Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Un-Christian Super-Religious Republican Party

Today there's an excellent Washington Post article by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, who explains how un-Christian the Republican Party's economic policies really are. Worth reading and worth sharing.

This well-argued opinion piece from the Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life, says the same thing, calling the Republican efforts in Congress downright immoral.

Luckily, even though there are millions of dollars and hundreds of radio and television platforms pushing it, Americans aren't buying this strange Anti-Christian brand of Christian Capitalism. This poll from the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service found that more Americans think capitalism is at odds with Christian values.

Actually, when you sit down and read the New Testament, read it with your heart not your bank book, Jesus does sound like a Socialist, if not a downright Marxist. This liberal Jesus doesn't jibe with the Romney/Bachmann/Perry/ Cain/Santorum/Paul/Christie/Boehner wing of the Republican Party (all of the Republican Party these days) who think Jesus was sent by our Heavenly Father to make us very wealthy and provide us with an affordable servant class. The Republican Big Idea is that the poor should learn how to obey their masters.

This article from Religion Dispatches speaks to this harsh anti-worker, anti-union thread. Republican strategists have been aggressively pushing in that direction, using carefully lifted Bible verses. Verses that spoke to the lives of slaves in Biblical times are being used to justify slavery today, sometimes saying, as Bachmann has, that slaves had it better than today's unemployed. Suggesting that slavery would be a good solution to today's problems. That Jesus was, by some bizarre misinterpretation, a hard capitalist, an anti-liberal, pro-slavery, anti-tax anti-public school right winger. Fruitcake theology.

Was Jesus a socialist or was he a banker? When you read him do you think his heaven on earth would look like Scandinavia or would it look like pre-Mandela South Africa? This post on the Real Economics blog sorts the different threads of Christian economics.

Jesus Was a Socialist:

"The Protestant Reformation may have started in Martin Luther's Germany, but the reformist impulse would not stop there. Luther had one especially radical notion—that everyone could through the tools of literacy and study come to an understanding of his or her relationship to God. With this idea, the authoritarian relationship of the church was shattered. The Protestant Reformation shattered Christianity into thousands of sects large and small. Yet out of this cacophony would emerge dominant themes.

"In political terms, the center would be occupied by Luther and his followers. On one hand, his teachings about the worth of the lowliest among us would inspire the Peasant's Revolt of 1524-25. On the other, he would encourage the secular authorities to brutally suppress the uprising. Lutherans would run the governments of the Nordic countries for hundreds of years and were a part of feudalism, yet there were plenty good Lutherans in those countries who could find reasons to explain why Jesus and Luther would have loved cooperatives and become Social Democrats. Lutherans have more or less put themselves out of business as a religion but their cultural heritage still makes it true that if a social welfare system works anywhere, there's a good chance it is happening where Lutherans once roamed the earth.

"The Reformation's left would be occupied by the followers of Menno Simon—the Swiss Anabaptist. Now it may be pretty hard to imagine the very culturally conservative Mennonites and Amish as lefties but consider this—Christianity had managed to keep silent or encourage the practices of human slavery for over 15 centuries before Simon and friends wrote principled objections to it in 1534. They are SERIOUS about staying out of wars and have been since their founding. Their economic beliefs encourage sharing and community, and because they are so honest, a lot of the expensive apparatus of contracts is avoided. Not surprisingly, they are usually very prosperous. You can think of them as hippies—only with skills and excellent work habits."

Or Jesus Was a Pure Market Capitalist:

"And then we come to the right. John Calvin was Frenchman living in Geneva who would literally set Christianity on its head. For example, usury had been considered the mortal sin for over 1000 years. Now Calvin would teach that Jesus did not mind moneychangers so much—he just didn't want them setting up shop in the temples. For most of history, Christians were the poor, the folks with the shit jobs, the slaves. Now Calvin would teach that God made people rich to show that he loved them.

"Calvinism would migrate to USA in many forms but the dominant one was through the Puritans who came to Massachusetts. These folks would organize our most prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale. When people talk about WASPs, they are talking about worship-the-rich Calvinists. But the Calvinists are not limited to the snooty set. Oh no, no, no. Find some mouth-breather that denies evolution or climate change and thinks Jesus rode a dinosaur to church and in USA, the chances are about 99% you are talking to a Calvinist. Calvinism so defines the American culture that one is not wrong to think that when someone calls themselves a Christian and is not Catholic, that person is an off-shoot of the Calvinist impulse."

Do we believe the Martin Luther King Jesus or the Milton Friedman Jesus? The Jesus of "feed the poor, help the afflicted" or "money grows on trees"? Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney believe Jesus was an MBA, that being rich is the most crucial part of Christianity. The richer you are the more Christian you are. Whose Bible did that come out of? The Gospel of Riches version of Christianity is the church of Swiss Bankers and Wall Street.

American voters need to know the difference. We need to be worried about what the hard Right Wing has in mind. The bankers' side is all Republican. Wall Street's Jesus is Republican. The former slave states are all Republican. What does that tell you? Jesus wasn't necessarily anti-capitalist, but he preached a softening of capitalism's hard edge. That is Liberalism. Jesus was a Liberal. He was on the side of the little guy, of the masses, the owner of the hardware store down the street, the small farmer, the public school teacher with forty kids in her class, the two-earner family whose earners are unemployed and have a mortgage to pay.

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