Friday, July 21, 2006

Christ vs. Conservatism: A Serious Conflict


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ

The Sermon on the Mount
From the Gospel According To Matthew
**********
It's amazing, isn't it? Right-wingers tend to go absolutely bonkers when it comes to the Ten Commandments. They want it carved in to the walls of our court houses, our schools, everywhere! What I can't figure out is that, as Christians (and most conservatives are, after all, self-described Christians), one would think that their main point of emphasis would be on the New Testament. The Ten Commandments is from the Old Testament and Jesus is not even mentioned there - Not once! Don't get me wrong; It is a very good set of rules to live by - in fact I recommend it over any book ever written by Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity or any body else, for that matter. The fact that far too many conservatives are unable to detect the irony in the words, "Thou shalt not kill" has always somewhat puzzled me, given their overall support of the death penalty and the obscenity that their government is now committing, at this very minute, against the children of Iraq. But why they hardly ever focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ just doesn't make any sense to me!

Or maybe it does make sense. Maybe it makes perfect sense....

Tell you what you can do: The next time one of these foolish conservative congressmen advocate the placing of the the Ten Commandments on the wall of a public building somewhere, call his office and tell him you're willing to compromise. Tell him that, as good and decent Christians, we should have the actual words of our Lord and Savior on that wall. Ask him if he'll agree to having the Sermon on the Mount etched, for all time, onto the marble instead. I'm willing to bet you anything that he won't go for that idea at all. Why? Because Jesus' words in that particular sermon are totally at odds with the goals of the main stream conservative movement . You don't believe me? Go ahead! Read it again. I'll wait.....

[PAUSE FOR EFFECT]

....Now do you see what I'm talking about? Were you able to detect just a teeny weeny, itsy bitsy contradiction between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the nasty, public face of the right wing? It couldn't possibly be any clearer, could it? And here's another bit of irony for you: George W. Bush, the man who is called by many people (with straight faces, no less) "our most Christian president", is, in reality, the least Christ-like chief executive we've ever had.

One does not have to be a theological scholar to see the shameful hypocrisy in this man when he uses the name of Jesus Christ to justify what is, without a doubt, the most blatantly corrupt and murderous agenda of any administration in American history. Do you remember the Republican primary debates in the spring of 2000 when he named Jesus as his favorite "philosopher"? When I watched that debate on C-SPAN I remember thinking, "Wow! I knew this guy wasn't the brightest bulb on the porch but he can't even tell the difference between philosophy and theology"? At that moment I summarily dismissed any chance of his ever making it to the White House. "The American people just aren't dumb enough to fall for this fool", I thought, "They can't be"!

What was it that H.L. Mencken said about never going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public?

The unavoidable fact is this: Progressives can and must reclaim Jesus as one of our own. Just look at it this way; Do you think for one moment that, were He to return today to our troubled planet, He would be praising the deeds of the Bush administration? Do you think even for a split second that He would make a pilgrimage to the campus of Liberty University in Lynchberg, Virginia to congratulate Jerry Fallwell for all the jaw droppingly mean and stupid things that he has said and done in the past in Jesus' name? The only way I can fantasize Him coming onto the set of Pat Robertson's 700 Club would be in order to give that boy a good tongue lashing or maybe even a well-deserved ass whipping. Do you remember that scene in the gospel when He physically attacked the money changers who He felt were desecrating His temple? Yes, the Big Guy was capable of losing His temper and on at least one occasion He did. I can just see it now: He'd wipe the floor with these knuckleheads!

The greatest Christian thinkers of the past one hundred years could hardly be described as conservatives. Just look at the evidence - Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton (after whom I'm named, by the way), Martin Luther King, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II - And while it would be disingenuous, if not down right dishonest, to say that these good and devout people embraced all ideas left of center (they most certainly did not), it's not an exaggeration to say that they had more in common - a lot more in common - with the goals of Tom Hayden than of Tom DeLay (or even this Tom, for that matter!) That's not just my opinion, that's a proven, undeniable fact.

Even Billy Graham's message has less to do with the agenda of these ultra-right wing crazies then it does to that of the left. For sixty years now, his emphasis has been on love; Pure, untainted and unconditional love. While many progressives have tended to scorn him for his ties to the Nixon White House, since the 1940s he has actually raised, at the very least, a billion dollars for charity while he himself has always lived modestly. There has been an unfair tendency among some people in recent years to throw him in with the Jimmy Swaggarts and the Jim Bakkers. To do so is nothing short of slanderous. The truth is that he is really one of the good guys.

Mother Theresa's absolute devotion and dedication to the poor and down-trodden was a positively radical stand! I don't know the exact amount in contributions she raised for her flock over the years, but I'm sure it was well in excess of one-hundred million dollars. Do you think that she spent one penny of those charitable donations on a diamond mine in South Africa (ala Pat Roberson)? Do you believe that she used the money to promote gambling casinos on Indian reservations (ala Ralph Reed and the so-called "Christian" Coalition)? Do you seriously think that she donated one farthing to the campaigns of Newt Gingrich or Bill Frist or even fellow Catholics, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy? All of it went to the poor while she lived in poverty. She was a saint.

