-- James 2:14-26
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
-- James 2:14-26
Jesus begged for mercy for the very people who were killing him on the cross, telling his father they didn't know what they were doing. That's love.
By Josh Johnson
Women are amazing! Beautiful. Feminine. Intelligent. Sexy. Alluring. I love women! I love the female body too. There isn’t a woman out there who can’t be sexy when she wants to be. Their eyes....their lips...... I could go on and on. And there is nothing better than a sexy woman with a beautiful mind too. A woman you can talk to on many levels is a beautiful woman indeed. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am no longer 16. I am past the age where I need to give every woman I see a second look.....and a third look.....and on and on. But I do notice. Unlike most followers of Christ, I do not feel ashamed to notice. That’s because I know something that a whole lot of other people of faith do not know, and this knowledge has set me free.
Matthew 5:28 is the most famously condemning Scripture I know of. And nearly everyone I know has heard it. Its the part of the sermon on the mount where Jesus says this.......
“You have heard it said do not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Man, I always hated this verse. I couldn’t understand why God would put a billion hormones inside us specifically designed to react to the opposite sex......and then call us adulterers for doing just that. This verse is the reason for soooo much of the baloney that goes on in Christian circles. Sexual attraction is viewed as a sinful and dangerous thing, especially the desires of the male. So Christians set up all kinds of rules and regulations for themselves to protect themselves from developing attractions and desires for someone of the opposite sex in their church. It’s the reason there are separate Bible studies for men and women in most churches; It’s the reason guys and girls are separated in nearly every activity of the church; and, its the reason that church leaders and Christians themselves are very paranoid of spending any time alone with a member of the opposite sex. Because the absolute worst thing that can happen.....the absolute end of the world thing a Christian can do to disgrace God........ is to end up having sex with someone. So let’s avoid male/female contact altogether. I mean, according to Matthew 5:28, you are not even supposed to look at a woman who is fully dressed, much less have sex with a naked one.
I’m not addressing the issue of sex itself in this post. But rather, I’m addressing our natural desires and inclinations toward women, sexual, emotional, and otherwise. Either way, this is what Matthew 5:28 says, right?..... Or does it............?
How is this possible? God, you gave us all these hormones and yet we can’t even look at beauty when it’s before our eyes? What’s up with that? I got stuck on this Scripture for a long time. I was actually kind of upset at God for saying it too. I was starting to view God as a jerk. To me, God was becoming a tyrant..... like someone who forces an alcoholic to sit at a table full of beer all day and then tells him he better not even think about drinking. What are you trying to do to us, Lord? And then.....then it started to hit me.......maybe there was nothing wrong with God. Maybe Jesus didn’t really say what we all think he said. Maybe there’s something more to what Christ was saying.
Eventually, common sense took over. Before I had a chance to study the issue, I started to realize that there is no way in hell that looking at some single woman with “lust” for her is adultery. I know this because it’s not even adultery if you end up actually HAVING sex with her. Adultery can only happen when a married person is involved in a sexual act with someone other than his spouse. And that’s the Biblical definition of the word. So I was on to something, but it would be a long time before I got internet and finally had the chance to study the issue for myself. I eventually discovered the proper meaning of the Greek words behind Matthew 5:28, and I came to find out that our English translations of the Bible simply do not translate this verse properly. Dang it! .... I KNEW something was up!
So let’s look at the verse in question again. Matthew 5:28:
“You have heard it said you should not commit adultery, but I tell you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Here’s the truth about this verse. The Greek word for “lust” in this verse is epithumeo, which means to long for; to covet. The word has no sexual connotation and the same Greek term is used to describe coveting of all kinds in other parts of Scripture. I would provide proof, but I don’t want to turn this post into a 30 page essay. You are more than welcome to study the word meaning out for yourself. Either way, the Greek term here should not have been translated to lust, but to covet. To covet is to desire with intent or longing to steal. Moving on, the Greek term for the word “woman” in this verse is “gunh,” which can mean woman or wife, but usually means wife. The word “gunh” is generally not used in Scripture to describe a single woman. It means wife in Greek, and in the context of this passage, the verse would make no sense if the word simply meant woman. So..... in light of this new knowledge let’s examine this verse again. The Greek word behind “lust” here actually means to covet, moreover, desire with intent to steal. The Greek word for woman here is “gunh,” which usually refers to a woman who is a wife. Knowing this, we now have a better idea of what Jesus really said. And here’s what he really said, as best as I can translate it in English:
“You have heard it said do not commit adultery. But I tell you that every man who looks at another man’s wife to desire to take her for his own (covet).... this man has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Because he would do it if he thought he could get away with it.”
