Are you old enough to remember “Two Corinthians?”
In January 2016, with the Iowa caucuses weeks away and evangelical voters wary of Donald Trump’s three marriages and previous infidelities, then-candidate Trump visited Liberty University, where he spoke in front of thousands of Christian students.
“Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame,” Trump said. “Is that the one you like?”
It’s Second Corinthians, something the establishment media — not generally keen to point religious solecisms out — made sure we were aware of.
It wasn’t just, to the media, that Trump had tried to recite one of the shibboleths of evangelical conservatives and face-planted. It was a case of hypocrisy: For all of his outsider cred and appeals to Christian voters, Donald Trump was another politician who’d crassly use the Bible on the stump even though it was a book they seldom read, let alone followed.
Four years later, presumptive President-elect Joe Biden made his sale to wary Christian voters in the center, in part, on the basis of the fact he was, as the establishment media would say, a “devout Catholic.”
That’s still supposed to be part of his appeal — even though he apparently doesn’t know how to pronounce the word Psalms, having referred to the term “psalmist” as “palmist.”
“Devout Catholic” Joe Biden doesn’t know the “P” in “Psalmist” is silent, not the “s”. pic.twitter.com/kp9MZi3NvQ
— Howie Carr (@HowieCarrShow) November 25, 2020
Psalms: Leave off the first “s” for “saving grace,” I suppose.
This was at the close of Biden’s Thanksgiving eve address, a somber affair in which he compared the “long, hard winter” in 2020-21 with that spent by George Washington and his troops in 1777-78 at Valley Forge, urged us to have small celebrations at home, touted his agenda, claimed that we should “be thankful for democracy itself” because “democracy was tested this year” and said we should “want solutions, not shouting, reasons, not hyper-partisanship, light, not heat.”
Read into this what you will, but he didn’t stick the landing: Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me,” which segued into the closing words of his speech.
With all due respect to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians — “for God loves a cheerful giver” is very much in secular circulation at this point — its themes don’t have the resonance of Psalms, particularly around Thanksgiving:
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever…” (Psalm 136:3)
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) November 26, 2020
— Kevin Corke (@kevincorke) November 26, 2020
You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
— Antonio Sabáto Jr ?? (@AntonioSabatoJr) November 26, 2020
— K-LOVE Radio (@KLOVERadio) November 26, 2020
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 106:1
Happy Thanksgiving, Baylor Family! pic.twitter.com/PSGNAgUD3R
— Baylor University (@Baylor) November 26, 2020
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
— stevenfurtick (@stevenfurtick) November 26, 2020
Even an Easter-and-Christmas Christian usually knows the “p” is silent in Psalms, the same way someone with a passing knowledge of America knows the second “s” is silent in Arkansas.
It’s something we all would have done in Sunday school as kids, not in Thanksgiving eve speeches as adults. And yes, Biden was reading from prepared remarks, as is his wont. So was Donald Trump during the “Two Corinthians” to-do.
Yet, there’s been almost no media coverage of Biden’s biblical faux pas. The two situations are roughly analogous. Both men were trying to sell themselves to Americans of faith. Both were faced with serious impediments to getting their support — in Trump’s case, his personal life; in Biden’s case, his party’s positions on the sanctity of life and LGBT issues.
Trump’s “Two Corinthians” moment was treated as if it ought to disqualify him among evangelical Christians. Biden’s remark passed with barely a shrug.
The media has also largely taken Biden’s self-billing as devoutly Catholic at face value, which is curious when you consider his positions on numerous policy matters run counter to both Vatican teaching and the Bible.
NPR, which called Donald Trump a “flamboyant, twice-divorced billionaire” in its 2016 coverage of his “Two Corinthians” gaffe, said Biden “carries a rosary in his pocket and attends Mass every Sunday.”
That’s diligence, though, not devoutness — and the fact Biden has always felt the need to make this conspicuous brings to mind Matthew 6:5, a passage reporters seem curiously unaware of whenever a Democrat loudly declaims their religiosity.
CBS News, meanwhile, cited the fact Biden chose to excerpt some of the words of the hymn “On Eagles’ Wings” in his victory speech as a sign of his devoutness. The Washington Post cited the fact he wanted to be a priest in his youth.
This is all well and good, but what he wanted to be when he grew up, even if it involved a religious calling, still doesn’t speak to how deeply Catholic he is when he wants to kill the Hyde Amendment, which bans paying for abortions with federal funds through programs like Medicaid.
This isn’t a matter of pointing and laughing at another gaffe from the presumptive president-elect, nor is it a matter of beseeching the media to treat Biden the same way they treat Trump. In fact, “Two Corinthians” was a story worth covering; whether Trump was considered seaworthy among people of faith was very much an open question when he made the mistake, and it was enough to make devout Christians cringe.
What eventually won Christians over was Trump’s public policy positions. Biden, meanwhile, seems to want to win Christians over via performative Catholicism. Think his policies on the sanctity of life belie the depth of this belief? Well, he has a rosary. Who’re you to argue with that?
I cannot adjudge what’s in Joe Biden’s heart. That’s above all of our pay grades; for all we know, John Calvin is looking up at us from the eighth circle of Hell, writhing with agony as he scratches at leprous lesions for all eternity with the rest of the falsifiers.
Inasmuch as Biden’s Catholicism is part of the package he has to start vigorously selling America in the coming weeks and months, however, we can speculate on how deeply this faith is held and what that means for the efficacy of his outreach to voters of faith.
Both Biden and Trump mispronounced books of the Bible. Only one wants taxpayers to pay for abortion. If the media wants to see what gets Christians angry, stick around.
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