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I was born into the Roman Catholic Church in 1966. My father, when taking us out of my birthplace of Cape May, NJ after his US Coast Guard retirement to live in his native Trimble County, Kentucky, had forgotten that he’d married a fighting North Irish Catholic and allowed her to raise their children so. My sister, nearly thirteen years older than myself (who was three years old) never did fit in well at her new high school. There were absolutely no other Catholics for hundreds of miles around, except probably a token population in nearby Louisville, and the majority of her peers let her know it.
My father, who is a genetic amalgam of Cherokee, German and English heritage, was not raised in any particular denomination by his parents, who became Pentecostals some time after he reached adulthood and fought in World War 2 US Navy. His mother was accepting of my mother and of us, but my grandfather did not at all like my mother nor her ‘papist’ religion and tried like hell to get my father to divorce her. He did nothing to stop the intense harassment of my mother, my sister and even my young self until the KKK started getting in on the act, once my mother showed her colors as an Irish hellbrand who would not roll over and put up with it. He was respectable enough to show no tolerance to the Klan, whose friends the Nazis had killed his soldier son (my father’s brother and my partial namesake) in France in 1945.
I went on thinking for years that the Pentecostal denomination was a white-power, hate-oriented denomination until I met Latino and African American Pentecostals. I’m still no fan of this particular interpolation of Christianity, which is one of the most recognizable elements of the ‘Christian Right’ (rightwing) political entity in America. I myself have been through a true emotional and spiritual gamut, eventually returning to the Catholic Church but have now abandoned it again over the molestation scandals: primarily I am deeply offended at the Pope’s and Holy See’s unwillingness to truly punish perpetrators.
In short, I’ve had it with institutional religion, but not with Jesus Christ. I will not blame Him for the garbage that sundry well-intentioned and evil people alike have built up around His memory and His teachings. For myself, I deal with spiritual matters without the assistance of institutions which seek to indoctrinate me moreso than succor my soul.
What sort of Christian am I? In a sense I am still very much a Catholic, because I belong to a spiritual, theological school of thought which developed amongst some more recent Catholic theologians and missionary orders, known as ‘Liberation Theology’. I’m a strange animal in America:
I’m in the Christian Left.
I focus on the fact that Jesus Christ not only came to Earth as one of us, condescending in His Godly Nature to save and teach His creation, but also that He came here as one of the Working Class.
His Almighty Father didn’t send His Son to earth as a carpenter merely to hide him from Herod. Jesus’ life, from His very earthly birth throughout His whole earthly ministry and death was that of One Who lived in absolute humility, born in the lowest echelons of the society into which He came, eschewed power and temptations and comforts offered Him and preached to those who desired truly His gift of knowledge and life:
The Meek. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Who was meek? Not the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were a denomination of Judaism in that day which preached extreme adherence to the letter of religious law and a selfish, hateful nationalism against which Jesus spoke many times in the Gospels. They were also His true murderers, even more than the Romans. Why did they harass and murder Him?
They set themselves on that course when He turned to them in front of the common people, apart from whom they always made a point of standing by themselves, and said: “I have no message for you.”
As recorded in scripture, He immediately turned to the common people and told them “I have a message for you.”
Why them, the common people, and not the Pharisees? Because the Pharisees were powerful and wealthy, and evil in their power and wealth. They were in charge, except for their submission to the Romans, and could be taught nothing: being experts in the letter of the law, they believed absolutely that they knew everything. They didn’t know the spirit in which God had handed down their laws.
Jesus Christ knew the letter of their laws but knew as well the spirit in which these laws were handed down: in the spirit of reconciliation and love, that of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees did not have the Holy Spirit. Yet He could be found or at least imbued in the hearts of those who were willing to learn of Him and His ways: the Meek, the common people.
Who are they today?
They are and always have been the Working Class.
I am a Worker. A Worker does not have the direct power to hire nor fire, and does not soley own the means of production, if at all. The Pharisees, of the past and of today, are Bosses. They currently hold the reigns of power, as they have for almost all of history, and they own the means of production, which they manage short-sightedly and selfishly, as they do the future of this Nation and the World.
