Do You Want to be Made Well?

Jesus - Do You Want To Be Made WellNow in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a very long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (John 5:2-7)

The poor man had been ill for 38 years. He obviously had some kind of paralysis. Hebrew tradition has it that every once in awhile an angel would descend from heaven and stir up the waters. The first person to make it into the waters before they stopped churning would be healed.

From time to time this man would have someone bring him on a mat to lie by the Sheep Gate, and maybe because he was leprous or possibly had a contagious disease, there was nobody who wanted to be around to help him be the first one in the water. Or maybe the temple authorities were just too busy with their religious duties to help him. Then Jesus came along, and well, he healed the man and the rest of the story is there for you to read.

When I think about this passage I’m immediately reminded of the Conservative Christian attitude towards universal heath care. Millions of people are finding that their insurance won’t cover certain illnesses. Millions more can’t afford insurance at all. Children and the elderly are hit the hardest, two particular stages of life when lack of adequate and quality health care can be a traumatic blow.

Yet Republicans and conservative Christians believe that we should not bother helping the poor man get into the pool before everyone else so that he can be healed. As a matter of fact, don’t help any of them in because they all don’t deserve it. “How did they end up there in the first place?” Like Pharaoh said of the Israeli  slaves, “They must be idle. Give them more work to do.”

Aside from important church state issues, I don’t understand how the Right can refer to our country as “Christian.” We spent trillions of dollars on two wars that were initiated on lies. After being bailed out, CEOs from our largest mega corporations continue to make 300 times more than their average employees. The rich still get richer, the middle class is disappearing, and the poor get poorer.

Yet television evangelists continue to ask people to send money in to their “ministries,” and while we have the greatest medical technology on the face of the earth the Right complains about who will foot the bill for universal health care.

When their Savior loved them so much he died on a cross for them, and while he was here on earth with no strings attached healed and fed hurting and hungry people, I am continually amazed that people of a “Christian” nation would so tenaciously cling to the Social Darwinist “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” philosophy.

I sincerely don’t believe that the Christian Right’s fear of government is so deeply entrenched that they won’t even consider that same government providing health care for its citizens.  I think it boils down to fear and greed masquerading as a pseudo morality. Why else could the late Jerry Falwell confide to his congregation that he likes what Rush Limbaugh has to say, when Limbaugh is a man who constantly maligns the homeless as people who deserve what they get. Why else would a rich politician named Michele Bachmann call herself a Christian and have town hall meetings advocating the denial of universal health care to our poorest because she thinks it will lead to “socialism?” And how else could the “Reverend” Pat Robertson call natural disasters punishment for those who are sick, have lost family members, or have lost their homes?

These are the religious people of Jesus’ day here on earth who would not have helped the lame man get into the pool as the waters churned. Their civil self-help religion would tell them to pass the man by because chances are that he did something evil to deserve his condition, and besides, he can get a job and work so that he can afford insurance.

We have an opportunity through our government  to stop and help and not pass by the lame man; To help one another carry him in to the waters when the angel descends to stir them up; To get him back on his feet and praise the Lord, because god can do miracles through government too.

So if conservatives really believe they are followers of Christ, if we ourselves really believe that we are so, then we should all keep protesting and pushing for universal health care. I’m not talking about reform. Chances are that today’s insurance industry would have denied coverage to the lame man at the Sheep gate because of the preexisting condition of “invalidism,” and despite Obama’s reform, they would hire the best lawyers to locate loopholes for denial of coverage. We need to bypass the insurance industry altogether. It is rich enough for it’s employees to be well remunerated until they find other jobs to do.

Shout it from the house tops that free universal health care is a God given right for every man woman and child. That God is not so lacking in omniscience that he can’t use government to help us. If he used the state of the art highway system and government structure of the Roman occupation to advance the gospel and spread civilization in the first century, then today he can use our modern “secular” government to help us with our health care and provide us with coverage. After all, this is a big part of the good news, or gospel. The lame man at the Sheep gate shouldn’t have had to wait 38 years for someone to come along and help him. Neither should we.

By Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

WWJD? How About… What Did Jesus Do?

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“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous

[ Re-posted excerpts from TheChristianLeft.org ]

“Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question WWJD?– What would Jesus do? I’d like to remind them what Jesus DID do: He cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ — the lowlifes and outcasts of his day, while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who, from a place of privilege, imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading. He told his disciples not to oppose the healing work of those outside the ranks of his followers. And again and again he reminded us to care for the poor. (That moral issue gets more air time than any other in the gospels: 1 verse in 9.) If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think we’d find some pretty clear indications there about what Jesus would do … and what he wouldn’t. (One of the few bumper stickers I’ve been tempted to affix to my still undecorated car in recent months reads ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’)

 Whatever Jesus would do, given what he did do, and has promised he will do, I don’t think it looks much like what the insulated, self-congratulatory Fox News fans on the ‘Christian Right’ are doing.”

[ Quote from Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Professor of English at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, from her article “A Voice from the Christian Left.” ]

For more commentary on this subject please visit this earlier blog of mine:

https://rationalopinionsblog.com/2013/12/29/right-wing-biblical-illiterates-would-be-shocked-by-jesus-teachings-if-they-ever-picked-up-a-bible/

Right-wing biblical illiterates would be shocked by Jesus’ teachings …if they ever picked up a Bible

Jesus Statue

[ Re-Posted from The Raw Story | By CJ Werleman, Alternet,  December 29, 2013 ]

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defended the Republican Party’s spending cuts for SNAP by effectively declaring Jesus would not support food stamps for the poor because most them are drug addicts. If his insensitive remark is inconsistent with Scripture, which it is, then the question becomes why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support?

