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My Take: 5 biblical passages for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry
What parts of the Bible do candidates really follow?
August 16th, 2011
10:57 AM ET

My Take: 5 biblical passages for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

The audience booed when columnist Byron York asked U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at the Republican presidential debate last week, if, as president, she would be “submissive to her husband.”

That question would have been out of order if she had excluded her evangelical Protestant faith from her presidential campaign. But she has made her faith as a Bible believer central to that campaign, so voters have a right to know which parts of the Bible she really believes in, and which parts (if any) she ignores.

Unfortunately, we cannot ask God whether He has in fact called Bachmann to be president, but we can ask her to interpret what she affirms to be the Word of God.

The same goes for Texas Governor Rick Perry, who earlier this month led “The Response,” a prayer and fasting event at a Houston football stadium that had the look and feel of an evangelical revival.

So here are my five Bible quotations for the two Republican presidential candidates now vying most vociferously for the evangelical Protestant vote.

1.  “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands” (Colossians 3:18).

Should female presidents submit to their first husbands? As it should be obvious to anyone who saw this portion of the debate, Bachmann did not answer this question. She said she respected her husband. She said he respected her. But the question was about submission, not respect.

When John F. Kennedy was running for president, some voters were worried about whether, as president, he would take his marching orders from someone else. That someone else was not Jacqueline Onassis but the pope.

In a famous speech delivered on September 12, 1960, in Houston, he answered the question clearly and definitely. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President - should he be Catholic - how to act.”

He also drew a sharp distinction between his private religious views and his public political views, pledging that his private faith would have no bearing on his actions as president. “Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views - in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates.”

I would like to know whether Bachmann will say the same about her evangelical Protestantism. If her husband tells her to veto a bill, will she submit to him? Is there any separation for her, as there was for Kennedy, between her private religious doctrines (in this case, that wives should be submissive to their husbands) and her public responsibilities (to act as "the decider")?

2. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

When I watched Perry’s performance at “The Response,” this Bible quote came to mind. I would like to know what he thinks of it.

Should Christians make a show of praying in public? This passage at least would seem to say no. In fact, it seems to say that when you pray you should go into your room and shut the door before addressing God. But perhaps I am misreading it. Either way, I would like for Perry to tell me what he makes of this Bible passage. And Bachmann, too, while we are at it.

3.  “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

Part of the Ten Commandments, this passage has been used by many social conservatives to argue against Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. After all, if God said, “Thou shalt not kill” then why are we taking lives inside the womb?  But if God said, “Thou shalt not kill” then why are we allowing capital punishment?

I would like to hear from both Perry and Bachmann about how they read this passage, and how it can simultaneously justify opposition to abortion rights and support for the death penalty. (During his term as Texas governor, Perry has overseen 234 executions. Bachmann's position on the issue is unclear.)

4.  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25).

This famous quotation, which appears in parallel form in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, arises when Jesus is asked a "gotcha" question about paying taxes to the Roman government. It has been read in various ways by various Christians.

Nonetheless, Jesus seems to be drawing a clear distinction here between religious and secular authority - a distinction that neither Perry nor Bachmann appears to see.

Admittedly, neither of these candidates agrees with the famous metaphor of Thomas Jefferson famous metaphor of a “wall of separation between church and state” but does either see a line of demarcation of any sort - a picket fence, perhaps - between “what is Caesar’s” and “what is God’s”?

5.  “Blessed are the poor" (Luke 6:20).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In Luke, he says, more simply, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

This Lukan passage is a key source in the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church for the so-called “preferential option for the poor”—the notion that Christian communities have a particular responsibility to take care of the poor in their midst.

How do Perry and Bachmann read this passage? Did Luke mess up by leaving out "in spirit"? Or did Jesus really say "Blessed are the poor"? And if he did say that, what did he mean by it? Do his words carry any meaning for us today, and to the way we craft our federal budget?

I have more quotations, of course, but these five will do for now.

