‘Hey Jesus, I’m packing…if anyone even attempts to threaten you, I’ve got a concealed weapon, and I’ll take care of them for you!’. Yep, sound like something you might hear had Jesus carried out his emmanuel excursion in the 21st century in the US? Not so much! And yet, I am stunned on regular basis by the adopted beliefs of those who claim to represent said Jesus in our modern world. And its not just gun ownership, prosecuting wars in far-flung territories, but the support of neoliberal trickle down economics and the increasing revelation of inherent discrimination that many followers adhere to as their political creed. I understand that the Republican party secured a huge tranche of voting power by disingenuously pedaling support for moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but the wholesale adoption of some of the above mentioned positions just baffles the heck out of me. And now….Trump!
The reason I struggle so much with the current ‘Christian politics’ stems from my own extensive study of the very finite and limited evidence we have pertaining to what Jesus actually stood for in the four accounts of his life, stories and interaction with his contemporaries. I hear many so called ‘believers’ have proclaimed themselves firmly behind the extraordinary candidacy of the Republican presidential nominee. This man is a self-proclaimed advocate of racism, bigotry and mysogyny, quite apart from his continual propensity to lie and bend the truth or simply insult anyone who does not conform to his worldview. But he is simply a rather embarrassing extension to a politer form of political creed that has subsumed the belief system of those who call themselves followers of Christ.
My reading of the contemporary accounts tells a very different story, and I am purposely not going to quote snippets out of context, but paint a picture that seems at odds with these conventional views. I see a caring, accepting leader who eschews any form of discrimination unless provoked by those who pedal such judgements, such as the religious leaders of his day. I witness a falsely accused victim of injustice who rebukes his own follower for an act of violence to his captors and an act of healing to right the wrong done. The emphasis he consistently demonstrates on caring for the downtrodden, the sick and the rejected alongside his clear statements on feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and visiting the prisoner seem to emanate much more from a ‘liberal’ playbook rather than the increasing emphasis on prosperity for the faithful dominating current theologies. Jesus was specifically a friend to the tax collectors, and though he encouraged the redemption of illegal corrupt tax collection, he seemed to advocate supporting even unjust government in his statement on ‘rendering to Caesar’.
Taking a closer look at his attitude to war and violence, the phrases ‘love your enemy’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ bear little resemblance to the support for the waging of proxy wars around the world and a tacit proclamation of revenge for what is unhelpfully billed as religious terrorism. On a more personal level, the idea of carrying a weapon capable of killing another human being because that would be my solution to any threat of attack or property violation is simply untenable. I realize that I have been brought up in a country where firearms are simply not freely available and the local police do not even carry guns, but given that my faith insists I do not fear death, and personal property is more likely to be a hindrance to purity, why would I even consider carrying a gun.
In the end, the example of Jesus may be just a little too radical for most of us. But didn’t Jesus meekly submit to a violent and unjust death without lifting a finger to stop the injustice? Did he not encourage his followers to do the same? History tells us that all but one of his original students suffered similar ends, and I am assuming none of them was carrying a concealed weapon, let alone used one. My overriding impression of early Christianity is one of inclusion, forgiveness, acceptance of all religions, genders and backgrounds. It focused on attention to the poor and downtrodden and paid little mind to personal gain and comfort. There was certainly no room for discrimination, revenge, protectionism, nationalism or personal prosperity. But somehow, that seems to be the order of the day. The support evidently available to the Republican presidential candidate from Christian quarters is a very disturbing extension of a prevailing theology which I trust will be soundly defeated in the days to come. And no, I am no fan of the other candidate, but I long for a return to beliefs that more soundly echo the Jesus of the Bible.