Sunday, July 5, 2020

When the Republican U.S. presidential candidates in 2008 were asked about the Bible

In the November 28, 2007 CNN/YouTube debate between Republican U.S. presidential candidates, a user submitted a question by video: "How you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book?" The person was holding a Bible.

Giuliani described his understanding of the Bible as "interpretive," "allegorical," and having a "modern context." He said, "I think it's the greatest book ever written. I read it frequently...but I don't believe every single thing in the literal sense...there are some things that I think were put there as allegorical."

Romney said, "I believe the Bible is the Word of God, absolutely. I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways...I believe in the Bible." Every word? the moderator pressed. "I might," Romney hedge, "Interpret the Word differently than you interpret the Word."

Giuliani's and Romney's answers appeared halting and bewildered compared to the third responder, Huckabee, whose charismatic on-the-spot sermonette appeared to impress them.

"It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. And the fact is, when people ask, do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. But in the greater sense I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says, 'Go and pluck out your eye...' Well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical. But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and are really not left up to interpretation. 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 'Inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me.' Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot fo time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated. And as the only person here — probably — on this stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, but I'm not supposed to, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite God, and no finite person is ever going to understand it. If they do, their God is too small."

Why was this sermon even in a presidential debate what I want to know.

When I heard it, I did not necessarily object to the theological beliefs or method; I objected to the theology being in a presidential debate. I don't care whether politicians describe their Biblical interpretation as literal or allegorical in general; I care about what they believe on specific issues of political importance. For that reason, the user-submitted question — "Do you believe every word of this book?" — wasn't very good (in my view), and it seems that the candidates felt the same way, insofar as all three of them found a complicated way to say "I'm Christian, but no."

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