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Mon Nov 12, 2012, 12:45 PM

What are "Biblical Values"? [View all]


Now that the election is over, most of us on DU having worked hard to secure the victory, we can step back and look critically at just what happened—for good and ill. Among the ill is the following.

Billy Graham is a respected evangelical who has helped millions of people turn their lives around. He, however, has gotten into trouble with a proclivity to seek the ear of powerful political figures. His support of Nixon was disastrous for him and for authentic religion. He has also suffered from a constricted notion of Christian ethics, which he has reduced to sexual concerns. The Sunday before the recent election, full-page Graham endorsements appeared in newspapers around the country in which he made both mistakes. They were clearly in support of Romney and aimed at encouraging voters to get behind a variety of fundamentalist candidates. It would be interesting to discover just who put this aged man up to it.

Graham’s point was that voters should support those candidates who hold what he called “Biblical values.” He, or whoever wrote the ad, went on to define that term. It had to do with two sexual issues, abortion and gay marriage.

So how do the Scriptures deal with those matters? The only thing the Bible says about abortion is a formula describing how to produce one! (Numbers chapter 5) As for marriage only being between one man and one woman, the Bible is replete with polygamous references. Solomon, for one, had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.

The Bible is clear that sexual acts in which the powerful dominate the weak—such as grown men sexually abusing little boys, or men abusing women—is immoral. But there is nothing in all the Bible which condemns relationships based on love between two persons of the same sex. After a long intimate relationship, David says of his friend Jonathan, “your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26)

The notion that morality is just about sex is a misreading of the basic thrust of the biblical imperative.

Caring for the poor—that’s a Biblical value.
Feeding the hungry—that’s a Biblical value.
Welcoming the stranger—that’s a Biblical value.
Taking in the left out—that’s a Biblical value.
Forgiving one’s enemies—that’s a Biblical value.
Making Peace—that’s a Biblical value.
Insuring justice for the oppressed—that’s a Biblical value.
Leveling the economic playing field—that’s a Biblical value.
Freeing prisoners—that’s a Biblical value.
Sharing resources—that’s a Biblical value.
Caring for the earth—that’s a Biblical value.
Faithful relationships—that’s a Biblical value.
Joyful sexuality—that’s a Biblical value.
Living healthy lives—that’s a Biblical value.
Offering tribute to Caesar and to God—that’s a Biblical value.
And much more.

To reduce Biblical morality to certain sexual matters is a serious distortion of what historically religions have held to be important. The larger notion of what makes for faithful living is detailed throughout the Biblical witness. There is no better statement than the way Jesus identified the substance of the commandments. Love God and love one another. It is even more explicit in his first sermon, as he outlined the nature of his ministry.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has send me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim that this is the hour God has chosen.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

Religion at its best is always joined by the non-religious who have similar notions of what is right and good. This ethic is written in the hearts and minds of all those who seek the common good—religious and non-religious alike. For all the good Billy Graham might have done, he and fundamentalists like him have missed what value-based life is all about. And the ethical heart of the Bible provides a sound basis for faithful value-based living.

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