President Bartlet’s Theology Challenge – How Will You Respond?
This post is about knowing why we believe what we believe. There’s a great scene in “The Midterms” episode of the TV Series The West Wing – where President Bartlet takes a Christian talk show host to task over her position on homosexuality by throwing some challenging Old Testament dilemmas her way.
According to the President, she’s being quite selective in the things she chooses to believe …
On this occasion this is not (!) a discussion about homosexuality per se (yes I do have firm Biblical views on that, but I hold them in love so please understand that any vitriolic comments will be removed).
What I’m interested in is Bartlet’s method and his approach to interpreting what the Bible means to us today. Because it seems to me, that that’s where much of the disagreement comes in. Not what the author meant back when it was written or whether the Bible’s true, not whether the events actually happened, but how we take something written up to several thousand years ago and apply it to life today.
So … here’s the exchange (both video and text transcript). My question to you is this:
How would you respond to President Bartlet’s apparently flawless reasoning?
We’re all looking forward to reading your comments. Post them below.
If you’re trying to view the YouTube clip on an Apple computer you may be running into a known bug which stops you from hearing the sound. So I’ve included the text transcript of the important bits below:
President Bartlet: Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Bartlet: Yes, it does. Leviticus.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
President Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?
While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police?
Here’s one that’s really important ’cause we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?
Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?
Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?