Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has done us a wonderful service with her Aug. 15 article in the Atlantic, "Is Rick Perry as Christian as He Thinks He Is?"
It's a masterpiece of liberal misuse of the Bible, which will become more frequent as the campaign heats up.
First, only God and Texas Gov. Perry know what Mr. Perry thinks of his own faith. I doubt that either has shared that knowledge with Mrs. Townsend or her editors.
Maryland's Democratic lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003, Mrs. Townsend starkly makes the case that being Christian means using other people's tax dollars to help the poor.
She penned this in reaction to Mr. Perry's prayer rally in Houston on Aug. 6. Mrs. Townsend agrees with the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation, which unsuccessfully sued to halt the event.
Throughout her piece, as befitting a member of the Kennedy family, she equates government with charity.
Mrs. Townsend revealed more than she probably intended in her opening paragraph: "America is a religious nation. Polls may differ, but most find that over 80 percent of Americans say they believe in God. Fifty percent also say they go to church on Sunday, while only half of those actually do. I guess this shows that we want to look better than we actually are, at least to the public - if not to God, who presumably knows what we're really up to."
Would a believing Christian dare use the word "presumably" to describe the capabilities of Almighty God, Whom the Bible tells us is omniscient, eternal and unchanging? Either He is God or He isn't. "Presumably" is a weasel word implying doubt.
Let's move on to her view of Christian charity: "I see a fundamental inconsistency between Perry's concerted opposition to government social programs and his promotion of himself as a Christian politician," she writes. "... Christ teaches us to feed the hungry and care for the sick, not to abandon them. Perhaps Gov. Perry hasn't read that part of the Bible where Christ admonishes us to care for 'the least among us.' "
Perhaps Mr. Perry has, which might be why he opposes welfare programs that have trapped millions in poverty, dependency and crime and destroyed families and communities. Throughout the Old and New testaments, the Bible admonishes us to care for widows, orphans and the poor - not create more of them.
When a rich young man asks Jesus how he can get to heaven, Jesus asks if he has obeyed the commandments. The man says yes, so Jesus tells him to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. Under Mrs. Townsend's logic, the young man could think to himself, "Hey, I don't have to do that. I'll just organize a political action committee to lobby Rome to redistribute the wealth. They're always looking for ways to exert more control over the rebellious Jews anyway."
Mrs. Townsend cites megapastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," to support her idea that the Bible calls us to gin up more government programs. But listen to this: "I had read his book, and coming from a different Christian tradition, I was struck by how much it focused on getting you to feel good about yourself rather than caring about your neighbor, which Christ had said was the greatest commandment."
Really? Here's Matthew 22:35-40: "One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
More from Mrs. Townsend: "I don't see any place in the Bible that says we shouldn't use all the tools we have at hand to help the poor, the sick, and the hungry."
No, but please note that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not recommended. In Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, the man who helps the mugging victim pays out of his own pocket. He does not demand that the government recompense the owner of the inn where he arranges for the man to stay.
Now to her sly questioning of biblical authority: "The same conservative Christians claim that the Bible teaches them that the government should outlaw gay marriage and stem cell research. But why should the government carry out some Biblical injunctions and not others?"
Liberals love to negate clear biblical teaching regarding life, morality and marriage by citing passages that don't make sense if taken out of context. For example, then-Sen. Barack Obama mocked the Bible's relevance for politics in a 2006 Washington, D.C,. speech: "Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK ...? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?"
During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama cited the Sermon on the Mount to claim that Jesus would support homosexual civil unions.
But here's Mrs. Townsend's own take: "The Bible is certainly open to interpretation. For example, most churches in America today don't require us to gouge out our eyes if we look lustfully at someone, or to cut off our hand if we use it a sinful way. And yet, right there in Matthew 5:27-30 are clear instructions." Most churches?
Anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount should understand that Jesus was not speaking literally but setting an impossible standard to show that no one can be perfect enough to earn his way to heaven. We are all sinners who need a Savior who died in our place. Saying that Jesus gave "clear instructions" here is like insisting that God must be a bird because Psalm 91 says: "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge."
The Bible is an unmatched mix of history, poetry, morality, metaphor and the greatest love story of all time. It really isn't that difficult to discern when a passage is descriptive, prescriptive or poetic.
But you have to read it for understanding, not for a hit-and-run grab like Mrs. Townsend's attempt to mock Rick Perry.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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