Sins of Speech (Bible Study) – Part 3

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Deception (Lying)
Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Context: This is the ninth of the 10 Commandments.
Analysis: When we bear false witness, we harm others. Whether we do it in a court of law or in daily life, the innocent pay a price while the guilty go free and sin again.

Exodus 23:1, “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
Context: This is one of many laws that follow the Ten Commandments.
Analysis: We don’t always bear false witness in the heat of the moment. When it comes to situations that have a significant impact on others’ lives or our own, we plan our lies ahead of time. And we even conspire with other liars when our lies benefit multiple people whose interests we serve.

Exodus 23:2-3, “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.”
Context: This is one of many laws that follow the 10 Commandments.
Analysis: This verse opposes lawsuits in which groups of poor people attempt to steal from the wealthy by making false claims. Not all lawsuits are evil, but we must only sue with just cause and honest testimony.

Leviticus 5:1, “Now if a person sins, after he hears a public adjuration to testify, when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt.”
Context: In this chapter, God describes sins that required a guilt offering. These offerings are no longer necessary if we believe in Jesus.
Analysis: As a long-time sales rep, I’ve had managers, frustrated with my refusal to lie, tell me that they weren’t asking me to lie; they were asking me to withhold the truth from potential customers. This verse teaches us that withholding the truth is just as bad as lying. It’s called deception.

Leviticus 5:4, “Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever manner a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty of one of these.”
Context: Same as verse one above.
Analysis: This “swearing” is not the use of a bad word, but the uttering of an oath. When we give our word, we are obliged to keep it. To give our word and not keep it turns our words to lies.

Leviticus 19:11-12, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Leviticus.
Analysis: Lying and dealing falsely are the same in God’s eyes. To lie is to say something that’s untrue, while dealing falsely involves any form of deception.
Since this verse forbids swearing falsely by God’s name, it brings to mind the saying, “I swear to God…” However, any time we Christians deal falsely with others, we do it in God’s name and disobey this verse, because we represent God in all that we do.
Psalms 10:7, “His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.”
Context: The psalmist beseeches the Lord to bring justice upon the wicked and rescue the oppressed.
Analysis: Here the evil man of whom the psalmist speaks oppresses the poor with his speech. We do the same today when we conduct scams which rob the unsuspecting and when we defame others with lies.
For most of my Christian life, I believed it was a sin to lie simply because it’s a sin to lie. Verses like this one, however, imply that deception is a sin, because it’s usually used to take advantage of others. So it may not be a sin after all to lie about an upcoming surprise party so that the recipient is actually surprised, but it is a sin to lie or deceive in order to trick someone out of their money or possessions.

Proverbs 4:24, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put devious lips far from you.”
Context: Almost all proverbs have no context; they are an assortment of wise sayings.
Analysis: Are we to put away from us the deceitful mouths and devious lips of others? Or are we to put deceit and deviousness far away from our own lips? We would almost have to isolate ourselves in caves to avoid hearing the deception of others, since there are few people who are consistently honest. But we know from the rest of the Bible that it’s a must that we refrain from deceit and deviousness, so the later interpretation is likely to be the correct one.

Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Analysis: Three of these seven evils are sins of speech: lying, bearing false witness and spreading strife. In God’s eyes, they are on the same level as shedding innocent blood. That’s a powerful concept. Just about any American sees the shedding of innocent blood (such as abortion) to be the worst of all sins. But God sees lying arrogance, and the division that comes from strife to be just as wicked.
How can this be? In our society, we see death as the worst thing there is, but the truth is that everybody dies. Not everybody, on the other hand, has to suffer. Lying, arrogance, wicked plans, false testimony, and strife ruin people’s lives. God hates when we do that as much as He hates death.

Proverbs 10:18-19, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool. When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Analysis: As I mentioned in the slander section, this concealing of hatred is probably flattery rather than peacekeeping. In flattery, we hide our true feelings toward others so that we may benefit from their positive impression of us. In the case of a politician, that benefit is a vote in his or her favor. In the workplace, that benefit may be a promotion. We also tend to flatter when we secretly stab someone in the back, so that they least suspect us of wrongdoing.

Proverbs 12:19, “Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.”
Analysis: According to Revelations 22:15, “everyone who loves and practices lying” will be barred from heaven. Only the truthful will enjoy eternal life. That’s not to say that anyone who tells a lie is barred from heaven. We all sin. It’s when we fail to turn from our sins that we find no forgiveness.

Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are his delight.”
Analysis: As a long time sales rep, when I think of dealing faithfully, I think of business deals. To deal faithfully is to tell the truth and refrain from concealing unpopular facts that might make the deal fall through. Unfortunately, American businessmen see promoting the good (even if the good is not always true) and hiding the bad as nothing more than the way business is done; and it’s okay since everyone else is doing it. I’ve even known devout Christian sales reps to think the same way, because they follow an Americanized version of Christianity where greed is good. This mentality, however, is an abomination to God and a misrepresentation of His name.

Proverbs 17:4, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”
Analysis: How do we know which advice is good and which is evil? We must know the Bible well – all of it, not just the verses we like. Once we know the Bible, we can discern between good and bad counsel.

Proverbs 17:7, “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool; much less are lying lips to a prince.”
Analysis: This verse’s message is similar to Jesus’ message of, “…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” A fool is unable to speak brilliantly; someone who’s noble in God’s eyes cannot lie. Most of us Christians are unaware that this and many of Jesus’ other teachings were inspired by the Old Testament.

Proverbs 19:5, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”
Analysis: This verse must speak of God’s punishment in the afterlife, because many liars go unpunished in our society. It’s the liars who come out on top in a cut-throat economy. Some of the most severe liars are caught and punished, but lying is such an accepted form of business practice, that those who choose honesty experience business failure.

Proverbs 19:22, “What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar.”
Analysis: I’ve known many Christian sales reps to lie or withhold important information from potential customers in order to make a sale, and I’ve known many managers to encourage them to do so. The excuse they give is, “I have to provide for my family,” or, “I have a big mortgage to pay.” These excuses are unacceptable. God would rather have us be poor than to prosper by lying.

Proverbs 20:14, “‘Bad, Bad,’ says the buyer; But when he goes his way, then he boasts.”
Analysis: Like deceptive business practices, many of us accept “the art of negotiation” as a standard way of doing business. That, however, doesn’t make it right in God’s sight. To Him, it’s just another way of deceiving others in order to put their money in our pockets.

Proverbs 21:6, “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.”
Analysis: Our earthly wealth accounts for a tiny percentage of eternity. It’s not worth God’s eternal wrath. Also, as the old saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness. While God doesn’t desire poverty for His people, He knows that beyond a certain point, the wealth we acquire creates little enjoyment. So why be dishonest to gain wealth when it’s both fleeting and pointless?

Proverbs 24:28-29, “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.’”
Analysis: Deception is often used as a means of getting revenge. We believe that our deception is justified in these instances, because the other person has wronged us, and it’s okay to get even with them. But getting even is not our right. God is in charge of justice.
When we bear false witness as a means of getting even, we expose ourselves as liars and misrepresent Christianity. Also, our fighting back escalates conflicts with our neighbors. When we get even with them, they fail to realize why we’re doing it, especially if they feel they were right when wronging us initially. They simply use our deceptive revenge as a reason to launch another attack on us, prompting us to seek revenge yet again.

