Please take time to read an article that really resonated with me. I long ago turned away from Christianity when I began to feel that it was at odds with my interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. The people who professed themselves followers of Christ were more quick to judge and condemn than be paragons of virtue and loving kindness. While many evangelical Christians believe in biblical literalism, it seems the one thing that many don’t take literally are the words of Jesus. The message of love and inclusion, caring for the poor, and turning the other cheek is absent from American evangelical Christianity. Instead, they deny scientific evidence of climate change “because GOD.” Drill, baby drill, because God gave man dominion over the earth. Men were justified in raping their wives because God gave husbands dominion over their wives. Republican Jesus would turn  away from the poor children who wanted to touch his hem, away from lepers who sought his healing touch, away from the very poor whose company he preferred, according to the Bible.

As a child, I attended a very conservative Christian school.There were many things that were deemed “Satanic.” Rock and roll music, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons were “of the devil.” Pretty much everyone, including Episcopalians and Catholics, were going to hell. While it wasn’t exactly as extreme as the Westboro Church, I would say the intensity and fear factor was pretty freaking high. We would read about the flood, the trials of Job, the almost-sacrifice of Abraham’s son, and all the other terrifying stories of the Old Testament one day, then learn about the saving grace of Jesus. I couldn’t logically reconcile the two sides of Christianity.  What I soon noticed was that we were Old Testament Christians. Jesus was someone we had to believe in to be saved, but we lived by Leviticus. Jesus was love, but God was vengeful, angry, and jealous. The messages were pounded into my malleable mind when I was very young. When I went to sleep at night, a terrifying deity watched me carefully for transgressions. 

While conservative candidates must profess their total devotion to Christian ideals, their stated platforms and legislative actions undermine the spirit and intent of Jesus’ teachings. Conservatives have consistently and vociferously condemned homosexuality, women’s reproductive choices, and helping the poor, elderly, and mentally ill. Liberals are “godless,” although most liberal causes are in lockstep with Christ’s teachings. From the article:

What I want to challenge is the persistent and difficult-to-kill assumption that conservatives occupy some kind of religious and ethical high ground, and that any deviation from a particular kind of conservative orthodoxy isn’t merely a matter of interpretation, but is tantamount to initiating hostilities against God, motherhood, and the flag—all of which, interestingly enough, are conflated in some people’s minds. But that’s another article.

The smug certainty with which some conservative religious and political types believe not just that they occupy the side of truth on every issue, but that they occupy the side of God’s truth is alarming—not because they believe these things of themselves so uncritically (self-righteousness is a time-honored religious and political posture on both sides of the ideological divide, after all), but because so many in the culture agree to cede them this authoritative land of milk and honey.

I have recently discovered a group called “red letter Christians,” who take as “gospel” the teachings of Jesus, best represented by his “sermon on the mount,” found in Matthew, chapters one through three. Some of the greatest hits of this sermon include the beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the penultimate Golden Rule. This philosophy is echoed through ALL of the major religions of the world from Buddhism to Scientology:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

So simple, yet so profound. And yet, the hardest rule to follow, it would seem. So many things that Republicans are fighting for these days, not least of which is putting guns in the hands of almost every American and waging unending wars all over the world, ensures that our country will be cursed by our own actions. For surely that which we sow, we shall also reap. 9/11 was a harbinger of that terrible harvest. And rather than learn from that horrible day, we have clung ever more desperately to God and guns. We lament the war on Christmas as our sons and daughters die far away from home, fighting a war that we brought upon ourselves. Some return home, minds and bodies broken, finding that they are forgotten as soon as the Purple Heart is pinned to their chests. The pious applaud the degradation of women who struggle to feed their children, deny them contraception and condemn them for wanting to have control over their own bodies. They advocate for the unborn, but would abandon them after birth. The undocumented among us would be left in the street to die rather than give them free care, and the falsely pious would call themselves righteous. Worker protections are slowly eroded, safety nets consistently threatened as more and more families struggle. All these things are justified by the same interpretation of the Bible that caused me to reject all the trappings of religion. 

