Twisting the Torah?

  Like many Christians, I've been encouraged to hear Senator Joseph Lieberman talk openly about his faith on the campaign trail. He's dead right arguing that religious perspectives belong in public discourse. And he argues, as well, that we should obey the Ten Commandments. But we have to be careful. There's a fine line between using faith to guide our policies and using it as a prop for political maneuvers. Now I always make a point of avoiding commenting on partisan matters -- as an ex-offender, I can't even vote. So don't take these as partisan comments. I would say the same thing were the candidate Republican or Democrat. But there are some references to Scripture by candidate Lieberman that concern me -- in particular, his selective reading of Holy Scripture. And it's true: too many Americans have forgotten the important role of our Judeo-Christian tradition in this nation's history. They've even missed the fact that the Civil Rights movement was driven, in large part, by the religious commitment of men like Martin Luther King and, yes, Joe Lieberman. But if we inject faith into the campaign, we then have to be prepared to live according to its dictates. The Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that taking innocent unborn life is a sin, which is why Orthodox Jews--along with evangelical and Catholic Christians-- are strongly pro-life. And support for abortion rights unmistakably contradicts the same Bible that gives us these Ten Commandments. So that's why I find it hard to square Senator Lieberman's arguments with his pro-choice stance. While I certainly respect his faith and his good will, his reading of Scripture, I think, is off-base. Take another example. Speaking in a Detroit church last week, the Senator said that the Fifth Commandment -- "honor your father and mother" -- provides a good reason to support Vice President Gore's plan for funding prescription drug benefits. Whoa! Wait a minute! The Ten Commandments were directed to individual Israelites to care for their own parents, just as Ezra and Proverbs make it clear that parents are to care for their own kids. Now, I'm willing to grant that honoring our parents includes concern for their health care -- and one could argue that this principle carries over into our political concerns. But the leap to federal funding of programs to confer drug benefits is a matter of political philosophy, not theology -- and a philosophy much more indebted to nineteenth-century utopianism than Judeo-Christian ethics. That utopianism is rooted in the belief that humanity's problems can be solved by creating a perfectly just society -- the problem isn't man, they say, it's government. But utopian myths like these deny individual responsibility and foster ever greater dependence on the state. The spirit of the Fifth Commandment is infinitely richer -- and more radical -- than any government program could put into practice. The apostle Paul, a Jew and a Pharisee himself, said: "if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." In short, the Judeo-Christian tradition requires us to care for our own families, and not foist off our obligations onto the state. I have great respect for Joe Lieberman's devout faith. And I'm delighted to see religion being taken seriously in the public square. But as I explain in my book, KINGDOMS IN CONFLICT -- written some years ago but still a definitive work on Christians in politics -- we must be careful that we bring faith to bear in politics and not the other way around.


Chuck Colson


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