Joe Biden’s Christian Post Op-Ed: Secular Politics in Religion’s Clothing
The phone rings.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Biden. We just got an invite from The Christian Post for you to put an op-ed in there. Great opportunity!”
“Great! Who do we have on staff who can take my stump speech and sprinkle some church language on it?”
It could have happened that way. More likely, though, it was more like this:
“Good afternoon, Mr. Biden. The Christian Post called and said they’d like you to write them an op-ed. What should we have you write about?”
“Well, I’ve always believed in the greatness of humankind, and from what I’ve read, the Bible does, too.”
“Great — we can work with that!”
I’m no mind reader, and I have no idea if either of those is true. Either could be, based on the content of the op-ed. His staff could have sprinkled God-language on his stump speech, and it would have come out just that way. He could have started with strictly atheistic humanism, and his team could have produced the same result from it. Or (a third option) if he was speaking real convictions developed by way of a deeply secularized, liberal church, the op-ed could have turned out that way as well.
And that’s why it fell so flat for me as an evangelical reader. It’s not so much that I disagree with the politics, though I do. It’s that it looked like an opportunistic use of a religious platform to pump his essentially secular, humanistic political beliefs.
There are believability problems in it, to be sure. He says he’s built his life work on the Great Commandments, even adding that this is “the cornerstone upon which our family is built.” Meanwhile credible allegations keep multiplying, by which it appears that he “loved” his family enough to involve them in greedy, illegal investments in China and beyond.
Biden hammers hard on unity, but he’s the head of a party whose House Speaker ripped the president’s State of the Union speech to shreds. He said nothing to her about it, as far as anyone knows. (Either he’s not really that committed to unity, or else he’s not really the leader of the party.) Meanwhile, through “intersectionality,” the Left he represents slices humanity into the smallest conceivable separate parts, and makes a philosophical commitment to everyone’s permanent inability to connect.
He wants racial unity in particular, he says, but his party has stood by and condoned race-based anger, carried to horrific extremes of burning, looting, killing, and destroying.
He says “character is on the ballot,” meaning of course that his character is better than Trump’s. But character means many things. Of course it includes refraining from saying impulsive, divisive, nasty things about other people. (You “chumps” know exactly who I’m talking about.) Yet it also includes the ability to stand. To lead. To be credible as one’s own person. If Trump has trouble passing the one test, Biden has huge problems with the other. He didn’t call the governors and mayors of those burning cities, he says, because he wasn’t “in elected office.” That’s not exactly sterling leadership character on display.
A Human-Centered Faith
What bothers me most, though, in the context of The Christian Post, is how his op-ed could fit any of my three imagined scenarios above, ranging from full sincerity to rank hypocrisy. My guess is that Biden is relatively sincere in what he says, but his sincerity tilts toward a liberalized and mostly humanistic view of God and man. It’s religion with man at the center, not God.
He mentions love for God, but only briefly. His view of man is centered on the imago dei, the image of God in which we are created, and the dignity and worth that confers upon us. That’s good preaching except for what it leaves out, which is our fallenness, our pride, our desperate need to go to God for guidance. This, too, is central to the Bible’s message of what it means to be human.
Biden looks like someone who thinks he’s got religion all figured out; that he’s doing just great at it. It’s human pride again, dressed up in religious clothing.
Our country’s Founders recognized that, and built guardrails around human pride and power-seeking through the Constitution’s checks and balances. The liberal instinct is to knock down those protections; to say, “We can solve it for you, just hand us the power. All we need is the power.” It shows up in their impulse to say, “The Creator endowed us with inalienable rights, sure, but we can do better than that. We’ve got to update and correct that list.”
Sexual freedom, for one obvious example, is increasingly taking legal priority over religious freedom and freedom of speech. And then there’s abortion. Biden says in his op-ed, “My faith implores me to embrace a preferential option for the poor.” If he’d read more thoroughly, he’d know that God’s real preference is for the innocent and oppressed, of which there is no greater example than the unwanted baby in the womb. His party’s beloved “corrections” have given us a manifestly ungodly “right to choose.”
Pride of Religion Doesn’t Play Well
Biden tells us he loves God, but gives no assurance that he sees God in charge of his life or his leadership. He’s got serious believability problems, he’s putting forward a human-centered faith, yet he wants us to believe it’s all built on the Great Commandments. The result: It all rings of religion in service of politics, rather than the other way around. If in fact it’s real religion, it’s real secularized religion.
It raises the question, is Donald Trump any better? There’s no sign that he gets his politics from biblical religion, either. He tries religious language and symbolism and fumbles it. Frankly, though, I’d rather Joe Biden had fumbled too. Trump looks like someone who’s trying to figure out the religion thing, and stumbling over it at times. Biden looks like someone who thinks he’s got it all figured out; that he’s doing just great at it.
It’s human pride again, dressed up in religious clothing. Religion is the ugliest form of pride. It doesn’t ring real, and it doesn’t play well in a venue like The Christian Post. It doesn’t play well anywhere.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.