As a former Democratic congressperson and an ambassador in the George W. Bush administration, Tony Hall never had a reputation for being uncivil. At a press conference for the National Press Club on Monday, however, Hall stretched the boundaries of both decency and biblical hermeneutics. With Jim Wallis, David Beckmann, and Ritu Sharma, Hall announced a campaign of prayer and fasting to protest the House Republican’s proposed budget cuts for anti-poverty programs (both foreign and domestic). During that event, Hall said,
It’s time to call in God. It’s time to unleash God. You know the discipline of fasting and prayer, when you put it together is so powerful, and it’s like I said earlier, when you put them both together, it seems like God leans a little bit closer to you, and you’re saying to Him, “I’m not gonna let go until you listen to me.” Now we’ve done just about everything and they’re not listening. It’s time to sic God on ’em. And that’s the reason for the fast.
Upon hearing that, images of Liam Neeson, playing the part of Zeus in Clash of the Titans, declaring “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” come to mind. The other image conjured—of God as an obedient German Shepard ready to strike down our political foes—is more disturbing. I recall a common criticism of those who declared that we “kicked God out of the public schools,” after the Supreme Court decided that state mandated prayer in public schools was unconstitutional was, “who has a boot big enough to kick God?” Similarly, I must ask, “who has a collar big enough to leash God?” Alternatively, I could ask, “is your God so small that you’re able to leash him?”
The arrogance of Hall’s statement is equally astonishing. The Christian Left has often criticized the Christian Right for claiming that God was on their side (and rightly so). “God is neither Democrat or Republican,” was the common refrain. Now, Hall apparently thinks that not only does God share his political views, but that God stands obediently at his side, ready to strike down his political foes.
The Christian Left’s formula for criticizing budget cuts seems to go something like this: God cares about poor people—government programs aimed at relieving poverty are being cut—God hates those doing the cutting. It is these types of overly simplistic hermeneutics that leads to the type of arrogance displayed by Hall. If you assume that the Bible gives you specific answers to policy questions, you’re more likely to fool yourself into believing that God is on your side, and opposed to those who don’t share your political views.
I have criticized GOP leaders for focusing their cuts only on non-defense discretionary spending while ignoring the real budget busters. If Hall et. al. also want to make an argument for a better way to balance our budgets (which they acknowledge is necessary), I welcome their contribution to this important topic. They should do so, however, in a spirit of civility and humility, and without denigrating the awesomeness and mysteriousness of an all-powerful God.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28, NIV)