Mark Twain once remarked that if Jesus were to come back the last thing he would be is a Christian. No doubt, Twain was commenting on the hypocrisy he saw in the Christian community of his time.
If only Twain were alive today. He would surely relish in the joyful, loving and Christ-like behavior of Mississippians, particularly those we elect to public office.
If only Twain and Jesus were both sitting next to one another in the balcony of our Mississippi State House. The two of them would be absolutely amazed by a recent legislative proposal to make the Bible the state book of Mississippi.
God forgive us our complete lack of humility and our self-seeking attempt to turn God’s Holy Word into an idol. We may all burn for this one.
The casual cynics would suggest this is just more pandering to the conservative religious base by our state’s powerful Republican majority. They would be wrong.
The proposal was filed by Democratic Rep. Tom Miles of Forest and his fellow Democratic Rep. Michael Evans of Preston. So just what in the name of Melchizedek is going on here? What are Democrats doing promoting the Bible? Could this be a sign of the end times?
What are these two Democrats thinking? Doesn’t such a proposal play into the hands of our ultra-conservative leadership who seem hell-bent on creating a Christian Theocracy somewhere on the order of Sharia Law? What happened to the old Jeffersonian admonition calling for the separation of church and state, making no law respecting an establishment of religion?
The more bitter cynics among us believe these two Democrats are simply trying to “out conservative-Republican” the conservative Republicans. Nevertheless, Miles and Evans have asked for and received support from their Republican colleagues to create a truly bipartisan effort in making the Bible uniquely Mississippi’s.
Some have suggested that Miles and Evans may be building up their credentials so they can switch over to the Republican Party one day.
Don’t count on it. Miles and Evans are true Democrats and just might be using the Bible to swing our state back to the middle if not all the way to Jesus’ left.
According to the faith website Patheos.com, reading the Bible actually makes folks more liberal, although left-leaning Christians who read Patheos.com prefer to call themselves “progressive.”
If the Bible does become our state book, school children in Mississippi would have to be made familiar with the Good Book and the Good News. Our public schools may even be required to teach certain lessons from the Holy Scripture. We could raise a whole generation of Mississippians who are actually Biblically literate.
Studies have shown that those who read the Bible for themselves and don’t just have it preached to them on Sundays tend to have a greater sense of humility. They also understand they do not have all the answers to all of life’s questions.
They discover that, as believers, Christians are called to serve not just God, but God’s creation, including its people. All of them. And, yes, that includes the immigrants too.
In addition, those who read the Bible more frequently can grasp the concept that the distribution of wealth did not originate with LBJ or even FDR, but with G-O-D.
So what happens if our school children really do become indoctrinated by our new state book?
What if our children decide to take Jesus at his actual word? For instance, his telling the rich man to sell everything he had and give to the poor. Many ministers, particularly those fearful of running off potential tithers, have been careful to explain away the literal interpretation of this passage. They argue the only reason Jesus offered such a unheard of directive was because Jesus knew very well how important money was to this one particular rich guy. Thankfully, Jesus has no idea what money means to any of us today.
What if our children become a bunch of rabid environmentalists and decide to start “destroying the destroyers of the earth,” as suggested in the Book of Revelations?
Rep. Miles and Rep. Evan’s Biblical Agenda could end up turning us all into a bunch of peace-nik, tree-hugging, communal, long-haired friends of Jesus.
Our children might even start loving our enemies! One shudders to think…. Or one just shudders, since few would feign thinking when it comes to state politics in Mississippi.
If Legislators are serious about naming a state book, let’s please choose a book that speaks to our Mississippi experience… one by a Mississippi writer.
Allow me to recommend the top three choices for consideration: 1. Black Boy by Richard Wright, 2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and 3. Losing Battles by Eudora Welty.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would be a strong choice too. He may not have been a Mississippian, but he did work the River. For something more contemporary, you could choose a John Grisham novel about some lawyer.
Grisham was once a state representative too. If he were still in his seat, he too would feel obliged to vote for the inspired word of God as our state book. What elected office holder would dare go on record voting against the Bible?
If at some point this spring Twain and Jesus find themselves in the balcony of the state house watching our Legislature in action, even the quick-witted Twain would be rendered speechless.
Jesus would weep.
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.
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