This is Charlotte's first essay in a LONG TIME, and you won't find it anywhere else:
By Charlotte Schnook
As a scholar of religion it never fails to amaze me that despite there being over 2,000 Biblical verses in which scripture demands Christians tend to the needs of the poor, I am hard-pressed to find Christians who actually vote with this most imparted teaching. On the contrary, I find zealots who blame the impoverished for their misery, and take delight in the knowledge that such squalor allows their own family to have economic superiority. Watching the Republican campaigns the last 30 years in this country I have been hard-pressed to find ANY right wing policy which genuinely aided in alleviation of misery which poverty causes, but I find endless promises for continual war & tax cuts for the already wealthy. Republicans are often Christian enough to take away your civil liberties by trying to enforce their INTERPRETIVE ideas on abortion & homosexuality (yes, I said interpretive, because one is hard-pressed to make a SOLID case on these issues, for the Bible is contradictory on them) yet the Republican party is NOT Christian enough to do the duty Jesus MOST commanded: taking care of the poor. I would blow off this as mere appeal to Christianity for the sake of votes IF they hadn't went so damn right in the recent years that they've dragged the left with them in desperation, which has caused the Democrats to also abandon the needs of the working class and now we are stuck in a jungle capitalist nightmare of no hope without a bloody revolution. So how is it that the Republican party (and pretty much the Democrats now as well) can claim themselves to be based on "Christian Values" when the repeatedly violate what Jesus says? And what is it exactly that Jesus did say?
In America (and in all capitalist countries) people assume their wealth is their own. It's a bedrock belief, we are taught to admire those who build wealth, attain impressive houses, cars, clothes, and retire early to Florida. We are told by the Christian Republican right wing & conservative left that the wealthy worked hard for their money and deserve to reap the benefits. But the Bible tells us differently.
Luke 12 displays a Jesus delivering parables of a successful businessman. He is so successful that he cannot find enough room for all of his harvest. So the wealthy business man undertakes a massive building project to protect his wealth and plan an early retirement. The "Christian" culture of America would say this man is a success, for the man did what we are told to do all the time: expand, invest, and use for personal benefit. So why does Jesus in his parable consider this an antithesis to success? He instead says God considers this man a "fool" BECAUSE he only used his wealth for his "own" benefit. Jesus goes on to admonish the selfishness and lack of communalism of the businessman. In ultimate renunciation of the man, Jesus advocates the man should have redistributed his wealth to the poor!
There are countless Biblical stories that match the evil "socialist" economic ethic, such as the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, which, so illuminating, is found in Luke 19:1-10: Zacchaeus gives half of his wealth and pays back four times what he has defrauded. He has put his own wealth and honor in jeopardy in order to benefit his neighbors and his community. Additionally, Luke 16 contains the story of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man eats wonderful food and dresses in the finest clothes. Lazarus sits outside of his gates and waits for the scraps from his table. Both men die. The rich man lands in torment and Lazarus at Abraham's side. The rich man's sin, was ignoring the suffering of the poor. He thought of his wealth as his own and the poverty and suffering of others as having no connection to him. This view of the world lands him in torment. How can anyone read these things and then claim Jesus would back a system that propagates a personal/private view of wealth? Both characters in these stories are punished because they only thought of themselves and their wealth!
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God" - Luke 6:20-26
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that will come upon you. Your wealth will rot, and moths will eat your clothes. For your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You who have hoarded wealth in the last days!" - James 5:1-3
"How terrible for you who are rich now, for you have had your easy life and will get no more..." - Luke 6:24
"But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." - Luke 14:13-14
If someone takes away your coat, let him have your shirt as well...
"In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and other sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." - John 2:14-15. This story which shows Jesus' rage against what is essentially corporate Greed, merging money with state & theological power, is also repeated in Matthew 21:12 (summed here essentially): Jesus walks into the temple courtyard and sees how merchants there change money, they have built their business up around what is supposed to be God's temple. Jesus is horrified by the idea that God's home could be profaned with money and the desire to be wealthy, he loses it, making a whip and begins turning over the tables the merchants are trading upon, he drives out the cattle being sold and screams a ton of insults at the people in the courtyard. Jesus was filled with righteous indignation at the idea of Church being involved with business, he was horrified that it could be used as a network for making money.
Why do Republicans not feel even a twinge of this divine rage? Why do they say the liberal idea of keeping church separate from state or economics is demonic, when clearly Jesus himself was of the idea?!?!? How do we rectify this with the Republican Christian revulsion to our discussion of taking "in God we trust" off of our money?
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Luke 12-15.