Proverbs 25:14, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.”
Analysis: While many of us prefer sunny days to rainy ones, people in arid regions like Israel looked forward to rain, because without it their crops would fail and famine would ensue. Dark clouds and the breeze that normally precedes rain were a welcome sight. Their optimism turned to despair when the rain failed to follow.
We feel that same disappointment when people promise that their superior abilities will guide us to a better life, and then they don’t deliver. Politicians who fail to fulfill campaign promises are the most obvious example. Also, corporate leaders assure their employees bright futures only to their increase their workloads, lower their compensation, and cut their jobs. Even in our personal lives, potential mates offer us hope of a better life only to make our lives more difficult.

Proverbs 25:18, “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.”
Analysis: What do clubs, swords and sharp arrows have in common? They hurt and even kill people. Bearing false witness, especially against somebody on trial, isn’t any better than attacking them with deadly weapons. Either way, the life of the person you attack is ruined if your attack succeeds.

Proverbs 26:18-19, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘was I not joking?’”
Analysis: Most of us will say anything when caught in a lie. Well say that we were kidding, or even worse, we’ll deny ever having lied at all. We’ll say, “I never said that.”

Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
Analysis: We can only deceive others if we first consider their well-being to be of lesser importance than our own. Since lies harm others, and we seek to protect those whom we love from harm, then we only lie to those whom we hate.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”
Analysis: Any vow not fulfilled is the equivalent of a lie.

Jeremiah 9:3-7, “‘And they bend their tongue like the bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the Lord. Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; because every brother deals craftily, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. And everyone deceives his neighbor, and does not speak the truth, they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.”
Context: Jeremiah prophecies of Judah’s infidelity toward God.
Analysis: These verses reveal some of the reasons why God imposed judgment upon Judah. He hates deceptive behavior. He even goes as far as to say that deceivers do not know Him. In other words, they are not His people and have no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.

Jeremiah 23:32, “‘Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,’ declares the Lord, ‘and related them, and led my people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people with the slightest benefit,’ declares the Lord.”
Analysis: God also hates false prophecy, so be careful to avoid following someone who predicts future events that fail to occur.

Micah 6:12, “For the rich men of the city are full of violence, her residents speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.”
Context: God opens this chapter with a recall of past events like the exodus from Egypt. He then uses verse 12 as a reason to bring judgment upon His people.
Analysis: Here we see that wealth and deception go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many American Christians see wealth as a reward for honest, hard-work. The reality, both in biblical times and today, however, is that deception and exploitation create wealth, especially in the corporate world.

Zechariah 8:16, “These are things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.”
Context: God promises future blessings for the Jews.
Analysis: Here we see the Bible associating truth with judging. Whether this verse speaks of legal judgments or personal ones, we don’t know. If it’s legal judging, then this verse is a call to speak the truth in a court of law.

Matthew 5:33-37, “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is The City of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.”
Context: Jesus continues the Sermon on the Mount.
Analysis: Why does Jesus command us not to make oaths to God? It may be that, by doing so, we create additional opportunities to sin. In other words, if we make no oath to God, then we can’t sin by breaking that oath. We are effectively adding laws to God’s laws when we take oaths, and as we know from Paul in Romans 7, sin finds opportunity in the law, so adding to His law increases sin. For more on how God’s hates when we add laws to his laws, read the Christian Freedom study on the Bible Studies page.

Romans 3:14, “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness….”
Context: Paul uses Old Testament quotes to demonstrate that all people sin and, therefore, need justification through faith in Christ.
Romans 16:18, “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
Context: As Paul closes the letter to the Romans, he warns them to keep an eye on those who teach false doctrines.
Analysis: Flattery is yet another form of lying. It’s more complicated than the heat of the moment lying we do when caught in a difficult situation. Flattery is a lie that sets someone up so that we can take advantage of their favor. Some people do it to take advantage of others sexually. Others do it to gain favor and upward mobility in the workplace. Regardless of the circumstances, we flatter out of selfishness and disregard for others.

Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
Context: Throughout chapters 4 and 5, Paul instructs the Ephesians on proper conduct.
Analysis: What does it mean to be “members of one another?” It’s hard to say, exactly. But it implies close personal relationships with our fellow human beings. Trust is essential to such relationships. When we lie to one another, trust vanishes. We reason that if a given person lies to us once, there’s no reason they won’t lie to us again. Without trust, relationships become distant, because mistrust forces us to hold back our feelings.

1 Timothy 1:10, “…and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching….”
Context: Paul lists the types of people the law was created for; the law was not created for the righteous, but for the unrighteous (verse 9).
Analysis: Other translations, such as the New King James Bible, translate “immoral men” as “fornicators” and “homosexuals” as “sodomites.” Regardless, most Christians see these sins, as well as kidnapping, to be the worst of all sins. Sexual sins are issue number one to so many of us today. But here in the Bible we see that lying (as well as perjury) is every bit as sinful as sexual immorality in God’s eyes.

James 3:14, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”
Context: James encourages believers to bear the fruits of the spirit and avoid sins of a demonic nature.
Analysis: I must admit that I have no idea what specific “truth” James is referring to. Whatever it is, it’s the opposite of jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogance.

1 Peter 3:10, “For, ‘Let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile (‘deceit’ in the NRSV)….’”
Context: In verses 8-9, Peter encourages Christians to live in harmony with each other.
Analysis: Living in harmony with others is essential to having an enjoyable life. This harmony cannot be achieved, however, when we commit acts of evil toward others and deceive them. Lies and selfish deeds create strife which leads to stress and misery which, in turn, makes us hate life.

Revelation 21:9, “…the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Context: Chapter 21 reveals the new heaven and earth that we will experience upon our own resurrection. It will not be open, however, to those listed here in verses 8 & 9.
Analysis: Here we have 36 passages that oppose deception. I think that’s enough to label deception as a mega-sin. Yet many of us take it lightly. We lie to make money, to get jobs, to get people to like us, to get out of dates (A-ha! Take that! – all you women who lied to get out of dates with me.), etc. It’s human nature, yet still a sin, to lie to get out of trouble. What’s worse than that, however, are pre-meditated lies.
Why do we practice lying when the entire Bible forbids it? Most of us are unaware that the Bible forbids it so frequently, because our churches fail to address the issue. Many of them would rather lecture us on how we must believe in a 6000-year old universe or why we can’t touch alcohol—things that that Bible never says.

 

Sins of Speech (Bible Study) – Part 4

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

 

Miscellaneous
Proverbs 11:9, “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.”
Analysis: How do we destroy our neighbor? Do we do it by saying a bad word, or do we do it by lying, slandering and gossiping? It’s our messages that destroy others, not the technicality of which words we say.

Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Analysis: Have you ever had someone correct you in an angry manner? Didn’t it make you want to keep arguing even though you knew you were wrong? In fact, we sometimes cling to erroneous beliefs out of our desire to vindicate our hurt feelings. When we are corrected in gentleness, however, we are more likely to embrace the truth.
Some might claim that the term, “harsh word” refers to bad words, but it is used in this verse to counter the phrase, “gentle answer.” So again, the word, “word”, refers to a message rather than a specific word. Even if the word, “word,” designated a specific word, there are many words that stir up anger that aren’t bad words, such as idiot or loser. So this verse cannot be interpreted as one that forbids the use of bad words.

Proverbs 17:5, “He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.”
Analysis: I’ve known few people who rejoice at calamity, but many of us Christians speak evil of the poor, blaming them for their circumstances and refusing to help them.

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Analysis: This sounds like an overstatement. The tongue just produces words. Certainly, words can’t determine life or death. Only weapons and physical destruction can do that.
However, let’s think about suicide for a minute. What drives a person to suicide? Their thoughts do. What kind of thoughts do suicidal people have? They have thoughts of self-doubt, inferiority, self-hatred. Why? Were they born with these thoughts? No. Someone put those thoughts in their head. So it’s from the words others that our suicidal thoughts originate. Likewise, it’s from the words of others that we develop much of our confidence and healthy self-esteem (not to be confused with unhealthy, arrogant pride which the Bible opposes.)