That is what we mean when we say that someone is "Christ-like". This is what we don't mean when we use the term, "Christ-like":

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth". Cutting billions from government programs that were put in place to ease the pain and suffering of the poor and dispossessed - the meek - is anything but Christ-like. That is pretty much of a no-brainer. Trust me on this one. Under the current administration, the meek have been getting the shaft.
`
Handing out a hideously bloated tax cut to people who already have more money than they know what to do with, while it may very well be satanic behavior - you'll get no argument from me there - it is hardly Christ-like.
`
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". In a 1999 interview with Tucker Carlson, Bush (in a feeble attempt at being "funny") mimicked the condemned Karla Faye Tucker pleading for her life. Hmm, call it a hunch but I've got a funny feeling that that wasn't very merciful. And don't forget that it was Bush who also sent over one hundred and fifty people to their deaths as governor of Texas - more than any other governor in American history. He would refuse to commute the sentences of people of questionable guilt - He wouldn't even review their cases! The 2000 presidential race was coming up and he just had to prove to the public that he was tough on crime. That's not very merciful either. As the late, great Lenny Bruce once observed, "Thou shalt not kill means just that"!
`
Here's an interesting question to ponder: Was Jesus "tough on crime"? It's really hard to say. But I think it bears mentioning that He was, in fact, sentenced to death for His "crimes" against the government and that, in His dying moment, He implored God to take pity on His executioners.
`
"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do".
`
No. Sending one-hundred and fifty human beings to their deaths is not, to be sure, a very Christ-like act. They would have had better luck had they been stem cells.
` 
Abraham Lincoln was a blessed and merciful man who, though not a true Christian in the strictest sense of the word, was, in reality, our most Christ-like president. He was known to go out of his way, finding loopholes to avoid executing a deserting soldier during the civil war. (Fortunately for Bush, capitol punishment for desertion was a thing of the past by the time he went AWOL from the Air National Guard in 1972) Any plea for mercy for the condemned man from a distraught mother or father never went unrewarded. Like Christ, Lincoln would end up being executed by the enemies of righteousness. At his first inaugural on March 4, 1861, he pleaded with the rebelling southerners to be guided by the "better angels" of their nature. Can you just imagine Dubya under the same circumstances?
`
"BRING 'EM ON"!
 `
Now admit it! It makes you sick just thinking about it, doesn't it? C'mon, BE HONEST!
`
Finally: manufacturing cooked-up evidence in order to frighten a quarter of a billion people into signing on to a war that has easily slaughtered over one-hundred thousand men, women and little children, the sole purpose of which was to seize the second largest oil reserves on the planet and grease the coffers of a handful of well-connected corporate cronies may be a lot of things - In fact, it is many things - But it is not Christ-like. Not even in the least. Again, this is a no-brainer.
`
And as an admittedly flawed Catholic, let me remind my fellow members of the Church of Rome that the Vatican has twice, under two different popes, vehemently condemned America's incursion into Iraq in the strongest language possible. Any Catholic who supports this war should hang his or her head in shame.
`
I know that it is wrong to speak the mind of the Lord and I won't even attempt to do so. But it is a fairly easy call to say that He is not looking down and smiling at the carnage that has been inflicted on this troubled planet by this sick and sickening administration. This ain't rocket science, kiddies. This is what is known as, "Christianity 101".
`
I really have only one great fear. Do you want to know what it is? Going to hell. I'd like to get to Heaven but I'm not all that sure I will. I'm almost certain that, at the very least, I'll probably do some serious time in Purgatory. For many years, I smoked and drank to excess and for a few of those years I used drugs. I was at times careless, even thoughtless with respect to my relationships with women. Although I've spent the better amount of my time in recent years trying to make amends, I'm not at all certain that I'll ever be allowed to walk through dem ol' pearly gates.
`
But of this, I am absolutely certain: If, at the end of my life when I'm standing on the threshold of eternity and I find that I have been condemned to eternal damnation, it won't be because of the very public stand I took, from day one, against this disgusting administration. It will be in spite of it.
`
Pray for peace.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
SUGGESTED READING:

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
by Thomas Merton

For more recent postings on "The Rant" please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Cheerio! Pip! Pip!

59 Comments:

At 1:08 PM, Blogger PANTHER said...

I can't wait til the other half of this post is written....

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Yggdrasil said...

I think I just fell in love with you. Seriously.

 
At 4:34 PM, Anonymous charles moore said...

Hi Tom,

This is really one of your best writings yet. I think that I say that with each one you post, but they just seem to get better and better.

One of my favorite pieces of advice to these so called Christian politicians and leaders is to remind them that when the rich young ruler came to Jesus to ask what he should do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything that he had and give it to the poor. For the Republicans, please note Jesus did not say take from the poor and give it to the wealthy.

 
At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

I have thought from the get go that the get go that Religous Right was a misnomer; it is neither religous or right.I don't think Jesus would like for people to use his teachings for personal gain or self enrichment.Remember the rich man's difficulty in passing thru the eye of the needle and the quote on separation of church and state. Render unto Caesar...and throwing the money-changers out of the temple. I don't know where they got the idea Jesus was conservative, he was a flaming liberal

 
At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

Jesus was not soft on crime; on the cross when one thief repented, Jesus told him you will be with me in Paradise. When the other thief refused, Jesus did not waste time on him. Carla Faye committed heinous crimes but seemed to genuinely repent and worked to help others. By those standards it seems Jesus would show mercy which GWB failed to do.

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Dear Wilma,
You said something that I didn't have the courage to say: He WAS a flaming liberal. I can't imagine that he would have been too happy about Roe V Wade - but other than that....
Keep posting! You're the best!
Love,
Tom Degan

 
At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

Dear Tom,I skirted Roe vs Wade, I doubt He would approve. If you have asked forgivness for your transgressions and have truly repented maybe your stay in Purgatory won't be too long. He forgave the thief on the cross his past and Mary Magdalene hers, the hated tax collector who then became an apostle so I think there is hope for you. Best to you

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger ~~whileuwait said...

Hello Tom,
I am here through your comments on alternet.
having seen them often agreeing, and finally hoping to see a comment from "Goshen"- I needed to check out your blog.
I say thank you thank you for expressing clear thoughts.
Raised an RC, we have that in common and didn't our education serve us well ? please visit me at www.whileuwait.blogspot.com

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Note to Wlileuwait:
I tried to leave a posting on your blog but kept getting an error report. Please send me an email if you read this....
Cheers!
Tom Degan

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in love with you- more so
now. great work. I am happy that
you are taking the time to write
about such important things.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous fearless flower said...

