This is an excert from my book, Liberal In Nature, in which an elderly man (Michael) discusses religion and Jesus' teachings with a self-proclaimed liberal (Andrew). While this excerpt was not written specifically to address President Obama's recent use of Jesus' teachings to support tax hikes and other Government programs, it does cover the necessary points to illustrate how disengenuous and hypocritical Obama's words were. Enjoy!
"...I hate this talk about God-given rights and the power of the individual as if individuals can just choose their own selfish path and leave everyone else behind. Most people don’t have the first clue what is good for them. That’s where government comes in. People still have their freedom; the government just provides guidelines and safety nets.”
Andrew looked at the old man triumphantly, as if the argument were certainly over. He actually pitied the man for a brief moment. He knew there was no way the man could argue with his facts. Andrew hoped Michael would just concede so he wouldn't have to embarrass himself by trying to answer. But, Michael calmly cleared his throat and countered.
“I agree that not all individuals know what is best for them, but who is anyone else to tell those people what is best for them? People make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. That’s how progress really happens. That is how people learn what is best for them. If they don’t have the freedom to make mistakes, how can they ever achieve their full potential?”
Andrew shifted in his chair. The pain in his back shot through his body as he moved, but he ignored it and continued the argument.
“So are we to just turn everyone loose? Every man for himself? Hooray for the power of the individual? What about the power of society? Wouldn’t Jesus want to help people? How about ‘What would Jesus do’? That’s what I don’t get about Christians; they claim to be so religious and then they turn their backs on the poor and needy. They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”
The old hermit looked at Andrew inquisitively. “Do you know the Bible?”
“I know enough. I was forced to go to Sunday School when I was a kid.”
“So what do you think Jesus would do?”
“He wouldn’t be a greedy, racist homophobe.”
“What would he be?”
“If He were real, He would help people. He would go out of his way to make sure there was no suffering, no war, and no pain. He would protect those who can’t protect themselves. He would eliminate inequality and unfairness. He would heal everyone and make this world a better place.”
“So, you do believe in Him?”
“I never said that. I’m just speaking from the beliefs of Christians since they are the ones who believe all these things and they are the ones who do the opposite.”
“Isn’t it a bit unfair to use their own God against them when you don’t even believe in Him? That just seems a bit hypocritical as well. It would be one thing if you believed in Him and believed all those things you said about what He would do, but since you don’t believe those things and since you don’t believe in Him, can you really speak to what He would do if He were here?”
“I am just making the point that their “Savior” taught certain things and they don’t even follow them.”
“Perhaps if you look a little deeper, you will understand a bit more. Jesus didn’t heal everyone and in fact instructed His disciples to not teach and heal certain groups of people. Jesus didn’t say there would be no suffering. Jesus didn’t promise people they would not experience pain. He didn’t say life would be fair and equal. How would you even define equality? Jesus certainly didn’t. He tried to make the world a better place but didn’t force anyone.
He taught, exhorted and encouraged, but never forced anyone to be charitable. He gave people choices and explained consequences and let them govern themselves. He did not get involved in the government. He did not pass civil laws or play politics. He rendered unto Caesar what was Caesars. He railed against politicians and those who did good to be seen of their fellowmen. Even when He healed, it wasn’t a free handout. His healings were earned through faith and usually followed with an encouragement to “sin no more” or to follow Him. When various people came to Him he sometimes responded with love and mercy and yet He sometimes responded with sternness and justice.
Why He chose one or the other, none of us knows, but we do know that He knew the hearts and minds of those people and we can assume He did and said what was needed in order to help the individual. Sometimes He presented a test for someone to pass or fail. Sometimes He simply offered an invitation. He knew the difference and He knew when to use one over the other, or something in between. The point is, no one knows what Jesus would do in a given situation because we don’t have His perfect mind and we don’t know the hearts and minds of the people around us. So, we probably shouldn’t invoke Jesus into political discussions to support our point of view - especially if we don’t actually believe in Him.”
Michael finished and looked at Andrew, who was staring at the floor as if he hadn’t heard anything the man said.
“Religion is responsible for so much of the world’s suffering,” Andrew said suddenly. “So many wars have been fought, so many people killed, so much hatred; all in the name of religion.”
“Perhaps. But perhaps those wars were fought and those people killed because of man’s need for power. Political motivations are almost always at the center of wars. Pure religion seeks to help men and women overcome that lust for power. It focuses on selflessness and humility. Men go to war when they ignore pure religion and succumb to their own carnal lusts for power and glory.
While it is true that some use religion as a banner to justify their own selfish desires, you can hardly blame the religion itself. Religion doesn’t take away man’s agency. It doesn’t force people to agree with it. If you want to go, you can go. If you don’t want to go, you don’t go. If you want to donate money to the church, temple or synagogue, you can. If you don’t want to donate money, you don’t have to. Each person has his or her own choice and pure religion strives to influence people to make selfless choices that will lead to long-term happiness, rather than short-term pleasure.” [End of excerpt]
You can learn more about the book, which tackles most of the major political issues of our day at www.liberalinnature.com.