Proverbs 23:9, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”
Analysis: This is a weird one. I would think that we should speak wisdom around those who are foolish. Jesus did it. So did the prophets and the apostles. In fact, there are so many fools around that we’d rarely have the opportunity to speak away from their presence. I think we’ll just have to temporarily write this verse off, because it’s apparent message conflicts with what we see throughout the rest of the Bible. We’ll just count it as another example of why it’s so important to use the every-verse method of Bible study.
Proverbs 26:4-5, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
Analysis: In other words, don’t stoop down to the level of someone who speaks foolishly. Those of us who discuss such important, controversial topics as religion and politics have frequent opportunities to heed this verse. Quite often, our opponents rant and rave, engaging in name-calling and mockery, as they argue their point. Their emotional outbursts convey their lack of logic and calm reasoning. We must never stoop to such a level. We need to take the high road when discussing important issues, treating our opponents with the respect that all human beings deserve and that the Bible requires.

Proverbs 27:14, “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.”
Analysis: We Christians today are guilty of disobeying this verse when we bless people for show. We have a tendency to address other Christians with religious-sounding talk in order to look like men and women of great faith.

Ecclesiastes 5:2, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore, let your words be few.”
Analysis: This verse is more of a prayer instruction than anything. We must not take prayer with God lightly. Imagine yourself kneeling before a king when you pray – a king who has the power to exalt you or destroy you. Would you waste a king’s time by rambling on with many words or by bothering Him with frivolous requests? Why then should we talk to the King of the universe any differently?

Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Context: Here in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains that we are guilty of the sin of murder when we have hatred in our hearts.
Analysis: Have we finally found words that the Bible forbids us to utter? Interestingly, “fool” is not considered a bad word among American Christians. As for “raca,” I’ve been told that it’s the equivalent of the m-f word in our language, today. That’s probably why Bibles don’t translate it for us.
However, if it’s a sin to utter such harsh words, was Jesus a sinner by uttering them in the Sermon on the Mount? Not at all! Jesus’ point here is that we’re guilty of murder in our hearts even if all we can get away with is calling our enemy a name. It’s not the utterance of these words that counts as sin, it’s using these words, or any others, to insult and judge people whom we deem to be less righteous than ourselves.
.
Matthew 12:36-37, “And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Context: In verses 33-35, Jesus explains how good speech comes from good-hearted people and evil speech from evil-hearted people.
Analysis: Jesus uses the phrase, “every careless word,” to emphasize that everything we say is scrutinized by God. So we must monitor our speech. Some might interpret this verse as one that forbids bad words. But that interpretation is inconsistent with all of verses we’ve reviewed thus far which show God’s hatred for gossip, slander, lying, etc.

Matthew 15:17-20, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
Mark 7:20-22, “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, murders, thefts, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.’”
Context: Jesus continues to explain why the Pharisees’ man-made, religious rule of eating with unwashed hands served no good purpose.
Analysis: Not all of these sins mentioned by Jesus are sins of speech. Only false witness and slander are. However, speech can be used to carry out the sins of adultery, fornication and pride. For example, men who are smooth, deceptive talkers are the ones who take advantage of women sexually. Also, slick speech is needed to accomplish both legal and illegal theft in the business world.

Ephesians 5:4, “…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
Context: Paul educates the Ephesians on Christian living.
Analysis: We love to take general terms like “filthiness” and “silly talk” and define them as we see fit. Some of us insist that this verse forbids sexually-related humor. While most sexually-related humor is inappropriate because it promotes sin, I have heard some over the years that doesn’t. Humor that neither promotes sin nor abuses people is permissible.

Titus 2:6, 8, “Likewise, urge the young men to be sensible…sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”
Context: Paul instructs his understudy, Titus, on church management.
Analysis: Unfortunately, many Christians might limit their interpretation of this verse to the choice of good versus bad words, when, in reality, this verse opposes all of the sinful speech we’ve covered thus far. One reason sound speech is so important is that we must represent God in a manner that’s fitting, so that the world will experience God’s character through the words we say.

Colossians 3:8, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
Context: Paul instructs Christians to stop living as they did before knowing Christ and to conduct themselves as Christians should.
Analysis: Unfortunately, the NIV, which is considered by many to be a thought-by-thought translation rather than a word-by-word translation, translates the words “abusive speech” as “dirty language”, thus making this verse the one most commonly quoted as a command forbidding bad words. That’s a shame, because “abusive speech” covers a multitude of messages that harm others; whereas, “dirty language” implies that we must only refrain from several words that hurt no one.
The concept that we offend God by uttering a given word, even when no one is around to here it, is preposterous. No verse in the Bible states that any word offends God, nor does the Bible ever record God, Jesus, or any of the apostles being angry over someone’s use of a given word.

2 Timothy 2:14, 16, “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers….But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness….”
Context: In Paul’s last letter, he gives Timothy advice on running the church.
Analysis: The instructions of the epistles (Paul’s letters to the first century churches) address church issues of which we are often unaware. We don’t know which words the Christians wrangled about or what kind of worldly and empty chatter they shared. All we can gather from this quote is that we should avoid saying things that lead “to the ruin of the hearers” or that “lead to further ungodliness.”

In examining every speech verse in the Bible, we’ve found no verses stating that the utterance of any given word is a sin, yet we’ve found numerous verses opposing lying, slander, gossip, and quarreling. God’s speech priorities throughout the Bible align with His purpose for the entire biblical law – that we love others as ourselves and abstain from hurting others. Lying, slander, gossip, and quarreling oppose love because they hurt people. They may do so by cheating people out of their money, costing them friendships, ruining their relationships, creating divisions in the church, plummeting people into depression, and even leading some to suicide. God wishes to spare us these sufferings, so He has promised His wrath to those who practice these sins of the tongue.
Despite God’s opposition to harmful speech, many Christians practice it, not only in private, but even in the church. In church I have heard pastors, Sunday school teachers, and congregation members slander celebrities, politicians and even Christians from other denominations. We Christians also gossip about opponents, quarrel with each other, and tell lies to support our viewpoints. Most amazing of all is that many Christians who witness these sins nod their heads in approval while nobody objects.
But if someone were to say in the presence of these very same Christians, “I got home last night to find that my dog shit on the floor,” all eyes would pierce the speaker while stunned, judgmental silence filled the room. Yet who does this statement hurt? Does it cause anyone to lose a friend, lose money, or fall into depression? It hurts no one and, therefore, in no way violates the purpose of the law, which is to protect others from the harmful effects of our selfishness.
Words don’t hurt people; messages do. When we use any word, whether it’s a bad word or not, to lie, slander, gossip, or quarrel, we hurt others and sin against God. When we avoid these sins in our speech, we are guiltless before God, even when we use a bad word in a harmless context as I have in this example.
The concept that it’s a sin to say a given word is bizarre. Words are merely tools used to convey messages. Yet we Christians today focus on the tools we use to speak rather than the biblical crime of saying things that hurt others. It’s the equivalent of sentencing someone to life in prison for shooting a gun, even if it’s used on a paper target, but then letting someone go free for committing murder with a knife, because the knife is an acceptable tool.
Like many man-made religious beliefs, the so-called sin of saying bad words is a measurable sin. You either say a bad word or you don’t; there’s no grey area. Lying, slander, gossip, and quarreling, on the other hand, are difficult to define. Lies appear to be true when we first hear them, and some lies contain some truth (like fish stories or deceptive arguments) that makes them difficult to label as lies. Slander is a little easier to define, but is often deemed necessary to present examples of evil to Christians so they can avoid sin themselves. As for gossip, it’s difficult to determine whether we’re gossiping or just sharing information about others. And quarreling may be the most difficult of all to define, as it’s hard to determine at what point a thought-provoking discussion over a theological issue becomes a quarrel. The fact that these sins of speech are hard to define leads us to downplay their importance, because they’re harder to eliminate from our speech than a few bad words.
Avoiding bad words is easy. All we have to do is use substitute words that mean the exact same thing. On the other hand, obeying God’s commands to steer clear of lying, slander, gossip, and quarreling is difficult. That’s one of the primary reasons that we Christians preach against saying bad words more than we preach against the biblical sins of speech.
The avoidance of saying bad words also serves as an excellent way to wear the Christian uniform. It’s a measurable change in behavior that new Christians can practice immediately after converting to the faith. It’s also an easy concept for children to grasp.
I’m not trying to say that we Christians should curse like rappers. Most bad words are words of frustration. We do not sin by being frustrated or by expressing frustration. But if we express continual frustration, we prove that we lack the contentment that Christians are called to have. Also, continual expressions of frustration and anger ruin other peoples’ good moods. Turning other peoples’ cheer into depression helps no one.
The main purpose of this chapter has not been to promote the use of bad words, but to alert Christians to our distortion of God’s biblical will regarding our speech. The church’s emphasis on avoiding the utterance of bad words has distracted us from God’s will. As a result, many Christians continue to oppress others with lying, slander, gossip, and quarreling while ignoring God’s repeated biblical attempts to eliminate such behavior.

