Alternative title: What
Would Did Jesus Say?
I'm not sure now is the right time to post this, as I started writing it during Passover, a lunar eclipse, and over Easter, but I have been thinking alot about religion and how the interpretation of it has an outcome that is often the opposite of the desired effect.
I am especially reminded of this matter because in my great State of Kansas, my politicians are behaving in most un-Christian ways, even as they insist their actions are in line with their faith, and appeal to the Christian values and morality of their constituents.
In my country, we react to religion and the spiritual in a curious and peculiar way. We have many interpretations of Christianity at once, and some of those interpretations (and the policies we create and enforce) run counter to how Jesus spoke of how to govern ourselves and to treat each other.
A few days ago, I was approached by a bright, good looking young man as I sat smoking a cigarette on a bench. He sat down, asked me how I was, and he told me he was with a group. They were out praying for people, and did I mind if he prayed for me. I asked, "Which God are we praying to?" because there are quite a good number of potential gods, and I am picky about which ones I would want to associate with.
He said, "Jesus...?" with a slight upturn as though it was expected. I declined and tried to gauge how much of my cigarette I had left, which was more than half. He asked, "Do you believe in God?"
I replied that I believe in order, and that I think all living beings are made of the same stuff.
He asked me what my religion was.
I told him I prefer to study math these days than religion, because although both appear to exist and have an effect on the real world, they might both only exist in our heads as human beings. Also, math is perfect and universal, so in that sense I like to think God is seen in that perfection.
"So you believe in Jesus?"
"I believe Jesus existed. I'm a big fan of what he said." This is true.
I was almost done with my cigarette, and made to escape when the rest of the group had caught up. All well-dressed, smiling people with the best of intentions at heart. The young man said, "Please, let us pray for you to Jesus together real quick." Everyone looked expectantly at me.
I said, "I really can't let you do that. Jesus said, 'Don't pray in public, because those who pray in public pray not to God, but to the people watching. God knows what is in your heart before it even leaves your lips, so it is better to pray in private.' Everyone blinked.
The young man said hesitantly, "Well that was in relation to speaking in tongues..."
To which I said, "No one spoke in tongues until Acts; not once did Jesus speak about that in the four Gospels. He was very clear about not praying in public however. When you go out of your way to pray in public, you're praying to the public and not to God. Jesus might want y'all want to reconsider what you are doing and why you are doing it." And I skedaddled away before I could tell if they were confused or angry or crestfallen at my words. Although they are not my words nor even my religion but their own.
I wasn't trying to be confrontational nor lying when I said I am a big fan of what Jesus said. I really am. I have a radical interpretation of Jesus in that I take what he said and did to heart, and I ignore everyone else that claims to speak on Jesus's behalf from Paul to the Popes.What is remarkable about Jesus's words is that they do remain relevant and timely to this day, despite the vast distances of miles and years and culture from where I live and breathe today.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." -Jesus
While two people may argue over the details and mythology and history and mystery of Jesus, when stripped of everything, I find Jesus compelling for what he suggested and proposed in his words. I think it is the fact that what Jesus said was compelling that caused them to echo through history as they have, claims to miracles and divinity left aside.
Jesus said, "Judge not, for by the measure that you judge, so shall you be judged." and so I am disinclined to judge Christians, even by the measures that they judge themselves and unbelievers.
"Avoid false prophets, though they look like innocent sheep, but inside are ravenous wolves" said Jesus. "By their fruits you shall know them." And so it is by these merits that I look at American Christianity and I marvel that its followers espouse and encourage things quite contrary to what the very person they deify said, in perfect ignorance of what Jesus actually said.
The problem that I have is a similar problem to the one Jesus faced in his lifetime, that of hypocrisy and lip service without understanding. But at the same time, I have to recognize that for a lot of Americans, Christianity is to the majority more of a tradition and social connection, rather than a primary hourly concern. Many attend on Christmas and Easter, some attend weekly on Sundays, fewer still become deacons or clergy, and far fewer still become zealots, their lives consumed by their religion.
I am not so concerned with those who believe and who may sin unawares, but rather with those who seek to govern, and claim to be guided by Scripture and their Christian faith in their decisions when they say and do things that Jesus himself would rebuke. Decisions based in religious hypocrisy affect the greater number of people in the world, with far reaching effects for our future.
I feel increasingly the people who wield religion as a political tool are aligned with the diametric opposite of Jesus's words, and it is for this reason that I write. Not to discourage those who do believe in Jesus, but rather to encourage those who believe to stand up for what Jesus very clearly asked of them.
Since my parents were children, there has been a growing movement endorsing the political idea that America is a Christian nation, codifying One Nation Under God as our official Motto and enshrining it upon our paper currency in 1956, having added "under God" to our Pledge of Allegiance only two years earlier.
This ignores that our Founding Fathers knew from personal experience what a state religion was capable of and not actively denounced it, they made it illegal in our highest body of law. It is for good reason that our First Amendment prohibits a state religion as well as enshrining the ability to criticise it--or to believe in whatever you wish without penalty.
The recent idea that has been fostered and nurtured over time ties Democracy, Capitalism, and Christianity together as the basis for forming this Nation, each the logical progressive result of the other's beneficent influence. That this view is in direct contradiction to both history and Scripture is conveniently swept aside.
