It’s Time To Put the Christ Back in Christmas…and in Christianity,
by Teresa Whitehurst
Jerry Falwell is worried that Christmas isn't in the public square,
when the real problem is that it isn't in our hearts: American
Christians increasingly see the babe in the manger as sweet but
irrelevant when it comes to the way we treat others at home and
Christians today see Jesus as their ticket to heaven, and little
more. When it comes to political philosophy, they much prefer the
wrathful, violent images of God that are found in selected verses
from other parts of the Bible.
in all fairness, some who go along with mean-spirited campaigns
are privately uneasy with the changes they're seeing in their faith,
from their own pulpits and from the White House itself, but fear
the backlash if they speak out.
they're right to worry. Many Christians from conservative churches
have written to me, to describe that backlash they've had to endure
from churchgoers and family members whenever they've dared to stand
up for Jesus' teachings...particularly those that are inconvenient
to certain political agendas.
Quotes for Different Folks: Biblical Ammo
leaders of the radical religious right and its representatives in
the Bush administration, the Bible isn't so much a spiritual guide
as an ammunition storehouse. Verses are handpicked from here and
there (carefully ignoring those scriptures that might get in the
way of their own "godly" image and political ambitions) to justify
whatever they want to do.
since there are commands in various parts of the Bible to do terrible
things that Jesus never condoned like stoning your rebellious children
to death, or stoning gay people, or killing everyone in an enemy's
village except the young virginal girls...well clearly, there's
something for everyone, no matter how cruel, no matter how vile.
books of the Bible for the majority of Christians who've gotten
swept up by the seductive words of racist, pro-war, gay-persecuting,
woman-silencing and child-beating proponents include: Leviticus,
Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Romans, Thessalonians, and Revelations.
of the majority that are quoted less often and very selectively,
because they're filled with teachings of nonviolence, respect for
those who are different, love of neighbor and enemy alike, true
humility and liberal compassion, are: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
how did Jesus get demoted, and why? A reading of the gospels will
make that quickly apparent. The Sermon on the Mount alone presents
tremendous difficulties for those who would use the Bible to enforce
their personal prejudices, take from the poor to give to the rich,
or justify pre-emptive wars.
was a troublemaker in his day and in ours because he stood up for
those who were reviled and persecuted by religious authorities under
the banner of faith. He taught people to see God as a compassionate,
accepting parent to love, not as an angry, violent, punitive authority
figure to fear.
Jesus Got Demoted by the Religious Right
of the decidedly nonconservative "conservative" right avoid focusing
on what Jesus actually said; his teachings would prohibit their
campaign to forcibly remake others Christian and nonChristian alike into
their own image.
they can't just come out and say "don't pay any attention to Jesus'
teachings" because this would alarm the majority of Christians.
So rightwing religious leaders are doing what tyrants aiming to
divide and conquer Christians have always done:
They distract us away from Jesus' teachings and commands by focusing
exclusively on his birth, death, and ticket-to-salvation role,
They claim to be biblical literalists, "Bible-believing Christians"
to pre-empt criticism, yet blatantly pick and choose only those
verses that serve their purposes, and
They refer constantly to "God" rather than "Jesus," a potent subliminal
strategy that convinces Christians to focus on a violent disciplinarian
God rather than a gently shepherding Jesus. By instilling the terror
of God's punishment instead of the love of Jesus' guidance, rightwing
Christian leaders have convinced American Christians that the wrathful,
violent God portrayed in pre-Christian times is the one they’d better
obey, while they need only to believe in Jesus (easy), not
obey him (difficult).
these ways, Jesus has been demoted in the current strain of "conservative"
Christianity. Such Christians deny this of course, exclaiming that
they do obey Jesus' teachings in their hearts. They'll say
that Jesus never expected us to actually implement those teachings,
that they were more or less spiritual insights: We can persecute
and kill, so long as we do it with a pure heart.
of the radical right give all manner of creative reasons for disobeying
Jesus' teachings. This is especially apparent when they pick and
choose scriptures that condone sexism, oppression, war, slavery,
domestic violence and the domination of others.
damaging of all to our faith and to Christians everywhere,
in the long run rightwing leaders are inserting the word
"Jesus" into their ugliest
campaigns in the US and around the world.
get Jesus back" Bill
Contrary to George
W. Bush's view of Jesus, in a comment that brings to mind the
phrase, "damning with faint praise," Jesus was not a "political
philosopher." Jesus is, for believing Christians, the Messiah,
in case we've forgotten. For Christians, Jesus isn't just another
philosopher to read and discuss and put back on the shelf.
in America has been infected with an insidious virus that's eating
away at the very cornerstone of our faith. If you listen carefully
to the words of radical rightwing Christian leaders, you'll detect
a subconscious disrespect for Jesus and something akin to atheism
regarding his divinity: Were Jesus truly believed to be divine,
his teachings would be granted the same respect and obedience as
those of the wrathful God taught in other parts of the Bible.
"conservative" Christian leaders really believed that Christians
must give top priority to Jesus' teachings, they wouldn't dare urge
us to endorse contradictory attitudes and behaviors. But they do,
and it's time we called them on it. There comes a time, particularly
when pre-emptive wars are waged in Jesus' name, when
silence is betrayal.
who take seriously the Sermon on the Mount may not be in The Moral
Majority, but that doesn't mean we're wrong: It means we're The
Christian Minority, following Jesus at a time when many Christians
are following men.
Christmas, let us celebrate the passions of the Christ the
teachings he gave to a troubled world and honor him by bringing
him back into Christmas, and into Christianity, too. Jesus called
for a revolution of the heart and the soul. Let it begin with us.
the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life,
and those who find it are few." Jesus
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst [send
her mail] is a clinical psychologist and the author of Jesus
on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family
(2004). She offers parenting workshops and writes the column, "Democracy,
Faith and Values." Visit her website.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com