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THE ADMIXTURE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS

June 12, 2017

THE ADMIXTURE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS

Volumes could be written (and have been) on the topic for this essay, and what I will add via this effort are only a few observations and criticism on the passing scene from today’s perspective, a perspective largely Christian as well as representative of a few others whose belief systems include an afterlife as part of their package of rigidly held principles and doctrines, aka dogmatism, which excludes Buddhism and a few others.

To me and from the question of how such dogma itself became religion is the fundamental question of whether we have the religion of Jesus or one about him. If measured by such a yardstick of what he believed and talked about (he wrote nothing of substance other than a mark in the sand so far as we know), we find a rather scanty set of principles to follow beyond his endorsement of the Ten Commandments, some parables, and examples of his forgiveness of sin and claims of being the sole redemptive means of attaining bliss in the afterlife. In other writing I have dubbed him “the gentle Nazarene,” and so he was per the gospels.

He spoke in Aramaic, a Semitic language, and what he had to say, starting with the earliest gospel of Mark, has undergone any number of language re-dos, from the Greek to and through the King James version of the early 17th century through today’s versions. How much was lost or gained from the final canonization of the bible in 381 A.D. at the Second Council at Nicea could be and probably has been a subject for study itself, though I am unaware of such efforts; then of course there is the question of how much was lost or gained from the time of Jesus some three and one-half centuries later to the final canonization of the bible which is an unknown as well, among other lapses in interpretation of the written record.

In all events, whether today’s versions of gospel versions are accurate in every detail pales before the issue (in my opinion) of whether we have the religion of Jesus or one about him. Medieval monks and early church systems of popes and bishops came up with their own versions of what he is reported to have said and may have taken that ball and run with it, embellishing what he was reported to have said with their personal ideas on what he meant, which leaves us with the possibility that we are following a religion about rather than of Jesus. I recall vividly the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and how we hoped there would be writings by Jesus himself to serve as a guide to our conduct free of medieval and papal influence, but alas! None was found.

The foregoing is prologue to a discussion of today’s admixture of religion and politics. Thus, for instance, how can Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University (badly misnamed) and a supposed devout Christian, endorse Donald Trump for president? Yes, Jesus cavorted with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners of every variety, but never did he endorse such activities. He is said to have hated the sin and not the sinner, a crucial distinction.

The same cannot be said of Falwell, so I am led to wonder what motivated his endorsement, like forgiveness of Trump’s sins? That is not a power granted to Falwell by the terms of his own religion which he has to know, so what is in it for him with his endorsement of not only Trump but what Trump wants to do via body and soul-crushing policies which further enrich the already rich and further impoverish the already poor? How can that be reconciled with scripture, Blessed are the poor etc.?

Jesse Jackson (preacher and politician and love him or hate him) noted in one of his diatribes to the effect that he had read the bible through many times and that he had seen many references to helping the poor but not a single one that said to help the rich, so where is Falwell coming from? Why endorse not only the person in power but also what he wants to do to the poor as well? Where in the bible does he find that injunction? If there were elections in that day and age, would Jesus have endorsed Herod? Caesar? Some Babylonian king or Egyptian pharaoh? Not likely; he had bigger and better things to do.

While Jesus neatly sidestepped that volatile mixture of politics and religion with his statement “to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what I God’s,” never so far as is known did he endorse either Caesar or Herod, leaving that issue on the table. He had bigger plans to deal with the human condition than the merely political, much bigger.

So who is Falwell by his clearly un-Christian conduct in the war on the poor worshipping? The god of Mammon? Is he in it for the bucks? Authority over his flock? Satiation of an inflated ego? Association with power figures? All or some of the above in addition to others not mentioned here? What?

Mixing politics with religion is a dangerous business, as Jesus wisely noted, and as Jerry Falwell, Jr. will learn in his surrender of the divine to the profane with his active participation in endorsement of  programs designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. By allying himself with the rich for whatever reasons, he is ignoring the meaning of the biblical parable which he ostensibly claims to believe, the one about a rich man having about as much chance for the afterlife as a camel has in getting through the eye of a needle.

That’s a tight squeeze, Messrs. Trump and Falwell. Good luck!        GERALD     E

 

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