Immigration Order Proves Obama is the Family Values President

Since the onset of the Reagan Revolution, the Republican Party has used the smokescreen of “family values” to win over the Christian vote, and it has worked for them exceedingly well. Of course, the name “family values” is a bit misleading, because the values that Republicans address are almost exclusively sexual values. While sexual values are indeed of tremendous importance to the Christian life, the truth is that they cannot be imposed upon people by law. It simply doesn’t work, because when two consenting adults engage in sexual immorality, there is no victim who will run to the cops.

But, as President Obama has repeatedly proven, we actually can help families legislatively. The first step of family values is ensuring that family members stay alive with livable wages and access to healthcare. This week, the President took the second step – ensuring that families stay together. Families that contain illegal immigrants need not worry about being torn away from their family members by the government, at least not for the next three years. I don’t have room to get into how the Bible repeatedly shows that the purpose of God’s laws is the well-being of people (For more on that, check out my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason, which can be found on the “My Books” page of this website), but Obama’s immigration policy meets this biblical standard far more than Republican policies do.

Of course, Republicans have pounced on Obama for using Scripture to support his stance. And I’ll admit Obama hasn’t done this consistently, but I can see how he used it to help convince Christians that mercy on immigrants is biblical. More importantly, the Bible doesn’t just address immigration with one fleeting verse. Here’s another that shows us that immigrants are entitled to a share of the nation’s wealth:

Ezekiel 47:22, “You are to allot it [land] as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.”

Of course, Republican Christians have been quick to argue that these verses do not address “illegal” immigration. They say they have nothing against immigration; it’s just “illegal” immigration that they oppose. Well, there’s a reason the Bible doesn’t address illegal immigration, and that’s because God never made any immigration illegal. It wasn’t even a consideration to declare that those God created couldn’t settle in any region of the world that God created.

While I understand that we cannot open the flood gates and let unlimited numbers of immigrants come here simultaneously because our facilities and infrastructure would be overrun, I cannot condone our immigration policy that invites the rich and banishes the poor. Having done door to door sales in predominantly Indian and Chinese housing developments, I have met one immigrant after another who had no trouble moving to America, because they had a successful business back home, and the U.S. Government welcomed them, even giving them special tax breaks on their businesses, knowing that they would spend their wealth here. But when it comes to impoverished immigrants, who might seek a means of support here rather than spend their wealth here, the U.S. turns them away. This makes perfect economic sense, but it makes no biblical sense at all. Our nation probably has a million times more wealth than ancient Israel did, yet ancient Israel was required to share some of that wealth. American conservatives, on the other hand, abhor sharing with the needy, and therefore take an anti-biblical stance on a very biblical issue.

How Christian-supported gay discrimination laws will set the stage for future Christian persecution

The Republican Party loves to use fear of an apocalyptic doomsday scenario to scare people into supporting all Republican causes and condemning the Democratic Party as evil. One such scare tactic is convincing Christians that voting for Democrats will bring about the persecution of Christianity. Whenever the Republican news media can find a case in which a Christian doesn’t entirely get their way, they then cry to the world that Christians are being persecuted.

To cite specific examples, there have been two cases in which Christians tried to discriminate against homosexuals getting married and were prohibited by law from doing so. One was a photographer who refused to provide services for a gay wedding, and the other was a baker who refused to provide a cake for a gay wedding. Many conservative Christians, some whom I know personally, want anti-discrimination laws reversed so that Christians can refuse to provide services to gay weddings. What these Christians fail to realize however is that they are setting the stage for a mass discrimination against future Christians. Here’s why:

Christianity isn’t exactly growing in this country. Christians may be the majority now, but as time passes, Christians are on pace to make up a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. We are following the path that Europe followed decades ago. Today, European churches are museums or are being converted into nightclubs, as active Christians make up every small percentage of the population. America is likely to look the same way 50-100 years from now, with 75% of the population being atheist or agnostic while Christians represent less than 10% of the population.

If we set the legal precedent now that a Christian business owner can refuse to provide services to a wedding that does not align with the business owner’s religious beliefs, then we can be certain that someday, when Christians are the minority, that non-Christians will refuse to provide cakes, tuxedos, wedding dresses, and even wedding sites to Christians, because Christians violate atheistic and agnostic beliefs by bringing God into the ceremony of marriage. This will especially be the case if today’s Christians make a practice out of discriminating against gays while the Christians have a huge numbers advantage. It will simply be a case of revenge discrimination.

So to the Christians who say, “I’m really worried about Christians being persecuted,” I say, “I agree! So let’s create a legal system in which no one is allowed to discriminate against someone else based on a difference in religious beliefs or practices.”

Jesus and Paul Never Mandated Morality for Non-Christians

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason,” (pictured at right)Rescuing Religion_ebook updated

Buy It at Amazon

As I shared in a blog post several weeks ago, the Republicans use family values rhetoric as their primary tool in securing Christian loyalty. Once they do that, they then bombard Christians with greed rhetoric that replaces the Bible’s  teachings as the basis for their understanding of right and wrong. Many of these Christians believe it’s their calling to speak out against the sexual sins of non-Christians and to vote in favor of mandating morality by legislative means. But I believe the Bible demonstrates otherwise. Here is an excerpt from my book in which I make the case for how conservative Christians are mistaken.

“Christians have pointed to one isolated quote as the call to force Christian behavior upon non-Christians. It’s known as the Great Commission. Here it is:

Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If the command to “make disciples of all nations” means that we must force entire nations to live as Christians, then we must force baptism upon every member of those nations as well, since Jesus follows this command with the words, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Yet we learn from the Bible that baptism is an individual or family decision, not a national one, so Jesus can only be speaking of individual disciples, not entire nations of them, in the Great Commission.