Yet, many of the Bosses and those who aspire to be Bosses are deeply involved and spiritually invested in Christian religious denominations which use their influence to cause their followers to adhere to right-wing political and social thought, namely, in America, the Republican Party. The ‘Christian Right’ as it is called today does much of the work of recruiting followers for the Right and much of its propagandizing, including for the sake of militarization and in defense of Capitalism. It also participates in expounding the concept that Capitalism is necessary for Democracy, and that America is a true Democracy, ‘blessed by God and the greatest and most benevolent nation on the earth’. Of course that last is not a specific quote from anyplace, but my readers certainly must recognize it as a solid encapsulization of what the Christian Right teaches its children, and what they indoctrinate in each other. I will tell you, having been a member of several conservative Protestant Christian churches during my spiritual meanderings, each of them of a different denomination, that the practice of these peoples’ religions is almost wholly a practice in indoctrination and enforcement, and that the head that sticks out is chopped off.
In these conservative congregations, left-wing impulse of any kind is looked down upon and even seen as a kind of apostacy. Many times I would speak against the ravages and the anti-democratic workings of Capitalism and the US Government to ‘other believers’, who until then could surely detect the Holy Spirit within me, but would instantly see me as an unbeliever, not to be trusted. I’ve even seen this happen in Multi-Level Marketing groups such as Amway and ACN.
Is this to say that Christians cannot have different political and social views without becoming apostate? This seems to be the case despite the repeated example of tolerant and socialistic behavior of Christ and the early Church in scripture.
What was and is different in Christ from the Pharisees and His so-called followers in the ‘Christian Right’ today?
Jesus Christ is not a sexist: He spoke to the Samaritan woman, and other women, with respect and love, even as equals; Rabbis, as Jesus was, were supposed to treat women with contempt and avoid speaking to them if at all possible, but Christ spoke even to the Samaritan woman, then considered an enemy national, as a friend, even despite the fact that she was living in sin! This individual also was the first to whom He revealed His true nature.
Jesus Christ is not a nationalist nor a warmonger: The above example of His friendship towards the Samaritan woman and His parable of the Good Samaritan, plus His ministry to Greeks and Romans demonstrate that He bore no concern whatsoever for anyone’s ethnic nor social origins. The Pharisees, similarly to the Orthodox Jews of today, desired a Messiah Who would free them from the domination of the Romans, as a military and political leader. Jesus had absolutely no concern for this, for He shows us that Israel is wherever His true children are, where the Holy Spirit lives.
Jesus Christ is not a Capitalist. His one recorded act of violence showed us His opinion of moneychangers and profiteers who had situated themselves in the House of His Father, and we know how constantly He reiterated against the spiritual denial and selfishness of the rich. (We now have a lot of rich ‘Christians’ attending conservative churches, and money changes hands according to the ‘conservative cause’; today these people very much play the kingmaker.) He famously berated lawyers rather brutally in the Book of John, describing them to themselves much as almost any of us would characterize that profession today. (“Woe to you lawyers…”) He also showed His contempt for nationalist politics and capital when He instructed the Pharisees, who presented Him with a coin with Caesar’s likeness upon it, to “give unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to give unto God what belongs to God.” Right-wing believers never seem to hear the contempt in His Voice as I do when they read or speak of this passage, but I hear Jesus telling us that political entities and money are passing things. These things are petty, but our souls, made in God’s image, belong to Him, and matter to Him most. Therefore, says Jesus, give back to Him your soul. The Pharisees got it wrong back then as they do today: this passage is typically used to defend capitalism and taxation. Oh, yes, Jesus poured fire and brimstone on tax collectors, too.
Unlike His cousin John the Baptist, Jesus Christ is not an ascetic. As Christians everywhere teach, He desires us to live abundantly. He wishes us to enjoy the gifts of the earth and of our labors. However the Working Class (and even the middle class!) in America finds this ever more difficult to do in our present sociopolitical climate, as does the vast majority of people on the whole earth. This is largely due to the abuses of governments serving the purposes of Capital under the direction of the World Trade Organization and the International Money Fund (the world bank), and their predecessors. Wars and rumors of wars, genocide and starvation go on wherever the Bosses, along with their Pharisee propagandists, desire to harvest resources or cheap labor, or to eliminate dissent. The brutal treatment of the people of Africa and the concurrent harvesting of great wealth there today is a prime example, although it goes on right here at home as well.
