Recent censuses taken worldwide indicate that less and less people identify themselves with a particular faith, and that more and more people have begun to identify themselves as having no faith at all. Being somebody who DOES believe in God, I am of course saddened. But I’m not surprised. Considering all the shenanigans that people who profess faith often get up to, it’s wholly understandable that some people outright reject religion. The real sadness is that it is often BECAUSE of the actions of professed religious people that less people follow a faith. And it is increasingly true that people with no faith - atheists and agnostics - are more philanthropic, more generous to their fellow man. Go figure.
As an example of something infuriating (at least to me) that certain religious people do, I’d like to take this opportunity to rant about a gigantic irony pervading the political climate in the U.S. these days, particularly with Republicans.
Recent surveys I found put the percentage of Fundamentalist Christians among Republicans at somewhere between 40 and 51%. Now, before it looks like I’m agreeing with Ann Coulter when she says that Democrats are all godless heathens, let it be known that the disparity between the number of Christians among the two parties is NOT that big. Yeah, the Republicans have a few more supposed Christians - and way more of the Fundamentalist variety - but a significant number of Democrats believe in a Creator, and often believe he sent the Christ to Earth to die for man’s sins.
Now, according to a 2007 Barna Group survey, found here, 57% of Republicans assert that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches. This means, for everyone who hasn’t had a heart to heart talk with a Fundie, that the Bible - a document of over 1000 pages, translated from as many languages as Jesus had fingers and maybe toes, which is easily over 2000 years old, and whose translations, interpolations, iterations, and derivations have mostly passed through white men with political agendas and axes to grind - is the absolute perfect message that God wanted us to receive. Screw the myriad contradictions, the uncertainty of some of the source material, and the glaring omissions.
Well, I don’t think the Bible is the PERFECT WORD OF GOD. But on one subject, time and time again, it’s pretty clear. Let’s look at some passages, shall we?
“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich - both come to poverty.” - Proverbs 22:16
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. There will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered litte did not have too little.’” -2 Corinthians 8:13-15
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” -Matthew 25:41-45
A friend of mine (What’s up, Kym?) told me recently on Facebook that it’s easy to manipulate what the Bible says to match your ends, and seeing what I’ve seen, I tend to agree, but these passages are pretty straightforward, and since I’m not a Bible adherist, I gravitate to the straightforward bits. Like these.
These seem ridiculously obvious to me. Even their surrounding context doesn’t contradict or undermine what they say. And what they say is this: if there are poor people among you, do what you can to help them out. If there are those who have a little more than average, then they should give up some of what they have to those who have a little less, just to even things out a little.
Those are essentially (and Bible adherents can’t reasonably deny this) commands from “on high.” And hey, you know what? Centuries later the absolute common sense of “taking care” of your poor and underprivileged was underscored by such prominent philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith - philosophers which the Founding Fathers of the United States studied, honored, and drew inspiration from.
Flash forward to the United States, circa… now. Now we are told by the political party that contains so many Fundamental Christians to let the poor fend for themselves - it’s typically their fault that they’re in the condition they’re in, so why should we help somebody so lazy and desperate? (By the way, I invite you to make it through the month playing this game. I did, with $24 left, but WOW, my poor children suffered for it.)
Now we’re told by the millionaires of our country to leave their money alone. It’s theirs by right, and they need all of it - they can put it to better use than any poor person can, creating jobs and such (BTW, this has been proven false in more ways than the Bible has). We’re told by those who say the Bible is PERFECT to simply disregard these few passages (oh, and a LOT of other ones, too) simply because, well, it inconveniences them.
Now I know a lot of you have figured this irony out already. This post isn’t really for you, except to underscore what you already know, and to let you know that a “person of faith” understands the ironic difference between the things that certain other people of faith say and appear to believe.
The purpose of this post is to ask people who claim to be Christian, ESPECIALLY those who claim that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, to reconsider their position toward the poor. I suggest that maybe they go back and read their perfect Book without some preacher with an agenda and an axe to grind looking over their shoulder. I suggest they use their common sense, and THINK about what happens to a society that doesn’t take care of its poor.
