Christian Politics: An Oxymoron for the Ages

WHCross“My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here” – John 18:36)

I don’t often use Christian Scripture as an opening quote for my articles, nor do I usually include believers as part of my target demographic when writing (unless it’s a rant). However, unless you’ve been living in a cave or took a customized DeLorean on vacation, it has become painfully obvious that the intent of a huge chunk of Republican party politicians and a not-so-insignificant number of Democrat, Libertarian and Independent politicians have chosen as their official campaign mascot a fellow whom they call

Jesus Christ…

The genesis of my points of view come from two decades of studying the bible. I’ve done this throughout these years in several capacities. Briefly as a Catholic and a Pentecostal, much more significant in length of time as a Baptist Pastor, and for the past nearly eight years as an atheist activist. Thus, I am very familiar with the book, and I think it is safe to say more so than most of those who still wear the label of “believer.”

I’ve written extensively about the contents of the bible over the years, and as time goes by I find myself able to explain my points of view with greater ease, clarity and accuracy with respect to the actual words that are written between the covers of the Scriptures. The reasons for this are multiple, but include the fact that I still read the bible regularly, albeit for different reasons these days, and some twenty-seven years as a writer, journalist and author.

Reading the bible is actualy a misnomer, because both the activist and the Theologian must also include using the knowledge that has been aquired in the areas of linguistics, which includes the anatomy of the speech, sounds, symbols and the semantics that are contemporary to the time the writing took place. It also includes aspects of contemporary cultures.

Contrary to what some people believe, the bible was not written in the English language and the authors did not begin their day by reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. Thus, the art of “cherry picking” from the book to advance a personal agenda is about as disingenuous as opening “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” to page 1070, sliding your finger down to line 30 and take the meaning of the words, “Like workmen. I’ll example you with theivery,” as permission to steal from your employer.

Using the bible as a dictionary is just as ridiculous as using any book as a dictionary. That the Christian generally believes the words printed on the pages of the bible are either directly or indirectly the will, want and commands of their God makes the act of cherry-picking not only deceitful, but dangerous as well. I do not think I need to further explain why. I have included the preface you have just read because, like many others (including many believers), I am fed up with

Christian Politics…

For the sake of saving you scrolling time, here’s the Scripture I used at the top of the page:

“My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here” – John 18:36)

What do these words mean, what is the context and what was the character portrayed as Jesus Christ in the bible attempting to convey? Let me enlighten you, brothers and sisters. To say that Jesus had contempt for politics is an understatement. Christian politics is an oxymoron. This particular segment of the bible involves Jesus speaking to Pontius Pilate, and even in the Koine Greek, it is obvious that Jesus was not, nor ever had, brought forth a political message.

My conversations with believers in the Democratic Party have revealed a fear that the Republicans have the advantage within the voting bloc of Christians in general because of a near total mind-meld of their faith and their politics. Reading interviews, quotes, tweets and Facebook stati of Republicans and GOP politicians clearly support these fears, as they truly believe that “Jesus is on their side.”

The Bible Says…

If one actually reads the bible, it becomes immediately apparent that the character portrayed as Jesus goes to great lengths to maintain significant distance from siding with any of the political factions present in first century Roman occupied Palestine. He was neither for nor against the presence and rule of the Roman Empire. I find it ironic that in our political climate of Christian Nationalism, and much of the rhetoric that is coming mostly from the GOP and the Libertarians, the bible reads that Jesus was not carrying around signs and doing sound-bite interviews about the ills and thievery of taxation. The book of Matthew clears that right up in chapter 22, verse 21, which states,

“Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him”

Not only did Jesus advocate paying taxes, it is quite obvious that he was a fierce proponent of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, Jesus was not particularly fond of the uber-wealthy and was particularly disdainful of those who made themselves appear pious to everyone who had the capacity to see and/or hear them.
Consider, in context, his admonition toward those who used prayer to these ends.

“When you pray, be not like the pretenders, who prefer to pray in the synagogues and in the public square, in the sight of others. In truth I tell you, that is all the profit they will have. But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father, and your Father who sees you in hiding will reward you” – Matthew 6:5-6.

