Okay, when I signed up for this blog, I made a promise to myself that I would keep things light and humorous. My past blog attempts got deep and heavy really quick, and that last blog I posted was getting close to the line. But then I saw this little chart in a group on Facebook called “Jesus was not a white, middle-class Republican.” There’s part of a Derek Webb song in the group description that says,
“And my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man,
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood,
it’s to a King and a Kingdom.”
My reaction to this is, “Woot! Preach it up!” But then there’s this image in the “Photos” section of the group. I could have joined the group and commented on it, but I’m not setting out to argue with anybody, or to “correct” anyone’s skewed approach to who Jesus was. It is not up to Braden Bost to get these folks straight, it’s up to God. If they pursue Him, and do so honestly, he will show them truth. And God may somehow use me to show someone that truth, but I’ve learned that it won’t be by me starting fights on the internet. But, after all that, I still need to comment on this, so what better place to do it but in my blog? But before I begin, let me ask . . . why is the “real” Jesus in the image so pissed? The zits are a nice touch, though.
I’m not too concerned about the column on the right (“Jeezus”). I agree that the generic, right-wing view of Christ is way off. Just read Phillip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew. What I’m focusing on is the column on the left. The one that says, “This is what Jesus really said about this issue.” I think it’s fairly inaccurate.
On Sexual Immorality: “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” John 8:7.
Hmm. Nope. Certainly that line was used in defense of an adulteress who was about to be stoned, but much like “Judge not lest ye be judged,” this verse is misused as an argument against accountability. I don’t think it was said to refer specifically to sexual immorality, either. I believe it was said to make the hypocrites who were going to stone the woman examine themselves. And we all certainly need to recognize our own sins before getting on someone else’s case, but the main Jesus quote I want to bring up in response to what this part of the chart implies is, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). But in the interest of not rambling on forever like I did in my bumper stickers post, I’ll just end this one on the point that John 8:7 is not “what Jesus said about sexual immorality.” And it’s not a card to play to be able to get away with whatever you want, either.
On Alcohol and Drugs: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not defile him, but what comes out of his mouth, that defiles him,” Matthew 15:11.
Boy, taking stuff out of context is fun, isn’t it? Just a few verses before, the situations that lead to this quote begin. Matthew 15:2 quotes the Pharisees who are attempting to discredit Jesus as a law-breaker, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Well, that doesn’t sound like that has anything to do with alcohol and drugs. Verses 3-10 are pretty much just Jesus ripping those guys to shreds for being more concerned about appearances and empty rituals and not being concerned with their hearts. And why is it that “what goes into a man’s mouth” is automatically assumed to refer to drugs and alcohol? My first thought would be that it refers to food. Especially considering these men were Jewish, what with all the rules Judaism has on which foods someone can and can’t eat. Besides, the Bible does spend a lot of time talking about the sin of drunkenness, and I think the primary issue with drugs is the legal aspect; the Bible is clear that we’re supposed to follow the laws put into place by those in authority over us. One last point: it’s not what you put in that defiles but what comes out. Okay. In the majority of situations, if you put drugs or alcohol in your mouth, chances are your words will be defiling you pretty quick.
On Abortion: ——————
Oh, ho-ho! NOTHING! Jesus never specifically said anything about abortion, therefore that must mean that it’s probably okay! But wait a second . . . so far, the other two Bible verses used didn’t directly deal with their “topics,” either. You know, Jesus never said anything specifically about spending 16 hours a day playing video games. Guess I’m in the clear.
On War: “All who draw the sword will die by the sword,” Matthew 26:52.
That’s only half of the verse. The whole thing is “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.'” It’s what Jesus said after the-apostle-often-assumed-to-be-Peter cut off the ear of one of the guards who arrested him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Actually this statement is pretty profound in reference to the consequences of war, but this is more of a factual statement, not a condemnation. I quoted part of this in my bumper stickers blog,
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” (Matthew 10:34-36)
I’m not going to make any kind of claim to have a full understanding of the Bible’s stance on such a complex issue as war, but I am very sure that Jesus wasn’t just telling everyone to be nice to each other.
On Separation of Church and State: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s,” Matthew 22:21
Again, this is not the whole passage. It starts, “‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then He said to them, . . . ” I’ve heard this verse used to justify separation of church and state before. The problem is that it’s about paying taxes. The Pharisees were trying to get Jesus in trouble by tricking him into saying that Jews shouldn’t pay taxes to the Romans, but Jesus asked for a coin, asked them whose picture and inscription was on the coin, and then . . . well, I already quoted the rest. While I agree with separation of church and state, this passage speaks of nothing of the sort.
On Money: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” Matthew 19:23.
Never mind that this verse is widely agreed to be speaking more about valuing earthly things over God. Never mind that it’s possible that Jesus might not be saying, “rich people can’t get into heaven because they’re not allowed,” but instead “rich people will find it difficult to give up what they have for God,” and then, a few verses later, reminds his disciples that, with God, all things are possible. Never mind that the Bible has other verses that say it’s perfectly fine to enjoy wealth earned (“I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). Let’s stop and think about what is trying to be conveyed in this last section. Because I’m not completely sure. Based on the “Jeezus” column, the author is likely primarily referring to televangelism. But his response to televangelism seems to be a call to poverty. It’s very confusing. It seems like he quickly threw that verse out at right-wingers without taking a second to think about what it may mean for him . . . but then again, maybe he said exactly what he wanted to.
People have certainly incorrectly used the Bible to justify themselves for a long time, be they left-wing, right-wing, Republican, Democrat, Whig, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gay, homophobic, racist, pro-slavery, abolitionist, prohibitionist, nudist, vegan, creationist, evolutionist, or celebrity. The trend as of late seems to be non-Christians throwing the Bible back at Christians, trying to show that certain “Christian” beliefs (which often would be better defined as “right-wing” or “conservative” beliefs) aren’t supported by scripture. Sometimes they get some things right, such as making a case for unconditional love or separating church from state (this poster’s attempt wasn’t the best, to be sure). I’ve seen and read many things of a similar nature to this poster, and they are on the same level as using scripture to justify slavery and the murdering of abortion doctors. And before you get all hussy about that sentence, let me word it more simply: all of it is about making up your mind first, and then twisting scripture to make it support your ideas.
I wanted to end this with a quote from a book I’ve been reading that talked about the difference between reading the Bible to support your cause and reading the Bible to honestly listen to God telling you who He is. But I can’t find the quote.