There are times when listening to right-wing ideologues quote (and misquote) the Bible in support of their political agenda offers almost a perverse moment or two of comic relief. Today is not exactly one of those times.
In the latest installment of Republicans/Tea Partiers talking Biblical smack, we bring you the wit and wisdom of Mike O’Neal, GOP speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives. O’Neal, who dabbles in theology when not gaveling lawmakers to order, decided to quote the Good Book recently in regard to President Obama.
According to Brent Wistrom of the Wichita Eagle, O’Neal thought it would be funny to send out an e-mail to other Republicans in need of a bit of levity. O’Neal quoted Psalm 109:8, albeit a little roughly, and applied it to Mr. Obama: “Let his days be few and brief; and let others step forward to replace him.”
As Wistrom points out the Bible quote “has been used on bumper stickers and widely circulated on the Internet.” But the context from the King James Version of the Bible has been pointed out by critics. The next verse, which was not in the e-mail, reads, “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.’”
When a pair of Topeka ministers got wind of the e-mail and somehow failed to appreciate O’Neal’s sparkling humor, they quickly gathered 30,000 signatures on online petitions, calling for the budding comedian to step down. O’Neal did some quick back pedaling, like Pharaoh’s soldiers before the Red Sea came crashing down over them. He apologized to the House Republican Caucus. He apologized to House members individually. He said he felt bad, real bad. In a brief statement released by his staff he explained that — of course — he respected “both the President and the Office.” The statement continued: “The forward contained a single verse and was only intended as election commentary regarding the President’s days in office. I have apologized, and I am sincerely sorry.”
This might all be more convincing, if this was the first time O’Neal’s humor had been mistaken for — how shall we say this — hate speech and racism. As Winstrom noted:
“He also faced criticism [a few months ago] for forwarding an e-mail that compared a photograph of first lady Michelle Obama with windswept hair to the Grinch and referred to Mrs. Obama as ‘Mrs. YoMama’.”
Of course, we all realize by now that the right-wing fringe loves to quote the Bible when it serves their purposes. Still, as one Topeka minister noted, “If the Scripture is going to be used in this way, it ought to be used competently.”
That’s the key, really.
If you’re going to thump the Bible, you ought to thump it competently. Let it be your guide when making all kind of political decisions. (Well, maybe not when it comes to burning witches.) How about raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans?
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
See? Raising taxes on the top 1% (people like the billionaire Koch brothers) isn’t creeping socialism? You’re actually doing them a positive good. You’re increasing their chances of getting to heaven.
You can quote to good purpose on all kinds of present day issues. What about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s lousy 47%, those “moochers” on welfare, and the whole right-wing orthodoxy of makers vs. takers?
Like Zipporah, let’s go to the well again:
“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
How about health care for all? What would God’s only Son say about Obamacare?
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
“And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23 and 4:24)
This was before HMO’s. So Christ healed the lepers and gave sight to the blind without asking for co-pays and cast out devils even in cases where possession was a pre-existing condition.
You can dig into the Bible on just about any page and find lessons that can still be applied thousands of years later. It just depends on which pages and which lessons. Take Wall Street reform — here you have the whole story of Jesus entering the temple and overthrowing the tables of moneychangers.
What about that deal with the five loaves and two fishes? You kind of figure Jesus would oppose any cuts to the school lunch program.
What about gun control? What about the new “castle doctrine” so popular with conservative lawmakers? What about turning the other cheek instead of opening fire? St. Matthew says Jesus would be for it (5:39) and so does St. Luke (6:29) if you check a little farther. As for cuts to defense spending and increased funding for, oh, say, the Head Start program, maybe O’Neal could consider the whole concept of beating swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4).
Who knows, if Speaker O’Neal and his class of politicians would only dig a little deeper into the Good Book they might even uncover a verse that applies to reasonable limits in regard to gun ownership under the Second Amendment.