That.....my friends....is what Jesus really said. Or at least its a lot closer to what he said than what you’ve been taught to believe. The verse in question has nothing to do with your desire to look at women in bikinis on the beach. It has more to do with what’s in a mans heart. The Jewish leaders of the Jesus day were legalists. They had pride in the fact that they followed all kinds of rules. And what Jesus was saying in this verse is that they were missing the mark. The only reason most of his listeners were not adulterers is because they had too much pride in following the rules. They were obeying the commandment against adultery to feed their own arrogance, not to honor God. And Jesus knew it. He also knew that these men would love to have any opportunity to get their hands on other men’s wives.
But back to the point. Jesus was not saying that your natural desires for the opposite sex are sinful and adulterous. God made your hormones, not Satan. God made women beautiful, not Satan. And it was God, not Satan, who gave you your other natural desires toward women. Not just the sexual ones, but the emotional and spiritual ones as well. As I said earlier, there is nothing better than a sexy woman that can hold a deep spiritual conversation. And that female perspective brings something very valuable to the spiritual table that we as men simply can’t bring. Yes.....God made women beautiful......and not just on the outside. Most definitely he made them beautiful on the inside too. And that’s not sinful talk. That’s just truth.
Its just such a shame that this verse has been taught the way it has for so many years. Christian men drive themselves crazy over this passage. They try very hard not to notice and not to look at beautiful women. Young Christian guys try sooooo hard not to look at women. They think they are sinning against God by allowing themselves to look at or desire them. So every day, they put themselves thru a torturous cycle of trying to get through their daily classes or their job while also focusing very hard on trying not to notice the hot women around them. It’s a brutal mental and emotional situation and a useless cause. Christians have been almost driven to the point of suicide over this very issue, thinking that their minds are constantly sinning when thinking of women, and therefore convincing themselves they are evil and not good enough for God. And do you know what you can end up with when you put yourself through this every day? You can end up with a porn addiction!
You cannot overcome your desire for the opposite sex. It’s not possible no matter what the conservatives who run our churches tell you. Sexual desire, and your other desires toward women, are a natural function. Trying to force yourself not to look at or desire women is about like trying to stop your own heartbeat just by thinking about it. It can’t be done. So the more you try to suppress these inclinations, the more these same inclinations are going to end up exploding all over you. Hence the porn addiction I just mentioned. Trying to stop your brain from reacting to something it was designed specifically to react to is utterly useless and will lead to despair. A man is better off to enjoy thinking about the hot waitress he saw earlier in the day than try to convince himself that his desire for her is sinful. And I will tell you a little secret. Once you realize that sexual desire is not a sin and it’s normal, you end up doing far less actual lusting! I know from experience that this is true. I look at women wayyyyy less nowadays than I ever did when I thought looking at them was a sin. As a matter of fact, I am often in a roomful of beautiful women and never give a second thought to how sexually appealing they are. I’m not sure why that is. I think it could be that once the stigma of sin is taken away, lusting, if that’s what you want to call it, just ain’t as much fun. In either case, Christians have to stop teaching these things.
What the church teaches on this issue is false. All this doesn’t even take into account the immense pressure put on women in the church to avoid male contact because men’s desires are supposedly so evil and they can’t control themselves. It really upsets me when I think about the rules that have been imposed on women over the years because men felt they could not control themselves without strict guidelines. So women were....and still are.....punished because of men’s desires. The point is that desire is no sin. There is a saying in Christian circles that the first look is not a sin, but the second look leads to darkness. I have shown here that looking isn’t a sin be it first or second or whatever. Of course, common sense must be used. If you are looking at a woman in a way that makes her uncomfortable, that’s invasive. Stop doing that.
There are going to be times when you notice women and their beauty. There are going to be times you want get together with a couple guys, hit the beach, and “girl watch” for the day. There are going be days when you’re out and about and you think about how many hot women you see. And THAT is totally OK. Allow yourself to enjoy those days. God made women beautiful for a reason, and it was not so you could cower your head in shame every time a hottie walks by. So for those of you who are struggling with this burden, please read the link I attached. It’s a much more in depth exegesis of Matthew 5:28 and it will set you free from this chain if you are ready to receive it.
