You First

I tire of what has become a predictable, constant drumbeat of anti-Christian rhetoric.

The latest I’ve seen is this ironically self-righteous anti-Christian rant aimed mainly at the Christian right, making implicit accusations using worn stereotypes which do not fit most Christians, even right-leaning Christians.

“Jesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (YES HE WAS Matthew 6:5), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didn’t mention abortion, didn’t mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor ‘lazy’, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (that’s in revelations),homeless, middle eastern Jew? Of course, that’s only if you believe what’s actually IN the Bible.”

We know Jesus was peaceful and radical and revolutionary – generally in a non-violent way, though we do know he was capable of displaying anger and wrath

Matthew 21:11-13

[11] And the people said: This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee. [12] And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the chairs of them that sold doves: [13] And he saith to them: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves .

I don’t think anyone has ever suggested he was an American citizen or spoke English, this is merely a telling sign that the poster has no clue what the Christian right really believes and doesn’t care — it’s merely a fictional foil to contrast themselves against … in public … to receive adulation … but more on that later.

Every Christian knows that Jesus loved and accepted everyone, but not everyone’s behavior. Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute, but she repented and followed Christ as a disciple. Disapproving of someone’s behavior is not the same thing as hate, modern progressive rhetoric aside. If we think Jesus approved of criminal and other immoral behavior, we’re ignoring his entire teaching. And Christians don’t disapprove of the diseased, they help them.

Jesus was NOT anti-capitalism

Matthew 20:1 ““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a Denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.”

and while it is true he never “called the poor lazy” as a sweeping segment (nor do modern day American conservatives), he was definitely in favor of taking what you have been given and making more of it … which is pretty much the core of capitalism.

Matthew 25: 31-46
“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’… Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said…out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant…Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

“To every one who has, more will be given and he will grow rich” doesn’t sound anti-wealth to me at all.

Further, in Timothy 1:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

That’s not anti-wealth, that’s just a caution to wealthy people that God … and his teachings … come ahead of wealth, and that wealth will not save you. It doesn’t say you can’t be wealthy.

Jesus was not anti public prayer. What he was against was praying in public motivated by the drawing of praise adulation to yourself. You know, much like what the people who are posting this nonsense are after (and certainly not to attack others on a personal level). The point was that prayer is between a person or people and God, not a show to be put on to display one’s holiness. This is not the same thing as being against any prayer in public. It’s the motive, not the act that he was talking about in Matthew 6:5.

As with many, many subjects, Jesus never really spoke about the death penalty. While he was probably against it in general, he wasn’t anti self-defense, and the Church itself says it is justifiable to defend human lives against unjust aggression.

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality explicitly. But no serious Bible scholar would say that he thought it was ok. And again, as with other things, it is the sin that is rejected, not the sinner. And if anything goes, why would St. Paul … in the Bible (1 Cor. 6:9-11)… talk of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, misersm drunkards, slanderers, and robbers not inheriting the Kingdom of God?

Again, this does not constitute hating people, it is a belief about what constitutes unacceptable behavior.

Absolutely, Jesus never justified torture. Of course, he never justified eating potatoes, either (look, scour that Bible — nothing about potatoes). Again, though, he never argued that it wasn’t justifiable to defend human lives against unjust aggression.

Jesus never asked a leper for a co-pay. Of course, the only overhead Jesus had was food and shelter.  He was God, too … remember what he could do with a few fishes and loaves and a jug of water.  I seem to remember a passage where he calmed a storm while they were out fishing as well.

Being God, he was able to heal by touch. And certainly Jesus would teach that we should help when we can, including in matters of health care. But he wouldn’t fight to force you to pay into a system that provided services he himself considered immoral, nor would he pay into such a system.

Again, among many other things, Jesus did not mention abortion. But,

Jeramiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” – no, the word “abortion” doesn’t appear there but it’s pretty clear.

Of course Jesus did not fight for tax cuts for the wealthy. Nor did he fight for tax increases for them or anyone else. Jesus taught that it was each of our personal reponsibility to care for those around us. Offloading that responsibility to the government was never mentioned. He said give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and to give to God what is God’s. He was familiar with corrupt governments and the abuse of government authority by special interests.

Jesus has always been depicted as having long hair and as a travelling preacher without a proper home – Christians have never argued he wasn’t a “middle-eastern Jew”, and they have revered him as the Son of God and the founder of their faith … so that last “dig” is really bizarre.

okReferring to this and to what the graphic on the right instructs … if you really are against people speaking publicly about what they believe is right and wrong, I have one response for you.

