Friday, October 14, 2005

Jesus Is Just Alright With Me

Anyone that stops by here regularly has probably surmised by now that I'm very hard on the conservative Christians. That's no accident, but not necessarily for the reasons that one might think. I come from a family full of conservative Christians and attended a Pentecostal church growing up.

I have a great deal of respect for the teachings of Jesus and I feel that the more politically vociferous Evangelicals are mis-representing the words of a great liberal thinker. To demonstrate, I've decided to list some of what I feel are Jesus' most important lessons and perhaps some reasons why Christians should not be supporting Republican party policies in opposition to their expressed beliefs.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be given mercy." Matthew verse 7.

As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush oversaw a record number of executions and denied clemency when it was asked him. Further, Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay are surely not the constructs of a merciful ideology.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew verse 9.

Bush began an unprovoked war in another country, while taunting the violent extremists our young men and women were fighting (Everyone remembers "Bring it on!", right?). Pat Robertson has openly called for the assassination of a foreign leader. Major evangelical groups including Focus on the Family, The Family Research Council, The 700 Club and The Southern Baptist Convention, just to name a few, encouraged their members to vote for President Bush in 2004, advocating the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war over the peaceful teachings of Jesus. No one that supported war as a first option in Iraq, as Bush surely did, can claim to be following the teachings of Christ.

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31.

Otherwise know as the principal of reciprocity or The Golden Rule. Would the followers of Fred Phelps be willing to have their funerals picketed and their deaths mocked in the way they mocked the death of Matthew Sheppard? Certainly a true Christian cannot believe that Jesus would have approved of treating homosexuals like second-class citizens.

"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."[...]"Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:21, 23 - 24.

As a conservative Evangelical friend of mine pointed out, Jesus is not necessarily against being wealthy. After all, he was friends with Joseph of Arimathea. But Jesus surely didn't support the lusting after of wealth, nor the dedication to things that wealth can bring. The Republican party is the part of the wealthy, for good or ill, and supports legislative goals that shift wealth from the working class to the established wealthy. Christ would have done the opposite, I think.

"I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

The Republican party has been a tireless opponent of any government program that benefits the poor and downtrodden. Social Security, Public Welfare, Bankruptcy Reform,; these issues and more have found the Republican leadership on the opposite side from Christ.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's." Luke 20:25.

Nothing more or less than Jesus expressing a separation between the church and the state. Laws mandating so-called Christian values, even when misinterpreted to the egregious extent that political conservatives do, are intrinsically against the teachings of Jesus. When the church becomes intrinsically linked to the state, the purposes of each become muddled. Both institutions are weakened.

It's also worth noting many of the the things that Jesus doesn't say. For instance, he never condemns homosexuality in any way. He never advocates for his teachings being used as the laws of any nation. He never speaks about abortion nor does he designate a lesser role in society for women.

The point is that the teachings of Christ and the pet causes of social conservatives in the United States are more often in contradiction with each other than in agreement. Jesus was a man of peace, that advocated for the poor and downtrodden. He spoke critically of the established religious and, to some extent, political leadership of his day. He dedicated his life to helping the disadvantaged and teaching others to do the same. These are all characteristics with which we liberals proudly identify and with which conservatives, at least in their public policy stances, clearly do not agree.

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