As a result, increasingly few of us can truly live abundantly. How much harder is it today to own a house or a car, or to acquire an education in America? Who really controls the situation? Look to the rich, many of whom are integrally part of the Christian Right, which never is heard speaking of these things.
Jesus Christ is not anti-labor. However, the Christian Right continues to speak against and suppress organized labor, which for all of its faults (in its imperfect practice today) is uniquely responsible for the end of child labor and the eight-hour workday, as well as many other benefits that registered Republicans themselves count on today. Not only did Jesus admonish us not to “deny the oxen the grain which it treads”, but to provide for orphans and widows, and the poor. Does the Christian Right do this? Sometimes, selectively. The missionary effort is hardly effective in solving the problems of the poor long-term, and is completely cancelled out by the deletionistic effects of Rightwing social and political doctrine, which especially in places like Africa guarantee endless warfare, neglect, and cultural and economic stagnation. Millions are dying because the Christian Right does not truly want to effect solutions that would solve these problems long-term… because the true solutions are socialistic. Instead, in true American tradition, they seek to remake other cultures and economies into their own image, or at least one useful to them.
So, there’s some Liberation Theology for you: Jesus, the Divine Carpenter of the Working Class, so to speak, preaching to the MASSES (which are NOT and are NEVER the Bosses!), preaching humanity and generosity, and abundant living, versus Machiavellian manipulation, warmongery and genocide for profit. America, which the Christian Right touts as the greatest Nation to serve God, is the greatest machination of the Pharisees to date. Despite what Americans think when they send so much money overseas, and their sons and daughters as missionaries, they’re not changing anything at all until they change the roots of the problems. This cannot happen as long as Capitalism stands.
Therefore, Capitalism is the ultimate anti-democratic and anti-human, anti-God economic system ever devised, and in its poisoning of our culture, our hearts and our children, proves itself utterly satanic.
What else could it be? Witness the Capital-driven Media in its unabashed hawking of nonstop sexual content, violence and materialism! None of this would have been possible without the Capitalist-controlled economy. Capitalism can only respond to trends and marketing opportunity, yet Christians who subscribe to Rightwing thought cannot connect with the concept that this economic system is the root of the problem of decaying morality and family values (and the family structure!) in America.
We have had many warnings of the destructive nature of Capitalism, but the American People to date have not had the political or social will to oppose it effectively, largely due to indoctrination and propagandization. Much of this misinformation and manipulation has spewed from the pulpit, and my best example relevant to what I’m trying to teach here exists in American history. Please consider the labor revolts against the brutal, murderous yoke of the mining magnates in places like the Appalachians and Western Pennsylvania, where ministers were expected to preach to the people in the company-owned mining towns that they should be obedient to a fault, even to employers who apparently would not afford them safety apparatus and livable pay despite the immense wealth they were deriving from their superhuman, dangerous labor.
What was the response of American society, characterized throughout its history by the Christian Right? Slaughter at the hands of mercenary and municipal armies. In fact this is the origin of the Pennsylvania State Police, the first law enforcement entity of its kind in America. (I have generally had a positive experience of State Troopers, being a Pennsylvanian, but this is true.)
The crushing of the Industrial Workers of the World (industrial, democratic union) after it attempted to alert the American People to the true nature of the Government’s and Corporations’ support for entry into the First World War, and the isolationist backlash of Americans against the revealed motives of their allies after the war is a lesson never taught in America’s classrooms. Through peaceful protest, communication and civil disobedience the IWW (aka ‘The Wobblies’) attempted to spare America the horrors of a completely unnecessary global conflict, and paid for it in blood and brutal prison terms and exile. FBI files gloat over the near-destruction of the IWW and predict that it will never regain its former influence. (However the IWW is still around and is still getting the message out, see http://iww.org .)
