On the Cherry-Picking of Scripture

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December 18, 2012 by Will Ray

First of all, let me say that the tragedy last Friday in Connecticut was a horrible act of evil, and there’s nothing any of us can do that will assuage the anguish those families and that community feel.  My heart and prayers go out to them.

I know people are inconsolable, I know this horrible tragedy broke many hearts, but it’s still not an excuse to cherry-pick the Bible to show how caring and concerned you are.  It’s driving me nuts.

The President, other elected officials, and prominent members of the media are all combing the Old and New Testament for some phrase that might make us warm and fuzzy inside for use in their memorials to the fallen in Connecticut.

What bothers me about that is that these commentators and officials don’t use the Bible as a reference point on ANYTHING ELSE, but when it comes to a point they want to make and people might be open to hearing from the Bible, they cherry-pick a verse or two (or half a verse) and throw it out there to make a point.

One of the worst examples of this I’ve seen lately was MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, in an otherwise well-organized, thoughtful and impassioned monologue.  At one point he said this, within the context of the fact he was changing his stance on gun control and some free speech issues: “But every American must know, form this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again … Let Newtown be the hour after which, in the words of the New Testament, we did all we could do to make all things new.”

You won’t find that anywhere in the New Testament.  Nowhere.  But you know what the use of it does?  It gets people who have an emotional openness to Scripture (but little knowledge of it) to nod their heads with him because they may have heard that phrase somewhere before.

Where’d they hear it?  Perhaps they heard it in a sermon about heaven, where Revelation 21:5 quotes God Himself (not man) as saying, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.'”

A beautiful verse, no doubt.  But it was presented completely inaccurately – God is the one who said that.  He’s the only one with the power to do it.

You won’t be surprised that Scarborough left out verse 8 (2 verses later) of the same chapter, which reads: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

But I digress.  Scarborough, other officials and media personalities, and the President rarely (if ever) use Scripture in public except to try to score points with those who are open to the Bible but don’t really know it.

They don’t teach on Scripture, they don’t use it as a societal compass or reference point.  Those of us who believe ALL of it (not just the feel-good parts) are labeled as extremist.  And then when convenient, they turn to our Bible to make a point.

It’s wrong, it’s manipulative, and it should stop.  I doubt it will, but I had to say something.

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About me…

Youth minister, financial coach and part-time wedding photographer, based in Raleigh, NC

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