Time to kick Teavangelical politics out of God’s house
By David D. Fowler
NOTE from The Christian Left:
As supplementary reading, the author recommends you check out the following perspectives on abortion and homosexuality. These articles contain in depth analysis on these two topics as they relate to the Bible:. Clobbering "Biblical" Gay Bashing and The Bible Tells Us When A Fetus Becomes A Living Being.
The author would also like readers to know that this piece was originally timed to appear on the same day as Obama's inauguration.
An angry Messiah is not a nice concept – or a pretty sight – as Rembrandt vividly demonstrates. ‘Christ Driving the Moneychangers from The Temple’ is based on one of the most famous Bible scenes, featuring one of Jesus’ defining statements: “This is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!” To see one of the better dramatizations of this extraordinary scene, click on the image. The video is from Jesus of Nazareth, the 1977 mini-series.
Cleansing the Temple
In one of his most important and dramatic acts, Jesus of Nazareth picked up a whip and furiously ordered intruders out of “my Father’s house”, denouncing the local religious leaders for their deeply entrenched spiritual hypocrisy. In short, the Blessed Redeemer kicked ass, big-time. The cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem was one of the great iconic moments from the amazing life of Christ. What made the meek and mild Lamb of God so incredibly angry? Abortion? Same-sex marriage? Gun control? Secular humanism? Saddam Hussein? Obamacare?
None of the above, of course. The Son of Man was incensed by the legalistic behavior of most of the much-respected Pharisees; and the last straw was the invasion of the Temple by an alien presence – in this case, the intrusion of moneylenders into the sacred House of Prayer. In our day and culture, a new kind of spiritually corrupt leadership has commandeered a significant part of the religious establishment, especially in the U.S., and has been peddling a distortion of Christ’s gospel. Since the Reagan years, a large segment of American Christianity has been occupied by a different kind of invasion: the colonization of the mind, by an alien ideology.
This ideology incorporates buccaneer capitalism, blind jingoism, rampant militarism, the demeaning of women, and an obsession with eradicating alternative sexual practices; and its advocates thrive on their considerable talent for exploiting reliable hot-button issues to rally the troops. For far too long, this faction of influence mongers has extolled a form of idolatry, worshipping and coveting legislative power – and in the process, transforming a portion of the church into a den of conniving politicians. So we must ask ourselves: what, indeed, would Jesus do? I would not be so presumptuous as to speak for him. But I am absolutely convinced that he would say it’s time to kick right-wing political extremism out of his Temple. ‘Faith-based politics’ has had its 15 minutes of fame. Time to get a new script – or bow out for keeps.
On a personal note, I should emphasize that I am not American, and I don’t claim to be an expert on everyday Christianity in that troubled nation. I also want to clarify that I believe in the same God as the people I’m writing about; however, my perspective on society is vastly different. For 15 years, I worked for a moderately conservative Christian media organization; however, to paraphrase scripture, one could say I was “in but not of” that particular world, politically. During that time, I often pondered what Jesus himself would make of the poorly-named ‘Christian Right’. As part of that job, I frequently encountered conservative believers; and for the most part, I found them to be decent, well-meaning folks who are totally sincere in their faith. A few of them even became dear friends of mine. However, I came to the conclusion that some card-carrying members of this subculture were seriously misguided; and their responses to events of the past few months have only bolstered this conviction.
Loathing & Alarmism
This is a most appropriate time to address such issues, as the United States marks the re-inauguration of a man whose candidacy was so vehemently reviled by many people of faith. Some of them, like WND’s Joseph Farah, have responded to Barack Obama’s victory with loathing, hostility and alarmism. Others feel qualified to pass judgment on the president’s personal faith, like controversy-mongering pastor Mark Driscoll – who had the arrogance to tweet presumptuously, during the inauguration, that Obama "will be placing his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know."
While not all such people are directly affiliated with the infamous Tea Party, I’d like to borrow the term ‘Teavangelicals’, which Christian broadcaster David Brody coined as a positive label to denote evangelicals who support that benighted movement. I prefer to use the term in a broader sense, referring to the Religious Right’s cadre of professional ‘Bible snatchers’. By this I mean certain socially conservative ideologues and their supporters, who are blatantly manipulating the faith for political purposes; I am not referring to the average conservative church-goer. By this definition, Teavangelicals are those who are expropriating Christian faith to attain and wield power, with the aim of altering society in very specific ways. If they ever attain sufficient power, I believe they are quite capable of using that faith as a weapon to punish transgressors in the name of righteousness. Am I being alarmist myself? Hear me out.