Thanks for another deep piece.
I've also wondered what Jesus was really getting at in His sermon on the Mount. He seems to be describing people who are suffering for lack of truth and love, not religious people as we mostly know them.
George Bush's very public expressions of his personal faith have always bothered me. I don't think religious faith is a good quality in a leader to begin with. I worry that he believes in certain things so absolutely that he wouldn't even consider as evidence any facts that might be contradictory.
I think the time is overdue to wrap up the war in Iraq and let the Iraqis who want democracy go after it themselves. I agree that it isn't good to prop up any government. If it's propped up, is it really free? After all, we Americans paid a big price for our freedom in the Revolutionary War. No one helped us very much. And we've been free ever since.
Tom, you're the first liberal who's begun to make any sense to me. even though it's painful to listen to some of the things you have to say, I feel compelled to listen. I'm beginning to think you may be right about George Bush after all. I used to think he would keep America safe, but now I believe he has gone too far because of his misguided beliefs. I'm not ready yet to swallow a conspiracy theory. You must agree, it takes brains and discipline to pull off a conspiracy and I don't think GWB or many other people have enough of either to pull off the kind of global conspiracy you've hinted at.
Your confession must have taken courage. I have to say I think it's a good thing when a person knows they aren't perfect. I've known a few people who seemed to think they were perfect and I couldn't stand to be around them.
For many years I was immersed in a religion and managed to avoid the problems of which you speak. It didn't make me feel any happier or closer to God. I did feel proud that I was trying to serve God and help the world. Then one day I began to see the harm my religion was doing to me and to others and my faith evaporated. Now I feel ashamed about that period of my life and God remains a bigger mystery to me than ever.
Yet I feel strangely at peace. I think it is important, no matter what religion we profess, to never lose the ability to think clearly and to love and appreciate ourselves. Without these qualities I believe we can't really love others or add value to their lives.
I wouldn't worry too much about heaven and hell. A lot of people I like have been condemned to hell by others, so if I end up there at least I will be with people whose company I enjoy. I believe life and life after death is very much what we make it. And I believe a lot of us will be very surprised when we die about who ends up where.
I enjoy your blogspot very much. hope you never stop!

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous fearless flower said...

Thanks for another deep piece.
I've also wondered what Jesus was really getting at in His sermon on the Mount. He seems to be describing people who are suffering for lack of truth and love, not religious people as we mostly know them.
George Bush's very public expressions of his personal faith have always bothered me. I don't think religious faith is a good quality in a leader to begin with. I worry that he believes in certain things so absolutely that he wouldn't even consider as evidence any facts that might be contradictory.
I think the time is overdue to wrap up the war in Iraq and let the Iraqis who want democracy go after it themselves. I agree that it isn't good to prop up any government. If it's propped up, is it really free? After all, we Americans paid a big price for our freedom in the Revolutionary War. No one helped us very much. And we've been free ever since.
Tom, you're the first liberal who's begun to make any sense to me. even though it's painful to listen to some of the things you have to say, I feel compelled to listen. I'm beginning to think you may be right about George Bush after all. I used to think he would keep America safe, but now I believe he has gone too far because of his misguided beliefs. I'm not ready yet to swallow a conspiracy theory. You must agree, it takes brains and discipline to pull off a conspiracy and I don't think GWB or many other people have enough of either to pull off the kind of global conspiracy you've hinted at.
Your confession must have taken courage. I have to say I think it's a good thing when a person knows they aren't perfect. I've known a few people who seemed to think they were perfect and I couldn't stand to be around them.
For many years I was immersed in a religion and managed to avoid the problems of which you speak. It didn't make me feel any happier or closer to God. I did feel proud that I was trying to serve God and help the world. Then one day I began to see the harm my religion was doing to me and to others and my faith evaporated. Now I feel ashamed about that period of my life and God remains a bigger mystery to me than ever.
Yet I feel strangely at peace. I think it is important, no matter what religion we profess, to never lose the ability to think clearly and to love and appreciate ourselves. Without these qualities I believe we can't really love others or add value to their lives.
I wouldn't worry too much about heaven and hell. A lot of people I like have been condemned to hell by others, so if I end up there at least I will be with people whose company I enjoy. I believe life and life after death is very much what we make it. And I believe a lot of us will be very surprised when we die about who ends up where.
I enjoy your blogspot very much. hope you never stop!

 
At 12:33 AM, Blogger L said...

this is so true

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger Fenrir said...

Oh my gosh have you got so much wrong.
Forgive me in advance for not reading your entire post because I once again have not time, but I will comment only on what I need to say about the first several paragraphs.
I'm not going to go political here. I stopped reading about half-way through (out of lack of time and need to comment on what I had already read - but will surely finish reading later). I'm not going to talk about Christian congressmen or Christian presidents or anything. Here are your misconceptions about the Bible (and I will correct them accordingly) :
#1. - "The Ten Commandments is from the Old Testiment and Jesus is not even mentioned there - Not once!"
#2. - "the irony in the words, "Thou shalt not kill" has always somewhat puzzled me, given their overall support of the death penalty and the obscenity that their government is now committing, at this very minute, against the children of Iraq."
#3. - "Do you think for one moment that, were He to return today to our troubled planet, He would be praising the deeds of the Bush administration? Do you think even for a split second that He would make a pilgramage to the campus of Liberty University in Lynchberg, Virginia to congratulate Jerry Fallwell for all the jaw droppingly mean and stupid things that he has said and done in the past in His name?"

