By Daniel Bobinski
Recently, Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was interviewed at a CNN townhall. As is the media’s custom with left-wing candidates, Buttigieg was being thrown softballs. Actually, it was more like a T-ball game, but you get the point. Buttigieg wasn’t being challenged.
The interviewer, Erin Burnett, was laughing at Buttigieg’s jokes and playing along, almost like a schoolgirl interviewing her crush.
Of course, no Democrat Town Hall hosted by CNN would be complete without questions designed to turn Christian voters away from Trump. The fact that Burnett included questions along those lines didn’t surprise me. What I found distasteful (and unprofessional) was the double standards that existed in her questions.
Let me illustrate. To set up a particular question, Burnett reminded Buttigieg of something he said at a previous Town Hall:
“If your faith calls upon you to help the marginalized, those who are afflicted, to comfort people, to strive for humility and decency, as the Christian faith does, I just can’t imagine that that requires of you that you be anywhere near this President.”
Let me state that aside from the gratuitous dig at Trump, the comment was logically sound.
Does my faith call me to help the marginalized? Yes.
Comfort people? Again, yes.
Strive for humility and decency? Yes.
These actions are associated with my personal faith.
But here’s the dig: None of that requires me to be near anyone other than the people I’m helping. Not Donald Trump. Not Franklin Graham. Not T.D. Jakes. Not Greg Laurie. And no, not Pete Buttigieg, either. Buttigieg knows that too, but he wasn’t going to tell you that. He just wanted to drive a gratuitous wedge between people of faith and the President. It was unnecessary and unethical.
A double standard question
After reciting Buttigieg’s sideways dig at Trump, the schoolgirl-in-love Burnett placed the following question on the T-ball stand:
“Do you think it is impossible to be a Christian and support President Trump?”
To anyone who’s ever participated in high school debate, the motivation behind Burnett’s question was obvious. Mayor Pete did not hesitate.
“Well, I’m not going to tell other Christians how to be Christians, but I will say I cannot find any compatibility between the way this President conducts himself and anything that I find in Scripture. Now, I guess that’s my interpretation, but I think that’s a lot of people’s interpretation, and that interpretation deserves a voice.”
The response exposed Buttigieg’s Scriptural myopia, but the crowd went wild, clapping and cheering loudly.
What TV viewers couldn’t see was the CNN employee off-camera, raising his hands and rallying the crowd to give that massive cheer.
Doubt me? There’s a leaked video showing this employee training the crowd before the Town Hall started, having them ‘cheer’ and ‘stop cheering’ in response to his hand commands. But I digress.
My point is that Buttigieg essentially said Trump doesn’t do anything that aligns with Scripture. And, rather than challenge the mayor’s inability to show any grace whatsoever, Burnett just let it go.
For the record, I can’t help but point out that there was no love lost between Jesus and the rulers of Israel, who were suppressing and burdening the people. He called them a “brood of vipers” and “white-washed tombs … full of hypocrisy and wickedness,” not unlike Trump saying “The Swamp” and “fake news.” Jesus even made a whip and overturned tables in the temple courts when he saw they were making a mockery of what the temple was supposed to be about.
Some don’t like to think of Jesus as railing against people in authority, yet there it is. I also see Trump praying with people, and having people pray over him. He works for free, donating 100% of his income to worthwhile causes. I could go on, but I’ll let you, the reader, decide if any of Trump’s actions align with Scripture.
Of course, the Jesus in Buttigieg’s worldview focuses narrowly on mercy, not the Scriptural balance of mercy and justice – which, by the way, is not “social justice,” as the Left would have us believe.
By the way, Burnett letting Buttigieg’s answer slide would not have happened at a Republican Town Hall. In fact, asked of a conservative, this would have been a “gotcha” question, and if any Republican gave Buttigieg’s answer, it’s easy to picture Burnett interrupting with a follow-up: “How can you claim to know what’s in someone’s heart? Aren’t you supposed to judge not, lest you be judged?”
Rick Santorum received this kind of ridicule in 2012 when he alleged that Obama was a “politically convenient Christian,” yet Buttigieg was given a pass.
The pros and cons of Buttigieg’s position
Also at the Town Hall, a Nevada realtor expressed her frustration that the public discourse assumes that being a Christian equals “evangelical Christian conservatism.” She stated she was both a Democrat and a Christian, and asked Mayor Pete, “How can you use your voice as President to share this viewpoint more broadly?”
I’d like you to pay close attention to Buttigieg’s answer [Emphasis added]:
“I agree. It starts with sending the message that God does not belong to a political party. And it’s also very important to make clear that the Presidency and the Constitution in my Presidency will belong to people of every religion and to people of no religion equally. This is not about imposing my faith on anybody.
