Jesus the Liberal

In keeping with the theme that Jesus was (and is) a liberal, I offer for your consideration the following article by Michael Shammas, which was published in The Huffington Post.


A long time ago there was a remarkable man, a man who said that might does not make right, that the weak have a strength the strong do not have and that what we call “justice” is often really injustice. He was a man who was condemned by traditional conservative society and who died as a result of lawful application of the death penalty. Who was this man? Jesus of Nazareth.

Although I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have not been very religious throughout my life. As a result, I had long assumed that the sort of Christianity espoused by the Christian Right — a Christianity that stresses cold justice over mercy and retribution over forgiveness, sometimes seeming more hateful than loving and all the while ignoring the plight of the poor — was true Christianity. Yet recently I opened up the New Testament and re-read the gospels.

Upon finishing, I was pleasantly reminded how different Jesus was from so many of the Christians I know today, including myself. Christianity is not Christ, and no where is this dysfunction between Christianity and Christ so evident as it is in conservative America. For in the Bible Jesus is a revolutionary figure, a rebel who questions conventional morality and societal traditions and who stresses mercy over justice. He could not be more different from conservative Christians like Michele Bachmann who call out for a harsh judicial system and who champion the rich over the poor.

This view is backed up by the text, as examples of Jesus’ remarkable counter-societal morality are plentiful. This is the man who, after coming upon a woman about to be stoned for adultery — a capital offense at the time — saved her by challenging: “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes, here and elsewhere Jesus is implying that “no one [has] the moral authority to condemn a fellow human to death,” for no one is “without sin.” When Jesus — the only person who can rightly judge this woman since he is indeed sinless — confronts the adulteress, he does not punish, scold or reprimand her. No, he ignores the law (which after all is different from morality) and forgives her. “Go,” he says, “and sin no more.” If only society had shown the same singular mercy to Jesus himself before executing him!

It is absolutely remarkable how much the story above contrasts with our own punishment-orientated justice system today — a system that is harshest in the Bible Belt. Humans love to judge one another; we take sick pleasure in pointing out the flaws in others, perhaps because it paints us in a better light. But reading the New Testament reveals that Jesus was rightly wary of human judgment. For this is a judgment that is too often self-righteous and hypocritical, a judgment that ignores one’s own faults to single out the perceived faults of others. (Unfortunately, this type of judgement pervades our justice system).

This assertion is backed up by Jesus’ words in the text: “Judge not lest you be judged.” And, speaking of those who reserve harsh judgment for others: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Now, I understand why many Christians do not exemplify Christ’s teachings: Jesus sets an impossible standard for most humans to follow, including me. We are flawed, vain creatures who are full of bitterness and hatred and pride, who all too often feel a desire for retribution and for harsh judgment. But Jesus’ words could not be clearer: Justice is not enough, and indeed what society calls justice is often in fact injustice. Remember, “justice” is what put Jesus on the Cross. A truly good society cherishes mercy as well as justice.

Consider the Sermon on the Plain from Luke: “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.” Surely this is not the Old Testament message of cold justice, of a God who should sometimes be feared, of violence that can be and sometimes is justified. No, this is a liberal message of forgiveness and mercy. This is a message that humans are imperfect, but that this imperfectness is perfectly fine: God loves you anyway. What’s more, because humans are all imperfect, we should not judge one another: Leave that to God. Once humans can accept one another as imperfect, for who they are, without judging one another, love can begin to pervade our lives.

Indeed, contrary to extremist organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church or right-wing Christians like Michele Bachmann, Jesus exhorts us to be absolutely full of love — to love everyone, even those who persecute us, even those who have done no good for us and who can never do any good for us. “Love your enemies, and do good and lend expecting nothing back,” he says. And: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much.”

I am not a theologian, and I know full well that many on the Christian Right might say that I am missing the message, that judgment is in fact important, that human retribution is justified. But casual reader though I may be, I still cannot escape the impression that many Christians are just not listening to the message of the Bible as it was espoused by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Why not? I don’t know. The only explanation I can think of is that they are stressing the Old Testament over the New, even though Jesus himself spoke out against certain practices in the Old Testament.

When our country is attacked, many people (including me) cry out for vengeance. And yet Jesus sets this impossible standard: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.” When someone is robbed, many people (including me) cry out for retribution or prosecution. Yet Jesus says: “If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them also.”

