Monday, August 15, 2011

Christ Wasn't a Christian

In a piece posted in The Atlantic today, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend manages to directly strike a nerve with me - and not in a good way. She joins a list of many well-intentioned Leftists who, I believe, understand the implicit lesson(s) of Christianity on one level, but then proceed to turn it upside down before beating their political opposition with it. No, Kathleen - supporting government social programs is not inherently entailed in being "Christian." In fact, properly understood, I think being against said programs might actually be entailed in being "Christian." More on that in a minute...

First, I'd like to point out what a ridiculously low blow this is...even in the political sphere. It seems like at least part of what might have been a legitimate criticism regarding Perry's binding of the religious and the political within his platform turned into something like accidentally shooting the guy you're scolding for bringing a gun to the party. So a big congratulations to her for, instead of taking the higher path, managing to demonize political factions of many different stripes through the lens of religion. Fantastic.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that I don't know much about Perry. I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Christian. I don't believe the two mix. I don't believe religion should be pulled into the sphere of government either. So, for anyone who may be reading, I'm not exactly on the opposite side of the political aisle from our author here.

What really just crawls under my skin is the supposition (which Christian Progressives seem to be fond of) that Jesus was a socialist. Now, of course, this is a loaded term. If you mean "socialist" in the more generic way (think 17th and 18th centuries), then I might agree. But in the context of people who generally support a modern welfare-state, absolutely not. So where do modern Leftists go wrong? Well, like so many other things, they seem to be content with stopping at being only halfway-right; which turns out to be a pretty horrible mistake in this context.

How could I possibly say they are only half-right? I mean, look at the mountain of evidence they have to offer - hundreds if not thousands of passages with Jesus calling for people to care for others in need, to sacrifice, and even to submit to government authority...where could they possibly go wrong in interpreting that? I'll tell you precisely where they go wrong; in bridging the gap between the call to personal sacrifice and supporting systemic theft and violence. Jesus did indeed call us to sacrifice. But it doesn't take the most keen theologian to divorce that from an actual call to take, with physical force, from your brethren to give to those in need. That, my friends, constitutes a world of difference between my own familiarity of the Bible and the lesson(s) that Progressives seem to draw from it.

But what about the talk of rich men not being able to enter heaven, submitting to taxation, or even submitting to government more generally? Well, besides the more obvious reasons that some of this seems like a steaming sack of shit (I suppose German citizens who helped their government round up Jews were just being really Christian!), it still doesn't follow that this falls outside of the sphere of personal sacrifice. Sure, maybe Christians are called to give into taxation and other forms of theft. Much like the proverbial "turning of the cheek", it would seem as though we are all called upon to acquiesce in the face of aggression. But surely all those Christian Progressives out there don't take that to mean it's alright to run around hitting people in the face, do they?!?

I spent about twelve years of my most informative years being beaten over the head with Bible passages (with something like a catechistic mallet). I've read quite a bit about helping and loving others, giving up our material possessions, even giving into aggression to the point of pacifism. But I remember, in all those years, only one passage where Jesus called on his apostles to help him steal from the wealthy. As the story goes, they would hide out in the forest and besiege the wealthy as they were passing thr...oh wait, that's one of the versions of the Robin Hood story. I'm sorry. Actually I can't think of a single passage where Jesus steals from anyone, or tells his followers that it's OK to steal from people for that matter. In fact, he has to talk his apostles into not drawing swords against Roman guards who are ultimately leading their Savior to His death!!

You know, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not some kind of theological scholar, but, then again, neither is the author of the article. I guess neither of us can really be held to the grindstone on account of being wrong on what God/Jesus does/would want us to do. But, nevertheless, it kind of strikes me that so little thought is put into claims of this kind. "Jesus calls us to sacrifice, therefore aggression is sanctioned!" Walla! Beautiful. Shouldn't we reflect on the (in)consistency of supporting aggression to appease the wishes of the ultimate pacifist? What's that? "No!" you say?

If Christians are supposed to support aggressive means to their ends, then maybe Christ wasn't a Christian after all.