Marginalizing Christianity by quoting Jesus
By: Robert E. Meyer
If you are an avid reader of newspaper editorial columns, you canâ€™t help but notice two reoccurring themes that come around with nauseating regularity. Both of them deal with supposed teachings of Christ. Both of them are warped, Orwellian interpretations of the whole passage understood in context. Both offer a Christian pretext, but actually marginalize Christian ethics in favor of a contrary worldview.
To set up the first theme, it is usually a negative response to someone who bemoans some aspect of the trend in cultural morality. The rejoinder is that Christians are not supposed to judge others. That assertion is taken from Matthew chapter seven in the NT. But the context reveals an entirely different message. The point being make is that if one judges others, they will themselves be judged by the same standards they use in their own evaluation. Jesus then teaches his followers how to make a â€œrighteous judgmentâ€ in order to avoid this liability. First take the impediment from your own eye.
The real issue is about the condemnation of hypocrisy, not the forbidding of discernment or legitimate criticism. Jesus concludes the section of instruction by telling his followers not to give holy things to dogs, or cast pearls before swine. The dogs and swine are metaphors for people who will not embrace spiritual things. Obviously Jesus himself is rendering a judgment against certain people, and requesting others to do the same.
The implication of the â€œJudge notâ€ admonition, is that people, particularly Christians, are not permitted to criticize what they perceive as immoral. Such an assumption is patently absurd. The point Jesus made is that we should not condemn anyone when we are even more guilty of the same offense. The actions of Jesus himself were replete with judgment against those he discerned as doing wrong. One example would be his act of overturning the tables of money-changers in the temple.
If we actually extended the â€œjudge notâ€ philosophy to its logical conclusion, it would make folly of our law enforcement and courts of law, where people are arrested, judged and punished by other persons as a matter of course.
What this is really about is marginalizing and silencing the critique of social trends or behaviors, if the objection is informed by traditional moral precepts. We couldnâ€™t survive as functioning humans, if we could never make judgments about peopleâ€™s characters, based on their visible conduct. This is yet another example of a Christian beatitude distorted under the iron boot of political correctness.
The second canard involves economic policy. Persons of liberal political persuasions offer the rebuttal to those opposing excessive government spending, and forced wealth redistribution, by alluding to Jesusâ€™ frequent requests for the wealthy to give to the poor. They will quote scriptures to make their point. This reasoning is so obtuse, I thought it was an obvious spoof the first few times I noticed people making a connection between the Sermon on the Mount, and government entitlements.
As I frequently point out, nowhere can we presume or infer that requirements to help the poor are anything but personal mandates imposed by the moral conscience. Charity is always what one does voluntarily to help another. And it should be noted that while all of us could do more to help our fellow man in need, surveys show that religious conservatives are the most generous of any group in the study when in comes to giving their own money for charity. So much for the stereotypes of conservative greed.
It is quite an extrapolation to assume that policies of economic collectivism are the contemporary equivalent to The Beatitudes. At no time did Jesus solicit the government in implementing his demands to aid the needy. This is really rendering unto Caesar what is Godâ€™s, violating the functional separation between church and state.
I am one convinced that theoretically church organizations and public charity can more adequately fulfil the social contract assuming a few qualifications listed below. Even if that is unreasonably optimistic, I believe we need to migrate in that direction.
Too many churches have moved away from their core social responsibility of helping the needy, toward a prosperity gospel and/or wasting money on constructing palatial buildings.
The responsibility of helping one’s fellow man has been crowded out and obscured by government taking that role and increasing taxes to expand on it further.
The concept of fulfilling need isn’t tantamount to providing people who won’t work with a living. The Christian idea that if a man will not work(not those who cannot work), he should not eat, expresses an ethic that condemns freeloading, and promotes moral and financial responsibility. Thus taking on more individual responsibility reduces legitimate need.
In Jesus’ time, the concept of providing for need was more basic. Supposing that meeting needs implies providing all people with there own dwelling, transportation and health care insurance without qualification, goes way beyond what was ever mandated in the scriptures.
These two concepts, seem to be the extent to which these editorials invoke the authority of Christian precepts. That’s hardly a legitimate approach. The latter economic stricture, is really the effort of people with socialist economic ideologies, to hijack the ethics of Jesus, thereby leading a throng of useful idiots into their corner.