Obama Misuses the Bible . . . Again

The Bible is a convenient prop for liberals. They’ll quote it if they believe there’s something in it that can be used to support one of their government-led pet projects. On a number of occasions, President Obama has appealed to the Bible and the principle of “my brother’s keeper” to promote government programs by way of guilt manipulation:

“After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success, and we’re committed to building on what works. And we call it My Brother’s Keeper.”

The photograph below is from one of the meetings of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Notice the chalk drawing and lyrics from John Lennon’s atheist hymn “Imagine” that includes “imagine . . . no religion” and “no possessions.” So how does philanthropy work if there is no God (thus survival of the fittest) and people don’t have any possessions? When Lennon was murdered in 1980, he left “a staggering monetary legacy estimated at $275 million — not bad for one who referred to himself as an ‘instinctive socialist,’ for one who believed in the abolition of ‘all money, police, and government.'”1

Obama used the “my brother’s keeper” narrative again at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree:

“As we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, and the Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago. A message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers.”

“My brother’s keeper” is taken from Genesis 4:9, and does not mean what President Obama thinks it means. A “keeper” is someone who keeps animals in controlled and confined areas. Here’s how the conversation between God and Cain goes after Cain kills Abel: “Where is Abel your brother?” And [Cain] said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Hebrew word for “keeper” is used for a shepherd who keeps sheep in a pen (1 Sam. 17:20). Is this the image that President Obama has in mind? He most likely does not, but most government programs treat people like sheep in need of a keeper. In the end, the sheep get fleeced of their rights, dignity, and possessions.

Abel was not an animal that needed “keeping.” The State has been the “keeper” of the poor for so long that many of them act like sheep and often turn to the State which is a false shepherd. Dr. Gary North’s comments on Genesis 4:9 from his economic commentary on Genesis, Sovereignty and Dominion, are well worth reading:

“Unfortunately, the passage has become a familiar one in liberal political and theological circles. ‘My brother’s keeper’ has become a catch phrase. More to the point, ‘your brother’s keeper’ has become the shibboleth of shibboleths of the so-called Social Gospel movement,2 second only to ‘the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.’

“The standard explanation of this passage — completely out of context — is that each man owes his neighbor a great deal. Specifically, we all collectively owe each other life, liberty, and property, especially property, and most importantly, property confiscated from the rich through political action. We are supposedly the legal guardians of the poor, the infirm, and the feebleminded. We have this responsibility not as Christian individuals, members of churches, or contributors to voluntary charities, but as members of the body politic.”

A “keeper” implies control of “a flock of docile, stupid, incompetent, wandering, helpless, and very profitable sheep. The primary economic function of sheep is, after all, to be sheared.”

Democrats love to be keepers of other people’s money and the voters who keep them in power.

When a liberal says to you, “The Bible says you are your brother’s keeper,” how should you answer?

“’I am not my brother’s keeper, nor am I a sheep to be kept by my brother, my neighbor, or the political representatives of either my brother or my neighbor. I am my brother’s brother.’ This is the proper answer to the misused phrase, ‘Aren’t you your brother’s keeper?’

*****

“All of this is not to deny in any way our moral responsibilities toward brothers in need. However, we must not expect to find guidelines for brotherly charity in this passage of Scripture. All that we learn about brotherhood in this passage is that we are not to murder our brothers. It has nothing to do with the hypothetical charity of tax-funded professional ‘keepers.’” (North, Sovereignty and Dominion, 183.))

President Obama, like so many others, does not understand the biblical meaning of “my brother’s keeper.” What is often promoted as philanthropy most often ends up becoming government confiscation of wealth and welfare dependency.


  1. David A. Noebel, The Legacy of John Lennon: Charming or Harming a Generation? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 11. There’s evidence that Lennon later distanced himself from some of this early radical views. See Gary DeMar, “John Lennon: Anti-Socialist and Theist.” 

  2. Ronald C. White, Jr. and C. Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel: Religion and Reform in Changing America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976). 

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Gary DeMar

Gary DeMar was raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and Reformed Theological Seminary (1979). He has served as researcher and writer at the Christian Worldview ministry American Vision since 1980 and President since 1984. Today he serves as Senior Fellow at American Vision where he lectures, researches, and writes on various worldview issues. Gary is the author of 30 books on a variety of topics – from "America’s Christian History" and "God and Government" to "Thinking Straight in a Crooked World" to "Last Days Madness." Gary has been interviewed by Time magazine, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the BBC, and Sean Hannity. He has done numerous radio and television interviews, including the “Bible Answer Man,” hosted by Hank Hanegraaff and “Today’s Issues” with Tim Wildmon and Marvin Sanders. Newspaper interviews with Gary have appeared in the Washington Times, Toledo (Ohio) Blade, the Sacramento Bee, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Marietta Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Chicago Tribune.

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