Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Jesus So Loved the Rich

I'm not a religious man, but occasionally I'll attend church service with family members who are considerably less heathen than I.  So it went on Christmas Eve, when the Lutheran pastor made rather a big deal about the baby Jesus.  Well, why not?  Tradition has it that this is his birthday, belief has it that he was God made flesh, and the whole salvation story revolves around this event.

And the circumstances into which Jesus was born are more than just detail and literary setting.  To a large extent, the entire Christian ethic builds on a foundation of the specifics of the birth of Jesus.

That's why it is really import to remember that Jesus, of the royal house of David, was born in the palace of Herod, amidst the wealth, pomp and splendor that befits one of his station.  His mother was surrounded by ladies in waiting.  His father was feasted by the royalty in attendance.  The new-born baby was exulted above all, and celebrated by the population as they welcomed the dawn of a new era.

So that this early message would not be lost, Jesus reinforced the idea of God bestowing his favor on the rich and powerful by all the actions of his adult public life.  These events stand out in particular.

Driving the beggars away from the Temple so that they would not annoy the money-changers, whom Jesus loved above all.

Healing the sick - but only among the elite, who alone were able to afford -or, to be sure, were even worthy of - his ministrations.

Traveling in splendor throughout the countryside, demanding homage from the poor, downtrodden and dispossessed, while seeking the company of and giving wise council and precious gifts to wealthy merchants and powerful politicians.

Demanding compensation in the form of loaves and fishes from the poor, unwashed masses who wished to hear him preach on a mountainside.

Matching word to deed, Jesus frequently reminded us that salvation is for those blessed with money and power, and thus able to buy their way into eternal paradise.  Most telling was his statement that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a poor person to get into heaven.

Thus has it ever been: the meek are downtrodden, while the rich inherit the earth.  Who can doubt the wisdom Jesus displayed in his choices of business partners, companions, and life style.

On the other hand, though, I guess it also explains why the common people demanded his death.  Why his rich friends allowed it to happen remains one of the great mysteries of faith.


Eric L said...

Why does conservative economics appeal to conservative Christians in spite of the stark contrast to Jesus’ views? If you believe that the world is mostly evil heathens, it is no leap to believe that the world is full of lazy whiny people who need to learn to take care of themselves.

That's the take home message of conservative economics for most people: the world is full of lazy, stupid, whiny, or downright malicious people; that they look at the hard-working few with envy and wish to take from them rather than do the work themselves to provide for themselves.

As for conservative Christianity, you may not get much of this at a Lutheran church, but one of the key messages at your more conservative church's is an identification with stories of persecution in the Bible. (They're not kidding, they really do think "Happy Holidays" is an attempt to marginalize them for being believers. Because they expect to be persecuted for their faith as the Bible suggests they will be, they look for it (and see it) everywhere. ) They believe "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake" means them, and it means that if you feel persecuted, it is not in spite of how righteous you are but because of it; that the world wants to tear you down precisely because you are good.

Anyway, it's not that these messages are logically connected, but they are appealing to many people for precisely the same reasons, so naturally many people are drawn to both.

You are the few, the proud, the hard-working, the true Christians.

Jazzbumpa said...

Eric -

Good, though unpleasant thoughts.

If you haven't seen it yet, I'm sure you will be amused by my explanation of The Republican Brain.