I feel that perhaps I gave up too soon. Why did I surrender my faith to those who make a mockery of the teachings of Jesus? My own philosophy can be directly attribute to the Red Letters. This is not so easy for fundamentalists in the right wing:

  • I’d like to see a fundamentalist defense from scripture of such policies as cutting taxes for people who already have enough for several lifetimes. How does one “literally” read the prophets or the Gospels and come away thinking that protecting the ability to purchase another yacht or vacation home at the expense of those just struggling to feed their children is something Christians ought to have any stake in?
  • I’d like to see someone defend from scripture fighting for a healthcare system, the chief motivation of which is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it.
  • I’d like to see a scriptural justification for treating undocumented workers not with Christian hospitality—if not as potential friends and neighbors, then at least as fellow children of God—but as an insidious threat to “our way of life” (in which “our” refers to American and not Christian).
  • I’d like to see how scripture works as a legitimator of arms stockpiling in the service of military adventurism in other countries (see, in particular, Iraq).
  • I’d like to see how the bible comes to the aid of those who would stand idly by while LGBTQ kids endure the dehumanizing and often deadly effects of bullying.
  • I’d like to see how the bible can be put to use defending the belief that our ultimate loyalties to flag and faith are interchangeable, that to have invoked one is ipso facto to have named the other.

via Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent.

These are just a few of the things I too would like to see justified scripturally by those who have hijacked a radical and yes, LIBERAL philosophy. The Red Letters cannot by any stretch of the imagination be used to justify leaving an undocumented immigrant to die in the street for lack of health insurance. They are in direct contradiction to a guns in every hand. Jesus would weep to see a woman forced to bear the child of a rapist, then humiliated for seeking help to feed that child. 

In a court of law, using the Bible as the Rule of Law, and most specifically the words of Jesus upon whose name Christianity is based, I contend that Republican Christianity would be judged  a perversion of the Red Letters. Throughout history, war, violence, persecution, slavery and injustice has been justified by religion. Ancient texts dictate modern policy, but the most transcendent and resonant words are ignored. Isn’t it time to hold these conservative Christians accountable? It is time to stop allowing them to define what it means to be Christian. It is time to force them to justify their cruelty in biblical terms and explain why their version is in direct contradiction to the words of the man for whom their faith is named. 

40 thoughts on “Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent

  1. My heart opens up to you and to the courage you exhibit in writing this. I was raised Protestant. I have left years and years ago. I have studied all of the major religions. I am now practicing Judiasm and Sufism. However I do much with all of the religions. I believe there is one path to God and all the religions are branches of the path. What you call the Divine, how you pray doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that there is Divinity within every sentient being. The clue is to look for the Divinity and ignore the differences because there are more similarities. Hugs, Barbara

    1. Thank you for your comments and reblogging. My beliefs have evolved in a similar manner to yours. I don’t show much courage here, since I am basically anonymous. I haven’t “come out” to all of my friends and family, though I don’t ever go to church or profess any religious opinions. I just avoid the subject. Nevertheless, I still have a sense of the “divine,” but have no name for it. All I know is that I don’t think the “conservative god” is IT. The common elements that consistently reappear in religions both ancient and modern suggests to me that those commonalities illuminate universal truths. This is perhaps why, even though I reject religion, I still question, search, and study them all.

      1. You can be spiritual but not religious. There are so many similarities between paths and within those you will find your path and your concept of the Beloved. You are brave because you are taking the first steps. Don’t forget to look within at the inner landscape.

  2. A great read. thank you for this. There are many of us who have left the Christian Church to find ourselves in the bosom of a world wide community that honours the Divine in every being. One of the best books I’ve read the past year is one by Barry Wilson titled How Jesus became Christian. Many years ago I taught at a Christian school and the vice principal shared a reading in morning devotions which referred to the Christian church as a boat that was taking on water and commented that it was up to every Christian to start bailing. I responded that perhaps it was time to let the boat sink and build a new, seaworthy vessel. i didn’t earn any points that day for sure. There are more followers of Jesus outside the organized church than anywhere within its walls. Kudos!

  3. Thank you, that was an excellent article and a great post. My biggest obstacle in taking Christianity (and Islam and Judaism) seriously is the people who call themselves Christian, yet talk, think, and behave in the ways exactly opposite to the teachings of Christ.

    1. How does one hold a sect accountable? By not letting them have the final word. It is up to those of us who study Jesus’ words and actions and look to the prophets for words of inspiration to counter the false teachings of the right. Jesus never said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves” and other such lies. We must stand with those with whom Jesus stood.

  4. I am one of the disillusioned. I have experienced religion as cold, heartless and hypocritical. I cannot equate love with all the hate, incest, rape,debauchery and wars that the Bible teaches. I watched Passion of the Christ and that was the most deciding moment in my life. How can the crucifixion equate to love? It was a cruel, barbaric and heartless act. This heartlessness lives forth in churches. A brave post.

