Why Are So Many Christians Conservative? Part 1
Conservatives believe that the rich and powerful got that way because they deserve to be, that society owes its prosperity to the prosperous, and that government’s job when they have to make choices is to side with those businesspeople who are doing well, because all good things trickle down from them.
Progressives, on the other hand, believe it is the poor and those who are ill-treated who need the most help from their government, and that prosperity comes from the worker as well as the employer, the consumer as well as the seller, the struggling entrepreneur trying to make it as well as the wealthy who already have.
Which side is the Judeo-Christian God on?
I am always puzzled by how people who claim to be followers of the Jesus I read about in the Bible can be political conservatives. Conservative Christians’ primary argument regarding Jesus and politics is that all he cared about was spiritual matters and an individual’s relationship with God.
The Jesus of the New Testament was of course extremely concerned with spiritual matters: there is no doubt whatsoever about his role or interest in the issues of the day, that the spiritual well-being of his followers was a major interest of his. But if you actually read the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus’ main concern in terms of the people whose fates he cared about was for the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast. Comment after comment and story after story in the Gospels about Jesus relates to the treatment of the poor, generosity to those in need, mercy to the outcast, and scorn for the wealthy and powerful. And his philosophy is embedded with the central importance of taking care of others, loving others, treating others as you would want to be treated. There is no virtue of selfishness here, there is no “greed is good,” there is no invisible hand of the market or looking out for Number One first. There is nothing about poor people being lazy, or undeserving poor being leeches on society.
In Luke 6, Jesus says the poor and hungry will be blessed, and the rich will be cursed. He urges his followers to sell all their possessions and give them to the poor. The one time he really focuses on God’s judgment and who goes to heaven is in Matthew 25, where he says those who go to heaven will be those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, gave shelter to the hungry, and welcomed the stranger — and those who don’t make it were the ones who refused to help the poor and oppressed.
And he was a really serious class warrior, too — he wasn’t just into helping the poor; he didn’t seem to like rich folks very much. In Matthew 6, he focuses on the love of money as a major problem. In Luke 11, he berates a wealthy lawyer for burdening the poor. In Luke 12, he says that the wealthy who store up treasure are cursed by God. In Luke 14, he says if we throw a party, we should invite all poor people and no rich people, and suggests that the wealthy already turned down their invitation to God’s feast, and that it is the poor who will get into heaven (a theme repeated multiple times). He says that the rich people will have a harder time getting to heaven than a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. He chases the wealthy bankers and merchants from the Temple.
I have never heard a conservative Christian quote any of these verses — not once, and I have been in a lot of discussions with Christian conservatives, and heard a lot of their speeches and sermons. The one verse they always quote is the one time in which Jesus says that “the poor will always be with us.”
The reason they love this quote so much is that they interpret that line to mean that in spite of everything else Jesus said about the poor, that since the poor will always be with us, we don’t need to worry about trying to help them. By clinging desperately to that one verse in the Bible, and ignoring all the others about the poor and the rich, Christian conservatives show themselves to be hypocrites, plain and simple.
[Excerpt of an article by Mike Lux, AlterNet]