Robert Knight

When a rich young man asks Jesus how he can get to heaven, Jesus asks if he has obeyed the commandments. The man says yes, so Jesus tells him to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. Now, under Mrs. Townsend’s logic, the young man could think to himself, “Hey, I don’t have to do that. I’ll just organize a PAC to lobby Rome to redistribute the wealth. They’re always looking for ways to exert more control over the rebellious Jews anyway.”

Mrs. Townsend cites mega pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, to support her idea that the Bible calls us to gin up more government programs. But listen to this: “I had read his book, and coming from a different Christian tradition, I was struck by how much it focused on getting you to feel good about yourself rather than caring about your neighbor, which Christ had said was the greatest commandment.”

Really? Here’s Matthew 22:35-40:

“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

More from Mrs. Townsend:

“I don't see any place in the Bible that says we shouldn't use all the tools we have at hand to help the poor, the sick, and the hungry.”

No, but please note that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not recommended. In Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, the man who helps the mugging victim pays out of his own pocket. He does not demand that the government recompense the owner of the inn where he arranges for the man to stay.

Now to her sly questioning of biblical authority: “The same conservative Christians claim that the Bible teaches them that the government should outlaw gay marriage and stem cell research. But why should the government carry out some Biblical injunctions and not others?” Liberals love to negate clear biblical teaching regarding life, morality and marriage by citing passages that don’t make sense if taken out of context. For example, then-Sen. Barack Obama mocked the Bible’s relevance for politics in a 2006 Washington, D.C. speech:

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith.…”

During the 2008 campaign, Obama cited the Sermon on the Mount to claim that Jesus would support homosexual civil unions.

But here’s Mrs. Townsend’s own take:

“The Bible is certainly open to interpretation. For example, most churches in America today don't require us to gouge out our eyes if we look lustfully at someone, or to cut off our hand if we use it a sinful way. And yet, right there in Matthew 5:27-30 are clear instructions.” Most churches?

Anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount should understand that Jesus was not speaking literally but setting an impossible standard to show that no one can be perfect enough to earn his way to Heaven. We are all sinners who need a Savior who died in our place. Saying that Jesus gave “clear instructions” here is like insisting that God must be a bird because Psalm 91 says: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

The Bible is an unmatched mix of history, poetry, morality, metaphor and the greatest love story of all time. It really isn’t that difficult to discern when a passage is descriptive, prescriptive or poetic.

But you have to read it for understanding, not for a hit-and-run grab like Mrs. Townsend’s attempt to mock Rick Perry.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.