You’d think that going to a Christian church all his life would be enough to dissuade people from thinking that Barack Obama was Muslim, but apparently it’s not. He provided his long form birth certificate, so that shut most of the birthers up, but I don’t think there’s a long form Christianity certificate, so the Muslim rumor persists. That middle name is just a nagging problem for him.
As a side note, I wouldn’t personally care if the President of the United States were Muslim. Most Muslims are actually as good as their Christian and Jewish counterparts, following similar moral and ethical rules, exhibiting similar moral and ethical tendencies (or not, as the hypocritical case may be). They live their lives to serve God as they understand Him/Her/It, and they often wish the radical and suicidal sects of their religion would STFU. Just like a lot of Christians wish Fred Phelps would.
Anyway, back to Barack Hussein Obama’s name.
So, sure. Hussein is of Arabic origin, dating back to the prophet Mohammed’s grandson. But did you know that Barack is actually Jewish in origin? That’s right - just like Adam, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Elijah, and Jesus. Barack is a derivative of Barak, who was a Judaic hero in the Book of Judges. He helped the prophetess Deborah free Israel from the Canaanite king Jabin, and Jabin’s captain, Sisera. Here’s a truncated selection from Judges 4 for your edification:
“And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. She dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, ‘Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, ‘Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.’
And Barak said unto her, ‘If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.’
And she said, ‘I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
And Deborah said unto Barak, ‘Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?’ So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”
For a few passages here we get the account of how Sisera dies while he’s hiding in Jael, wife of Heber’s tent - she basically murders him in his sleep by driving a spike through his head. Afterward: “And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.”
Then, in Judges 5, Deborah and Barak sing a song together (Judges was a musical, don’t you know?), and that’s the last we hear of either of them.
But Barack Obama’s first name is in the Bible, okay? It’s Judeo-Christian in origin (specifically, Old Testament Jewish).
Now, what about Newt Leroy Gingrich’s name? Is it in the Bible?
Not exactly. The closest thing I could find is a passage from Leviticus wherein some versions of the Bible interchange newt for lizard or salamander. As in: “Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard (sometimes newt), the skink and the chameleon. Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you.”
My conclusion is this: we should toss aside any of these “Obama is a Muslim” arguments because, unfortunate middle names aside (Hussein vs. Leroy), the two top contenders for the 2012 Presidential election have their names in the Bible. One is a reluctant hero of ancient Israel. The other is something that crawls along the ground and is unclean.
(Yes, I know his full name is Newton. Just go with it.)
Incidentally, when people refer to Jesus H. Christ, do you think that maybe the H stands for….
Nah. Couldn’t be.
Let’s start with these:
“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
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” -Matthew 19:24
But more than either of those, there’s this…
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” -Matthew 25:34-45
So when you read all that, does it sound to you at all like current Republican/Tea Party/conservative policy? Do the current mantras of unregulated, survival-of-the-fittest, “free” market capitalism make room for these Christian tenets, that supposedly came from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself? When a conservative goes off about the unfairness of a graduated income tax system, or the money wasted on welfare, or the evils of ensuring that everyone is entitled to adequate health care, do you think he or she has these Bible passages in mind?
I’ve been mulling over this post for a long time, and I’ve thought a lot about all the things I could say to drive my point home. In the end, I’ve decided that sort and sweet is the answer. So here it is, short and sweet.
If you DON’T adhere to any sort of Christian dogma - whether you’re atheist, Jewish, Muslim, or apathetic, then I’m not addressing you. Not in this post. For you and I, the debate regarding progressive ideals vs. corporate hegemony, of providing for the proletariat vs. letting them fend for themselves, has to be reserved for elsewhere and elsewhen. You may agree with me or you may not.
But if you DO consider yourself a Christian, and ESPECIALLY if you think that the Bible is the unerring Word of God (I don’t, by the way), then I don’t see how you can vote for the Tea Party and/or the GOP and still claim to follow Christ. Screw the debate about abortion. Screw the debate over whether Obama is Muslim or not - those are herrings tossed up to throw you off track, to distract you from what is truly at stake here. And I’m sure some Bible scholar MIGHT be able to dig up some passage which contradicts the ones above. I don’t care. The above passages are pretty clear, and they came directly from JESUS.
If you vote Republican and claim to be a Christian at the same time, how do you reconcile that? I think that if you can find a way, then you’ve fooled yourself.