Opinion: The rebellious roots of Jesus Christ have long been forgotten by the Western Christian right
Michael Coren is the author of 17 books, including his new The rebellious Christ.
Earlier this month, Sunday Gospel reading in Anglican and Roman Catholic churches around the world was known even to atheists: âIt is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a camel. someone rich to enter the kingdom. of God.”
There is a context to that, of course – as there always is, with any ancient scripture – but at its heart is the essence of Jesus. He was the son of a 1st century Jewish carpenter, living in an occupied land as a friend of the marginalized, the rejected and the poor, criticizing as he so often did the powerful, the legalists and the materialists. It is a line that is part of his larger preaching on community and human equality, with entirely revolutionary demands.
In short, he was the rebellious Christ.
This might come as a surprise to those who rightly take the coalition of conservatism and Christianity for granted, especially in North America. Whether it is the evangelical influence on the Republican Party in the United States, the enduring power of the anti-abortion lobby, or the recent rise of the People’s Party here in Canada, conservative Christians have taken an organized place in the world. body politic. And politicians have certainly understood this; Donald Trump, for example, turned into a strident social conservative to run for office. This cowardly conversion on the road to Washington, DC did not convince the entire Christian right, but there were enough who were more than willing to ignore Mr. Trump’s cynicism if he supported the policies they favored. .
But this phenomenon is relatively recent. It was only in the 1960s, and the emergence of a more open and liberated society, that many evangelicals united politically. It was in reaction and resistance to what they saw as moral decay, but was seen, by most others, as reasonable progress. Even the most moderate members of various Baptist, Pentecostal, and many independent churches are still deeply suspicious of anything considered secular or liberal.
The right wing of Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, came into action in the 1970s with the Roe v. Wade in the United States or similar reproductive rights provisions in Canada. Opposition to abortion is still at the heart of mainstream Catholicism, so it hasn’t been difficult to mobilize a traditionalist wave of Catholic media, activists and politicians and form alliances with estranged Protestant brethren.
With abortion came the struggle against LGBTQ equality, and an obsession with the duck of increasing state control over religious freedom. We have seen this recently, in opposition to the Canadian government’s Bill C-6 to ban so-called âconversion therapy,â which is considered by the International Forensic Expert Group to be torture; most Conservative MPs voted against the bill, saying it would undermine religious freedom and prevent pastors from counseling people. I am an Anglican priest and I can assure you: this is total nonsense.
But a convincing argument doesn’t help in our current dictatorship of the irrational. The classic definition of theology as “understanding seeking faith” is crucial to any mature belief in God, but there has not been enough in the Christian right. The anti-vaccination, anti-mask and anti-pandemic movement, for example, is steeped in conservative Christianity. Watch the protests, read their media platforms, and see how fundamentalist churches, especially in the United States, have acted through it all. Vaccinations are, according to many, developed from fetal stem cells or are the biblical mark of the beast; COVID-19, others say, is a state-invented hoax designed to reduce and control the population. These ridiculous claims have no basis in the tenets of Christian orthodoxy and have influenced public policy, resulting in further infections and deaths. Politicians may not always be convinced by logic, but they can certainly be convinced by the number of votes in prospect.
Basically, the contemporary Christian right considers that much of what is outside of its world is untrustworthy. They are the “remnant”, “the faithful church”, with a mission ordered by God – which explains their energy and commitment, as well as their tunnel vision.
That Jesus never said a word about abortion or homosexuality, and lived a somewhat socialist lifestyle, doesn’t seem to matter. It hasn’t been about the gospels for a long time. The Christian right has engaged and amplified a literal and selective reading of the Hebrew Scriptures and some of Saint Paul’s letters in a way that would likely dismay those who wrote them.
Unfortunately, that kind of thinking doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Western societies are increasingly polarized and absolutist responses, even when they may seem hysterical, are always appealing. And so, if the Christian right today continues to reject the story of Jesus as a rebel, history can still show us what kind of darkness can arise when narrow minds become entrenched.
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