A Red State Judgment Day

I cannot help but wonder if the highly influential conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson wants to stone Tom Brady to death. I say this not because I think Erickson lost money on the Patriots heartbreaking Super Bowl loss but because of what Erickson says the Bible commands of us — and because of what Tom Brady did.

Not only did Tom Brady repeatedly touch a pigskin on Sunday, but Brady and all the athletes, announcers, and technicians worked on the Sabbath. And the Bible makes the penalty for working on the Sabbath pretty clear: Transgressors should be put to death. As a Reform Zen-Quaker myself, I personally see no problem with working on the Sabbath or touching pigskins. But Erickson is apparently a big fan of the Old Testament and its prohibitions.

Erickson posted a commentary over the weekend, colorfully titled: The Perversion of the Words of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the Sinner Barack H. Obama. He was furious that President Obama had the hubris to quote from the New Testament while attending a prayer breakfast.

From his blog post, here’s what made Erickson so mad:

“… the President went to the National Prayer Breakfast and quoted Jesus Christ himself to defend a tax increase. The President paraphrased Luke 12:48, ‘Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.’ … He said it was because he was a Christian that he thought the rich should pay more in taxes.”

I can understand why Erickson is so mad at The Prez for quoting Jesus because it sure doesn’t fit very well with tax policies that the conservatives are pushing. Take the conservative push to end the inheritance tax, for instance. Of course the prophets of the far right like to call the inheritance tax the “Death Tax.” But that’s just silly. You can still die for free, just like in Biblical times. If you are fortunate enough to be as rich as a Paris Hilton or a Mitt Romney when you die, then the estate tax kicks in. Historically such a tax has helped to prevent the kind of corrosive concentration of wealth that has been destructive in societies going all the way back to the land of Ur.

Jesus was pretty clear about what he thought about the whole Mammon thing in general. For instance, when a man asks Jesus what else he needs to do to get into heaven besides obeying the Ten Commandments:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” — Mark 10:21

And just to be crystal clear about it, Jesus also says:

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. — Matthew 19:24

Jesus, as quoted by his close associates directly in the Gospels, says lots of stuff like that. There really isn’t much legitimate wiggle room as to what he meant. But in his attack on Obama, Erickson only quotes biblical verses from the Old Testament that are somewhat poetic and rather vague. Erickson says that he knows what they mean, though. They are clear prohibitions against abortion. Things like:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

The modern Erickson translation of that bit of verse is apparently: Go ye and defund Planned Parenthood.

Erickson is oddly silent on many of the other things that the Old Testament explicitly and repeatedly prohibits: Eating pork, lobster, or clam rolls. Working on Sunday. Wearing blends of wool and linen. He says nothing about the Old Testament’s prohibition on charging interest (Deuteronomy 23:19). He doesn’t offer an opinion on whether or not admitted serial adulterer Newt Gingrich should be put to death for his sins. He just attacks Obama for taxing the rich to help the poor.

That’s kind of odd, really, because there’s plenty of explicit stuff in the Old Testament about that very subject. Stuff that Erickson just must have missed. Stuff like:

“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” — Proverbs 29:7

I do not pretend to be without sin myself. I am an unrepentant bacon lover. I have raked the lawn on Sundays. I have worn blends with reckless abandon. But I do hope that Erickson will let us know when he lines up the stoning of Gingrich. Of course, I’m not entitled to throw a stone — but I’d at least like to watch while others do.

  • Tracy

    As usual Barry, right on the mark

  • Lina

    This is great. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the opinion. I really liked how you compared the multitude of wives Newt has and how the Republicans have nothing to say, even though it’s against the bible, but when Obama does something the bible promotes they see to have their panties in a bunch. Puts things in perspective. Thank you!

    • Monica

      Darling, nowhere in the Bible is there any talk about taxation higher than 10%. Jesus never ever spoke in support of tax amounts that Obama and Dems support. Also, Jesus clearly says that all should pay taxes – again, not at all what Dems support. The Bible is in very strong support of all working for their own things, and teaching “how to fish” instead of handing them things for nothing. Also, as someone pointed out below, please don’t think you can speak about the Bible unless you actually read it, google won’t help here, I promise.

