Biden and God

In Joe Biden’s July 5 interview with George Stephanopoulos, the president brusquely rebuffed all the reporter’s promptings about quitting his race for re-election: bad poll numbers, calls from a few elected Democrats, the panicked appeals from the pundit chorus. . . .

A defiant Delaware “Meh” to them all.

Then Biden made one concession:

“Look. I mean, if the Lord Almighty came down and said, “Joe, get out of the race,” I’d get out of the race.”

But then: “The Lord Almighty’s not coming down. I mean, these hypotheticals, George, if, I mean, it’s all —“

— Hypothetical?

Stephanopoulos rebounded gamely: “I agree that the Lord Almighty’s not going to come down,” he said, “but if — if — if you are told reliably from your allies, from your friends and supporters in the Democratic Party in the House and the Senate that they’re concerned you’re going to lose the House and the Senate if you stay in, what will you do?”

BIDEN: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen.”

Well, it might happen.

And in such a “hypothetical” encounter (which seems to be getting less hypothetical by the day), in my view, Joe Biden might indeed hear a word of divine intervention.

If so, I think he’d listen, because I’m pretty sure that, amid the deeply secular-pagan Washington political culture, Joe Biden does believe in God. And he believes that God speaks to people. Even people like him.

No, I’m not mimicking those cringely blasphemous soft-focus sketches of White Guy Jesus embracing his orange “Cyrus” as the Anointed signs anti-immigrant decrees (or corrupt pardons —or assassination orders?) in the Oval Office.
(Like an honest supreme court justice once said of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”)

Blasphemous, too.

Not that, not hardly. I mean the God whose “glory,” even dimly reflected through the third-tier messenger who “came upon” some shepherds “abiding” in an ancient nighttime field, made the watchers “sore afraid,” which means lose-bladder-control-terrified. The One in what are said to be official records, who had to repeat “Fear not,” as an intro to speaking to human creatures, more than 350 times. That one.

Why do I think Biden believes in that God? First of all, because he acts like it: he goes to a church, the creed of which is much concerned with facing suffering and death — and second, because he does this privately and doesn’t talk about it. (Which means he takes seriously the mandate, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret . . . .” Matthew 6:6)

And third, he’s been knocked down by this deity, more than once. And got back up.

His worship, after all, is directed at the One who said, in a seldom cited but very significant verse, through one of his prime human messengers, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7).

“All these things.”

I have no insider sources, but I’m still confident Joe Biden knows all this, not as abstract doctrine, but by very hard experience.

If he once didn’t, he learned it in December 1972, when his first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash, while shopping for a Christmas tree. And he learned it again when his son Beau died from cancer in 2015; and it is repeated frequently now in the travails of his other son, Hunter.

These are senseless losses horrible enough to smash the faith of many a strong believer. But Joe Biden, no theologian, still goes to mass. And he doesn’t talk about it. I am certain he is familiar with this desolate cry of a similarly bereft figure: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name . . . .”(Job 1:21).

But these sorrows are all personal. Politics is different, right?

Not entirely. The Bible in Biden’s church recounts God as having many dealings with earthly kings and empires, their rise and fall.

In the records, people play various parts in this endless imperial soap opera. Their scripts are occasionally delivered directly, but like as not indirectly. Such scripts are often wrestled with, and can even be revised or refused.

So I think Joe Biden could indeed get a message from God about whether he should stay, or step down. And it could just as well be delivered by Nancy Pelosi (a fellow Catholic), Jim Clyburn (African Methodist Episcopal), Chuck Schumer (Jewish), or even a humanist like Bernie Sanders. And Joe no doubt has a priest to consult, one sworn to a level of secrecy well beyond that of the CIA.

If such a company of messengers arrives, Biden’s challenge will be to go beyond their words, to exercise what in my Quaker tradition we call “discernment.” It’s the frequent call from the central text to: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

What will Joe Biden hear?

Who can say? All I know is to repeat this other ancient message:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

And from  the Letter to the Hebrews, 10: 31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Oh wait: one more quote that these days is confirming, aimed at nations as much for individual citizens, of high or low station, is that they “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling . . . “ (Philippians 2:12)


Joe Biden’s address [on July 7] at Mount Airy church of God In Christ in north-west Philadelphia went down well with the congregation.

Paul Johansen, a teacher from Massachusetts, 58, praised a “rousing speech” that touched both on politics and religions.

“It was lovely to see a president who’s clearly a man of faith in a house of God,” he said. Biden “reads the Bible”, he added, and is “not at all interested in selling Bibles”.

[This is a developing story . . . .]

3 thoughts on “Biden and God”

  1. Thanks Chuck. This gives me strength as I endure the insistence of my family that Biden should step down. I prefer to trust Biden to use his own means to decide.

  2. David Albert makes a good point.
    I also wonder, as a professed Catholic if Biden has ever considered that his unwavering support of an ongoing genocide is in keeping with any possible interpretation of so-called Just War theory?
    The purpose for waging war must be to repress evil and promote the common good. Aquinas teaches that right intention must never involve a “lust to dominate,” a “craving to hurt people,” or any “cruel thirst for revenge.”3 —Summa Theologica

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