Wednesday, December 15

The Politics of Jesus

There's no shame in being liberal
August 3, 2004

There they go again. Devoid of ideas, running from the record of failure on the economy and national security, President Bush and his campaign are going negative again, trying to label John Kerry rather than level with Americans.

Now the refrain is that Kerry and Edwards are too ''liberal'' for America. Democrats tend to duck when such charges are leveled. Clinton dressed up as a ''New Democrat,'' trying to separate himself rhetorically. Reformers now call themselves ''progressives,'' trying to avoid the label.

Frankly, I think it's time for people to stand up.

Think about it: A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn't a conservative. He fed the hungry simply because they were hungry. He didn't require that they go to work first. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He didn't push them into an insurance company, or let the drug companies gouge them on prices. Jesus was a liberal; Herod was the conservative.

Moses was the liberal; Pharaoh was the conservative. Abolitionists were liberals; slave owners were the conservatives. Mandela is a liberal; the South African apartheid leaders were the conservatives. That's why conservative Dick Cheney supported apartheid over Mandela, and approved of keeping Mandela in prison.

The Suffragettes were liberals; those who opposed the vote for women were conservatives. Martin Luther King was a liberal; the segregationists were conservatives. He wanted to end racial discrimination; they wanted to conserve it.

Advocates of national health care are liberals; George W. Bush, the HMOs and drug companies are the conservatives. They profit from the current system and want to conserve it from reforms that would make health care affordable for all Americans.

America was a liberal idea. Washington and Jefferson were the liberals; King George was the conservative. America was founded on the proposition that ''We the people'' were endowed with inalienable rights -- including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And when oppressed by an unjust ruler, we had the right to declare our independence and establish our own form of government.

And America was built by liberals -- by dissenters, by those persecuted for their religion or their race. The Statute of Liberty doesn't say, ''Send me your privileged, your wealthy, your powerful yearning to conserve their fortunes.'' It says, ''Send me your tired, your poor, your humble yearning to breathe free.''

Today the choices are equally clear. Bush and Cheney argue for tax cuts for the wealthy; they want to consolidate the wealth and power of the ''have mores'' that the president calls ''my base.''
Liberals are for rolling back tax cuts for the rich and investing in education so every child gets a fair shot. Conservatives would conserve the two Americas: one system of education, health care and retirement security for the powerful, and one for the rest of us. Liberals would make certain that everyone has the right to a high-quality education, to affordable health care, to a decent retirement.

Bush wants to cut guaranteed benefits under Social Security while privatizing it; liberals want to save Social Security so that all Americans have a basic floor beneath their feet.
Bush is against a minimum wage; liberals want to raise the minimum wage. Bush wants to weaken the 40-hour week and reduce those eligible for overtime; liberals want to make certain workers get paid overtime if they have to work more than 40 hours a week.

You can pick your side -- liberal or conservative, for change or for the status quo, for the poor or for the privileged. For me, I stand with Christ against Herod; Moses against the Pharaoh; the abolitionists against the slaveholders; King against the segregationists, the Suffragettes against the male politicians; the many against the few, and liberals against this crowd in the White House.

But whatever you choose, the next time Bush and Cheney rail about Kerry being too liberal, remember that America was a liberal idea from the start.

Lashawn Barber Counters
Jesus Was A Liberal

“Reverend” Jesse Jackson makes some ignorant and incorrect assertions in his latest column, but I want to focus on one: the crack about Jesus being a liberal. I cringe not at the idea that my Lord and Savior is a Democrat; I cringe because Jackson, a professing Christian, deliberately panders to those with little or no understanding of who Jesus is and what the Bible reveals about him.

People unfamiliar with the Bible tend to select verses and principles out of context to support a particular position. But Scripture must be compared with Scripture and interpreted in light of the whole Bible. There is no excuse for a so-called reverend, particularly one who attended seminary (didn’t finish), to make such errors. For political gain, however, he seems willing to deceive the unsuspecting about the nature of God. Jackson writes:

"Think about it: A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn’t a conservative. He fed the hungry simply because they were hungry. He didn’t require that they go to work first. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He didn’t push them into an insurance company, or let the drug companies gouge them on prices. Jesus was a liberal; Herod was the conservative."

Implicit is the common notion that conservatives don’t care about the poor. Liberals think they’ve cornered the market on compassion simply because they advocate bigger government programs to do the caring and feeding. To sum up the difference between liberal compassion and true compassion, I’ll borrow an old saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

(If “Jesus was a liberal", as Jackson says, I wonder what he’d have to say about the other attributes of liberalism, such as sexual permissiveness, advocating homosexual “marriage", killing unborn babies or discriminating against people based on their race.)