      • Barry Nolan

        Dear Monica,

        The Bible is strangely silent on the Interest Carried rate for Hedge Fund managers being lower than the rate for those who labor in the fields. Guess nobody back then thought anybody would ever try to get away with stuff like that. The Bible also does not explicitly mention Swiss bank accounts or off shore shelters in the Cayman Islands. But it is kind of hard to imagine the figure of Christ with green eye shade saying to Mitt and company – “Yeah – whatever you can get away with big guy!”

        And yeah – teaching is good. But – (I know this may sound crazy to you – but I’m not making this stuff up) – you will also find at Mathew 5-41 42

        “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

        Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

        And what in the world makes Conservatives think that they are the only people in the world who read the Bible? It’s weird – it looks like an unseemly display of Pride – and as we all know – that’s one of the seven deadly sins. The Bible says you burn for that one.

        Good luck,
        Barry Nolan

  • http://kiradavis.net Kira Davis

    You know about the New Testament right? I hate it when people who clearly know nothing about the Bible, have never read it and only look up verses online to support their views try to tell the rest of us what the Bible really says. Nice try, but sad. So sad.

  • DANEgerus

    One day Obama is dictating to Catholics how to practice their faith and the next he’s telling us National Socialism is the will of Christ. But don’t ask him about Racist hatemongering antiSemite Jeremiah Wright or you’re a Raaaaaacist.

    • Barry Nolan

      Dear DANEgerous,
      Always with the NAZI stuff huh? Yeah – it’s almost exactly like killing 6 million Jews to help provide healthcare to 45 million Americans. Almost exactly the same. Amazing how you picked that up.

      Good luck,
      Barry Nolan

  • Ted

    Barry, didn’t you used to do the news on a local Boston affiliate during the 80’s? Glad to see your career has taken off and you are now blogging!

    • Barry Nolan

      Dear Ted,
      And throughout my life – I have simultaneously been a citizen – who has an opinion – just like you.

      Wow – how far we have fallen huh?

      Barry Nolan

  • Barry Nolan

    Dear Ms. Davis,

    Please help all of us ignorant sinners out. What do you suppose Jesus really meant by when he says – quite clearly, explicitly and repeatedly, things like:

    ““Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor”

    “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”

    “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.”

    “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

    ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”

    “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

    And I am sure that Jesus would not approve of your presuming what others may have read – and presuming you have superior knowledge – after all:

    “When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom.”

    Proverbs 11:2

    Let me note here also – that Jesus never mentions abortion and that the use of abortifacents was not uncommon. In biblical times was simply not an issue until “the quickening” – or about that time when fetal movement can be detected. And through out most of its history, the Catholic Church’s position on this matter was that a fetus did not have a soul until the quickening. So please, help us, the ignorant – see the light as you see it.

    Barry Nolan

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.


    To the points you raise…

    “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor”

    This was in response to a man Jesus knew to care more about his wealth. Note that, in the passage, the man walks away. That’s the point of the story. It is difficult for the wealthy (which, by biblical standards, is all of America) to embrace Christ, who requires sacrifice. It is not an admonishment to give our money to government.

    “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”

    To add context, he also suggests those who laugh now will mourn and weep in the kingdom. Clearly he is not suggesting we not laugh. Rather, he is delineating the values of the kingdom in opposition to the values of the world, which is self-indulgent.

    “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.”

    Accurate, but how does this apply to Obama, who is rich and, prior to deciding he wanted to be president, was stingy with his money.

    “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

    True. We can hold onto nothing. But this applies as much to a social security check as much as a paycheck.

    ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”

    Good advice.

    “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

    Notice he says nothing about the government intervening on our behalf to do so.

    “Let me note here also – that Jesus never mentions abortion and that the use of abortifacents was not uncommon.”

    Jesus never mentions pedophilia and that wasn’t uncommon either, until Christians intervened to put a stop to its common and accepted practice. Jesus didn’t come to reiterate the commandments nor to dispute them.

    I’m not Catholic, and so do not care what the Catholic church’s historical teaching is on abortion.

