It will probably come as no surprise, that given the title, this post may be deemed as inflammatory- I certainly hope so. For an orthodoxy had settled into the western mindset, an orthodoxy which equates Christianity with the Tea Party supporting, gun toting, evolution denying religious right in the United States. This orthodoxy is highly corrosive to the identity of Christianity and it is completely destructive to public discourse in the US as well as perhaps worldwide. As a Christian, I resent it and I shall explain why.
I recently read this article: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/21/to-some-obama-is-the-wrong-kind-of-christian/?hpt=hp_c1 and I was troubled by it. It concerns me that such an article was ever necessary. Let’s get our bearings-when I say American Religious Right, I’m sure most people will know what I mean. You know the kind-the type of person who’s completely ok with millions of their compatriots having no access to healthcare because they cannot afford it (in the richest country on Earth)-the same people who would instead devote their time to demonising gays, to defending their right to carry murderous weapons and to actively supporting offensive wars which have caused appalling losses of life.
Anyone who is familiar with the Christian Left movement will find my views easy to understand. I am startled by the question-Is President Obama a Christian? In fact, though I do not know the reality of the man’s private life, his public actions speak of him being the only type of Christian there should be or arguable the only type of real Christian there is. In my eyes the modern archetypal Chrstian of the religious right should not even bear the name “Christian”-I do not recognise these people as being of my own faith. I don’t think that many progressive Christians would either, if they search their feelings. The problem is that the evangelical right has become too vocal, they have gained too much of a platform and have occupied the public mindset. By this I mean that now, when I speak to non-Christians I can immediately tell that a lot of them associate the term “Christian”, with the type of insane hate fuelled garbage that comes out of the Bible belt.
I think everyone should have one thing clear, and this applies as much to deluded right wing nuts as it does to moronic atheists who pick out random quotes from the old testament and use them to bash Christians with. The New Testament is the heart of Christianity. This is a logical fact. Most of those on the right as well as those who mock Christians conveniently pick phrases from books such as Leviticus, which are also part of the Jewish Torah. Now I put the following logic question to you all-if Christianity in fact boils down to the old testament, why are Christians not just jews? The answer is simple of course and it is that Christianity involves more than the old testament. A brutal truism, but one that it appears many have forgotten. So instead of focusing on the old, let’s look at the new. What does Jesus do throughout his life? Heal the sick, feed the hungry, protect the prosecuted (remember, he who is without sin, cast the first stone?). Do you know who the Christian right would be if they were in biblical times-they would be the people trying to stone Mary Magdalene for being immoral. They would be the moneylenders who set up shop in the temple.
For how else can we explain the waves and waves of self-righteous indignation emanating from the the US evangelical right? They pass judgement on the lives of others, paying much lesser attention to their own it seems. Or do they think that Jesus would approve of them supporting warmongering leaders who promote greed as a virtue? How easy and comforting it must be to cloak your own wrongdoing in righteous terms.”Why, I am not neglecting the sick and needy Lord, I am merely encouraging them to stand on their own two feet. ” No, I think not. It sees apparent to me that the bluster of the “Christian” Right is designed to use faith as excuse for their own prejudices, malice, greed and lack of communal feeling. Be what you will, ladies and gentlemen, but please do no hijack and pervert my/our faith to suit your twisted worldview.
There is an intellectual point which some of these people may not appreciate. So many in the US have a fascinating aversion to the state, perhaps in part bred into them as descendants of people escaping monarchies in Europe and perhaps through brutal anti communist propaganda. Either way what they fail to understand is this. The State is us. It is me, it is you, it is all of us. I would commend Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” to anyone and everyone as a basic text on understanding the concept of the State. However what I really mean is this. The problems of our time are much greater in scale than those of before, purely because there are more of us and everything is globalised. We cannot meaningfully fulfil our Christian duty of charity on our own or just through community groups. If you are doing that, are you helping? Yes, of course you are and it’s fantastic that you are. Are you doing enough if you don’t support social politics? No, I don’t believe you are. The only way to tackle the heightened problems is to use the State as the higher expression of ourselves. The State is not a monstrosity from which one must run and hide, which one must distrust and denigrate. What the State is, it’s entire raison d’etre is to tackle problems we can’t on our own. Therefore, it is only logical that to solve the large scale social issues and to discharge our charitable duties we must, must, use the State, rather than allow it to abdicate and be hijacked by business interests. When you give to Charity, is that not redistribution? Of course it is, and supporting social, progressive politics is no different-it is merely what you do individually, magnified on the only scale that can have a real effect on the social problems of today. At the same time what should the state not do-it should not be used as an enhancer for the individual petty prejudices and hate of a bigoted minority. You have the right to hate and to be a bigot-it’s not nice, but you do have that right. But you don’t have the right to use the State as a tool to hurt others with, whether they be your compatriots or the innocents abroad who die and suffer in the name of better commercial opportunities for American companies.