My Response:
#1. Is Jesus really not in the Old Testament? If not, then He never really existed at all.
Compare Psalm 22 and The Crucifixion (Matthew 27:32). Jesus' entire life was prophecied about several thousand years before his birth - everything down to the very words he spoke and the way his clothes were gambled away after his crucifixion.
Read Isaiah 61:2 and 3. Then read what you posted on the Sermon on the Mount. Don't they sound a lot a like?
#2. Judges is my favorite Old Testament book. Israel is basically God's nation of war, where God conquers the surrounding lands with much smaller armies than his enemy uses. I don't have time to look up specific quotes (maybe later), but prior to the events of Judges, God specifies that it is within his moral law to put to death a murderer. Christians in recent history have turned against this in order to give the murderer more time in order to repent and become a Christian. I don't know a whole lot on the subject, so I refrain from having an opinion on this issue, and it does not affect my political affiliation one way or the other.
#3. This is totally not fair. Well... on several levels. On the first level (and most obvious) - Jesus would certainly NOT be praising ANYTHING anybody is doing nowadays. Nothing we can do here on earth can change God's ultimate plans - neither Christians or Non-Christians alike have the power to change anything that was already fortold in Revelations and by Jesus after his resurrection. Besides, Jesus wouldn't come to earth to praise us, anyways.
Secondly: Is it fair to hold against conservativism the acts of a few Christians like Bush Jr. or that Fallwell bloke? Would you criticize the modern-day Socialist party for the actions of Lenin, Stalin, or Castro? Christianity is not about "crucades" or "fire and brimstone" judgment. We're still apologizing for the actions of our brothers who rode into Mecca some 800-1200 years ago (my history is a little rusty) and slew Muslims in the name of Christ. Muslims today apologize for the actions of suicide bombers and extremists, causing death and destruction during a time of peace and recovery (prior to 2001). I can't control what Fallwell does, whoever he is (I haven't heard of him 'til now - shows how well I keep up with the news). Don't judge me by his actions.

And there were some replies to my last post I made about a week ago that I'd really like to respond to. Maybe later. Something else was said that was rather unfair. Oh well. Whatever. Politics is, by nature, offensive.

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Fenrir said...

Am I the only conservative republican who reads this?!

 
At 7:32 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Dear Fenrir,
Thanks for contributing to "the rant". While I disagree with your interperatation of what I wrote, I have to admit that you came to your conclusions in a thoughtful matter - not the typical tantrum we've come to expect from some conservatives. I would only ask you, when you get the chance, read the rest of it. I think that we might find some common ground.
Cheers!
Tom Degan

 
At 8:14 AM, Blogger Fenrir said...

Tantrum? Haha. I've seen some nasty tantrums thrown by some liberals.
Oh, and we have some common ground. Trust me, we do. I'm not an extreme conservative Bush-fan. I just haven't had the time to touch on the stuff we have in common yet.

 
At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, Where is my comment and your response from the other day? I thought you would have given my comment more respect than your dismissive response. Also, I was eager to see if anyone else would have a word to say about my thoughts. Sincerely, Scott Balogh

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous scott_balogh@hotmail.com said...

Why is my previous comment anonymous? I do have trouble with keyboards and computers. Also, I am of the hunt and peck variety typists. Scott Balogh

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...

Jesus Christ was a liberal. FACT!

Ted Bundy was a Republican. FACT!

Now just who the hell are YOU voting for, people?

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Scott,
Someone place an advertizment near your post, I might have deleated it by mistake. Sorry about that. I do reacall reading it and obviously it IS gone. I must be the culprit.
Tom

 
At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I won't be commenting anymore,last night I tried sending you a page saying Spector was setting in motion a plan to sue Bush and got undeliverable mail from your email address

 
At 8:35 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I don't know how that could be! I havn't blocked anyone, so the speak. It's probably a temorary kink in the system. Please trey again.
Cheers!
Tom Degan

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not mean this blog, I meant your private email you used to contact after a comment on Alternet I have tried 3 times and the 3rd time is the charm

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

How 'bout if I try emailing you? I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they would be rejected. How many more messages are being rejected, I wonder.
All the best,
Tom

 
At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Wil said...

Allthough a non-christian, I have great respect for the man. It must be said, that Christ never wrote a single word of the "bible", as far as I know.
Did he ever preach for the building of cathederals? Did he ever call for the establishment of a christian church?
Today, many churches are more concerned with the architecture of their church, rather than the spiritual message. The congregation is preached at for their wallets and their votes.
The "neo-cons", who are powerful and wealthy, care little for the disabled and the weak, except at election time.
With no underclass, there would be few recruits for the military.
The bible has become a tool, used by the powerful to wage war, so as to increase the profits of their factories, and to invade more and more lands.
As I said, I`m no christian, indeed, when it comes to the bible, was it not mostly written by those who held jewish beliefs, was not the core of Jesus` teachings an attempt to draw people away from the then jewish way of life.
In particular, he seemed against the Jewish ritual of passover, whereby a gentile, or "goy" would be sacrificed to provide blood for the jewish congregation?

In fact, his message of "thou shalt not kill", seems to be precisely the message that got him killed.
After all, the romans could hardly conquer the world, if all the christians would refuse to fight.
What irritates most of all, is the way that the military and government skip that commandment, whilst all the while defending their so-called "christian values".
Yep, a christian nation, and ready to kill all those who disagree.

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger PANTHER said...

the finale was great...and JESUS forgives!!

 
At 1:59 AM, Blogger Jennifer Olwin said...

I read your post with great interest. You make me feel that I ought to be at least keeping tabs on the politics of the day; honestly, I have had little faith in or interest in our governmental affairs since the eight-year fiasco that was the Clinton administration.

Your point about the Ten Commandments versus the teachings of Jesus particularly interested me. As far as the Ten Commandments on courtroom walls go, here's the perspective of one semi-conservative Christian, at least: I think we should have the freedom to hang any great words of wisdom on our judicial walls, whether they come from Moses or Jesus (gotta applaud you for thinking about the Sermon on the Mount there) or Shakespeare or Mohammed. The fact that we're forced to take them down simply because they come from the Judeo-Christian Bible is what bothers me.