Jesus uses the words, “all nations” to emphasize the need for His disciples to spread the Gospel beyond Judea and Galilee, something they were reluctant to do. Jesus wants disciples from all nations. He does not require that we force all members of all nations to be disciples.

Beyond this verse, I’ve found no other commands that impose Christian morality on all people. Neither have I been able to find examples of Jesus and His disciples attempting to persuade non-Christian and non-Jewish individuals to obey biblical moral and religious laws without first becoming Christians. I did, however, find a verse indicating that even the Apostle Paul lacked authority to impose Christian rules upon others:

1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.”

Here, the word “judging” does not imply sinful judgmentalism of a person, but rather discipline or punishment for wrongdoing. Paul’s statement demonstrates that he has no command from God to enforce Christian righteousness upon non-Christians. He only has that power within the church.

But what about on a political basis?

Many of us assume that early Christians lacked the opportunity to change laws, because they were ruled by dictators rather than by democracies, so they had no choice but to abstain from political involvement. This assumption proves true for all but two early Christians: the Apostle Paul and Jesus. Both of them spoke to government officials appointed by the emperor of Rome and, therefore, had the opportunity to influence men in power.

Jesus spoke to Herod the Tetrarch (also known as Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great who had reigned at the time of Jesus’ birth) and to Pilate, both of whom had been appointed by the emperor of Rome. He spoke to them as He was in the process of being tried and crucified—an inconvenient time to discuss politics.

This was not Jesus’ only opportunity to speak to Herod Antipas, however. In Luke 23:8, the Bible says, “Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus, for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some signed performed by Him.” This means that Jesus could have met with him sooner but chose not to. If politics had been important to Jesus, He would have met with Herod, performed signs to convince him of His authority, and asked him to change laws to align with the Scriptures.

The Apostle Paul had an even greater opportunity to influence politics. Acts 24-26 details encounters between Paul, who had been arrested despite having committed no crime, and three officials appointed by the emperor of Rome: Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa II. The Bible quotes Paul sharing the Gospel with all three of them, but it never quotes him requesting that laws be changed. Festus then sent Paul to the emperor in Rome (Acts 25:12), because Paul had asked to be sent there for trial. Whether Paul ever met the emperor is unknown, but he certainly could have with God’s help. If God’s priority had been changing laws so that Romans would have been forced to turn away from having sex with temple prostitutes, He could have done so by changing the emperor’s heart through the pleadings of the Apostle Paul.

Why didn’t God seek to simultaneously spread Christianity and eliminate evil acts by means of changed laws?

First, maybe it’s because legislating morality doesn’t work. We’ve seen proof of this in modern America. Over the last few centuries, Christians have voted against immoralities and made them illegal. Alcohol was once illegal, various drugs, including marijuana, have been illegal, and homosexual behavior has been illegal at various times and in various places throughout American history. Yet, these immoralities have not only survived, but thrived, despite being illegal.

Why is this?

It’s because these sins are, for all practical purposes, victimless crimes. In other words, at the time of the violation, no disapproving person is present. If two consenting gay people do their gay thing together at home, no one will call the police the way a victim would when having their property stolen or their body injured. Thanks to this reality, most victimless immoral behavior goes unpunished. If enough people engage in such behavior, the behavior becomes a topic of conversation, and it turns out that conversation, not legislation, dictates the direction in which morality will go. Cigarette smoking has decreased in America, not because it’s been banned, but because conversations have turned people against it. On the flip side of that, marijuana was illegal in all 50 states for decades, yet support for its legalization grew through conversation to the point where the people of Colorado and Washington legalized it. Yes, we can legislate morality. But the reality is that doing so doesn’t work. Our only hope is to get more people to fall in love with God and His will. Only when hearts are transformed will morality improve.

The second possible reason that God didn’t seek to eliminate evil acts by means of changed laws might have been that doing so would have inhibited the spread of Christianity. Had Romans learned that Christians, who represented less than 1% of the population, were responsible for prohibiting the sins they enjoyed, they likely would have hated Christianity and never given it a chance. The growth of this young religion relied on its voluntary nature. Had its moral laws been forced upon the Romans, the faith might have died in its infancy. How would we feel today if we were forced to obey rules of another religion?

Imagine if America were to come under fundamentalist Muslim control, so that we would all be forced to obey fundamentalist Muslim laws: women could show nothing more than their eyeballs in public and would be denied education, while men would have to grow beards and forsake the luxuries they sometimes enjoy. How would we respond in our hearts? Would we admit that the Muslims taught us a lesson and fall in love with their faith? Or would we despise their faith out of resentment over being forced to obey their laws despite our lack of belief in their religion? Certainly, we would do the latter and cling even more tightly to our longstanding beliefs.

That’s exactly how non-Christians respond to Christian political power today. They hate Christians for imposing biblical rules upon them and cling more tightly to their lifestyles as a result. Meanwhile, the public increases its compassion for those whom Christians persecute, because the public sees them as martyrs. In the past, the public held a positive view of Christianity, because Christians were known for reaching out to the needy with the love of Christ. Today, thanks to Christian political movements that seek to morally restrict non-Christians and to support the interests of the wealthy over the needy, society sees Christians as oppressors.

Does this mean that it’s a sin for a Christian to vote, run for office, or discuss politics?

Of course, it doesn’t. It means that our calling to lead others to choose Christ is far more important than the man-made calling to force non-Christians to obey biblical rules. If our political involvement drives more people away from Christianity than it attracts to it, we defy God’s will. God’s will is that people choose Christianity and, only after doing so, obey biblical rules out of their love for God and others.

When we vote, run for office, and persuade others to support our political causes, we must take care how we do it. Christians should never use the “because God says so” argument to persuade non-Christians politically, because God never instructed Christians to force biblical practices upon non-Christians. He only “says so” for Christians, not for non-Christians. Also, by arguing, “because God says so,” we alienate non-Christians by trying to force the laws of our God upon them.

But if we make logical, non-religious arguments in support of our causes, our political opponents will have no reason to resent our faith. For example, we may oppose abortion by making the non-religious argument that a person’s right to live is a greater right than a person’s right to do whatever she wants with her body, because a person must be alive in order to enjoy all other rights. But if we turn abortion into a religious issue by saying, “because God says so” (even though the Bible never specifically prohibits abortion), legalized abortion advocates will have reason to resent Christianity, since its rules are being forced upon them despite their lack of belief in it.

While God has never called us to stop the moral sins of non-Christians, He has called us to avoid sin. So we should never vote for politicians who we know will seek to oppress the poor, the working class, the elderly, children, foreigners, etc. If we do, we share responsibility for the suffering they inflict. Yet many of us ignore these issues of oppression and focus upon issues that have little effect on the well-being of the others.

Since God intended for the Law to protect us from the suffering caused by each other’s sins, we should approach politics with the same intent. When Christians seek to rescue sin’s victims, the victims view Christians as liberators rather than as persecutors. These victims are then likely to become Christians, while the oppressors will likely resent us. The good news is that the oppressed always outnumber the oppressors, especially in a corporate system where the wealth belongs to such a small percentage of the population, so we lead more people to Christ than away from Him by aiding the oppressed. Unfortunately, the American decline of Christianity in recent decades is due, in part, to Christians siding with the oppressors.”

The Republican Plan to Destroy Democracy

The following is an EXCERPT from my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason (pictured at right).Rescuing Religion_ebook updated

As Election Day nears, I thought I would share the following excerpt on how dangerous and ungodly it is for the Republican Party to wage an all-out assault on democracy.