Today, Biblical quotes and appeals to "Christian morality" are taken as serious points of debate and cause to pass, enforce, or attempt to repeal diverse laws that have absolutely nothing to do with religion--or that are quite often in direct contravention of what Jesus said, and which cause harm in practice.
There has long been an unspoken and unofficial litmus test that American politicians by default be affiliated with a religion (and that religion by and large should be Christian is merely implied). The premise that "the politician reflects the community, and this is a Christian nation" veneer is easily scratched, and below the surface anyone who is anything but Christian creates a potential vector for political attack and distrust.
This has been taken to a logical extreme in present-day persistent whispers that President Obama is a secret Muslim--as though being Muslim would be a disqualification of his ability to serve as President. Of course, President Obama like so many other Presidents is a professed Christian and like millions of Americans goes to church on Sunday, even if his middle name does happen to be Hussein on his Hawaiian birth certificate.
When those who seek to govern align themselves with Scripture, yet they seek to pass laws contrary to Jesus words, even as they pander to a group of Christians who themselves live lives contrary to Jesus words seemingly unawares.
In the United States, we have a variety of hot-button issues that can no longer be discussed in rational terms. Marriage and its definition, women's access to contraceptives and abortion, the acceptance/discrimination of homosexuals and transgendered people, how biology is taught in schools, whether children can pray, and even global climate change have all been variously tied in with an appeal to Christian morality and Scripture.
These issues are used as merit badges and banners, but the people who are partaking may want to open their Bibles and review what Jesus himself said on certain subjects, like hypocrisy, wealth, and who should be condemned.
I said earlier that Jesus was remarkably prescient in his words. When asked about paying taxes, Jesus replied simply, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and what is God's unto God."
In this sense we have a curious situation when the same lawmakers who attend tax-free churches make a habit of denouncing taxation and comparing it to theft are themselves in contradiction of what Jesus said.
This made more interesting when you consider these politicians exist in symbiotic benefit from tax-free churches, directing private and Government funds to churches and religious organizations, while appealing to Christian voters to vote their faith, support them in office, and to donate their hard-earned money to their campaigns.
There is an entire industry in the US that surrounds American Christianity. They not only provide a place of worship and counselling, but also provide childcare. Not just child care, but also schools. Not just schools but also Universities, curriculum, and textbooks. Not just bookstores, but publishers. Not just publishers but cable networks. Not just a pulpit, but an arena. Not just a congregation, but a voting bloc. And as much as they can manage, all these are tax-free.
Every Sunday, people gather into theaters with a full captivated audience, where members of the community shake hands and ask how the kids are. Sometimes politicians are present, and they smile and shake hands and sing along with the doctors, lawyers, judges, business owners, and the voters of their communities together.
This dovetails in that since the oration most Americans get is from the pulpit (or a corporate slideshow), it naturally figures that public speaking politicians would mirror the pastors and ministers cadences and vice versa, both appealing for funds and to fight the good moral fight against those who would seek to oppose them. Churches form lucrative places with built-in captive audiences to develop and present messages, to indirectly raise money from congregations, and to make them aware of who will make the moral decisions on their behalf, from the right rulebook.
From large buildings with expansive parking lots, pastors, priests, and clergy preach about all manner of things, and of course Christians are encouraged to be aware of present-day politics and to pray for our leaders and country. While a church with a large presence in the community, or a Christian organization that employs lots of people aren't supposed to politick for one candidate, the way current issues are interpreted to the flocks, and the subject matter that is chosen surely has an effect on how one votes their conscience, or to what political cause they are encouraged to endorse or contribute to.
Many Christians are encouraged to tithe 10% of their income to their churches, and many will gladly donate more. Some churches even preach that God wants you to be prosperous, and that by giving much, God will give you much wealth in return.
The megachurches with expansive stages, soundsystems, and projected lyrics on screens during the multimedia worship service extending out to fleets of luxury vehicles and private jets seem to follow the notion that one can store up their treasure on Earth as well as in Heaven. God certainly isn't stopping them dead in their tracks.
"You cannot serve God and Money." said Jesus. "No one can serve two masters; you will love the one and forsake the other."
Our government donates tithes to churches as well, or more properly uses them as hired help. There are a variety of Federal and State contracts with private (religiously affiliated) companies who provide various social and educational services, such as abstinence programs, adoption agencies, child welfare providers, drug rehabilitation services, prison education, homeless outreach programs, publication of textbooks and practices, and charter schools. All on the taxpayer dime, funneled there by God-fearing politicians.
These programs are surprisingly lucrative, and frequently tucked out of scrutiny. Not all are tax-free; sometimes these are private institutions with only a passing association with a church or a belief structure. But they exist, and one hand washes the other without bothering to render unto Caesar.
What is not in question is whether or not churches should be taxed. I am not so much concerned that multi-billion dollar industries avoid paying their taxes; I am concerned when that tax-free industry panders to and is pandered by our politicians who denounce the paying of taxes at every opportunity, while they distribute taxpayer money to whatever they desire, and punitively cut funding to what they disagree with politically. These politicians have perhaps forgotten that Jesus himself hung out with tax collectors.
