Reading the Bible … hijacking

A reader of New Kind of Christianity writes:

I’ve been thinking about what you said in ANKoCy, about reading the Bible as a constitution. You’re right, and not only that but I think a lot of people read the Constitution as a Bible. I’m sure you’ve seen all the Tea Party folks on TV quoting the Constitution endlessly. You got guys like Bradley Dee and Doug Giles who, despite being self-proclaimed evangelicals, cite the Constitution more than the Bible. In fact, I even saw a painting of Jesus holding the Constitution!
Now don’t get me wrong; I love the U.S. Constitution. I’m currently taking an American Government course online, and it’s given me a great deal of respect for the Constitution. And it is true that both the Republicans and the Democrats (heck, even the Libertarians!) need to re-read the Constitution from time to time. However, the Constitution and the Bible are two completely different documents with two completely different functions. The U.S. Constitution is a document written by man that spells out what our government can and cannot do in order to protect our freedom. The Bible, on the other hand, is, like you said, a portable library of divinely inspired writing that equips us and teaches us how to be the Body of Christ here on earth. It’s an evolving story about how God is making all things new.
There is one thing the Bible and the Constitution have in common–they’ve both been hijacked by a lot of people with their own agendas. For example, most of the Tea Party folks are against any sort of wealth redistribution, claiming that it’s “socialism.” Well in Article 1 Section 8 is says, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” Of course there’s been a lot of debate about what exactly “general welfare” means (providing for the poor?). But the Constitution definitely permits a proactive government . . . within certain limits, of course.

Thanks for this note. It’s interesting to think that both political and religious controversy are, in the end, largely about interpretation/application of our key texts. The work of interpretation is never finished and can’t be taken for granted.