I presume both candidates will acknowledge that these passages are, in fact, in the Bible. And I take it for granted that, as self-professed Bible-believing Christians, they believe these passages are true. But what truths do they teach? And what import, if any, do those truths have on their public policies?

I understand the impulse to draft Jesus into your political campaign. At least in U.S. politics, Jesus is good for business. But if you are going to call Jesus to your side, you need to let voters know how that affects your politics. Might you change your mind if you saw that a political position of yours was contradicted by the Bible? Or is the Bible a dead letter, useful for invoking divine authority but never for correction or reprove?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Bachmann • Bible • Christianity • Politics • Rick Perry • United States

soundoff (1,020 Responses)
  1. TrannyGirl

    The reason that the separation between church and state exists in the first place, is due to the FACT that religion does not make a good basis for secular law. History has shown that religious views change from one day to the next depending on who is speaking. Outlawing the beliefs of a person is wrong. Acting on beliefs that cause harm to another person is criminal. Using political offices to gathering thousands of people together to pray and announce intent to run for a higher political office violates the separation between church and state.

    August 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Ike

      Actually it is athiest laws that change from moment to moment, because there is no reason to keep them static. According to liberal athiest Marriage used to be between a man and a women, not it is a man and a man, tomorrow it is between a man and three women, next year it is between two men and three goats. There can be no standards. The Bible is at least onsistant in marriage...He created them male and female.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • sam

      Ike, your post is so dam n dumb and ignorant that it goes without saying, but...I have to say it. You're an idiot.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Ding

      You sir lack rationale thought. Do you also believe that carbon dating is false and the world is less then 10000 years old or that the world is flat? God didn't create anything. Religion was used as a tool to help explain why things happened when the tools to do so didn't exist.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Ding

      And I mean Ike, i agree with OP

      August 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Consistent?
      I assume then that you don't eat shellfish or pork, don't wear mixed material clothing, stone to death disobedient children, and all the other things that were mandatory before the NEW Testament.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  2. BNB42

    I'm confused....
    If exodus 20:12 say "Thou shall not kill"
    How can Deuteronomv 21:18-21 say "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son... bring him to the elders of his city and stone him with stones, that he dies"

    seems to be a contradiction to me....

    Maybe that's why Asimov said "Properly read the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived"

    August 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time. "

      Now there is an honest atheist about what he believes.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  3. Kyle

    "Should female presidents submit to their first husbands? As it should be obvious to anyone who saw this portion of the debate, Bachmann did not answer this question."

    Actually, she said that she interprets "submit" in this case to mean "respect." But it seems that the author isn't really interested in her interpretation of what she affirms to be the word of God as he claimed when he said "we can ask [Bachmann] to interpret what she affirms to be the Word of God."

    August 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Kyle

      However, the author makes an interesting point in the end. Perhaps because these candidates are using their religion as a tool to promote themselves, they should be asked these types of questions. It's something to think about...

      August 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Kyle: You said, "Actually, she said that she interprets "submit" in this case to mean "respect.""

      But that's not the context in which she originally used it. Hence the question, hence the reason why her answer is suspect.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • J.W

      She just managed to find a way to dance around the question. She did a good job of thinking quickly though. I have to give her that.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Magic

      J.W,

      Fancy Dancing is a requirement of "Running for Political Office 101". She has been at this for quite a few years now. I doubt that the question was a surprise, nor one for which she hadn't prepared some kind of answer with the assistance of political advisors.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Magic: You're probably right. Especially considering the talking points blitz she seems to be on lately. I think they must have prepped her and are keeping a tight rein on her cuz of all the gaffes she's known for.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  4. Domokun

    "God" help us all. Here's the unfortunate truth: the more educated someone becomes, the more likely he or she is to swear off religion as the trappings of a less enlightened age. In other words, the more educated (and I think we can say "intelligent") one is, the less likely it is that they will believe in the rubbish that defines most of today's major religions. There are a lot of people that believe that Romney doesn't have a "prayer" of winning because he adheres to Mormonism. What chance then, would a well educated agnostic or, dare we say it, atheist run for president? Why else don't we have some of the nation's most forward thinkers running? Where are the university leaders? professors? scientists? Staying as far from politics as possible, that's where. I don't see any difference between people like Bachmann and the Taliban. Both seek to impose religion upon government. If you don't agree, then you're the problem.

