Come on, man. Everyone knows that the most Republican part of the Bible is Leviticus. (Numbers would have won the title except for Balaam’s talking donkey.) For some reason, though, Politico’s Joel Baden sees tweets from Marco Rubio about dogs returning to their own vomit, and argues that Proverbs has become partisan source material. Hmmm.
Proverbs is notable in that is presents a fairly consistent view of the world: The righteous are rewarded, and the wicked are punished. In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle. …
Proverbs, of course, is also just pithy and instructive and so has some appeal for Democrats, too. Bill Clinton employed Proverbs 29:18 when accepting the nomination in 1992: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But do a quick look at the Bible passages quoted in past inauguration speeches, and you’ll see that Republicans, from Ford to Herbert Hoover all the way back to William McKinley, have a clear preference for the section, relative to Democrats.
And … so? Even assuming this analysis holds up over this period of time, that may reflect on Republicans, but not on Proverbs itself. Utterly lacking in Baden’s thesis is any sense of how this portion of the Bible reflects Republican policies or their agenda — and for that matter, how Rubio’s Twitter feed helps to promote it.
Baden then posits that “There is surely nothing wrong with a politician turning to the Bible for spiritual, ethical, or moral guidance,” which is an awfully generous concession. However, he then offer his own spiritual direction to Rubio:
But concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective is a form of confirmation bias. One might advise Rubio to read, and tweet, more widely: from Ecclesiastes, perhaps, or from prophets such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone—but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11). Maybe Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33–34). Or even the gospels of the New Testament: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24/Mark 10:25/Luke 18:25).
I’m pretty sure that Rubio has read all of these passages and more from all parts of the Old and New Testament. But Baden seems to have missed a few passages from Proverbs, too. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are left desolate” (Proverbs 31:8). “He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse” (28:27). “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge” (29:7). “He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him” (14:31). And there are plenty more to find in Proverbs along the same lines.
In truth, Proverbs is much like the rest of the Bible, in which the Lord reveals His wisdom to us in many different forms but with the same message. We are called to love Him above all else, and to love His children as we do ourselves. It’s easy to consider one part more partisan than others when cherry-picking the verses for our own purposes, but it’s a fool’s errand. There are no “Republican” or “Democrat” parts of the Bible, despite the many and ongoing efforts to stake out such territory there.
Rubio’s not biting on the bait:
Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible?I don't think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs. https://t.co/2bGhkGwoqH
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
Today, Rubio offered what seems to be a follow-up response:
Where words are many, sin is not wanting;
but those who restrain their lips do well. Proverbs 10:19
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 10, 2017
Perhaps a better quote would be Proverbs 30:32: “If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.” Not bad advice at all.