Pastors and clergy are understandably reluctant to anger their wealthy contributors in their congregations or their Government. Americans enjoy hearing their pastors preach about hellfire, brimstone, and eternal punishment--as long as it is not directed at them personally. When eternal damnation is directed at the people who hold the purse strings, they take their wallets to another church.
It should be pointed out that the primary concern of the Church is not to accumulate wealth, nor to enable people to be able to become more and more wealthy. Jesus said, "It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." among his numerous condemnations of the pursuit of wealth and the hypocrisy of the wealthy.
Many, many parables are directly to condemn the actions of the rich versus the poor. Jesus never proclaimed the blessings of the wealthy, nor once said the poor deserved their fortune. Quite the opposite. We can see where Jesus' sympathies lie in parables from the rich man in hell begging the former beggar for a drink of water, to the poor woman who gave more with a penny dear to her than the rich man bestowing gifts wrought of gold and silver beside her. Progressive taxing indeed.
We should ask who stands to benefit and profit when considering the political marriage of Christianity, Government, and business interests. That the motivations of business and Government are using Christianity as a flock to feed, fleece, and encourage for their own wealth and benefit. Beware ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing indeed.
We can see this pandering in the proposals to divert funds from public schools to private charter schools, which must be seen in the light of parallel arguments that the lack of mandatory public prayer in schools is a form of religious persecution, simultaneously equating evolution, sexual education--even meditation and yoga taught in public schools as infringing upon their right to the separation of Church and State.
For those who believe public school is indoctrinating their children and who don't want their taxes to pay for it, the idea of taking public school money and giving it to a church school instead appealing; likewise it appeals to the idea of the free market even if they're voting with someone else's tax dollars. Its true intent is to divert taxpayer money from public education to private schools is masked by the religious implications, and the goal is to weaken or eliminate public schools in order to give taxpayer money to private businesses instead.
That Jesus himself received an education and was arguing law at his bar mitzvah is probably not worth mentioning, since it was probably a religious school, and I do not know if Mary and Joseph had to pay for Jesus to be educated. But the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it, and those who would make you believe absurdities will make you commit atrocities, so it follows that there is a concentrated effort on multiple fronts fought with the education system in the US.
Worse still in terms of contradiction is the political movement to reduce or eliminate Federal and State social programs, such as welfare, unemployment, social security, and most recently health care.
There are numerous politicians who regularly denounce the welfare state and who reinforce the stigma of laziness and hard work as being the determining factor between one's wealth and fortune, and therefore place the responsibility of one's misfortune as their own fault. If you work hard you will succeed carries the inverse implication that if you aren't succeeding, then you must not be working hard enough. Jesus never once said, "God helps those that help themselves."
The fantasy that every possible opportunity is afforded to a person of no means, and more--they even profit from it. The perception that many people are actively working to defraud the welfare system is often loudly professed. Stories of unemployed welfare recipients driving expensive cars and dining daily on steaks and lobsters are recurring thematics, often spoken by people who actually do drive expensive cars and who do eat steak and lobster from time to time.
"Give a man a fish and he'll ask for one tomorrow!", an edited interpretation of the parable of the Talents, and "the poor you shall have with you always" fit in well with a diatribe on this subject from certain quarters. Absent is Jesus saying, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
There is a constant war to defund or eliminate the social programs currently run by the Government and paid by the governed. Of course, the distinctions between welfare, unemployment, the Medicare program, and Social Security are usually blurred to the point that any State assistance is cast as a burden on the hardworking, taxpaying, and tithing members of the community.
Some politicians advocate the slack should instead be taken up by charities, or have the direct administration of the welfare state handed over to religious organizations, under the idea that religious organizations and charities are somehow going to do a better job than the community or the State, with less oversight.
In this, we see an appeal to good Christian folk that those who would provide charity are being usurped by the Government taking that role, that providing welfare encourages laziness, and that welfare fraud is not just a temptation, but a constant resource for those that would take advantage of good Christian charity.
Using these popular arguments, politicians propose and pass laws that restrict access to welfare and social programs, increasing the difficulty of applying for and receiving assistance, and adding restrictions to what can and cannot be paid for with such programs, preventing those who have criminal records from access, mandatory drug screening, and a series of expiration dates and term limits. Depending on what assistance you are receiving, it is likely that it is taxable income the recipient is obligated to pay back somehow, unlike the Churches and their industries.
This is especially frustrating for those of us who would love to apply vetting processes, criminal background checks, drug screening, and term limits to our public servants, but can't compel our public servants to vote for them.
Meanwhile, there is an entire thriving peripheral industry where food stamps, unemployment, and welfare recipients are bankable goods, with a captive group of consumers. Each transaction carries administrative fees and surcharges that benefit the private banks that contract with State entities, and the interest gained by holding state money in those banks is not necessarily returned to the taxpayer or even taxed in the same way a recipient would be taxed.
The statistics gathered from social program benefits are measured and mined not just by political action committees looking for talking points but also sold to corporations curious to know what people on food stamps buy and how to best optimize searches for temporary labor.
