What would Jesus really think?
The other day in the newsroom, we were talking about the “fiscal cliff” and how rich people expect poor people to pay their fair share to support the prison-industrial complex. In fact, we were proofreading one of these Viewpoints pages that had a column by some guy advocating that everyone pay the same percentage of their income in taxes — or better yet, the same dollar amount.
This fellow sounds like one of those right-wingers who swear allegiance to Jesus Christ and Ronald Reagan, not necessarily in that order (so beware). These people are the same ones who lecture all of us about personal responsibility, but refuse to apply that same standard to — for example — oil company executives or the Goldman Sachs elite, who carry on as they always have leaving devastation in their wake but never really answering for any of it.
As an atheist — and I believe this may be true of many atheists — I am obsessed with the life and teachings of Jesus. Um, just so you don’t mix this guy up with another Jesus, since there are a lot of Jesuses in the Southwest, I mean the Christ Jesus, as in Nazareth. You know, it’s the one who said something about a camel passing through the eye of a needle is easier than getting a rich guy into heaven.
The Jesus story that came to mind when I was reading the right-wing column was the one about the poor lady in the temple, and the rich guys, and Jesus was watching everybody donate to the temple treasury. The rich guys were giving bags of money, but the poor lady had just one coin she sneaked into the offering plate so as not to be unfavorably compared.
However, Jesus, with his superpowers and superior math skills, saw the poor lady, her gift to the temple and that it was the only coin she had. He told everyone, “Look, she’s given more than everyone else put together.” People didn’t get it, so Jesus had to explain it was because the poor lady gave everything she had, while the rich guys were giving just a tiny portion of their wealth — you see, Jesus was looking at percentages.
What I wanted to know is — with all the touting of Jesus in right wing political circles — why don’t right-wingers apply Jesus’ principles to public policy? These people don’t even follow their own book. Boss Lady couldn’t really answer for them, but suggested I write a Christmas column about it.
So here it is. Merry Xmas, Socorro. Can you answer why Jesus’ teachings are not applied in public policy, even though the policy makers are such good Christians? Do you think Jesus would advocate poor people giving the same percentage of their pathetic incomes as the Goldman Sachs elite? Would Jesus advocate holding the entire economy hostage with the threat of a “fiscal cliff” just to save rich people a few dollars in taxes? What would Jesus do, really?
These people are so rich, it won’t make any difference in their lifestyles whatsoever. But a few more dollars from the poor — like me, for example — could actually devastate us financially, and severely affect our already humble lifestyles.
This also puts me in mind of a scene in “I [Heart] Huckabees.” A fireman sitting at a family’s dinner table says, “You say you’re Christians living by Jesus’ principles, but are you?” The little girl says: “Jesus is never mad at us as long as we live with him in our hearts.” The fireman replies, “I’m sorry, but he is. He most definitely is.”
It was a comparison of perspectives, you see. The little girl character was part of a right-wing family who drives their SUV to church every Sunday for worship. The fireman character was a guy who quit driving gasoline vehicles altogether since his service during the 9-11 disaster, where oil-funded religious fanatics crashed planes into buildings and killed a lot of people, spreading pain and grief as far as they could manage.
Maybe I would have a different perspective if I made more than $20,000 a year and drove an SUV.
Do right-wingers think Jesus is mad at them, I wonder? Maybe they think everything is OK as long as they profess to be Christians. Maybe they aren’t really Christians at all, but atheists who are not quite so honest as I am. Didn’t that Jesus character also warn his followers about wolves in sheep’s clothing?