Sunday, August 12, 2018
The circus of religious conservatism in Washington, and I don't just mean just president Trump either!
The Christian Right Would Disagree With Me
If I Told Them What Was Really In the Bible
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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I met someone not too long ago who insisted that the King James Bible is the only legitimate version available. As far as he was concerned, all other versions currently in print, including my New International, Amplified and New Living Translations, were “not from God”. I don't care to elaborate on this much except to say that I don't agree with that at all. The Bible is still the Word of God. The version we prefer is actually beside the point. But I'm using this example to illustrate that there are a lot of conservative right-wingers like that individual who have some views about the Bible and Christianity that are totally contrary to the Scriptures. If indeed these people's beliefs are inconsistent with Scripture then the question becomes, why do religious extremists on the right (and Christianity has them just like the Muslims do) get away with proclaiming what Jesus wouldn’t support (such as endless wars and America's prison-industrial complex)? The answer is simple: Not many conservatives have read the Bible.
Of the ones who do, an overwhelming number of Christians are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible. In fact, over half of church attendees in mainstream denominational churches don't even own a 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. What America needs is Christianity without the dogma, and faith without the spiritual pollution of conservative politics. Nondenominational Christianity with the commandments of Jesus Christ being first and foremost, viewed from a social Gospel viewpoint or the perspective of an equality crusade for all of humanity (think Rev. Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers teaming up with the late Billy Graham), would be far closer to what Jesus originally taught than the ultra-conservative slant being espoused all over the right-wing media today. That's why it's vital as we live in these last days to help the helpless whenever possible. Putting others ahead of ourselves is mandatory in God's kingdom! In so doing, we become ambassadors for Christ while living our lives in complete accordance with God's will. Why remain in the darkness when you can run to the Light?
It’s surprising how little Christians know of what is still the world's most popular book. The “Alt-Right” has successfully re-branded the healing ministry of Jesus Christ – who gave away free healthcare while teaching wealth redistribution – into a white-skinned-only, trickle-down, union-busting bunch of conservatives. So how much do secular Americans know of the Book that one-third of the country believes believes in unconditionally (like I do)? Recent surveys that I have pulled up on the Internet show that 60 percent of Christians can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A 2015 Gallup poll showed 60 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 86 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse!
So, if Americans get an F in the basic fundamentals of the Bible, what hope do they have in knowing what Jesus would say about labor unions: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” (James 5, verses 1-4). What about taxes on the rich, universal healthcare, and food stamps (“The poor you will always have, but you will not always have me.” Matt, 26, verse 11)?
It becomes easy to spread a lie when no one knows what the real truth is. That's why the Alt-Right has successfully re-branded left-leaning people who gave away free health care and were pro-redistributing wealth into white-skinned-only, 'trickle-down', union-busting conservatives. The truth, whether conservatives like it or not, is not only that Jesus was a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors – except when He threw the money changers out of the Temple in Matthew 21, verses 12-13 – but when one reads down a couple more chapters in any of the 4 Gospels, it was the religious conservatives who had Jesus killed. The fact that He rose again on the third day tells me everything I need to know about God's view of conservatives. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus into a muscular masculine warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did, as a means of “combating terrorism”, which has become a synonym for world domination by the American military-industrial complex.
Knowing the Bible requires a contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation. For instance, when the Republicans in Congress were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program – the set of cuts that was prior to the latest round of cuts this year – they quoted the 2nd book of Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not! This was taken from a letter written by the apostle Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that there were too many people in the congregation that were freeloading off that church. Only a few were doing all the work and making the majority of the financial contributions, and everybody else was just hanging around for the free food. What Paul did say is that anyone too lazy to work shouldn't expect anything at dinner time, and that's just common sense.
What often comes as a surprise to your average Sunday wine-and-cracker Christian is the New Testament did not fall from the sky the day Jesus ascended to Heaven. The New Testament is a collection of writings, 27 in total, of which 12 are credited to the authorship of Paul, four to the Gospels (the apostle Luke also wrote Acts), and the balance with the remaining apostles, some of whom had their accounts of the Gospel removed by the Catholic church sometime between the third and fifth centuries AD. What we do know about Jesus, at least according to the remaining gospels, is that Jesus’ sentiments closely echoed the social and economic policies of the political left in the 19th and again here in the 21st century. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount read like the vision statement of a missionary: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called 'Sons of the living God'.”
Jesus also said, “Judge not, or else you shall be judged, for you who pass judgment do the same things yourselves”, and “Sell what you have and give it to the poor” (I'm paraphrasing here). Sounds an awful lot like wealth redistribution to me, a societal woe that urgently needs to be addressed if ever there was one. So, when Republicans accused then-president Obama of being a brown-skinned socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth, they were actually thinking of Jesus without realizing it. Some of them still haven't figured it out!
Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed the Republican Party to get away with shaping Jesus into their image. That's why politicians on the right can get away with saying 'the Lord commands' that our healthcare, prisons, schools, retirement, transport, and all the rest should be run by corporations for profit. When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for healthcare, education and the poor, they’re actually channeling atheism. When Bill O’Reilly of Fox News infamy claimed the poor are immoral and lazy, that’s not Jesus, it’s atheism! The price this country has paid for biblical illiteracy is measured by how far we’ve moved toward Mr. O'Reilly's atheist utopia.
In the past three decades, the US government has slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, destroyed labor unions, deregulated financial markets, eroded public safety nets, and committed to one globalist corporate free-trade agreement after another. At least president Trump is trying to repair some of the damage this has inflicted on America. I don't agree with some of what he does, and I didn't support him in the 2016 election either (I cast a protest vote for Dr. Jill Stein). With the far-right, Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Koch brothers' Citizens United, the flow of billions of dollars from anonymous donors to the most reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party – the Christian Right – will continue to perpetuate the biblical incompatible, anti-government, pro-deregulation-of-business, anti-healthcare-for-all, Tea Party American version of Christianity, and I for one have had more than enough!