Inside the Bible Beltway

Did you hear about the Capitol Hill bible study that includes members of President Trump’s Cabinet, led by Ralph Drollinger?

Not exactly at the top of everyone’s newsfeed, I’m sure, but it caught my pastor’s eye (and that of a couple FB friends who forwarded links to me). What an opportunity! Leading a Bible study with the leaders of our nation! Dare I presume to share a few biblical texts that I suggest Mr. Drollinger include in that bible study? But first:

If you haven’t heard of Ralph Drollinger? He’s a 7’1″ UCLA basketball star, an All-American who was involved in sports ministry through Sports Outreach America, and Athletes in Action. In 1997 he founded Capitol Ministries, a program of evangelism in each of the U.S. capitols, after he graduated from The Master’s Seminary.

If you haven’t heard of The Master’s Seminary? It’s been around for 30 years, but it’s not accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. The ATS, which accredits 270 schools across the country, says the mission of the ATS is “to promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public.” (ATS itself is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.) The Master’s Seminary is one of many Bible colleges that do not meet its standards.

So Ralph Drollinger didn’t graduate from an ATS accredited institution and he is not credentialed as a pastor by any denomination. So what? He obviously is a dedicated Christian, and anybody can lead a bible study, right? Of course! But you’d think members of our nation’s Cabinet, this powerful group of people in Washington, would bring the most knowledgeable scholars with PhDs in biblical studies to help them glean insights so they might better understand their biblical calling as Christian leaders in the federal government!

But they didn’t. So I guess it’s up to me. Here am I, rushing in where angels fear to tread. Not a PhD scholar, but what I learned about the bible (and Jesus) in seminary leads me to offer a few suggestions for Mr. Drollinger. Here are a few biblical texts and “launching” questions that I hope would bring new insight to the faithful in his Bible Beltway study.

First, since these Cabinet officials really are just beginning their tenure, I’d suggest they take a close look at the text Jesus used at the start of his messianic tenure. Read Luke 4:16-21. Then ask participants to name the groups Jesus says he will bring good news to. Write on newsprint as they name them: the poor, prisoners, those in need of health care, and the oppressed. Ask what implications this has for their calling as Christians in this administration. If additional references are needed to facilitate conversation, read and discuss Isaiah 1:16-17, Jeremiah 22:15-16, and of course, Matthew 25:31-45.

Second, the news article stated that Mr. Drollinger began his bible study with the Sermon on the Mount; I’d suggest that he now distribute a copy of the sermon on the plain (Luke 6:20-25). They’ll immediately see in Luke that Jesus adds four “woes” to the “blesseds.” Ask them to name and list them on newsprint: the blesseds are for the poor, the hungry, those who weep; and the woes are directed to the rich, the full, and ones who are laughing now. Ask your Capitol Hill participants which group they identify with, and why. Give them a few minutes of silence to reflect. Then ask them to identify how each of those groups would be treated in the current administration’s policy agenda. What would Jesus do? Be specific.

Third, since President Trump reportedly receives a copy of Mr. Drollinger’s scripture teaching each week, I’d suggest the Cabinet members should do a special word study. This also has the benefit of teaching bible research skills! First, have them read in unison, out loud, Matthew 23:11-12: “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Set up several teams (depending on attendance, which may have diminished after the first two lessons). Using biblical concordances, they should look up “exalt” and “humble” and write as many biblical references to these terms as fast as they can. Give extra points for also listing related word forms, like “humility.”

This teaching about humility is self-explanatory, of course, however to drive home the point, when they’ve finished, tell the team bragging about having the most references they don’t win anything! Note this also makes an excellent memory verse for members of the cabinet, not to mention President Trump.

Well, it looks like I’m at my Hebrews 11:32 moment: “What shall I say, time will not allow me to tell” all that I’d like to suggest. I haven’t even mentioned Galatians 3:23-28, that great manifesto of equality! But I stop here because I realize this Galatians passage may be difficult for Mr. Drollinger. The Master’s Seminary has an all-white-male faculty and states its purpose is “equipping men for a lifetime of effective service in the church” (emphasis mine). So Galatians 3:28 might stretch him a bit.

But wait, that’s what’s supposed to happen to those of us in teaching roles! “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)

May God bless to our understanding these scripture readings, and to God’s name be all praise and glory! Amen.

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