Syndicated by Tribune News Service and PeaceVoice
reprinted in 60 newspapers
Jesus was a liberal. He sided with underdogs. He championed little people, not the privileged and powerful. "Blessed are the poor" was one of his maxims. He told a noble: "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor."
Christ's teachings were virtually a prescription for the compassionate "safety net" upholding people and families in modern democracies.
"For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me". Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
He also said: "When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee."
His parable of the Good Samaritan spotlighted the nobility of caring for victims of misfortune. Christ's Golden Rule -- "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" -- underscored common fairness.
Jesus didn't support harsh punishments. When the law demanded stoning of an adultress, he famously said: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Jesus advocated separation of church and state. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's"
Jesus wasn't a militarist. "Blessed are the peacemakers" was another of his maxims.
Clearly, without question, Jesus espoused values aligned with the modern political left. Sometimes, this facet of religion is called the "social gospel."
So it's strange that America's white evangelicals and fundamentalists are the bedrock of the Republican Party -- a party that favors the rich, undercuts the safety net, backs militarism, and demands harsher justice and the death penalty. Oddly, these conservative believers contradict the values of Jesus.
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he signed execution warrants for a record-breaking 135 inmates, including 11 who were juveniles at the time of the crimes. Many cases involved questionable evidence. Yet Bush was renowned as a born-again believer and declared on national television that his favorite philosopher was Jesus. The contrast between the two sets off clanging bells of cognitive dissonance.