Tea Party Jesus

Have you heard of the Tea Party Movement? If you’re into American politics (probably thanks to the West Wing) you probably have some idea what’s going on over there. I haven’t blogged much about politics for a while, and don’t really intend to now. There’s no election on. But there’s this odd moving of the deck chairs in American politics because the so called “religious right” is such a strong voting bloc. The Tea Party Movement doesn’t really seem to know what it is yet – or what it will do come election time – but they’ve been cosying up to the likes of Focus on the Family in order to lock up God’s vote. Because apparently God cares if you like health care or not…

Anyway, atheists understanably don’t like this, and if there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s pointing out hypocrisy in the lives of believers.

So, I give you, Tea Party Jesus – a site that brings quotes from Tea Party Members (usually prominent) together with pictures of Jesus to remind us why it’s a bad idea not to bring Jesus into the political realm as though he’s endorsing your position… Here’s a quote from right wing pundit Ann Coulter.

And one from Glenn Beck

And Bill O’Reilly

And lest you think I’m just picking out right wing shock jocks – here’s one from James Dobson (I kind of see where he’s going with this one, I just think he takes it a step too far).

If you’re going to claim to speak for Jesus you want to make sure that what you’re saying is consistent with what he said and how he lived. There are plenty of things that many of us, as Christians, say that would look equally preposterous – but we’re not there asking you to vote for me, or with me, on the basis that God would.

This is something all those of a political persuasion should learn. (I’m looking at you Tony Abbott – seriously, who could argue that Jesus would not show compassion and love to desperate boat people on the basis that he drove money lenders from the temple).

“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

There are myriad ways that this statement does not work. What about the biblical injunctions to care for the poor? The widows? The orphans? Andrew has a good post about a better response to asylum seekers here.

Here’s a better statement.

“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

For those playing at home – here’s how Jesus spells out how we’re to care for those crying out for help in Matthew 25…

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


Lee Shelton says:

The "Teat Party" movement began more or less as a libertarian backlash against the U.S. government's continuous assault on life, liberty, and property. So-called "Christians" have latched onto it as a convenient way to voice their (disingenuous) disagreement with President Obama. Their hypocrisy can be seen in the way they talk about smaller government and defending freedom, but always end up supporting big-spending warmongers who are just as bad as the "liberals" they hate. It's sad that what began as a pro-liberty movement is being hijacked by the likes of Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc.

On the passage in Matthew 25, while it is a call to help the needy, I do think it should be noted that Jesus was speaking about the treatment of believers (i.e. "brothers of mine"). It isn't the compassion of the sheep that makes them righteous; their good deeds are evidence of how their lives have been transformed by the words and works of Christ.
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Nathan says:

Hi Lee,

Thanks for your insight on the political front – I had been wondering about the correlation between the tea party and libertarians. From the other side of the world looking in it looks like the Tea Party Movement is just about whatever disenfranchised GOP members want it to be. I saw a lady on Letterman talking about it, he was nice to her right up until the final five minutes when he started asking about anti-Obama conspiracy theories…

On the Matthew 25 front – I think part of the point of the passage is that we'll never know who the "brothers" are. I don't think our job is to ask "are you my brother" before dispensing love. I think your view on good deeds is similar to what I was trying to get at with my post on righteousness last week. I do think there's an "imperative" in the instructions to do the right thing (but that this is only possible with the Spirit) I might be wrong – would be interested to hear your thoughts on this further…
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