The answer is simple: Conservatives have not read the Bible.

The Right has successfully rebranded the brown-skinned liberal Jew, who gave away free healthcare and was pro-redistributing wealth, into a white-skinned, trickledown, union-busting conservative, for the very fact that an overwhelming number of Americans are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible. On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of the context or true meaning. It’s surprising how little Christians know of what is still the most popular book to ever grace the American continent.

More than 95 percent of U.S. households own at least one copy of the Bible. So how much do Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true? Apparently, very little, according to data from the Barna Research group. Surveys show that 60 percent can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A Gallup poll shows 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse.

So, if Americans get an F in the basic fundamentals of the Bible, what hope do they have in knowing what Jesus would say about labor unions, taxes on the rich, universal healthcare, and food stamps? It becomes easy to spread a lie when no one knows what the truth is.

The truth, whether Republicans like it or not, is not only that Jesus a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors, but conservatives were the ones who had him killed. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus into a muscular masculine warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did, as a means of combating what they see as the modernization of society.

Author Thom Hartmann writes, “A significant impetus behind the assault on women and modernity was the feeling that women had encroached upon traditional male spheres like the workplace and colleges. Furthermore, women’s leadership in the churches had harmed Christianity by creating an effeminate clergy and a weak sense of self. All of this was associated with liberalism, feminism, women, and modernity.”

It’s almost absurd to speculate what Jesus’ positions would be on any single issue, given we know so little about who Jesus was. Knowing the New Testament is not simply a matter of reading the Bible cover to cover, or memorizing a handful of verses. Knowing the Bible requires a scholarly contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation.

For instance, when Republicans were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program, they quoted 2 Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not. This was taken from a letter written by Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that if they didn’t help build the church in Thessalonica, they wouldn’t be paid. The letter also happens to be a fraud. Surprise! Biblical scholars agree it’s a forgery written by someone pretending to be Paul.

What often comes as a surprise to your average Sunday wine-and-cracker Christian is the New Testament did not fall from the sky the day Jesus’ ghost is said to have ascended to Heaven. The New Testament is a collection of writings, 27 in total, of which 12 are credited to the authorship of Paul, five to the Gospels (whomever wrote Luke also wrote Acts), and the balance remain open for debate i.e. authorship unknown. Jesus himself wrote not a single word of the New Testament. Not a single poem, much less an op-ed article on why, upon reflection, killing your daughter for backchat is probably not sound parenting.

The best argument against a historical Jesus is the fact that none of his disciples left us with a single record or document regarding Jesus or his teachings. So, who were the gospel writers? The short answer is we don’t know. What we do know is that not only had none of them met Jesus, but also they never met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. All we have is a bunch of campfire stories from people who were born generations after Jesus’ supposed crucifixion. In other words, numerous unidentified authors, each with his own theological and ideological motives for writing what they wrote. Thus we have not a single independently verifiable eyewitness account of Jesus—but this doesn’t stop Republicans from speaking on his behalf.

What we do know about Jesus, at least according to the respective gospels, is that Jesus’ sentiments closely echoed the social and economic policies of the political left. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount read like the mission statement of the ACLU: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Jesus also said, “Judge not he who shall not be judged,” and “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.”

So, when Republicans accuse Obama of being a brown-skinned socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth, they’re thinking of Jesus. Stephen Colbert joked, “Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor but never once did he call for a tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Romans.”

Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed the Republican Party to get away with shaping Jesus into their image. That’s why politicians on the right can get away with saying the Lord commands that our healthcare, prisons, schools, retirement, transport, and all the rest should be run by corporations for profit. Ironically, the Republican Jesus was actually a devout atheist—Ayn Rand—who called the Christian religion “monstrous.” Rand advocated selfishness over charity, and she divided the world into makers versus takers. She also stated that followers of her philosophy had to chose between Jesus and her teachings. When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for healthcare, education and the poor, they’re actually channeling Ayn Rand. When Bill O’Reilly claims the poor are immoral and lazy, that’s not Jesus, it’s Ayn Rand.

The price this country has paid for biblical illiteracy is measured by how far we’ve moved toward Ayn Rand’s utopia. In the past three decades, we’ve slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, destroyed labor unions, deregulated financial markets, eroded public safety nets, and committed to one globalist corporate free-trade agreement after another. Rand would be smiling down from the heaven she didn’t believe in.

With the far-right, Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Koch brothers’ Citizens United, the flow of billions of dollars from anonymous donors to the most reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party—the Christian Right—will continue to perpetuate the biblically incompatible, anti-government, pro-deregulation-of-business, anti-healthcare-for-all, Tea Party American version of Christianity.

Link

Pope Francis describes ‘ideological Christians’ as a ‘serious illness’ within the Church (via Raw Story )

Speaking at daily Mass last Thursday, Pope Francis warned Christians against turning their faith into a rigid ideology. “The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology,” he said, according to Radio Vatican. “And ideology…

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