Call me a sucker, but I love to listen in on conservative talk radio. Try as I might, I can never get through to people like Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, or Beck, but I get a chance pretty regularly to call in to our local right-wing talker, Pat White. Pat is actually not too extreme. He is far less likely to get as pompous as Rush, as hateful as Hannity, or as religious as Beck. But he does parrot the right-wingers when he gets away from local items and starts talking national politics.
In the past I've called in over the Iraq war, stimulus, etc. Never has it gotten more contentious then it did today.
Pat was talking about this story and was appealing to people's most basic vengeful instinct. Callers were discussing what they wanted to do to the man in the story. Ideas ranged from throwing him from a car, to executing him, to putting him in prison and letting prisoners kill him.
As this proceeded, Pat began to suggest that someone call in who opposed the death penalty. I thought that sounded like a great idea, and knowing that I heard Pat talk about God before, about our "Christian nation" and about saying "Christmas" not "holiday" I thought I'd call in and share my religiously based opposition to the death penalty.
I got through the screener and quickly got on the line with Pat. Respectfully, I stated that I was someone who opposed the death penalty and that my opposition was based on my faith. I explained that Romans 12 (I'm a pastor, so the memory verses were on the top of my head) states that vengeance belongs to God, and that we are to repay good for evil. I stated that because of this I could support putting the man away in order to keep him from hurting someone, but that I couldn't condone killing him.
Pat said, "Well that's fine, but this baby was defenseless." I told Pat that this was true and that I was horrified by the story, but that it didn't change what the Bible had to say. Pat then asked me if I really believed that the man in the story could be saved. WHen I told him "Yes" he started to get worked up.
"Do you think Jeffery Dahmer could be saved?" he asked.
He was.. I said, before qualifying that I really had no way of knowing if he was sincere, but that if Pat cared to look it up, Dahmer had confessed faith and been baptized.
So he moved to Charles Manson.
I said that yes, I believed he too could be saved.
Pat then began to channel George W. Bush and began talking about how some people were just evil.
Unwilling to allow this notion to go unquestioned, I began to state enthusiastically that, prior to his conversion, St. Paul had been a terrorist. And David was an adulterer and murderer.
At this point Pat kept talking over me and finished with "I respect that you have your faith but there is just evil in this world."
I thanked him for being respectful, and said to him, "I respectfully ask that you look up the list of people in Hebrews 12 and ask yourself, 'How many of these people were murderers?' and you'll find that it is a lot."
As I made this request he insisted, "I'm not going to do that Aaron. No, I won't do that."
Amused, I thanked him for the time and hung up.
Now, normally I'm not one to start quoting Scripture at people, but I relished the moment as Pat, defender of Christian America and personal friend of Congressman Mike Pence, told me that he wasn't going to read the Bible and that religion didn't have any place in the conversation. Early in the program he had suggested that the man in question be damned to the hottest place in hell. But all of a sudden, God and the after-life were unwelcome intruders in the afternoon drive home.
I do have to say that in it all, despite both of our voices escalating and some interrupting from both of us, Pat never went O'Reilly. He kept his cool, and even defended me somewhat when a later caller said I was a quack and started quoting the Old Testament.
But my call demonstrated something that will always be true in matters of conservative Christian politics - the Bible is the authoritative Word of God right up until it isn't.