If Only the “Religious Right” Would Follow Jesus

26 12 2010

Recently Mehdi Hasan wrote an article in the American Statesman entitled What would Jesus do?, in which he attempts to paint Jesus Christ as a left-wing social activist.

In response, Bojidar Marinov, writing for American Vision’s blog, says the following in The Left’s Change of Heart Concerning Jesus:

The five “reasons” why Jesus would act like a leftie today are even more preposterous. First, Jesus didn’t advocate “class war”: He didn’t work up the crowds to expropriate the riches of the rich man. He advised him to share voluntarily – the sort of free market “voluntarism” so deeply despised by socialist revolutionaries in the last two centuries.

Second, Jesus didn’t bash the “bankers” but the money-changers. The two groups were different, and even today in Britain a bank and an exchange office are different entities. And Jesus actually advised people to leave their money with the bankers if they have no idea what business to apply them to (Matt. 25:27).

Third, in Matthew 20:1-6 Jesus doesn’t advocate “fair daily living wage” but the right of the employer to decide what wage to pay to whom. Would a leftie today advocate such a thing?

Fourth, Jesus’ miracles have nothing to do with a national centralized healthcare. Not a single one of His miracles was paid by taxpayers robbed of their money by force. (Now, if Hasan can recommend national healthcare that performs perfect miracles at no cost whatsoever, I will sign up immediately.)

Fifth, Jesus the “anti-war activist” was the one who said to the disciples to carry swords with them (Luke 22:26-28). Peter wouldn’t have had a sword in the first place if Jesus didn’t tell him to.

Contrary to what Jim Wallis says (as quoted by Hasan), the politics of Jesus constitutes no problem whatsoever for the religious right. Wallis and Hasan wish it did. But it doesn’t, and no verbal equilibristics[1] on the Left can change this fact. Hasan, with all his effort, didn’t prove his case; he only succeeded in creating the suspicion that the New Statesman has very low intellectual standards for their editors.

In these misguided and unconvincing rebuttals to the leftist Hasan, Bojidar illustrates here nearly everything that is wrong with the “religious right”. Not only that, but instead of proving his case, Marinov brings into question whether American Vision’s “intellectual standards for their editors” are any higher than those of the New Statesman. Instead of presenting the Christian anti-thesis to leftist theory, Marinov shrugs the charges off like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail:

“The politics of Jesus constitutes no problem whatsoever for the religious right!”

“Tis but a scratch!”

“Just a flesh wound!”

Let’s take the points in order.

BOJIDAR MARINOV: First, Jesus didn’t advocate “class war”: He didn’t work up the crowds to expropriate the riches of the rich man. He advised him to share voluntarily – the sort of free market “voluntarism” so deeply despised by socialist revolutionaries in the last two centuries.

What? Jesus “advised” the rich young ruler to “share voluntarily”? Hardly! In fact, it is easy to picture one of today’s free-market Republicans coming to Jesus as the rich young ruler did, expecting no “requirement” for “sharing”:

Mat 19:16-22
(16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (17) And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (18) He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, (19) Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (20) The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? (21) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

Bojidar is correct that Jesus did not advocate “class warfare”. But neither did he make charity optional. In fact, the Westminster Larger Catechism says that God requires us to give according to our ability, and according to the needs of others:

Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Unfortunately Bojidar neglects the opportunity to share the Biblical view of charity – which is neither socialist nor free-market “voluntarism”. Today’s religious right is schizophrenic – they supposedly oppose socialist wealth redistribution, but hands off their Medicare and Social Security! Moreover, the religious right will have no moral high ground until they actually do start providing meaningful and substantial charity, and actually doing what they criticize the government for attempting to do on their behalf. As James Lansberry remarked, “We’ve allowed government to provide charity rather than the church. Every time we let the government help someone we should be helping, we rob Jesus of glory, and we are thieves just as much as the government who’s stolen that money from us to provide that care.” The religious right bears much guilt on this point, but Marinov is silent on that. “Tis but a scratch!” he says, and moves to point two:

BOJIDAR MARINOV: Second, Jesus didn’t bash the “bankers” but the money-changers. The two groups were different, and even today in Britain a bank and an exchange office are different entities. And Jesus actually advised people to leave their money with the bankers if they have no idea what business to apply them to (Matt. 25:27).

