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.