On Biblical Values and Politics

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Perhaps you missed the full-page ad in the Oct. 18 issue of the Wall Street Journal, placed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The ad includes an image of the 93-year-old preacher and a message to “vote for biblical values.”

What biblical values?

Candidates who “support the nation of Israel … who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The ad’s message is problematic in several ways. Let’s count them.

Consider the irony of the Graham foundation’s call for support of Israel: In 1972 Graham was taped in conversation with then-President Richard Nixon. Graham: “This stranglehold [of the Jews’ control of American media] has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.” “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. … They swarm around me and are friendly to me … because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.”

When the tapes were released to the public in 2002, Graham said he had “no memory of the occasion” but apologized for “any offense,” according to the New York Times.

I find this sort of two-facedness, commonly seen on the Religious Right, downright creepy: Support Israel, but watch those Jews.

The Graham foundation supports candidates “who protect the sanctity of life.”

I disagree. The term is, of course, code for ending a woman’s right to abortion. I hate the idea of abortion, but outlawing it won’t make it go away. We’ll simply return to unsafe back-alley abortions.

Let us remember that Jesus is silent on the issue. Perhaps He saw the bigger picture – the sorry plight of women two thousand years ago. And was he not also concerned about the sanctity of their lives? (No wonder so many of His early supporters were female.)

What I especially dislike is the vogue among male Republican politicians who can’t seem to shut up about the issue – most recently the Republican senatorial candidate from Indiana, Richard Mourdock’s comment about God’s will and pregnancy from rape.) They cruelly politicize something that demands the dignity of soul-searching within the privacy of one’s family and with one’s doctor. Let’s take this out of the political arena.

Besides, Christ was concerned with “sanctity of life” throughout one’s lifetime – a truth ignored by both the Graham foundation’s ad and the Republicans’ 2012 platform. The GOP’s “values” are larded with doctrines that undermine both our quality of life and our stewardship of the land we live on. Cuts to food programs for the poor; laxity in regulations designed to protect consumers and college students; hysteria over sex education and birth control (which surely lead to fewer abortions); regressive energy and environmental policies; short-sighted immigration policies; affordable health care; the list goes on. The Bible has much to say on many of these issues but where is the call from the Right to uphold those values?

The foundation’s ad further urges that we vote for candidates who “support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.” I’m as fed up with this smarminess as I am with the Right’s rhetoric over reproductive rights. The Constitution calls for the separation of church and state. I want candidates who have good ethical values whatever their religion or lack of religion. (Religious Right politicians, as we regularly see, have no lock on admirable ethics or morals.) I don’t want others’ religious beliefs imposed upon this country politically. If you’re a member of a church that doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, so be it — the Democratic Party has no interest in forcing your church (or synagogue or mosque) to perform such ceremonies. Others of us, Christians included – there are biblical scholars who support such unions – believe that same-sex marriage is a civil right and should be legal.

Finally, the Graham foundation’s ad appeared in a newspaper – the Wall Street Journal – with many readers who were intimately involved with the debacle of 2008 that nearly put this country’s economy under. If the Graham foundation is so concerned about biblical values, what better paper in which to issue a call for reform in the financial sector? Jesus had plenty to say about how we handle money, but we don’t hear about those biblical values from Republican politicians. Tied as they are to big-business interests, they seem to have memories that end with Barack Obama’s inauguration. What are they really worshipping here – God or greed? True biblical economic values suggest a vote for the Democrats.

Throughout I’ve referred to the ad in question as “the foundation’s ad.” At age 93, Billy Graham is quite frail. I don’t know how much say he had in this enterprise of advocating for Romney in the Wall Street Journal, but it seemed out of character. Perhaps he was used. And the very week the ad appeared, the foundation’s web site removed “Mormonism” from its list of cults. I consider that craven, politically and spiritually.

In this election, I suggest that we put an end to the GOP’s claim as the party of biblical values  – vote Democratic.

Final thoughts about Measure EE: It’s telling that a broad cross-section of Democrats and Republicans, liberals, moderates, and conservatives that I’ve spoken with oppose it. Why? It’s a poorly conceived revision. Issues that call for closer examination and debate are wrapped up with less controversial “housekeeping” items. You cannot pick and choose which items to vote “yes” or “no” on. This is unacceptable. Good governance begins at the local level. Let’s keep our city officials accountable for getting the charter revisions right. I’m voting “no” on EE.


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