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White evangelicals are opposed to Jesus

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A painting of jesus with the words "White evangelicals are opposed to Jesus" overtop.
Editor’s note: Although FFRF columnist James Haught died, sadly, on July 23 at age 91, we are lucky to still have a collection of pieces Jim gave us to use — some fresh and others previously published — that we will be sending out till we exhaust this treasure trove. This piece is adapted from a syndicated column originally published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Nov. 22, 2015.

White evangelicals don’t seem to get it.

Jesus has been portrayed as a liberal. He is depicted as siding with underdogs. He championed little people, not the privileged and powerful. “Blessed are the poor” was one of his maxims. He told a noble: “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor.”

Christ’s teachings were virtually a prescription for the compassionate “safety net” upholding people and families in modern democracies: “For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me. … Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

He is also quoted as saying, “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee.”

His parable of the Good Samaritan spotlighted the nobility of caring for victims of misfortune. Christ’s Golden Rule — “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” — underscored common fairness.

Jesus is not shown to be supporting harsh punishments. When the law demanded stoning of an adultress, he is famously supposed to have said: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Jesus advocated separation of church and state: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”

Jesus wasn’t a militarist. “Blessed are the peacemakers” was another of his maxims.

Clearly, without question, Jesus espoused values aligned with the modern political left. Sometimes, this facet of religion is called the “social gospel.”

So it’s strange that America’s white evangelicals and fundamentalists favor the rich, undercut the safety net, back militarism, and demand harsher justice and the death penalty. Oddly, these conservative believers contradict the values of Jesus.

When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he signed execution warrants for a record-breaking 135 inmates. Yet, Bush was renowned as a born-again believer and declared on national television that his favorite philosopher was Jesus. The contrast between the two sets off clanging bells of cognitive dissonance.

Meanwhile, secular Americans who don’t attend church support the safety net for average folks. How odd that churchless people are closer to the social principles of Jesus than a lot of churchgoers are.

Pope Francis has gained worldwide popularity because he pushes the humane liberal ideas of Jesus, not the sexual taboos and hidebound Puritanism that has historically dominated his church. “Inequality is the root of social evil,” Francis declares. All poor families deserve “land, lodging, labor,” he preaches. He says capitalism rests on the “unfettered pursuit of money” and discards “unproductive people” like the poor, elderly and less-educated.

Conservatives are rattled by the prelate. Right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan has accused him of preaching “socialist sermons.”

But the pope is merely voicing the values of Jesus. He is underscoring what should be obvious to every thinking person: that Jesus was a liberal.

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7 Responses

  1. David Markham is definitely on target in my opinion to focus on the pliability of the Bible, including Jesus’ sayings and actions. And Jesus contradicts himself and speaks ambiguously enough to permit contradictory conclusions about what he desires. He definitely espouses progressive actions, but by the individual, not by the state, and that is a conservative stance that is out of step with the needs of the present world, I think. Not to mention the megalomania. No, I cannot follow him, and I wonder why some progressives still do, when you consider the entire package of the Jesus described in the four gospels.

  2. So very true. And Jesus never once said anything about gays or abortion, but look how many “Christians” make persecuting others for those “sins” the be-all and end-all of their “religion”, while conveniently ignoring the things he actually did advocate — feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, sheltering the homeless, comforting the afflicted, and all those other LIBERAL behaviors. But then, of course it’s easier to throw stones at others than it is to behave like any kind of real Christian.

  3. This is representative of my musings. I have developed an acronym for MAGA Christians: CINO (pronounced see-no) for Christian In Name Only.

  4. Haught touches on two concepts I go back to often: “Everyone creates God in their own image,” and “The Bible, like Silly Putty, can be stretched and pulled to create any image or impression the user wants to show.” MAGA Christians have certainly distorted and twisted their religious teachings into something tribal, exploitative, clickish, cruel, often racist, and unrecognizable from its origins. In short, it’s extremely offputting. Through hypocrisy and self-centeredness, evangelicals have done more to repel people (especially younger generations) from their religion than atheists ever could, and I’m hoping that trend continues and escalates.

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