Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.

2010-03-22

Christianity, Social Justice and Politics

'Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.' - Matthew 22:21

Most reasonable people pay their taxes, regardless of their religion. It's part and parcel of living in a civilized society. We pay for the socialized benefits of roads, airports, police, fire departments, schools (including our own education as children), courts, military, and even those "socialist" things like social security/disability, medicare, medicaid, environmental protection, national parks, and food safety inspection. Our society has a lot of infrastructure and services, plus regulations, that make this nation both productive, safe and desirable to live in.

This is appropriate, because we all must live in this world, no matter what our religious views of it are. Christians for one are supposed to not consider themselves of this world, but part of Jesus' kingdom. But they still live here, and spend government (Caesar's) cash, drive on government roads, are subject to government laws. Unless you want to withdraw to some entirely off-grid compound in the boonies and try to be a total anti-tax protester, you get the benefit of government infrastructure, therefore you should pay your share.

But the right wing, especially the ones that pander to the theocrats, want to do away with that. They want to do away with all taxes except those that get fed to the military/industrial complex, the prison guards unions, or the police officers unions - and even the police are on the chopping block! They want corporations to pay nothing, small businesses to pay some, the middle class to pay more, and the poor to pay most (but get the least). They truly believe in "trickle up".

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; 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, saying, 'Lord, when saw we thee hungry, 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 unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.' - Matthew 25:41-45

Feed the hungry, shelter the stranger, clothe the naked, tend the sick, help the imprisoned: this is social justice. Yes, social justice is more, but Jesus says more, too.

Now the blowhard of the right, Rush Limbaugh*, says to run away from any church that talks of "social justice". Asshole. Jesus was all about social justice. Overturning the moneychangers tables in the temple was pure social justice. In our society, working for social justice is the way people of conscience see to it that what is right is done without cramming their religion down other people's throats.

The way in which Christians in our society go about the great work is by working for social justice, equality for all. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, the women's suffrage movement, the labor movement - they were all backed by the churches that followed Jesus' teachings. (Before you neocon's look down your nose at unions and the labor movement, remember that they brought us workplace safety, sick pay, vacation pay, overtime pay, child labor laws, workman's compensation and the 40 hour work week. You own lives and your parents lives would suck if those had not existed.)

All of these thing share the principles of justice and equality that Jesus demonstrated and preached. He didn't preach "Attack your neighbors", he said love them, feed them, care for them. When the church started to stray from this basic vision back in the 70s is when I lost faith, when I saw that the whole thing was a fly-trap for hypocrites who loved the old-testament laws and Pauline misogyny more than the words of Jesus himself.

And he answered and said unto them, 'Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God; he shall not honor his father. And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition.' - Matthew 15:3-6

Many people could not, or did not, take care of their elders, both in biblical times and now. Many were more than poor, but destitute and starving, plus dying from lack of medical care. In the passage above, people would sequester their funds saying they were "a gift to God" - dedicated or tied up in trust and thus unavailable to help their parents. Kind of like spending your kid's college fund on a yacht.

Social Security and Medicare, the things that have significantly reduced the absolute impoverishment and mortality of the elderly in this country since their introduction, are classic examples of social justice, and direct Christian principles being put into a workable secular format. In part, they let people contribute toward their own future retirement. (Yes, I know Congress has mismanaged it - but we've had a mostly conservative Congress for most of the last 20 years!) This is how the principle "Honor thy father and mother" from Jesus' viewpoint can be put into action in a secular, worldly, non-religious manner (in the world, but not of it.)

'And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me: But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.' - Matthew 18:5-6

"For the children" - Perhaps one of the most misused rallying cries in the world today. Still, some very important social justice has been done for the children - TANF, welfare, public education, all of that. How does it relate to the above bible quote? Simple: If children do not have food, shelter, clothing, medical care or legal protection, they are often forced into prostitution, theft, drugs, gang activity, and other activity that by any reasonable definition is a sinful "stumble". Yet so many conservatives are very quick to throw children and youth social programs under the bus (after all, they can't vote) and criminalize (enhance the penalties on) the consequences of their neglect.

Don't go all righteous and "pro-life", and then be anti-welfare, anti pre-natal care, anti public schooling, either. If you want to insist that a woman's uterus is yours to command, then you need to help to care for the child that you have insisted that she bear. Also, if you are anti-contraception, you are just a hypocrite - since a child who isn't conceived can't be risk being aborted or end up "in the system."

And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.' - Luke 17:20-21

The theocratic wing of the Republican party wants to turn the government (Caesar) into an arm of their interpretation of the kingdom of God. They want to rule this country according to "biblical" principals, to pass laws that make their religious views the law of the land. They already do so in the abortion and gay rights area and it has taken generations to undo the damage, and they keep coming back, like cockroaches.

