What Rights Are Right?

By Jason Jason | Posted at 17:15

Dennis Prager wrote an article on Townhall.com titled “America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on.” In brief, the article argues that every congressman should be made to take their oath of office on the Bible, not on any other book. Jason Franklin, a pastor, considers the the validity of this assertion.

As an evangelical missionary pastor I somewhat disagree with Prager (and, I'm sure, the vast majority of my evangelical brethren and sistren). I myself would have difficulty swearing any oath on the Bible, the book I hold as containing absolute truth without any mixture of error. How can this be? My hesitation comes from Matthew 5:33-37,

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” (NLT)

Therefore even I, as an evangelical Christian, would have difficulty swearing any oath upon the Bible or even swearing an oath containing the phrase, “So help me God” (though I understand the last has now been removed from many oaths).

Keith Ellison has different reasons. He's a Muslim. It is only natural that he desire to take oath upon the book he considers holy. Prager argues that America holds the Bible as its holiest book. I find this hard to believe. Fifty years ago this may have been true. Multi-cultural relativism has, I believe, undermined that stance. I'm not certain that America, as a single entity, holds any book above any other.

That, however, is not the central issue. It seems to me the central issue is about one's religious freedoms. The first line of the first amendment (which we are all aware of) reads as follows, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Forcing anyone to take an oath on a religious book seems to violate this statement. I realize the slippery slope this viewpoint sets us on. I see the vilification of Christianity. I have not turned a blind eye to the gradual rise of Christian persecution in the U.S. Our religious freedoms are being threatened daily from many fronts. I disagree, however, that the way to fight this is by restricting another's religious freedoms.

Personally, I don't hold an oath taken by any person on the Bible as being more binding than a person swearing on any other book, even “the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials,” as Prager states. Politicians, being human, are going to lie, cheat and steal, bend the rules and, in general, seek their own interest and fight for their own bias. No book is going to prevent that.

As a Christian, my fight is with spiritual forces. I actively seek to change and mold culture, not through legislation or vilification, but through love.

When you first look at him, Jason Franklin appear to be either a scary biker or a bi-polar author (depending on who you ask). In actuality he is a missionary/church planter in the small town of Westwood in Northern California. Jason is married with three children.

Re: What Rights Are Right?

Couldn't agree more. If I am required to take an oath, whether or not I am credible will depend entirely on my personal integrity and not on some delegated integrity. FWIW, I could swear on the UN World Demographic Survey of the year I was born, or on the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it would have not the slightest impact on my integrity.

And it's nice to see a Christian actually paying attention to what Jesus of Nazareth said. His commandments are most often observed in the breach. Of course, he seems to have foreseen that, and gives his listeners a tongue-lashing which the Televangelists seem never to have read …

Maintain your integrity - it's infinitely worth it.

Posted by Wesley Parish - Dec 17, 2006 | 11:15

Re: What Rights Are Right?

“Our religious freedoms are being threatened daily”??

I would rather say, “our religious ADVANTAGES AND EXEMPTIONS are being threatened…” — has anybody ever persecuted christians because of their beliefs?

I see christians now bemoaning the same things that white supremacists or slavers bemoaned when the Constitution removed them from the illegal “high point” they placed themselves on.

Posted by Federico Kereki - Dec 17, 2006 | 13:22

Let's at least have two things

First off, let’s have the oath sworn to a standard document. Just to annoy everyone, let’s have that standard document be the 1611 version of The King James Bible. Standard and close enough to public domain.
The second thing we need is for the politicians to consistently take their oaths seriously. The paling of faces as they realised exactly what they'd just sworn to would be, to say the least, amusing.
With a seriously-taken standard, we can begin expecting consistent behaviour. People are people, so it won't ever be a perfect measure, but any improvement would be worthwhile.

Posted by Leon Brooks - Dec 17, 2006 | 13:44

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