    August 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Kyle

      Apparently, you missed that study that was on CNN.com last week. It showed a correlation between education and religious adherence. The higher your degree of education, the more likely you are to practice religion.

      Of course, that's an entirely different story. But you're comment, stated as fact, has been scientifically proven to be false.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • grist

      Pretty sure that we do have persons running for President who don't believe in gods. They just wont be honiest about it.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm pretty sure President Obama was a University of Chicago Law Professor.

      I agree we need a complete separation of religeon and State, but unfortunately the Republican Party doesn't see the hypocrisy of us fighting the Taliban while promoting "Christian" values here at home. Or the 100 of hypocritical stances they take for that matter.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Dave

      I agree we need a complete separation of religeon and State, but unfortunately the Republican Party doesn't see the hypocrisy of us fighting the Taliban while promoting "Christian" values here at home. Or the 100 of hypocritical stances they take for that matter.
      ----------–
      While the Christian Taliban screams how the Taliban are zealots we will see this here in the USA:
      .
      First they came for the liberals,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a liberal.
      .
      Then they came for the pagans,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a pagan.
      .
      Then they came for the Atheists,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Atheist.
      .
      Then they came for me
      and there was no one left to speak out for me.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ike

      Christianity and the Muslim faith, in particular the Taliban, are worlds apart in beliefs and practice. The Muslim faith is very aggresive to others who don't believe in its faith by its nature and by its book the Koran, Christianity is by its nature not aggressive towards others, which is why America has so many different beliefs and even athiesm here. Most of the charity and aid given to others, the poor, etc. are by Christians and not by other religions. I would rather have people who have standards influenced by Christianity in the government, then people influenced by athiesm in the government who have no set morality or standards.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • sam

      @ Ike:
      "Most of the charity and aid given to others, the poor, etc. are by Christians and not by other religions. I would rather have people who have standards influenced by Christianity in the government, then people influenced by athiesm in the government who have no set morality or standards."

      You just boggle my mind. I didn't think there was anything left on CNN that could horrify me, but you've taken the cake. You can't possibly be this ignorant and still be real.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Kyle: Actually your statement is questionable (as is Domokun's). The study actually said that the more educated you become the less literal and rigid you are in your religious belief which does not speak well of the evangelicals really. It did find a correlation between being more educated and more spiritual, more attendance to church, and more switching of denomination. So the study is probably somewhere in the middle of both your and Domokun's positions.
      @Domokun: You might be in the company of Neil DeGrasse Tyson who basically asked the question why do we keep electing the same type of candidate and expect different results. All our elected higher officials are lawyers whose job is to argue not problem-solve. Better to have a mix of persons, some lawyers, some businessmen, some scientists, some teachers, who all have different approaches and abilities. We might get better results.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  5. BNB42

    Religion. It`s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.

    August 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  6. Jerry

    You know, Stephan Prothero, if you're going to make those type of statements about what verses from God's word mean then you should at least do some research so you know what they actually mean in the context in which they were written. It's really quite enlightening.

    August 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  7. mgreenhouse

    I hope they fix all these problems with congress like i did my sweet tooth with munchiessweetsandtreats.com I did all my halloween shopping for my 5 kids .

