Please Don’t Actually Follow the Bible

Peaceful protesters were tear-gassed in Lafayette Park so that Donald Trump could have a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Said Rev. Gini Gerbasi:

“I was coughing with tear gas in my clergy collar, and my gray hair, and my old lady reading glasses, so that that man could stand there and hold a Bible in his hand and look Christian… And it would be far more Christian if he would behave according to the words in that book instead of just carrying it around with him as a prop.”

I find this last comment to be incredibly ironic.

This is indeed something that you’d expect an episcopalian to say, because by and large, Episcopalianism is a religion of peace. However, there are other strains of Christianity, based on the exact same Bible, that are decidedly not religions of peace. Arguments between them feel to me like disputes over whether Superman or Ironman would win in a fight. Okay, we can discuss that, and it might even be fun. But in the final analysis, it’s all pretty meaningless.

Clearly, that clergy person has never actually read the book in question. Or more likely, she’s only read certain, carefully selected and edited bits, and she’s managed to ignore or repackage all the rest: the power-brokering, the rape and murder, the mayhem, the exaltation of Trumpian characters—including the god that is universally worshipped in those Bible stories. The Bible was written in a time when the anointing of God legitimized the use of unbridled power against the governed. And the Bible’s stories reflect those values.

Now, however, we’ve democratized power. We do not rest all the power in one man, but in many people, spread horizontally over three coequal branches of government and vertically over federal, state, and local jurisdictions. And the consent of the governed is what legitimizes the use of limited (not unbridled) power.

What really matters is that this president resembles much more closely those dysfunctional, dangerous aspects of the Bible. He expects everyone to yield to him and worship him because of the power he (claims he) wields. He demands that peace-loving people get out of his way and violently appropriates the symbols of those peace-loving people to build up his own image.