“But I gotta say, like you, I find a message in Scripture that is very different from what the political right seems to want to talk about all the time. A lot about poverty. A lot about compassion. A lot about humility – that I seek in my imperfect way to live up to. And that does have implications for how I will approach public office.
“And the time has come to send a message. People of faith have a choice. If you belong to a Christian tradition, or any moral or religious tradition that emphasizes making yourself useful to the oppressed, and standing with and identifying with the prisoner, welcoming the stranger – and stranger, by the way, is another word for immigrant – yes, that has implications in public life, and I won’t be afraid to talk about how my positions are informed by my faith.
Two things I want to point out here.
First, a kudos to Mayor Pete. For decades, we’ve heard people say they didn’t want faith to impact governmental decisions, but that’s contrary to how our government was established. Our Republic’s laws are based on the Judeo-Christian ethic. Anyone who cares to argue that can visit the United States Supreme Court and see the Ten Commandments displayed several places on the building, including on the wall behind the bench.
They can also review quotes from our Founders, such as John Jay, our nation’s first Chief Justice, who wrote, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Or George Washington, who said in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
It should be noted that in Washington’s day, the word religion was comprehensively known as a synonym for a Christian belief system.
In this aspect, Buttigieg’s position aligns with that of the Founders: Our leaders should not dictate which Christian faith is to be practiced (the TRUE meaning of “separation of church and state”), but they also shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how their faith informs their decisions.
As a side note, I give kudos to Buttigieg here in the spirit of intellectual honesty, but expect me to demand intellectual honesty in return when conservatives talk about how faith informs their policy decisions.
However, the second thing I am compelled to point out is Mayor Pete’s misapplication of Scripture: Scripture does not tell us to take from the rich and give to the poor. In essence, like many well-meaning Leftists, Mr. Buttigieg is ignorant about the difference between laws for a nation and instructions to individuals.
As I’ve said, using Scripture as a guide for governing has been a practice since the days of our nation’s Founders. What’s not okay is having the government create laws out of instructions not given to governments.
For example, consider the instruction Jesus gave to a specific individual: “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, then come follow me.” Hopefully, no administration will ever press for legislation that everyone must do what Jesus told that one individual. Yes, Scripture is full of instructions that we should feed and clothe the poor, but always these are instructions to people as individuals. Never in Scripture do we see a government being told to do this.
It’s difficult to sum up Biblical principles in sound bites, but if I can quote the Good Book, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We are told to give what we decide. And, I would add, not under threat of an IRS fine and a year in federal prison.
In study after study after study after study, conservatives are more generous when it comes to giving out of their own volition, even when the Leftists are wealthier! A friend of mine suggests guilt along these lines is why the Left enacts mandatory giving and creates government programs. She says,
“The Left knows that giving is the right thing to do, but they can’t seem to grasp the idea of personal responsibility and do it on their own. So, because they want to feel good about themselves, they make giving mandatory for everyone. They think they’re acting Biblically by coercing people to give, but they’re violating the Biblical principle of giving out of our own free will.”
The Bible is not a loose-leaf book
The arc of Scripture shows that families are the core unit of society and God gives them many inalienable rights. In areas where a family cannot provide is where the role of the Church comes into play. The government’s job is to protect the Church and the family so they can enjoy their inalienable rights.
Unfortunately, the Church dropped many of its responsibilities over the years, and as a society, we’ve abdicated many of those functions to the government. Personally, I see Trump pushing those responsibilities back to where they belong, so again, I disagree with Buttigieg that Trump doesn’t act in alignment with Scriptures.
Buttigieg needs to realize the Bible is not a loose-leaf book. It would be very easy for me to get personal and quote Scriptures that speak to Buttigieg’s life choices and counter many of the positions he advocates, but I’ll just close with this:
Any potential leader that wants to rest his or her campaign on Biblical principles should take the whole of Scripture into account, and rightly divide it along the way. It is not the role of government to assume the responsibilities of the family or the Church. Our inalienable rights must be balanced with responsibilities.
And above all, any potential leader should “not take the name of the Lord in vain,” which, as any serious student of Scripture knows, has nothing to do with cussing.
The views expressed in this column do not necessary represent those of UncoverDC.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a certified behavioral analyst, best-selling author, columnist, corporate trainer, and keynote speaker. He’s also a veteran and a self-described Christian Libertarian who believes in the principles of free market capitalism – while standing firmly against crony capitalism. Daniel writes on both workplace issues and political issues for multiple publications, but in his ideal world he’d be a speechwriter for President Trump.