Monday, May 3, 2010

Gordon Brown vs. the Bible

In gaffe rankings, this one falls well below "Bigotgate." Nonetheless, it turns out that even prime ministers fighting for re-election need to know the Bible well .... or at least not poorly.

Bloomberg Business reports that British P.M. Gordon Brown--whose flagging campaign is all but dead--misidentified a Bible quote during a church appearance over the weekend: "You know the great story in Micah in the Gospel. It talks about justice rolling down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." As Bloomberg notes, the passage (famously cited by MLK in his "I Have a Dream" speech) comes from Amos, not Micah. In the original, it reads, "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

I only add that Micah is not "in the Gospel." Gospels are mini-biographies of Jesus found in the New Testament. Both Micah and Amos are minor prophets from the Hebrew Bible. So in one light, the P.M.--himself the son of a minister--is doubly wrong.

But we all mix up our minor prophets, and we could forgive the slip. Unfortunately for Brown, however, he didn't stop talking: "But before these words in that verse it says: 'Have done with people who are just presenting images. Have done with people who are just talking, or singing songs that don’t mean anything. Have done with the irrelevancies. Get to the center point'."

Brown might as well be making stuff up--his "paraphrase" is little more than a bad free-associative riff. The three verses that precede Amos 5:24 run as follows:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

Have done with people who are just talking? Get to the center point? Right, Gordon. I think you might have been speaking in tongues.

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