by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?“
The “I Stand With God Pro-Family” political rally featuring Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, has upset political ministers of the left. They disagree with the politics and with the rally’s titular implication that so doing means they do not stand with God. It’s an understandable objection.
They write their rebuke in The News & Observer, do William Barber and Timothy Tyson, and do they seek to rebuke the rally for using Jesus for political partisanship and remind them of Jesus’ ultimate mission, the reason Jesus came down among us?
No, sadly. They do the former, but only to replace using Jesus for conservative political partisanship with … using Jesus for leftist political partisanship.
And then they fail their own test, to boot.
Instead Jesus’ first sermon placed Jesus firmly on the side of the poor. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he said, “because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus defined his purposes as to bring “good news to the poor” and “to let the oppressed go free.” That was how Jesus taught until the religious authorities and the sanctimonious mob crucified him.
That was it? That was all Jesus taught until he was crucified? (Set aside the context of the verse, where Jesus was quoting Isaiah 61 to fulfill prophecy and proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor,” grace and forgiveness of sins through belief in his death and resurrection, but stopping before “and the day of vengeance of our God” which is yet to come.)
This highly telescoped, politically whitewashed Jesus who only preached good news to the poor (what good news, exactly? “Good news! the government will give you Medicaid,” really?) is slightly different from Barber’s last highly telescoped, politically whitewashed Jesus. Remember that guy? “If Jesus didn’t do anything, he went about setting up free healthcare clinics.”
As the article states in rebuking the rally, “They need to open the Book and read instead of merely waving it in the service of partisan politics.”
In his final sermon, Jesus once again placed himself at the feet of the poor, the sick, the hungry and the prisoners, urging his followers to focus on the needs of those who are hurting. “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these who are members of my family,” Jesus declared, “you have done it unto me.” This is the heart of the Christian faith, but such concerns find no place at these “Stand With God Pro-Family” rallies, which instead appear to find that biblical values apply only to Republican hot-button issues.
Just to be clear, Barber and Tyson repeat that “focus on the needy among us” is “the heart of the Gospel.”
To be very clear, caring for the poor and needy is an extremely important part of the Christian life. But is it the heart, the very core, the fundamental part of the Gospel? Did Jesus die on the cross for caring for the poor and needy, or was there something more fundamental?
Is there any sense of that something in the article from the minister and visiting divinity professor?
Caring for the poor: Esse quam videri
OK, but what about caring for the poor? Let us examine that.
What immediately springs to mind is, why do they see Christian caring for the poor as a task for government? And to question that proposition is to risk opposing Jesus’ teaching or courting immorality?
Does a Christian’s duty for the poor begin and end with voting for politicians who promise to expand the welfare state, then passively paying taxes?
Even from that limited perspective, shouldn’t it matter that their desired policies fail miserably at actually making things better for the poor?
Can you spot when the government got involved in fighting poverty?
When Barber equated cutting taxes with “robbing Jesus,” I noted that growing government is “the movement’s true alpha and omega.” Despite professing to “care for the poor,” the movement: