“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an 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. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, of in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me not meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me”, (Matthew 26:34-45).
It has long been a puzzle to me about why Evangelicals embrace the GOP. Fewer things could be less in keeping with their party’s platform than the teachings of Jesus or the person of Jesus himself. Indeed, the whole situation with conservative evangelicals and the GOP is worthy of little more than derision. Consider: Michael Pence the VP does not even believe in evolution. And yet his party has long embraced Social Darwinism, reveling in a dystopian Randian universe where the strong alone are admired and deemed worthy by virtue of their economic success to lay the poor by the heel.
The whole situation is insane: Social Darwinism is embraced by GOP policies and while vast amounts of lip service are expended on shiboleths such as religious freedom, usually under the guise of attempting to suppress other faiths and to insert religion into the state apparatus. They have coopted Christianity and now it has become a central part of conservative identity politicis. Meanwhile the Left, whose entire agenda is driven, in no small part, by Judeo-Christian ethics of social justice, tend to be suspicious, even derisive, of religion and people of faith. They are wrong to be so, since Jesus’ background, teachings, and life, as depicted in the gospel accounts, is deeply supportive of the Left’s world view.
Simply consider Jesus’ ethnic background: He spoke Aramaic, an ancient language still spoken in some portions of Syria. In addition, he came from the Levant. There is a fairly good likelihood that he would have looked closer to Yasser Arafat than, say, the gentleman with nicely combed blond hair and a beard neatly framed on the wall of your church events room. He was certainly not what we would call white – he was a man who embodied, in a sense, the divers elements that made up the Roman empire in the first decades of the first century AD. A Jew who spoke Aramaic and lived in an empire run by Romans from central Italy. He certainly would not be welcome, simply based on his physical appearance and place of origin, in the Orange Menace’s America.
Then there are the humble circumstances and the fraught political situation into which he was born, as emphasized in Luke – he was not born not in a room in a bed, but in a barn, to be placed in a manger where the animals fed and deposited their excreta. The humility of God is the humility of all of us. We are enjoined to be humble, to be quiet in our piety, to not parade it, to pray in secret. These lessons are driven home by the story of the Jewish baby born in poor circumstances to poor parents, who themselves were political refugees, who, despite their humility and complete lack of enfranchisement, were viewed as a threat to the power elite. Herod’s paranoid delusions that led him to kill all children under two never came to fruition for Jesus, but they did force Mary and Joseph to flee persecution for the sake of their child according to the Biblical account, and they left for Egypt (Matthew 2).
Perhaps his recognition of his circumstances led him to preach humility (Matthew 18:3-4), a quality that the triumphalist Neo-Fascist party, formerly known as the GOP, has never displayed, and their party leader clearly hasn’t even a first clue about the concept.
Rejection of the Material and Sharing What We Have:
But much more to the point are his teachings. If we understand that Jesus stood as a model for his followers, then those who worship the Golden Calf of the Free Market and advocate the gutting of those programs that help the least among us are in deep spiritual crisis. Recall that Jesus, tempted by Satan, said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”. And where does God enjoin us to tread on the poor? To deprive the sick of the means for healing? To degrade his creation? To use scripture and the concept of forgiveness as cover for all manner of willfully unsavory behavior, not to mention a bludgeon with which to cudgel any who call out the hypocrisy of their political and so-called spiritual leadership?
Indeed, the rejection of wealth and the material is central to Jesus’ teachings. Hence we get this:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21)
And later this:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other: Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you: Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?” (Matthew 6: 24-25).
Jesus’ plea is one for faith and simplicity. It is prima facie anti-materialist. That is why all of this is followed up with a series of indirect questions tantamount to a praise of simplicity and faith: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin”.
Elsewhere his disdain for material wealth is more implicit, as in Matthew 10:9 where he enjoined onto his followers equal lack of concern for the material. Let us be clear: there is no amount of “prosperity gospel” pseudo-piety that can bandage over passages such as Matthew 19:23-4: “Verily, I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter the kingdom of heaven. And again, I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This is followed two chapters later by his raging against the money changers, and the renowned “den of thieves” remark in the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12-13).
Equally implicit lessons about the sharing of one’s material blessings with those in need are variously implicit, as when He fed the hungry multitudes (Matthew 15:32-39), or explicit, as in Matthew 7:9-10: “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will be given a stone? Or if he asks ye a fish, will be given him a serpent?”
Meantime the Neo-Fascist party prepares to ensure that the least among us, those who have the least, are punished for it. They celebrate their party leader who has gold-plated, well, everything. And of course, they are going to exploit their majority to go after, you guessed it, food stamps.
Healing the Sick:
Should we even bother with this one? Who would, it must be asked, Jesus deny health and the means of obtaining it? What lesson do conservatives take from the depiction of Jesus healing the sick, which is virtually ubiquitous (see Matthew 4:24, 8:1-17, 9:2, 9:20-22, 9:35, cf. 10:1, 10:8, 11:5, 12:9-15, 15:30-31)? It’s dubious if Jesus would have repealed Obamacare – but then again, I’m thinking he might have, if he could have gotten single-payer through.
Forgiveness, Love, and Compassion –Not Hate:
All of this, of course, was closely tied to Jesus’ infinite sense of compassion, in which he enjoined us to love one another: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). And just to be sure we got the message, he restated it more than once:
Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all thing, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12), and 22:39 where Jesus states that the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. He does not incite to rage or violence; He does not ask us to “knock the crap” out of those who disagree with Him. He does not call for cruelty and vengeance against those with browner skin or flatter noses. He does not call for the death and torture of innocent families. No – He asks us to recognize that God is within each of us, and to treat one another accordingly.
And Just Shut Up About Your Goddamned Faith:
Jesus further enjoins us to be humble in our faith, in our virtue, and in our acts even of charity and grace. Hence in Matthew 6:1-2 he states: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father, which is in heaven. Therefore when thou does thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Famously He enjoined his followers to pray in secret. It is fair to say that the parade of Pharisees aka Televangelists and professional haters in collars and frocks such as Jerry Falwell Jr., are precisely what Jesus had in mind when he rebuked the Pharisees in the Temple stating, “Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity”, (Matthew 23:28). Please, just shut up about your goddamned faith! Which, by the way, is one only of convenience.
I’ve now droned on at some length, citing only the authority of a single gospel of the sacred text – Matthew (with a brief foray into Luke). Let me note that this is just one gospel, and a cursory summation, by no means a detailed or thorough explication of every point. Overwhelmingly, the message of the text is one that teaches a rejection of the material, humility, compassion for and sharing with the afflicted. This is a gospel that does not serve anything on the right, only the left. And if you want to quibble about a couple of brief and dubious passages concerning abortion and homosexuality, fine. But the vast majority of the sacred text is concerned with healing the sick, feeding the hungry, treating others as you would like to be treated, forgiveness, humility, in short, everything that the Neo-Fascists reject both in implicit and explicit terms.
Indeed, what are the beatitudes (Matthew 5-7) except a promise of comfort for the afflicted? Some excerpts:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In Neo-Fascist America now the party leader would simply tweet “Jesus is standing with the loosers. Sad!” and probably with a Star of David and dollar signs (“Liberal momma’s boy Jesus wants to redistribute your money to loosers! Sad!”) Perhaps his followers – especially the several million who voted for him and are about to lose their health insurance – would have done well to have noted this:
Matthew 7:15-17: “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
In the end, we can only conclude, based on decades of GOP and now (turned unabashedly) Neo-Fascist behavior, that they didn’t think Jesus really meant what He said, any more than the fascist about to assume the presidency did. Sad!