  5. Regarding the “love your neighbor” concept, I heard an evengelical Christian spokesperson use this as a justification for carrying concealed weapons… wouldn’t you want your neighbor to kill someone who is threatening you? Hmmmm.
    Oscar

  6. Wonderfully done, resonates as a bell chimes in the greatest cathedrals of the massive churches of old. I left the man made churches 40 years ago, when a priest told me I had to return to the husband who beat me.

    Reblogging this one.

    1. Thanks so much, Val. How heartless and cruel of that priest. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of that happening. The misogyny and paternalism ingrained within many religions is sickening. I would love to see a motherly goddess take the forefront. Imagine the effects of a nurturing, feminine deity on the environment, warmongering, and human rights!

      1. Well, funny thing was The Church did not recognize my marriage as I married outside of The Church. I had to say Hail Mary’s for continuing to ‘live in sin’, but was still advised to return to my sinful marriage as I was under the dominion of my Husband.

        Go figure.

        Thus I am a recovering Catholic and primarily a Deist though I do not subscribe to all their stated tenants either. Like you, I seek the feminine in the deity and believe there must be both for there to be balance.

  7. Thought about this very thing yesterday as I happened upon a “Christian” radio station singing the praises of the “Right-eous.” Nothing I read in the Gospels or prophets celebrates the “Right-eous.” Rather, I hear about widows, orphans, enemies, strangers/foreigners in our midst, the hungry, poor, the unclean sick, the broken in body, spirit, mind, the weakest among us–you know, the child born of rape because we dare not abort fetuses, only mothers and children AFTER the “illegitimate-born-to-increase-ones’-welfare-benefits” have been born… Leading up to Christmas, we make such a big deal about the embarrassment of Jesus’ birth, his illegitimacy, born to a fourteen year old, an old man father, into poverty, in an animal house because there was no space for them at the local birthing center…yet we make absolutely NO CONNECTION between Jesus’ birth and the poverty into which people are born and live out their lives today. How many of us can truly say that we know of no children born into poverty, a young child for a mother and an old man for a father?! At least the Innkeeper of the Jesus’ story gave the not-of-age-of-consent Mary and too old Joseph the warmest spot he could find. We refuse even to do that, without hundreds of miles of red tape, investigations into every possible corner of a person’s life, certifying and re-certifying and re-re-certifying, to be absolutely certain a person is worthy and Right-eous… Yup, just for once I’d like to hear those who claim to be in the know on “Right Living” show me the text on which they base their faith. If it’s not about Jesus’ words AND actions, then don’t bother me!!!

    Thank you for your essay! Read, wrote, and shared…

  8. I’ve always wondered why some Christians don’t continue their reading with Volume II — The New Testament. Why stop with the fire and brimstone? So many are missing the point as you so eloquently pointed out.

    That’s why I remain someone who believes the New Testament teachings, does what I can, follows the Golden Rule. Heaven can take care of itself. And if it is filled with folks who want to see others raped, maimed, tortured and tormented during the Second Coming, well, Hell will be just fine for me.

  9. Yes, I too was going to mention the Golden rule. Wonderful piece, wonderful responses, and wonderful to know that so many of us just don’t buy into religion, the masculine power construct of centuries.
    The most enlightening and useful thing I ever read was that anything which is Not unconditional love, is a cry for unconditional love. Which puts the actions of most people in a different light, even those who want power, money or prestige are simply going in the wrong direction to fill up their emptiness.
    They deny the poor etc, because they have no trust in a God of abundance. Their indifference to the misery of others is all fear based, including fear of there not being enough, no matter how much they have.
    Remembering this makes it easier for me to remember to ‘ love our enemies’ in Christ’s words, instead of judging them.
    It seems to me to be the only way I can help to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all men!!!

  10. I’ve considered myself a recovering Catholic for many years. I was even an altar boy at a Catholic church in Dallas in the 1970s. Fortunately, by the 1990s, I’d grown wise and realized how foolish the church can be. I consider evangelical Christians among the worst, along with orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Muslims. They’re all part of the same hateful, narrow-minded brood and are too arrogant to realize it.