The ever-increasing mandatory hoops that each person hoping for aid has to jump through have created a giant bureaucracy full of case handlers, supervisors, and managers that file regular reports on the constant check-ins and mandatory proof that one is truly disabled, truly disadvantaged, truly seeking work daily, truly in need.
Failure to have one's documentation and papers in order, a clerical error, illness, or a run-in with law enforcement is enough to have one's benefits suspended, and in can take months or years for them to be reinstated--if ever. For those living on extremely limited budgets, such a suspension can mean losing one's home or apartment, their car, their utilities.
In some states, this responsibility to scrutinize and filter the welfare state has been farmed to private companies to handle more efficiently, leaving skeleton crews of State oversight on the corporations who then make bonuses when they can eliminate perceived fraud by removing benefits, even as they manage to eliminate State employees and avoid pesky laws that would apply to State employees as private contractors.
Yet, it is the recipients of social programs who are accused of fraud and must be scrutinized and shamed. Blessed are the poor indeed. In turn, politicians can point to the bureaucracy and the inefficient engine they have purposely given birth to, which they can use to claim that social programs do not work, a job best be left to the Churches.
The politicians that denounce and seek to destroy the welfare state act in direct contradiction of the words of Jesus.
It is because of Jesus that democratically minded Christians should compel the State to provide to the least of us, for the work of the many to be able benefit to those of us who have the most need, without prerequisites and penalties.
Jesus was very clear and explicit on what his followers should do in the world directly in words and in action: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came for me."
For those who did not do these things lay certain perdition. The measure that "so as you do unto the least of these, you have done it unto me" is a grave and serious warning that should be examined carefully by those who say they believe in Jesus.
Churches and Christians not only "should be" concerned with the plight of the poor, with feeding the hungry, with providing water, with caring for the sick, those imprisoned, and those we never met before. They must be.
If Christians fail in this, all their faith in Salvation earned by blood is for naught and nothing. Jesus is specific that those who do not do these things, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and they will be told to depart, confused though they may be. This is a primary mission; it is not just what Jesus said, but what he lived daily.
Rather than seeing Government as usurping this traditional role from the Church at taxpayer expense, Christians in a Democracy are obligated to force their Government to perform this humanitarian role right alongside the Church separately, providing help to the least of these without question, complication, or reward.
It is for this reason that I argue that if we are going to render unto Caesar, if I have the Democratic ability to make Caesar care for the least of these, then the world is better served for it.
If the Churches of this nation want to rise up for a more righteous Nation, I am all for it if they actually do what Jesus said to do. Christians are obligated by Jesus to stand up for all strangers, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, for those who lack food and shelter and water as though each one of these were Jesus himself.
To say our social programs are in disorder is nothing when compared to the nightmare of American healthcare and the effects of its social stratification and the debt it imposes on our citizens.
Under this same argument, I would propose that Jesus has obligated his followers to ensure healthcare to all, and American Christians should call for a Constitutional Amendment enshrining our inherent Right to Health Care as human beings. Jesus was once criticised for healing a man on the Sabbath, and laughed, saying Isn't it God's work to heal the sick?
We may not be able to do it as miraculously as Jesus, but we definitely have the ability to provide healthcare to those that need it.
And traditionally, Christians have acted on this obligation to provide healthcare, seen in the many historic and traditional outreaches from clinics to hospitals to universities. However, the effort to provide universal healthcare has stalled, health care costs rise on an ever upwards exponential curve, and some of those same Christian organizations make hefty profits from the State and Federal programs, while other organizations hold together frayed shoestring budgets.
The social programs we have in place and the intentionally faulty system set up to provide it are mere pennies compared to the gold bricks we sacrifice in fiery destruction to a God called War under the pretense of National Defense.
We have seen great resistance to so-called "socialized" medicine in the US since World War II, even as our Government has poured untold wealth into researching better and better ways to kill and imprison our fellow man through our Military-Industrial Complex.
We even use the excuse that our abilities in modern medicine consistently benefit from the combat zone, with rapid developments brought on by the necessity of shed blood. Which may go to explain the Government funded experiments on human beings for so long, and our Government's shielding of WWII doctors who committed grievous crimes against humanity through medical experimentation. It is true that during the Civil War, doctors rapidly learned how to most efficiently amputate limbs damaged beyond repair, just like today.
Yet on the subject of Defense, Jesus clearly stated when faced with the capture that would lead to his certain death: "Put away the sword! For he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword!"
Before this he said, "turn the other cheek", "love your enemies", "pray for your enemies, for even barbarians can be said to pray for their friends", "forgive your neighbor seventy times seven" and that your neighbor is Everyone.
It may seem counter-intuitive that Jesus also claimed "I have not come to bring peace, but rather a sword, dividing the world" until you realize that fighting for one's enemies in the name of peace, denouncing wealth, and providing to the most hated and feared is not so popular in any time period.
"Blessed are the Peacemakers" said Jesus, but it is curious that the same politicians who go to church on Sunday speak of war and threat of war on Monday through Saturday, and work to ensure that our Defense budget only grows and grows with each Administration. When our National deficit and budget are brought up, the first thing on the chopping block isn't military contractors and subcontractors, the industries that research or produce weaponry, or the corporate beneficiaries of warfare, but our social programs.