Jesus never seemed to fuss much about the ruling power of the day, the Roman Empire. He really only bothered about two things during his stay on earth: the glory of God the Father (over which he regularly and shamelessly challenged the Pharisees) and the heart and soul of the individual. When he got angry, one or the other of those things was always on the line; I find it interesting that the established religion, which claimed to follow the same God he called his Father, was almost without exception his opponent. That establishment received the brunt of his fury, and they demanded and arranged his death. Those calling themselves Christians of any denomination or political position would do well to remember that. I get the feeling, from reading your post, that you and I agree on that.

Back to the Ten Commandments, briefly: they're simply a part of a set of laws, given by God and summed up by Jesus in the "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself" statement (Matthew 22:37-40.) I believe that Jesus gave his life because not a single human being, himself excluded, has ever been able to live up unfailingly to that law--and that in his accepting of our punishment (and subsequent victory over death) alone rests our salvation. Believing in him for that is, as far as I can interpret the Bible, what makes any of us a Christian, Catholic or Protestant or whatever. Since Jesus said that he wouldn't "drive away" anyone who came to him (John 6:37) I take that to mean he wouldn't sentence a sincere follower of his to eternal condemnation, either... just a thought.

Anyways, enough soapboxing from me! Good night.

Love and peace,

Jennifer

 
At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Spirit Sha said...

There is a really interesting book by a couple of Brits called "The Laughing Jesus". in which they deal with the real recorded records of how both the Bible's old and new Testament were written and by who. The bring a lot of real facts of recorded history that show how both books cannot not be true.

They are not crazy guys, as they belong to the school of thought that say we are all one and total enlightenment of awakening from our dreamed existence is possible. The far East they have know these fact for 1000's of years. They have historical records of people doing real miracles even in the 20th century.(this includes India)

Many new thought churches follow along that same path, though it is through Christianity. Spiritual truth is the same no matter who says it. Universal Spiritual Law runs true in all beliefs, but they want control, so they just over look their original premise and create fear.

My premise being it is funny that we are fight a war of literalists that all follow holy books created by others 100s of years later. The Gnostics who were the original Christian believed Jesus was a myth, a parable or teaching stories. Your sermon on the mount is one of those stories.

Bush & Company demonstrate this principle of corruption that is rooted in Christianity from the third century on, where killing people always was the way to get ride of your political enemies. Blood begets Blood.

Spirit Sha
Sugar Land, TX
home of Tom Delay

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Great postings, Jennifer and Sha! Jen, I had a look at your blogsite. Very well done! I'd love to sign on.
All the best,
Tom Degan

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous richard wagner said...

Tom...Your post is marvelous in it's insight and depth of thought. Thanks for taking the time to present such a clear and truthful commentary.
Dick Wagner

 
At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding mother theresa....

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2165132838065157556

Regarding the bible.......

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8463073960287313294

 
At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to Jesus and the death penalty, please consider the story of the woman taken in adultery. This woman was clearly guilty. It was the worst offense possible under Jewish law. It couldn't have been a more clear-cut case. The mob was simply enforcing the law, which called for stoning. Jesus came upon them while they were quite legally and properly imposing the death penalty.
Who can deny that the point of the story is that Jesus stepped in and personally stopped the execution of a completely guilty person?
His words were, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone..."
The same teaching appears elsewhere in the many "Judge not, lest you be judged..." passages written by St. Paul.
So the teaching that we ought not judge, and that the death penalty is wrong was an important point, not an anomaly. It was reinforced and emphasized because it used the example of Jesus and was taught in two different ways in the New Testament.
I don't know why we never hear evangelicals point out that the New Testament teaches explicitly that the death penalty is wrong.
As you say, George Bush as governor of Texas had numerous opportunities to "do what Jesus did" in regard to the death penalty. But George somehow did the exact opposite.
In general, evangelicals seem to simply ignore the passages in the New Testament they don't like - especially those concerning non-judgment.
On the contrary, most evangelicals seem to embrace the opposite idea. They seem to think that making acts of judgment on the behavior of other is the very essence of "morality."

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Fac ut vivas said...

Sorry to be "johnny-come-lately" to this discussion. However, I have one favorite little "take" on the Ten Commandments, Number 2 especially: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."

My favorite commentary on the Ten Commandmnets is from Martin E. Marty: "Moore commandments - M.E.M.O". Christian Century. Sept 20, 2003. I know "evangelicals" hardly consider Dr. Marty a Christian, but that's irrelevant.

I also know that the confused thinking of the Right-leaning "christians" (now I have to say that, if one's thinking were not CONFUSED, whichever direction one leans, right or left, it would not be religion; rather, it would be science---but let's save that bit of deconstruction for another day) is fairly evident when they insist on making a graven image of the commandment that tells us not to make graven images. If you start there and continue down through the Bible, you can find all sorts of inconsitencies. But I think that's true of "you and me" as well as of "them."

At any rate, as a Lutheran (along with Dr. Marty) I just don't get it when conservatives talk about sin and the Ten (or is it eleven?) commandmanets and homosexuality and welfare and capital punishment and all those things. I though Christians lived "by faith through grace" not by "law through meanness." That's all I wanted to say. Thanks for the wonderful writing.

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger Camille said...

The point you make on the sermon on the mount vs the ten commandments is one my family has ranted on for years.
A note to fenrir: Maybe your literal translation and lack of historical perspective have you a little confused.
You must consider the time the bible was written in and make allowances for the TRUTHS of the day. Scientific , sociological, and spiritual FACTS were all a little different then.
Thanks for your courage and insight , Tom.

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger Mongo said...

