False prophets and fake news: Yale Divinity professor attacks Marco Rubio for tweeting Bible verses from Proverbs

Photo credit: AFP
God-breathed scripture is useful for everything from teaching the young and training the righteous to reproaching false prophets and rebuking fake news.

Yale Divinity School Professor Joel Baden made a fool of himself Sunday morning in Politico when he complained about Sen. Marco Rubio's habit of tweeting verses from Proverbs. The Florida Republican, Baden complains, was quoting "the most Republican parts of the Bible."

One doesn't need an advanced divinity degree, though, to realize that this is of course preposterous. For an ivy-league professor, Baden demonstrates surprising ignorance.

Because GOP presidents as far back as Gerald Ford have pilfered its passages for speech content, he asserts that "Proverbs is probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible." And conflating the political with the theological, Baden insists that verses in Proverbs look "strikingly similar" to conservative policy.

Even the most ADHD Vacation Bible School student knows that any likeness is wholly coincidental though. Proverbs doesn't give prophecy, promises, or government policy prescriptions. Instead, the text teaches parables on how to live an honorable and good life. It's an apolitical text written during the 10th century B.C., back when Israel was a pre-partisan theocracy.

Obviously politicians borrow Biblical language for their own ends. Since our country's founding, Moses and Jesus have been turned into ventriloquist dummies during elections. But that's not at all what Rubio was doing, and that's exactly why Baden's criticism seems so desperate.

Rubio wasn't weaponizing scripture for Republican ends and he was right when he quipped that "Solomon hadn't yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs."

With passive aggressive eisegesis, Baden twists scripture to do exactly what he condemned Rubio for a bit earlier. He politicizes it and he's not even consistent. For instance, Baden tells Rubio to read from Amos 5:11: "Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone—but you will not live in them."

But it's not like Proverbs, or the junior senator from Florida, ignores the plight of the impoverished. "The godly care about the rights of the poor;" Proverbs 29:7 reads, "the wicked don't care at all." Maybe Rubio was still getting around to this verse and, maybe if the senator tweeted that passage earlier, Baden would've thought twice before blithely dismissing an entire book of the Bible as partisan. But whatever.

Religious pluralism and free speech all but guarantee a steady stream of sacrilegious hot takes. Disagreeable not novel, Baden's article isn't new. As the author of Proverbs teaches, "fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions."

Credit: Philip Wegmann, a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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