JR'S Free Thought Pages
The last Christian died on the cross – Friedrich Nietzsche
People are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted as they are at seeing it practiced – Samuel Butler
Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question “WWJD? - What would Jesus do?” Whether such a man Jesus existed or not remains an open question. Skeptics, including some liberal Christians, have argued he’s a mythical figure. First, Jesus was, like the rest of us, a flawed human being. He made mistakes and made morally dubious proposals such as “taking up the sword” and “abandoning one’s family” to follow him. Assuming such a person actually existed, I’d like to remind them of some of the good things that Jesus ostensibly did, at least according to my selective passages of the New Testament, the only record we have. So let’s suspend our critical faculties about a 2000 year old pre-scientific book for a moment and assume that what’s written in the Bible is actually true. We’re told he cared for the under-privileged, poor and weak, that he was tolerant and didn’t condemn the prostitute or the woman caught in an adulterous relationship. He prayed alone, not in concert with a hysterical mob in a church. He taught that we should love our neighbor and embrace our enemy - and condemned violence as a solution to human conflict - one could say he was a peace monger. He would commiserate with tax collectors, money lenders and other sinners - deemed the lowlifes and outcasts of his day - while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who from a place of privilege imposed their own version of legitimacy and literalism on the people for whose care they were responsible. He instructed his disciples not to oppose the beneficial work of those outside their own caste. Are you paying attention Mr. and Mrs. wooden nickel Conservative Christian, as you sit in your multi-million dollar mega-church? Unlike the uncaring conservative politicians we suffer under today, he never tired of reminding us to care for those suffering the ravages and indignities of poverty. Poverty as a moral issue gets more attention than any other in the Gospels - one verse in every nine. So would Jesus lean toward capitalism or socialism? If he were alive today he’d likely be arrested on the street while protesting against the gross inequities and injustice of our socio-economic system of greed, acquisitiveness and excessive individualism.
If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think they would find some clear indications regarding what Jesus might do - and what he likely would not do. Would he allow homeless people to live like rats on the streets while elites and others of privilege live in conditions of opulent conspicuous consumption with their government sanctioned tax write-offs, generous capital gains exemptions and tax shelters? Would he allow the plunder of public assets and taxpayer money by the political lackeys of Wall Street financial institutions to bail themselves out of a global economic calamity created by them?
One of the bumper stickers I’ve seen recently reads “Who would Jesus bomb?” Whatever Jesus would do, given what he did do, and has promised he will do, I don’t think it looks much like what the insulated, self-congratulatory neo-conservative politicians, evangelicals and Fox News fans on the Christian Right are doing. If Jesus does return for the Rapture as popular Christian writer Tim Lahaye and other wacky fundamentalists claim, the first thing he would do upon seeing self-righteous Christians ranting and raving in their million dollar churches is throw up and return from whence he came.
Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary
The depiction of an egotistical, vindictive and unjust God and the perverse immoral teachings of the Bible (particularly in the Old Testament) notwithstanding, I will attempt to present my own positive take on Jesus. If perhaps only for a small minority, Jesus is perceived to be a liberal peasant anarchist revolutionary, more akin to an Emiliano Zapata or Ernesto “Che” Guevara than a pretentious George W Bush or silk suited Pastor Joel Osteen flying in their private jets. No, he was depicted as a poor humble man who lived by example, and died for benevolence, compassion and social justice. He was a man of the working classes and underprivileged, not a man born into wealth and privilege. This is the “good”, yet very far from perfect Jesus I understand from my selective reading of the New Testament. The primary issues of Christian liberalism were given impetus when Jesus spoke the profoundly prophetic words found in Matthew 25: 31-46. Liberalism is defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as “a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life…”. Can anyone who values freedom and moral progress honestly say they are against this? It was the prevailing conservative political and religious hierarchy that he challenged and vilified that finally crucified him. This was the fate for most other radical social activists and revolutionaries who actively challenged the status quo of ruling conservative oligarchies from Spartacus to Nelson Mandela. These passages reveal his thoughts on the poor, the sick and other neglected people throughout history. Christians should read this text and judge for themselves which of the two groups mentioned there more accurately reflect the political parties of today. His vision of a democratic revolutionary socialist anarchism lives on today if only as a flicker and the issues have not changed much.
If you are sufficiently selective in your reading of the New Testament, Jesus preached the way of love, the way of nonviolence. Not unlike Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela, he was quite explicit in his pacifism: “Love your enemy”, and “resist not evil”, he said. Jesus refused the temptation to destroy evil by force, preferring to destroy it by tolerance, compassion and love. To Jesus, a nation such as the United States that hails down death and destruction upon another country and its people, and then madly waves the flag in a fit of jingoism, cannot possibly be endearing to an allegedly benevolent God. A leader who claims war as his providential mission is a leader whose Christianity, as well as that of his followers, needs to be born yet-again. Blessed is George W Bush who claims that God told him to invade Iraq! Blessed are the rich and privileged! Blessed are the neo-conservative ideologues, wealthy investor class and Wall Street pirates who demolished the global economy in their rapacious quest for more! Blessed are the mercenaries, capitalists and conquerors! Blessed are the powerful! Blessed are the leaders and politicians! – I think not! Was it not Jesus who proclaimed, “Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit”, and “Blessed are the peacemakers”? (Matthew 5:3-9) Did he not say, “People will know true believers if they have the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control”? They’ve become nothing but empty platitudes to those on the conservative right who have hijacked the Christianity of the social gospel, the message of Christianity advocated by Tommy Douglas.
