Call me an American Dissident. I believe in democracy and government of, FOR, and BY the PEOPLE. I do NOT believe in the plutocratic corpocracy this country is today, wherein government is made and administered of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. I believe in wealth which is HONESTLY attained through hard work and merit. I do NOT believe in wealth attained by means of deceit, exploitation, or leverage. There is enough for all in this world. Greed is the major cause of poverty, and both are totally unnecessary.
I have never been one to wear religion on my sleeve. I believe that one's religion and spirituality are personal matters, and that only vain and insecure people feel compelled to force their religious beliefs on others. Not to say that discussing religion offends me, or that I myself have not done so. What I take exception to, though, are those who constantly put themselves in one's face about the matter, insisting that THEIR brand of religion is the only true religion and everyone had just better believe exactly as they do. HOGWASH! A lady comes to mind who wouldn't do business with me unless I was "born again." Early Christians NEVER had such a stipulation. They believed that this rebirth occurred at the moment of baptism. The current notion of the term came about with the more conservative sects during the Reformation, and, to this day, neither Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, or those who are Eastern Orthodox follow or believe in it.
For this and many other reasons, I have had ny fill of rigid, fundamentalist, religious right conservatives who sanctimoniously claim God is on their side, or that Jesus hates Muslims and gays, and who then go off spouting their support for, and encouraging others to support, earthly leaders who engage in hatred, war, prejudice, cruelty, or plunder for profit.
God the Father, and His son, Jesus, never expressed a political philosophy, to be sure. Neither endorsed big OR small government. Indeed, the only reference to government was a quote by Jesus from Matthew 22:21, advising us to "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." That, incidentally, would strongly imply sacred support for the concept of the separation of church and state, which some conservatives are now trying to deny and even blur!
Yeshua ben Joseph (the real name of Jesus, in Hebrew, meaning "Yeshua, of Joseph") was a Nazarene, meaning He rose from what the Romans of that time regarded as a radical sect of Jews. Clearly, His life and teachings were most radical for that era. His originality and creativity shocked and befuddled the elders and leaders of those days. While neither He nor God the Father ever specifically endorsed institutionalized liberalism, it is clear from both their teachings that they did espouse kindness, gentleness, generosity, forgiveness, and selflessness in one's own personal behavior, all of which are liberal traits. Neither ever advised anyone to reward the rich with tax breaks which would make them even richer, for example. Nor did they encourage accumulation of vast wealth, especially at the expense of, or through the exploitation of, others. Quite the contrary! Neither ever advised or said to engage in pre-emptive war or torture - they preached exactly the opposite! Dozens of times, in the Old and New Testaments, both told us to care for the sick and poor, the weak, and the afflicted. Neither ridiculed or advised others to look down on the less fortunate, and both warned us to not be selfish, vain, or greedy. "Thou shalt not kill!", God the Father commanded. He did not say it was ok to kill or persecute to protect or further His name. No, that notion came later, in the conservative application of the institution which became known as the Christian church.
Below are a number of quotes taken directly from the Bible. They bolster my conviction that both Jesus and God are liberals, and are not reactionary conservatives. For, to actually be conservatives, they would have to contradict these very statements below, of which there are far too many in this vein to even suppose they could be conservatives! Take a look at them:
"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." - Luke 12:33 -
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." - Proverbs 31:8-9 -
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Matthew 6:24 -
"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished." - Proverbs 17:5 -
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 14: 13-14 -
"He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich-both come to poverty." - Proverbs 22:16 -
"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." - Deuteronomy 15:11 -
"Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39 -
"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." - Matthew 5:44 -
"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." -1 Timothy 6:9-10 -
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6: 1-4 -
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." - Mark 10:25 -
"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." - Matthew 19:21 -
"In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." - John 2:14 & 15 -
"And He taught, saying unto them, 'Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?, but ye have made it a den of thieves.' And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine." - Mark 11:18 & 19 -
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Luke 12.15 -
- Matthew 25: 14 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' 40 And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 17 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' 44 18 Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' 45 He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
"But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39 -
"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite-fully use you, and persecute you." - Matthew 5:44 -
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her." - John 8:7 - "Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Matthew 7:1 & 2 -
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." - Matthew 5:7 -
"Love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:39 -
"So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you." - Matthew 7:12 -
The conservative's idea of God is apparently a no-nonsense authoritarian God, who sets specific rules and everyone had damn well better obey them or else. To this end, many conservatives of the religious right have taken it upon themselves to enforce what they see as God's will, and this manifests itself in the way they feel justified in persecuting gays, Muslims, atheists, obstetricians who perform abortions, and anyone else they determine is not following God's law perfectly, or the way they would like. These same people, many of whom vehemently oppose governmental intrusion into their own dealings, think nothing of dictating to others just how they should live. In the past, these beliefs have led to pogroms against Jews, Crusades against Muslims, and the burning at the stake of persons suspected of witchcraft. Their self-righteous beliefs led them to extremism, much like today's political and social conservatives. But my question is this: who appointed THEM policeman, judge, jury, warden, and chief executioner?
Jesus merely asked His followers to spread the word about God, not to browbeat or cajole others. For such an action completely ignores the fact that God Himself has given each one of us a Free Will: a choice as to whether we will or won't believe in Him or follow His teachings.
There are those, myself included, who see God not as some ranting, raving authoritarian One whose main aim is to punish those who disobey His commandments, but as One who is loving, merciful, forgiving, and anxious to have us join Him in Heaven. (To be sure, He WILL punish those who oppose or stand up in defiance against Him; look what happened to Satan and the fallen angels! But, by and large, to join Him in heaven, He only asks for obedience and due respect, and is ever ready to forgive small trangressions). For this reason, we liberals tend to be more tolerant and forgiving than the conservatives. Call us the Religious Left if you will: we oppose any effort by other humans to persecute, punish, or deny people their rights to live their lives as they wish, to accept or not accept the teachings of God, or to even question or deny His existence. A person's choice (or non-choice) of a religion is each individual's right, we believe, just as is stated in our Constitution. For we believe conservatives today are placing the right of a person to pursue his or her own individual wealth far above all else, including even common sense, even at times above the wishes of God. Certainly, the conservative Supreme Court was NOT "speaking up and judging fairly" or "defending the rights of the poor and needy" in last year's Citizens United case, for example, which conservatives hail for allowing unlimited corporate donations into our political process, thereby stacking the deck AGAINST the poor and needy!
Agnostics and atheists, you are perfectly within your rights to believe as you do. I only ask that you show the same tolerance and respect toward the Religious Left as you do other members of the progressive community, such as civil rights leaders, or as we do to you. For, I think as you have read this blog, you have come to the realization that much of the Christian teachings mirror your own beliefs about how one should live his or her own life, and are actually quite harmless to you and are good overall. For, as you have seen, God, and Jesus too, are LIBERALS who spread the good word about how we should live with the help of the Holy Spirit!