You first.





* Thanks largely to On This Rock blog.  I was looking for a text version of the “John Fuglesang” quote to use in my response, and I stumbled upon Father John Hollowell’s excellent post.   I wanted to generalize it a bit to be a less Catholic-centric and add my own two cents, which is how we ended up with the above.

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8 thoughts on “You First

  1. Severian

    I wanted to generalize it a bit to be a less Catholic-centric

    Say what you will about the specific policies of the Church of Rome, but they’ve been wrestling with this stuff from the beginning. Books on “Just War” theory alone could fill a good-sized library.

    It’s so typical of modern arrogance to think we’ve found some shocking new insight into 2,000-year-old texts. I’m not a religious man myself, but in no way do I believe that this is because I’m smarter than, say, Thomas Aquinas. And it’s certainly not because I’ve got a better grasp of Scripture than he did.

    When you come right down to it, this is why I’m a conservative. There’s this thing called history, and it contains lessons that are useful to us.

  2. nightfly

    Love it. This old rotten chestnut spawned a whole twisted tree of the rancid things, and we have to clear the orchard every generation lest they choke out the true vines.

    Of course this was Fuglesang, the hack. By their fruits shall ye know them…

  3. philmon Post author

    I am actually quite sympathetic to the Church of Rome … frankly, if I were to engage in formal practice again, that would be the one, hands down. The real reason I made my post lest Rome-Centric was to appeal to a wider audience. I have respect for any committed Christian, and we’re kinda all in this together. The jabs in the haughty rant that spawned this weren’t directed at any particular strain of Christianity.

    1. Severian

      I am actually quite sympathetic to the Church of Rome

      I wasn’t trying to imply that you weren’t, and I apologize if it came off that way.

      This Fugelsang guy’s rant bothers me, too, and I have no theological dog in the fight. Perhaps it’s just that I’m suspicious of the idea that I can be saved simply by doing what I’m doing. What would be the point of Jesus appearing to Paul on the road to Damascus, only to tell him to keep on truckin’?

      Or maybe it’s just the question-beggary. I thought y’all were against theocracy. What — exactly, specifically — is the difference between the cutting wealthy Nazarenes’ taxes in Jesus’s name, and confiscating the wealth of the Nazarene 1% in Jesus’s name? By that logic, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between George W. Bush and Occupy Bethlehem. They both want to use the coercive power of the state to force their religious beliefs on everybody.

      Or, finally, it might just be the thought of all those poor souls, c. 20 – 2008, who are now roasting in hell, just because they didn’t have the chance to attend a gay wedding or vote for Barack Obama. Them’s harsh tokes, dude. Or maybe they’re hanging out in Purgatory with Vergil and the rest of the virtuous pagans. You know, providing they voted Democrat.

      1. philmon Post author

        I didn’t really think you were, I just wanted to clear up any possible confusion that I did it because I didn’t agree with the Catholic assessment. 🙂

        I’m not that easily offended. If I were, I’d be a liberal.

      2. nightfly

        Well, they’re all voting Democrat now, Sev. 🙂

        As a theological sidebar – the righteous who passed before Christ also share the benefit of His sacrifice. There is a specific reference in one of the creeds (I can’t remember if it’s the Nicene or the Apostles’ Creed, especially in the most recent translation) that Christ “descended into Hell” between death and resurrection. There are a couple of reasons for it: first, that until He became “the firstfruits of salvation” nobody had ever broken Death’s grasp, and the way to Heaven was not yet bridged until He had done so; second, for those righteous to see the fulfillment of the promise of a Redeemer made to them by God. Crudely put, He led them to His kingdom. (“This day you will be with Me in paradise.”)

        Maybe a little too inside-baseball, but I find this sort of thing fascinating, even as a layman.

        1. Severian

          Thanks! I find that kind of thing fascinating, too. My knowledge of purgatory is limited to history and Dante, and since I’m not a medievalist or a literary scholar, even that knowledge is pretty limited.

  4. Cylar

    Excellent analysis. I touched on many of the same themes in the post I wrote in this space many months ago, the one where I took issue with the idea that Jesus was some kind of liberal progressive. Sev commented on that thread, as of course did our good friends, the Z.

    Matt Walsh ( has an excellent piece on this today, too.

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