The art of swearing

Keith Ellison, the newly elected Democrat congressman from Minnesota, recently announced he will not be taking his oath of office with his hand on the Bible. Rather, he will take his oath with his hand on the Quran, the holy book of Islam. As you can well imagine this has caused quite a stir.

Dennis Prager, a regular columnist for WorldNetDaily says this is “Multiculturalism run amok” and says Ellison should not be allowed to use anything but a Bible while taking his oath of office.

Donald E. Wildmon, the founder and chairman of the American Family Association, wrote an e-mail for mass circulation encouraging Americans to write their Senators and Representatives asking them to pass a law making the Bible the official book used in the swearing-in ceremony of all Representatives and Senators.

shieldbootssmall.jpgYep, there’s a full-blown flap brewing out of this little situation. And once again I find myself dumbfounded — dumbfounded, I tell you — over the tendency of Americans to major on the minor and completely miss the major. Oh, I understand the concerns, but whether or not Ellison — or any elected official — swears on a Bible is merely symptomatic of much bigger problems.

In his article Prager says, “What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book. Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison’s favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.”

First, let’s be careful not to confuse God’s covenant people (the Church) with Americans or America. This leads to civil religion and idolatry and Christians should stand guard against it. Second, Representatives and Senators take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The document they are to adhere to when governing is the Constitution. Now it is true there are biblical principles a-plenty in the Constitution, and if someone has a problem with those principles as stated in the Constitution they have no business serving in office (but that’s a subject for another time). For now let’s stick to the swearing…

Prager goes on to point out that every member of Congress that has ever served has taken his or her oath on a Bible. This includes Jews (who reject the New Testament), secularists (who reject any holy writing), and Mormons (who consider the Book of Mormon as more authoritative).

Fat lot of good it has done us.

The vast majority of these people have sworn on a Bible to uphold the Constitution and trotted right off to their respective chambers to violate it. Making sure they continue to swear on a Bible is not going to fix anything. And letting them swear on something else isn’t going to hurt. Politicians are master manipulators of public opinion and for many of them swearing on a Bible is nothing more than window dressing.

This whole episode reminds me of the way Jesus compared the Pharisees to a whitewashed tomb. Those guys did everything for appearance sake. To watch them, one would be impressed with their piety. But Jesus said that while they were nice and shiny on the outside, on the inside they were rotting.

Congress sure is nice and shiny to look at from the outside, but on the inside there is an incredible stench. And no amount of oath taking is going to fix that as long as the oaths remain meaningless to those making them…

…with or without the Bible.

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