Friday, June 1, 2012

Jesus vs. American "christians"

Probably everyone has already seen or heard of this video clip in which a Republican congressman loses it on the Illinois house floor.

I live in the middle of a very Religious City.  I think I saw recently where it was in the top rankings for religious cities in the country.  I don't have time to hunt down the link, but supposedly 53% percent of people in my city attend  Christian services or at least self-report that they do.  There are 800 +/- churches in the greater metro area.

The odds are good that if a person is white, older and female, they go to church.  If they are Christians, the odds are good that they (for some inexplicable reason) are also pro-everything Rush Limbaugh likes, anti-everything Rush Limbaugh hates, and are registered Republican.  This actually makes no sense if they were actual disciples of Jesus.

Though Jesus never took a side as far as politics go, he did take up for the outcast (lepers, blind, disabled for any reason), the marginalized (tax collectors, women of ill repute), the foreigner (Samaritan, Syro-Phonecian, Roman), and the economically disadvantaged (compassion on the crowds with no food, the widow(s) at the temple).  Nowhere did Jesus favor the rich or the powerful religious elites, in fact he warned people to watch out not to become like them (beware the leaven...) and warned them not to seek to become  rich (seek you first the kingdom, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom...).

So, it seems pretty plain to me that if you are against universal health care, you are not following Jesus in desiring to heal the sick.  If you are against public assistance for the disabled, you are not following Jesus in having compassion for the economically/socially disadvantaged.  If you are in favor of further labeling and marginalizing gay people as "abominations", you are not following Jesus in showing acceptance and welcome to the marginalized.  If you want to build a big fence to electrocute people fleeing privation/starvation in hopes of providing a better future for their children here in America, in fact if you want to do anything other than make it easier for these people, both by ending American imperialist policies that hurt their own economies (drug wars?) and making an easier process for them to immigrate legally, then you are not following Jesus in showing compassion to the foreigners among us.  If you demonize people who are poor and hungry as too lazy to work and begrudge assisting them in any way, you are not following Jesus in showing honor and offering real help to the poor and the hungry.

If you praise the rich as being  "successful", claiming they are more virtuous than other people, you listen to Rush with more intention than you read your Bible.  The Bible is full of pronouncements of judgement (the disapproval of God) on the rich and those who strive to be rich.  There is no way you can be a disciple of Jesus and call the mega-wealthy "job creators".  The two opinions of the wealthy elite (Rush Limbaugh vs. Jesus) stand in stark contrast.  I suppose you could point to the prosperity promised observant Jews in the Old Testament as proof that wealth means God approves of you, but you can't point to anything Jesus said or did that upholds that belief. Paul goes as far as to state plainly (in more than one way in more than one epistle) that Jesus is the end of the Law.  If you're following Jesus, the Old Testament law is irrelevant.  The  new command of Jesus is the only one that matters:

  1. John 13:34
    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one anotheras I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
  2. John 15:12
    This is my commandment, That ye love one anotheras I have loved you.
Which is why it is inexplicable to me, and so ugly, that  today's evangelical equates being Republican with being Christian.  It makes absolutely no sense.  Anyone who takes the call to follow Jesus seriously can not in good conscience align themselves with the current Republican party.  Go ahead and try.  It just doesn't stand up to scrutiny if you actually read the Bible and want to obey Jesus.  

So, any thoughtful Christian would decry the actions of the congressman from Illinois, right?  After all, the New Testament is pretty plain that the congressman's actions* (railing:  to complain by being harsh and angry (usually followed by "at" or "against") are declared something that disciples of Jesus should clearly not be doing  (I Tim 6:4; I Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 2:11; Jude 1:9).  

That doesn't even take into account the many places Christians are admonished to be kind, gentle, bless and curse not, and to cultivate the lovely fruit of self-control.  There is absolutely no way this rant of a crazed lunatic could qualify as Christian or garner the praise of Christians, right?  Right?!  Right!?!?!

Yeah, not right.  In the break room at a local business, when this childish churl came up on the television, the outspoken Christian in the break room cheered for him, clapped, exulted over his (uninformed and childish) rant.  Worse, her co-worker chimed in a belated "Amen!"  These are the same people who openly sneered at me last year when I remarked that I had nothing against gay folks getting married if they had the courage to go for it.  