Don't be afraid to support Roe V Wade and still consider yourself a Catholic or a Christian and abiding by the spirit of Jesus Christ. Many Catholic Theologians thought it was a mistake for the John the 23rd to publish the encyclical that forbad abortion. Remember, the Pope is infallible when it comes to matters of the Church, not Matters of Natural Law - and that is the category where Abortion falls into. As we have learned from cloning, every hair that falls from our head or shaved from our face every morning possesses the cellular potential to become a human being. When don't we fight to save them? Seems silly doesn't it? More convincingly is our basic teaching of the Catholic Church. Just about every confessor and theologian out there will tell you that in the final analysis it is between you and you Maker that you must reconcile any decision about controversial issues like abortion - yeah, your conscious. That is why John Kerry can still receive Holy Communion every Sunday at Mass and still support abortion rights for women - remember there was an element of the Catholic Church that tried to condemn him in the 04 election and ban him from participating in Holy Communion! Too bad his priest couldn't be interviewed about why he still choose to administer the sacraments to him. Lastly, over 70% of Catholics use birth control banned by the Catholic Church – only the natural method please! Seems like there is a huge disconnect between reality and what an institution thinks – maybe that 70% of Catholic heard about your conscious being the deciding factor. Why can’t we hear from their confessors?

 
At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Fanucon said...

i love it how ppl can preach to an audience that sucks up everyword

im a Christian
but not your conventional Christian
its so modified now that its hard to put your finger on someone who actually follows the teachings of Jesus

Jesus wasnt mentioned in the Old testament because it works in chronological order

the ten commandments are a good basis of living
it covers all the obvious things that people should follow

you can say sodomizing my neighbors wife is fine and a true Christian cant judge you for that
judgement is a sin

i find myself meeting more and more people who are athiests and say Yeah ive read the bible and its filled with hate and the contradictions between the old and new testa... blah blah blah thats something that people who soak up every word of some guy who appears smart said.
and he probably read alot of it off the internet
The truth is
there are some contradictions between old and new testament
because
Jesus was a time of change
it was a new way of life

you have to look at Christianity as a philosophy

dont over think it or you'll start to pick at it

i dont support christian theology
nor do i claim to have read the bible thru multiple times

when it comes down to it.
the texts have passed thru so many different hands

so many modifications or translations that you cant trust whats said
what religious leader or translater decided to have his religion push his views and how many times

Christ Christian and Catholic are not the same thing

 
At 12:42 PM, Anonymous oregoncharles said...

Thanks, Tom, for saying so eloquently something I've been trying to get across for a while (and I'm an anti-religious atheist): basic progressive values come directly out of the teachings of Jesus, with some Enlightenment ideas added on. That makes us allies with Christians who take those teachings seriously. We need to hear it from Christians. You've said it better than I can.

I came here from Alternet, and I'll now go post this comment there.

 
At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Mountainmama said...

As others here have said, I, too, "found" you through Alternet. I have always agreed with your comments and thoughts 100% on the same track as mine. You are a breath of fresh air.

I am 62, was raised as a "Christian" and learned early on through my very active in church parents, the hypocracy there. I can easily recall questioning many things while still young...and I mean of grade-school age! Things like..."well, Jesus said..." thus and so, "and so why do Christians do the opposite?" Much of what you wrote here reflects just those things. I saw first hand the "Christian politics" in the church as one post stated.

I am no longer a Christian, having given up that when I "awakened" fully a number of years ago. I am very spiritual and believe in God, that Jesus was a profound and wise teacher, that the bible was written by man and much of it twisted to fit their needs at that time, with good wisdom from Jesus, but am anti-religion. I have found peace and comfort in all this.

Again, thank you so much for your postings and blog!

 
At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

Thanks for a great Rant, Tom. While I might have some quibbles that more distinctions should have been noted between authentic conservatives and neo-conservatives, I think you are basically on the right track. I've never posted a comment on a blog before, but feel I need to respond to some obvious ignorance of the Bible as displayed by Spirit Sha and Wil in their postings.
First, Wil, it is true that Christ never wrote a word of the Bible. However, we can be confident that most of the words attributed to him in the Gospels are accurate representations of what he said. I would refer you to Bishop John A.T. Robinson's book, Can We Trust the New Testament? Spitit Sha, please get your history straight. There is no evidence that the Gnostics were the first Christians. The few writings that survived from the Gnostics (see the Nag Hammadi Library) date from hundreds of years after the earliest manuscripts of the canonical Gospels. Wil, you write that "The bible has become a tool, used by the powerful to wage war...". True enough, when passages are taken out of context. Even the greatest of gifts can be misunderstood and used for the most nefarious of purposes. You have a right to criticize something only when you have a sufficient and accurate familiarity with it. Your ignorance is on full display when you write "...when it comes to the bible, was it not mostly written by those who held jewish beliefs, was not the core of Jesus' teachings an attempt to draw people away from the then jewish way of life. In particular, he seemed against the Jewish ritual of passover, whereby a gentile, or 'goy' would be sacrificed to provide blood for the jewish congregation?"
Yes, the biblical books (both Old and New Testament) were written almost entirely by observant Jews, with the possible exception of the author of Luke and Acts. Jesus himself was an observant Jew who sought to call people to return to the original meaning of the Jewish Law and Prophets. He disputed frequently with the Jewish religious establishment of his day, who consisted of Sadducees that sought to accomodate the faith to Hellenistic philosophy and Roman power and Pharisees who had often wandered far from the original intent of Jewish scripture by emphasizing observance of their oral traditions to such degrees that core values like mercy and justice were ignored. Jesus was not against the Jewish ritual of Passover. He kept the Passover throughout his life and told his disciples the night before his death, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you..." (Luke 22:15). No Gentiles were harmed in the sacrifice of this Passover or any other. Jews sacrifice a lamb for each household on Passover and always have since the first one in Egypt. No observant Jew drinks blood, of a Goy or an animal (couldn't be more non-Kosher). The blood of a lamb without blemish is placed on the doorposts and lintel of the house, and then the lamb is consumed (Exodus 12). Since Christ chose the occasion of Passover to describe a new covenant in his body and blood in the institution of the Lord's Supper his disciples naturally (and spiritually) saw him as the fulfillment of the symbol of the lamb without blemish who sacrificed his life to free people from slavery to sin and its' consequences. It would appear that Jesus' choice of Passover for this revelation was intended to reveal this identification and to re-inforce the Jewish connection for all those who would remember him in this ritual which became central to Christianity. Please people, let's get our facts straight. To learn more about the eventual separation of the Jesus movement from the rest of Judaism I would recommend The Reluctant Parting by Julie Galambush. Yes, the early Christians were pacifists and their refusal to fight for Rome was one of the reasons for their persecution. Only in the fourth century did this start to change, after Constantine's "conversion" and later Augustine's "just war" theology which was used by Roman forces to draw Christians into "defending the Empire".
Church and State (especially states with an imperial bent) make a lousy marraige. Ask the Revolutionary founders of our Republic.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Katherine Kelley said...