Many of these leaders, I’m certain, are well-intentioned people who honestly believe they are ‘doing God’s will’. I have no right to judge their status in God’s eyes; and I’m not for a moment suggesting they are faking their worship of Jesus in church services, or ought to be shunned by fellow Christians. Their ideology, however, is another matter. The fact remains that it inevitably spawns a Machiavellian abuse of faith, for questionable ends. I’m convinced that the gospel revered by Teavangelicals is distorted by this ideology, no matter how sincerely they admire the figure of Christ. In concrete terms, I simply can’t imagine the Prince of Peace endorsing the social aims and political tactics promoted by many on the Religious Right. “Blessed are the merciful / love your enemies / when I was hungry, you fed me / take up your cross daily and follow me / bless those who curse you / store up treasure in heaven / your sins are forgiven / love your neighbor as yourself / turn the other cheek / do not judge, or you will be judged / take the log out of your own eye / whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me / blessed are the meek” – that there goldurn liberal propaganda don’t sound very dang Republican, do it?
The Socialist Peril
Indeed, utilizing government for truly Christ-like purposes – such as feeding and sheltering the poor, giving compassion to prisoners, taking care of the sick, and promoting peace – appears to be anathema to hardcore Teavangelicals. Such activities would likely be dismissed by them as manifestations of their new favorite bogey man: ‘socialism’ (which always makes me wonder what they would think of the communal life of the early church). Rather than implementing essential societal reforms embodied by genuine biblical concepts, these people appear to be far more interested in penalizing their fellow citizens for private moral choices. Despite their constant invocation of God and ‘biblical principles’, the sinister social engineering advocated by Teavangelicals is not theology; it is politics, pure and simple. Spiritually, it is indeed a form of idolatry to make an ideology more important than the gospel. It is a toxic misuse of faith to hijack it for the promotion of a chilling ultra-conservative agenda. It is, in short, pharisaical hogwash.
A good recent example of one attitude inspired by this ideology was the response to the Newtown school massacre by Fox broadcaster Mike Huckabee, moral crusader James Dobson and evangelist Franklin Graham. It demonstrated the sheer ineptitude which is found at the heart of Teavangelical politics, when it comes to dealing effectively with a crisis situation. Rather than confront the facts about the need for better gun control – and instead of using the political system to address that issue the way they use it to promote their favorite causes – all three of these men merely mouthed useless, spiritually dubious platitudes, characterizing the massacre as just another example of a secularized society paying the price for supposedly abandoning God. Nice way to offer comfort to the victims’ families, guys.
The Pat & Jerry Show
Their comments were reminiscent of the disgusting, idiotic pronouncements of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 catastrophe, when the pair had the partisan arrogance and temerity to blame the atrocity on abortionists, feminists, gays and liberals for triggering God’s wrath. Like those two theological giants, Huckabee, Graham and Dobson exploited a terrible tragedy as a self-serving opportunity to make ideological points. Their generalities deflected discussion from the real issues, conveniently allowing them to avoid dealing with the whole question of gun control. While not quite as reprehensible as the Pat & Jerry Show, the hypocrisy of their comments was astounding, considering these are people who pontificate endlessly about the slaughter of unborn children. Will they do anything practical to help stop future massacres of children who are outside the womb? Such people love to spout off about Family Values. How about some actual protection for the families they supposedly value so much?
Like the recent Newtown slaughter of schoolchildren, the 9/11 tragedy elicited offensive and ludicrous comments from some Teavangelical leaders. For the infamous response of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, click on the photo. Image by Harjinder Kalirai, obtained through Creative Commons license.
Will these leaders, for example, use their considerable influence to support something as fundamental, pragmatic and obvious as universal background checks for would-be firearm purchasers? If not, then why not? Until I hear people like this offer some real solutions, I have absolutely no interest in hearing them babble homilies about collective national culpability for sin. As for Teavangelicals who are National Rifle Association supporters, I have three simple questions for them: 1) If you believe in the Romans 13 admonition to be obedient to government, and the Founding Fathers envisioned a “well-regulated militia", why are you so adamantly opposed to government regulation? 2) If the Second Amendment was written decades before the invention of the gatling gun, how can you use it to justify the possession of rapid-firing weapons by average citizens who have no legitimate need for them? 3) Who would Jesus shoot? If you carry the NRA’s logic far enough, every American should have the right to carry a nuclear weapon. This heinous organization has clearly enabled a lot of mass slaughters by repeatedly blockading progress toward intelligent gun control, and should be held accountable for this; their response to Newtown, proposing the posting of armed guards in schools, was simply moronic. Where is the faith-based movement to outlaw the NRA and imprison its leaders? Ain’t likely to happen. After all, a good, well-oiled gun collection is an integral component of the Teavangelical Family Values toolbox. Well, pass the Lord ‘n praise the ammo, dude; they’ll take muh Bible when they pry it from muh cold, dead fingers!
