Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When Did Jesus Get So Mean?

How do Christian conservatives reconcile their harsh attitudes toward the vulnerable with their faith? I just don't get it. So often, they are the holier-than-thou people who claim the right to interpret religion for all of us.  They are the ones who get to decide that abortion and homosexuality are wrong but Jesus would approve of Mitt Romney's tax rate and automatic weapons. Granted, I left the Church long ago. Perhaps, they've amended the Bible since then but the Jesus I recall from catechism classes was all about charity and tolerance, particularly toward children and the poor.

I posted an article on Facebook about how Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's governor, has cut funding that allows many poor Louisianians to access to hospice care in their dying days. The premise of the article was that this policy is not only cruel but inefficient. It will actually cost the state money in the long-run when these people end up in hospital emergency rooms like so much unwanted flotsam. One of Jindal's constituents, who presumably approves of actions like these and would like to see them duplicated across the country, responded to my post with "Jindal for President!"

Another friend, who is quite devout, posted that gay marriage was immoral. The Bible says so, she stated unequivocally, and the Bible is always right. It is? Really? The Bible is always right? Then why do you love your pork tenderloins and your fashion made of mixed materials? And why don't we still stone adulteresses to death? (We both know people who could have gotten nailed by that one).  

"Oh, well," she said, "that was the Old Testament."

Really? Did we decide that the Old Testament isn't so important anymore when I wasn't paying attention? (Aren't the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament?) If this is our new standard, did Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality? Did he ever say anything about abortion? I'm not a Bible specialist, so why don't those of you who are tell me what Jesus' position was on these issues?

What I mostly remember from my childhood was learning about Jesus as a kindly man who exhorted his followers to "give what you have to the poor and follow me" and "suffer the children to come unto me" and "as you treat the least of them, so you treat me". I recall Jesus beseeching us to judge not. He fed the poor and healed the sick and comforted the sinners. After all, it was the moneylenders he drove out of the temple, not the gays or the whores. 

So, where did this new 21st Century Jesus come from? The one who scorns the poor as "takers", the one who dismisses the dying, the one who ignores the children in favor of a 'greed is good" philosophy? How can his followers possibly read their New Testament and get that message from it?

When did Jesus become a right-wing Republican? When did he decide that torture was fine and dandy and hell, you don't have to "render unto Caesar' if Caesar is just going to take your money and waste it feeding some worthless, hungry kid and guns, oh, yes, very definitely Jesus would have been in favor of everyone having lots and lots of guns with no restrictions whatsoever.

It doesn't really matter that much to me. I'm an agnostic so the Bible doesn't affect me except for having to live under the laws passed by its proponents. The Jesus I recall would very clearly have been a bleeding-heart liberal, probably even too liberal for most Democrats today. So, geez, people - if you're going to force all of us to abide by your Bible's precepts, at least get them right.