Thank You Tom,
I have been trying to tell everyone I know the same things. I can only add this comment. What is the difference in killing a fetus vs a soilder? The constant attack on Roe by the conservative right about killing a human. Please help me folks, "newspeak" is here to stay.

 
At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Wry Mouth said...

Neat. Came to this through a website my daughter writes for. Set aside the little strawmen (e.g., the Hebrew commandment is "you shall not murder," not "you shall not kill," and Paul, in Romans, is not advocating "thall shalt not judge," but making a larger argument about all being guilty before the law). Acknowledge the fact that, like my brother and I, you and I would probably agree rarely on political tactics.

I congratulate you, and thank you for this essay, because I find it important for me, personally, to read the writings of Progressive Christians, to balance out my own tendencies and world-views. But the writings have to be intelligent, and yours was.

We know that not all Conservatives are Eeevil Hypocrites, and not all Progressive "Christians" are necessarily sincere through-and-through. But there is certainly enough, in my camp, to be ranted against, and you look lke a worthy candidate to do the ranting.

Good on ya.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Royce & Grace said...

Thank you for putting into words what I have been saying and thinking for the last several years. We stopped going to church after the invasion of Iraq because the preacher from the pulpit said that if you did not support our Christian president in this Crusade, you were not a Christian and were no longer welcome. Again, thank you for your light in the darkness...

 
At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, as a Christian, sounds like you have made Christ your Lord and Saviour. You are proclaiming his words in the name of peace. The gates of Heaven will be open for you.

 
At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tennessee is blue, but we need help in being able to express that in our politics and elections. We are gerrymandered so far right,or otherwise suppressed, that we can't vote in a Democrat if we tried. I have differed with attitudes expressed by the Christian right, more than once! All Christians that are more Democratic in the Southern part of the USA need more ways to unite on and offline. We need more social and economic justice,rural preservation/history/eco/healthcare/farming,rights,oriented Democrats on all levels in TN and all over the south!

 
At 3:52 PM, Anonymous wisdomiskey said...

This is my heart's cry before the LORD as well. It is so devastating to see those who call on the name of CHRIST walk independent of HIS Way out of FEAR, Anger and Distrust.

JESUS walked in LOVE and PEACE! By this shall all the world know that we are HIS disciples when we walk in LOVE and LET our LIGHT SHINE and SEEK to defend and protect the weak & POOR as Salt preserves and resist decay.

What we do to the least of these, JESUS said we have done the same to HIM... He would not try to close budget loopholes on the backs of the Poor.

He told PETER, that cutting off the ear of the SOLDIER was not the way... Yet, we hear and see constant aggression and misrepresentation of the KINGDOM of Heaven.

I am so thankful to read your BLOG and to JUST SAY THANK YOU for SPEAKING UP and OUT!!!

SOUND the Alarm in G-D's Holy Mountain... BLOW Ye the Trumpet in ZION... "Cry ALOUD and spare NOT" the TRUTH... that he who has ears to hear will hear...what the Spirit is saying to the CHURCH!

 
At 4:09 PM, Anonymous DJ said...

Thank you, Tom, for writing this post. Far too often the Religious Right seems to skip over the actual teachings of Jesus and go straight from Old Testament to Revelations, forgetting the actual words that are suppose to be the foundation of their faith.

I was thinking about this just yesterday - the Lord's Prayer, which was also part of that sermon. The words seem particularly important in this day and age and one wonders how many of these so-called Christians realize that they are agreeing to forgive those who have wronged them; begging for their daily bread; and asking not to be tempted. When you look at those who profess to be the Christian leaders of this nation today, it is apparent that they have no concept of what Jesus was saying or what he taught.

I posted here recently that Jesus was the originator of the idea of separation of church and state. He believed in charity and health care. He saw within those who listened to his words the ability to feed multitudes, and he did not pass judgment on women. Jesus was a liberal by every definition I can think of and yet, these false prophets of Christianity would lie about him and ignore his teachings if it put so much as one cent into their pockets. If they truly believe that Armageddon will be proceeded by false prophets, then we are truly headed for Armageddon - since they are the FALSE PROPHETS.

I think we would all be better off if we fight back against such leaders, even if it means we have to abandon the one about the meek inheriting the Earth. If we remain meek much longer, there will not be any Earth left to inherit!

 
At 4:36 AM, Blogger Catharine said...

It's interesting to me that Christians talk so passionately about studying their Bible... Bible study... Sunday School... catechism... and at the same time, want their holy book carved in every flat public surface they can find. Are the words of Jesus Christ so wholly diluted and forgettable, so utterly wafer-thin and meaningless, that Christians have to have crib sheets everywhere they turn, just so they can remember them? I'm as flawed a Buddhist as you are a Catholic, but I can promise you: Buddhists have to study, read, memorize and recite during our practice, too. Why can't Christians do the same? Please. No Commandments. No Beatitudes. No Golden Rule. I'm begging you. Enough ahready. I get your point. And I agree... the Beatitudes are a beautiful sentiment. I'll have them printed on a business-sized card for you to keep in your wallet if you need them. But I don't want them carved into the marble of my halls of justice. And I think I speak for a lot of non-Christians here.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your piece very much, Tom. There was much in what you said that resonated with me, being a cradle Catholic myself. But I'm an Australian, and having spent time and made friendships with people right across the USA, I realise that my experience of the church Down Under differs in many ways to yours Up There. Sadly, in too many ways we also resemble one another quite scarily (remember, we are the home of Dr George Cardinal Pell (head of Vox Clara, the body responsible for the new English translation and some-time (he travels a lot) archbishop of Sydney).

