Senatorial Blasphemy

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I've never been a fan of Senator Joseph Biden, but I think this should make even those who like him cringe. He said that Bush should "demand the resignations for whoever is involved in this policy, and that includes Lord God Almighty himself. It includes anybody involved." I can read this in a few ways, none of them reflecting very well on his character.

1. He believes in God and is claiming that God is responsible for this and should resign. If so, his view of himself in relation to God is vastly out of line with how God views him.

2. He believes in God and is claiming that anyone responsible should resign, even if it's God, but is not asserting anything about God one way or the other. I don't see how this involves less hubris than the first. After all, if he thinks it's even possible for him to have greater moral superiority than God to condemn God for possible actions, then I can't say much in his defense. It's possible that this would simply be trotting out the problem of evil and saying that a God who would allow such a thing can't be a good God worthy of worship, but if he believes in God then I wouldn't expect that.

3. He believes in God but is simply using hyperbole to say that anyone who could be responsible should resign, no matter how high, knowing full well that God couldn't be morally responsible for such things. If that's what he meant, then what he's trying to say may not be so bad, but his inclusion of God in the hyperbole is blasphemy. After all, he fully knows God couldn't do such a thing but is acting as if it is a possibility.

4. He doesn't believe in God and is simply using hyperbole for the highest authority some people might believe in. Still, that insults those who do believe in God, even if it's an unintentional insult. After all, he's making fun of those who believe in a power high enough to be beyond the criticism of fallible and sinful human beings. Perhaps he's more making fun of those who believe in God in the face of severe evil. If so, he's drastically unaware of the history of discussion of the problem of evil, and he's even more unfamiliar with what most Christians believe about God's moral responsibility when it comes to evil.

5. He believes in God himself but is making fun of what he perceives to be Bush's view of God as working in history and having purposes for people. Bush says he's doing the work of God by challenging evil in the world. Biden sees this as ridiculous, misunderstanding completely what Bush is claiming and thinking that Bush sees God as on our side as if he likes us more rather than seeing himself simply pursuing what he believes to be right and therefore what God would want. The statement, if this reading is correct, is making fun of Bush's perception that God is higher up in the same chain of command that Bush is in. So this not only misunderstands Bush's perfectly reasonable and biblical view, but it makes fun of the Bible and therefore the God Christians believe gave us the Bible. Since he believes in God, that makes this even worse.

6. The above interpretation is correct except that Biden doesn't believe in God and doesn't mind making fun of Christianity. So he's deliberately making fun of Christianity.

All of these are pretty uncharitable, but I can't think of any other possibilities. The prophets would have very harsh words for such a man, though which words would depend on which sort of man he is.

4 Comments

I have actually appreciated Sen. Biden's comments about foreign policies. A while ago he was on "Meet The Press" with Tim Russert, and he impressed me quite a bit with his presentation on Middle East policies.

Having said that, his misuse of the Lord's Name is inexcusable, even if it was originally intended to be a hyperbole. Granted, the images and tales of horror are revolting, and if it is true that the U.S. military perpetrated these crimes they should be held accountable and brought to justice. But Sen. Biden's comments reminds me, in a way, to the original name of the operation that the U.S. was conducting in Afghanistan: Operation Infinite Justice. Muslims and others agree that that is in itself a blasphemy, since only God/Allah can administer "infinite justice".

Right. Bush, to his credit, insisted that the name be changed to something less offensive once this was pointed out to him. I'd guess it was a military type who came up with the original name, probably someone unfamiliar with Islam and even not very closely attuned to biblically practiced Christianity. Those types are big on huge overstatements for emotional effect, and that name has no other explanation.

Not to defend the guy, but could he have meant, "demand the resignations for whoever is involved in this policy, and that includes - Lord God Almighty - himself. It includes anybody involved." (which is to say, Bush should resign.) Okay it's still possibly blasphemous but it is better than saying God should resign, I think.

Well, even if xray is correct, then there are still two problems with this conjecture:

1) It essentially reduces the whole controversy to "a misunderstanding" and "bad punctuation marks": Leaving out dashes where the editor should not have. Given the context of the outrage that Sen. Biden was trying to communicate, this interpretation seems weak.

2) It still does not escape the fact that the Senator misused the Lord's name in vain, although the statement is now somewhat similar to a casual use of the Lord's name as an exclamation. If I were to pick "the lesser of two evils" (if such a choice were possible given the topic at hand), I would pick this one, since it does not call God into account His actions but merely treat His name as a mild expletive.

(But then again, angering an all-powerful and all-just God is an activity not to be undertaken lightly. In fact, it is best not to undertake it at all.)

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