A week before announcing his run for president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry drew 30,000 yahoos to a stadium in Houston for a day-long prayer marathon, attempting to lasso the primary votes of the Republican Party's redneck Christian sect. I don't understand why Perry felt the need to advertise himself to this crowd. He could bitch-slap Rick Warren and piss on a stack of Judds records and still be more appealing to them thanMitt Romney.
But Perry's tent revival/pre-campaign rally (dubbed "a call to prayer for a nation in crisis") did serve to point out that Jesus has been largely absent from the recession-era political discourse. It was just a few years ago that the Lamb of God personally put George W. Bush in the White House and blessed him as he lobbed cruise missiles into Iraqi villages. Economic malady has since displaced cultural wedge issues and apocalyptic-seeming conflict with Muslims as the top concern of the country. Conservatives have adapted and though their stances against taxes and government spending have been dogmatic and crusade-like, their recent rhetoric has been fairly free of God talk. (Lord, may I suggest smiting Fox News in retaliation?)
This is ironic because now that some of us are talking about tax structures and wealth redistribution, Jesus is actually relevant.
Before I go further, I should note that I am not and have never been a Christian. I read the New Testament twice, once for a college class and again to prepare for this column (with a highlighter, as you'll see later). I don't have much of a biblical background, but I do have clarity: I read Jesus' words without someone with an agenda guiding me through them and without skimming for clues about my own eternal salvation.
Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus say a word about euthanasia, evolution, stem-cell research, abortion, homosexuality or any of the other bullshit issues to which his holy name has been attached. He never asked a gay person to stop being gay, but he did tell a rich person to stop being rich. ("Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven," Mark 10:21.)
In multiple passages, Jesus specially discourages the accruement of wealth. He said that "whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33), scorned "those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God" (Luke 12:21), and famously declared, "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" (Mark 10:23). And he killed several jobs by regulating those money changers out of the temple.
What do you think this guy would say about the spiritual health of a country where the richest 10 percent controls 80 percent of the wealth?
As the likes of Rick Perry try to reawaken Christian fervor for the sake of pushing a far-right agenda, the sad truth is that a government actually guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ would be more pacifist and progressive than a Dennis Kucinich presidency. In addition to his anti-wealth spiels, Jesus taught loving your enemies (Matthew 5:44) and embracing social outcasts (Luke 14:13). It's a truly radical agenda for every era and that's why it's always been misconstrued to justify violent empires and piggy plutocracies. And in 2012, the Bible will be thumped again by those who would cut benefits to the poor, sick and old to protect the most fortunate few, those who are hoarding the kind of earthly fortunes Jesus spoke out against.
Just be glad that because of the whole camel-in-the-needle-eye clause, we apparently won't have to put up with those cricket-playing dickbags in the afterlife.