“Republicans like to say that Democrats are going to make us like Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany. But that’s unlikely, because those nations were not thoroughly democratic, nor did they have constitutions like ours. The Republican Party’s atrocities of the Gilded Age, on the other hand, happened right here in our American democracy under the guidance of our Constitution. If they happened before, they can happen again, especially if Republicans dismantle democracy.

Democracy causes God’s will “to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” because the intent of God’s biblical Law matches the intent of most voters. Most people in America, as well as the rest of the world, desire laws and policies that benefit as many people as possible, because they want nearly everyone to live a dignified life fitting for those made in the image of God. They choose “what works” over “what’s right,” because “what works” for the most people is “what’s right.” Of all of the political systems made by humans, democracy achieves this end more than any other. It does so, because it gives more power to the working class majority than it does to the wealthy few. Every other system, from the monarchy to the republic, gives all power to the already rich and powerful.

This is not to say democracy is perfect and cannot be corrupted. For example, in recent years, the Republican Party has tried to destroy democracy. The five Republican justices on the Supreme Court out-voted the four Democratic justices in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case of 2010, which ruled that corporations are people and can secretly fund unlimited amounts of money to Super PACs that air political advertisements for candidates. Of course, corporations aren’t just owned by Americans. Major shareholders from Russia, to China, to England, to Saudi Arabia own corporations, too. For example, the two biggest owner of News Corp. (which owns Fox News) are Rupert Murdoch from Australia and Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal from Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, these wealthy foreign billionaires can now give unlimited funds to American political campaigns through their corporations and have more say in American politics than the average American citizen does. As capitalism grows worldwide, its power will also grow. That means the power of wealthy individuals worldwide will grow, too. Therefore, as time passes, wealthy global powers will determine which American candidates receive the bulk of the political campaign funding that enables them to greatly out-spend their opponents and win elections. In other words, Republican-appointed justices have voted for democracy to be conquered by foreign aristocrats who certainly do not have America’s best interest in mind. Rather, they will likely use America, especially its military, to serve their interests when they see resources in the world that they can only acquire by force (as was the case in the Iraq War, when America invaded the country and then turned its oil fields over to oil companies worldwide). Today, the Republicans no longer favor just the American wealthy, they favor the interests of the wealthy worldwide at the expense of the American working class.

The Republican destruction of democracy doesn’t end there. Some states under Republican leadership, such as my home state of Pennsylvania, redrew congressional districts in shapes than give the Republicans a slight edge in most districts. In early 2013, some members of the Republican Party proposed that states like Pennsylvania abolish the majority vote during presidential and gubernatorial elections and replace it with a district majority. In other words, the majority of the state’s voters may vote for a Democrat, but the state will still go to the Republican, because the state has more Republican districts than Democratic ones. And of course, many Republican state legislatures have required that voters present a photo ID to vote, making it much more difficult for the elderly, the poor, and the disabled, who don’t have drivers’ licenses, to have a voice in our society. Even the Gilded Age Republicans didn’t stoop this low. I know many Christians think that a party that supports abortion rights must be evil. But it’s hard for me to believe that a party that tries to destroy democracy is any better. A lot of Republicans say that taking away guns is the first step toward tyranny. Yet, one of Hitler’s first steps in his tyrannical reign was to dismantle the democracy that elected him. Therefore, dismantling democracy is the first step toward tyranny.

Even if we succeed in fighting voter suppression, Democracy will fail if we let Republican politicians and pundits convince us to vote for their so-called principles over the well-being of the common good. If this happens, I predict that these principles will destroy America. Pure laissez-faire capitalism will drive the working class deeper and deeper into poverty. Rock bottom tax rates will underfund our nation to the point that it can no longer pay its bills and will have to hyper-inflate its currency. Personal responsibility extremism will convince the wealthy few that all low-income earners deserve to suffer, much like the higher castes of Hinduism believed that the lower castes deserved to suffer because they were evil in their previous lives. Libertarianism will give the powerful minority more freedom to hurt the powerless majority, while our small government will be too weak to protect us. And extreme national pride will keep us from ever looking beyond our navels for solutions, while the rest of the civilized world leaves us in their wake. In the end, we will be no better than Sodom, of which Ezekiel 16:49 says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and the needy.” God destroyed Sodom. We might want to heed this warning.

Worst of all, Christian submission to Republican false moralities will destroy Christianity, because these false moralities cannot coexist in the same mind as biblical principles promoting the common good. Once Republican Party values replace Christian values, the church will be every bit the enemy of God that it was in the late Middle Ages, when church leaders abolished biblical teaching and oppressed the innocent. Every Christian must choose between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the Republican Party, just like every Christian has to choose between serving God and serving money (Matthew 6:24). The Republican Party serves money. Therefore, the choice for Christians should be clear.”

Why Anti-Abortion Christians should vote for Democrats

The following is an EXCERPT from my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason (pictured at right).Rescuing Religion_ebook updated

Buy It At Amazon

This excerpt is from the introductory chapter of the book in which I explain how the progressive Democratic movement was originally a Christian movement led by William Jennings Bryan, and that most Christians used to be Democrats who stood up for the poor and protected them from the greed of the corporate wealthy. But then the Republicans used racial issues and family values to recruit Christians to their side, and it worked amazingly well, unfortunately. Now many Christians see the rhetoric of greed as being one and the same as Christianity, and therefore biblical Christianity is being destroyed along with life for the American working class.

“Many southern Christians turned Republican out of opposition to the civil rights movement. This was the first major step in the conversion of Christians to the Republican Party.

The second and most significant conversion step has been the issue of abortion. For Christians who’ve grown up in the post-civil rights era, racial issues have since had a diminishing influence on their choice of political party as the decades pass. But the Supreme Court’s Row v. Wade decision of 1973, which denied all states the right to outlaw abortion, reigns supreme to this day as the most important issue for politically active Christians. Indeed, it was my number one concern during my years as a Republican and even as an independent voter. In the 1992 presidential contest between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, I believed that Clinton would be the best president for the living, largely due to the failings of Reaganomics, but I felt that Bush was by far the best president for the unborn. To me, killing was the worst of all sins, and abortion was killing, so I simply could not vote for a candidate who wanted to keep it legal. I walked away from the polls with my head hung low, knowing I had just voted for the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the working class. I then gave up politics for the rest of the 90s, because I felt that voting for either party left blood on my hands.

In 2006, I regained my enthusiasm for politics, but this time favoring the Democrats. There are two factors that, in recent years, have allowed me to vote for Democrats, even those who favor abortion. The first is the Republican failure to overturn Roe v. Wade. When I voted for George H.W. Bush in 1992, I did so because I had been told throughout the 80s that if we continued to elect Republican presidents, they would stock the Supreme Court with conservative justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade once they had a majority in the court. What I didn’t realize was that, as of the 1992 election, 8 of 9 of the sitting Supreme Court justices had been appointed by Republican presidents – two by Bush (Souter and Thomas), three by Reagan (O’Connor, Kennedy, and Scalia), one by Ford (Stevens), and two by Nixon (Blackmon and Rehnquist). One could argue that Republicans had not embraced an anti-abortion stance in the days of Nixon and Ford, so those justices might have been too liberal. But at least one of them received Reagan’s stamp of approval, as he promoted Rehnquist to Chief Justice in 1986. So between Rehnquist and the 5 justices appointed by Reagan and Bush, the court had six Republican-appointed justices from the post Roe v. Wade era. Some have argued that a Democrat-controlled Senate prevented Reagan and Bush from appointing anti-abortion justices, but this is proven untrue in the case of anti-abortion justice Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991 by Bush and a Democrat-controlled Senate. The fact is that, prior to President Obama’s appointment of liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, at least seven of the nine justices on the court from 1991-2009 were Republican-appointed. Yet, Roe v. Wade was not overturned. The Republican-dominated Supreme Court didn’t even try. We were lied to. My anti-abortion vote for George H.W. Bush went to waste.