We spend our Nation's gold on making swords instead of plowshares, and on shedding blood instead of donating it. In doing so we have created generations of people who seek to wage war with us, who want an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, rather than nations grateful for American doctors and dentists to heal their eyes and work on their teeth. To say nothing of our blind and toothless American citizens and veterans of military service.
If our politicians wish to decry the deficit and debt of our nation, and demand that we change our budgets and tighten our belts accordingly, mark every year we pour this nation's wealth to the cause of war without great moral qualms from our American Churches. The pennies of social programs somehow weigh greater on the scales than the gold bricks of our defense budget, and yet our politicians demand to scrutinize and shame anyone seeking assistance, and to remove it at the soonest opportunity.
If the US budget for Defense was spent instead on social programs and health care without cost, we could feed and care for everyone not just in the US, but in the world entire--with money left to spare. The cost would even decrease over time as more people were fed, clothed, sheltered, and made healthy and productive.
If the best way to prevent uprisings is bread and circuses, and wars fought under the excuse of religion are really fought over resources--I'd rather Americans were known for exporting resources, bread, and circuses than for all the bloody death and destruction we're responsible for to date. I certainly do not like the fact that in my brief lifetime I find that the US Government seems to purposely engage in conflicts with far-reaching effects and loss of life in order to have a stream of conflicts to engage with in the future.
But the vast amounts of wealth that we spend on weaponry and war next to the pittance we pay in social programs is not apparently a primary concern of good Christian Americans today, as compared to the "traditional" hotspots of American politics like abortion, recognition of homosexuality, or creationism. To say nothing of token political gestures like the 10 Commandments installed at a Courthouse, or seeking mandatory prayer in schools.
It may sound ludicrous in today's climate to propose an Amendment to the Constitution enshrining Healthcare as a Human Right, but if such a thing were possible, it would require the full support of American Christians demanding it from their politicians. I would remind you that we have the right to bear arms (but no inherent right to see a doctor if we are shot), that we have amended the Constitution to end the slave industry, and twice amended it to Prohibit Alcohol, once to make it illegal, and once more to strike the Amendment down.
Imagine that if instead of prohibiting alcohol for moral reasons, American Christians had instead put their weight behind the Right to Healthcare in 1919, and alcoholics instead received treatment as demand for doctors, nurses, and dentists swelled? What prevents us from advocating for it today?
Yet, when it comes to Universal Healthcare enshrined and enforced by law, you can be assured that the first topic of discussion will not be helping the poor and disadvantaged.
Instead, the discussion will immediately turn to contraceptives and abortion, and why the Government cannot force Christians to pay for them. These two explosive-filled topics are used as fool-proof wedges to divide public opinion and to focus discussion not on the obligation to provide to the least of these, but the consequences of human beings having sex.
There has been a careful, concerted effort in the US to use abortion and contraceptives to politicise Christians and to leverage Christian voters for what are purely political means under false pretenses to fear and to morality. This has been exceptionally effective in shaping our politics and our laws for decades to present.
Like the unspoken litmus test of religious belief, one's views on abortion are a reason for a large group of people to vote for or against you, in line with their own beliefs on the subject. Even ambiguity is disallowed. You are either for or against the rights of the unborn.
The debate itself is framed under false pretenses. Those who are anti-abortion are designated "Pro-Life", while those diverse people who are for medical procedures, personal rights, women's rights, and secular Government are lumped together as "Pro-Choice". The implication of not being "Pro-Life" is of course, that you are "Pro-Death", and that "Pro-Choice" is the misnomer.
The choice of course, is really about the ability to access medicine, but that medical procedure has been unequivocally equated to murder, and when it comes to murdering babies, people tend naturally to form strong opinions on the subject. Unless of course, the babies being murdered are the victims of American bombs and bullets.
Abortion is unpleasant, but having cancer or an amputation is also unpleasant, and there is no moral majority devoted to preventing amputations or cancers for the sanctity of medical waste. Nor are there angry picket lines staged in front of every veterinary clinic and slaughter house for the rights of the yet-unborn animals, threatening to put them out of business by any means possible.
Since Roe Vs. Wade, a great movement (largely composed of Christians) has been engaged to do as much as humanly possible to prevent and end all abortions by any and all means possible. Thankfully, the anti-abortionists have more often chosen politics and picketing over murder and violent resistance.
From this extreme position, the arguments about whether rape and incest victims, babies with known birth defects, and women whose pregnancy threatens their life should be able to get abortions are seen as conciliatory and humanitarian concessions, ignoring completely the already settled question that women should have access to medicine.
Eventually through logical extension, all contraceptives end up equated as being the same as an abortion and therefore murder, and birth control pills become "chemical abortions", wrapped up in lurid pictures of bloody horror, obliged by graphic documentation of an unpleasant medical procedure, even though the two are wholly unrelated.
If you think the association with abortion as murder and contraceptives as chemical abortions is false or misleading, consider the response to stem cell research, and the public outcry when people heard it involved fetal tissue and fetuses. The difference between a cluster of cells in a petri dish and a gestating fetus in the womb is irrelevant when the public at large has been told repeatedly that fetus means baby and you've seen pictures of them.