You have to hand it to Bojidar here, because it is hard to pack three short sentences with this many errors. Amazingly, Bojidar would have us believe that Jesus was mad at the local Bureau de Change workers, and doesn’t have any issues with our modern lovable usurious fractional-reserve bankers. We have covered the false idea that Jesus encouraged people to earn usury on bank deposits in the article A Warped View of Christ. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and frankly it is intellectually shallow arguments like Bojidar’s that are more of an obstacle to Christian economics than anything Marx ever came up with. Marinov shows himself to be completely ignorant of the meaning of Christ’s parable of the talents, and again misses the opportunity to present a Christian antithesis.

This type of ignorance holds great sway in the religious right, as the payday lending industry has the highest prevalence in states where they have the most political clout. And instead of opposing usury, as Jesus does, our Christian politicians of the religious right are busy taking their illicit campaign contributions and trying to make sure they are exempted from lending regulations and rate caps. It is hard to pretend to be the Christian resistance when your supporters are seated in the same circle of hell as the sodomites. Would that the self-anointed heirs of Cato would echo his sentiments on this matter – when asked “And what do you think of usury?” his answer was “What do you think of murder?”

BOJIDAR MARINOV: Third, in Matthew 20:1-6 Jesus doesn’t advocate “fair daily living wage” but the right of the employer to decide what wage to pay to whom. Would a leftie today advocate such a thing?

Here again, we agree that Jesus is not advocating a “fair wage” proposal. However, one of the problems the religious right has, is that they dutifully oppose minimum wage laws but raise not a finger to oppose slave labor in such places as the Northern Marianas Islands. Workers are lured there from countries like Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka with promises of “good jobs in America.” When they arrive, they are put to work in shops surrounded by barbed wire and put in a 12-hour shift, seven days a week. A lawsuit filed in 1999 in the U.S. District Court stated that the Marianas area was “America’s worst sweatshop, replete with beatings, forced abortions, vermin-infested worker quarters, barbed wire and armed guards where workers put in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.” Once in the Marianas, the workers found out that food, rent, medical care, and other expenses were deducted from their paychecks automatically, with the result being that they had little, if any, money left with which to save up for a return trip home. Many of them are actually in debt after receiving their first paycheck and trapped in a permanent cycle, continually chasing the carrot but never able to reach it.

The politically correct term for these workers imported to the Marianas islands to produce over $1 Billion worth of garments each year for companies like Wal-Mart and The Gap, is “guest workers”. These guest workers were the victims of forced abortions, sexual slaves and domestic forced servitude.

Yet one of the Christian Right’s heroes, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (along with lobbyist Jack Abramoff), devoted a substantial amount of efforts to keep these labor camps in the Marianas from being scrutinised. In fact, DeLay called the Marianas a “perfect petri dish of capitalism.” Abramoff pulled out his trump card and compared attempts to regulate the labor camps to attempts by Nazi Germany to regulate German Jews. Abramoff and DeLay took congressman and others on trips to the Marianas for (limited) sightseeing trips where they paid for DeLay to show them the wonders of free-trade capitalism and enjoy snorkeling, golfing, and sunbathing. In response to a reporter’s questions about the sweat-shops, DeLay responded, “I saw some of those factories. They were air conditioned. I didn’t see anyone sweating.” DeLay and Abramoff reaped millions in contributions from sweat shop operators for their campaigns.

The Christian antithesis does not bear the hypocrisy of the religious right, who can’t stomach a minimum wage, but love their cheap goods produced by slave labor. But to Bojidar the Black Knight, who “suffers from unchecked overconfidence and a staunch refusal ever to give up”, this is “just a flesh wound – I’ve had worse!”

BOJIDAR MARINOV: Fourth, Jesus’ miracles have nothing to do with a national centralized healthcare. Not a single one of His miracles was paid by taxpayers robbed of their money by force. (Now, if Hasan can recommend national healthcare that performs perfect miracles at no cost whatsoever, I will sign up immediately.)

