By Callen Harty
There are several candidates in this year’s Republican Presidential crop who purport to be Christians. Actually all of the primary remaining contenders claim to be Christians—it’s more a matter of what kind or degree of Christian. Here is how they define themselves, according to 2012.republican-candidates.org. One of them, Newt Gingrich, was a Southern Baptist but recently converted to Roman Catholicism. Rick Santorum is also a Roman Catholic. Ron Paul is a Baptist. Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer are Methodists. There are two Mormons, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. Santorum has such a missionary zeal about his beliefs that last week he had the nerve to label himself the “Jesus candidate”. In addition to these, of the more well-known names that have already dropped out of the race, Cain is a life-long Baptist and both Bachmann and Pawlenty are evangelical Christians.
But the more Christian these candidates say they are the more their behavior and policies don’t seem to match the concept of Christianity. Instead of loving they seem hateful, or at least without compassion and understanding. If Jesus were here today he would try to teach them love. He would ask them to set politics aside. What they may not realize is that even though he made political enemies Jesus didn’t concern himself with politics. He concerned himself with spirituality. He would have these candidates throw away the mantle of politics, rid themselves of money, and concern themselves with their own eternal souls. During his time Jesus’ teachings sometimes put him at odds with those in power, so his presence became politically inconvenient for the power brokers, but his intention was simply to lead people to their spiritual selves. For example, when questioned about whether Jews should pay taxes Jesus asked to see a coin that might be used to pay taxes and asked whose head was on it. When the answer was given to him that it was Caesar’s his response was, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mark, 22:21). He was simply not concerned with politics. As a side note, the story about the coin clearly shows that unlike modern Republicans Jesus didn’t have an issue with paying taxes. Taxes have been with us throughout history and resented by citizens in every culture, but they have also allowed those cultures to build roads and infrastructure which make for greater community and stronger nations.
More importantly the story illustrates that the concern of Jesus was not with the mundane details of human politics, but the greater spiritual explorations that have intrigued philosophers since humans first questioned the meaning of life. Often, members of political parties claim him as their own and state that if he were alive today Jesus would belong to their party, but the reality is that Jesus would not have been a Republican, Democrat, Socialist, or anything else. He was outside of politics. Instead he would have been the man protesting in front of the Capitol or the White House about feeding the hungry or ending senseless wars.
Yet these candidates who claim to be the intellectual descendants of the Puritans and founding fathers and who also claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace would have us continue bleeding our economy by spending untold billions of dollars on weapons and wars. They would have us bring anguish and death in the form of war to advance their ideologies. Some of them would not only have us continue our current war in Afghanistan, but also start another in Iran. They would be empire builders at the expense of their own souls. There are countless references in the New Testament that point toward Jesus as a man of peace, including “Blessed are the peacemakers” from the Beatitudes. There is one quotation–“I come not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34) that is often used to justify calls to war, but this is generally considered to be a metaphor for intellectual conflict rather than a declaration of Jesus preaching violence. Elsewhere he says that those who live by the sword die by the sword. The majority of the New Testament portrays Jesus as one who brings peace, both universally and personally, and also one who advocates for peace in the world.
Several of these Christian candidates have also shown themselves to be considerably homophobic. It is often justified by quoting from the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus. This is the book of the Bible that is most often cherry-picked to support a particular point of view, and usually about homosexuality. But while quoting “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22), these same people conveniently forget strictures on eating pork or shrimp (Leviticus 11:7 and 11:11), shaving (Leviticus 19:27), and the wearing of polyester–“Do not wear material woven of two kinds of material.” (Leviticus 19:19).
Besides picking and choosing which laws to follow there is an element of their own religion that these bigoted Christians tend to forget when they are spewing their hateful rhetoric. According to their own doctrine Jesus came to bring a new law. He came to supplant the old laws, which would be those of the Old Testament, with a new law of loving ones’ brothers and sisters. Regardless of how they pick and choose from Old Testament admonitions the laws of Leviticus are no longer legitimate laws according to the teachings of Jesus himself. Still, there are those who do not believe that Jesus came to bring a new law, but that he came to fulfill prophecy only. They interpret the Bible to say that he came not to destroy the old law, but to restore it. But if one believes that then it follows that one must obey all of the old laws, not just selected ones. It can’t be both ways.
Jesus embraced prostitutes and sinners. He showed compassion to the poor and needy. He talked often of how difficult it will be for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet many of the modern evangelical Christians believe that God blesses them with wealth in this world because of their Christianity. Most of these current Republican candidates, who are themselves wealthy, want to do away with or severely curtail assistance for the poor and elderly, and they blame poor people for their own neediness, showing a decided lack of empathy and compassion. Jesus would have had them give up their own belongings to help those in need. In all of the New Testament he only showed anger once and it was not at gays or others deemed unworthy by these modern Christians—it was at the money lenders in the temple, the ones who would be our modern banksters. While Jesus may not have been a member of any political party he would have understood and sympathized with the 99% movement in this country. He might even have talked about how difficult it may be for a politician to get to heaven.
My favorite crucifix, this can be seen at St. Matthew’s Cemetery just outside of town.
The Maddow Blog – This is what theocracy looks like