Apparently, abortion opposition has been nothing more than a vote-getter for the Republicans. They use their anti-abortion stance to get the Christian vote, but once they’re in office, they focus on empowering corporate predators to prey upon the powerless. (I use the term corporate predator, not to imply that all corporate people are predators, but to specify a type of predator, i.e. not natural or sexual.) This is what Ronald Reagan did. Few people today know that Reagan was one of the first governors in the country to sign legalized abortion into law when he did so for the state of California in 1967. It resulted in 500,000 – 2 million abortions by time of Roe v. Wade in 1973 (estimates vary on this number). He changed his abortion stance later, while running for president, but once elected, he did little to stop abortions, but did much to serve the interests of the wealthy. I often wonder if the Republicans have ever had any intention of banning abortion. I wonder if they might fear the abolition of abortion, because doing so would likely add up to 10 million unaborted children to welfare payrolls over the course of a decade, and we know that anti-tax Republicans don’t want to pay for that. In fact, they threw fits in 2014 when 50,000 Central American child refugees came to the U.S., because supporting them was too much of a financial burden to bear. Yet that burden pales in comparison to that of supporting millions of unaborted, impoverished children. Furthermore, most of those impoverished children would grow up to vote for Democrats – another reason for the Republicans to fear their existence.

In the 2012 election, some Republican presidential candidates came out in favor of an anti-abortion “personhood” amendment to the U.S. Constitution, since it’s now obvious that conservative Supreme Court justices will never overturn Roe v. Wade (the Court has been eager to declare that corporations are people, but not so eager to declare that unborn children are people – this might tell us something about Republican priorities). Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, offered strong support for the amendment, thus giving anti-abortion Christians a reason to vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket. What Ryan and other Republicans failed to tell us is that the president of the United States has no vote whatsoever on the passage of a constitutional amendment. The U.S. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds majority, but they cannot ratify it. Only the states can both propose (with a two-thirds vote) and ratify (with a three-quarters vote) a constitutional amendment. So it makes sense to vote for anti-abortion candidates at the state level, but it makes little sense to do so at the federal level, and it makes no sense to do so at the presidential level. Electing a president based on his or her abortion view is a total waste of a vote.

The second factor that has enabled me to vote for Democrats who favor legalized abortion is Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, which says, “Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.” This is not to say, “If you love your children, abort them.” But it does tell us that a life of suffering in this world is worse than never having been born. This passage contradicts the popular idea that death is the worst thing there is. It tells us that a life of suffering is the worst thing there is. Politically, it contradicts the popular Christian notion that abortion is the most important political issue, while greed and oppression of the poor are minor issues that must always take a back seat to abortion. This passage, along with many other passages that I will share with you in upcoming chapters, teaches us that oppression of the poor is the most important of all political and social issues. In fact, by my count, the Bible contains 96 passages that address greed and oppression of the poor, compared to only 64 passages that address adultery, fornication, and homosexuality combined. That’s how big of an issue this is!

Oppression isn’t merely poverty, as many people assume. Oppression is hardship imposed by the powerful upon the powerless, especially hardship in the workplace. In the Small Government chapter, I will detail the hardships of the working class throughout American history and how only the strong arm of the law has spared them (and many of us) from oppression. It’s right for leaders to protect the powerless from the powerful, as the Democrats have since the 1890s, and it’s wrong for leaders to empower the wealthy to prey upon the powerless, as the Republicans have since the 1870s (except, perhaps, during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, etc., when they embraced the New Deal).

In light of Bible quotes like Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, I’ve found it difficult to understand how many politically-conservative Christians will, through government, only protect the life of the fetus from murder, but not from other causes of death and suffering. They will not protect it from harm due to malnutrition of the mother during pregnancy. They will not protect the child from any suffering outside the womb except for assault and murder. Even in the case of pregnancies caused by rape, many conservatives believe abortion should be illegal. Yet when the child grows up in poverty, because its father is in prison for rape, and its mother is addicted to drugs, because she struggles to deal with having to raise the child caused by the rape she suffered, many conservative Christians believe it’s wrong for the very government that mandated the child’s birth to ensure that child’s survival through the supply of food, shelter and clothing, because that would be evil socialism. So it’s not the life or well-being of the child that’s important to Republicans, but only the technicality of death by abortion. As we’ll see in the next chapter, God’s primary concern is the well-being of those created in His image, not narrow-minded adherence to technicalities and man-made principles.”

Yes, the Democrats used to be the Christian Party!

The following is an EXCERPT from my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason (pictured at right).Rescuing Religion_ebook updated

Buy it at Amazon

“I once heard it said that when Satan tries to influence us, he often presents us with pairs of opposite evils, so we despise one so badly that we cling to the other (I think C.S. Lewis said this, but I can’t find proof of that). I can’t think of a better quote to describe the current state of the politically-minded conservative Christian. Evangelical Christians, in particular, see legalized abortion as the ultimate political sin and therefore judge the Democrats to be evil for supporting it. They then conclude that these bad people must support Satan’s position on all issues. So Christians, wary of the Democrats, let their guard down and absorb all teachings of the Republicans without questioning them, because they assume that the enemies of the evil Democrats can only speak the truth. This is a fatal flaw. The Bible teaches us that there is good and evil in every person (“There is no one who is righteous; not even one” – Romans 3:10) and, therefore, in everyone organization consisting of people. Outside of Jesus, no human being has ever had all good ideas or all bad ideas. We long for purity, but it’s nowhere to be found in this world. When we judge a person or organization to be evil, we violate the Bible’s numerous verses prohibiting judgmentalism. When we judge a person or organization to be pure, we elevate it to a godlike status, and we break the 1st Commandment of having no other god’s before God himself. We are then easily misled to believe in ungodly things.

Believe it or not, before the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, which made it unconstitutional for any state to ban abortion, and before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, most Bible-believing Christians were Democrats. The southern states that make up most of the Bible Belt had been Democratic since the mid-1800s. Back then, the Democrats were the party of the South and supported the interests of the titans of agriculture. This, of course, meant they supported the right to own slaves. Once the Civil War began, the Democrats lost power, placing only one of their own, Grover Cleveland, in the White House between 1860 and 1912, and he was a Bourbon Democrat who supported the rich but favored the interests of agriculture over those of manufacturing. The Republicans, on the other hand, were the party of the North and supported the interests of the titans of manufacturing. Neither party supported the interests of the poor and working classes.

In the 1890s, that changed. The Democrats launched a comeback under the leadership of three-time presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan. He was a Christian preacher and possibly the most charismatic public speaker of his time. Many Christians today know him for representing the cause of creationism in the Scopes Trial of 1925 at the very end of his life (for more on this, read my book, Where the Bible Contradicts Creationists – How a literal reading of every creation verse refutes young earth geology, redefines the Adam & Eve story, and supports the science of evolution and an old universe). But Bryan spent most of his adult life spear-heading the Democratic Party’s conversion from bourbonism to populism, a movement through which it would come to represent the powerless majority rather than the powerful, wealthy minority.