Most important of all, Christians and all other religious people must also understand that it is the separation of Church and State that protects their religious freedoms and specially the freedoms of those of us like me who do not believe in pie in the sky. Moreover, they should come to the realization that religious belief in and of itself has no societal value. It certainly may have some particular personal or consolatory value, but it is the morality and subsequent actions of the individual and not his/her religiosity that has social import. This is the separation of church and state at a personal level; you can believe what you want, but it is how you behave and act that affects us all. Contrary to what many religious people think, there is no necessary logical connection between religion and morality, though many influenced by religious proselytizing imagine this fallacious delusion to be so. Certainly, some individuals will find moral behavior to be a choice inspired by their religious belief. Others can make the secular choice from a similar emotional standpoint.
Time out for Comic Relief
George W.W.J.D. Bush
George W.W.J.D. Bush healing Osama bin Laden following “Red” or "Commie Poisoning" or exposure to the great Satan Communism, following his Lord and Savior Saint Ronald Reagan who had given Osama a shitload of weapons to destroy the Demonic Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Now we have filled the hole left by the Soviets and are locked into the same bottomless pit of an immoral futile war in the same country. You can’t fix stupid.
passages from the four Gospels, What would Jesus Do?
the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
After the previous installment demolished an entire country called Iraq, the new President of the United States now appears to be prepared to “kick some Afghani and Iranian ass.” What would Jesus do?
Ye have heard that it hath it said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matt. 5: 43-44)
While he was the Governor of Texas, George Bush signed 155 death warrants and granted no pardons to condemned prisoners. What would Jesus do?
Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)
The late Rev. Jerry Falwell, steadfast proponent of “the right to life,” also endorses capital punishment. What would Jesus do?
Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto thee, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turned him the other also. (Matt. 5:38 39)
What might Jesus say about school prayer?
And when thou prayest, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which seeth in secret. (Matt. 6.27)
What about the separation of church and state?
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matt. 21-22).
Did I remember to ask what Jesus had to say about war and peace?
the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Our glorious free market capitalist economy is driven by greed and the profit motive. What might Jesus say about this?
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. ... For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6: 19, 21)
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. (Matt. 6:24)
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15).
With the help of a few well-placed friends, George Bush parlayed a nominal investment in the Texas Rangers into a $20 million fortune. When Dick Cheney left Halliburton, he was given a $34 million “retirement package.” What would Jesus do with these “winnings?”
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matt. 19:21)
Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. ... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matt. 19-23).
George Bush has denied access to his gubernatorial papers and his father’s presidential papers (in both cases, public documents). Dick Cheney refuses to disclose the contents and the persons involved in consultations regarding energy policy. What might Jesus say about this?
There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3)
What might Jesus do about poverty and welfare assistance?
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.... 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. (Matt. 25:35-40).
Forty million American children live below the poverty level. What might Jesus say about this?
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned into the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6)
Furthermore, it is estimated that as a result of the current War in Iraq and previous economic sanctions following the first invasion (Desert Storm), hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones...” (Matt. 18:10).
Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Oral Roberts, Rev. Pat Robertson (the Gordon Gekko of Christianity), Joel Osteen and countless other wealthy “televangelists” claim to speak for Jesus, as they successfully solicit millions in donations, live lavishly in mansions and fly about in private Jets. What might Jesus tell them?
Not everyone who sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7:21).
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; inasmuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:24).
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)
There appears to be something of a “disconnect” between the teachings of Jesus Christ (who, George Bush tells us “changed my life”), and the behavior and policies of many self-confessed “Christians.” I believe that the word that describes such inconsistency might be “hypocrisy.” Jesus had a great deal to say about hypocrites.
Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites... This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from me. (Mark 7:6)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive thy greater damnation. (Matt. 23:14)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith, these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess....
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ... ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matt. 23: 23-28).
What would Jesus say to the huge tax concessions to obscenely profitable mega-corporations, the wealthy investor classes and the super rich like Bill Gates , the Walton family and Warren Buffet? Fifty years ago, corporations paid 45 percent to 50 percent of the income tax. Today they pay 6 or 7 percent – and we wonder why our personal income taxes are so high, our infrastructure, our schools are crumbling along with our social safety net? And do I need to mention the trillions of dollars of “bailout” handed over to criminal financial institutions while precious little is being done to help it’ victims. And don’t be deluded by the beneficence of Bill Gates donating $10 million because it’s comparable to a Walmart “associate” donating 10 cents.
"Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldst be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me. But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he was one that had great possessions." - Luke 21, 22.
"And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto his disciples, and sayeth unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." - Mark 12, 42-44
And one last time, just in case you forgot:
the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Finally, the troubled Christian today might reply: “I do love Jesus, but really, ‘love my enemies?’ ‘Sell all that I have?’ Isn’t that asking too much?” To this, Jesus would reply:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
I’m not a Bible scholar or theologian and have approached this from the point of view of a skeptic, humanist and non-believer. But, alas, try as I might, and despite the ranting and ravings of prominent Christian proselytizers on these issues, I could find no guidance from the Four Gospels regarding assisted suicide, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gun control, evils of socialism or the virtues of capitalism or the marginal capital gains tax.
When faced with such hypocrisy as we seem to find amongst high profile prominent “Christians” today, what did Jesus do? I submit he would probably throw up and promptly crucify himself.
Jesus wept. (John 11:35).
The point of this exercise is that those who ask “What would Jesus do?” generally believe that these verses contain the inerrant “word of God Himself.” Thus these believers must come to terms with apparent inconsistencies between these verses and their own beliefs and behavior.
Thanks to the self-described Online Gadfly, Dr. Ernest Partridge for inspiration and for his article in the Online Journal, Oct 3, 2002.