That wider access to birth control logically leads to fewer abortions is rendered a moot point; when you believe they are both one and the same, and that both murder the innocent, the moral imperative appears as clear and stark in its distorted contrast. These people are killing babies; we must stop them.
The confusion of contraceptives being abortion and abortion being murder is purposeful misdirection because it takes apples and oranges and turns them into fruit salad. The question is not really whether or not life begins at conception, but rather whether or not people can prevent conception, which is really the question of whether or not people can have sex without consequences.
Those women who have abortions are painted as being guilty of murder, murder committed to avoid the inevitable consequences of having sex--as a woman at least. Men cannot get pregnant, no matter how many sexual partners they have. In turn, those who consider abortion feel they cannot turn to the church nor Christians for support, doubly a burden for those who are themselves Christians who do not want a child at that time.
There would be no way to pass an Amendment ensuring our human right to healthcare without this discussion about whether or not our State or Government was sanctioning the murder of the unborn--although once born you do get the human right to carry a weapon that can kill humans at least.
When dissected, the black heart of the abortion debate is not about the sanctity of life, but rather enforcing sexual morality.
Pregnancy is not an inevitable consequence of sex nor sin, although for centuries some religiously minded people have been able to pretend procreation was a wholly mysterious phenomenon and claim that sexually transmitted diseases were the direct manifestation of sin. Some of us know better, and know there is a variety of consequences that can be avoided altogether armed with some basic information.
Perversely, the same tentacles extend into affecting sexual education in public schools and in colleges, creating another moral battleground for Christians to be pitted against each other, common sense, and their own stated goals of preventing abortion and "unwanted pregnancies". The fight for how sexual education is taught to children is self-serving to the moral movement in multiple ways.
Sexual education is presented to Christians as an intrusion of the public schools into the families' ability to generationally instill "traditional" morals, and that sexual education threatens to encourage aberrant and immoral sexual behavior in children.
The fact that traditions over generations have a tendency to reinforce and enhance ignorance over generations remains unaddressed. Being educated about sex by one's parents may be problematic for those who are the result of their parents being unclear or misinformed about how exactly one gets pregnant.
These fears have lead to laws which restrict and neuter sexual education classes (largely optional) who manage to avoid the topic of sex beyond the basic mechanics of sperm and egg interactions, and instead focus on the terrors of transmissible diseases and unwanted pregnancy. This has the bizarre effect of gathering pregnancy, AIDS, and syphilis into the same basket, while leaving serious discussion of masturbation, the joys of orgasms, or even wanted pregnancies out of the basket completely.
This curriculum is designed to lead to the foregone conclusions that abstinence from sex is the only safe sex, and that having sex (outside of marriage) is unsafe.
It would be strange to have a driving class that focuses completely on the way the combustion engine works (internally, that is), followed by graphic depictions of car crashes, and that points out safety belts and motorcycle helmet are only effective 98% of the time by highlighting the 2% of times that they failed through misuse. One would easily walk away from such a class believing that horses are a better option than driving.
It would also lead to less people using seat belts and helmets if they did decide to take their life into their own hands by driving, and perhaps complete distrust upon finding out that driving a car is fun and less deadly than they were lead to believe.
Presenting abstinence as the only possible way of avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases purposely omits valuable information that would prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases--even in married couples.
Abstinence Only curriculum helps maintain a certain level of sexual ignorance that helps keep unwanted pregnancies to occur and remain a persistent problem, but also maintains the ignorance of sex that keeps the anti-abortion movement fertile.
The Pro-Life movement and Abstinence Only are hand in hand by being the cause and the cure and the cause and the cure.
Understanding human sexuality one can learn that you can have sex and avoid getting pregnant. When someone realizes that birth control pills or condoms mean eggs cannot be fertilized, it is a logically preferable choice to having an abortion--or not having sex. Of course, sexual education also opens up the possibilities of having guilt-free orgasms and choice of sexual partners.
I personally find it difficult to take sexual education seriously from a group of people who will angrily argue that Jesus was born of a virgin, and who died a 33 year old virgin. But to each their own.
Jesus has no quotes concerning abortion, nor abstinence. Jesus did not say, "The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the celibate", nor did he say, "Those who take birth control kill babies."
However, when directly presented with a woman caught in the act of adultery and about to be legally executed for it by a mob, Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." and one by one everyone left Jesus and the woman alone unharmed. He asked her who condemns her, and she said there was no one, and he said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
She and Jesus were perhaps lucky that they were not surrounded by screaming Christians carrying placards in a picket line surrounding an abortion clinic.
I feel there are purposeful ulterior motives in the movement to restrict education on sex and to prevent access to birth control. If we look below the surface of the "Pro-Life"/Abstinence only Apostles, we can see again the glint of gold.
As mentioned before, those championing "Right to Life" form a powerful voting bloc, and work to vet or eviscerate politicians based on their views on contraceptives. They form political action committees, collect money, and solicit donations, publish numerous magazines and books, and buy advertising in print, radio, TV, and online. You wouldn't think you could make a living advocating for the rights of zygotes and fetuses, but it appears that people can make careers of it.
