“The Bible says that ‘for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to heal, …and a time to build up.’ That time is now. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal.” (Mike Pence)
I am so tired of having Scripture used as a tool of manipulation.
I recognize that this letter from Mike Pence really isn’t about Scripture as much as it’s about politics. I realize that it isn’t directed to me as much as it’s intended to placate the angry mobs who are trying to hang Pence from actual gallows they have erected on the Capitol steps. (They would have to lay down their “Jesus Saves” posters first, so I can understand his impulse to quote Scripture to them, however imprecisely.)
But it all just feels so very familiar to me, this move to open the “good book” as a way to close the book on whatever emotion, question, impulse, challenge has become inconvenient to the guy in charge.
The words Mike Pence is using to try to smother our trauma—“a time to heal”—come from Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is not a book of the Bible that intends to comfort. The book of Ecclesiastes is about uncertainties and anxieties, about meaninglessness and doubts. If you’re going to read it, you have to be willing to lock eyes with your fears of conflict, of helplessness, of darkness, of pain. Really, apart from the ten words Pence plucked from the third chapter, there isn’t much light-and-bright about the book at all.
Pence’s impulse to plead for calm is unsurprising, but his opportunistic cherry-picking of Scripture should bother us. The Bible is not a tool that does the bidding of the powerful; it is the good news that sets the oppressed free. For far too long, the Evangelical patriarchy has abused Scripture in this way, normalizing its being used as a tool to intimidate the vulnerable and suppress the victim. It feels familiar because it is familiar.
Also: Pence’s plea makes absolutely no sense. A wound can’t be healed when it’s still being inflicted. What Pence wants is not healing. He wants absolution.
If I were to dress up my own hopes in the trappings of holy language, I’d say it like this: There is a time to speak the truth. There is a time to refuse to pretend. There is a time to grieve, a time to be furious, a time to cuss at the television. There is a time to demand accountability. And sure, maybe one day there will be a time to come together. I hope so. But that will require that all the weapons be laid aside. Even the weapons that look like a Bible.