( foror for )
How can a "Christian"
Only by ignoring much of
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When Jesus himself proclaimed
this definition of his mission:
According to Luke 4:18, this is the way Jesus intrtoduced himself to the world: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that the blind shall see, that captives shall be released and the downtrodden shall be freed (i.e. liberated) from their oppressors."
what better manifesto
could there be?
Soon, thereafter, Jesus expanded on that definition in similar words addressed to his cousin and fellow preacher, John "the Baptist" :
" When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."
It would take many centuries and many sources to produce today's fully developed liberalism, but what a shame that, instead of kindling the flame lit by Jesus, and identifying with the poor, the oppressed and the out-cast, so-called "Christianity" has devoted most of its energy over the centuries to promoting itself while identifying with the rich and the powerful (which, in our view, is the very essence of Conservatism !
The reason that we "Liberals like Christ" are so proud of these words of Jesus is that so many centuries before the word was even dreamt of, these words of Jesus anticipated the ultimate definition of liberalism. There have always been advocates for the liberation of certain groups of people, usually of groups they were part of. The concept of "liberalism" that we "liberals like Christ" embrace and promote, however, is a much more sophisticated form of "liberation" that has emerged after many centuries, the one which moves people who are not even part of such groups to want to liberate them simply because they deserve to be liberated.
Ever since the so-called "conversion" of the pagan Emperor Constantine, in 312 A.D. however, Christianity has often become involved in a mutual embrace of the rich and the powerful. And as part of the bargain, Jesus "Good News to the poor" has been twisted to mean that the brokenhearted, the captives and the downtrodden need to wait for "the next life" for relief. And anyone who instead proclaims what Jesus taught has been made out to be a troublemaker, a "rabble-rouser", a "heretic" or, more recently, a "communist".
This page assumes that the reader knows what we mean when we use the terms "liberal" vs. "conservative" – which is not the case, if you are not yet familiar with our www.LiberalvsConservative.Org, which is arguably the best breakdown of the true distinction between those competing terms that you will find anywhere.
Compare this matter, if you will, to the eye-test chart that ophathamolotists use to check the accuracy of your eyes. Whereas most people have only a fuzzy idea of what they and others mean when using the terms "liberal" vs. "conservative", after studying that unique website of mine, you will have 20/20 vision, so to speak, about the precise meaning of those extremely important terms, and the way people should use them.
"Conservative" Christian preachers promote belief in a very stern God, whose partiality to some people in this world was such that he instructed them to kill – not just fighting men – , but women and babies as well, in order to give their lands and communities to his favored people. Such preachers believe that passages like the ones we highlight at WhatkindofGod.org represent the "Word of God".
We "liberals like Christ", on the other hand, believe that Jesus of Nazareth knew God better than most, and we can't imagine him identifying with a God who would say, as Hosea claims that he did (Ch. 13:16) : "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped open."
"Conservative" Christian preachers promote the belief that what is important to God is what "little people" think and do privately. The more "private" their thoughts and actions, the more interested these preachers seem to be. We liberals like Christ, on the other hand, believe that Jesus and many of the other great prophets of the Bible were not nearly as interested in private matters and in people's "private parts" as with public matters. The four gospels largely ignore the thirty or so years of Jesus' own private life and they concentrate instead on the three years of his public life. They either relate his public statements or relate the constant battle that Jesus was engaged in from the very moment that he opened his mouth to challenge the people of great wealth and power of his day, and to proclaim "good news for the poor", until the moment that these people had him executed in order to close that mouth and have his message suppressed. (Actually, if you believe Matthew, the first chapters of the first gospel tell us that King Herod viewed Jesus as a political threat even before Jesus was born, and therefore did his best to kill him while he was still a toddler !)
Although Jesus of Nazareth showed little interest or concern about most mundane issues and about sexuality, today's "Christian Conservatives" claim to speak for Christ on the basis of what they imagine that Jesus might say about such matters. Since Jesus hasn't said much for almost 2000 years, these self-proclaimed spokesmen for Jesus treat him like an inanimate object, a puppet in effect, and they claim to know the answers for all kinds of "What would Jesus do or say?" questions. That is why, in the absence of any proof to support their views, Christian Conservatives were so sure in years past that :
In early 2006, I discovered a great web site which lays out the "Christian beliefs" of the heartland U.S. Conservatism, the Old South, and I quote a great deal of this web site on a page I call, LiberalslikeChrist .Org/BibleBeltChristianity.html. Typical of most Christian Conservative sites, while claiming to present "Christianity" this entire lengthy site quotes Jesus himself exactly one time!
We "Liberals Like Christ", on the other hand, base our beliefs about Jesus on what the Gospels tell us Jesus actually said about God, about himself, and about what he and/or God expects of us, his followers. We invite those "Conservatives" who really want to conserve the teaching of Jesus, to reflect on precisely what Jesus taught and how he illustrated the true meaning of his words by his actions.
In response to the question, "Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?" Jesus explicitly identified his and the Bible's highest priorities :
"This is the first and greatest commandment: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.'
The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.'
All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others."
While so-called "Christian Conservatives" are fond of saying : "Charity begins at home," that is about as far from the teaching of Jesus and the Bible as one can get. In his "preview of the Last Judgement", Jesus spells out what he means by "loving" one's neighbor, what it entails, and in the process, he makes it clear that loving neighbors who are hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned, or otherwise afflicted is what matters to him, not loving those in, or close to, our own families, neighborhoods, or country – which as he points out elsewhere everyone does naturally.-
"When I, the Messiah, shall come in glory, and all the angels with me, then I
shall sit upon my throne of glory. And all the nations shall be gathered
before me. And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep
from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at
Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, "Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me."
Then these righteous ones will reply, "Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you anything to drink? Or a stranger, and help you? Or naked, and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?" And I, the King, will tell them, "When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me!"
Then I will turn to those on my left and say, "Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry and you wouldn't feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn't give me anything to drink; a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked, and you wouldn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me."
Then they will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?"
And I will answer, "When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me." And they shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into everlasting life."
[ For those tempted to make an issue of "right" vs, "left", keep in mind that it is the left side of a courtroom who are at the judge's "right hand".]
The conservative commentary below on this important passage of the Gospels is an excellent example of the way so-called "compassionate conservatives" often rationalize their fundamental disagreement with the liberal teaching of Jesus, and heap contempt on the poor instead of assistance :
"That is a terrific passage, but if we are to deal with it fairly we
need to understand that today's poor in the United States are the
victims and perpetrators of illegitimacy and abandonment, family
non-formation and malformation, alienation and loneliness and
much else – but they are not suffering thirst, hunger, or nakedness,
except by choice, insanity, or parental abuse.
|"When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and he taught them, saying:|
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,|
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are those who hunger
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are the pure in heart,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for
Blessed are those who are
Conservatives sometimes quote "Blessed are the poor in spirit" to poor people as reason for them not to seek relief from their poverty (at the expense of those more prosperous than themselves). But if Jesus considered poverty itself to be desirable, why would he have urged those afflicted with wealth to share that 'affliction' with those not so afflicted? Isn't it much more likely that when Jesus said
` "Blessed are the poor in spirit", he meant blessed are those who are content with a minimum of material possessions, in contrast to those who are never content with what they have, but are always trying to accumulate more and more, and fighting every effort made to tax them for the benefit of the poor and the needy?
We offer still other great insights about "blessings" in our separate www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/Believable/blessings.html page.
In another of his powerful parables, God sends the man "blessed with riches" (in the eyes of Conservatives) to hell, while God sends the poor "loser", Lazarus, to heaven, ( just because the one was rich in this life, and the other was poor!)
"One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at the door of a rich man's
house. As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table,
the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally the beggar
died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the
The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went into hell. There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham. 'Father Abraham,' he shouted, 'have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.' But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your life-time you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish."
Is this parable relevant only to rich vs. poor individuals? Or does it relate to the rich Christian nations vs. the many extremely poor nations of this world? What if God cares enough about the multitude of poor people in this world to hold us "Christians" with vastly more wealth than the rest of world responsible for our neglect of those unlucky enough to have been born on the "other side of the tracks" ?
"And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to
come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.'
Then the rich man said, 'O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father's home – for I have five brothers – to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die.' But Abraham said, 'The Scriptures have warned them again and again. Your brothers can read them any time they want to.' The rich man replied, 'No, Father Abraham, they won't bother to read them. But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.' But Abraham said, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead.'
Note that despite the remarkable similarity between Jesus' parable about the rich man and Charles Dickens' parable about Scrooge, Dickens is far more optimistic about the prospects for the repentance and salvation of the rich than is Jesus. In contrast to Scrooge, whom Dickens portrays as being moved by the ghostly apparitions to repentance and redemption, the Gospel holds out no such hope for its wealthy villains. On the contrary, the Gospel insists : "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, ( which the rich man admits is true of his five brothers ), they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead."
When Jesus was asked to clarify what the second of the two great commandments was all about, he explained in one of his the most important parables, that action speaks louder than words, and that GOD is not fooled by professions of faith, nor by what may appear lack of faith. What GOD appreciates and expects in people is a good heart which moves one to "love others as one does oneself", and to "do unto others what one would have others do unto them". Jesus went out of his way, in his "Parable of the Good Samaritan" to point out that GOD often finds what he is looking for, not in churchy people who hold the right "beliefs", but in "non-believers" who do the right "works".
Whoever called this the parable of "the Good Samaritan", may have missed the point, because Jesus didn't just highlight the genuineness of the one non-believer. He contrasted that charitable behavior to the phoniness of the two religious leaders. Why not refer to this as "the parable of the Faithless Churchmen"?
"One day an expert on Moses' laws came to test Jesus' orthodoxy by asking him
this question: "Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?"
Jesus replied, "What does Moses' law say about it?" "It says," he replied, "that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself." "Right!" Jesus told him. "Do this and you shall live!"
But, wanting to justify himself, the man asked, "Which neighbors must I love?" And Jesus replied with an illustration:
"A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A temple-assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.
But a despised Samaritan* came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed
his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man
on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where
he nursed him through the night. The next day he handed the
innkeeper two silver coins and told him to take care of the man.
"If his bill runs higher than that," he said, "I'll pay the difference
the next time I am here."
"Now which of these three," Jesus asked, "would you say was a neighbor to the bandit's victim?" The man replied, "The one who showed him some pity." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."
One of the best ways to see how far fundamentalist ideas are from the teaching of Jesus is to compare their idea of what is "fundamental" to what Jesus considered fundamental or crucial. And that is what we do in great depth at our challenge.html page.
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