Should Politicians Say God Has All the Answers?

Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat running for reelection in the red, red state of Arkansas, is out with a new ad that Ed Kilgore thinks is aimed at pre-Christian right evangelicals who will like the humility in his message that the “Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right.”

Get that? Meaning that sometimes, you know, the Republicans are right. Like when Pryor joined them in voting against an amendment that would have closed a background check loophole in gun laws. Sure, as Kilgore says, Pryor doesn’t go all Louie Gohmert and say every word of the Bible is literally true and should form the template for every law passed by the United States Congress. Instead, it’s a more lightly coded message that’s intended to appeal to his religious constituents, suggesting that the Bible, Pryor’s “north star,” guides all of his decisions. But perhaps you’re not a biblical literalist? Don’t worry: Mark Pryor doesn’t have all the answers. God does. Mark Pryor is just a humble dude who can’t make a clear statement about which political party (even his own!) has the right policy prescriptions for all that ails the country.

Sure, you say, it’s the holiday season and religious political ads are par for the course. (That’s essentially what Paul Waldman has to say about it.) Pryor has long been a proponent of Democrats talking about their faith more because God forbid conservatives think they’re godless communists, so this is no surprise. But here Pryor is trying to have it both ways: the Bible is his guide, but he doesn’t have all the answers, God does, leaving him enough wiggle room to seem bipartisan without actually explaining what his record is and why he has taken the positions he has.

Setting aside the essential question that dogs us here—why in an increasingly pluralistic country do only Christian credentials seem to count as essential for holding public office—does Pryor’s ad actually meet a definition of humility? Or is this statement of faith merely a substitute for owning his voting record?

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email