Rather than understanding Jesus to say the rich have sold their souls to Satan and won’t be going to heaven, Kaloogian has decided that opposing income inequality is just plain old “covetousness”:
I think it’s very important that churches get involved and that Christians follow the dictates of biblical principles in casting their vote. I think it’s clear that God has a position on many of the things we deem political today, from life to theft to the doctrine of covetousness, which by the way seems to be the promotion of the left. You know, they talk about ‘income inequality,’ well what is that but covetousness? So how could somebody support that cause if they’re biblical believing Christians?
How could somebody support that cause? Oh, I don’t know…how about by heeding the words of Jesus?
This is a very unusual claim for an alleged Christian to make in light of Jesus’ message. You have to wonder if these Tea Party leaders have actually picked up a Bible, let alone opened it. Or maybe they are not aware of an impoverished first century Galilean preacher named Jesus.
Jesus had a simple message: he told a rich man to sell all he had “and give to the poor” in order “to have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21). He told his disciples “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” and that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23-24; Mark 10:25).
If you read what Jesus had to say during his sermon on the Mount, the so-called Beatitudes, you will see that here too he praised the poor and condemned the rich. For example, he says “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” and “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled” (Luke 6:20-21). He also told the crowd, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).
Jesus believed that when the kingdom of God arrived, those in power would be overthrown. Thus the “first shall be last and the last first” – those in power now – and this would, if necessity, include the rich champions and backers of the Tea Party – shall be, in the words of Bart Ehrman, “displaced at the end of this age by those who are underneath them.”
As Jesus says at Mark 9:35, “If anyone wishes to be first, he will be last of all and the servant of all” and “the one who wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all (Mark 10:44).
Is this covetousness? No. It is justice.
As Jesus also says, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and those who are humble will be exalted (Luke 18:14; Matt. 23:12). And we are seeing a whole lotta self-exaltation on the right about election time every year. To a man (and woman) they insist God told them to run.
Are we supposed to believe Jesus really did not mean what he said, that like the Tea Party, he despised the poor and loved the rich?
Scholar Geza Vermes calls the Beatitudes Jesus’ “manifesto…addressed to those who wished to embark with him on his great eschatological mission. Those who accepted the conditions described in the Beatitudes, and possessed the appropriate virtues, were promised access to the final bliss.”
Instead of accepting these very simple and very easy to understand conditions, we have the Tea Party working against Jesus – directly contradicting him, in fact. Scarborough himself preached that if the Tea Party did its part by championing the rich, that God will intervene to save America!:
If we do our part then I’m confident that the God of Heaven will intervene. This country has been on the brink of complete disaster and collapse in several occasions in our national history. During the Roaring Twenties, socially this country was on the brink and deserved judgment; go back during the pre-Civil War era when we were buying and selling human beings, we deserved God’s judgment. But there was always a thread of Christians active in politics who didn’t lose sight of the prize and did what they could and God intervened, and that’s what I pray for and work for in this latter period of our national history. No matter what we do, if God doesn’t intervene the country is lost. But I know this, all the prayers in the world won’t change this country and God’s not going to act if those of us who I call the remnant don’t get involved, pay the price, like you’re doing, so I encourage you to continue doing that.
As should be obvious from Jesus’ words, the wealthy, unless they sell what they have and give it to the poor, are not going along for the ride. This is opposite to the message preached by TPU leader Scarborough, who insists Jesus favors the wealthy over the poor, who, after all, are only being covetous.
But the message of Jesus has nothing to do with covetousness. It has everything to do with Jesus’ belief that the rich had sold out to the powers of darkness that rule this age, in order to get their wealth. Their only hope is to shed their wealth and thus the influence of Satan.
Perhaps, because conservatives seem to have an allergic reaction to the gospels, we should close by looking at the Epistle of James, because through the centuries, many Christians have assumed that James was written by the brother of Jesus. This is what James had to say to the 1 percent of his age:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty (James 5:1-4).
If ever there was a call to champion the poor, this is it. It doesn’t get any more unequivocal than the 1 percent having their flesh eaten like fire because of their treatment of the workers.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.