Wednesday, after Sen. Mark Pryor’s campaign put out a campaign ad featuring Pryor holding a Bible and talking about it his faith, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out the sort of email response that’s typically ignored by everyone but party loyalists. But this one made such a reach that Tom Cotton’s camp was forced to rebuke it.
NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring suggested in an email to reporters that the Pryor ad contradicted an earlier comment he’d made about the Bible.
In the 30 second ad, Pryor speaks directly to the camera about his faith in the Bible. The ad is a substantial purchase for the campaign and will run statewide. “I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word. The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right,” Pryor says in the ad. “This is my compass. My North Star. It gives me comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas.”
Interesting ad, considering the same Mark Pryor was quoted below just last year cautioning that the Bible is “not a rule book for political issues.”
So is the Bible Mark Pryor’s compass, providing the “comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas? ” Or is it really not a good rule book for political issues and decisions made in the Senate? Guess it depends on which Mark Pryor that you ask.
“That is an incredibly bizarre and offensive email from the NRSC’s press secretary. We should all agree that America is better off when all our public officials in both parties have the humility to seek guidance from God,” said Cotton campaign spokesman David Ray in response, according to The Hill.
That was obviously the correct response as far as decorum goes, but was the NRSC right about the underlying politics? I’m deeply skeptical that swing voters see the ad and think Pryor’s not religious enough, but a Democratic blogger with Washington Monthly argues otherwise.
The standard Christian Right take on the Bible’s relevance to politics is that it removes all doubt and ambiguity about what the believer should do. As Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), a Senate candidate himself, put it in a 2012 speech, the Bible is “manufacturer’s handbook for how to run all of public policy and everything in society.” Now this attitude defies many centuries of scriptural interpretation, and is about as spiritual in nature as a medieval crusader killing a heretic or “heathen,” but it’s a pervasive if self-consciously hammer-headed approach among Culture Warriors these days.
Pryor’s basically saying the Bible teaches some humility and reserves wisdom and final judgment to God Almighty, not to his self-appointed representatives on earth, clerical or especially political. It’s a message that would have been instantly understood by God-fearing southerners in the not-too-distant past, but unfortunately, it’s a risky gambit today…