Roy Herron on religion and politics: Republicans read the Bible and ignore it; Democrats don’t even read it

Roy Herron, soon to be departing as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, talks on one of his favorite topics – religion and politics – in an interview with Marc Perrusquia. (He wrote a book on the subject back in 2005.)

Some excerpts:

A licensed attorney, he plans to rejuvenate his law practice in his hometown of Dresden, Tennessee, when he steps down as the state’s top Democrat on Jan. 10, and he’s considering other business options as well.

He’s also weighing a possible return to the pulpit as a part-time Methodist preacher, a role that tapered off years ago as he concentrated on law and politics.
…“In too many churches, pastors have preached from the pulpit and Sunday school teachers have taught in their classrooms that if you’re a Democrat you can’t be a Christian. And if you’re a Christian, you can’t be a Democrat,” Herron told CNN in 2006 after co-founding FaithfulDemocrats.com, a new media venture with a slogan — “Because Jesus Wasn’t Kidding About Loving Your Neighbor” — and a mission: to close the “God gap” the religious right claims in politics.

“Too many are trying to say that God is spelled G.O.P.”

…“There was a Republican senator who once spelled out the difference between the two parties this way,” said Herron in his Will Rogers-like way, an uncanny ability to deftly sum up a complex issue in a pithy story or two. “A Republican sees a man drowning 50 feet off shore and he throws him 25 feet of rope and encourages him to swim for it. It will be good for him. The Democrat sees the same man and throws him a hundred feet of rope. But instead of pulling him in, he walks off to do other good deeds. Either way, the fellow drowns.”

If you don’t like that one, try this:

“I often say the difference between Republicans and Democrats on the Bible is this: Republicans are biblically ignorant and Democrats are biblically illiterate. Republicans read the Bible and ignore it. Democrats too often don’t even read it. It’s an overstatement, to be sure. But I think too many people in both parties don’t apply scriptural lessons to today’s issues.”

A key scriptural lesson government should heed, Herron said, is the “Judgment of the Nations,” Jesus’ mandate in the Book of Matthew to care for the sick, the poor and the needy. Too often, tea party Republicans ignore that, he said — by resisting raising the minimum wage; by failing to expand TennCare, the state Medicaid program for the needy and uninsured; by failing to adequately support, even “attacking,” public schools.

…Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, said he believes Herron is misguided. Republicans care about the poor, too, he said; they just have a different approach “in terms of getting there to help them.” He called Herron’s position on abortion “hypocritical.”

“Look, Roy is a nice man and has certainly served the state for a long time. And I don’t want to kick him when he’s down,” Devaney said in an interview in November. “But he is wrong about a lot of issues. And I do feel like sometimes that he does hide behind the pulpit. But I think it’s a little disingenuous when you hide behind the pulpit but yet you are advocating issues against pro-life, for example.”