Good and Bad Ways of Entering the Bible into Politics: A Handy Guide for Republicans

religion-politicsIf one were to casually read my piece from the other day on Satan, the song “Amazing Grace” and abortion, one could be forgiven for thinking that this ol’ Christian believes that religion and politics need to be completely cloistered from each other. I don’t. Just as anything else that informs, educates and energizes you cannot be separated from politics, neither can religion or spirituality. Politics affects every area of our lives – including our communities, ability to feed, clothe and shelter, and bodily autonomy – so it’s ridiculous to allege that one should drive away an integral part of the self away from another. Particularly if that part drives the moral and civic part of our selves.

After all, it was the Black church – and an appeal to basic Christian teaching – that led the way in the Civil Rights movement. Yet, at the same time, it is important to recognize that justice-oriented rabbis and humanists and Muslims and secularists, etc, all took part based on a shared vision of justice. This wasn’t just a Christian movement that forced itself onto the public sphere to control and oppress. Rather, the movement was a gathering of disparate elements that saw oppression and injustice against the political and civic participation of Black Americans and used whatever spiritual, intellectual and mobilizing forces it could draw upon to fight against it. The faith of the majority of protesters was not a triviality; it was a powerful force of conscience-raising and an accessible point to demonstrate for the souls and hearts of White people of faith who would recognize the commonality of prophets, sages and language – cultural touchstones important when trying to make a human connection with people that a racist apartheid structure had purposely driven you from.

We need to acknowledge Constitutional protection from using the bible to – poorly, at that – justify legislative restrictions on women’s bodies. That’s a purpose of the First Amendment, keeping us from an establishment of religion via law. There is a big distinction between using the bible or theology (even though neither are central to the practice or teaching of the so-called pro-life movement) in the seat of power as a means to force or restrict others based on a particular religious belief, and in using the bible and theology to rise the conscience of a people who specifically call themselves Christian to act Christ-like.

For exhibit B, check out Representative Corrine Brown:

“The Bible says, to whom much is given, much is required,” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) observed during debate over whether funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be stripped from the farm bill. “And this is a sad day in the House of Representatives. Shame on the Republicans! Shame on the House of Representatives!”

Congresswoman Brown – a Black female who represents the very people who would be most affected by (and the largest targets of) the House’s actions – was shut down by White males twelve seconds into her allotted one minute delivery. House Republicans really do not like being reminded of their biblical responsibility. On the splitting of the Farm Bill’s agricultural parts from SNAP benefits and other anti-hunger acts, The Atlantic‘s Corey Kummer gives further information:

Why not keep the agricultural parts, even if they benefit only industrial agriculture, in what’s called the farm bill, and call the food-assistance portion what it is? That would get the farm bill back on the rails, and stop letting SNAP debates hijack every vote.

Here’s why not: because that means, as anyone in the anti-hunger community recognizes, pushing the 47 million Americans on food stamps onto an ice floe. The last time Republicans tried to saw off food stamps from the bill… it set back food assistance efforts for more than a decade.

I have spent countless hours going between food pantries and volunteering at soup kitchens. I depended on food stamps and rent-control growing up in a working class family. I have taught children with food security issues who could not concentrate throughout the day. Through my own personal experiences, I can say without equivocation that food justice is a severely important issue in these rich United States of America. We have the means, but the conscience is asleep.

Act now to remind your congresspersons that this action is immoral – no matter your religious beliefs. Thank you.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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