"Truly, I say unto you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 19:23
"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" - Matthew 22:21. Republicans would have us believe that paying taxes is a horrific idea, they don't want to pay into social benefits because it violates their "freedom", but what of their God's commandment to pay taxes?!?!
"Give to everyone who begs from you..." - Luke 6:30
"And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." - Luke 12:19-21
"So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you" - Matthew 7:12 or "Love your neighbor as yourself" - Matthew 22:39. This is what Jesus said is the sum of his law. Yet does Republican policy (or even modern Democrat policy) embody that? Does the person who assigns 18,000 Americans to die a year from lack of health care, "love his neighbor"? Does the American who back the war for oil and allowed over a million innocent Iraqis to die, "love his neighbor"? Is a society that doesn't provide free education a display of love for community? Is a society that takes money from the working class to pay for the insane bonuses of wealthy CEOS an act of love for ALL neighbors? Or only an act of love for the rich? And what is it Jesus would say about that?
"He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich - both come to poverty." - Proverbs 22:16
If someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back again...
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:7-10
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need...." - Acts 2:44-45
"But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil." - Luke 6:35
"Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth" - 1 Corinthians 10:24. That comment REEKS of "redistribution" that idea that Republican Christians LOATHE. If it is such an evil concept, why does the Bible say we should do it? Moreover, the Bible doesn't claim we should do it in favor of the rich, like we did with the bail-outs. On the contrary, it claims we should forgive the debt of the poor and let the rich fund it!
Take a look at the story about debt in Luke 7:36-50: We find Jesus eating with a Pharisee, who would be an "elite", a part of the richest in society. Pharisees often threw banquets to show off their wealth, it was a status display in ancient Jerusalem that gained them honor in the eyes of their peers. The Pharisee invited Jesus, but at the party a sinner woman comes in and begins weeping at his feet, washing them. The Pharisee thinks to himself how Jesus must not be a prophet for the woman is of low class & Jesus, if he had divine powers, should have known so. Jesus understands the man's thoughts and counters them with a parable about who would love a wealthy man that forgave debt more, someone who owed 50 pence or one who owed 500. The answer is of course the one who owed 500 and then a long diatribe begins about how the more sinful or impoverished a person is, the more they love who forgives them. He is sure to point out that the pharisee in no way treated him with the same honor as the woman at his feet, because he did not understand the need of the impoverished.
Imagine if the Republicans who pretend to be Christians REALLY acted like one and instead of authoring bailouts used the 700 billion to buy out the debts of the poor who were in foreclosure. How would that affect our society? We are now in a situation where the rich have MORE money and the working class are MORE IN DEBT, to the point where 1 out of 8 Americans is now facing homelessness! How much crime & threat of violent revolution will we be facing in another three years when we continue on this trend of bailing out rich and we reach the projected number of 50% of families facing homelessness? It stands to reason there Jesus deliberately taught us to pray: 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'. Its a reiteration of the law God gave to the Jews, the law that was ignored so Jesus had to come. There's a ton of debt theme verses from the Bible, and yet the party that claims to embody Christian values say people who advocate giving bail outs to American workers & not American CEOS are "evil socialists"... So the question rises: what does Jesus advocating redistribution make him? Are the Republicans saying Jesus is a socialist? Or are they implying Jesus is Evil? You can't answer that question without revealing Republicans & conservative Democrats for what they are: liars!
In further reassertion, take one simple glance into Matthew 19:21-24: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also [...] Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"
Clearly, those who have possessions of value then are not "perfect." They are deliberately ignoring Jesus' teachings, because they care more about their wealth than they do their Jesus. Knowing this, Republicans and conservative Democrats really have NO right to call themselves Christian.
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'" - Matthew 25:41-45. And so we have Jesus promising to treat Republicans and conservative Democrats EXACTLY how they treated the poor. I may be an Atheist but scriptures like this make me WISH this theology was true just so I could see the day of justice.
"He is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain" - 1 Timothy 6:4-5
And there it is, those who think godliness leads to financial gain do not know the "truth." Why does the 700 club never mentions this verse?!?!? Whenever I turn that shitty show on I see them claim,"give to us and god will return your wealth ten fold." (There by also implying the opposite: the poor are supposedly sinners which is why they have no favor from God) What a fucking scam!!!! And these Christians fall for it CONSTANTLY, because they are too fucking lazy to read their own Bibles, it's so shameful!
