or Jesus told me to vote for a Caesar that would take your money and give it to me
|WWJD? He'd have you vote for Progressive Caesar.|
This got me thinking about, among other things, the shift in thinking over Christianity's first century from a communal bunch of disciples waiting for the Second Coming to more independent Christian households looking to occupy themselves as the salt of the earth. The statement "If anyone will not work, neither let him eat"* has such a realist, capitalist character to it for the years in which Christian communities started to dig in for the long haul (which would last thousands of years).
|Another distinction: Obama's |
kingdom IS of this world.
A related meme I saw recently was one showing the Pope flying in his private airplane and comparing him to Christ who supposedly would have been toting around the poor with him in his private airplane. Jesus did travel by private boat, and while we don't know that he never took "the poor" with him, we are given the impression that he often sought conclusion and often traveled with only his inner circle of disciples with him.
Jesus irritates Judah Iscariot at some point by accepting a lavish gift from an acolyte. Judah maintains that the gift could have helped so many poor people, and Jesus claims (in so many words) that the wasteful misuse of wealth was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The narrative indicates that like a scandalous televangelist Judah was planning to misuse the funds himself.
Jesus routinely lives by the hospitality of others. It would appear that Lazarus and his sisters own property and not only entertain Jesus but large groups of his followers. How much the travels of Jesus and his companions are funded by the businesses of his followers we don't know. Some of his inner circle abandon their fishing businesses in Galilee and we don't know how well those businesses ran themselves. It should be said that Jesus probably spent many a night on the ground and was likely at least as accustomed to poverty as to opulence. He has a reputation as a partyer, as he didn't seem to avoid feasts where there were wine, women, and song. He no doubt seemed wasteful to many. His own mother fully expected him to solve a wine shortage at a wedding.
Given the interaction between Iscariot and Jesus, and the reminders in the gospel narratives that the apostles were often missing the point of what Jesus was saying, it could make one wonder whether the idea that Jesus wanted them to live as a commune until his return was as mistaken an assumption as the idea that he was returning to them in the same generation.
But there is an interesting tension in people's thoughts about the person of Jesus, specifically with those who are looking for grounds to reject organized religion or traditional religion. Many of those who do, it seems, will gravitate to Jewish Jesus or to New Age Jesus, that is, to a story of Jesus as merely a Jewish reformer in the spirit of Gamliel or a story of Jesus as a Hindu guru who is trying to convey New Age truths to backward monotheists. Some people, inexplicably, assent to both narratives in some vague conceptual fog, allowing them to criticize Saul of Tarsus for being too Jewish (in his morés about gender roles) and for being too anti-Jewish (in his supposed expanded concept of grace beyond what Reformer Jesus intended). Jesus becomes at once becomes an advocate against the Christian concept of grace and a reformer rejecting Mosaic morality.
There is a conflict in many Christians between the reality of being community members providing for their families and the austerity suggested by Christ in abandoning familial responsibilities for the cause, between trusting fully in grace and the perfection of "go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven", between the simplicity of penitence and the implication that heaven will reject the one that doesn't loudly and proudly claim Jesus as his spiritual leader. Between the gospel spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Galatians and the hard gospel described in John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus. Between the burden that is easy and light and the small gate to the narrow road.
|Ironic anti-capitalist |
merchandizing of spirituality
Also, buy the baseball cap
But it seems more than a little insipid to say that he simply said that people should all be nice to each other and that this is the crux and gist of his message. And at least as insipid--and irresponsible--to suggest that his message was essentially that people are obligated to trust in a worldly empire that defines and enforces a right to other people's money. Are we to no longer make distinction between what is Caesar's to take and what is God's? "Render unto Caesar that which is God's, because Caesar is God's man"?
All of this makes me wonder whether it is neither the case that Jesus was simply a wise teacher, nor that Christendom (or the New Age movement, for that matter) has well understood the spiritual life offered by Jesus. It's a deeper mystery that shouldn't be exploited -- not for the financial gain of "ministers," not for the opportunism of "altruistic" politicians, and not for the self-righteous glory of social reformers.
|Anti-capitalist propaganda equating supply-side economics|
with a celebration of wealth and a lack of concern for the poor.