In the west the church is fast reaching an impasse: liberal vs conservative. Numbers in the pews - aka those who contribute to the church's coffers - are taking a nose dive and it seems to be accelerating. It certainly is in Oz...the new church life survey numbers are due to come out some time this year, and all the signs are that they are going to be catastrophic. Combine that with the deep doo-doo they're in over the clerical sexual abuse disgrace and you've got a perfect storm brewing. Do they not realise that the victims of the abuse crisis (whom they most often choose to ignore, or worse, torment by passive-agressive means) are the very people in the pews who also fill the coffers? Can they possibly be so blind?

Thomas Paine had a great quote...something about trying to reason with a person who has given up the use of reason is like trying to give medicine to a dead man. There is no reasoning, hence that impasse I mentioned earlier. They way I see it, there really IS only one way to get past it that hasn't been tried; put what Jesus was on about into real actual practice. Given that things are This Bad, we might as well try a different approach and see how that goes; it can hardly do worse than the current approach, can it?

I'm looking for leadership from people like Sr Joan Chittister (she'd be Pope Joan were it up to me!) who speaks with such wisdom and passion...the real leadsership will now HAVE to come from the women: the men have proved themselves incapable and things are now so critical that something has to give. The Sisters are reflective and prayerful and very, very smart, so I have no fears for them.

In fact, I have no fears about any of it really. +Geoff Robinson of Sydney is one of the few hierarchs (aux. bishop emeritus of Sydney) I actually have any respect for left, and the only voices of anything resembling The Beatitudes in the current church IS the sisters. I also feel +Geoff's approach - which is contemplative and prayerful, rather than militant reaction - speaks well to the situation.

He says that it's not a liberal-conservative, left-right or anything like it paradigm at play here. Rather he sees it (and I agree with him!) that it is a struggle between those who want certainties (as a response to a 'world out of control' aka fear) and those who are 'seekers of truth' (respond by remaining open to whatever the Spirit/science/philosophy; life - has to teach us and then try to actually live it).

I also think that whatever leadership emerges in the church, things have gone beyond the confines of the structure now - the people have been fleeing out the door - and they're all 'out there' in that big, bad secular world that poor old Benny is so terrified of.

In this age of the internet we're all connected to one another (which is all terribly Teilhardian, when you think about it...the noosphere and all that...) and the poor old boys of the curia know their days are numbered. Personally, I'm happy to leave their retirement plans to them and get on with envisaging what is going to emerge from the ashes. THAT promises to be something worth investigating...and I'd bet the farm that you'll find the good sisters there too. I'm just sayin'.....

Milly Mungbeans

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Dr S said...

Found you via the NY Times - plan to visit now and then. Keep up the good work.

 
At 9:38 PM, Anonymous bigbill said...

Hello, Tom. Even though I am a former seminarian, now former Catholic - current avid atheist, I must say that what you have written about conservatives vs. Christ is very much what goes through my mind every day, all the time. You have of course presented it with great skill and clarity, unlike my muddled thoughts.

Strange coming from an atheist perhaps, but the sermon on the mount is part of my core beliefs and has been ever since I first read it in the New Testament. It has always meant a lot to me! Bravo to you for invoking it to make these wonderful comparisons! Please keep it up! I read your thoughtful comment in the Times today and clicked on your most interesting blog site. I will be back to check up on your latest musings!

 
At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Charles Minott said...

Why not post all eleven commandments?

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger cminott said...

Why not post all eleven commandments?

XI. That ye love one another!

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Moms Hugs said...

Tom, your "rant" back in 2006 is still pertinent so how about revising it for 2012? Really good insight into the relevancy of Mathew's Sermon on the Mount than the Big Ten in today's world that we must live in. I'd like to "borrow" that for my blog, but would like to link to a more recent version... if you would, please.

Thank you! ~ Moms Hugs (aka Eve)
http://momshugs.blogspot.com

 
At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Moms Hugs said...

Btw, Tom, I found your blog via your comments to Maureen Dowd's NYTimes column Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns (4/29/12). It was an excellent column, especially by a Catholic woman, but IMHO, the comments chosen by the Readers are great, insightful, and thoughtful... especially those from life-long Catholics who are obviously pained by the Vatican & Bishops' actions. Maureen's title is quite apt - their actions against the nuns are quite like a giant chess game. I'm rooting for the L.C.W.R. nuns!!!

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you for the kind words, folks.

Yes, Eve. Perhaps I should update it a bit for 2012. When I wrote this six years ago, it was my first to get a big response. You've got me thinking!

All the best,

Tom Degan

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger PinkSusan said...

All I can say is WOW. Okay, I have a few more. Holy crap comes to mind. But in a good way. Very powerful piece. And absolutely spot on.

I certainly hope that you are waiting to greet me at the Pearly Gates when my time comes. Otherwise, I'll be waiting to greet you when you get there.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger Michael (Gronan) Mornard said...

Hey Tom?

On the Last Day, God will do everything possible to INCLUDE as many people in the Kingdom as is possible, not EXCLUDE them.

We both may have some work do to first to get cleaned up, but see you in Heaven, man.

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Maxi said...

Trying to make christianity and abortion compatible cannot be done by someone who truly believes in one of them. mind blowing.

 

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