Posts Tagged ‘religion and politics’

As we approach Easter – for most people just a long weekend when they can regroup and rest – for some people the spiritual highlight of the year – we can often forget, when contemplating his deeper spiritual messages and the agony of his personal journey, that the historical Jesus Christ was a dangerous man who subverted the ruling status quo in his country, and that, above all, is why he was put to death.

This Facebook meme reminded me.

 

banker

 

As we approach Easter, we should dwell on the fact that Jesus fought against the institutionalisation of religion, fought against its co-option as a business enterprise, and talked of how the Kingdom of Heaven resided in all of us, and not in buildings, if we could but find the key.

He also detested the brutalisation of society by economic forces, and the obsession with accumulating personal wealth and how it diverts us from what really matters.

But in cleansing the temple, Jesus did not argue against public worship. Quite the opposite. He wanted the Temple reserved for its rightful use.

And worship definitely serves many valuable purposes, not least sharing information and insights on complicated spiritual matters, building community, showing spiritual respect, and bringing peace and joy to people.

But he did argue against hypocrisy. When religion is reduced to mere pomp and circumstance, or when it mindlessly supports the bastions of conformity, he was on the other side of the metaphorical barricade.

He told us to become like little children in our understand of the world and our role in it, and in relation to what we perceive as God. Simplicity, innocence and trust. And a trenchant opposition to anything which reduces the world to a mere monetary exchange.

Jesus the Revolutionary. Coming soon to a Church near you. We hope.

Happy Easter.

 

A political candidate quoting Jesus Christ and meaning it. Whatever next?

To the bemusement of viewers all over America, and all over the world, Republicans in the audience for the South Carolina Fox/Twitter Presidential debate loudly booed the Golden Rule in the context of foreign policy January 16.

Libetarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul was talking about respecting the sovereignty of other nations when it comes to American military action:

“My point is that if another country does to us what we do to others, we are not going to like it very much. I would say that we maybe ought to consider the Golden Rule in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want them to do to us. We endlessly bomb these countries, and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”

Why, indeed? Yet Rep. Paul’s remarks set off some of the loudest “boos” of the evening from the Republican audience, as well as mockery from his Republican opponents.

The Golden Rule is a key part of Christianity and all other major world religions. Perhaps the key part. In Christianity, Christ commands the Golden Rule twice, most noticeably in Matthew 7:12 but also in Luke 6:31. In Matthew 7:12, Christ says, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

The controversy which resulted in the massive booing of the Golden Rule originated with a misleading accusation by Fox News anchor and moderator Brett Baier. Baier asked (or rather stated):

“In a recent interview, Congressman Paul, with a Des Moines radio station, you said you were against the operation that killed Osama bin Ladin. You said the U.S. operation that took out the terrorist responsible for killing 3,000 people on American soil, quote, “showed no respect for the rule of law, international law.” So, to be clear, you believe international law should have constrained us from tracking down and killing the man responsible for the most brazen attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor.”

Rep. Paul responded that Baier was mistaken about his assertion:

“Obviously, no, and that’s why I did not say that. After 9/11, I voted for the authority to go after him.”

Paul clarified that he believed that Pakistan would have turned over bin Ladin to the United States alive if the Obama administration had requested him.

“KSM, (Khaled Sheik Mohammed) his colleague, was in Pakistan. And we communicated with the government of Pakistan and they turned him over. And what I suggested there was, if we have no respect for the sovereignty of another nation, it will lead to the disruption of that nation. Why can’t we work with the government?”

Paul followed with his Golden Rule statement, suggesting we wouldn’t want other countries such as China coming to the United States in search of dissidents and bombing us.

He also suggested that the United States follow its own constitutional requirement to give a trial by jury whenever possible:

“Think about Saddam Hussein. We captured him, the government tried him and he got hung. What’s so terrible about this? What’s this whole idea that you can’t capture people? Just think, Adolph Eichmann was captured. He was given a trial. What’s wrong with capturing people? Why don’t we try to get some information from him?”

(A very important point, in my opinion, that has been virtually ignored in the celebration of Bin Laden’s death.)

Watch Paul’s comments here:

But Rep. Paul’s Republican opponents pounced on his advocacy of the Golden Rule as a sign of foreign policy “weakness.”

“He’s not a Chinese dissident. The analogy that Congressman Paul used was utterly irrational,” Newt Gingrich responded to Paul, suggesting that trials and honouring the 6th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution are unnecessary. “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America’s enemies. Kill them.”

The 6th Amendment, to save you looking it up, reads “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Essentially, it establishes the right to a trial. It is one of the most important things that all Americans are supposed to hold as an inviolable concept, to be defended at all costs.

Yet, “Speaker Gingrich is right,” Mitt Romney agreed. “Of course, you take out our enemies, wherever they are. These people declared war on us. They’ve killed Americans. We go anywhere they are and we kill them. And the right thing for Osama bin Ladin was the bullet in the head he received. That’s the right course for people that are killing American citizens.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry (who with breathtaking idiocy also chose to condemn the elected government of NATO ally Turkey as “Islamic terrorists” at another point in the debate, and later confirmed that this was, in fact, his view) continued the mockery, saying to Baier (about Paul), “I was just thinking that the noise you were looking for was a gong.”

As Thomas Eddlem at the New American pointedly asks, “With Republicans so resoundingly booing the Golden Rule, one really has to wonder: Whatever happened to the religious right part of the Republican Party?”

A very good question. And the answer of course is simple. Politicians in the United States are religious when it suits them, and not when it doesn’t. And primarily, when it doesn’t is when standing up for principle might cost them red-neck votes.

Of course, this distasteful behaviour is not just evidenced by Republicans, and nor is it limited to the United States. It is just more obviously demonstrated by the bulk of the buffoons that the “Grand Old Party” – to their shame – currently have standing for the Presidency.

Whilst I don’t think Ron Paul has a snowball in hell’s chance of winning the Republican nomination, (and nor should he, as his economic ideas are delightfully lunatic), his confronting and ruthlessly honest candidacy is the most refreshing thing to happen to American politics in years. And yes, that includes the election of Obama.

Those standing against him should consider what comes next in Matthew’s gospel.

“Enter through the narrow gate;for the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

I think Ron Paul found the narrow gate last night. And they hated him for it.

(New American and others)