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Friday, 28 January 2011 09:19

When did religiously conservative people also become politically conservative? Featured

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Question from Betty Hare.

Rev. Wilson, When did religiously conservative people also become politically conservative?

The Bible

I have had a saying for some time now, Biblically conservative people will be socially liberal and Biblically liberal people may be socially conservative. Maybe there is some truth to this, however today's conservative Christians are quite liberal Biblically. In other words they take liberty when dismissing the social aspects of God's teachings, for example:

We know that God was against predatory lending and predatory taxation in the Old Testament and the Torah. So no Biblical knowledgeable Christian could support an economic system that has predatory aspects.

In both sacred text, God commands that the widow and orphan be cared for. In other words they were not to live in poverty just because they were not contributing to the economic movement of society. The money to care for them must come from others who are working while they are not; this is the will of that God. This God is also against taking people’s land for economic reasons – no eminent domain for commercial purposes.

From the Prophets of the nation of Israel and the Christian sacred text; (some scholars question the date of what is in italics.)

Amos. "You oppress the poor and crush the needy. You make the poor pay taxes. You trample the needy, make them pay taxes to pay for their leaders to have health care while they do not.

Isaiah: "Those who accumulate houses are as good as dead. Those who accumulate landed property until there is no land left, and you are the only landowners remaining within the land."

Micah. "Those who devise sinful plans in the evening because they have the power to do so, (NAFTA, The Federal Reserve Board, and other unpopular legislation passed on Friday nights, Think Cheney's meeting with energy CEOs ) they confiscate field after field after field and mortgage after mortgage . They seize house after house after house. And they deprive the man of the land they inherited." "You hate justice and you do not do what is right. Her leaders take bribes when they decide legal cases, and take campaign contributions to make legislation and deregulate. Her TV preachers teach for profit and call for war, her prophets read omens for pay."

Lamentations. "Strangers take possession of the land we inherited. The foreigners to occupy our homes. We must pay money to drink our own water. They sold our mortgages to others even in other countries and sold our public works and parks to in the name of privatization.

Clearly this God at this point in history is working against poverty and homelessness. And struggling with the financial institutions so people can keep their homes.

Now, in the Christian sacred text, the New Testament we find Jesus turning down political and military power, “Next the devil took Jesus up on a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in just a moment. Then he told him that he had been given the authority to give those kingdoms to anyone he wished.” Now the kingdoms of that day were military kingdoms supported buy taxation of the populations within a nation and from the people that particular nation conquered. Can you imagine paying taxes so a country could fight a war you disagreed with and has control over the law of the land? ( Read, In the anti federalist papers, "Centinel" Number 1 October 5, 1787 To the Freemen of Pennsylvania.) The prophet/Jesus of the temptation story said no to this kind of power and national structure. Although the devil must of thought he had a chance to seduce this prophet/Jesus away from his true ministerial intentions for the people.

Biblical Socialism?

Also in the New testament from the book of Acts we discover that this God favors a type of socialism, a type of social structure that only comes after the spirit of God is invited to come into their hearts and they are filled with the Spirit.

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ....They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, .... All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Nobody homeless, nobody hungry, where not asked sexual orientation prior to receiving shelter and food. When filled with the spirit property class distinction seems like an illusion that only causes walls between God and person.

Two thousand years later as the industrial revolution is stretching its might, 1870 -1920 in the United States Christians respond to the poverty class that is an outcome of a predatory monopoly oriented capitalistic economic system.

For example, “The Presbyterians described its goals in 1910 by proclaiming:

The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. In the late 19th century, many Americans were disgusted by the poverty level and the low quality of living in the slums. The social gospel movement provided a religious rationale for action to address those concerns. Activists in the Social Gospel movement hoped that by public health measures as well as enforced schooling so the poor could develop talents and skills, the quality of their moral lives would begin to improve. Important concerns of the Social Gospel movement were labor reforms, such as abolishing child labor and regulating the hours of work by mothers. By 1920 they were crusading against the 12-hour day for workers at U.S. Steel.” The Social Gospel movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, “especially social justice, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war.” And they were patriotic – a Baptist christian socialist wrote the pledge of allegiance.

