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Every now and then I come across an effort to compare of contrast the scriptural teachings of Jesus of Nazareth with this or that political party or ideology. One such meme pits things like “Feed the Hungry” versus “Cut Food Stamp Benefits” and “Care for the Sick” versus “Gut Affordable Health Care” (the last one being a euphemism too egregious to address rather than avoid digression). Now I will concede that many generalizations are truths, but are always omissions as well. Vilification of so many people’s purported ideology aside, I would ask those eager to so simplify all this to consider another angle that explains the apparent Conservative-Christian contradiction.

Jesus of Nazareth talked about us meeting the needs of the poor — this is not up for debate. But upon inspection, we find the call as personal morality, not as a political, governmental mandate. Perhaps it’s because the Jews did not govern themselves, or perhaps such things would countermand the notion of Free Will. Perhaps that is why statistically Republicans (predominately Christian, though some calling themselves that irritates me) give far more to charity and volunteer hours than their Liberal counterparts. So it obviously does not mean “they” as a whole do not believe in helping the poor.

However, from many people’s point of view, it is not the role of government in general, but people within society to do so — private, voluntary Good versus externally enforced policy. Who seriously thinks they can buy a ticket to heaven with the latter, so to speak? Sadly, many, many people. Not that government should have no role at all (though some might suggest that), but others — predominantly from the Left — want a monopoly on “charity”, diminishing the role or even the legitimacy of churches and other private, community-based efforts. Or we may want government to keep in what many believe is its rightful, limited place and SUPPORT voluntary, community deeds and (NGO) programs. Instead, it’s not just Republicans making it illegal to feed the homeless, or require nutritional labels on donations barring food from local farms, etc.. It’s all government busy-bodies who want to protect us from the anecdotal accident or incident, even if far more people starve. It’s about control, pandering to well-meaning people’s wish for good with the result being the acceptance of bureaucracy as not merely a compromised evil, but a lauded necessity.

But it’s not about living or not living the Gospel. I think the misunderstanding that even if “of, by, and for” was still (or ever) true, the unexamined notion that government “is” the People is why there is so much argument over this. Government is a mechanism — for good or ill — within society, but by becoming falsely synonymous WITH society, has become a master rather than servant. And that is why I think we misjudge “Republicans” and “Conservatives” by looking as such positions out of the larger context — even if some absolutely deserve such criticism anyway.

I suggest that we will be judged on whether we shared our own bread, AND whether we advocate stealing it from others. It really seems good intentions have become our greatest sins, the plank in our own eye ignored to condemn the speck in another’s.

{Addendum: I have been planning for some time to write about the notion of “Political Jesus”, demonstrating that scriptural snippets can be used to support nearly any political and economic ideology. Stay tuned …}