January 8, 2014 7:56 AM

Just think what Christians might accomplish if they actually read their Bibles, eh?

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defended the Republican Party’s spending cuts for SNAP by effectively declaring Jesus would not support food stamps for the poor because most them are drug addicts. If his insensitive remark is inconsistent with Scripture, which it is, then the question becomes why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support? The answer is simple: Conservatives have not read the Bible…. The truth, whether Republicans like it or not, is not only that Jesus a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors, but conservatives were the ones who had him killed. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus into a muscular masculine warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did, as a means of combating what they see as the modernization of society.

I realize there are those who will read the above quote and immediately go from zero to “YOU’RE CALLING CONSERATIVES AND CHRISTIANS NAZIS!!!” If you’re more comfortable going with that as a way to shut off meaningful debate…well, good luck with that. It’s a debate technique common among those who have either a) no argument, or b) no moral or Scriptural basis for their argument. When your corrupt Christianity barely resembles the teachings of Christ, you’ve become the American Taliban, an intolerant, inflexible, and mean-spirited collection of Conservative Christians.

When you distort the teachings of the Lord and Savior you purport to revere, you invariably end up with a false theology that magically equates your fears and prejudices with Scriptural teachings. You can claim the Almighty is on your side when you’ve conjured up a version of that Deity which remarkably enough hates and fears the same things you do. You can spend your Sunday mornings at your opulent megachurch and feel no sense of shame…because you’ve created a version of God that looks kindly upon acquisitive, venal, and intolerant sorts who look a lot like you.

I’m not going to run down Christianity, which, like a lot of religions, is full of some pretty good ideas- things like love, charity, tolerance, and caring for those in need. Indeed, there are many who endeavor to lead Christ-like lives. They’ve read their Bibles, they endeavor to understand Jesus’ teachings, and they strive to incorporate them into their lives. People like this should be commended, for in leading the lives they aspire to, they’re doing what they can to make this world a better place. And isn’t that what Christianity (and indeed, any religion) should be about?

My problem is with those who wouldn’t recognize the teachings of Jesus Christ if the Prince of Peace Himself showed up with kneepads and a tube of AstroGlide. Their Christianity is all about affirming their acquisitiveness, their petty hatreds, and their propensity for looking out for #1 first and foremost. As a very wise man once said, I’m not afraid of God…it’s His fan club that terrifies me.

The Right has successfully rebranded the brown-skinned liberal Jew, who gave away free healthcare and was pro-redistributing wealth, into a white-skinned, trickledown, union-busting conservative, for the very fact that an overwhelming number of Americans are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible. On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of the context or true meaning. It’s surprising how little Christians know of what is still the most popular book to ever grace the American continent.

The problem is that many of those who claim the imprimatur of the Almighty when it comes to their prejudices and intolerance appear to have rarely, if ever, read their Bible. If they had more than a passing familiarity with Scripture (and could lose their Old Testament view of the world), they might be surprised at what they’d find. Jesus wasn’t a white-skinned, socially conservative, free market zealot who despised the social contract as giving handouts those who refuse to do for themselves. He preached tolerance, equality, and caring for the least among us. The Jesus of the Bible was not an ideologue; neither Republicans nor Democrats can correctly claim Him.

To claim that Jesus would oppose food stamps is as absurd as it is indicative of a willing disregard for what He actually stood for. The truth is that, historically speaking, we know little of what Jesus actually said, as the New Testament was written by men who never met Him. Yes, the “infallible Word of God” is in large part a creation of mortal human beings with good intent.

The best argument against a historical Jesus is the fact that none of his disciples left us with a single record or document regarding Jesus or his teachings. So, who were the gospel writers? The short answer is we don’t know. What we do know is that not only had none of them met Jesus, but also they never met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. All we have is a bunch of campfire stories from people who were born generations after Jesus’ supposed crucifixion. In other words, numerous unidentified authors, each with his own theological and ideological motives for writing what they wrote. Thus we have not a single independently verifiable eyewitness account of Jesus—but this doesn’t stop Republicans from speaking on his behalf.

What we’re left with is a class of hyper religious zealots who’ve grafted their own fears, prejudices, and intolerance onto what they call “Christianity.” They’ve created a Jesus Christ that looks a lot like they do: White, Conservative, homophobic, and misogynistic. That this Christ exists nowhere in Scripture is really beside the point. When you claim that God’s on your side and that Jesus was a Conservative Republican, you’ve created a justification for your inhumanity to your fellow man (take a bow, Paul Ryan).

And let’s not even get started on the Evangelical movement’s disturbing and ugly racist streak…because I have neither the time nor the inclination to go down that road now. That’s another story for another time.

Neither the Father nor the Son was a free market capitalist who believed that the market can solve our problems as it lines the pockets of the already wealthy and well-off. They didn’t work to shred the social contract because it penalizes “makers” and subsidizes “takers.” They didn’t believe the poor, the sick, and elderly were drains on society and should pull their own weight. They didn’t quote Ayn Rand as they attempted to remake decades of social policy in an effort to divert resources from those in need to those for whom greed is like breathing. Sometimes I wonder what this world would be like if more people read their Bibles and endeavored to take Scripture to heart. What would happen if more self-styled “Christians” actually tried to live the teachings of the Jesus Christ they claim to love and worship? What would things look like if more Christians followed the example of Pope Francs instead of Paul Ryan? I daresay we’d see a world in which compassion far outstripped greed and where the love of war fell victim to the desire to promote peace.

Now THAT’S a world I’d want to live in.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on January 8, 2014 7:56 AM.

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