Rev. Robin Meyers, author of Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus is my latest Kindle eye-opener. Like the books written by Bishop John Shelby Spong, this minister looks in horror at how ‘the church’ has hijacked the teachings of Jesus and is leading ‘the faithful’ on a course that Jesus would never have followed. Rev. Meyers is also not shy about condemning the fundamentalist-led right-wing of the GOP for promoting biblical literalism rather than focusing on the example of the life of Jesus. Recall the statement I posted months back by a Christian right-winger: ‘I’m more of an old Testament Christian.’
The GOP’s War on Women continues unabated. Just today I read that Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has introduced legislation to defund most of its support of Planned Parenthood. GOP members of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday amended one of Gov. John Kasich’s mid-budget review bills to place Planned Parenthood and other independent health clinics at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to distributing $9.7 million in federal family planning money. Rev. Meyers says, “At the time of Jesus, women, considered a source of impurity, were second-class citizens; they were the property of males, forbidden to learn Torah, testify in court, initiate divorce, go out in public unveiled or unaccompanied by a family member, or attend meals unless they were courtesans. The inclusion of so many women in the early Jesus movement is yet another stunning example of his radical vision.”
Women as 2nd class citizens, then and now. After all, the Bible says…
The poor as well. Author Meyers says,
The ethos of purity [Leviticus, Deuteronomy] produced a politics of purity—that is, a society structured around a purity system. In every culture there are distinctions of class and race that form infinite varieties of the caste system, always distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and ordered by social status ranging from the royals to the untouchables. But in each case, a purity system establishes a social and cultural “map” that indicates “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” The chronically ill, lepers, eunuchs, and so forth—were impure. One’s behavior as well as one’s economic status could render one more or less pure. If you were poor, you were almost certainly considered impure. For one thing, following the labyrinth of purity laws was not possible (or affordable) if you lived on the edge of starvation. So the “righteous” were those who followed the purity system (or could manipulate it), and the “sinners” were those who did not (or could not).
Thus, the ‘place’ of the poor, the sick, the physically deformed as well as women was under men and below the well-to-do. That’s why today’s ‘Prosperity Theology’ which encourages accumulation of wealth as God’s Plan is so important to today’s Republican Party in the Bible belt and among fundamentalists in general. The poor be damned, literally!
It seems to me that there really are two Christian movements here in the United States. Two distinct movements. And, therefore, two separate and unequal political agendas. One is driven by the literalistic Christians who ‘are more of an old Testament Christian.’ These are found nearly exclusively in the ranks of today’s Republican Party. The other is the Christian who followsed the compassionate, radical life and teachings of Jesus who sat with women at meal, talked with the Samaritan woman, cured lepers and the sick, and exposed the bigotry of the so-called clean and pure of his society. Many of these Christians are found in the Democratic Party.
Today’s Catholic finds him/herself in a bind. Their church has traditionally served the poor, needy, homeless and sick. Many in the church continue to do so. Yet, the hierarchy has a different agenda altogether- control. Control of the lives of the ‘faithful,’ forcing them to accept either the Medieval ways of the church or the socially conscious path set forth by the publication of Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891- encouraging social justice above all. These two paths clearly separate Catholics into two distinct political groups, the former, Republicans, and the latter, Democrats.
This split is palpable. Today, for example, it was revealed that the Bishop of Toledo, a strict hierarchical, has been put in charge of investigating Nuns in America. Yes, investigating Nuns. Apparently, many of them have become ‘too liberal’, too much in touch with liberation theology. Directed by today’s version of the Inquisition, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Blair is to ferret out the order of nuns who are too involved with the poor, downtrodden and marginalized in our society. If this sounds like the group around which Jesus hung, of course it was. Remember, it was Toledo Bishop Blair who led a demonstration against the Affordable Care Act a few months ago. You get it.
There’s my take on Jesus and today’s Christian churches. And their political agendas.