Donald Trump is doing his best to kiss up to the Ted Cruz religious fanatic crowd, those who see America as a theocracy. Trump is a rock star among white supremacists but he wants to appeal not only to people who hate people on account of their skin color but who hate people on account of their religion, or their lifestyle.
So where better to go than Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell and home to 14,000 souls ready for harvesting. After all, the students are required to attend. No liberty there. So he had a crowd of 10,000 on hand (which he duly bragged about) when he said, “Christianity, it’s under siege.”
If you have the stomach for it, here is the entire convocation courtesy of Right Side Broadcasting:
The only problem is Trump’s religious awkwardness, his familiarity with “little crackers” and “little wine” and waving around a Bible he’s never cracked open to read. The results were predictable: he flubbed his appeal to scripture.
“Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame,” he said, messing up the verse. It’s supposed to be referred to as “Second Corinthians.” You know, by people who actually read their Bibles.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (NRSV).
Now you know what happens when Obama appeals to the Bible. Republicans go nuts. Like a week ago, when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) went on Sandy Rios’ show to complain about Obama using the Bible to criticize Republicans for opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees by appealing to Jesus’ instructions to care for widows and orphans:
“Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” said Obama.
According to Brat, Obama “is using the Christian tradition and trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible.”
Brat claims Obama is quoting Jesus: “Well, people in the tradition know what that word means, right. That’s one of Jesus’, he commands take care of those in prisons, the widows, the orphans.”
The problem is, that passage does not exist. There is plenty in the Bible about widows and orphans and Jesus even mentions prison in another passage (Matthew 25:35-40), but Brat invented that passage. Jesus never uttered those words.
Yet for the overly sensitive Brat, who might want to peruse his own Bible,
“It’s almost a comedy routine on what compassion and love is. He’s mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love.”
Oh…we didn’t realize only the Religious Right can beat people about the head and shoulders with the Bible, or use it to mock their enemies. And it’s true. Brat actually told Rios that “the conservative side needs to reeducate its people that we own the entire tradition” of Christian love.
That’s right. Unless you are a conservative side, you have no right to quote Jesus. Now to be fair, The Hill cites the entire incident without once referencing Jesus or the Bible. This is just Obama mocking Republicans for being literally afraid of widows and orphans.
But that’s now how the Religious Right saw it. And they think Obama had no right to go there. You know: facts.
In December 2014 when Obama went to bat for immigrants, arguing they are actually saving Social Security, he said “The good book says don’t throw stones at glass houses, or make sure we’re looking at the log in our eye before we are pointing out the mote in other folks eyes.”
Immediately, cries went up that there is no such verse. Not once does Jesus mention “glass houses” they said. Funny, Jesus also doesn’t mention gay people or abortion or contraception, or, for that matter, the Bible.
(No one had penned a word of the New Testament yet, and it would take another four hundred years for the Christian canon to be settled and the Jewish canon was also being developed at this time and traditionally not closed until 70-90 CE, and possibly as late as the second century, many decades after Jesus’ death).
As it happens, though Jesus didn’t mention glass houses (a silly concept for the first century C.E.), Obama got the sense of it right. Obama understood the spirit of Jesus’ words. Something the Religious Right more often gets wrong than right.
Trump, on the other hand, does not need to even know how to reference passages in the Bible, let alone be expected to use them correctly. This is the headline that greeted us at The Blaze Sunday: “‘Two Corinthians’: Trump Stumbles Over Bible Reference, But Still Wins Over Evangelical Crowd at Liberty University.”
Yes. That’s right. Trump got a standing ovation for flubbing his attempt to cite a passage from the Bible. For Obama getting Jesus right we see things like “Obama quotes nonexistent Bible verse in immigration speech.”
Obama is never going to win with these people. They attack him for not getting biblical passages right while inventing their own, and praise Trump for having the barest passing familiarity with the Bible at all. I’ve pointed here to the Religious Right’s moral relativism before, and this is just further evidence of it.
The sad truth is the Bible – and Jesus’ words – can be twisted to mean anything Republicans want them to mean. A group that makes a living cherry-picking verses and inventing others has no right to criticize somebody who, if they don’t get the words exactly right, at least understands what was meant.
President Barack Obama, at least, has good intentions. He gets Jesus. Republicans, on the other hand, just want to use Jesus to do evil and to excuse their appalling words and deeds. Who better to rally around then but the men who embody appalling, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.