    August 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  8. Horvath

    Wow. Classic examples of not having a clue about the context of the passages. Killing is different than murder. Sign. A perfect representation of Biblical ignorance. cnncommentator at hotmail com if you really think these passages are confusing as what this guy propose. Very poor article. Ignorant article.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • seraphim0

      You're playing on somantics, sir. Ending the life is ending a life. If christians see abortion as murder, then you must view execution as the same. You don't get to pick and choose.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Reality

    What M. Bachmann and R. Perry's answers should be:

    1. Colossians 3:18, as per most contemporary NT scholars, was not written by "St". Paul but by a pseudo-Paul so it therefore carries no weight as to divine inspiration.

    2. Matt 6:6 , a single attestation from the third stratum (80-120 CE) historically unreliable. e.g. See Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 146.

    3. Exodus 20:12, as per 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis, there was no Exodus.

    To wit:

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

    The Ten Commandments also were not Jewish originals. Analogous rules were written before the OT by King Hammurabi of Babylon and by the Egyptians i.e. the Book of the Dead. (Hammurabi's Code and the Book of the Dead are both on-line).

    4. Luke 20:25- authentic Jesus based on the conclusions of all contemporary NT scholars. However as with all the NT, one must keep in mind the following:

    Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

    5. Luke 6:20 From Professor JD Crossan's analyses:

    Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
    Attestation: Triple
    Historicity: Positive
    Common Sayings Tradition: Yes

    But most if not all NT scholars conclude that Matthew's version of the Beat-itudes is historically the more accurate:

    Matt 5:3

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

    So where did this simple preacher man come up with these beati-tudes? John the Baptist ?. Traveling Greek Cynics (See Professor JD Crossan's studies published in over 20 books on the historical Jesus). Then there is the issue of "insanity". Even Jesus' family thought he was a bit odd.

    Mark 3:20-21 "20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

    BTW, Mark 3:20-21 has been judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars.

    ====================================================================================

    August 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Horvath

      @Reality: "2. Matt 6:6 , a single attestation from the third stratum (80-120 CE) historically unreliable. e.g. See Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 146." This assumes of course that Matthew was written that late. You don't. Nor does Ludemann. A good argument can be made for pre 70AD writing of Matthew. Just because you say it doesn't mean it's so. Also, if you want to go with it being a third stratum...so too is much of ancient history...unreliable. The NT has much more authenticity and historicity than other historians and their writings, yet we treat them like gold. Sad that a person of your academic nature Reality would not realize this.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • RC

      Jesus' mother became a believer later on. His brother James also believed and became an elder in the church at Jerusalem, and another brother, Jude, wrote the book of Jude.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jerry

      @Reality: Good luck with that.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • rick

      RC–you're kidding, right? Mary gave birth as a virgin and became a believer "later on"?

      August 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Reality

      Horvath,

      From Father Ray Brown's 878-paged, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, New York, 1996, p. 172, (with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur (with regard to Matthew's Gospel)

      Date: 80-90 AD,give or take a decade

      "Author by traditional (2nd century) attribution. Matthew a tax collector among the Twelve, wrote either the Gospel or a collection of the Lord's sayings in Aramaic. Some who reject this picture allow that something written by Matthew may have made its way into the present Gospel.

      Author detectable from contents: A Greek-speaker, who knew Aramaic or Hebrew or both and was not an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry, drew on Mark and a collection of sayings of the Lord (Q) as well as on other available traditions oral or written. Probably a Jewish Christian.

      Locale Involved: Probably the Antioch region

      Unity and Integrity: No major reason to think of more than one author or sizable additions to what he wrote."

      As per Crossan and many contemporary biblical scholars:

      " THIRD STRATUM [80-120 AD]

      22. Gospel of Matthew [Matt]. Written around 90 CE and possibly at Syrian Antioch, it used, apart from other data, the Gospel of Mark and the Sayings Gospel Q for its pre-passion narrative, and the Gospel of Mark and the Cross Gospel for its passion and resurrection account (Crossan, 1988)."