He admonished those who stood not only in synagogues, but also in the public square, offering up their supplications, petitions and various woes to them. The context here is two-fold. Praying in the synagogues is contextually identical to praying in the churches.

Wait, what’s wrong with Christians praying in their churches? Actually, nothing. Praying in a Sanctuary is completely appropriate, especially during worship services. The issues that arise surround the types of prayers offered, and that is a whole other subject that I will not get into at this juncture. Suffice to say, it is not uncommon for prayer services to be a catalyst for gossip, or actual gossip itself.

The church being nothing like Vegas, what happens in a prayer service often does not stay confidential. Many a can of worms has been opened via prayer requests for those who are needing deliverance from infidelity, viewing pornography, smoking dope, cheating on taxes or any number of sins brought into light. No, it is the second point that the character portrayed as Jesus makes. Praying in

The Public Square…

Our founding fathers knew the ramifications of mixing religion and government, and thusly drafted a very secular Constitution. Apparently so did Jesus. Thus our protections regarding religious tests and the holding of public offices and, of course, the First Amendment’s separation clause. If there was ever an argument for our country being founded on any principle from the bible, it would be Jesus’ advocation for the separation of church and state. How’s that for ironic?

The Republican party and its various offshoots, including what is passing for Libertarian these days, has embraced a code of external holiness of sorts. GOP/TP/L politicians are the new Pharisees, as they have become the whitewashed tomb that Jesus speaks of:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” – Matthew 23:7

In my contextual thread of irony, it seems lost on these holier-than-thou politicians and their religious followers (most of Christianity) that Jesus was not only politically rebellious, but had very little use for religion in general. The external holiness codes that were demanded of his contemporary Jews were not on Jesus’ top ten list.

So, strike one for today’s Christian Nationalists who wear their religion on their sleeve. Jesus hated religion, because the religion of his time was externally pious but internally rotten. Thus the rebellion of Christ in his teaching that faith should be internal, a matter of the heart, so to speak.

Mockeries….

The story of the Passion of the Christ plainly tells the story of a Roman government which was not at all convinced that Jesus was being truthful about his lack of political ambition. His execution (sic) was not for blasphemy, but for insurrection and treason. Thus, he was branded a failed king and mocked with a robe and scepter, and was treated to a rather sarcastic congregation of soldiers who bowed to him in fake obedience.

It should be an affront to those Christians who actually take the time to read and comprehend the message of Christ within the pages of the New Testament that Christian Nationalists are doing little more than carrying on the work of those Roman soldiers by completely disregarding the Scripture I used at the top of this article, being, again,

“My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here” – John 18:36)

Religion and politics are not just two subjects that should never be spoken about in polite company. They are two ideologies that should never be mixed, period.

You’re So Vain…

A large portion of the efforts and resources of Atheist and Secular organizations is used to combat violations of the First Amendment. One of the most common of these efforts involve the display of the Ten Commandments. Christian Nationalists fail to understand that the very act of displaying the Decalogue is antithetical to the Second Commandment, wich reads:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

In fact, the image of the cross also violates this commandment, so when a cross is erected anywhere the Christian should be jumping up and down in righteous indignation and fear the wrath of God on them, their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. But I digress.

The point is, Christian Nationalism (aka the GOP Platform) is, in effect, a false religion and all of those statements, quotes and desires of Christian politicians who are stumping for Jesus to reign in our government are guilty of committing idolatry. As well, they are also guilty of what it actually means to take the Lord’s name in vain.

Final Thoughts…

Jesus was a rebellious character, and this is apparent throughout the New Testament. Every single institutional authority in his time, both religious and political, seemed to make him writhe with disdain. This included his disdain for religious leaders,

“Do not be called Rabbi, since you have only one teacher, and you are all brothers.” – Matthew 23:8 

And his disdain for religious political leaders,

“And do not be called leaders, since you have only one leader, the Messiah” – Matthew 23:8-10)

Christian Nationalist politicians continue their efforts to institutionalize Jesus, and every time they do, they stray farther and farther from his message. Those of us who are unbelievers are chastised by many fundamentalists as being immoral, irreverent, blasphemous and a hater of God.

