Monday, March 06, 2006

What Would Jesus Really Do?

I think about people who allow certain aspects of their religion to guide their beliefs at the exclusion of all else. Those who would cling with indomitable vigor to their positions and cloak themselves in their absolute conviction that God is on their side. Those who are absolutely positive that gay marriage and abortion are more important to God than war, poverty, and the death penalty. We are in a moral abyss, and someone has decided that abortion and gay marriage are the reasons why. I cannot fathom what collusion of events has made this so.

It is my profound belief that those who are most vocally wrapping their ideals in Jesus’ name are those who are most corrupting his teachings. If Jesus were alive today, what would he really do?

First and foremost, Jesus spoke of God. Immediately beyond that, he spoke of love for all people. I am certain that those beliefs would still dictate his teachings today. Therefore, it seems obvious that Jesus would stand firm on issues like war and the death penalty. There is little nuance here. Both of these institutions require that someone in power make the choice to take life from another. This would clearly not sit well with Jesus, especially given the fact that there are almost always alternatives.

I cannot accept that Jesus would ever support war. Diplomacy is a closer path to love and peace
than killing, and this is the path that he would demand. Given that diplomacy was working in Iraq, there is no question that he would oppose that war.

Jesus would not condone suffering. The notion that countless billions of people around the world suffer abject poverty, have a difficult time caring for themselves and their children, and go to bed hungry at night, in a time when the planet had the resources to actually do something about it, would not sit well with the man who healed the sick and spoke of love for all people.

In Matthew 25:31-46, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus makes absolutely clear that drink must be given to the thirsty, food to the hungry, and companionship to the ill and imprisoned. There is simply no question that Jesus would be unable to tolerate poverty, hunger, or the lack of compassion we demonstrate today. "I was in prison, and you came to me" is wholly inconsistent with the death penalty.

In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus speaks of loving God as paramount. But then he says, "The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" In John 13:34-35, Jesus says "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." It is clear in the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus says "Go and do the same," that Jesus meant all of mankind in these statements, not merely neighbors.

Jesus would probably oppose abortion, but everyone opposes abortion. If this were a perfect world, there would be no need for it, and we all could lay this issue to rest. But this is not a perfect world. Jesus would support family planning to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies – a pro-life, pro-child, and pro-family agenda.

However, while he would probably oppose abortion, there is no way he would support hatred, anger, or class privilege. As long as those with means have access to an abortion (which they always would as long as it was legal in any country on earth), those without means must have the same options. This is about compassion for those in need with no other options. Jesus would not stand for the rich having the opportunity to jump on an airplane while the poor were forced into the back alley.

I cannot accept that Jesus would oppose gay marriage. "Loving your neighbor," means treating him or her with the same dignity and respect that you would have bestowed upon yourself. Jesus may not condone homosexuality, but there is no question that he would treat loving, caring, respectful people with love, care, and respect. I believe Jesus would insist that gay couples be given the same rights as others.

It is incomprehensible to believe that Jesus would speak of some God given authority for the U.S. How anyone can actually believe this is beyond me. If anything, Jesus would look unfavorably upon those nations that have vast wealth and resources but are unwilling to share them with the billion plus impoverished people of the world. It would be entirely inconsistent with his beliefs for Jesus to show favoritism for a country of excess and greed in a world of need.
Universal love was at the heart of all of Jesus’ teachings. Why would we presume it would be any different if he were alive today? I am disgusted at those who would pervert his teachings and use them so speciously.

Morality cannot be wholly wrapped in the cloak of anti-gay and anti-abortion sentiment. There is an entire world around us with a thousand issues, very few of which can fall on a black and white scale of morality. Most fall along a vast continuum, with very complex shades of gray.

However, one thing is certain. Were Jesus alive today, he would profoundly condemn any policies that favor war over diplomacy; tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the poor; any law that divides humankind; any economic plan that devalues the planet, natural resources, or the disadvantaged; and any statement that judges how others should live their lives.

Jesus was a teacher, and all teachers would want their students to think. It’s time for us to think. To think about what he’d want and what he’d believe were he alive today. And there is no question that universal love, respect, and a desire to bring all people together would form the absolute core of his beliefs now, just as they did two thousand years ago.

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