      See Crossan's complete list of scriptural references at
      http://www.faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf

      For another list of early Christian doc-uments and the date of publication, see: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

      From this reference:

      "It is also the consensus position that the evangelist was not the apostle Matthew. Such an idea is based on the second century statements of Papias and Irenaeus. As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states: "Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could." In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church." We know that Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon Mark, not the author's first-hand experience."

      August 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  10. To the Author

    You can ask God anything.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • --

      ... just don't expect an answer.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jiminy Cricket

      "No request is too extreme" when you Wish upon a Star either.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  11. brooks

    He does not mention that the man Bachmann and Perry seek to challenge had a "spiritual mentor" who described AIDS as a racist U.S. government plot, said of 9/11 that "America's chickens are coming home to roost," published Hamas propaganda in the church newsletter, and thundered from the pulpit: "God damn America!" Obama's mentor's beliefs might have seemed normal in the faculty lounge or the offices of The New Yorker, but they were not commonly known to Christians, or even most secular Americans.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • El Kababa

      When I was a kid in the Southern Baptist Church in Ft. Worth Texas in the 1950s, our preacher solomnly told us that there would only be 144,000 people in Heaven (Revelation) and that they would be chosen from the best Baptists only. Members of other Protestant denominations, being false religions, would all go to Hell.

      Am I responsible for what that preacher said? If you disagree with my preacher, must you assume that I am somehow forever contaminated.

      You sound very hate-filled to me.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Frogist

      @brooks: And Parry hangs out with hate groups who think the Nazis were a gay organization and the Catholic Church is of the devil. Bachmann calls gay people barbarians and satanic and her husband accepts Medicare to convert them straight while she rails against ent!tlements.
      I'll take my chances with Pres Obama who has never in his 3 yrs in office espoused the same opinion as his church's former leader or any of the kookie ideas that Bachmann and Parry spout. When the President starts doing a rain dance on the White House lawn, then we can talk.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  12. RC

    About the poor vs the poor in spirit, the Greek word "ptochoi" can mean literally poor, or it can also be understood in a figurative sense ("distressed"). Considering this, "the poor" and "the poor in spirit" can both be understood as not referring to literal lack of wealth, where one passage adds "in spirit" to further clarify what would have been understood by hearers 2000 years ago.

    Regarding giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, it is a confirmation that human government exists and we are to abide by human laws (as long as they don't run contrary to God's laws, which take precedence).

    These are interesting questions, but what I hear is not so much testing the candidates' understanding of scripture so much as demonstrating your lack of understanding, or an attempt to trap them.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jake

      Your interpretation is no more valid than the author's. Jesus spent his time caring for and preaching to the poor for the most part. And by poor, I don't mean someone who is just feeling some distress. Plus, the "render unto Caesar" comment sure sounds like he's telling his followers to just pay their taxes to the government that prints the money. Maybe it's time for the tea party to stop trying to weasel out of paying their taxes and stop screeching their praises to Jesus in public.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • RC

      Well, considering the Roman government was only able to exist by heavily taxing its citizens, then yes, giving to Caesar would specifically mean paying your taxes. There is nothing wrong with paying your taxes; in fact, that's exactly what Jesus was saying to do, and by extension, to respect the laws of your government (which would make tax evasion wrong).

      Also, I suggest you reread what I wrote. The author is asking about "the poor" vs "the poor in spirit" and suggesting that one of the Bible authors left out something crucial, creating an inconsistency. I am saying if there is any "fault", it's with the translation itself, as the original Greek would have clearly been taken in context to not mean the literal "poor", but the spiritually, i.e. mentally, poor...the distressed, the downtrodden. Obviously the kingdom of heaven is not JUST for them, but for everyone who believes and does God's will, as evidenced by many New Testament passages. In this particular passage, he was giving encouragement to this specific group of people.

      Again, the author of the article is suggesting asking candidates what they make of a seemingly contradictory pair of quotes. I'm just clarifying that there is no inconsistency.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Lynne

      You are correct about the translation of 'poor'. However, there are over 3,000 scriptural references to poverty in the money sense of the word– in other words 'the least among' us.