But the theocrats don't want to pay much taxes. They don't want their corporate friends to pay any taxes. They don't want any safety net - they want to have us all enslaved to the corporations, soothed only by the promise of heaven that comes in brief doses on Sunday. They want "God's laws" imposed. They want to stone gays, force birth on pregnant women, stone adulterers, and burn "unrepentant" non-Christians. They don't want their "Godly" government to follow Jesus and tend the sick, feed the hungry, clothe those needing clothing, minister to those in prison (helping them to prepare for release). They want life to be nasty, brutal, and short, lived only for breeding more soldiers for Christ and singing hymns to the BroodJesus and God.

This is wrong. They want all the power, all the authority, all the right to punish and force people to do as they say, but they already don't want to pay for the small things that their own Messiah commanded them to do that our existing government accomplishes better than any individual or even megachurch could!

And behold, one came to him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' And he said unto him, 'Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good: but if thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments.' He saith unto him, 'Which?' And Jesus said, 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' - Matthew 19:16-19

The theocrats want an Old Testament government. The laws they want are all derived from the piddling strictures of ancient Israel, and it's tribal quarrels. Sort of like a Christian Sharia. Like the Pharisees of Matthew 15, their so-called traditions and cherry-picked old testament bible quotes are more important to them than actually following the words of Jesus.

Jesus himself mandated just 6 commandments: 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' The Republican party has had more adultery scandals in the past 10 years than the Democrats. Their media voice, Fox News, lies regularly, and has even gone to court to prove that it is not illegal to lie about the news! Wall street has both lied to us and stolen from us. The theocrats want to kill by stoning people who don't obey the Old Testament Sharia laws.

'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.' - Matthew 7:15-20

The theocrats and neo-con religious right are no true followers of Jesus. What they are trying to do is not just wrong in the secular world, it goes directly against the teachings of Jesus himself. The threat to our society is not paganism, or humanism, or atheism, but arrogance and presumption of moral authority on the part of the Religious Right where none exists, even within their own religion!

Jesus raised no army. There is nothing is the gospels about soldiers except in reference to Roman soldiers. Even the sword was only used as a metaphor for strife. (Paul may have incorporated military metaphors, but I hold that Paul has no authority, having been an agent provocateur.) So why are these lunatics raising an "Army of God"? Why are there "Soldiers of/for Christ"? Why is "Joel's Army" supposedly "God's Army"? If your God is as powerful as you say, he doesn't need any damn army!!

The theocrats, dominionists, neoconservatives, and charlatans who deride social justice and promote a gospel of anger or secular power are real wolves in sheep's clothing, and sometimes even shepherd's clothing. They want to twist the words of their own messiah, the words of a great teacher and mystic, to their own selfish and egotistical ends. It is they you need to run away from, whose channel you need to change, who you need to report to your church leadership as being un-Christian.

'Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.' - Matthew 7:4-5

Face it, people, you have a lot to clean up in your own religion before you can start thinking about cramming it down some non-believer's throat. Start by working within the secular system on what your own Messiah told you were priorities: the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, the old, the children. Start by seeking social justice, equality, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

* Correction: It has been pointed out that it was Glenn Beck, not Rush Limbaugh, that exhorted people to run away from churches advocating for social justice. Mea culpa. I just can't tell one right wing blowhard from another some days.

8 comments:

The Silicon.Shaman said...

Great post, and unfortunately, one that those that most need to see it, will never read.

lisa-marli said...

Excellent post. It really shows the hypocrites for what they are.
I'm boosting the signal.

capplor said...

You inadvertently conflated Rush Limbaugh with Glenn Beck. other than that, well done thou good and faithful servant.

Pere Macaco said...

I completely concur with you on your post...too many Christians have fallen prey to the conservative rhetoric and forgotten what Christ taught, and only use the Bible selectively...as a Catholic, it makes me sad.

(on a side note, it was actually Glen Beck who's telling Christians that they need to run from their church if they hear the words social justice)

Kudos & thanks for the post!

Ravan Asteris said...

I stand corrected on the Glenn Beck vs Rush Limbaugh issue, and have noted the correction at the end of the post.

Anonymous said...

So wrong and fulled with hate. You confuse taxes with charity to promote your socialism. You're not worth educating.

Ravan Asteris said...

Ah, yes, the anonymous cowards are heard from. The ones who don't understand their own supposed religion, who don't see the log of hate in their own eye, while they rage at a supposed speck in mine.

It is you who failed to see what is laid before you. You who can't be taught, even with the words of your own Messiah.

Jesus wept.

Rain said...

"So wrong and fulled [sic] with hate. You confuse taxes with charity to promote your socialism. You're not worth educating."

And yet my taxes pay for Abrams tanks and Predator drones and Virginia class submarines, against my will. So, corporate welfare is okay (also, I pay for universal health care in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that's evil socialism here).

Education? Do you even know what the term socialism means?