These two women probably think they are "good Christians".  I am confident they are Republican.  If a Democrat had engaged in similar behavior, they would be loudly denouncing how "ungodly" the congressman was behaving.  If any one they hated, a gay person or an immigrant or a lawyer for the ACLU, behaved in similar manner, it would probably be reckoned as one more justifying reason for their hatred.  Yet because a Republican cursed, screamed, threw things and whined about not getting his way,  they actually applauded.

I fear for my country.  Pastors openly call for child abuse against boys who love and emulate their mothers, for state executions of gay people,  for ending access to birth control for women and taking away women's right to vote.  They would like to end affirmative action  laws so they can go back to discriminating against minorities in the work place without penalty.  I have heard all these things in either sermons broadcast on the internet, read them in books or witnessed it in person by a pastor from the pulpit.  I even heard one pastor declare that slavery was not wrong, because the Bible supported it, but he wouldn't elaborate because it was not "politically correct".  Uh, dude, it's way worse than that.  Unless nothing would please you more than becoming a slave,  which I doubt, there is no way you can love another person and enslave them at the same time.  It just can't be done.

Which proves my point: Jesus is no longer necessary for American evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.  They have the Bible, which they love way more and gives them permission to love what the current Republican party stands for ONLY IF THEY REMOVE/IGNORE THE WORDS AND LIFE OF CHRIST.  That's exactly what they do.  It's the only way a person who knows how to read could both claim to be a "christian" and honor the rich, slander the poor, ignore the sick, hate homosexuals and resent immigrants.  They have to love their politics more than they love their "lord" if in fact they publicly honor politicians who rail, curse and throw things when Republican legislation isn't passed swiftly.  

As a person truly smitten with Jesus, modern American Christianity disgusts me.  I am reminded  of a saying I heard recently, "Mixing politics with religion is like mixing manure with ice cream.  It does nothing for the manure (politics) but it ruins the ice cream (religion)."  

I haven't been to church regularly since last October.  I don't plan to attend  more than once a month for the foreseeable future.  Once you've been handed a manure-laden ice cream cone, it sort of puts you off of ice cream altogether, even when there is no manure added into the current edition.  *shudder*

There was a time when being ugly and rude was socially unacceptable, and it was largely because of religion that this was true.  But what will happen to our city, our country, when religion is the force behind public demonstrations of hate and violence? If things don't turn around in our society soon, we may find out.  

So while it was easy yesterday to just get up and walk out of the break room, I am concerned that one day not joining in will be enough to have my fellow citizens denounce ME openly. For those who scoff that America will never become so ugly, I hope you are right.  I once thought the church would be a place that promotes peace and advocates for the poor, but reality has dissuaded me of that notion.  Once the church has gone off the rails (and it has) what will keep the whole country from following?

PS The congressman's words were wrong anyway!  The Constitution of the United States of America clearly calls for the role of Speaker of the House.   "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."   You can read the entire text of the Constitution of the United States of America online here:



    I've seen this done a couple of ways in various theological systems.

  2. Shadowspring,
    I aspire to what you are saying, but in practicality I am wondering how it fleshes itself out-just like pacifism. I would like peace, but when confronted, would definitely vote to defend my country from attack. I love Scott Adams' Dogbert hoping to get everyone to believe in pacifism so that he can take over without any resistance.
    Not that I'm holding on to any of my old beliefs, but I was always taught that those passages on "turning the other cheek" had to do with individual relationships, not governmental.
    Just trying to explore your thoughts on this topic.

  3. You don't have to be a pacifist to stand up for human dignity and human rights. You don't have to start wars, or even fight in them if you do your work soon enough, to defend the undefended. Loving your neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, healing the sick, caring for widows and orphans (and modern-day socially disenfranchised equivalent demographics), is not in any opposition to pacifism.