      I would be more interested in hearing their understanding of how the 'poor you will always have with you' (Matt 26:11). That one has no definite or easy translation. I see it as a kind of Rorschach test of how you understand the rest of the bible's stance on poverty. Which I don't think these dominionists and 'prosperity' Christians would pass.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  13. Don

    Theirs views would be inconsequential, except that they protray the hypocrisy of the evangelical movement in this country. How "good Christians" can support larger and larger benefits for the super-rich while championing cuts to programs that support the poor and elderly like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid I don't know. Jesus most important teaching was to not only help, but SERVE the poor and disenfranchised. It's not "love thy neighbor, only if he's got a huge mansion, two yachts and summer home in Boca". There is no bigger expression of the impact of Jesus' teachings than in the social security net Republicans so want to dismantle.

    Jesus would be in the mini-malls attached to our "mega-churches" disconnecting credit card machines and knocking over tables of Jesus dashboard bobble-heads. Your hypocrisy is destroying Christianity in this country.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • seraphim0

      You'd probably not be surprised then at how hateful, vengeful, and aggressive 'good Christians' can be; and not in defense of their religion.

      The Christian Right has taken the most hateful, spiteful stances on everything in most recent elections, and are gearing up for another. Someone's religion should NEVER have bearing on their political career. It's utterly sad that it does. Yet, these 'good christians' are so utterly riled and full of their own arrogance that they act more like children than anything else.

      You want to test their beliefs? Ask any among them why they choose the clothes that they do... do the things that they do... all of them seem to forget about Vanity. And good christians love being vain and prideful.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  14. George

    The only people who scare me are those who say, "God said".

    August 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  15. RC

    About killing, there is a difference between killing and murder. God allows the existence of governments to manage and protect its citizens and handle justice. Many laws in the Old Testament carried the death penalty (interestingly, a man that injured a pregnant woman and caused her to miscarry was himself put to death). So, death for a crime is certainly allowable, but the punishment is handled by the government...not by an individual that takes judgement and execution into their own hands.

    In this light, abortion is seen as murder because the victim is guiltless.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm confused, first you say that the government decides what is murder, "God allows the existence of governments to manage and protect its citizens and handle justice." But, then go on to say that, "abortion is seen as murder."

      If the government says abortion is not murder, Roe v Wade, and God says governments handle justice, how can you say abortion is murder?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • J.W

      When we fight in wars there are many innocent victims. Would you say that they are all murder victims?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Magic

      RC,

      This "God" "allows" whatever people *say* "He" allows. This "God" was once reported to have loved the smell of burning flesh... now, not so much. "He" changed "his" mind? "He" got tired of the barbecue? No, people changed customs and rules. You can claim "divine inspiration" all you want, but the fact that we have such widely disparate, yet adamantly claimed-as-true conclusions of what "His Will" is, shows that we are on our own.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • RC

      No. "Murder" is a type of killing. "Thou shalt not kill" is not an accurate translation. "Thou shalt not murder" is more accurate, otherwise the entire Hebrew Law would be contradictory since a number of crimes specifically carried the death penalty, AND it was humans, not God, who carried out the death sentence.

      Our laws recognize that there are different types of killing: murder, self-defense, manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter. Murder is by definition the taking of matters into one's own hands and deciding not only that someone deserves death, but giving it to them. It is not the authority of the individual to do this, but the government they are under. If someone is sentenced to death, the person that pulls the switch or makes the injection is not guilty of murder because they are acting with authority of the government. They kill, but they are doing so as an agent of the government, not of their own authority.

      Regarding abortion, this is a situation where the government has made a law that is contrary to God's law. Does that justify someone murdering an abortion doctor to "save" the life of the unborn? Absolutely not. Does human government saying "no, killing unborn babies is not murder" nullify God's law? Absolutely not.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Murder is by definition the taking of matters into one's own hands and deciding not only that someone deserves death, but giving it to them."
      So, killing in war or self-defense is murder?

