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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

WHEN THE BOW BREAKS

"Does bow rhyme with potatoe?"

President Obama at the New York City 9/11 Memorial read from a psalm as part of the event (which included Paul Simon singing "Sounds of Silence" but no religious leaders because there wasn't room). The psalm was 46, and when he got to verse 9:
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder; he burns the chariot in the fire.
He pronounced "bow" as in bow and arrow as "bow" as in bend at the waist while meeting foreign leaders (or non-white mayors). Now, had this been President Bush there would be comedians years from now mocking the pronunciation, particularly given the president's proclivity to bowing to people. Had this been a Republican it would be offered as proof that he's a colossal dolt. Because its President Obama it got basically ignored, were it nor for blogs like Gateway Pundit.

Why the president got the pronunciation wrong isn't certain, but I can guess a few reasons. The first is that he goes into "speech mode" when he gets up to make one. He locks in certain mannerisms, a given tone of voice, a specific rhythm, and a mindset for making speeches which is use nowhere else in his life. This isn't unusual, a lot of people - especially really good speakers - do this. Church going people are familiar with pastors who have a 'sermon voice' that is different from the rest of their speaking patterns.

In this mode, I don't think President Obama is thinking about what he is saying. I believe he reads what he's fed following a carefully learned method of speaking and that's why he keeps getting in trouble with his teleprompter, reading other peoples' lines and so on. Instead of extemporaneous speaking or having a speech memorized, he's really good at reading what someone spoon feeds him, like a talk show host doing his monologue or an actor reading cards.

But there's another layer beneath that. Even if you get into a 'zone' where you are locked into patterns and not paying attention to what you read, someone familiar with the basic material would comfortably and easily know what the words are without needing to think about them, like a really familiar song you sing along with.

President Obama attended church for decades, he was allegedly taught the Bible and studied it with his family. At least, that's what he told us. Yet he's basically unfamiliar with this well known Psalm - so fundamentally unfamiliar with it that he didn't know the phrase about the bow being a weapon in the context of speaking about weapons and war.

For those who think this is because he's so much more familiar with the Koran, bows are mentioned in there, too. That's not the case at all. He's just basically unfamiliar with the Bible. He does not have a comfort level with the scripture that, say, a president 50 years ago would have. This is not unique to President Obama, but it does make you wonder what exactly was being taught in that allegedly Christian Church other than "god damn America," black supremacy, and attacks on Israel.

Essentially, President Obama is Biblically illiterate; he is basically unread in the Bible. He's not alone in this, almost every major Democratic Party candidate in the last two decades has shown this sort of basic unfamiliarity with the Bible. The general population is basically unfamiliar with the Bible, for that matter; in fact, reading is not particularly widespread beyond text messages and short internet statements.

Reading a book, let alone an old book, let alone a religious book, let alone a really big, complex book like the Bible is simply not common these days. Even in churches, studying the Bible has plunged in popularity, and in megachurches like Willow Creek or Lakewood Church there's little mention of the Bible during the religious services beyond scant quotes.

It might scare off people, it might make people uncomfortable, and after all we want to focus on how people feel and their spirit rather than text. We want a vibrant, living faith, not a scholar's faith of dry, dusty texts! The Bible is fine, but what we really need is a relationship with Jesus from within, not text learning from without!'

That's what we're told. That learning the Bible gives us "head knowledge" but not "heart knowledge" and people want to hear about what to do, not what to know, so sermons focus on that. Therapy and five tools to get along with your wife/coworker/boss/teacher/children/etc is more common from the church service than the Bible.

Few churches even have Bible readings any more, and the ones that do tend to be limited to a bit of text the pastor reads. That time has been taken up by happy, clappy, emotionally compelling songs set in early 70's keys that Boomer wives find pleasing. These songs sometimes are just straight bits of psalms (the soothing ones, none of that sad or upsetting stuff), but they're usually just all about what I will do and how I'll praise God and what a great person I am for worshiping.

So when President Obama, formerly church-going alleged Christian shows he doesn't really feel comfortable reading the Bible, we shouldn't be terribly surprised. In a Democracy, we vote for people who are most like us; we put leaders into office that represent our soul.

And we're pretty unfamiliar with the Bible ourselves.

What is more troubling to me is the push to turn the 9/11 Memorial into a peace and unity rally rather than a commemoration of murdered people and a desire for justice. But then, that would be politically harmful to Democrats.

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