Now I know why our country is politically divided. According to an article written by Dean Hartwell and published in the Political Gateway, Republicans derive their political philosophy from the Old Testament while Democrats are more influenced by the New Testament.
Though Republicans typically profess their faith in Jesus, remarkably, they look to the Old Testament for answers to political issues. Democrats don't, but instead interpret the teachings of Jesus rather loosely. Recent issues such as gay marriage, abortion and the war in Iraq demonstrate these tendencies.
Hartwell provides several examples. Take for instance, the issue of war. He wrote:
Republicans have rallied around President George W. Bush in supporting the War in Iraq. In the Old Testament, the Israelis, God's "chosen people," go to war with nations as God instructs them to. They had a God who communicated directly with them. This is interesting. When reporters asked Bush whether he relied upon his father, the former president, for guidance in going to war, he said, "I rely on a higher authority."
Democrats, drawn toward the New Testament's depiction of a compassionate, merciful God who does not intervene in world affairs, see things differently once again, especially the liberal wing of the party. Some, like former President Jimmy Carter, call Jesus the "Prince of Peace." To go to war requires a strong judgment of the other nation. Here, with Bush Administration lies about weapons of mass destruction and no threat by Iraq, the Democrats chose to "judge not, lest ye be judged."
The three issues discussed by Hartwell, gay marriage, abortion and the war in Iraq, have polarized our country. There are no easy solutions to this divide that exists in our society today. But, for us the most important question is whether the Bible provides unclear answers to the problems that divide us.
I believe the Bible has a message that addresses the needs of today’s society. If the message of the Bible is not relevant to today’s society then the church should close its doors and the voices coming from the pulpit should stop speaking on behalf of God.
But the Gospel of Jesus Christ still speaks to men and women today. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are still God’s Word for the generation that is entering the twenty-first century.
The words of Paul to Timothy clearly teach us the relevancy of the Bible to their generation and to ours: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).
If the Bible has the power to teach us “to do what is right,” where have the Republicans and Democrats gone wrong? The answer is that people have a tendency to interpret the Bible in light of their experience. People read the Bible and see what they want to see. They read the Bible and always find a passage or two that prove the point they are trying to prove. We call this method of interpretation “eisegesis.”
Here is a good definition of eisegesis:
Eisegesis is the approach to Bible interpretation where the interpreter tries to “force” the Bible to mean something that fits their existing belief or understanding of a particular issue or doctrine. People who interpret the Bible this way are usually not willing to let the Bible speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. They set off with the up-front goal of trying to prove a point they already believe in, and everything they read and interpret is filtered through that paradigm. Stated another way, they engage in what the Bible refers to as “private interpretation.”
Thus, a person, Republican or Democrat, can use private interpretation to prove a political point. One can use texts from the Old and New Testaments to reinforce their political and religious views and justify their actions by invoking the Bible to demonstrate they are right.
So, what is the difference between Republicans and Democrats? According to Hartwell, “ the GOP lives to punish. The Democrats punish to live.” Maybe the real difference is their approach to the Bible: If the Republicans take the Old Testament too literally, the Democrats take the teachings of Jesus “rather loosely.”
Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Republicans, Democrats, Bible