    At any rate, Obama’s evocation of scripture was a crass politicization and a facile dismissal of the conservative position. If Newt Gingrich were to say “my policies are right because the bible says if you don’t work you shouldn’t eat” you would be unimpressed. So are we unimpressed at Obama’s amateur theology hour performance.

    • Barry Nolan

      Dear Kevin,

      A very admirable attempt to put on a spirited defense – but not unlike quibbling with what the definition of “is” is. Taken in context or out – taken all together or singly – the points Christ made – both literally – and through parables – is that I am my brothers keeper. He doesn’t attempt to micro manage – doesn’t talk about setting up non-profits – or charitable trusts – or doing good thru the government – but – he makes it clear – how we treat the poor – is how we treat him. And telling him to just pick him up by his sandal straps and get a job – was not what he had in mind.

      Now you may not believe this – or accept it – or like it. But that is what he said. Literally – and figuratively through parables.

      And may I say – good for you – for pointing out that times change -and that what is socially acceptable changes over time. Right on brother. And thus the attempt to apply biblical law about unclean foods or divorce or gay marriage – are not really about being guided by the bible and its inerrant laws. So how about if Conservatives like Mr. Erickson just drop it.

      And as for Mr. Obama’s “crass” use of scripture – may I remind you that the event was the “National Prayer Breakfast.” Referencing a verse or two of the Bible would seem to be the point of the whole affair. You may not his sermon – but it is biblically based – on the literal words of the man they named the religion after.

      Sincere regards,
      Barry Nolan

      • Rick in Duxbury

        Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the Hill of Beacon, I will fear no financial evil. When I go to meet My Father, I will do so not here but in the State of Sunshine, where the Anointed Ones (and their grandparents from Hyannis) render only to God. (Caesar is on his own).

        • Barry Nolan

          Dear Rick,

          Yes indeed – the Sunshine State – the state that ranks number 7 for percentage of residents receiving federal retirement or disability payments – the state with the largest percentage of residents 65 or older and receiving Social Security or Medicare.

          The state whose pristine beaches remain pristine thanks to regulation of oil drilling off its Gulf Coast – that Sunshine state? The one with all the folks who like to say: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare?” That one? I’ve been there. It’s nice to visit.

          How you been?

          Barry Nolan

      • Monica

        Good grief, of course Jesus encouraged us to not pay attention to these earthly pleasures and riches, but instead focus on God. Giving to others and helping is underlined in the Bible.

        However, Government taking away money from people so they can do with it what they want – which includes giving to the rich and their corporations who in turn give to politician’s campaigns – is nothing that Jesus ever supported. If Government takes away from you, you never have an opportunity to give. It’s taken away from you, period. If we decide that we now live by the Bible, then we ALL give ab. 10% to the gov’t just to keep it afloat and take our money ourselves to those who need it. It’s up to you if you decide to give everything up and follow Jesus, not up to the government.

        Do you know that our tax money pay for brand new cars for congressmen so they have something to drive around – sometimes two of them – worth tens of thousands of dollars (somehow Priuses are not that popular), expensive dinners, outings, spas, retreats – and you want to bring Jesus into this? Or better yet, the President wants to bring Jesus into this?

        Please, the government corruption never ends no matter who’s in charge, and as the world around us has shown for centuries now, the more power (aka money) those in charge have, the more corrupted the governments become. Live with it, and leave the Bible alone.

        • Barry Nolan

          Dear Monica –
          You are confusing the Temple tax – with the taxes owed to the Government. Jesus not only paid his tax – he paid the tax for his companions. And in Romans 13-1 we are admonished:

          “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

          But it was your guy Erick Erickson that began this argument – about being governed by the Bible. It is Social Conservatives that try to make the argument that the Bible must be viewed as an authority – and then go about mis-stating what it really says. Christ was pretty clear on the whole take care of the poor and give out health care for free thing.

          And is there corruption and waste? You bet – so get involved. Pay attention – see to it that money is spent wisely. But do away with the social safety net? We tried a great experiment with that once – It was called the 1930’s. It was pretty awful.

          Barry Nolan