By Bruce A. Kennedy, Flagstaff Resident
Label me a Christian liberal.
I’m not certain how it happened that Christians became labeled as conservatives. I am equally bewildered by the media’s portrayal of Christians as a conservative voting block without ever mentioning the opposing view of Christian liberals. I am trying to be a Christian. I’m a regular church attendee and I am a very proud liberal. There are just as many Christian liberals as there are Christian conservatives, but the liberal Christians tend to follow the example of Jesus. That is, they are meek and choose to keep their politics and religion separate, which is in direct opposition to the vocal right-wing extremists we see on television such as Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. These men seem intent on imposing their moral agenda on America despite a complete lack of connection to biblical Christian teachings.
Let’s simply look at words used in Webster’s definition of “liberal”: Supporting civil liberties, unconventional, social progress, support the freedom of individuals, tolerant, broad-minded, tending to give freely, generous. The words used to describe “conservative” are, opposing change, cautious, conventional, strongly favoring the established traditional order. It may come as a surprise to many that none of the words used in the definition of conservative can be used to describe Jesus, and in fact sound better describing Caiaphas and the group of priests who convicted Jesus. I believe that each of the words used in the definition of liberal do in fact describe Jesus of Nazareth. How then has the conservative movement in the United States picked up Jesus as their iconic standard bearer? Jesus was not only a liberal, he initiated and embodied many of the aspects of today’s liberal beliefs.
The Jesus I know taught us to be our brother’s keeper, to give generously to those in need, forgive all for their transgressions, and he bade all to pay their taxes without complaint. In other words, the Jesus I know was a liberal. Today’s conservatives, on the other hand, complain about the poor and all the programs that help the poor. Charitable giving is at an all-time low despite a booming economy. Conservatives constantly complain about their tax burden despite an astronomical national debt run up during previous conservative administrations. Today’s conservative talk shows spew a diatribe of hate concerning the beliefs of liberals. They label liberals as “whackos, pinkos, thugs, and elitists.” They make fun of a liberal person’s appearance. They poke fun at a liberal’s language or their speaking style. They denigrate every word of a liberal who does not agree with them. They do it in the name of “entertainment” and then profess themselves to be “good Christians,” despite the total absence of Christian behavior.
Simultaneously the conservative states that limited or smaller government is better government. They hold this to be the ultimate truth until it concerns decisions about you, your body, and your behavior. Then the conservative, in the name of Christian morality, wants to bring to bear all aspects of big government to ensure that you live your life with only the limited choices that conservatives select for you. Christian’s are called upon by God to be good stewards of the Earth, but this has somehow become secondary to putting a dollar in the bank, despite the warning that we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God by storing up riches on Earth. As Christian’s we are admonished in the New Testament from sitting in judgement of others, but today’s conservatives continue to push the death penalty for criminals, and they want the age lowered to include minors as young as 13 years old.
The conservative solution to every government problem: “Privatize it!” Privatize our garbage collection, our care programs for people who are mentally ill and people with developmental disabilities, our prisons, our schools, and now even Social Security. They rally around the cry that private companies can do it more efficiently at lower cost. The free market and competition will correct all the problems. Wasn’t it Jesus who cast the money-changers out of the temple? At what cost do we privatize our government systems? What level of abuse are we willing to accept for people in need of care to ensure that a private company makes a profit? What level of lower security can we accept in a private prison? How many standards are we willing to delete in the education system to ensure that our children’s education is provided cheaply and efficiently? How many of the elderly should gamble their Social Security checks in the stock market in the hope of a brighter future? Are these really Christian values or are they merely conservative values given to us by a professed Christian?
Perhaps the bottom line is not always the bottom line. As Christians we are taught to give of our time, our treasure and ourselves. We are taught to give these things freely because they are not really ours, but are in fact gifts from God. We should be willing to give these gifts back to God to accomplish the Lord’s work on Earth. In the end, each Christian must ask, “What would Jesus do?” I think Jesus would give generously to help others in need. Part of that giving in the form of taxes supports the families of the military and government workers so they in turn can do their jobs. I’m not saying that government programs are always the most effective method of accomplishing a given task, but in a community as large as the United States, I’m also not convinced that anyone has come up with a better system to care for our brothers and sisters in need.
I am however, convinced that the conservative movement in the United States is not a Christian phenomenon, but in fact is the antithesis of Christianity as I have come to know and understand our Lord and Savior. In the end it is people who will ultimately destroy the Church. It is my sincere hope that avowed conservatives will discontinue the misuse of their religion as a basis for their political views. The message of Jesus rings clear, but the messengers do not.
Bruce A. Kennedy has lived in Flagstaff since 1983. He is a graduate of Arizona State and Northern Arizona Universities. He is employed as a Rehabilitation Counselor with the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration. Bruce is an active member of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. He served for eight years on the Flagstaff City Commission on Disability Awareness and four years on the Mayor’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped.
There are a lot of Christians who want to speak about immigration. They want to spout off how the government isn’t protecting them, how these people need to go home, and how everyone seems to think that their point of view is the right point of view. I have yet to see one of these Christians who claim the actions of groups such as the one who released the names of 1200 alleged undocumented immigrants use the word of God to justify their claims.
Would you like to know why?
Because God has a lot to say on the subject of how to treat them. Let’s start with the most obvious:
“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21
“‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:2
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:31
God makes it very clear – the way we treat our immigrants is as unChristian as it gets. Would Jesus be pleased if he came back and saw these men and women working in dangerous conditions for less than minimum wage and no protections? Is it a Christian witness to abuse and misuse those whom God has specifically commanded us to not mistreat? It seems that many Christians are ignoring the word of God.