Columns » Ernest Dumas

Bible-based government


Democrats ought to be excused for a certain amount of lamentation after their electoral defeats, but they ought to banish from their midst the pharisees who say that Democrats need to pray louder and boast more about their faith and piety if they are going to beat Republicans from here on. Jesus had some predictions about what would happen to such people and it did not comport with winning elections. The 22 percent of President Bush’s voters who said they picked him because of their concern for “moral values” are Bush’s problem, not the Democrats’. If Bush has been listening to the interviews with the Biblical inerrantists and evangelicals who have raged about what they expect of him in exchange for their votes his hair must be standing on his neck. They want the Old Testament, especially the book of Leviticus, enshrined in the federal criminal code. After Bush and the Republicans get through tormenting homosexuals and people with physical infirmities, as Leviticus seems to demand, they will be expected to carry out the rest of God’s proclamations that follow. The sale of shrimp, crab, crawfish and lobster will surely be outlawed. Farmers will be barred from planting mixed crops, textile mills from weaving garments from blended fibers. The USDA will order ham and bacon removed from the grocer’s case on pain of life in prison or death, and the pigskin will be banished from the stadia. Mothers will be quarantined by federal law for two weeks after giving birth to a daughter and then will have to bring a lamb to the church to be burned for sacrifice or else, presumably, they will have to go to jail. Sacrificing a pigeon or a turtle dove, harder to catch, might suffice. Nothing in the Nov. 2 returns suggests that Democrats will have to compete for the inerrantists to win elections. A switch of only 20,000 votes would have thrown the presidential election into the House of Representatives. Voters who think the government’s primary obligation is to codify into the criminal law as much of the Bible as possible and especially its punitive side will not confuse faux bigots with the real McCoys so they should forget about embracing a strategy that carves off a sizable part of that 22 percent. But if Democrats feel a compulsion to demonstrate their concern for traditional moral values, as our own Sen. Blanche Lincoln seemed to say the other day, they could incorporate the bedrock of the Christian faith — the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ social teachings — into the platform in 2008. Those teachings are, in fact, already a good metaphor for the Democratic doctrines going back to the New Deal: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. . . for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Give your wealth to the needy and go out of your way to help the poor and sick. How does President Bush’s mammoth give-away of the nation’s fiscal and natural treasure to the richest men and corporations in the world comport with those biblical injunctions? Or, for that matter, how do Bush’s policies square with the beatitudes: Blessed are the peacemakers . . . the meek . . . the poor in spirit? What are the chances that Jesus would bless George Bush and the Republican Congress for trying to eliminate taxes on all investment profits for billionaires and on multimillion-dollar estates? Rather than loud praying and lusty avowals of piety, which Jesus forbids, both parties should agree to require biblical impact statements with all legislation, much like the fiscal impact statements that many legislatures now require. Each time the president promotes legislation to give another round of tax cuts to the very wealthy, his budget office would have to invoke Matthew 19: 21-24 and report how many rich men it would sentence to hell. (“Then said Jesus unto the disciples, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”) When Sen. John Kerry introduces his bill to roll back the tax cuts on those netting more than $200,000 a year to pay for medical care for working families who cannot afford private insurance, he would report the number of rich men whose chances of everlasting life would be improved by being forced to share with the needy as the Bible absolutely requires of them and he would invoke all the New Testament commandments to heal the sick and give alms to the poor. Each year of war, the president would have to report in detail how the slaughter and destruction in Iraq, as well as the administration’s lies about it, measure up against the manifold teachings of Christ about peacemaking and mercy. Democrats might learn to love the moral values debate too well, like the Republicans do now, and the Bible warns us about what will happen to the hypocrites and pharisees who posture about their holiness.

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