  11. This is a fantastic, well-considered piece. And that comes from the little Jewish girl in the room. I guess the only thing I would add — the piece that tugged at me a bit — was the idea about the Old Testament G-d. I don’t think of The Old Testament G-d as wholly angry, but yes, He had lessons to teach — and when it came time to teach them, he wasn’t willy nilly about it. He made holes open up in the ground and swallow people whole. Why? To show them they had done something really wrong. But usually that thing points back to what Amaya was saying (and the article, too): that people had strayed too far from kindness; that they had been bullying each other, that they had put materialistic, earthly desires over spiritual pursuits or genuine connections with each other. I could go on. I have felt so ashamed to call myself a liberal of late. It’s like I am the devil. The Old Testament G-d commands us to do mitzvot, To try to heal the world, not make it a worse place than when we got here. Thank you for sharing. DIscussions about religion are always enlightening.

    1. I hope I didn’t sound disrespectful in talking about the Old Testament. When I was in school, the stories terrified me, but after reading all of it for myself, I find beauty and wisdom in many of the passages. I wasn’t taught those things by my teachers and preacher. I had to find them for myself.Thank you for reading and offering your perspective.

  12. Amaya, I am catching up on some back posts as I have been away. This is superb writing and very pertinent. You have seen me use the phrase “religion is at its best when it is inclusive and is at its worst when it is exclusive.” The Golden Rule and its counterparts in other religions trump all things in the bible. Even if you do not believe in an almighty God or Allah, you would be hard pressed to argue against the Golden Rule. Let me take your comments one step further though.The thing I detest most is bigotry in the pulpit whether it is Westboro Baptist and their “Soldiers Must Die” picketing against gay rights, Rev. Charles Worley with his electrifed fence, Rev Terry Jones whose Koran burning has killed American soldiers or the Catholic Church who has hidden its criminal pedophilia in its ranks while coming down on LGBTs and the use of contraception. Just the other day a court upheld an inappropriate dismissal after a Minister counseled a dentist to fire one of his hygienists because she was guilty of being attractive and exciting him. She did not flirt with him and saw him as a father figure. I know of a Minister who told a former colleague of mine it was her fault that he husband beat her as she was not being a good enough wife. When we see bigotry, ignorance or a blind eye, we need to call it out. Just because a minister or, in the broader context, someone of faith is Godly, does not mean they can’t also be full of shit. If they are, then we need to encourage people to vote with their feet. You are the best and have a heart of gold given your own ministry. Take care, BTG

    1. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comments, as always, BTG. This theme is one I seem to always come back to. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to let it go, but religion had a huge effect on my life and my path, most of it quite negative. As you say, we need to call attention to those horrible injustices done in the name of religion. We grant too much power to “men of god” who are just as fallible and flawed as any other man (or woman). But this new year, I am going to try to highlight more positive and enlightened teachers, I think. I’ve come across a few. The bad apples shouldn’t be the only ones getting attention.

  13. I came to your post via Val Logar’s site. I’ve been a “born-again” Christian for 40 years or so and I couldn’t agree with you more. Not only shouldn’t you shake off your impressions, but you should keep proclaiming what you see because so many people are joinging the chorus, and I think it is God inspired. I am one of them. It is one of the major reasons I started my blog (“How the Hell Did I End Up Here”), because I wanted to shout from the housetops: “I am a Christian, but I am not one of those Christians!” In fact, the more I sound the alarm against bigotry, injustice, and homophobia as you are doing, the stronger my faith in Christ becomes because of the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount. And the more I meditate on these aspects of the New Testament, the more my heart embraces people where they are and for who they are. So happy to have met another companion on the road of life just trying to do the right thing.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by! I Googled your blog and loved it. I am so glad to hear so much positive feedback on my post and encouraged to hear from Christians such as yourself who take the message of love and forgiveness that Jesus taught to heart. Bless you and thank you for your comments.

  14. Here I am back re-reading this post again today, almost a month later. The inspiration comes from reading Frank Bruni’s column in Sudays’s NY Times, “Catholicism’s Curse.” The column is an excellent condemnation of the the abuses of the Catholic Church and its despicable efforts at covering up the issues, protecting the abusive priests, and attacking their victims.

    To me a greater point is the efforts by many (All?) religions to so shelter themselves, to so limit themselves to like minded members, that they indeed lose sight of “What would Jesus do,” and morphed it into “What would OUR Jesus do.”

    I said it before, and say it again; great post!

    1. Thank you, Barney! I checked out that column. You are so right. People shape god into their own image, which is the height of arrogance. What I admire about Jesus is that he embraced the outcasts of society. Christians too often ignore this revolutionary aspect of his teachings.

  15. Some religions do not consider the New Testament as part of the Bible. Maybe, we should do the same. The New Testament is my Bible.

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