Wednesday, December 19, 2012

David Barton Doesn't Know His Bible

Recently, on his WallBuilders Radio Show, David Barton made some remarks about how Christians should think while casting their vote.  Barton framed his position the way that all politicians do - as a dichotomous argument, where there is only one right and everything else is wrong.

As usual, this framing doesn't work.  Barton was decrying the fact that there was a Religious Right and a Religious Left.  He said that there shouldn't be a Religious Right OR Left but only a religious biblicist contingency.  He goes on to state that, if the Bible doesn't speak of it, Christians shouldn't worry themselves about it (climate change, health care, etc.). What he says next reveals his complete lack of knowledge (or, more than likely, his blind acceptance of right wing principles, simply because it increases ratings) of his Bible.

Where does the Bible line up on education? Alright, that's where I am.  Where does the Bible line up on taxation?  Okay, that's where I am.  Where does the Bible line up on social programs? Alright, that's where I am.

If you're at all familiar with theology, you immediately see the problem here.  The reason why there are over 30,000 different denominations of Christianity is because the interpretations of life issues contained in the Bible can be concluded in many different ways.  Couple that with stories that are considered to be prescriptive, rather than descriptive and parables that have many meanings, and you find yourself completely confused as to where you should take a stand.

This is why many religious people boil their faith down to simple truthisms like The Golden Rule or "Love God, Love People".  It's so much easier than trying to navigate all the pretzelified logic.

But let's take a look at Barton's comments a bit more closely.

Where does the Bible line up on education? Alright, that's where I am.

David, David, David.  You are there, but so many other Christians are not.  The Bible says nothing about education.  In the Psalms, it does talk about teaching children the statutes of the god of the Bible, something that many wouldn't really want to do, being that that god wasn't all that nice.  In Proverbs, it says to beat your children with a rod and they'll turn out fine.  On the other hand, Jesus says to not hurt the children.  You see, David?  It isn't really all that cut and dry.

But the Bible doesn't talk about how to teach your kids math and reading.  It doesn't say to teach them at home rather than regular school.  It doesn't say to only allow education funding to be at the local or state level, rather than the federal level.  It doesn't say whether or not to teach a child to a test, rather than teaching them for knowledge.  It doesn't say whether or not to allow a district to increase a tax levy or not. It doesn't speak of whether or not to have strict statutes against bullying.  There is much about education that the Bible does not speak of and thus leads to many differing positions within the Christian community.

Where does the Bible line up on taxation?  Okay, that's where I am.

Really, David?  Are you?  Maybe you think you are.  But, in reality, your position only encompasses one interpretation of taxation in the Bible.

Jesus says to "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's" after his disciples find money in fish.  That can be interpreted in several ways.  First, we are to pay all taxes without question.  That positions wouldn't line up with yours, Mr. Barton.  Or, maybe it means that we are to go fishing and find money in order to pay our taxes.  Jesus also told the rich ruler to sell everything and follow him.  David, have you sold everything and followed Him?  There is also the parable of the ten talents where the one man saves his money and is ridiculed.  Then, another man invests it and makes more money and is warmly treated.  Some people make taxation arguments from that story.

But the Bible doesn't speak about cutting or increasing taxes.  It doesn't speak about whether to give more in order to reduce your tax bill.  It doesn't speak about whether we should remove the home interest deduction from our tax loopholes.  It doesn't speak about the marriage penalty or whether one should claim 18 exemptions or 3.  It doesn't speak of whether it is alright to harbor your money overseas or whether we should file taxes in another state if we only made a few dollars there.  There is much about taxation it does not speak to.

Which leads into Barton's final point:

Where does the Bible line up on social programs? Alright, that's where I am.

The early church owned everything commonly.  In fact, if we wanted to see how important it was to Peter that the early church owned everything commonly, all one has to do is look at how he treated Ananias and Sapphira.  He cursed them and they died when they held back a bit of the money they made from the sale of their personal property, rather than giving it all to the Christian commune.  Yeah.  It was that important, David.  You can also use the story of the ten talents to further the Republican position of keeping all your money and not giving it away but it really doesn't speak to that.  After all, the guy who just kept the money was excoriated.

So, Mr. Barton.  To your point about not voting on issues that aren't in the Bible, my recommendation is to just sit out every single election from President to local dog catcher (the Bible god says nothing about animal control although he says a lot about butchering them and burning them on altars, wasting the meat).  But, more importantly, David Barton, it is time to stop pretending that there is exactly one position for everything in the Bible.  There isn't.  Many issues are not even addressed, let alone addressed in twenty different ways.


  1. Great post. One thing I wanted to add, I recently came across a verse (1 John 2:27) which seems to say that we don't need teachers. The verse includes the following

    "the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything..."

    If you took this as the truth, it is really not a leap at all that we don't need schools, that our entire education system is unnecessary. Luckily, not a lot of Christians seem to want to take this verse all that seriously.

  2. Barton is absurd. Even if the Bible had 1999 rules and outlined a political guide (it does not), then it wouldn't change the fact that there is no pure party and that the left stands for Biblical good. The problem with the Religious Right is they fight for Biblical morality (whatever that means), so they back up candidates who stand against gay marriage and abortion, but who may be clueless about all else. Oddly, there are other pressing and important issues that the left stands for that they ignore because of abortion and gay marriage. Frank Schaeffer says that when he admits that the left fit in more closely with he and his fathers Biblical views, but because abortion was a political issue, they endorsed the right.