And this isn't the only such verse which absolutely buries the idea that money does NOT equate to divine favor: "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!'" - Acts 8:18-20
"Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." - Ecclesiastes 5:10
And finally (at least for this essay, because there are thousands more of such stories in the Bible) we have Matthew 27:3-8, which really encapsulates Jesus' life & teachings on money. Judas had told the where abouts of Jesus to the Roman soldiers for a measly 30 silver. When the Romans condemned Christ, Judas had a fit of remorse and trying to at least do SOMETHING positive out of the terrible fiasco, so he sought out the priests and tried to give them the 30 silver. But not even the corrupt priests, who Jesus was always screaming at, would take the money because it was dirty. So Judas, out of sheer desperation, threw it on the ground and ran off to hang himself. The priests, knowing they could do nothing with the money related to their church, but knowing they had to do SOMETHING of Christ's teachings with it, bought a plot for poor foreigners to be buried at... And what is it I see in this story? That even Judas, the biggest betrayer in all of history, didn't lack the apathy to see he spilled innocent blood. Yet Christians have that apathy all the time.... The Republican American Christian feels nothing about the fact that for every 6 Americans a human being has to die to support their wealth. We are only 5% of the human population and we consume 40% of the world's resources, take for instance, how many people starve to death in Indonesia because we move our corporations there in hopes of paying slave labor so we can get cheaper prices at walmart. We live in a world where 34,000 children die EVERYDAY from starvation. Judas had the morality to kill himself for the blood money he took, American Republican Christians ask for more coin & more blood... And this is why I say that if Jesus were to come back, he'd be called a communist and assassinated again by the cheering right & conservative left...
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - Matthew 5:9
"Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39
"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite-fully use you, and persecute you." - Matthew 5:44. How do we rectify this with what Bush said and Republicans cheered: "If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists?" How do we rectify what Obama is STILL doing to those people?
"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6:5-7
How do we rectify this with the Republican no child left behind act that supports parochial education at tax payer expense? How do we rectify this with creationism in school in 26 states? How do we rectify this with Public prayer in school, commandments in court houses, swearing on bibles for public office, our pledge of allegiance???
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her." - John 8:7
"Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Matthew 7:1-2
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" - Matthew 5:7
"But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." - Matthew 6:15
"Thou shalt not kill" - Matthew 5:21
Do you think Jesus was pro death penalty when hanging upon that cross? If so, then why did he pray to his father upon it: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do"? Doesn't it stand to reason, knowing this, that the death penalty was a display of human barbarity, a display of our utter lack of compassion, lack of Jesus' teachings, our lack of divine love, our utter depravity and the depths of our sinful nature? Doesn't it stand to reason that this is a symbol of God's divine love versus our stupid human concepts? God sending his incarnate with the ability to give life and an all consuming love should be seen as a poignant symbol of our depravity compared to his, and thus our need for his redemption on a moral and spiritual level. But what do we do with this symbology?
Now, I don't know where I stand on the death penalty. I'm not a Christian & as a parent I admit to feelings of murderous rage when I think of my children being offended upon. BUT I do know that our depraved society helps to breed criminals. I do know that many innocent people are put to death, I do know that reformation in many cases is possible & I do know that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crimes as far as statistics show.
If I WERE a Christian I would think that I would be most concerned not with my personal human feelings, but I would instead be striving to rise above those human tendencies to reach the capacity of love my Christ taught. And I DON'T see Christians doing that. I instead see them relegate to Christianity ONLY in times where they fear death, but have NO problem reeking it upon MANY others, like say the 1,000,000 innocent Iraqis they allowed their president to murder for oil!
The honest Christian HAS to admit that Jesus was a liberal. The word is defined by an having an open mind, by seeking to "liberate" beyond the status quo. Jesus abandoned the orthodox rules of the Jews, he admonished the status quo of economic and political hierarchy. He rejected greed, he often admonished violence, he hated the glorification of power, despised the amassing of wealth and hated social injustice. Jesus spoke against the personal judging of others, he repeatedly asked his followers to live a life based on ethics that for his time were absolutely revolutionary concerning compassion, love, tolerance and generosity. Jesus was against those who wanted to "conserve" things as they were, and its amazing to me that 2,000 years after he supposedly lived, those who claim to be his beloved still try to conserve the capitalist system which they KNOW is responsible for so much poverty & repression. If someone wants to be a capitalist, that's fine, but I won't hear from them how they are simultaneously a Christian, because, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matthew 6:24).
And on a final last note from Jordan: If nothing else, before raging "Christian" conservatives try to slam the iron hand of their political schemes upon the entire country, perhaps just ONE peak at the following Scripture can miraculously inspire their empty heads to search for what Charlotte has already so impressively shone a spotlight on: