In one of the most ingenious interviews of “The Colbert Report” (at 5:00 below), Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) tells Stephen Colbert about legislation he co-sponsored to have the Ten Commandments displayed in both houses of Congress.
“The Ten Commandments is not a bad thing for people to understand and respect,” Westmoreland explains.
Colbert deadpans: “What are the Ten Commandments?”
“What are all of them?” Westmoreland asks, dread creeping into his eyes. “You want me to name them all?”
It’s so embarrassing it’s hard to watch: Westmoreland ums and ahs through a few before admitting, “I can’t name them all.” (Quick quiz: can you?)
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently had his own Westmoreland moment. Lamenting the neglect of biblical principles in American life, Brooks wrote,
In Corinthians, Jesus tells the crowds, “Not many of you were wise by worldly standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. …”
That this sentence didn’t catch the eye of Brooks or his fact-checkers denotes a basic ignorance of the New Testament, as Jesus did not travel to Greece. (The author of the quote is Paul, who did).
Alan Jacobs and friends had some fun with Brooks’ error this week:
“How surprised his disciples must have been when Moses walked on the Red Sea.” #nytimesbible
— Alan Jacobs (@ayjay) June 24, 2013
— Erik Gregersen (@erikgregersen) June 24, 2013
The last time the Times flubbed a Bible quote, Eric Metaxas went into full-on culture wars mode:
In the world of Manhattan cultural elites, the Bible is mostly thought of as a quaint and useless artifact…Is the secular bias at the Times so pervasive that it has affected not just the writers but the fact-checkers too?
The Times is “out of touch with middle America,” he wrote.
It’s easy to beat up on Brooks, but there is in fact little indication that “middle Americans” crack open the Good Book much more than those “cultural elites” who fact-check the Times.
In recent nationwide survey, nearly a fourth polled believed that “the values and morals of America are declining” due to “a lack of Bible reading,” and 56 percent said the Bible should have a greater role in American society. But how many read the Bible regularly? About a fifth. As Christianity Today put it, Americans revere their Bibles so much that they keep them in pristine, unopened condition.
David Brooks, House Republicans, and everyday Americans alike love to appeal to “Biblical principles” or “Judeo-Christian morality.” Actually reading the Bible, not so much. As the Virgin Mary told the Thessalonians, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”