Ineffectual & Oblivious
Instead of attempts to seriously grapple with factors clearly pertinent to the Newtown massacre, we’ve gotten responses such as an article by Citizenlink, which is affiliated with the Dobson-founded Focus On The Family. It quoted Focus counselor Tim Sanford, who said: “Children may ask challenging questions, such as: ‘Why did this happen?’ There is no simple answer.” He advised readers to reassure their children that “God is still on the throne. He is still loving and kind.” The article also declared: “the media is looking to blame guns, video games and other politically expedient targets.” This is typical of the ineffectual, oblivious response of many conservative Christians to previous mass gun slayings. They might as well just say: “Treat the kids to a Happy Meal and a Tarantino flick, and take ‘em to target practice after church.”
This evidently cavalier Teavangelical attitude toward mass violence has been exceedingly troubling in the most dangerous arena of all: international warfare. Presidents Ronald Reagan, and George Bush Senior & Junior, as chief priests of this cult, virtually baptized war – and the threat of war – as their primary tool of foreign policy. Reagan & both Bushes very publicly identified themselves as conservative Christians; and they all consistently demonstrated a proclivity for militaristic aggression and adventurism, frequently using their armed forces for dubious purposes. Under their successive regimes, we had the near-fatal peak of the Cold War; ill-advised conflicts in Grenada and Nicaragua; the catastrophic Persian Gulf War; the botched operation in Afghanistan; and the orchestrated deception of the Iraq invasion. All three of these clowns were virtual pimps for the weapons industry, manipulating fear and strife to build up the US arsenal to a truly insane degree. Related to this talent for toying with Armageddon is the Teavangelical equivalent of the recent Mayan Apocalypse no-show.
Gog & Magog
Since the 1970s, self-styled ‘prophets of God’ have exploited a specific interpretation of the infamous ‘Gog & Magog’ passages of the Book of Ezekiel, to drum up holy anxiety by identifying various unstable world situations with end-times events. This reached a fever pitch during the height of the Cold War, thanks to books such as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, and The Coming War with Russia by Jack Van Impe. The heart of the scenario was the notion that the Soviet Union would precipitate Armageddon in the Middle East. Some astute Christians have disputed this idea. Scholar Thomas Williamson contends that the identification of modern Russia with the “Prince of Rosh” mentioned in Ezekiel 38:2 is based on a mistaken translation. The phrase in question, he maintains, should be translated “chief prince.” Further, he cautions, it is a mistake to turn Ezekiel’s descriptions of ancient weapons into metaphors for modern implements. He concludes: “The best explanation of Ezekiel’s prophecy is that it was a reference to the invasion of Israel by the Syrian king Antiochus Ephiphanes in 168 BC.” Despite these kinds of level-headed responses from fellow believers, Van Impe is still flogging this foolishness after more than four decades – now repackaged to incorporate the ‘Islamist menace.’ He erroneously predicted that “the war of the latter days” would occur in 2012. Big-time fail, Jacko!
Irresponsible & Dangerous
Not only is this kind of thing incredibly irresponsible, it serves only to foment fear and hatred, and sell worthless books and DVDs – and in particularly ominous times, it makes things very lucrative for survivalists peddling freeze-dried foods, gold hoards and guns. What do Christians accomplish spiritually, by obsessively anticipating doomsday to this degree? To show just how dangerous these ideas can get, I would point out that many of those who buy into this scenario believe that, because nuclear war is prophesied in scripture, therefore peace initiatives are doomed to failure – and should thus be viewed with suspicion. If that is the case, then just what, precisely, was the point of Christ saying “Blessed are the peacemakers”? That appears to be one of God’s blessings Teavangelicals are happy to do without.