Too many Christians, myself among them, are self-righteous. Perhaps some think that because they are Christian, because they are (at least on the outside) moral, surely they are better than those who have stolen, who have polluted themselves with illicit substances, who have committed sexual sins and so on. Yet Jesus says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I am imperfect. God knows, I have sinned countless times throughout my short life. But the worst in me is not the best in me; I am not defined by my worst actions, and you are not either. None of us are.

Jesus tells us that it is okay to be imperfect — that because we are all imperfect, we should reserve judgment. If I had to sum up Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount in two words, it would be these: Be kind. This is a message that our modern society desperately needs. And importantly, the message is not qualified. Jesus’ words are not “Be kind, except to certain people.” No, his message is simple: Be kind.

This great message — straight from Jesus’ mouth — is one that is not heard often enough in American churches.

Follow Michael Shammas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelshammas9

Stuff That Needs to be Said

I stumbled upon a fascinating blog tonight, after following a link on Facebook. I’d like to introduce you to John Pavlovitz. John writes a blog called, “Stuff That Needs to be Said.” He’s right. This stuff does need to be said. And he says it well.

Here are links to a few of John’s posts:

Yes, I’m a Christian—But I’m Not With Them

The Christians Who Defunded Jesus

The Christians Making Atheists

Christians Need to Stop Saying “The Bible Clearly Says”

No, Christian—People are Not “Struggling With Same-Sex Attraction”

Stand with Christians in Sudan

The Voice of the Martyrs supports front-line workers in Sudan and around the world who sacrifice their own safety and comfort for the sake of sharing Jesus’ love among the persecuted.

In addition to supporting front-line workers, VOM also provides Bibles, medical aid, Action Packs and Family Med Packs to persecuted Christians in Sudan.

During the month of July, we invite you to make a special contribution to help support Sudanese Christians, who remain faithful despite persecution by a government that hates them in part because of their love for Jesus. Take this opportunity to stand with Christians in Sudan, and please pray for God’s protection and blessings on them.

Help Christians in Sudan

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Democrats and Vanilla Centrism

2017-07-12 latimes.com
Opinion

Democrats are doubling down on the same vanilla centrism that helped give us President Trump

Last Friday evening, a diverse crowd gathered in an airless Los Angeles church for a Democratic National Committee “Resistance Summer” rally. The plan was simple: to invigorate the base with speeches, then run a phone bank to oppose the Republican healthcare bill.

Instead, Democratic Party officials quickly lost control of the event.

Less than five minutes into DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison’s introductory remarks, a group of people stood up and chanted vehemently, “Single payer now!” They unfurled a banner across an entire pew, and heckled the speakers so freely that an older woman made the sign of the cross, as if warding off their revolutionary spirits, and said, “Shame on you.” Ellison’s remarks about party unification were nearly inaudible because two attendees were standing and screaming at each other. California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman simply stopped speaking. Halfway through the rally, two-dozen single-payer healthcare demonstrators — a fifth of the attendees — walked out, using a bullhorn to stage their own press conference on the sidewalk nearby.

Once again, the Democratic Party found itself unprepared to respond to its vocal left flank. Democratic Party handlers poked the demonstrators and begged them to sit, but the five-member security detail on hand stood at the back of the church, hands clasped. Their decision not to expel or otherwise silence the demonstrators was the right one.

Single-payer demonstrators weren’t the only attendees who hungered for the party to shift to the left. Those who demonstrated represented a variety of movements and political ideologies. One was a registered Democrat with the #RecallRendon movement, which has sought to push California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) out of office since he shelved Senate Bill 562, the state’s single-payer bill, in June. Another was a political independent with Our Revolution, a movement that seeks to continue the goals of Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy. Another was a self-described “revolutionary communist” with ResistFascism.org. And yet these demonstrators, who had organized themselves on Facebook, had a clear, singular message that dominated the event.

The Democratic Party speakers, who rhetorically wandered through a variety of issues, including women’s rights and the 1st Amendment, did not.

Many party speakers noted, in response to the demonstrators, that they’d been vocal supporters of single-payer healthcare, and in some cases had co-sponsored bills to enact it. But they were ad-libbing on the defensive, instead of setting the agenda for their own meeting, or sharing a vision for how to make a unified push for single-payer healthcare. Demonstrators didn’t come to see legislators talk about their collective helplessness — they wanted a plan of action.

The event came on the heels of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s decision to release a series of slogans that sunk like a lead balloon with many in the base. While none were particularly inspired, one rankled the most: “Democrats 2018: I mean, have you seen the other guys?” The slogan made it abundantly clear that, after a bruising loss in November, Democrats wouldn’t be presenting new ideas or deeply examining their policy stances. Instead, they were doubling down on a visionless strategy of vanilla centrism, selling themselves as better than the worst dude.

