Three things stand out for me in this clip from Tuesday night’s coverage of the Alabama Senate race in the USA where Doug Jones won.
On Tuesday night, following the US election where Doug Jones won, Jake Tapper speaks with one of Roy Moore’s spokespeople who doesn’t think Muslims should be allowed in Congress – because they have to swear on the bible. Jake Tapper helps him out with some necessary information about what people can swear on. He’s on the right track…and he almost gets it.
You can watch it here. (it’s only 1 minute)
Three things stand out for me in this clip:
Who can swear:
It intrigues me what we will use to exclude people. Now it’s about what we think we have to swear on for an oath. This clip shows an apparent lack of understanding about why we do this – and the purpose(and history) of using the Bible in North America. Plus, there is no recognition that this act of allegiance and commitment could involve some choice.
What we swear on:
Jake Tapper rightly tried to provide some insight and education. He explains that people can choose what they swear on so that it’s meaningful for them. (I’m not sure about that, but I have found a link that suggests you can affirm rather than swear. Here it is.)
The “meaningful” part is the point of using the Bible (which, by the way comes up in autocorrect if not capitalized): In a land that colonized Indigenous People and disregarded their beliefs, post-colonization USA (and Canada) were built by people who were Christian. The colonizers infused their beliefs and ways of being/doing things into systems, practices, and laws. Hence, if you were going to swear an oath, the Bible was the choice book to use because of those Christian beliefs.
Fast forward to today, where we have people living in North America from all over the world – and the Bible is not everyone’s holy book. How do we strive for inclusion?
“The law is not that you have to swear on a Christian Bible,” Jake Tapper says. His comments were met with a blank stare. I am still laughing about that blank stare because it clearly shows “does not compute”.
Why we don’t get it:
Let’s consider why this information does not make sense to this spokesperson.
He is Christian. Using a bible works for him. He’s done it three times, he tells Jake.
He, like many people, has likely never thought about why the bible us commonly used (in North America) or that there could be other options. That’s an example of bias. We live in a Christian-based society and many of these Christian-inspired actions live on without the critical awareness to go with them. His blank stare says it all.
If you ask the right questions you’ll find many of us with those stares.
Jake Tapper tried. He’s on the right track, and he means well.
But here’s another example of bias: He says you don’t have to swear on a Christian Bible. You can swear on any bible, he goes on to say, like a Jewish bible for instance.
I know what he is trying to say. He’s offering examples of sacred texts. But the word to describe texts that are spiritually meaningful is not “bible”. Each wisdom tradition has its own word for the text that it draws on. For example: Jewish people read the Torah, and Muslim people read the Qur’an.
Jake Tapper’s mistake is another example of the way Christianity has seeped into the fabric of societies, causing us to assume words like “bible” are interchangeable, and not a title for a specific text.
So Jake Tapper gets points for highlighting out some forms of religious bias (and ignorance) but, like all of us, there is still work to do in unearthing some of the more subtle examples.