Baptist Socialist?, Who ever heard of such a thing?

Walter Rauschenbusch, a baptist minister and leader in the early social gospel movement, believed that creating the characteristics of heaven on earth was the purpose of Christianity (not something to be experienced after death). Following the teachings of the prophets and apostles of his faith tradition when applying the ethics found in the sacred text of Christianity put him square in line with the political progressive movement. The implementation of gospel values, as found or discovered in the word of God (the Bible) is surprisingly social justice and progressively oriented.

What happened between now and then?

Today's Christianity supported presidential administrations that placed the 5 Supreme court judges in place that have given our country over to a person created by man, not God, the corporation. The irony can not be missed, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things”, and believe me corporate personhood is a thing with much power, breathed into it by Federalist leaning Justices. (What happened to the Anti-Federalist papers ,Justice Scalia?) Today's Christianity calls for war. In fact two Christian preachers who were speaking for Presidential candidate John McCain promoted war. One of them said and I quote,”we get off on war”; the other, John Hagee, calls for war against another sovereign nation who has not attacked us to manipulate God into blessing our country. This is a far cry from the conversation between Jesus and the devil or the teachings found in the book of Acts or the words of the prophets. And we certainly see an absence of today's clergy, if there are any, that would find themselves marching for gospel values from their pulpits and in the streets as in the days of the social gospel.

The conservative Christian is so sure of his/her beliefs, they are willing to sacrifice the liberties of our nation to achieve their righteousness through the judicial system. Remember the electoral battle cry – we must elect George Bush because what kind of Supreme court judges would the liberal left choose? And we ought to never forget the conservative rising star in the Bush administration, Christian heroine Monica Goodling. “In response to questions during the hearing, Goodling stated that she "crossed the line" and broke civil service rules about hiring, and improperly weighed political factors in considering applicants for career positions at the Department of Justice.”

We were warned!

Were we not warned about the power of the Federal Judicial system by, "Centinel" on October 5, 1787,

“The judicial power by 1st sect. of article 3 "shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States, ... to all cases … to controversies to which the United States shall be a party, to controversies between two or more states, between a state and citizens of another state, between citizens of different states, between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects." In other words everything. Control the Federal court system and we are warned by the anti-federalist “Centinel”, tyranny will follow. Yes, indeed, today's Christian supports those very processes that their God and Sacred text stand against. So we must conclude the God that never changes has indeed changed. Or is it possible there is another God floating around in space, or another prophet that has the ear of the church, or has today's Christian revisited the devil and in speaking for Jesus said yes to the temptation of power.

Where in history is the emergence of this style of Christianity that ties itself to, material possessions, the accumulation of wealth, legislated theology, morals enforced by law, (sounds a bit like Sharia) as signs of blessings from God? I think you will find your answer in the theology and the governing style of Geneva in 1500 by John Calvin. Thirty years ago when Albert Muller was taking the helm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary he stood in the middle of the court yard fist in the air and screamed back to Calvin. (the back to Calvin statement is true, the court yard story is myth) It does seem odd that the solidification of corporate personhood is traceable to John Calvin. However, the antagonist in the temptation story can time travel.

Rev. Gregory Wilson

Read 13169 times Last modified on Sunday, 19 February 2012 20:53
Greg Wilson

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A progressive advice column must deal with at least two areas of life. One is the interaction of relationships, the every day moving about of families and couples, individual growth and the struggles we all go through as we pass through time. The second area is how culture, laws, religion, and social constructs affect our daily living. For example, “How do I deal with my Christian fundamentalist brother?” or “How do I introduce my family to my partner of four years knowing they supported Amendment Two?” Some of the issues we deal with are unique and I hope in this column our community finds a place to deal with that uniqueness. There have been moments in my life where a word, a comment from some one at the right time made a difference in how I saw a situation and the decisions I made. The older I become the more I realize the wisdom in listening. Decisions that seem important, or seem unimportant, can influence years of a persons life.

Dr. Gregory Wilson’s D. Min. is in Pastoral Psychotherapy

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