Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses   Leave a comment

The following reflection by Jim Taylor is an excellent reflection on how the Bible, and scripture, has been used in the past, and not so recent past, to justify the actions taken by those who have political power. In fact, I too have been guilty of this offence. In the particular  case that Taylor is reflecting on, Romans 13:1 was used to justify how a government has incarcerated children.

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Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses

By Jim Taylor  – Sunday, June 24, 2018

For a hundred years, the Canadian government took children from their parents and incarcerated them in Indian Residential Schools. For their own good. The feds have since issued apologies. They’ve paid around $5 billion in compensation. And all governments have paid many billions more in welfare, prisons, and social assistance.

In the 1950s, the B.C. government took Doukhobor children away from their families, and locked them up in a prison camp in New Denver. For the children’s own good, of course.

In the 1960s, various governments did the Sixties Scoop. Once again Indigenous children were separated from their parents and placed with white foster families. For their own good, of course.

We’re now reaping a bitter harvest of alcoholism and drug dependency, of depression and suicide, of adults who don’t know how to be parents.

I know about the trauma of foster parenting and adoption personally. My grandson was adopted from Ethiopia. At 11, he’s still working through the after-effects of being torn from his natural family, shipped from orphanage to orphanage, and finally brought to Canada.

Adoption data suggests that if you can adopt during a child’s first year, separation anxiety will fade in two or three years. Separation at two will probably take five years. Separation at seven or eight may never be overcome.

And then the Trump administration set a policy of removing children from parents who enter the United States illegally, and locking the children up in detention centres.

 Can’t we ever learn from past mistakes?

A policy in search of justification

Last Sunday, Father’s Day, William Rivers Pitt wrote that there were already 1,469 children locked into in “an old Walmart outside of Brownsville, Texas… which was given the grimly Orwellian name Casa Padre, or ‘Father’s House’.”

To his credit, the president overruled his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Children can now stay with their parents. In jail. Sessions had claimed earlier, to a gathering of law officers in Fort Wayne, Texas, that St. Paul himself endorsed strict enforcement of immigration laws — which, by Sessions interpretation, included ripping children from their mothers’ arms. He quoted Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, saying, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…”

Sessions didn’t get the quotation quite accurate, but that never matters when using the Bible as a back-up authority. Claiming that the Bible says so is usually sufficient.

Collection of mixed messages

 In reality, you can use the Bible to prove almost anything. I have yet to encounter a topic that can’t be defended by quoting some biblical verse.

If you know the right verses, the Bible commends incest, polygamy, betrayal, treason, adultery, civil disobedience, drunkenness, cold-blooded murder, slavery, genocide, and ecocide.

The Bible contradicts itself. The prophet Isaiah had a famous instruction: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…  Another prophet, Joel, reverses it: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Which one y’ gonna choose?

Two days before Sessions quoted Paul in support of strict immigration enforcement, the Southern Baptist Convention cited Scripture six times for immigration reform.

Once again, which one y’ gonna choose?

Not anyone’s final word

The standard Protestant Bible contains 66 books, written by at least 50 different people –not counting the Psalms, known to have at least 57 more authors — over about 1500 years.

I’m an editor. I have worked with books where multiple authors contributed chapters. It was almost impossible to achieve consistency. Even though they were all writing about the same subject, to the same standards, in the same time period.

Expecting consistency in a text created over 15 centuries is like expecting pigs to do long division.

And don’t quote me the verse that says, “All scripture is inspired by God.” That verse was not written to be part of the Bible; it was a personal letter to a young man named Timothy. When it was written, the only scriptures it could refer to were the Jewish scriptures, which we now condescendingly call the “Old Testament.” The New Testament didn’t get finalized until 367 AD.

But that doesn’t matter to Jeff Sessions.

All that matters is finding a verse he can quote to support his policies, to people who think the Bible is the final word on everything. Even if that policy goes against everything we have learned from family studies, psychology, and post-trauma treatment, and against the message of the Bible as a whole.

Anytime politicians quote the Bible to prove their point, beware!

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Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved. To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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