Single-payer demonstrators weren’t the only attendees who hungered for the party to shift to the left. Polo Morales, a 40-year-old immigration advocate from Whittier, noted that the event platform said nothing about immigration — at a rally in a state with the United States’ largest immigrant population. Morales said that if the Democratic Party tries to swing to the center to win in 2018 without examining the root causes of its previous failures, then it’s going to have a “really difficult time” turning out the vote.

In an interview after the event, Ellison, who has supported single-payer healthcare, noted “social justice is often achieved through disruption. So that’s why I’m not out of joint about how the meeting went.”

Ellison said Democrats don’t need to go to the left, right or center; they need to go down, to the nail shops on the block, the college campuses and the union halls.

But while rhetorically compelling, Ellison’s argument is a straw man. No progressives or leftists I’ve met see their vision as incompatible with grassroots organizing.

Ellison says he’s keen on rebuilding trust between the Democratic Party and those it represents. “Look, how do you build a trust relationship?” Ellison asked. “You listen to me, I listen to you. When you count on me, when you call on me, you can count on me. But what have we had with the Democratic Party? Sometime around election time we call you and ask you to vote for us. Maybe we ask you for money and then you don’t see us again until we need more votes and more money.” One of the goals of the Resistance Summer events is to put the party in contact with the people it represents outside of an election year — a good and necessary idea.

So why wouldn’t Democrats, who could have easily seen these demonstrators were counter-organizing before the event, anticipate the concerns of the room and begin by directly addressing the single-payer advocates? The most radical course of action articulated that evening was to impeach Trump and put Vice President Mike Pence in office, a message that felt terribly lackluster for a crisis moment — that “better than the worst dude” vision again.

Demonstrators, on the other hand, came with a compelling vision — which made the Democratic Party’s pressing need for one all the more obvious.

Melissa Batchelor Warnke is a contributing writer to Opinion. Follow her @velvetmelvis on Twitter.

Copyright (c) 2017 Los Angeles Times



Are you interested in learning more about a growing, grass roots party that includes single payer health care as a central plank in its platform? Check out gp.org.

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The Cakeshop Case: A New Perspective

What follows is an excerpt of a very well written piece that centers on the Cakeshop case, soon to be decided by the Supreme Court. Here’s a completely different scenario given a class of college students, that takes “gay” out of the equation.

Suppose, I asked the students, an observant Jew has a florist shop. One day, a customer, who is also Jewish, comes to the shop to say she’s getting married and would like the florist to do the wedding. “That’s wonderful,” the florist says. “Where will you get married?” The customer replies that the wedding will be at a local nondenominational church, because her fiancé is Christian, and she, the customer, isn’t very observant. The florist thinks about it and then says, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t do your wedding. It’s nothing personal; I’m sure your fiancé is a fine person, as are you. It’s just that as an observant Jew I don’t approve of interfaith weddings. For our community to survive, we must avoid intermarriage and assimilation. Please understand. There are many other florists who can do your wedding. I’ll even suggest some. But I can’t, in good conscience, participate, myself.” What result?

Read the full article by Mark L. Movsesian here. There is a good comment section following the article.

World Community Grid

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As a World Community Grid volunteer, your device does research calculations when it’s idle, so just by using it as you do every day, you can help scientists get results in months instead of decades. With your help, they can identify the most important areas to study in the lab, bringing them one step closer to discoveries that save lives and address global problems.

It won’t slow you down. Our software monitors your device’s performance, so whatever you are doing on your device, it stays out of the way.

World Community Grid supports research that tackles our planet’s most pressing challenges, including environmental issues. That’s why we’re pleased to announce a new partnership with The Weather Company (an IBM business) and IBM Cloud to provide free technology and data for environmental and climate change projects.

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First Friday Donations to the Green Party

We’re taking our Green Party message straight to the voters. But for that, we need your help. How? By becoming a sustainer.

Sustainers are activists just like you who make a monthly financial commitment to the party. It’s easy. Just sign up and we debit your pledge automatically from your debit or credit card. (Or make a one time donation here.)

Your donations matter, they make a difference. Our positions on the environment, opposing income inequality, racism, student debt, and police brutality … are now mainstream positions.

This means – our message is sinking in and people need leadership to organize for change!

To donate by check, make your check out to “Green Party of the United States” and mail it to:

The Green Party of the United States
PO Box 75075
Washington, DC 20013

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