problem is that different people have different standards for 'debate'...and for some, again on all side, I think the fun really does lie in the name calling. But in a place like this you mix the sincere with the hobby arguers, and it's not always pretty. I don't, btw, prefer either the sincere or the hobbyists, just different groups.
1. it is fun
2. it is a way of telling the religious fvcks who try to codify their beliefs to fvck off
good enough for you, opus, or do you want more?
The author talks about what the Bible concerns itself with. It clearly deals with sin. Jesus told sinners, "Go and sin no more." That would be his response to any sinner, murderer, adulterer. It clearly states what is expected of us in the 10 commandments, yet he did not mention those. I don't vote pro-life because it is the Republican thing to do. I vote pro-life because it is the Christian thing to do and b/c we are told not to sin. I believe what the Bible says, but I don't use it for my agenda. The author uses it the same way he accuses the religious right of doing. He uses it to minimize the sins that we are clearly warned against.
@Cathy, the bible doesn't say anything about a human beginning at conception – it couldn't since conception was not then in any way understood. How then did you and your church all come to the conclusion that it does? The argument is that you could not have, with just the bible to go on. This became a way to distinguish ones organization in the arena of ideas when the parties view were in danger of merging. The same thing happened when Hindus started to avoid beef during the Islamic influx. Groups will always look to distinguish themselves, and in a democracy, the various players will work to encourage or discourage what suits their needs.
That's easy, MCR. Cathy and her fellow zealots pretend that the bible says what they want it to say. That way, they can ease their consciences because they only hate the people they believe the bible condemns. The girls who get pregnant at 17. The kids who are gay. The people who divorce.
See? Easy peavey, lemon squeezy.
I want you to say this very very slowly so maybe you can understand it.
Non-sequitur fallacy, and Straw Man Argument. agreed brother
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
anyone here in on this
Ol' Mo had a million of 'em...
11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,
13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;
14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:
15 Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:
17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:
18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
19 And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
20 But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband:
21 Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;
22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.
23 And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
24 And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.
25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar:
26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.
27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.
28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.
29 This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;
30 Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.
31 Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity. - Numbers 5
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; EPHESIANS 2/19-20
WONDER WHO THOSE SAINTS ARE
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? JOB 38/4-7
how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a god? THERE YOU GO SAMMY
So, Joshua, you have abandonded logic altogether and just post edited iron age hearsay?
yes steve PROTHERO-MASTER OF DIVINITY HE MUST BE A PHILLISTINE
n my book "American Jesus," I demonstrated how American views of Jesus, rather than adhering strictly to the unchanging biblical witness, have shifted with the cultural and political winds. Over the course of U.S. history Jesus has been a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior. ILL BE WRITING A FOLLOWUP TO THAT PIECE OF BULL
It never ceases to amaze me how many non-believers feel the need to post comments about religious stories. Why do you care? In fact, you are wasting a precious amount of the very, very finite time you have left on this earth. Your non-belief means that you cease to exist at the moment of death, according to you. The seconds in your life are literally numbered and you choose to use those precious seconds to argue with people many of you claim are intellectually challenged?
Explain what is so pressing that you must waste your time not only reading about things you do not believe in, but arguing with people about why they are fools for believing?
So, we are idiots and fools for believing one God created all that there is and all that we are. You are intelligent for believing that a mass of unknown size and composition exploded for some unknown reason and created the universe that we have today. Oh, and this random, undefined explosion of some undefined mass resulted in the perfect forming of a planet with the perfect undefined development that lead to primordial ooze turning into life that in some undefined way turned into you.
So, if I blow up a mountain of trees, the result will be a perfect 10,000 square foot mansion made from the wood. That's the Big Bang THEORY in a nutshell.
And we're the idiots for believing in God?
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? JOHN 10/34
how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a god?
So where did god come from?
Faith by definition does not need to be logical, and my faith tells me there is a God. However, applying logic to a creator asks a very simple question: why would a creator create? I am sure there are dozens if not thousands of opinions on that. But, at it's very core, why would a creator create a universe, a solar system, a planet full of life, and an intelligent species?
But, the simplest form of explanation to me is this: the creator made me. I cannot make the creator. Therefore, the creator is more than I am. To me, my creator is god because he made all that there is. What is above the creator? Nothing. The creator is omnipotent which makes him god.
So, logic tells me it is much easier to explain how I am with a creator than it is to explain how I am with a random series of events spread over billions of years.
As I said, my faith tells me there is but one god and that is God.
Non-sequitur fallacy, and Straw Man Argument.
"However, applying logic to a creator asks a very simple question: why would a creator create?"
Don't know. I don't purport to know the mind of the creator
You still have not answered the question.
how does a creator imply a "God"?
Logic: I don't think it means what you think it means.
God has always been. The problem with logic is trying to define the universe with a set of rules that refuse to define the universe-physics. If time is a dimension, for the sake of argument, then time has to follow the rules of physics. But, God made the rules.
Think of something that seems totally off the wall, but makes some sense if you give it thought: in Men In Black, an entire universe hung from a charm on a cat's bracelet. Now, ask yourself this: how big is the universe? The answer is simple: that depends on how big the person is that's looking at it.
Hawaiiguest: the defense of the weak is to espouse a viewpoint with no valid argument or facts. Or, to say it more plainly, just because you say it doesn't make it so.
So, care to explain how my description of creator/evolution is so flawed?
(I'm guessing not, but I have to ask.)
For one, the big bang theory has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with evolution, hence the straw man.
Two, playing up unknowns in our knowledge does not in any way validate a god claim, that is called an argument from ignorance.
Third, even if your logic was valid, it in no way points to a specific god, hence the non-sequitur.
Fourth, merely stating that a creator exists and does this is not evidence. That's just an assertion.
Fifth, presuming you were created to demonstrate your inability to create the creator could fall under either circular reasoning and a begging the question fallacy (presuming the conclusion in the premise).
"God has always been."
So what created that? Also, prove it.
Opus, ehh that is not the big bang theory in a nutshell. That would be akin to me describing christianity as thus: the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib/woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Makes perfect sense, right?
Why is it that people think the God and the Big Bang Theory have to be mutually exclusive? Whose to say God didn't set the whole universe in motion starting with the Big Bang and going from there. Even Pope John Paul modified the church's official views on science and evolution.
Many people have nothing against the concept of a god, even the Christian one. What many of us take offense to is the fact that the Christian faith uses words that are arguably 2 millennia old and tries to apply them to today's world while perverting the purported message of Jesus Christ which has always been acceptance, love, and tolerance of your neighbor (which, coincidentally, is the same underlying message of every other major religion in the world).
For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. anyone here in this category? / /
yes steve PROTHERO-MASTER OF DIVINITY
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.