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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Note to Liberal [Want a be]Theologians

Recently, I've seen the following quote get spread around Facebook among my liberal friends. 
Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary who hung around with lepers hookers and crooks; wasn't American and never spoke English; was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M[atthew] 6:5); but was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control, never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never asked a leper for a copay; and was a long-haired brown-skinned homeless community-organizing anti-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew. - John Fugelsang (HT https://twitter.com/JohnFugelsang/status/417310572061790209)
I find this type of argumentation infantile because it doesn't actually engage with the arguments.It only advances the stereotypes propagated by both the Political Right and the Political Left. This is meant to imply that [Political] Conservatives see Jesus as a Status quo loving American insider who was too good for people who loves wealth, capital punishment, prayers in school and who is against gay marriage, birth control, expects God to help those who help themselves, against the redistribution of wealth, loves torture, hates universal health care, racial diversity since he is buzz cut wearing white man.

I want to know who believes this? Other than the Fred Phelps of the Westbro Baptist Church, who actually believes asking the questions where this is the answer? Of course, Jesus wasn't white. Of course, he never fought for tax cuts in the non-democratic Roman Empire. Of course, he never asked a leper for a copay to heal them because he always did it by his grace in the vocation of a prophet, not Doctor. Jesus was a spiritual revolutionary, not a political one. He organized Church communities. Who is saying that Jesus is for torture? He hung with lepers, hookers, crooks, tax collectors, government officials, religious leaders, women, organized labor, zealots, Samaritans, Solders and just about everyone else. He was "silent" directly on gays, abortion and birth control but he does make much of selfishness, lust, parenting, marriage, divorce and children. Do you think positions on gays, abortion and birth control comes for the positive teaching on those things? Try that argumentation in the court of the law today with speeding. "It says 55 but it didn't say if need to get to Taco Bell before it closed." This is anachronistic and a misrepresentation of what orthodox Christianity actually believes.

I'm glad other see through this as well. While I may disagree with his overall conclusions, a liberal friend of mine posted on Facebook basically calling it for what it is. He wrote the following:
 I prefer this version of Jesus. But it should be obvious that it's a retelling of Jesus to make him a post-modern. I'm fine with that, since that's what the Bible is anyway [communally-oriented re-imaging].  
But I don't doubt the historical Jesus was probably homophobic [given that the concept of a homosexual orientation didn't yet exist, and most manpeople thought the way homophobes think today: gay = butt-sex, lesbians = tasty, but probably not really a thing]. Paul was definitely bigoted and most certainly not opposed to things like slavery and chauvinism. 
Christianity's greatest contribution to religion, though, is its inherent propensity to transform from extremely dogmatic, fundamentalist, in-group, tribalism to more inclusive, gentler, more morally defensible, and rational communal living. It's pretty great. I'd be happy to participate in that form of Christianity, too. But let's not lose track of the reality that the ethic listed in this lovely meme, are of our time, not Jesus'. I think that's ok, and really, much more true to the Bible as a whole, and the experience of Christianity-in-time than American evangelical fundamentalism. 
I respect the intellectual honesty to say, "Yep, that is what it really says but I disagree with it based upon this, that and the other thing."  We can then actually have a conversation how our views of things will impact our public policy and how our views are different. I also know that you are open-minded enough to listen to what I am really saying.

Please Liberals: Be honest with yourself. Memes like this is just red meat to a Blue State crowd and is no different than a "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" bumper sticker (or appealing to the "yuck" factor). This, along with the tired West Wing/Dr. Laura Leviticus discussion, just shows the ignorance of a person and not his or her intelligence.

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