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The GOP doesn't own Jesus By Brooks Harrington Special to the… - don't let the bastards grind you down.

The GOP doesn't own Jesus

By Brooks Harrington

Special to the Star-Telegram

It is time for Christian liberals to respond to the efforts of the
Republican Party and all its spokespersons to paint -- with as broad
a brush stroke as possible -- all liberals as immoral and

We have been abandoning the field for too long to the so-called
religious right, which arrogantly claims that no one can oppose its
partisan agendas and be faithful to God.

The preachers of the right like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have
no reluctance to claim God's sanction for President Bush's war and
the Republican platform. But ministers and laypeople who know better
than to invoke God as authority for narrow political interests remain
silent. This needs to change -- now.

In his Wednesday column asking why so many people hate Bush, Cal
Thomas implied that all liberals believe that God is merely an idea
of man, that all liberals deny that it is God who makes the rules,
that all liberals "wish to create their own version of heaven on
Earth through the secular god of big government and a capitulation to
our lower natures."

Mr. Thomas, I am a Christian liberal. I am a liberal because I am a
Christian. What's more, I am not a Republican conservative because I
am a Christian.

Only God is good, and I am a very sinful man; but I have feebly
attempted at times in my life to act out my faith.

I took five years out of my profession in the 1990s and became the
pastor of an inner-city church in Fort Worth, working with poor
families, pregnant teens, addicts and the victims of gang violence. I
say this not because I am due any credit but so you might accept that
faith has not always been just talk for me. I may be mistaken, but my
faith matters.

Christian liberals have been instrumental in making this society as
(imperfectly) humane as it is. Christian liberals were responsible
for public education and land grant colleges to enable the children
of farmers, the poor and the working classes to get educations like
the children of the privileged.

Liberals were responsible for a minimum wage, Social Security,
Medicare, workplace safety regulations, civil rights legislation, a
progressive income tax, protection of the environment, and
governmental resistance to the efforts of the rich and powerful to
run the country for their own benefit.

Why have Christian liberals done this, against the constant
opposition of conservatives like you and often against their own
self-interests? Largely because of their faith, though we all see
through a glass darkly -- because of the vision of human community
that God gave to us at Mount Sinai and through his prophets.

It is a vision in which the poor and powerless are to be included and
protected and in which the rich are judged harshly when (in the
imagery of Isaiah) in their greed or indifference they add house to
house and field to field, grind the face of the poor and deny the
workers the fair fruits of their work.

Christian liberals have been inspired by the life and death of Jesus
-- the one, Mr. Thomas, whom you and I "profess" to be the Son of
God. That son did not live among the CEOs and the wealthy of his
time. He chose to live among the outcasts and the suffering who were
looked down upon by people like your friends (and mine). And he tried
in everything he said and did to bring justice and peace and to
reduce hunger and sickness and marginalization.

For that, the rich and powerful of his day attacked him as
irreligious and immoral and had him killed -- because he threatened
their power and influence. Mr. Thomas, Jesus did not die just for our
sins; he died because of our sins. Mr. Thomas, you need to read the
entire Bible.

Throughout history, every attempt to make things better for all of
God's children has been met with idolatrous propaganda from the
religious rich, saying just what you say -- that reformers are merely
trying to create "their own heaven on Earth." Accept the will of God,
says the religious right throughout history -- meaning the way things
are and the power and dominance of the elite for whom they speak.

Well, Mr. Thomas, read your Gospels. What example did Jesus set for
us but to struggle in love to make things ever better for the poor
and the old and the sick? Does anything that Jesus did besides die
matter to the religious right? Why do you effectively ignore the way
he lived his life before his death?

How can you ignore his teachings on the dangers of wealth and the
absolute need for compassion to all, whether you think they deserve
it or not? How do you claim to get to Republican economic policies
from that life and those teachings? Where in the name of God does
your self-righteousness come from?

You write that Christian liberals want to "capitulate to our lower
nature." Mr. Thomas, you have that backward. Man's lowest nature is
idolatry. And it is idolatry to claim Jesus as the authority for war
and protection of wealth and effective indifference to poverty.

It is idolatry to claim that the Republican Party -- or indeed any
party -- is the party of Jesus. It is idolatry to try to reduce Jesus
to an apologist for any narrow self-interest.

You write that Christian liberals make their own rules and ignore
God's. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gave those who profess him as Lord
his parting "rules." He told us that insomuch as we help the poor,
the sick, the imprisoned and the suffering, we help him.

He didn't add, "But don't you use democratic government to do it."
That's something some conservatives try to add. He just said, "Do

You and I can debate whether helping the people our Lord wanted us to
help can be done most effectively with a mixture of private and
governmental efforts or through the private profit motive alone. I
would relish that debate.

But we both see through a glass darkly. And God forgive you when you
dare to claim that you are any more religiously motivated than anyone
else in your political views. I see a beam in your eye, Mr. Thomas,
just as there is one in mine.

And to answer a version of your question: Many people hate aspects of
the Republican program because of the hypocritical and self-serving
claim of some in your party to an exclusive, divine sanction for its
war, its effective indifference to the poor and its policies that are
intended to solidify the power of its elite.
2 comments or Leave a comment
careena From: careena Date: September 13th, 2004 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Too bad the lie machine has already convinced most people that Republicans have the party of godliness. Just like putting "Saddäm" and "Dubya-em-deez" in the same sentence often enough convinced people there was some shadow of a link.
bumbletbw From: bumbletbw Date: September 14th, 2004 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Enh, they don't own him so much as they license out his likeness. Frankly as far as religion goes, I'm about as vaguely Christian as is possible. I've never been much of a church goer, I'm pro-choice simply for the fact that I don't think i can tell other people how to live their life and as far as I'm concerned it's not exactly clear when 46 chromosomes actually become a human being. Would I want my girlfriend to have an abortion??? Hell no. I just don't think that it's my role to tell you (or anyone else) what to do. I believe that you can only show someone a (the?) path.

So when Bush uses overtly religious imagery and terminology, I cringe a little. There's nothing wrong with it, but it does tend to piss off 2/3 of the world from time to time. I think it would do W. some good to fire his PR consultant and hire a new speech writer. I honestly think there's another 4-5% of the vote that are less inclined to vote for him because of it. There's a place for religion in politics, but there is a limit. Like Ben Franklin once said, "All things in moderation."
2 comments or Leave a comment