Hark! The Sermon on the Mount!

It turns out that most of our elected representatives, in the U.S., are going to hell. I just found out. Do you want to know why?

Do you remember the dust up regarding newly elected Congresmember Keith Ellison (of the Fabulous Fifth District, Minnesota)? Ellison is a Mild Muslim (has never been seen wearing a suicide bomb belt, etc.) liberal democrat. When he was on his way to Washington, the right wing crazy people got all upset over the prospect of Ellison taking the Oath of Office on the Quran instead of the Christian Bible. My advice to Ellison, which I think he summarily ignored, was to take the oath on a copy of the Constitution.

I found out at that time that the incoming members of Congress do not actually take the oath on any book. They all just stand around in this big room and do a kind of a mass oath, no books. Some claim that they carry a small bible in their pockets to stroke or squeeze or whatever while Oathing. Those photographs you see of the Proud Congressman and his Proud Congressman’s wife with his hand on The Bible, Her hand on his Shoulder and a guy who looks like a Judge swearing him in are faked. No kidding. That is pure photo-op.

Well, I was having a conversation with Bill today, about a class he is taking, and an interesting twist that I was not aware of came up. Bill was telling me about this chick Rebecca, an eighteenth century slave (freed, eventually) who was an evangelical Christian. The whole story is rather interesting, but there was one part in particular I wanted to share with you.

Becky and her husband were house mates of a man accused of robbery. They were asked to testify at his trial, and were prepared to state that they had never seen him steal a thing that was not his. But when it came time to give their statements, and they were asked to swear an oath on the Bible, they refused. Why? Because of this:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

This is Jesus talking here. This is the Sermon on the Mount. This is a part of the key text in the New Testament that Fundamentalists use to counter arguments that the Bible is full of scary evil shit, like the rules by which you must stone your neighbor to death (like if he mows the Lawn at a certain time on the weekend). The Sermon on the Mount (and some closely related bits of the N.T.) is where Jesus is said to abrogate much of the Old Law.

In truth, this is not what happens at all. Jesus provides some clarification, but not much abrogation. But that is a digression. In this passage, Jesus, Son of God, is clear: Do not take oaths. Just always be truthful. It’s like the John Lennon song … “Imagine no brother/sisterhood of man…” You don’t need a concept of love if there is only love and no hate. You don’t need a concept of oath if there is only truth. And, to be quite specific, don’t be taking oaths. Some people claim that Jesus said: “It is harder for a man who oaths to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a Camel to pass through the eye of a Needle.” (And in those days, the needles had bigger eyes than some of them do now, mainly because reading glasses were unavailable.)

So, Keith Ellison, if you did in fact take the Oath of Office on a Quran, or a copy of the constitution, you are a sinner. And all the other Congressmen and Congressladies who stand up next to the model pretending to be a judge, flanked by their opposite sex spouse and above average children, with their hands on a prop that looks like a Bible, are sinners too.

Global Warming is just a dry run for you’all, because you’all are goin’ to hell. Sermon on the Mount, baby.


  1. #1 Peter Mc
    March 10, 2008

    Oathing: very Beowulfian.

  2. #2 Gilipollas Caraculo
    March 10, 2008

    Oaths are fundamentally fraudulent. The premise is that if you swear on some sky fairy that something is true, then if you lie the sky fairy will smite you dead. World-wide, over the entire history of oath-taking, we’re still waiting for the first smiting.

    (BTW, the California penal code states that when police officers are sworn in, their oath does not count as an actual oath, so if it turns out they lied taking the oath they cannot be charged for perjury.)

  3. #3 Citizen Z
    March 10, 2008

    In the Constitution, the word “Oath” is followed by “or affirmation” every time but once, not counting a heading. (The one exception could theoretically create a rather bizarre loophole…)

    The Founders added the “or affirmation” because of the influence of Quakers in colonial America, who, FWIU, based their objections to oaths on the passages you quoted.

  4. #4 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 10, 2008

    Hey, I’ll swear anything on a bible. Heck, I would even swear allegiance to PZ on a bible. Wouldn’t mean nothing, though. I would have my hands crossed behind my back, anyway.

    My God strike me dead.

    (In case you didn’t notice, Jehovah, I’m calling you out.)

  5. #5 Becca
    March 10, 2008

    I like that little passage.
    It does make me wonder though, what exactly constitutes an oath. If you say “on my honor” is that an oath? (Girl Scout promise, I’m looking at you!!!)
    If you put your hand over your heart whilst reciting the pledge of allegiance, is that some kind of implict oath? Or is the pledge an oath all on it’s own?

  6. #6 yogi-one
    March 11, 2008

    It turns out that most of our elected representatives, in the U.S., are going to hell.

    Hahaha – where do you think most of them cane from in the first place?

  7. #7 BB
    March 11, 2008


    Recycling at its best!

    @ Greg’s text:
    Jesus’s (if he ever really existed) choice of words here reminds me of Zarathustra’s (if he ever existed) a few centuries earlier. Seems like somebody cribbed a bit …