Over the years I’ve had discussions with many friends and relatives of the conservative Christian persuasion regarding their Lord’s admonition to feed the hungry, feed the sick, and generally be their brother or sister’s keeper. It seems to me that most of them misunderstand what Jesus really meant in this regard.
Most conservatives Christians are ideologically opposed to any expansion of social programs to help the poor, and 99 times in 100 they tend to fall back on religious beliefs to justify their actions or refusal to act. The refrain I hear most often is that Jesus wanted us as individuals or at most, as church congregations, to take care of the poor and indigent among us, but I disagree. Jesus quite plainly expected us to be our neighbor’s keeper, and what better way to do so than to support and implement programs that pool our collective resources to accomplish these goals?
I ran across an article the other day in which the author described a recent “disagreement” between several members of the House of Representatives discussing proposed cuts to our nation’s “food stamp” program.
From #Occupy the Bible:
Representative Juan C. Vargas, Democrat of California , who opposes cuts to the food stamp program, quoted from Matthew 25 to argue against the cuts to food stamps.
This was an excellent choice by Rep. Vargas as Matthew 25 shows exactly how angry Jesus gets at those who refuse to feed the hungry, as readers of #OccupytheBible know.
“I’m a Christian, and this chapter talks about how you treat the least among us,” said Mr. Vargas, adding that he would not support a bill that made such deep cuts to the antihunger (sic) program.
That was much too much biblical literalism for some GOP members of the committee. K. Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, pushed back. Jesus didn’t really mean we should all do that together as a nation, he argued. “I take umbrage to that,” he said. “I take Matthew 25 to mean me as an individual, not the U.S. government.“
Except Matthew 25 is called “The Judgment of the Nations” because “All the nations will be gathered before him.” (Matt. 25:32)
To make it worse, Stephen Fincher, Republican of Tennessee, then quoted Matthew 26, arguing the “poor will always be with us” in his defense of cuts to the food stamps program.
Here’s some news for you, Congressman Fincher, that text doesn’t mean ‘be sure you keep some people poor.’ And Congressman Conaway, Matthew 25 has no “opt out” clause that means you don’t have to vote for programs to feed the poor because “individuals” and “churches” will take care of it.
“Judgment of the nations” means just that. Read the text.
People like these are textbook examples of why I’ll no longer have anything to do with most “Christians”, their churches, or organized religion of any kind. For the most part they’ve been hoodwinked; convinced by power hungry charlatans, starting with the Apostle Paul and continuing to this day, that the man they call Jesus Christ actually preached such despicable ideas as homophobia, misogyny, and in this case, greed disguised as concern for morality; ideas that could not be further removed from the actual teachings of Jesus if they were attributed to Old Scratch himself.
The ideas Jesus taught and the following he was developing represented a threat to the existing power structure of his day, and made the Jewish ruling class very uncomfortable.
What Jesus tried to teach us about compassion, human rights, and equality was a far cry from the often hateful, divisive, nationalistic message preached in his name from many churches today, especially those of the conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist variety.
I don’t believe in supernatural deities or the divinity of the so-called Christ figure, but I do believe in the teachings of the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. I try to treat everyone the way I would wish to be treated were I in their shoes, I strive to be compassionate toward those less fortunate then me, and that includes supporting elected representatives who support the creation and funding of social programs that assist those in need. I think that’s what Jesus would do if he were here today.