BLASPHEMY | 1998-12-05

One thing the reader may notice about my opinions is that I never claim that God agrees with me.

I am about the only antiliberal political writer I know who does not claim that his words are dictated directly from On High.

There is nothing new about the religious right. I remember when the left claimed that everything it stood for was straight from the mouth of God. On the right, William Buckley always went straight to theology to explain his opinions whenever he was at a loss for any rational argument.

One thing I noticed about the religion Buckley and the left quoted was that it always kept up with "the times." Buckley's bedrock Eternal Truth never got out of hand. It never said anything that would absolutely alienate fashionable opinion in New York City.

Unlike other commentators, I have a problem when it comes to claiming God's sanction for my opinions. Claiming that one speaks for God is, if you take the Bible seriously, a hideously dangerous undertaking.

I was raised in a literate family in the Bible Belt. I have some familiarity with what the Bible actually says. This is much more of a rarity than it sounds like, because very few people really know much about the Bible.

I have watched well-dressed, literate, Bible-church people state flatly that the Bible says, quote, "All men are created equal." I have heard people use "The poor we have always with us" to show that Jesus' big concern was the poor, and "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" to demonstrate Jesus' attitudes on the proper distribution of money.

All this is wrong to the point of lunacy.

But to get right to the present point, I have always had a clear idea of what blasphemy is.

Blasphemy. Now there's a concept you don't ever hear about these days. The first time I ever heard the word "blasphemy" was when I was about twelve. We were talking about suicide being the only unforgivable sin, and, as sometimes happens in the literate Bible Belt, someone showed me a quote in the Bible about another unforgivable sin. It was called blasphemy.

The point was, here was a quote in the Bible that referred to blasphemy as a sin that could be unforgivable. If you claim you are God, or that you speak for God, you are taking on a supernatural responsibility. I, for one, am in no position to take on that responsibility.

It doesn't seem to bother anybody else at all.

I used the word "blasphemy" in a letter to The State newspaper a couple of years ago. I bet it was the only time that word was used in exactly its proper sense in that newspaper in many, many years. I used it in connection with the sudden conversion of Governor David Beasley. It is hard for us to remember today, but when he was first elected, David Beasley had big plans to be a vice presidential possibility on the national Republican ticket. All the respectable conservatives told him that, in order to become a vice presidential prospect, he had to get that Confederate flag down from the state capitol dome.

But before Beasley could take that flag down, he had to get the vote and active support of people who liked that flag being up there. He needed their support in 1994, to get himself elected. He needed their support in 1996, to carry the state for Dole.

In short, he needed the backing of those who wanted the Confederate flag to stay over the state capitol until November of 1996.

So in December of 1996, Beasley did what every conservative does when he decides to turn on his fellow conservatives: he declared that God told him to do it. He said that, the night before the Baptist Convention, he had stayed up until 3 AM asking God's guidance on the subject of the flag. God came through. That flag had to come down.

The clear implication was that God had told him to take the position he needed to take, and right on time.

Yes, Virginia, that is blasphemy.

I said so in my letter to The State. I have yet to hear a single other person, among all those columnists and writers of letters who claim to speak for God, mention blasphemy.

Maybe there is a reason that folks who claim they represent God don't want to talk too much about that particular sin.