Bryan’s faith in Christ and adherence to the Bible inspired his concern for the oppressed. This emboldened him to oppose Social Darwinism, a theory embraced by the wealthy and powerful. Merriam-Webster defines Social Darwinism as “a sociological theory that socio-cultural advance is the product of intergroup conflict and competition, and the socially elite classes (as those possessing wealth and power) possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence.” In other words, according to Social Darwinism, the wealthy are biologically superior to the poor, so letting the powerful dominate the powerless, even to the extent that the poor and their children die, will propel the evolutionary advancement of the human race. Bryan’s opposition to this ideology became known as the Social Gospel. This movement primarily focused on abolishing child labor, reducing work hours, ensuring a livable wage, and protecting workers through government regulation of factories. As we’ll see in later chapters, these goals are consistent with the will of God as expressed throughout the Bible.

Bryan was never elected president, but the Democrats didn’t abandon his cause. They hung in there and finally won the presidency and Congress in the election of 1912. Bills to protect workers became laws but were shot down by a conservative Supreme Court. Finally, in 1932, during the Great Depression, the Democrats took control of Congress and the presidency again. This time, by the late 1930s, the Supreme Court came around to their way of thinking, enabling the principles of the Social Gospel (now known as the New Deal) to become law and giving the working class and their children dignified lives fitting for beings created in the image of God. The New Deal was popular in both the North and the South, so much so that, by the 1950s, most Republicans had to embrace it if they wanted to get elected. From the 50s through the 70s, Republicans and Democrats frequently crossed party lines when voting on bills, because the differences between them had been diminished by the nation’s overwhelming support for the New Deal.

Unfortunately, just as the parties united over the rights of workers, they divided over the rights of African-Americans. While it was the Republicans who freed African-Americans from slavery in the mid-1800s, it was the Democrats who campaigned for their civil rights in the mid-1900s. African-Americans largely abandoned the Republican Party out of disdain for Republican President Herbert Hoover in the election of 1932. President Hoover had presided over aid for, and the clean-up of, the Mississippi Flood of 1927 (before he was president), and African-Americans were abused in the process, often forced into labor, even at gun-point, and deprived of their share of the aid. Hoover then promised greater influence for African-Americans in his first term as president but failed to deliver. Naturally, as African-Americans supported the Democrats, the Democrats supported them. In the 1950s and 60s, the Democrats succeeded in outlawing racial discrimination against African-American employees, customers, students, and tenants. Even more controversial was their passage of affirmative action programs that implemented racial quotas in the workplace and in colleges. The public also began to view welfare programs, such as food stamps, as taking from whites to give to blacks who choose not to work (I’ll address this further in the Personal Responsibility chapter). Many southern Christians turned Republican out of opposition to the civil rights movement. This was the first major step in the conversion of Christians to the Republican Party.

The second and most significant conversion step has been the issue of abortion. For Christians who’ve grown up in the post-civil rights era, racial issues have since had a diminishing influence on their choice of political party as the decades pass. But the Supreme Court’s Row v. Wade decision of 1973, which denied all states the right to outlaw abortion, reigns supreme to this day as the most important issue for politically active Christians.”

This is where we’ll leave off for now. Next week, I’ll address the abortion issue and demonstrate why it just might make sense for even those who are anti-abortion Christians to vote against the Republican Party.

If you can’t wait till next week, you can Buy “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason” at Amazon.com

Rescuing Religion_ebook updated

The Dangers of Congressional Term Limits

In their efforts to redirect our focus away from the corporate tyranny that oppresses workers, rips off consumers, destroys our environment, and extracts our tax dollars for the sake of the wealthy, Republicans have drilled into the minds of their followers that congressional term limits are the answer to a great many of our problems. As usual, the Republicans want us to believe that our democratic government, the only voice of “we the people,” is what we need to fear, and they continually invent new ways to undermine our power.

As first listen, congressional term limits sound like a good thing. Why not get somebody new in their once in a while, even if the voters are happy with the person who they’ve elected?

While I think it is nice to give someone else a chance for a change, I find that the dangers that such term limits impose far outweigh the benefits of having someone new in office.

The first danger is that congressmen who know they must leave office will look to lobbying positions for the sake of their future. In the year of the Watergate scandal, only 3% of former congressmen worked as lobbyists after they left office. Today that number is over 50%. If we impose term limits on all congressmen, that number will approach 100%. Nearly all congressmen will have to look out for their future careers, and many will make doing so a priority over doing what’s right for the country. The precedent has already been set in which congressmen who give the corporations what they and their lobbyists want are rewarded with lobbying jobs of their own that pay 10-20 times more than they ever earned in Congress. Getting elected to Congress will be nothing more than a stepping stone to getting a high-paying job in the private sector.

The second danger is that congressmen will be less accountable than ever to the people. If senators are limited to two 6-year terms, that means that all congressmen in their second terms will be 100% unaccountable to voters, because they will never again have to worry about getting re-elected. One might argue that U.S. presidents already experience this, and they rarely change their behavior during their 2nd term, but let’s not forget that Presidents are often concerned about their legacy, since the presidency holds such a prominent place in the history books. Senators and representatives will be far less worried about their legacy and far more worried about getting themselves cushy, high paying jobs after their terms are up. With concerns for voters out of the way, they’ll only have one group to please – the lobbyists.

When Republicans have an idea that sounds good, take a closer look. Keep in mind that Republicans believe in a Republic – a system of checks and balances that is better than a monarchy, but is still run by the nation’s wealthy and powerful. Democrats, on the other hand, believe in Democracy – a system in which all people in a society have an equal say in government. The Republican Party, at its very core, exists for the purpose of undermining and weakening democracy, so that the wealthy and powerful minority may make the rules. Congressional term limits are just one of many ways in which the Republicans can fulfill their purpose.

Can We Legislate Morality?

We Christians, whether politically-liberal, conservative, or moderate, all share a common pain: We bristle at the thought of our nation’s moral decline. It concerns us to see high divorce rates, child custody and support battles, children lacking both parents, rampant promiscuity – among both gay and straight people, entertainers competing to see who can sell the most records by pushing the envelope of lewdness the farthest, alcohol binging, drug abuse, and, for those who like to dance, the art of dancing being reduced to an exhibition of simulated sex.

As those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, we Christians are driven to take action. We know that all Americans, especially children, would be so much better off in a nation with minimal moral sin. God has called us to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven, so it’s natural for us to desire heaven on earth. It’s a longing the Holy Spirit has placed in us. All of this begs the question, “How do we reduce immorality?”

The instinctive reaction for most of us is to take political action. As one pastor in a former church of mine put it, “Who says you can’t legislate morality? That’s what legislation is for.” This sounds fair. We live in a democracy, and we are entitled to vote according to our beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with voting for what’s right.

In fact, over the last couple centuries, Christians have voted against some of these immoralities, and they were indeed illegal. Alcohol was once illegal, various drugs, including marijuana, have been illegal, and homosexual behavior has been illegal at various times and in various places throughout American history. Yet, these immoralities have not only survived, but thrived, despite being illegal.

Why is this?

The answer is simple: These sins are, for all practical purposes, victimless crime. In other words, at the time of the violation, no disapproving person is present. If two consenting gay people do their gay thing together at home, no one will call the police they way a victim would when having their property stolen or their body injured.

Thanks to this reality, most victimless immoral behavior goes unpunished. If enough people engage in such behavior, the behavior becomes a topic of conversation, and it turns out that conversation, not legislation, dictates the direction in which morality will go. Cigarette smoking has decreased in America, not because it’s been banned, but because conversations have turned people against it. On the flip side of that, marijuana was illegal in all 50 states for decades, yet support for its legalization grew through conversation to the point where the people of Colorado and Washington legalized it.

Yes, we can legislate morality. But the reality is that doing so doesn’t work. Our only hope is to get more people to fall in love with God and His will. Only when hearts are transformed will morality improve.