The Stillson Factor
It is not entirely far-fetched to imagine that a president sufficiently committed to this misbegotten viewpoint might conceivably trigger a nuclear holocaust with the aim of defending a ‘Godly nation’ – or even to ‘fulfill his destiny’ as a ‘Godly leader’, like a Bible-thumping equivalent of Stephen King’s psychotic Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone. If you think I’m being just a tad hyperbolic, consider this 1971 quote from Reagan: “Ezekiel tells us that Gog, the nation that will lead all of the other powers of darkness against Israel, will come out of the north. [Now] that Russia has become Communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God . . . it fits the description of Gog perfectly.” That quote should give any thinking person a chill, when pondering Reagan’s policies during the Cold War. His evident belief that Scripture predicted Russia would trigger the ultimate End Times battle could possibly have led him to push the nuclear button, for the purpose of enabling ‘God-fearing’ America to play its appointed role in this unbiblical twisting of the Almighty’s prophetic Last Days plan.
The Teavangelicals’ feeble perception of reality was exemplified by the orgy of Gipper Fever which oozed from people such as James Dobson when Reagan died. As an actor, Ronnie should have gotten a special Life Achievement Oscar for brilliantly playing the role of the ultimate folksy, genial, all-American President. As a leader, he was a disaster, and probably the most dangerous demagogue in US history. He should have been impeached for the Iran/Contra debacle – because he either knew more about it than he was telling, or had lost control of the people behind it. His ‘trickle-down’ economics presumably set the stage for the economic catastrophe which has befallen the U.S. He falsely got credit for ending the Cold War; clearly, the fall of the Soviet Union was an accident waiting to happen, long before his presidency. Worst of all, his recklessly stupid nuclear buildup could easily have resulted in a holocaust due to a computer accident. His infamous joke about bombing the Soviets was simply disgusting, coming from a man in his position. And to this day, does anyone know what actually happened in Grenada? In spite of all the obvious evidence, the fact is that the Gipper is still idolized by many Teavangelicals, as the greatest president of all time. This speaks volumes about their current politics.
The Usual Suspects
Teavangelicals certainly flew their true colors in the recent U.S. election. By supporting Mitt Romney, they confirmed their allegiance to big money – underlining the fact that they consider ideological capitalism more important than the Bible’s stated priorities. Utilizing a frightful mix of patriotism and faith was one of their key tactics. This was most evident in Chuck Norris’ histrionic Dire Warning for America; and Dinesh D’Souza’s nonsensical hatchet job, 2016: Obama’s America. Especially tasteless was a polemic by grandstanding black preacher E.W. Jackson. He blatantly played the ‘race card’ – imploring African American Christians to leave the Democratic Party, while making outrageous allegations about the Democrats. And what were the pastor’s reasons for pillorying the Dems? The usual suspects, of course: abortion and homosexuality – the same pet issues Teavangelicals incessantly harp upon, while continually ignoring key scriptural concerns such as poverty and greed. Elsewhere, Jackson insisted that he was not trying to get people to vote for a specific party. That was both cynical and disingenuous, because there was obviously only one other viable electable alternative if voters rejected the Democrats.
The support for Romney demonstrated precisely how desperate the Teavangelicals were getting. They were determined to elect a man whose religion misrepresents key portions of the very Bible they profess to honor, all in the name of ‘biblical values’. With all due respect to sincere Mormons, their sect has long been considered a heretical cult by most evangelicals; but the Billy Graham organization took material critical of Mormonism off their website, when Graham and son Franklin endorsed long-time Mormon Romney. Whether Teavangelicals wanted to admit it or not, Obama was a declared Christian; he was just not their kind of Christian. Romney was clearly the less truly ‘biblical’ of the two candidates. So for someone of Graham’s caliber to put his politically-neutral reputation on the line to support a Mormon over a fellow Christian was very revealing. And what was Billy’s reason for supporting Mitt? You guessed it: to promote the same old same old: pushing abortion and homosexuality as the most crucial issues for Christians to focus on.
“Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings”, Bob Dylan once sang, and nationalistic zeal has often been exploited by religious demagogues in the name of Christ. Such people have often cited America’s founders, such as George Washington, to bolster their thesis. Click on the image for a video which calls this notion into question.
Clearly, the Bible is ‘pro-life’ on the topic of unborn children; but there is not one single specific scripture, to my knowledge, which directly condemns the actual practice of abortion. Further, there are only a handful of verses which address homosexuality; it is portrayed negatively, but it is not discussed to any great extent.
