Such rhetoric and policies are a scandal, a reproach to the gospel I honor and to the Jesus I love. I went to Sunday school nearly every week of my childhood. But I must have been absent the day they told us that the followers of Jesus were obliged to secure even greater economic advantages for the affluent, to deprive those Jesus called "the least of these" of a living wage, and to despoil the environment by sacrificing it on the altar of free enterprise. I missed the lesson telling me that I should turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, even those designated as my enemies.
The Bible I read says something quite different. It tells the story of ancient Israel's epic struggle against injustice and bondage — and of the Almighty's investment in the outcome of that struggle. But the Hebrew Scriptures also caution against the imperiousness of that people, newly liberated from their oppressors, lest they treat others the way they themselves were treated
back in Egypt. The prophets enjoin Yahweh's chosen people to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" and warn of the consequences of failing to do so: exile and abandonment. "Administer true justice," the prophet Zechariah declares on behalf of the Lord Almighty. "Show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other."
The New Testament echoes those themes, calling the followers of Jesus to care for orphans and widows, to clothe the naked, and to shelter the homeless. The New Testament I read says that, in the eyes of Jesus, there is no preference among the races and no distinction between the sexes. The Jesus I try to follow tells me that those who take on the role of peacemakers "will be
called the children of God," and this same Jesus spells out the kind of behavior that might be grounds for exclusion from the kingdom of heaven: "I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."
We could have a lively discussion and even vigorous disagreement over whether it is incumbent upon the government to provide services to the poor, but those who argue against such measures should be prepared with some alternative program or apparatus.
The agenda of the Republican-religious-right coalition, moreover, is utterly disconsonant with the distinguished record of evangelical activists in the 19th century. They interpreted the teachings of Jesus to mean that, yes, they really did bear responsibility for those on the margins of society, especially for the emancipation of slaves and for the rights of women.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I will stop with the Randall Balmer quotes momentarily. However, here are a couple more from Jesus is not a Republican (please read it, especially when he reminds us of Jesus' and Paul's words and calls the RR's relationship with the Republican Party "blasphemy, pure and simple"- yes, he had the guts to call it what it is)...