I find it quite ironic that the character portrayed as Jesus was also called these things, and those admonitions came from both politically ambitious religious leaders and religiously ambitious political leaders.

Pot, meet kettle…

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  6 comments for “Christian Politics: An Oxymoron for the Ages

  1. August 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    So what you’re saying is that the non-existent jesus actually portrayed in the pages of the bible would not be in favor of the current christian nationalist doctrine of wearing your religion on your sleeve and forcing it on everyone. Thus, even those willing to swallow the bullshit story of jesus should NOT be on the teabagger campaign to infect the public governance with their christianity virus. Well, to repeat myself, this was another insightful analysis, Al! Bravo!!

  2. kagekiri
    August 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I actually read Jesus’ acceptance of Roman tyranny as fundamentally un-American.

    It was a worse version of the taxation without representation problem that spurred the American revolution, yet Jesus’ commands seem to say “suck it up, it’ll get sorted out in the afterlife”. In other words, Jesus would have opposed the basis of the American Revolution, or really, any revolution against a ruling government, no matter its corruption.

    So wackjobs who think we’re a “Christian nation” really lack basic reading comprehension. Jesus and the Bible not only never mention democracy, but they’re against representative governments or even trying to improve the government (Paul writes about not disobeying God given governments…which is all of them), instead supporting the divine right to rule from God and other theocratic/monarchic/inherited-right-to-rule crap America specifically rejected.

  3. JJ7212
    August 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I’m unable to see how we need Jesus when talking about taxes. We all might have different taxation ideas that we could communicate to each other about, but the teachings of Jesus seem irrelavant. Same for infrastructure. If we need to fix the roads in our town, how does the teachings of Jesus come into play? It don’t get it.

    Perhaps a big reason politicians use religion to glorify themselves is because it gives them credibility to the voters, who happen to also be christian. “Oh! We can trust him! He wouldn’t lie to us! He’s a CHRISTIAN! Jesus will watch over him!”

    Whatever happened to being respected because you have a certain set of skills, reasoning, experience, and leadership qualities? I’d much rather vote for an intelligent atheist than a liar for Jesus. I’d also vote for an intelligent Christian if he didn’t yammer on about his piety…

  4. Corvus illustris
    August 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but some explanation of the reading “My reign is not of this present order” would be interesting, since Jerome (probably using the Vetus Latina), Luther (1545), KJV, New KJ et al. seem to agree on “My kingdom is not of this world.” It seems a rather strained choice of not-quite-synonyms, particularly in the case of kosmos. I quote this line to my theocratic acquaintances frequently; it would be nice to tell them why the standard reading misses the point.

  5. vel
    August 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    and don’t forget about the bits in Romans 13, where Paul exhorts everyone to obey every and all worldly rulers since *all* of those rulers and their laws where put in place directly by this god. No exceptions made at all for rulers that the believer in question doesn’t like personally. So anyone who whines about taxes, etc is directly saying that this god made a mistake. The whole American revolution is totally against what the bible says, as was the Confederacy’s actions during the ACW. Of course the primitive screwheads who created the bible didn’t realize that such things would come into being and of course didn’t think to account for such things with their delusions of the “end times coming real soon now”.

    Many Christians do believe that anyone who claims membership in their tribe is to be treated without question. It feeds into their own delusion that they are perfect too (falsely humble claims of “filthy rags” notwithstanding) You can’t think yourself able to be mistaken if your invisible friend is the omnimax ruler of the universe.

  6. TheVirginian
    August 20, 2012 at 4:00 am

    Excellent commentary.
    And FYI, I’m a native-born Southerner (Richmond, Va., and grew up down river; Va. Tech and LSU student) and newspaperman (LSU J degree, worked as reporter or editor on daily newspapers in Jackson, Miss.; Monroe and Shreveport, La.; Texarkana; and since 1994 on the Baton Rouge paper). I have some Ga. family connections. Enjoy your work.

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