Here are two rules of American politics: Never let an opponent's attacks go unanswered, and if you're running in the South and have a good reason to be pictured holding a Bible, go for it.
The first is a long-standing rule. The second is hard to argue with.
That explains why Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor has a new ad in which, while holding a Bible and looking earnestly into the camera, he says: "I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God and I believe in his word. The Bible teaches us that no one has all the answers, only God does."
The spot also includes Jesus' famous admonition against hypocrisy drawn from the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not judge or you will be judged," which, if closely adhered to, would make politics impossible.
The ad is the second of Pryor's responses to his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, who said of President Obama and the senator: "Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings."
Pryor's initial response was a news release the day after Cotton's comment. But you can't show off your Bible in a news release the way you can in an ad.
Cotton's remark came after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, which gave closely held, for-profit companies the right, based on their owners' religious beliefs, to deny workers health insurance coverage for contraceptives. It was Cotton's way of saying that he, unlike Pryor and Obama, agreed with the Hobby Lobby decision.
Cotton's spokesman, David Ray, didn't respond to a request for reaction to the senator's ad before this post was published, but I will gladly add any comment from him if he supplies it.
If you're going to hold up a Bible in a political ad, Arkansas would be a good place for it. Like other Bible Belt states, it ranks in the nation's top tier for highest church attendance.
With the few available polls showing Pryor and Cotton in a tight race, some giving Cotton a slight lead, Pryor probably can't afford to lose a single vote. So the ad was aimed straight at those who might waver on him if they started to doubt his Christian faith. The bonus was he also got to portray Cotton as a modern-day Pharisee.