The foundation of Dr. Ben Carson’s political following rests on his credentials as a Conservative Christian ideologue; any of the pathological lies he utters about his personal past are ignored as the “Secular Humanist” Media, or alternately the imaginary “Liberal Media” distorting what their Good Christian Crusader may say, no matter how absurd or inconsistent it seems to all those not brainwashed into Religious Right dogma. So the fact that Doctor Ben has used fetal stem cells in past research is ignored, so long as he states he is against the use of fetal stem cell research. Likewise, when in the debates he states he is opposed to raising the minimum wage, even when last April he was for it, well, that’s just more of the Liberal Media trying to confuse us with facts. It is therefore irrelevant to his supporters that Doctor Ben is a pathological liar: he is a Good Christian (so he says) and that’s all they know and need to know.
Trying to cite facts to the true believers of the Religious Right is akin to how trying to argue with traditional Leninist/Stalinist true believers used to be: they have their dialectic and everything that does not fit into it is willfully ignored. So, when the Religious Right starts citing chapter and verse to justify trickle down economics and social Darwinism and all the other long disproved Republican propaganda masquerading as economics, it is useless to try to argue modern realities with them; their biblical dialectic won’t allow it. However, like many Bible thumpers who claim to take the Good Book literally and are fond of using it for their economic and political beliefs, Ben Carson and the Religious Right are notoriously selective when it comes to citing examples from the Bible. It goes back to the old adage: the Devil can quote the Bible to suit his purposes. It is therefore quite legitimate to call Doctor Ben out when he justifies his wrong-headed ideas by basing them on the Bible, when in fact the Old and New Testaments do not support or justify those ideas.
Let’s start with Doctor Ben’s latest honker about the pyramids being ancient granaries and then move on to his more dangerous theories. Now I make no claims to being a Biblical scholar, nor a theologian for that matter; but I did spend a few years of my mis-spent youth studying Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology, including both Egyptology and the history of Eretz Israel. I was taught by eminent Egyptologists such as Dr. Helene Kantor and Professor Klaus Baer, as well as other stellar luminaries of the Biblical history and Assyriology, and while I cannot claim to aspire to their expertise in the subject, I did manage to stay awake in their lectures to understand that what Doctor Ben and his followers believe is utter garbage. Firstly, the Story of Joseph, as recorded in the Old Testament, was written to about the eighth century BC, although it refers to events preceding the Exodus, which most scholars place towards the end of the New Kingdom, sometime towards the end of the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age (anywhere between the 14th and 12th centuries BC give or take). Now admittedly, since academics still debate about the date of Exodus, there is a bit of wiggle room here—but not a lot. The Pyramid Age—when the pyramids were constructed—was the Old Kingdom (ca. 2700-2100 BC), nowhere near in time to either the Story of Joseph or Exodus. The other fact is that the pyramids were primarily the tombs of the ancient kings of Egypt and while their also held the king’s treasure trove, they were never, ever used as granaries, either in the Old Kingdom or later: FACT NOT THEORY.
While Doctor Ben’s whacko theories about the pyramids may seem amusing, it points to a mind that is not only profoundly ignorant, but also refuses to learn differently. His pyramid theory was not just an off the cuff remark; the other night Steven Colbert’s researchers dug up an old clip of Carson as a young man also proclaiming the same theory. Apparently this man holds onto mistaken beliefs like a bulldog gnawing an old bone: facts that get in the way of his contrived theories are ignored. This man is dangerously ignorant.
If one were to use the Story of Joseph for something other than its moral teaching value (its original intent) there is, however, a lesson in economics to be learned from the Bible tale. Pharaoh, as you may recall, had a strange dream where seven lean cows devoured seven fat cows; Joseph was summoned to interpret the odd dream and divined that Egypt would have seven years of plenty followed by seven lean years of famine. So, according to the story, on Joseph’s advice, the Pharaoh did indeed build granaries to house the surplus—not give it away to corporations and billionaires—and when the lean years came, (as they always do) the food was distributed to the population. The Story of Joseph, therefore, is a classic example of the virtue of deficit spending during an economic downturn. The Greeks told a lot of false tales about the ancient kings of Egypt that we still hear, but whatever you may think of them, at least the ancient kings of Egypt looked after their people and made sure the poor did not starve—and if you want to look to the Bible for economic policy, the Story of Joseph is as good a starting place as any.
Doctor Ben has also cited the Bible as his authority for instituting a flat tax when he becomes King—I mean President. Here again, he has done a bit of selective reading when it comes to the OT. Yes indeed, the ancient Israelites did have a Tithe—a flat ten percent tax—on agricultural products; but they also had a Temple Tax, plus a non-agricultural Tithe—whereby you gave ten percent of your income to the poor! The Temple Tax was a small fixed amount regardless of income limited to adult males over 20; whereas the tithes were based on your income; that is, AN INCOME TAX. Now the tithes were actually proportional, which is to say PROGRESSIVE INCOME TAXES, since those who were poor were either relieved of paying the tithe or allowed to pay a lesser percentage than 10; conversely, those who were wealthy were obligated to pay 20% of their income instead of the standard rate. There were a number of other duties and customs as well: for example, there was the custom of gleaning, whereby the poor were allowed to go through the fields after harvest and collect the grains which had fallen to the ground and to take away whatever they could carry on their person. Unlike modern America, where law and politics are totally divorced from morality, despite the hypocritical utterings of the Religious Right, to the ancient Israelites the Law was fundamentally moral in nature and social justice was engrained into every aspect of it—kind of what we would call Socialism today.
Now, if we go to the New Testament, what we find is not Socialism, but outright Communism in early Christianity. Do phrases like “give up all your worldly goods to the poor and follow me” or “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the Kingdom of God” ring a bell? In fact there is a passage in the New Testament where it explicitly states that the early Christian communities held their property in common. This is where the old communistic tradition in Christianity comes from: be they the Benedictines (who ran my old alma mater) or the Protestant Amana Colony of Iowa, or splinter sects like the Shakers (good music, but the celibacy was a little rough on the early American pioneers so they kind of petered out). By comparison, Marxism is just a recent fad compared to the Socialism/Communism of the Old and New Testament.
Now I am not telling anyone to go thou and do likewise: the Bible is a collection of texts intended for spiritual instruction and moral guidance; it is not an economics textbook, still less is it a biology or climatology textbook. Evolution and Global Climate Change are scientific facts, not opinions; if your theology conflicts with scientific fact, the problem is not with the Bible, OT or NT, but with your interpretation of those ancient sources of wisdom. Don’t put that one on God; and don’t use God and the Bible to justify a hypocritical belief system which puts billionaires’ privileges ahead of the common good. You don’t have to use the Bible as your guide to economics, but then again, there are worse guides to go by for economic guidance—just don’t cherry pick what suits you.