Christianity and Politics

FOR DECADES, the GOP has claimed to have the high moral ground, waving the Bible and painting itself the party of God. Their message in a nutshell:

WE are the party of Christianity and Judaism. WE are the “moral majority.”  All others not with us are to be feared and despised as immoral, evil, Godless baby-killers, not to be listened to, trusted, or heeded. WE are perfect, righteous, never in the wrong, and must take all power away from them; that is the only way America can be restored to its moral decency–decency which has been lost, all because of THEM.

Let’s look to the book so frequently cited to justify the GOP’s claim to moral superiority. In St. Paul’s second letter to the young church at Corinth, which in those early days was not getting it quite right and needed correction, Paul identifies seven “marks” or “signs” of true apostles of Christ. Let’s examine these seven qualities and see which party today most closely mirrors the ideals set forth by St. Paul, who himself met the risen Christ, personally, on the road to Damascus.

The first sign of a true apostle is the ability to endure discomfort gracefully. A rare but beautiful quality, true leaders embrace persecution, even “take pleasure” and “rejoice” when reproached, persecuted, and thrust into need for the sake of God or for others, St. Paul writes. For they know God lives within them. The lure of comfort is very powerful. That’s why Christ said it is difficult for the wealthy to get into heaven; it is rare for a rich person to part with his comforts. Mr. Romney, with his 7,000 square foot home and riches beyond comprehension, holds to his luxuries so tightly he cannot even bring himself to endure the discomfort of public scrutiny of his tax records. By contrast, Mr. Obama has faced public humiliation by the GOP,  disrespectful boo’ing and hissing and spreading of lies about him. He has been falsely accused of everything from forging his birth certificate to plotting to turn the U.S. into a communist state to being a Muslim.  His achievements have been met with criticism and disdain, credit withheld for anything done right. Yet he has remained, for the most part, gracious and humble, not returning the personal attacks, and, as best he could, laughing them off.

The second mark is humility — consciousness of one’s own “nothingness,” one’s frailty and vulnerability. Humility is attained through having endured, repeatedly, deprivation, exhaustion, danger and near death experiences, which strip away self, revealing that true strength comes from God. The most humble leader in the GOP in recent years is John McCain. Draft dodging, insulated rich folks like Mr. Romney have not tested their mettle in the way of suffering. War, of course, is not the only way to suffer and possibly find God. Mr. Romney was invited by Catholic nuns to come and serve the poor with them, so he could feel what it was like. He declined. Living in and near poverty, seeing, caring for those less fortunate, and suffering intense hatred of others, as Mr. Obama has all done, is another test of humility. To truly play the blues you have live the blues. Mr. Obama has been there, done that.  Mr. Romney, not so much.

The third sign is personal constancy, tenacity, patience, and perseverance, in the face of all kinds of difficulties. Mr. Romney is one of the least constant leaders to ascend the GOP ranks in recent history. His record is one of shifting positions to suit his needs — a series of 180 degree turns in core values, from supporting and then denying support for his own state health care system, to his turn from pro- to anti-choice. Mr. Obama by contrast has been consistent in his values of caring for others throughout his career, and any compromises he made, such as with the health care industry in drafting reform legislation, were done in promotion of those values.

The fourth sign of a true apostle is a spirit of non-materialism. They work without thought of pay or reward,  “very gladly spend and care,” become “spent up” for other people.  While Mr. Romney has been generous in his tithing, his career focus and the focus in the GOP on supporting corporations and tax policies that favor profit over the health and lives of people, acquisition of vast quantities of personal rather than public wealth, evading taxes by moving accounts offshore, and love of luxury, all clearly have a materialistic spirit. In making his tax records pubic, Mr. Obama has revealed no excessive pre-occupation with materialism, and often speaks of the best things in life being the love of his family — not his possessions. Democratic initiatives have always put people above profit.

The fifth sign is sacrifice. True Christians, St. Paul said, act like parents who sacrifice, who go without in order that they may “lay up for their children.” The GOP and Mr. Romney embrace and encourage their ranks to display stubborn unwillingness to sacrifice any tax dollars, even to take care of injured war veterans, hungry children, students, or to care for the elderly and disabled. Which is not surprising since they are avowed followers of the money-worshipping, anti-Christian Ayn Rand. Their hearts are clearly with their ample treasures. This is antithetical to God’s commandments. Mr. Obama and the Democrats, by contrast, support shared sacrifice of all.

The sixth mark of a true apostle is love.  Love is the bottom line in all things, St. Paul says. You can tithe, you can heal people, you do all of the above, but without the spirit of love, it means nothing. God loves a cheerful giver. God loves those who are compassionate and desire to alleviate the suffering of others. God loves those who hate sin, but who still love the sinner no matter what. The biggest display of love, of course, is the willingness to lay down one’s life.  Draft dodging aside, for the sake of love of money over people, the GOP and Mr. Romney display no love in their willingness to harm the economy, to take our country to the brink of financial ruin, and to cut vital services to the poor even if it will result in peoples’ additional misery and even death–all for the sake of defeating the president. Mr. Obama, by contrast, has prioritized in line with St. Paul, putting peoples’ lives and health first, then livelihoods, and then wealth. For this reason, health care was reformed in a way that would not only save money, but lives. And already, the fledgling Obamacare has done so.

The seventh sign of a true apostle is edification. He leads for the sake of building up his followers, particularly their moral character. Mr. Obama, as the quintessential role model of father and husband to young men of all colors, leads by example, demonstrating all of the foregoing qualities. Unlike a “hireling,” said St. Paul, a true father “does not own the sheep,” leaving them when his shift is up, to go party. He “neither flees nor abandons the flock” but cares for them and their development. Yet the hoards of Republicans erupted into cheers of approval when Clint Eastwood told them “you own America.” Mr. Eastwood followed up saying, we all own America, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. But his clarifying statement was lost on the crowd, who cheered themselves silly as righteous “owners” seeking to maximize their profits.  I don’t think righteous means what they think it means.

The message repeated throughout the Bible: we are to strive to learn, act, and become like God, do as He did. We are to look upon ourselves as servants, serving others, as He did. We are not to act as owners, but as loving brothers and sisters, as He did. We are not to be owned, for we are His children, not His servants. Most important of all, we are to love each other, as He did.

By the standards of St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, one party has lost the moral high ground. Despite its sins, which He said we are not to judge, the party today that is acting, behaving, leading and standing most clearly in league with Christ God, according to St. Paul, is President Obama and the Democratic party.

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