The essay, which promises to seize religion from right-wing fanatics, is both foolish and unintentionally funny.
Several years ago, I laboriously fisked my way through a leftist’s post that purported to show that leftists, not conservatives, properly understand the Bible–and envisioned imposing that particular leftist biblical view on all of America. Basically, it boiled down to the Democrat social and political platform filtered through the Bible…leaving most of the Bible in tatters, weeping on the floor.
Today, Nathanial Manderson, a Salon writer who claims to be an evangelical Christian, has left that other leftist in the shade. The article labors under a long title and subtitle: “Donald Trump and his evangelical followers are back for more: I know how to beat them. As your evangelical insider, here’s my wisdom: The threat is real — but here’s how to defeat it once and for all.”
According to Manderson, there are two steps to take to destroy these evil evangelicals: Expose them as hypocrites and recognize that ordinary Americans are suffering. Regarding the second, Manderson, a man in his mid-40s, goes on for paragraphs about how much the working classes are suffering economically while their kids go to lousy schools. What makes this so pointless is that Manderson never addresses the fact that this economic suffering was lessened under Trump and is destroying America under Biden. Nor does he address the fact that America’s failing schools are firmly under the unions’ thumbs, with the unions being a wholly-owned Democrat subsidary. To me, Manderson sounds like a nitwit whose ideological beliefs blind him to reality.
But it’s regarding the first point, the alleged hypocrisy of evangelical Christians, that Manderson really shines:
The first thing is to expose the so-called shepherds as the anti-Christians and anti-American hypocrites that they are. The issues they choose are supposed to leave them looking spotless of sin as they convince their sheep to hate all the wrong people.
It is not supposed to be the church’s job to force particular lifestyle choices individuals.
Uh, I’m sorry, but the whole point of the church is to tell its worshippers to make moral lifestyle choices. Jesus explicitly said to separate church and state, with the church’s responsibility to focus on people’s moral well-being…which includes their lifestyle choices. Once religions stopped doing that in the 1960s, Americans started abandoning religion. Belonging to a faith matters only if the faith stands for something. If you can get the same messages from the New York Times and your television, why bother?
Perhaps dimly realizing that the Bible actually has something to say about lifestyle choices, Manderson then tries a little biblical rewriting:
First of all, the theology that has arisen claiming that Jesus would be opposed to the LGBTQ community is incredibly flawed. Even if it weren’t, the church has no right to declare how a family should be formed. It is a waste of time and resources, not to mention against the most basic principles of both Christian faith itself and American individual freedom.
There is nothing in the Bible that directly touches the issue of abortion, and it was not part of evangelical doctrine or evangelical politics until relatively recently, yet billions of dollars have been spent to promote this as a core item of the evangelical agenda. Selective passages from scripture have been used in an effort to control women in American homes, in the American workplace and in American society overall.
Maybe Manderson is reading a different Bible from the one I have. The Jewish Bible, which shaped Christ’s moral beliefs, was passionately anti-homosexual and pro-the biological binary. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the anti-homosexuality proscriptions in the Torah did not appear by accident. They reflected the Jewish belief, which Christianity embraced, that only heterosexual sex is morally acceptable — something that placed first the Jews and later the Christians in stark opposition to the debauchery that often characterized the pagan world. Whether Christ would have persecuted homosexuals is open to question (he was wrathful against sin) but I’m quite sure he would not have supported the whole LGBTQ+++ agenda.
As for that gender binary, God created Man and Woman, not Man, Woman, and It. Nor did he create sort of Man, sometimes Woman, maybe It, possibly a giraffe. As Dennis Prager points out, much of the Torah is given over to strong binary distinctions: Human and God, Male and Female, Man and Animal, Clean and Unclean.
And while it’s true that the Bible does not explicitly touch upon abortion that does not mean that we cannot reasonably extrapolate that it’s not part of the Judeo-Christian moral universe. For one thing, the fact that we are made in God’s image means each of us is precious.
Moreover, one of the binaries that the Bible distinguishes between very clearly is Innocence and Guilt. The child in the womb is innocence personified. Keep this in mind when you consider that one of the ten commandments (the numbering is different for Jews and Christians) is unequivocal: Thou shalt not murder.
The word murder is important because it distinguishes between righteous killing (a just war, such as those to which God guided the Israelites, self-defense, the defense of others, etc.) and murder (the intentional killing of an innocent). You don’t need a Ph.D. in Theology to understand that killing babies doesn’t fit into the Biblical scheme of things.
Dennis Prager has a few other points which seem applicable to this discussion:
In The Merchant of Venice (a play Shakespeare wrote without ever having met a Jewish person), he penned a wonderful verse about perverting the Bible:
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
As for Mr. Manderson, I totally acquit him of being the Devil. He’s just not smart enough.