This is a tale of two Bible benders. On the right we have Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Society, and to the left is Jesse Lava, co-founder and executive director of FaithfulDemocrats.com.
Republican candidates understand the importance of courting Rev. Schenck's approval. Because of this, they have been mindful of Schenck's "top three concerns": sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and the family and the public acknowledgment of God. Although he favors Sen. Sam Brownback, he has met with both Mitt Romney and John McCain and released a statement that said, "I was impressed by both, but especially Mitt Romney." He declared that Rudolph Guiliani would not be elected because of his pro-abortion stance. Of Sen. Barack Obama, he lamented, "By injecting his faith so directly into his campaign, Mr. Obama has invited an examination and debate focused on his faith. Sadly, we will find Mr. Obama's Christianity woefully deficient."
Last week the Sojourners sponsored a broadcast on CNN. Schenck dismissed the forum on faith attend only by Democrat presidential candidates as a "a sham, a fraud and a travesty." In an ironic turn of the tables, he stated that, "What viewers saw tonight was a carefully scripted public relations effort to promote liberal political positions disguised as deeply held religious beliefs. The cynicism and sophistry of the participants in the event with regard to matters of faith was appalling." Schenck went on to criticize the Sojourners' Bible reading skills; he argues that they can not be Bible believers if they do not condemn abortion and same-sex marriage.
Enter Jesse Lava of Faithful Democrats.
Yesterday, in the Huffington Post, Lava countered that the Christian Right were poor readers of the Bible. In a classic case of Bible bending, Lava dissects Schenck's Bible claims with more Bible claims and then argues that the Christian Right is deficient because they do not fight poverty.
The feat is too exemplary for summary. Here are the six questions Lava poses to Schenck:
1) Rev. Schenk, you called the faith-based debate "a sham, a fraud, and a travesty" -- a "carefully scripted public relations effort to promote liberal political positions disguised as deeply held religious beliefs." This forum, you said, revealed "cynicism and sophistry." What inside information do you have suggesting that the religious views expressed by the candidates were insincere? Or do you share God's ability to see into people's hearts?
2) You wrote that if Sojourners and its supporters "accepted the Bible in its totality as the inerrant Word of God," they "would not provide advocates of abortion and same-sex unions a platform to espouse their views about faith and values." You claim that your positions on these issues are "unequivocally expressed in the Bible." If these issues are so clear that they alone require litmus-test treatment, then:
- Where specifically in the Bible is abortion condemned? And how do you reconcile the passages saying that God knew us in our mothers' womb with the ones suggesting a fetus has lower legal value than a born person? Isn't there some room for interpretation, here?
- What in the Bible suggests that homosexuality is worse than other behaviors such as divorce, gossiping, pre-marital sex, failure to give to charity, etc., that virtually no one thinks should be legally banned or deprive people of equal rights under the law?
3) If you are serious that Christians shouldn't give anti-biblical candidates "a platform to espouse their views about faith and values," why do you not criticize conservative Christian groups that host divorced, adulterous politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and the late Ronald Reagan?
4) You lament that Sojourners "would replace Christian charity with governmental redistribution of wealth." In a world where there are structural reasons for poverty and oppression -- as the prophet Isaiah pointed out when he decried "unjust laws" that "deprive the poor of their rights" -- is it really good enough to put a band-aid on social problems instead of attacking their roots? Don't Christians have responsibilities both as private individuals and as citizens?
5) If following Scripture is supposed to be voluntary when it comes to fighting poverty -- with justice dependent entirely on "Christian charity" -- why do you want the federal government to prohibit abortion and same-sex unions?
6) "At the Day of Judgment," you write, "God will divide the righteous from the wicked" -- suggesting that God's criteria involve abortion and homosexuality. But Matthew 25:34-45 says that wicked and righteous nations (not individuals, mind you, but nations) will be judged on how they treated "the least of these" in society: the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the imprisoned, and the sick. Why do you focus on gays and abortion, when Matthew says God's criteria involve precisely the issues that progressives tend to emphasize?