    You can start with your vote--don't vote for anyone who spews hatred, don't vote for any referendum that marginalizes anyone or reduces the rights of individuals. Vote, lobby for, promote public and private policies that do the things that Jesus preached. Vote against, protest, and get vocal about laws, local mores, and social trends that oppose the things that Jesus preached.

  4. My entire post was about how Jesus advocated treating our neighbors- you know, those people living next to us, in our cities, our states, our country. I don't believe I discussed nationalism (though as a Christian I am not a huge fan; we are to live as strangers and pilgrims on earth ourselves, looking for a better country to belong to, according to the author of Hebrews at least) or war at all.

    If I need to go on record as far as war, or any self-defense really, my personal position is that I would not take another person's life to defend my own. I would take a life to protect the defenseless were it to be my responsibility (love your neighbor, stand up for the oppressed) to do so. I would take any non-lethal stand against someone personally bullying me, starting by passively turning the other cheek, and progressing on to vacating the area where possible. I consider it my duty to my fellow man to advocate against oppression more actively, but I would not do violence in support of my position.

    I don't believe America is "a Christian nation". That's bull hocky. Nations are political entities, not persons. (By the way, corporations aren't people either. However people run both nations and corporations, and those so charged do have ethical responsibilities to the people whose lives are affected by their decisions.Ethics do not depend on religion.)

    But if it were possible to be a "Christian nation", then in order to be honest disciples, yup, we would have to eschew war if at all possible. But considering what-if a nation could be "Christian" is like considering how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is completely irrelevant to real life, so why bother?

  5. As an American, one small member of that political collective called the USA, I would like to make a few points about your desire to "defend my country from attack."

    The United States hasn't been attacked by a foreign nation since Pearl Harbor. No "conflict" since that time has been to protect our fellow citizens or defend the powerless within our borders. The attacks on 9/11 were criminal ventures on a grand scale, but our country was not attacked by another country. Just wanted to make sure you were clear on that.

    The "War on Terror" is stupid and Orwellian. War on an emotion? How can you ever win (or even end) a war on an emotion?

    A war on terrorISTS is possible, I suppose. But then we shall have to broaden our front on the war much wider. Shall we dispatch troops against the Aryan Brotherhood then? The Ku Klux Klan? Black Panthers? Grey Panthers?

    Who gets to define the word "terror"? Who is the enemy in this war?

    According to my son, the government considers computer hacking an act of terrorism. Shall we do violence to the young people of the world in the fight against "terror"? Is hacking a facebook account on the same level as hacking a government web page? Is interfering with the loading of a government web interface (web page) on the same level as hacking into an internal system, like a government database or secure email server?

    And why are we not using the criminal justice system to try and convict criminals? Why declare "war" at all? So that torture and indefinite detention of accused criminals ("terrorists") can be justified in the public imagination? It seems to have worked so far, and has been expanded to include American citizens accused of "supporting" (not even willfully or knowingly, just accused of acts interpreted as "supporting") an organization declared a "terrorist" organization by the government.

    The outrage of Americans over the criminal mass murders committed on 9/11 has been used to justify a lot of bloodshed, torture and injustice. Nearly twice as many military personnel have died in the War on Terror (
    than citizens died on 9/11. I have no idea how huge that number gets when you count the large number of disabled vets, plus all the non-military people (American and foreign) in Iraq and Afghanistan that have died.

    Our desire for vengeance over justice has really magnified the death and destruction of 9/11 many times over. How much bloodshed do you personally feel is necessary to make you feel well-defended, Ann? Just wondering what your thoughts are on this topic.

    What about personally as a Christian, and then also as a part of the political organization we call the USA?

  6. @Sandra... I agree.
    @Shadowspring: Again, in theory, I would like to embrace Jesus' words to love all people. It's simple and I can see the beauty in it. Personally, I would like to aim for a world where I respond in understanding and love toward those that offend me and in addition,aggressively advocate for the oppressed. I cannot, however, shed my desire to protect myself with force if I deem necessary. I just don't see that as prudent. Having said that, I can see the contradiction in my position on that and my desired beliefs.