Contrast this with an estimated 300 Bible verses which deal with poverty, and many others which condemn greed and caution against the pitfalls of wealth. Furthermore, Christ himself said not one recorded word about abortion or homosexuality; but he repeatedly admonished people to look after the poor and dispossessed, and warned of the folly of putting faith in riches. Obviously, these issues should be the key concerns for Christians. Despite this, Teavangelicals have, for decades, used opposition to abortion and homosexuality as the litmus test for politically acceptable faith. Meanwhile, many of them thrive on a system which perpetuates poverty, the one social ill most often condemned by the Bible.
However decent a guy Romney might be personally, he represented big money – and by extension, the continuing oppression of the poor. He obviously did not represent anything which would combat greed, feed the starving, or strive for peace – which are the things Jesus truly valued, according to the New Testament. Furthermore, Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan was an advocate of the witless, profit-mongering selfishness of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Christians who were prepared to choose the Romney/Ryan agenda over Obama’s platform were clearly willing to jettison Christ’s priorities – in the name of right-wing ideology.
One key element of the Teavangelical philosophy is the notion that America was founded as a ‘Christian nation’. This has been spouted ad nauseam, by ultra-patriotic preachers. As it turns out, this myth has either been a deliberate deception, or based on lousy research; I suspect it is the latter. This canard was laid to rest in the scholarly 2006 book, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. While some of America’s founders were indeed active believers, according to author David L. Holmes, several key figures were Deists, not orthodox Christians. These included Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. According to Holmes, Adams, Jefferson, and Thomas Paine “questioned doctrines that they believed could not be reconciled with human reason . . . As a result they rejected such Christian teachings as the Trinity, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the divinity of Jesus.” Jefferson, who composed the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, literally sliced and diced the gospels with a razor to concoct his own text, entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called ‘Jefferson Bible’ eliminated all references to Christ’s miracles, his resurrection and his deity.
This appeal to the mythical ‘biblical nation’ idea has resulted in a baptized form of jingoism, equating ‘Americanism’ with Christianity. The implication is that loyal American Christians have the right to demand that all of their fellow citizens, Christian or otherwise, must conduct their lives in strict accordance with the Bible. To this end, Teavangelicals have been strenuously striving to elect politicians, appoint judges and change laws. The last thing sincere Christians should do is support the divisive ‘culture wars’ that these people constantly fight in our name. If a believer’s mandate is to reach people with the gospel, then perpetuating social polarization is a clumsy and self-defeating way to communicate the story of Christ. If non-believers see Christians constantly striving to enact legislation to enforce their narrow interpretation of the Bible, they will likely assume all believers are self-righteous dogmatists who threaten their freedom of choice; this approach will do absolutely nothing to convey the majesty of the Risen Christ. In the end, the people Teavangelicals want to evangelize will write off Christianity as a political party with dictatorial ambitions, and will not be remotely interested in its actual spiritual content.
No Girls Allowed
While Teavangelicals have won some battles in the culture wars, these victories have seriously damaged people’s lives. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the issue of women’s rights. The watershed legislative battle over this issue was the early 1970s fight over the Equal Rights Amendment, which was scuttled by a campaign spearheaded by reactionary Christian pit-bull Phyllis Schlafly. In some American churches, discriminatory attitudes toward women have long been rationalized by certain interpretations of scripture – despite the clear biblical admonition that “in Christ, there is neither male nor female”. The most high-profile battleground has been the Southern Baptist Convention – whose leaders remind me of a bunch of little boys locked in their treehouse with a ‘no girls allowed’ sign on the door.
Exalt or Subjugate
In 1998, the SBC proclaimed its ‘Family Amendment’, which stated: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” In 2000, the denomination made an official declaration that women should not serve as pastors. Other Baptists have opposed these edicts – most notably, former president Jimmy Carter. In a 2009 piece severing ties with the SBC, he wrote: “It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy. The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter . . . in clear violation [of] the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
America’s devout Christ-followers need to face the facts: for decades, zealots with neo-fascistic tendencies have been attempting (with some success) to co-opt the Christian faith, to promote their own draconian social aims. This reactionary agenda of taking over society is evidently far more important to them than the stated views of the One they claim to follow. To be blunt, this is disgraceful and indeed idolatrous. It is also curiously inconsistent. Teavangelicals have often cited Romans 13, the chapter which famously tells believers to be submissive to government rulers, as a means of exhorting their youth to obey authority unquestioningly; and yet, no one opposes the current U.S. government more strenuously than they do. More importantly, from an evangelistic point of view, the culture wars are sidetracking evangelicals from Christ’s Great Commission, which simply calls believers to humbly tell the world about the Redeemer “with gentleness and respect”, and to help people understand what it really means to follow him.
Render unto Caesar
Since when did Jesus instruct his followers to take over the government, for the purposes of promoting big business, hyper-patriotism, the oppression of women, sexual repression, and military supremacy? The Savior’s closest brush with political discourse was his classic statement, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s – and unto God, that which is God’s.” Jesus never commanded anyone to use political power to enact laws which would force others to behave ‘biblically’, and which would legally punish non-believers for violating a judgmental view of scripture. The Teavangelicals’ insane ‘Culture War’ crusade has seriously compromised their spiritual credibility.
Ignoring Jesus’ values in favor of their own ideology could even be seen as a betrayal of the Great Commission. Their peculiar vision is a theological train wreck, which bears no relationship to the nature of God as outlined in the Bible: the God of forgiveness, justice and mercy, who condemns self-righteousness, exhorts us to combat poverty, and calls his followers to communicate the gospel with a humble and loving attitude. As long as Teavangelicals embody this spiritually bankrupt vision, their moral and political campaigns will totally overshadow the faith they express as individuals, however sincere that faith might be; thus, no matter how well-meaning they are, their ideology will continue to be an embarrassment to real Christianity. Presenting Christians as the moral police of non-believers’ lives is lousy evangelistic strategy – and kinda creepy.
It is also troubling for Christians who focus on non-Teavangelical issues – such as poverty, nuclear proliferation, military recklessness, violence against women, and climate change – to see so much energy being siphoned off into party politics. Hopefully, the resounding, much-deserved electoral defeat suffered by the Republicans will marginalize these people permanently. If that does not happen, then we should brace ourselves for more of their fanatical shenanigans. Either way, it’s high time for grassroots Christians who do not share the ultra-conservative perspective to stand up – and reclaim the dynamic beauty of genuine Christianity from these usurpers. It’s time Teavangelical propaganda was booed off the stage. It’s time to shout down, and shut down, the poisoning of true biblical faith – before this polarizing stupidity drives the real thing permanently underground.
How would the renowned Sermon on the Mount have sounded, if the Son of God had based his thesis on Teavangelical principles? Check out the video below to hear the words of the Tea Party Jayzuss.
Doing What Jesus Did
I speak fluent Christianese, and have always appreciated one of the evangelical culture’s more popular slogans: ‘Do What Jesus Did’. That’s really all I’ve honestly attempted to do, in my imperfect way, in the preceding editorial. An old friend on Facebook, a Texas pastor who is on the other side of the political fence (but definitely not a Teavangelical), conceded that I had some good points. But he told me he thought my tone was “way too angry”, full of “vitriol”, and therefore not an expression of “Christ-like anger”. I’d like to share part of my response to him:
The article is a polemic; yes, I expressed anger. So did Jesus. I am, of course, not worthy to be compared to him. But we are exhorted to emulate him – and one implication of this is that there may sometimes be valid reasons to express extreme anger, the same way he did. He felt he had reason to be enraged at what was being done to his Temple, and I feel a similar indignation at what I believe is a violation of the spiritual life of the church, a misuse of the pulpit, and an obstacle to evangelism. This, I believe, is something that should be forcefully denounced. At least I didn’t take a whip to anyone, like Jesus did! Speaking of vitriol, let’s look at how Christ expressed anger. Consider the words he used in the famous Matthew 23 denunciations of the Pharisees: “Snakes / brood of vipers / woe to you, hypocrites / blind guides / full of greed and self-indulgence / whitewashed sepulchres / full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean / full of wickedness / sons of hell / how shall you escape damnation?” Makes my little rant look kinda tame, don’t you think? The Lord was passionately angry at the behavior he saw, and so am I. For several decades, I’ve been observing Teavangelical antics, and have kept a lot of this to myself; but the nastiness of the election campaign was the tipping point, and I couldn’t hold back. Please note that I critiqued the political behavior of the Teavangelicals, but I did not pass judgement on their personal lives, or presume to speculate on God’s view of their souls. And indeed, I freely admit that I could possibly be wrong about some of this. But I’m totally convinced it is the truth. I leave you with one question: If you think some of my points are valid, then why aren’t you as angry as I am about this? 8-) And I have a final question for the Teavangelicals: Who would Jesus bomb?
David D. Fowler blogs at MuseMash
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is a founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit.
Roger Smith has to tilt his head to shake the words out, as you can see. He is an organizing member of The Christian Left who also blogs at "Roger's Shrubbery."