The abstinence-only group has been able to push legislation that affords State and Federal funding of their curriculum, and even pushes for foreign policy in regards to AIDS prevention programs overseas to remain aligned with their philosophy that the only safe sex is none at all. Of course, if at all possible, funds to promote sexual education are instead earmarked for abstinence-only programs, and so they generate, publish, and teach curriculum for taxpayer money.
Naturally, adoption is their go-to alternative to abortion or contraceptives, but for anyone examining the very real plight of the abandoned, the orphaned, and the victims of sexual abuse in our foster homes and adoption networks, one wonders whether or not all of the advocates for the unborn would be better off serving those who are already left the womb.
Yet, for all this political action, placards, shouting, shame, and fundraising for the unborn, we still have a very dysfunctional Child Protective Services/foster home/adoption services system throughout this country, which all that effort and energy to prevent women from having access to contraceptives does little to nothing to address, reform, nor improve. I can only wish that the vast amount of energy, effort, and wealth that the right-to-life moment leverages into preventing access to medicine was devoted instead to insuring our adoption and child services programs function as they should.
It is notable that through the ignorance and social shaming that leads to uninformed risky sex with the effect of unwanted pregnancies with no alternatives, this movement seems designed to promote the redemptive necessity of holy matrimony. If you're shamed if you have sex outside of marriage, you have no access to contraceptives, with a broken adoption system, and the shameful welfare state can't support you, then marriage becomes a much more attractive option.
This pressure is greatest for those Christian women that recognize the multitudes of shame and judgment heaped upon them by fellow Christians for having sex outside of marriage, using contraceptives, abandoning their child, accepting charity, or raising a child out of wedlock.
Want to avoid all that shame? Get thee to a nunnery or get thee married! This position may go to explain why Joseph married Mary despite her conception occurring mysterious before they were married. Although to be fair, Joseph did consider getting a divorce until an angel convinced him otherwise.
Marriage itself has become a staged battleground for many American Christians. Exalted from on high, declared as a holy and sacred obligation, and with numerous allusions to the Paulian allegory of the Church being married to Jesus.
The argument that "traditional Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman" is really a more refined version of the schoolyard chant: "The Bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"
Yet, their view of "traditional Biblical marriage" omits all the instances of polygamy (and concubines) seen throughout the Bible. Many Old Testament Biblical figures considered holy and just had multiple wives, concubines, and/or extra-marital affairs.
Abraham himself had a concubine, and several children with her at his wife Sarah's insistence, and he remarried after Sarah's death from old age. Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's brother Lot's own daughters got him drunk in order to bear his children, although it does not mention whether Lot's incestuous children were also born out of wedlock.
Jacob also known as Israel, worked seven years for his uncle in order to pay for his cousin Rachel's hand in marriage, only to end up accidentally marrying her sister Leah first through his uncle's deception. Jacob also had offspring with his wives' handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah...also half-sisters of his wives and therefore also his cousins.
King David murdered a man by sending him to the front lines of battle because he lusted after his wife Bathsheba, and then added her to his collection of wives, eight total. Of course, it is more difficult to craft a sermon around the story of when a much younger David was asked to pay a dowry of a hundred foreskins and brought twice that amount to claim King Saul's daughter Michal in holy matrimony.
His son Solomon outdid him, said to have 700 wives and 300 concubines, which is exceptional by anyone's standards. Esther was a virgin presented to marry Persian king Ahasuerus after he drunkenly ordered his wife Queen Vashti to "show her beauty before the court", which Vashti refused and was replaced by Esther, although it does not say the King divorced Vashti.
All of these are examples of Biblical marriage. In looking at these, it is perhaps worth noting that our definition of marriage has been altered from its Biblical roots already.
The real argument for the sanctity of Christian marriage (and for it to be between a man and a woman) is of course really about the question of whether or not the Government should recognize homosexual marriages.
Unfortunately, we have churches and politicians who work to create varied and vast calculations and interpretations of Scripture to explain what Biblical marriage is, and what it is not, and how homosexuality is a mortal sin before God. For these select few people, tolerance of others is apparently an affront and an attack upon their beliefs. They have a popular saying, "Love the sinner; hate the sin." which Jesus never uttered.
They mine the Old Testament and the words of Paul to find detailed examples of how our definition of marriage must be governed in "accordance with Scripture". They argue that if gay marriage is allowed, we are one step away from marriages to animals and polygamy, which again is strange because polygamy is Biblical, and there are thirteen states that have no laws against bestiality.
This is not new. There were similar contortions by American Christians and politicians to advocate and propagate the institution of Slavery; from the Mark of Cain, to the curse on Noah's son, to Peter and Paul suggestion to "be a good slave" variously extolled. Today, just as then a variety of State and Federal laws were debated and discussed by good Christians, with people's lives and livelihoods held in the balance, but with the colored filters of popular religious appeal used to completely distort the discussion.
From my point of view and as someone who believes very firmly in the sanctity of the First Amendment, marriage is a civil contract, and being civic is wholly related to the State, not the Church. The State cannot impose a definition of marriage upon the Church, anymore than the Church can impose a definition of civic contracts upon the State. The State has the choice of whether to recognize marriage as a civil contract, or alternatively to not recognize marriage at all, which almost no one is advocating for.