    As to the discussion of us as a nation, I would have to believe from everything that you said that you would not have a different set of policies for our governing body aside from Jesus' injunctions. For instance, I am assuming that you would not believe in the death penalty because murder is forbidden. I can see the consistency in your viewpoint. I am not ready to embrace that for reasons of my own deduced practicality.
    I am seeing the logic in your views on 9/11. Yes, I think we could have pursued these acts of violence in a criminal justice system. We did not step back to consider this. We certainly have reacted to simply make our presence known without thinking.

    In addition to this,we are indeed, flawed, in our thinking to demonize certain evils, and not others.

    On a sidenote,if hacking is a terroristic crime, I, myself, have a little 15 year-old terrorist residing in my home.

    I started my discussion in the previous post questioning the wisdom in putting Jesus' words into action on a national level. Are you saying that you aren't considering that in your worldview because it is impossible to have that discussion due to your recognition that we are just a collection of citizens, not an entity? I would like to understand how we can be effective advocates if we are not considering the practicality of these doctrines on a national level. For instance, you mentioned immigration. Of course, I would like to welcome the downtrodden and poor to our country for better opportunities; and, yes, I do see that as a reflection of Jesus' words. BUT, I have reservations as to the wisdom of this for us financially. Read: healthcare.

    Totally changing the subject, I appreciate your challenge for me to think about the cost of our desire to defend ourselves- all the lost lives. I admit that I have not thoroughly thought this through.

    I can't agree with you on the citizens in heaven thing because that was used in my past to excuse too much fake spirituality. It has been used as such a cop out to deflect political discussions such as these. You aren't doing that because you are, in fact, fleshing these discussions out.

    Antother comment:I don't think that we are a Christian nation. As you said, one can never be; nor can it be defined. As I said erlier, I am trying to understand the viability of putting Jesus' words into effect in a national setting. In my view, that would be the supreme test of how absolutely true his words are. I am currently unwilling to do this because I don't see it as wise.

    P.S. What is your opinion on the US' role in Syria?

  7. Let's see, which don't believe in the death penalty because too many people are wrongly convicted and executed. As long as people are alive there is a chance the innocent could be exonerated. Once they are dead, you can clear their name but you can't give their life back. That's why I am against the death penalty.

    Citizens motivated by their own hearts and minds advocate according to their own conscience. Since so many claim America is a Christian nation, and those same EXACT people are the ones advocating public policies that exploit the poor, ignore the sick, legislate penalties for marginalized people on the basis that they find them "unChristian"- those are the people I am outright calling hypocrites and liars.

    Hypocrites, because they claim America is a Christian nation, but then they advocate for national policies that are in direct contradiction to the commands of Christ.

    Liars because they deny this is what they are doing. They claim to be "restoring America to it's spiritual foundation" etc. but all they are doing is the same old same old that everyone in the world does:

    Favor the rich, exploit the poor, exclude the foreigner (keep your hands off my stash!), and generally look out for number one.

    That's human nature. There's nothing especially egregious about it for anyone EXCEPT those who claim to be advocating for Jesus.

    If you think it's more prudent, well much of evolution appears to be on your side. On the other hand, we evolved altruism for a reason too.

    Your social experiment of a nation following the counsel of Jesus to his disciples as some kind of test of whether his words are absolutely true sounds very strange to me. I don't know what you mean.

    You do remember that Jesus wound up crucified by the religious elites of his day. I think anyone following his life and words can expect similar treatment. I am not sure what it is you are trying to say.

    As for the US role in Syria, ask Hillary Clinton. She probably has enough information to answer that question. I am quite sure I do not.

    Peace and good will, SS

  8. Oops, poor (actually none) edit. "which"= "I" in first sentence.

  9. A young friend of mine posts what a world following Jesus would like:

    So, stop pretending Jesus is all that to you if you are a nationalistic, power-mongering, self-centered greedy person. That's all. By all means, vote Republican, but stop claiming you are "taking America back for God" and other such nonsense. That's the point.

    1. LMAO I can't get over the fact that someone is called Ignacious George. My husband used to joke that we were going to name each of our kids that because he knew they were my two most hated names. Too funny.

    2. I am so glad it made you smile!!!!=D

  10. My view on one aspect of taking Jesus at his word: