||[Dec. 23rd, 2015|01:10 pm]
I was trying to hold off all the rants I wanted to rant until after Christmas, but unfortunately (for me and maybe you) the frothing, foaming self-proclaimed Christians have already slobbered their poison over the whole Christmas season, even before Advent 1 and continuing right up through Advent 4 to now, two days before Christmas itself. So in defense of the Christianity that's founded on the actual words and deeds of Jesus Christ, and not on every paranoid fantasy about, and vicious hate-filled threat to, everyone else, I have to speak out. Yes, I'm annoyed. Beyond annoyed. Just as I was a few years ago when I posted Things Jesus Didn't Say. This post will combine religion and politics because the self-proclaimed Christians who are actually bigots and about as Christian as a box of doughnuts run over by a dump truck also combine religion and politics and even say they should be combined. Fine. I'm combining them differently.
A Christian--the real kind--has one big command from Jesus and some subsidiary ones that give examples of what the big one means. The big one: "Love one another." Examples include "Feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, deal fairly in any business (addressed with specifics to tax collectors, soldiers and judges but generally in "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), avoid litigation, avoid showing off your religion by praying in public, avoid ambition--to be famous, to be privileged, etc., welcome in the stranger, help those in need even if you don't like their kind, love your enemies, do good to those who screw you over, don't judge others, fix yourself before you try to fix others." There are more examples, but those crop up in more than one Gospel. Don't be greedy. Don't be proud of your possessions. Don't try to get rich in things; get rich in virtue. Know (find out, accept, and speak) the truth, for truth makes you free. No dirty secrets, because they will all be revealed in time. Love. Love enemies. Love strangers. Love the poor. And what is "love" in this context? Jesus specifically mentions that his followers will be known and judged (not by each other) on whether they actually do feed, clothe, house, welcome in, etc....or not. Because every one they help, is as if they helped Jesus...and everyone they don't help is as if they turned their back on him.
So look at the most prominent Christians running their mouths in politics these days. What are they saying and doing? This one wants to "carpet bomb" the Middle East for not being Christian. Another one wants to bar all Muslims from the country--including refugees that absolutely fit Jesus' description of the victim in the Good Samaritan story--and deport the ones already here. And by the way, get rid of the Mexicans because they're all criminals and drug dealers. They want to get rid of an existing and effective women's health system because of one thing it does that they're against. They're against gays. They're against equal pay for women, a living wage for low-wage workers, unemployment insurance, any government funded health care or food programs for those in need because somebody, somewhere, might be getting too much assistance and it might be "bad for business." They've made, or tried to make, rules against anyone feeding the hungry homeless, anyone helping Syrian refugees; they threaten lawsuits and jail time for the "crime" of helping the wrong people (whoever they decide is wrong.) They make up lies about people of color, about the poor in general, and do their best to spread fear and hatred. There's no love, no compassion, in any of it--except for themselves. They feel very sorry for themselves and complain endlessly about a war on Christians (including not giving them enough respect and power and saying "Merry Christmas." The form of so-called Christianity that spawned the Westboro Baptist Church group, that's found in dozens of little splinter groups, has made its way into a large segment of American "Christian" churches so that most of what they do is condemn other Christians who don't hate who they hate, and nonChristians.
Last week (or the week before--I lose track--) a guy on Twitter asked indignantly how could we (Americans who are Christians) accept someone who didn't accept Jesus as his/her personal savior. And to any real Christian, the answer is obvious: do it the same way Jesus did. The same way Jesus taught: they're neighbors, and thus to be cared for and loved. Syrians, whether Christian or Muslim. Mexicans, Salvadorans. Indonesians. Every race, every nation, every religion, every group.
Jesus never said "Love the people just like you; it's OK to hate all the ones who are different." Quite the opposite. Jesus never said "Carpet bomb the people who don't believe in me." Or "God hates fags, so picketing the funerals of dead soldiers is a great idea." Or "Shooting black people to prove whites are superior is fine with me." Jesus never said "Vandalize mosques and synagogues, go right ahead." Or "Blowing up clinics is fine because abortion is wrong." Or "Treat your neighbors badly if you disagree with them about religion or politics." Jesus never said "Be afraid of everyone different, and out of your fear, hate them." And quite the opposite of the selfish whining about being "persecuted" because someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" like one of our Texas bureaucrats straight from the Bigot Belt who threatened to slap anyone who said Happy Holidays to him.
We have people in politics who claim to be Christian but go out of their way to hurt the poor, hurt the sick, hurt women, deal unfairly with everyone if they can, hurt people who are not just like themselves. Friends, these are not Christians. That is not my judgment on them: that is what Jesus said (among other places, in Matthew 25: 31-46.) It does not matter what church someone says they belong to. It does not matter what they're "against." It matters whether they are doing what Jesus said to do. So consider, when a news story quotes someone who claimed to be a "Christian" or "Christian leader" or a "Christian group" what that person or group is really doing. Is their message love, compassion, and are they doing those things Jesus said to do? If not, call them out for not being real Christians. Yes, we can say that. We can say "You are not Christian, because you do not follow Jesus Christ."
I will add another thing, because in the last few decades of increasing polarization it's something we've lost sight of, something important to both religious folk and political folk (and everybody's in at least one of those categories.) Disagreeing with someone is not the same thing as hating someone. I disagree with a lot of people about a lot of things (climate change, the right use of short-grass prairie, the best way to train a horse, the best behavior management technique for children, the best balance of STEM and humanities in elementary education, what to do about the war on drugs, how to make the perfect apple pie, how to make chili, what to do about terrorism, religion, and politics.) I am passionate about many things, and my disagreement ranges from mild (OK, you can put mushrooms in your chili if you want to, but keep 'em out of mine) to extremely strong (I'll spare you examples for the moment.) But disagreeing with someone--in private or public--does not mean I hate them. Does not mean I'd whack them with a bat, shoot them, hang them, blow up their house, pay them less if I were hiring, refuse to rent to them, scream at them on the street, picket their house or business or religious center.
Disagreement is inherent in having a diverse society: we are not always going to agree. Hatred is fatal to a diverse society. I grew up in a very diverse society--in a place where several races and cultures met uneasily and children had the opportunity to learn to disagree without fighting (not all did--depended on the parents) and refuse hatred. In high school, those of us of the "discuss it" faction (rather than the "reach for the knives" faction) had spirited arguments about religion, politics, race, culture. We did not hate each other. We were friends who disagreed. We didn't expect to agree even in long term, except that fighting and hating were not ever going to lead to anything positive, and discussion (even argument) might make some things better in the political/social realm. Most of us were some form of Christian; some were Jews. Among the Christians, we represented groups that had fought long bitter wars--a lot of bad blood on both sides--and we knew about those--but set them aside. Between the Christians and the Jews lay the then-very-recent memory of the Holocaust...which we kids agreed we could do nothing about except determine to remain friends and not let that happen again. What we were working on, and hoping for and expecting was a workable agreement that let each one remain what they were--or change--in a compromise that meant nobody stole the whole box of tennis balls and everyone had a ball to play with. (Several of us were in a tennis class together. The metaphor came up frequently as we argued.)
We didn't get that done. We didn't get it done in part because we thought (as HS students sometimes do) that problems had permanent simple solutions our elders had been too blind or stubborn to see and take care of...we failed to consider that social problems, human problems, change with every new human who enters the equation, and thus are endless. Hatred has to be countered every single year. Disagreement has to be protected every single year.
Solzhenitsyn said that the line between good and evil runs right down the middle of every human heart--and is swayed back and forth by circumstance. So every day, every act is moving that line in someone's heart. Scary. One of the things a Christian is supposed to do is keep that line toward the good side in his/her own heart--on the loving-people side, the forgiving-people side, the understanding-the-other-guy side. Why? Because the other things Jesus taught don't work if you're working from a base of arrogance, smugness, and hatred. If you hand out food to the hungry in a way that makes them feel you despise them for needing it--if you are grudging and condescending when helping anyone--if you lecture them on how wrong or stupid they were to be in that fix--if you make it clear they're a drag on society--if you threaten them with hell or a beating or prison--you're creating more misery. And you're moving their line over where it's easy to start being resentful, angry, even hating. So for the Christian, there's always the need to monitor one's own internal line--which side is it on?--and do those things that bring it back. Not to smug moral superiority, but to alignment with what Jesus actually said. Love, not hate. Serving, not being served. Protecting the weak, not being protected. Disagreement is no excuse for shoving your internal line all the way over to hate.
Comments disabled for the usual reason. No time to keep this from being a cesspit if someone's so inclined. I have many things to do before Christmas.