The politicians are now standing in pulpits preaching. Those who know me well know I perk right up when somebody mentions the Sermon on the Mount. My two decade long fascination with it has resulted in quite a collection of books and commentary on it. Here’s the latest addition to my collection. This comes from presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama who was speaking Sunday at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio.
I will tell you that I don’t believe in gay marriage, but I do think that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and that the state should not discriminate against them… So, I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don’t think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That’s my view.
I suppose he’s referring to the “don’t judge” verses or maybe the Golden Rule. We do need to love people of all varieties and flavors, even enemies. But I wonder if Sen. Obama is aware that before you get to either of those passages you first come to one that does directly apply to marriage. Of course I’m referring to Jesus upholding the sacred union between one man and one woman for one life saying nothing should undermine it or tear it apart. Jesus says anything outside that sacred union is adultery.
Also interesting to me, just before that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus upheld the Old Testament law saying even the little “obscure passages” – the “smallest letter and least stroke of a pen” are not to be discarded. Frankly, this is the first time I’ve heard anyone ever refer to anything in Romans as “obscure.” Romans is widely regarded as the foundational theological letter of the New Testament. Even so, Islam is the faith that interprets some Scripture as more authoritative than others (The Koran’s “peaceful” earlier passages are less authoritative than the Koran’s “violent” older passages). In Christianity, all passages are equally God-breathed (inspired) and useful for faith, doctrine and conduct.
This isn’t the first time Obama has sung the praises of the Sermon on the Mount. In 2006, he had this to say:
Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.
I love it… “let’s read our Bibles!” I think a national Bible Study on the Sermon on the Mount would be a great idea – then let’s get the book back in the schools and back on the college campuses and ultimately judge everything by it.
According to David Barton, 94% of all the quotations in the writings of the Founding Fathers of the nation were quotations from the Bible. Wouldn’t it be something if we started electing people again based on how closely their “platform” paralleled that of the Sermon on the Mount? America would be a better place if political stump speeches were basically Sermon on the Mount sermons. God’s Kingdom would surely come then on earth as it is in heaven.
Here’s a little Sermon on the Mount trivia for you: Reagan was driven by the Sermon on the Mount’s “city on a hill” metaphor and Bush #41, at his inauguration, asked for the Bible he placed his hand on to be opened to Matthew 5.