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When Don Lemon interviewed Matt Bevin, a Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate and later governor, and asked him some questions related to the Bible. Lemon, instead of studying the Bible for himself, played a clip from the TV show West Wing where Martin Sheen’s character shows his ignorance of the Bible by attacking the Bible.
James White made some comments about the West Wing clip in a recent Facebook post that challenged Christians to be prepared for such attacks:
Listen to this clip from the TV series “The West Wing” starring Martin Sheen as the President. From what I’ve been able to gather, this aired October 18, 2000.
If you are a serious Christian who wishes to engage our culture as salt and light, bringing to bear God’s truth in the gospel amongst a people intent upon open rebellion against their Creator, you MUST be ready to respond to this kind of argument with something more than “that was just for the Jews.”
The following is an update to an article I wrote on this subject a few years ago.
Sheen’s character attacks a Dr. Laura Schlessinger-type talk show host named Dr. Jenna Jacobs, a talk show host who opposes homosexuality. Sheen’s character is basing the attack on a letter that was written to the real Dr. Laura that has had a significant publication history.
Curiously, Sheen’s character questions the talk show host about her credentials asking if she has a medical degree or a degree in theology. No, she has a degree in English literature. This, of course, was designed to disqualify her.
So, what gave Sheen’s character the authority to make assertions about theological issues since he didn’t have a degree in theology?
Here’s part of what Sheen’s character says to Dr. Jacobs:
My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that’s really important cause we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?
If Don Lemon and the writers of The West Wing were good at their jobs, they would have looked at the Bible to see what it said on these topics and studied what commentators have written over the centuries.
The death penalty for Sabbath breaking is difficult to understand if you are not familiar with the covenantal nature of the testaments. For just one thorough study of the subject, see Dr. Gary North’s article “The Economic Implications of the Sabbath” in his book The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments.
Before a journalist or screen writer deals with a religious topic, he or she should at least know the arguments for a position. Unlike the subject of homosexuality which is condemned in the Old (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) and New Testaments (Rom. 1:25–32; 1 Cor. 6: 9–20; 1 Tim. 1:8–11), the New Testament indicates that some changes have been made to Sabbath observation (Gal. 4:10–11; Col. 2:16) and some corrections by example (Matt. 12:1–2, 5, 8, 10–12). The incident of Paul picking up “a bundle of sticks” (Acts 28:3–6) on the Sabbath (Acts 27:33) seems to indicate that the death penalty for some very particular actions no longer apply under the New Covenant.
The man who picks up sticks on the sabbath and receives the death penalty has a special meaning and was not a universal punishment for violating basic Sabbath laws. James B. Jordan’s comments bring out the meaning of this particular Sabbath violation:
[T]he fact that Nehemiah did not instantly apply the death penalty against those who attempted to engage in trade on the sabbath, but merely shut the gate against them and threatened to drive them away (Neh. 13:19–21). This stands in contrast to the case of the woodgatherer in Numbers 15:32–36.
Had the law clearly stipulated that any and every form of labor incurred the death penalty, Moses would have known what to do; yet we are told that he did not. The reason given in verse 34 [of Exodus 34] is most important: ‘And they put him in custody, because it had not been declared distinctly what should be done to him.’ In other words, this man’s action was not clearly covered by previous legislation…. Exodus 35:3 connects this stipulation with the command not to permit the ‘kindling’ of a fire in any of the dwellings of Israel on the sabbath day [in competition to the altar fire]. … [T]here are peculiar features to the ‘kindling’ of a fire in one’s dwelling that shed light on the kind of ‘work’ that brought with it capital punishment when performed on the sabbath.” 
This all changed in the New Testament since there is no longer a fire to be kindled since Jesus is the once-for-all sacrifice. Paul’s comments in Colossians 2:16–17 states unequivocally that certain Sabbath regulations have been done away with:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
There is a New Testament incident about gathering sticks on the Sabbath to kindle a fire in Acts 28:1–9: “when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out from the heat, and fastened on his hand” (28:3).
Whether the natives started a new fire, or simply kindled up a preexisting one, the passage takes note of the stoking up of a human fire on the “sabbath.” By itself we might pass over this fact, but the text goes on to show Paul gathering wood on this “sabbath”!
In line with the death penalty of the Old Covenant, a snake strikes Paul. The snake comes from the fire, and out of the very bundle of sticks Paul had gathered. Thus, the death penalty is applied to the man who gathered sticks to stoke up his fire on the Lord’s Day. The poison proves ineffective, however. The power of the curse of the Old Covenant has been broken.
Now on to “pig skins” and footballs. A person who touched an unclean animal would only be declared ceremonially “unclean” for a short period of time. There were no civil sanctions for touching or eating unclean or dead animals (Lev. 5:2–3; 7:19, 21; 11:8, 24, 26–27, 36, 39; 15:27; Num. 19:11, 13, 16; Deut. 14:8; Isa. 52:11).
Actually, footballs are not made from pig skin as a quick Google search would show. Even the folks at the Dollar Shave Club know this:
Though early balls were fashioned from pig bladders, the ol’ pigskin was never actually made from pig skin. Today’s footballs don’t consist of pig parts of any kind, having been made from tanned and pebbled cowhide since the late 1800s. 
It’s not hard to be informed today. In fact, a person must try hard not to be informed.
Let’s suppose that footballs are made from pigskin leather. Anyone who touched it would have been considered ceremonially unclean “until evening.”
These food laws went through a change beginning with the ministry of Jesus since He declared all foods to be “clean” (Mark 7:19). Peter, a Jew, is told to “take, kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13) unclean animals which represented the nations and which were to be grafted into a growing New Testament ekklēsia (Acts 5:11; 8:1–2; 9:31; Rom. 11; Eph. 2:11–22).
The last bit of biblical nonsense concerns wearing two types of cloths and planting two different crops in the same field. While these were forbidden for teaching purposes, the punishment was not stoning (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:9, 11). The principles that these ceremonial laws teach, however, were carried over into the New Testament as object lessons:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
Any good journalist would have studied up on this topic instead of using the script of a TV show as his source. These commands were designed to symbolize moral separation from various forms of evil.
One more point. Sandwiched between Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, passages that describe homosexuality as an “abomination,” is Leviticus 19:18 which states, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The passage is quoted often in the New Testament (Matt. 19:19; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9).
There are other laws that have been woven into the body politic of the United States. For example, the requirement of “two witnesses” in an impeachment trial for treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. (Article III, sec. 3).
Then there are laws against murder, theft, and perjury. Of course, many laws that have a biblical foundation are being overturned. It’s no wonder that our nation is becoming more immoral and human life is not respected and every indecent and immoral act is paraded in the streets of our nation’s major cities.