While I believe non-political conservative values, such as promoting traditional families, self-restraint, self-reliance (physical, not spiritual), to name a few, are biblical attributes, I don’t dispute that some liberals mean well when they contend that feeding the hungry just because they’re hungry is what Jesus would do. It is true, but not the way they think.

As Jackson knows, liberal, conservative, libertarian, constitutionalist, etc., are labels we fallen humans came up with to describe our political ideology. Labels are just a quick way to describe where we are on an imaginary political line.

In that regard, I’ll dispense with political labels and use spiritual ones: believers, unbelievers, saved and unsaved. According to the Bible, which I believe is inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, we are dead in our sins. That is, we are incapable of recognizing the need for salvation. From the first disobedience in the Garden of Eden, every person born is a sinner. We are rebels through and through.

But a person is “saved” from God’s wrath once he’s acknowledged his sinful condition, confessed his sins, admitted his unworthiness and turns away from his sins. He’s asked God for mercy and forgiveness and acknowledged the need of a Savior: Christ crucified on the cross. In all of these things the repentent person has faith, and in his infinite mercy, God forgives. Read more here.
Jesus did many things in his 3-year ministry. With righteous indignation, he threw out traders and money-changers conducting business in God’s temple, fed the hungry and cared for and about the downtrodden. But that’s not all he did or ultimately why he came.
This is where the unbelieving miss a crucial point. Christ wasn’t a traveling doctor or soup kitchen volunteer walking about the countryside curing ailments and filling bellies with loaves of bread and fish. He was extending an offer to heal spiritual sickness and provide the bread of life — Himself — to satisfy spiritual hunger. The portrait of a “liberal” Jesus misses these points entirely.

Christ indeed fed the poor. The poor in spirit. Christ said, “I am the bread of life….Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

Some people don’t believe that Jesus was anything other than a man. They say Jesus was a good teacher, a wise philosopher and an all-around great guy but ignore the fact that this “good teacher” claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed authority to judge sin, not merely to point it out. Such authority is given to no mere man.

In his boldness, Christ told the unbelieving Jews that if they indeed knew God, they’d also know him because he and God were one. He even claimed to be the “I AM” himself, the name of the God of the Old Testament. Jesus is also the Lamb slain to pay for the sins of those he came to save. He will return to deliver God’s wrath on an unrepentant world. Isn’t it interesting that people who claim Jesus was a liberal skip over this part?

I certainly didn’t expect Jesse Jackson to say all this in a 650-word column, but a little hint would have been nice.

To heal our spiritual sickness and hunger is why Christ came into the world, and I pray that Jesse Jackson knows it. If he really believes that the God of the Bible approves of deception and deliberate misapplication of Scripture, I truly feel sorry for him. A man who once believed abortion was murder has let his political ambition take precedence over truth.

This is compassion: I pray that God has mercy on him.

Summary on Vision Circle
August 06, 2004
Jesus was WHAT?

Jesse Jackson argues that Jesus was a liberal. La Shawn tears into him, with Michael King picking up the rear.

On the one hand, they are definitely correct to critique Jackson. Jesus was no more a liberal than Malcolm X would be a supporter of Clarence Thomas. The language we speak, much less terms like "liberal" or "conservative" didn't even exist during the time Jesus lived.


It is clear to me that Jesus was a champion of the poor. Not simply in the spiritual sense, as LaShawn argues, but in the material sense. Now it could be that he did so because they were the most spiritually bereft. But this doesn't quite play out in The New Testament. Jesus notes time and again that the poor, the meek, are actually closer to God than their rich counterparts are--which seems to go against the claim that we are all sinners equally. It is clear that he nourished and helped them. It is also clear that he NEVER turned his back on them.

Furthermore, Jesus was fully invested in emending Jewish law. When I say "emend" here I am not making a term up...I mean that he was actually attempting to bring the law back in line with the Law. Given that the Jewish faith was also a system of governance, I don't see how you could say that Jesus was above "politics." In as much as he sought to change the material world, so as to save the people in it, I don't see how his movement could be anything OTHER than political.

I think Jackson would've been better off saying that Jesus wasn't conservative. Not in the contemporary sense of the word. Nor even in the historical sense of the word. He would've been a lot closer to the mark. Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and the scions of the Moral Majority have used Christianity as a way to put a sheen of legitimacy on their record. It's wrong and Christians everywhere should be ashamed.

Oh. One more thing. When Jackson says:

"The Suffragettes were liberals; those who opposed the vote for women were conservatives. Martin Luther King was a liberal; the segregationists were conservatives. He wanted to end racial discrimination; they wanted to conserve it. "

...he's right. It is also true that many of the segregationists were Democrats...but don't get it twisted. Partisan preference (also known as party id) is very different from political ideology. One can be a Liberal Republican (though this is becoming a bit hard) just as one can be a Conservative Democrat (ask Zell Miller about this one).

No comments: