It’s not easy to understand how members of the religious right connect Jesus Christ to unfettered capitalism and small government. Perhaps their ideology is the result of close to a century of cooperation between the clergy of certain denominations and conservatives in government and big business. It could also be a product of the GOP’s hardline stances on a handful of divisive and contentious issues, or a misguided comparison of the struggle against socialism to the trials of Jesus and his followers. In any case, Jesus’s own words describe economic policy that is entirely contrary to that of the religious right.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” If this teaching guided the Republican Party’s economic policy, would they want to shrink welfare programs and Medicaid?
“Woe unto ye that are rich! For ye have received your consolation.” If this command influenced Republican tax policy, would they consider shouldering the burden of responsible budgeting on the middle class while cutting taxes on the rich?
“Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.” Would this compel lawmakers to expand unemployment benefits and social programs for those in times of need?
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Would Christian conservatives advocate cutting down food stamps if this passage influenced their decision?
“It is easer for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Would their talking points praise the rich as “job creators” if this was their inspiration?
“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” Would the Tea Party have charged that the President lied about his birth, or was a socialist, all for the sake of advancing their agenda, had they read this passage first?
The answer, resoundingly, is No. And yet, these texts are scripture, and according to many in the religious right, the true and literal word of God. In this sense, their politics are at war with their religion; only somehow they don’t see it that way.
I believe, as did Thomas Jefferson, that Jesus’s morals and teachings are exceptionally virtuous. But the religious right cheapens his words and actions to fit a modern, exclusive and aggressive vision of Christianity’s potential. So grab a bible (or a Jefferson bible) and see what the man himself had to say. You might find Jesus was a little more progressive than many would like him to have been.