As a civil contract, if a man and a man or a woman and a woman want to get married, they should have the ability to enter into a contract just as anyone else can, and receive the same treatment and benefits as anyone else.
Likewise, the state cannot force churches to perform nor recognize those marriages--and if we were to be honest, there are not vast numbers of gay people clamoring to hold big gay weddings in their megachurches or cathedrals overseen by the pastors and priests that despise their love for each other.
But being able to share the cost of living, health insurance, and the ability to own property in common are things that gay people are clamoring for, and can be granted easily without tearing apart the bloodstained fabric of our nation.
But what did Jesus actually say about marriage?
Jesus is quoted often by those who argue that marriage is between a man and a woman. What is interesting is that the instances when he speaks of marriage, Jesus instead talks about divorce.
As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates thinking of a thing to doing a thing whether murder or adultery, and then recommends plucking out ones eye or cutting off one's hand if they cause you to offend.
Then Jesus equates divorce to adultery itself--and then goes onto recommend not swearing any oath for any reason, but rather simply saying yes or no. He also recommends turning the other cheek when offended and praying for one's enemies, among other things.
The subject is later brought up again about whether divorce is lawful, and Jesus again equates divorce to adultery--and speaks of the joining of flesh, which no man should divide.
To which his disciples then exclaimed, "Is it better not to be married at all?"
Jesus then says a most curious thing that those arguing for the sanctity of marriage avoid quoting: “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
What is interesting is that the word "eunuch" itself may refer to homosexuality in the sense that eunuchs do not desire sex with women, although you'd be hard pressed to find a concordance or translation that dares to broach the subject of that specific usage of that specific word in that specific verse. Given the last 2000 years to have clarified this particularly mysterious passage, you would think someone would have looked up the translations to see if someone made a mistake. Perhaps we are still waiting for the one who is able to receive this teaching to tell us what it means.
So to recap, Jesus says that it is preferable to maim oneself than to even think of adultery, that divorce is the result of hardened hearts to the Law and divorce is a form of adultery, that it is better not to swear any oath for any reason, and then later goes on to cryptically speak of those who cannot or chose not to marry women.
And again, it is worth revisiting Jesus's direct response to an adulterer: "Neither do I condemn you." Was the plucking of eyes and the cutting off of hands a rhetorical exercise or intended as satire?
You will not hear a politician or a pastor espouse any of the above literal unedited quotes from Jesus in their declarations on the sanctity of marriage. There is thankfully no national Christian movement encouraging maiming oneself for sinful thoughts, nor a movement to make divorce illegal, nor a movement to return to the strict Biblical definition of marriage as being between a man and as many women as he can afford to own.
It is no wonder that those railing about gay marriage prefer Paul's declarations on the subject of marriage and homosexuality and to edit the full quotations of Jesus's literal words on the subject.
If Jesus wasn't talking about homosexuality when he spoke of eunuchs, then Jesus said absolutely nothing on the subject of gays, nor lesbians. Not once is there a parable about the man who sins in loving another man, nor do we see a single time that Jesus claims homosexuals are unable to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Who then does Jesus repeatedly condemn? Hypocrites, the religious, and those who serve money.
Over and over Jesus provides examples, parables, and exhortations disparaging wealth and religious hypocrisy. "Sell all that you have, and give it to the poor, and follow me." Again, "store up your wealth in heaven", and again "You cannot serve God and money."
Jesus tells his followers not to even worry about work nor money, for God provides to the sparrows and clothes the lilies. "Whoever wishes to become great among you must become a servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." And again, in the story of the arrogant Pharisee declaring his goodness before God in a long speech, where the tax collector simply cries that he is a sinner, Jesus says, the tax collector went to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be debased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
When asked for the greatest Commandment in the law, Jesus says "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself." When asked to clarify who exactly is one's neighbor, Jesus says everyone unequivocally, with no asterisks or specificity. Jesus says when offended to forgive seventy times seven, and to pray for one's enemies, for everyone prays for their friends and their families.
Even the act of loudly professing one's religion, prayers, and good deeds in its name in public is denounced over and over. "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." and "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."
Surely our politicians should be advised of their sins, and rebuked for their hypocrisy. We can only assume this is what Jesus himself would tell them to their faces, presumably after dealing with all the money lenders in the temples built in his name.
I leave you with this parable in full, because it is the mark and the measure by which Jesus says his believers shall be judged: not for who they condemned, not for whom they prevented from the ability to sin, not for how many tithes they paid, nor even their profession of faith in him or in God.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was starving and you fed me, I was dying of thirst and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came and visited me."
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you dying of starvation, or thirst? When were you a stranger, or naked? When were you sick and imprisoned?"
The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, what you did unto the least of these, you did it unto me."
Then he will turn to those on his left, "Depart from me, you cursed ones, into the 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 left me outside, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and you did not heal me, in prison and left me alone."
They too shall answer, "Lord, when did we see that you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? Surely we would have helped you if we had ever seen you!"
He will reply, "I tell you truly, that whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do unto me. Depart from me."
Then they will go away to perdition, but the righteous into life.