Why are some Christians so angry?
Chris McCurley has noticed something. “People are angrier than ever,”…
Members of Churches of Christ pride ourselves on our commitment to Scripture. Our strong dedication to the Bible is summed up — rather ironically — in words not from God’s holy word but from Thomas Campbell.
“Where the Bible speaks, we speak,” said Campbell, a Restoration Movement leader of the 19th century. “Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”
Related: Why are some Christians so angry?
When it comes to issues within our congregations, that commitment has proven more complex than it initially appears. How does Scripture speak? And what does its silence mean? Good people can disagree. Nevertheless, the desire to live under the authority of Jesus as revealed through the Bible serves us well as a fellowship of believers.
But what happens when specific issues are outside our church walls and in the public square? More specifically, what happens when Scripture is used in political debate? As politicians and their supporters use Bible verses to back up their position or criticize opponents, God’s words can become yet another political tool.
The recent student loan forgiveness program announced by President Joe Biden is just one example. Both sides of the debate claim to have the Bible on their side.
Proponents cite Exodus 22:25, among other texts, to argue for the program: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.”
Related: Pandemic and politics exacerbate challenges facing an Ohio church
Opponents cite Psalm 37:21, which says, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.”
That clears things up, doesn’t it?
Loan forgiveness is not the only political issue sending people backpacking through their concordance. The Bible is regularly cited in other debates: Climate change. Immigration. Abortion. Marriage. Taxes. Health care. The list goes on.
“Stripped of historical and theological context, Scripture is used to justify everything from slavery to genocide. Casual observers to such exchanges might understandably view Scripture as … nothing more than a political bludgeon.”
Stripped of historical and theological context, Scripture is used to justify everything from slavery to genocide. Casual observers to such exchanges might understandably view Scripture as outdated, contradictory or, even worse, nothing more than a political bludgeon.
What role, if any, should the Bible play in public debate?
God’s word must frame our beliefs and response to every issue. Whenever Scripture speaks, we must echo its views clearly, boldly and compassionately. We also need the humility to acknowledge the Bible can be complex and, at times, leave questions unaddressed.
What we cannot do is misuse Scripture to baptize secular issues to gain political support. For obvious reasons, many of today’s political debates lack direct mention in Scripture: Gun control. Nuclear concerns. Climate change. And yes, even student loan forgiveness.
Yet, even when direct mention is absent, Christians are not left without any framework upon which to take our stand. Whether mentioned directly or not, our conclusions can never ignore the overarching concern toward justice, love and mercy. When Scripture does address issues directly, it is a representation of how God defines justice, love and mercy in those areas.
Whenever Scripture is politicized, the Gospel gets secularized. Israel’s history contains too many examples of kings using prophets and propaganda to claim divine approval for personal ambition. Jesus was especially dismayed when religious leaders attempted the same.
“The Bible is far more than a series of divine tweets to be used in any debate, no matter the issue. God’s holy words are part of a larger redemptive story, culminating in Jesus.”
If we truly are “people of the book” committed to “rightly handling the word of God,” then we cannot allow the Bible to become a political weapon. God’s kingdom and the message of Scripture redefine traditional views of power and politics.
The Bible is far more than a series of divine tweets to be used in any debate, no matter the issue. God’s holy words are part of a larger redemptive story, culminating in Jesus.
As Jesus reminded his critics, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
May we use Scripture toward that same end. — Jeremie Beller, for the Editorial Board
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.