      "...the government has made a law that is contrary to God's law."
      So, doesn't the 1st Amendment's right to religious freedom violate the 1st Commandment (or the first of Jesus' 2 commandments, whichever)?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  16. Hmmmm

    So you think that self proclaimed "non bible believing" candidates responses would be the same during their run for office as it is once they are allected? History overwhelmingly shows – no.

    You can not vote for someone based on what they say during their political campaign, but what they have done and stood for in the past.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  17. Glenn

    1. Submit does not mean to do what you are told. The Bible teaches that all Christians are to submit to one another. Leaders are to submit to their followers in that they serve the needs of the group. Bachman could submit to her husband by serving his best interests, not by vetoing a bill at his command.
    2. The Bible gives us examples of public prayer. Jesus did not say the only valid way to pray is in private.
    3. God commanded execution for various crimes. Killing the unoffending victim is prohibited, but not executing the criminal.
    5. Providing for the poor is important in Christian faith, but how to do it is not specified. The Scripture certainly does not say to pay taxes and let the government do it for you. Conservatives normally prefer private and personal aid, while others want to have government assume responsibility. One can advocate reducing the role of government in this without violating Christian teaching.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Don

      "One can advocate reducing the role of government in this without violating Christian teaching." Only if you are kidding yourself. You can't say that Christianity should take over all the governments of the world and in the same breath say Jesus wouldn't want the poor taken care of by the Government in that situation. Your line of thinking is a rationalization so rich Christians can hoard as much money as they want without having to follow Jesus' teaching. "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Especially when that fat man is getting his religous advice from Republican politicians.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Beth

      Thank you, Glenn. Right on.
      I dare you all to read the whole Bible for yourself. Don't take Stephen's word for it. Don't take Glenn's word for it. See for yourself.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Don: You make an excellent point! These same people are asking that the separation of church and state be ignored so that their gov't can be more Christian are also saying this Christian gov't doesn't have to care for the poor or needy. Sounds like they want to have their cake and eat it too.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  18. RC

    About praying, you're ignoring the "But" part of your own quotation. It indicates there is more to this quote. Specifically, Jesus had just finished pointing out how the Pharisees (the Jewish sect that was all about legalism, keeping the Law as well as elevating their man-made traditions to the same level of importance) tended to make big shows of praying public and other things, to demonstrate how religious they were. Jesus was not commanding his followers to only pray in a private room, ever; he was telling them to let prayer be the personal conversation with God that it is, rather than a show for people to see.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • J.W

      But wasnt Perry making a show out of it?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • RC

      I'm not saying whether Perry made a show of it or not. I wasn't there, I didn't see for myself. But, there is a difference between praying in public, and praying in public with the intent of making a show of it. What is the intent? To have a conversation with God? Or to make people notice that's what you're doing?

      I suggest that a candidate attending a prayer breakfast or rally is not itself "making a show". If they get up and pray loudly, waving their arms around, arranging for cameras to be trained on him, posting it on youtube and referencing it...that is putting on a show.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • J.W

      Kind of funny how it happened not long before he declared he is running for president.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  19. MOS

    Perry believes that the poor are blessed and he wants more the middle class to be more blessed so he makes them poorer by not supporting education or health care in Texas.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Lynne

      LOL!!

      August 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  20. STLBroker

    "Once we forget that we are one nation under God, we are a nation gone under"- Ronald Reagan

    August 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Tripp

      Who cares what a Evangelical with alzheimer's has to say about his invisible freind? I question all adults mental health who proclaim there is a god.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Normon

      Without "under God" in the pledge we are just "one nation"... makes me wonder what part of the nation isn't "under God"

      August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Lynne

      If God rules the nation, God rules the nation. I am sick to death of arrogant Evangleicals thinking they have to say it out loud in public for it to work– like they control God. It is shallow selfish theology and it is blasphemy.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
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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.