The world’s ‘most democratic and free society’ has had to earn all of its freedoms over and over again, despite the letter of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, through violence and resistance, because the people whom the government truly serves are those with the least humanity and humility. Yet, adherents to the Christian Right support the authority and policies of these people resolutely. This is despite the supposed presence of Christ’s influence in our history due to the ethic of the ‘Christian Right’.
What more compromise against Jesus Christ can you find? Considering the horrible, inhuman results of the US Government’s (and its corporate masters’) policies and schemes, I’d say that even in whorehouses and casinos, you will not find greater sin than in the boardrooms of Corporate America and the Church Leadership of the Christian Rightwing.
George W. Bush, who usurped power in a fixed election with the help of his brother Jeb, and started an illegal war possibly under the direction of his fellow oilman father George H. after staging the Reichstag Fire of American History, the tragedy of 9-11, is a ‘Conservative Christian’.
I find him monstrous but I find him typical.
Was this what America was supposed to be? Were we supposed to be this stupid and gullible and easily deceived and misled as the ‘most free society in the world’ with a ‘free press’ and a public school system meant originally to deflect this problem? I would give anything to see Benjamin Franklin’s reaction to the state of America today, absolutely anything. We are now facing the greatest threat to America since the Civil War, and again we have brought it completely upon ourselves by permitting the Republican Party to subvert our electoral will and place in the White House one of the greatest lying, murdering political whores ever to rise up amongst us, besides his father before him.
What would Jesus do?
I personally believe, without the least doubt, that He would join the Industrial Workers of the World or a similar organization, such as He apparently joined the Essenes in His day rather than the Pharisees.
The Christian Right at times paints a grim picture of Islamic fundamentalism, but they resemble their counterparts in many ways, including a brutal historical suppression of working-class consciousness and the political Left, and of women.
What would Jesus do?
I personally believe, without the least doubt, that He would treat the leaders of America’s ‘Christian Right’, such as Jerry Falwell, very similarly to the way He dealt with the moneychangers in the Temple.
He’d kick their asses.
As long as the Christian Right supports capitalism, it will never see a return to strong family structure nor values, because the parasitic nature of Capitalism as it is manifested in the corporate media and resulting popular culture will never permit it, any more than it assures the American People of equal access to all sides of any issue. Have the leaders of the religious right in America not recognized this? Of course they have. It’s just not very important to them, at least not right now.
What IS? The money and the power, and our dogged obedience. If they were to shut down Capitalism, the nature of America’s media would change overnight. However, this would deprive them of their power, so for now they simply teach their followers to look away from the sinful spectacle of American pop culture, which they continue to help create.
This reminds of me of one Brother Chandler, who ran the Pentecostal Church in my father’s hometown, who was one of the people responsible for much of the harassment of my mother and family back in Kentucky, before she delivered her ultimatum to my father to move back to her Philadelphia hometown. The man grew tobacco and made a killing, but he preached loud and long against the sin of tobacco. (My dad’s father, one of Brother Chandler’s flock, grew tobacco in his backyard garden and would pull it out of the ground, shake the dirt off of it and chew it uncured. Years after he died, there was still a stain from his tobacco spittle despite all the newspapers my grandmother would lay on the floor next to his couch.)
The leaders of the Christian Right have their followers thinking that they are the most righteous and apocalypse-safe people in the world, and that they are going to fly out of their houses, cars and workplaces towards the sky to meet God before He rains death, damnation and heavy damage upon the Earth and the rest of us.
Many of them also profess a belief in, say, the Tower of Babel.
They may not believe in Evolution, but they are surely a prime example of de-evolution: their religious mutual and self-indoctrination is something to make an observer stammer, and the power and wealth of the leaders of their ilk is astonishingly abused.
What would Jesus do?
I know for a fact that He will reveal these new Pharisees for what they are, whatever else He may do. While it’s not my place to estimate whether another person will go Uptown or Downtown, and I’m no fundamentalist by any stretch, I’m certain that (the Pentecostal) Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their friends will be receiving a brutal earful from Him when He returns. I also believe with certainty that Falwell and his friends do not actually expect Christ to ever come back, or they would never dare do the things they do.
So, is Capitalism a Tenet of Faith in Jesus Christ?
What would Jesus say?