Here again Bojidar’s problem is in the omission. While Jesus’ miracles indeed have nothing to do with national centralized healthcare, he fails to account for the elephant in the room – which is the fact that the church has failed grievously to care for the sick, and allowed the State and corporations to fill the vacuum with socialist practices and insurance schemes. Christians today are giving about 3% of their income to charities, putting their elderly in nursing homes, putting their children in daycare facilities and public schools, working sedentary jobs in cubicle villages, eating Chicken McNuggets, and then protesting nationalized health care. What’s wrong here? The failure of the religious right is overwhelmingly obvious, but all Bojidar can bring himself to say is that taxpayers shouldn’t fund healthcare. Is this really what passes for Christian Reconstruction these days? As Gary North always said, you can’t beat something with nothing.

BOJIDAR MARINOV: Fifth, Jesus the “anti-war activist” was the one who said to the disciples to carry swords with them (Luke 22:26-28). Peter wouldn’t have had a sword in the first place if Jesus didn’t tell him to.

As Christians we should be apologizing profusely for those that claim Christ and plunge America into perpetual war, but on this point Bojidar lies on the bridge with no arms and no legs, yelling “Come back here you yellow bastards! I’ll bite your legs off!” Have Christian conservatives ever met a war they didn’t like? A good friend of mine retorts that he hasn’t met a war he liked since 1865, and suffice it to say that Jesus is not in favor of any of the wars the religious right has supported in the past two decades, and hates the military-industrial complex that they’ve built. Yet apparently Bojidar thinks when Jesus told his disciples to carry swords, they should have bombed Iraq and occupied Afghanistan. War is a racket, and religious right has incurred much blood-guiltiness thereby. To pretend that Jesus is on our side when we export arms to terrorists around the globe and claim to be “making the world safe for democracy”, is just as stupid and illogical as any argument that your average liberal war-protestor will ever make.

Bojidar poses the rhetorical question which frames this whole discussion rather nicely:

BOJIDAR MARINOV: (Seriously, Mehdi, do you expect many Christians to believe you?)

The major problem inherent in Marinov’s question is that most Christians are already more socialist than they realize, and pretending that today’s “religious right” stands in opposition to socialism only fuels their confusion and impotence. They long for the halcyon days of Reagan/Bush socialism, when Keynesian policies inflated their 401ks, when our imperial troops reigned supreme over the world and Waco, when government expansion really began its exponential curve, when the Savings and Loans were getting bailouts and the “too big to fail” policies were created, when “spreading the wealth” via the tax code kicked into full swing (i.e. the earned income credit), when State run mortgage guarantors relaxed credit standards to ensure that literally everyone could own their own home, when no child was left behind, when national health care was Bob Dole’s idea, when social security receipts exceeded payouts and could be used for more government programs, and when we could all still believe that the debt-fueled bubbles would never pop.

Marinov lays criticism after criticism upon socialists – most if not all of which could just as easily be validly applied to the modern “religious right” – see if you agree:

BOJIDAR MARINOV: The leftist’s prayer is rather trying to recruit Jesus to their agenda and goals, not really ask Jesus what He wishes.

Socialism is morally bankrupt. It has spent whatever moral capital it had, and now socialists are desperately looking for some new meaning to inject in their system to keep it alive.

The left has a history of ideological compromises. Anytime it went bankrupt, it was eager to adopt the elements of the system the socialists hated so much, in order to make their system survive.

But these days socialism is facing a bankruptcy from which it may never recover: Moral bankruptcy. It lacks moral legitimacy.

Where is the moral legitimacy of the religious right? Whatever existed has long since disappeared, whether it was via compromise, the neo-con military-industrial complex, broken “Contracts with America” and other promises (Read my lips – NO NEW TAXES!), serial adultery and bathroom stall escapades, and a legacy of big government socialism that Obama has merely inherited from them. In all of this the politics of Jesus hit us square between the eyes and call for our heart-felt repentance. But as long as the “religious right” continues to ignore its own faults and complicity for the state of our socialist America, any pretended opposition to the socialist bogeyman is a counter-productive sham. Jesus indeed was not a leftist , and that is precisely why, contrary to Marinov’s assertion, the politics of Jesus do pose a huge problem for the religious right. We need to quit wasting time blustering about the “socialists” out there like Mehdi Hasan, and instead quit being socialists ourselves. And may God grant that one day the “religious right” will find Jesus and truly follow him. Until then, their champions are as the Black Knight guarding his bridge.

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