During last night’s Republican presidential debate, it was interesting to see how some citizens (via YouTube) were looking for very simple answers to their questions about everything from immigration to abortion to biblical authority.
As if a religious test is now in effect for presidential candidates, one questioner held up a Bible and asked: “Do you believe every word of this book?”
He prefaced the question by saying the candidates’ answers would reveal everything one needs to know about them. Really?
Wrestling with complex issues seems to be a passing sport. So many who live in this gray world seek only black and white answers to questions that require more thought and response than a “yes” or a “no.”
Mitt Romney gave a strong affirmation of his belief in the Bible as the Word of God. Of course, he added nothing about his belief in how that text relates to the Book of Mormon. Do we now know everything we need to know about this candidate?
Most delightfully entertaining was the way Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee and the man perceived as least religious, Rudy Giuliani, came down at about the same place. They both said the Bible is true, yet confessed that the Bible contains allegory and is not to be taken literally in all ways.
Such questioning reminds me of my days at once-great Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., in the late ’70s when the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention was getting started.
Professors would receive nearly identical “surveys” from “concerned Southern Baptists” from Florida to Oklahoma seeking to know what they really believed. Only “yes or no” answers were accepted to questions about Hell, Satan, biblical literalism and the effort to make early Genesis chapters affirm young-earth science.
But the letters always concluded with the statement: “If you do not respond to this survey, we will assume all of your answers are no.”
Of course, professors generally ignored such damned-if-you-do,damned-if-you-don’t efforts to paint them as unbelieving heretics. But it gave good fuel for the Baptist brethren (many with their unaccredited, mail order degrees) to gather at Monday morning pastors’ conferences and assure each other of the rampant liberalism in our seminaries.
More simple-minded people consider answers that are reflective, thoughtful, and less than fully certain, to be evasive or weak. Conversely, I think such honest responses lead to ongoing exploration rather than division or cemented minds.
I want neither a professor, pastor nor a president who will always give a quick, oversimplified answer to the complex questions of the day.
Do you agree with me — yes or no?