Jesus is for sale; everywhere in America, in every community, in newspapers, television, radio and Internet. Fundamentalist Christians are selling their version of an illiterate first century Galilean peasant to anyone who’ll buy but they seem no more interested in his life and teachings than Paul of Tarsus. All that matters is that he’s dead. Hail to the king, baby. The king is dead. Love live the king.
The question “What would Jesus say?” comes immediately to mind. Dead celebrities sell, but Jesus could not have expected the media blitz that followed, or how valuable a commodity he would become. Hollywood has never pushed a hot sexpot starlet like the fundamentalists push Jesus. Try him, you’ll like him!
Granted, Jesus was friendly with prostitutes but I doubt he expected to be made one himself, and that is exactly what he has become for fundamentalist pastors, pundits, and tax exempt organizations across the country. The question seems not to be “What would Jesus say?” but rather “How much can we get for him?”
Demonstrably, it’s not all that important anymore what Jesus actually said or thought. When was the last time you heard any of these talking heads mention the beatitudes? Probably not recently; love and compassion don’t sell in modern fundamentalism.
When was the last time you heard a fundamentalist say, “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44)?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
No sir, today’s “Classical” Christians prefer Old Testament style hate.
But they only love their neighbor if they’re Christians like themselves. And if you can pay. After all, when a Tennessee family’s home caught fire Bryan Fischer said the firemen who let the house burn because the family hadn’t paid the required $75 fee, had done the Christian thing:
The fire department did the right and Christian thing. The right thing, by the way, is also the Christian thing, because there can be no difference between the two. The right thing to do will always be the Christian thing to do, and the Christian thing to do will always be the right thing to do.
The Christian thing being, apparently, the money thing.
Or “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39)?
“But I sat to you, Do not resist an evildoer.But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
Jesus put aside the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” He not only told his followers to not retaliate but to not resist: “Do not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:38).
And the fundamentalist answer for both real and imagined persecution is to do what? Retaliate. They form “defense” or “anti-defamation” leagues which fight imagined defamation by…defaming. Polemics, not love and cheek-turning, are the order of the day. It’s as though fundamentalism has collectively said to Jesus, “Talk to the hand!”
What would Jesus say? One thing is certain: not what fundamentalists are saying. “Classical” Christianity seems to have lost Jesus. They cry at every opportunity about a war on Christianity or Christmas, about secularists taking Jesus out of Christmas, but it’s the fundamentalists themselves who have thrown Jesus under the bus. And they’ve taken him not only out of Christmas but out of the religion named after him.
They don’t want to love the prophets of Baal. They don’t want to forgive them. They don’t want to turn the other cheek. They want to kill them like Elijah did (1 Kings 18:40):
Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there”
This doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do, does it?
There is a lot of hate though; no shortage of that. And Jesus is being used to sell this hate. The problem is, the people beating us over the head with Jesus aren’t citing Jesus’ words but those of the Old Testament YHWH who prefers hate to love.
And those selling Jesus are profiting mightily – and not just the leaders of the so-called prosperity theology, but people like Bryan Fischer, Matt Barber, Tony Perkins, Cindy Jacobs, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and others. They all want to get paid and paid well. They want to sell books. They’re not living the life of the “true” classical Christian preachers of the first century like Paul of Tarsus who lived off the charity of his congregations. Paul didn’t drive a fancy chariot or ride in a litter. He walked.
Yes, the fundamentalists are pimping Paul too.
And that’s what the leaders of the religious right are: pimps.
And why are they so anxious for money? Sure, they can cite some scriptural passages:
- Malachi 3:10 – “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
- Deuteronomy 8:18 – “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today”
- John 10: 10 – “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
- 3 John 2 – “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.”
Malachi speaks of a tithe. Today people tithe with checks or cash. But in ancient Israel the tithing was done in kind, that is in the fruits of one’s crops. God is talking about putting food, not money in his house. Deuteronomy talks about the power to get wealth, not the need or necessity and the point here that fundamentalists are missing is that if it is God who bestows wealth then the wealthy are accountable to God in how they go about using that wealth. And keep in mind that neither NT passage actually mentions wealth. Abundant life does not automatically infer wealth; neither does “all going well with you.”
But when did Christianity come to be about earthly wealth? Was that what Jesus preached? What did Jesus say about rich people? When a rich man asked Jesus how he could go to heaven Jesus told him to follow the commandments and added (Mark 10:21-25; Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30),
“You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Who was the last fundamentalist leader to give all his possessions to the poor? Jesus owned a robe and a pair of sandals. These people seem more like Hollywood celebrities. They have nothing in common with the old hymn’s “gentle Jesus meek and mild.”
The simple truth is this: fundamentalists do not adhere to the fundamental teachings of Jesus. They have abandoned the poor by aligning themselves with the interests of the ultra rich, and taken the side of the corporate elite rather than the working class. Yet it is Jesus they claim to be selling.
Not only are they running a prostitution ring, but a bait and switch; if you buy Jesus hoping for some love, compassion and forgiveness, what you get instead is Old Testament hate, judgment, and vindictiveness. Jesus has become as voiceless as the prostitutes he befriended.So much for a good time. So much for Jesus.