Politics and the Bible

Posted: June 16, 2017 in Thoughts on God

On this date in 1858, Abraham Lincoln was nominated by his party to run for the US Senate. In his acceptance speech, Honest Abe qoted Scripture. This was not an uncommon practice among politicians. We still see that custom employed by today’s political class (although, these days they seem to misquote it more than quote it).
The excerpt was a direct one from Jesus which is found in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, and Luke 11:17). It was contained in what later became known as his famous “House Divided” speech. It was a bold statement against slavery and is widely considered to be the reason he lost that particular election. It’s also considered the cornerstone of his subsequent run for the presidency. Funny how that works.
Lincoln, of course, was using the verse to illustrate the need for the union of states to remain in tact. This was a far cry from the context in which Jesus first uttered this remark. The Lord had just cast out a demon and was accused of being in league with Satan himself. The retort to his detractors was meant to point out that (if he was part of the Devil’s team) he wouldn’t have divided the evil kingdom against itself. Still, Lincoln’s point was well understood (albeit rejected).
There’s an old saying that states, “We shouldn’t interpret Scripture as much as we should allow Scripture to interpret us.” It simply means the Bible should be our guide as opposed to a tool we use to back up our own personal agendas. We’ve gotten quite astute at ferreting out verses to back our political leanings. This little tactic is certainly not limited to demagogues. It runs rampant throughout the church as well.
Let me suggest to you that the Bible is not a weapon to be wielded against your political enemies. If anything, it is a book of faith that can be used to unite us rather than push us further apart.
Hmmm… Maybe Mr. Lincoln was close to being right after all–politics not withstanding.

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