We are living in insane times. Like purveyors of a bad Orwellian joke, right-wing politicians and figures on the religious right too numerous to count have hijacked the meanings of justice and equity and, with cynical self-righteousness, have perverted them into something the biblical writers themselves would scarcely recognize. The Old Testament and the Gospel of Jesus both command all who hold them dear to care for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and, yes, the immigrant stranger as well. Yet right-wing religionists and politicians interpret the Bible in ways that largely serve America’s rich and ignore the suffering of its poor. Right-wingers piously proclaim themselves to be “pro-life Christians,” yet their concern for human life often seems to wane at the womb. Their “pro-life” piety shamelessly supports state-sponsored executions; calls for reductions in crucial funding for education, child care, health care and elder care; treats immigrant strangers like lesser forms of life; and gives at least tacit approval to unprovoked wars of domination. Even worse, their pro-life piety casually speaks in murderous metaphors, loudly advocating for unregulated homicidal assault weapons and what some benighted right-wing politicians ominously call “Second Amendment remedies.”
These “Christians” and “people of faith” routinely — and quite publicly — shed tears for love of God and country, yet fight tooth and nail against consumer regulations crafted to protect the well-being of their fellow citizens from the devastation that a poorly regulated Wall Street regularly unleashes upon the unaware denizens of Main Street. They give preferential treatment to the very richest Americans (as if Jesus really taught “blessed are you who are rich”) and treat corporate interests as sacrosanct, while doing their utmost to dismantle the social safety net that is the last line of aid and succor for millions of struggling Americans. Although the Old Testament explicitly enjoins honesty and truthfulness (‘emet) in social as well as in personal dealings, right-wing prognosticators throughout our nation purvey false claims and knowing distortions of political realities daily, with whole television networks at their disposal.
As a result of their machinations, the religious right and right-wing politicians now largely control the terms of political and religious discourse in America, with bizarre and often unconscionable results. Poor people are duped into screaming bloody murder against policies that would make American economic life fairer and more equitable for all, and those whose lives have been made immeasurably better by the fruits of trade unionists’ sweat, tears, and literal blood now not only demonize unions outright but, in an even more bizarre turn, now actually valorize union-busters as heroes!
The right-wing religio-political machine has thoroughly domesticated the radical pronouncements of biblical prophets like Amos and Micah and the good news to the poor declared by Jesus, into a destructive mix of individualistic libertarian selfishness and soaring Sadducean greed. This is reflected in the safety-net shredding policy proposals of major right-wing figures like their much touted budget guru, Congressman Paul Ryan, but also by virtually every other right-wing political candidate. In the final analysis, America’s extremist right-wing has given us an ungodly mélange of religious obfuscation and ideological confusion that perversely considers “social” and “justice” to be profane words when used together, and has convinced untold millions of rank-and-file Americans to support attitudes and policies that militate against their own precious interests. This pernicious influence seems to increase daily, spreading throughout church and society virtually unchecked by truth or reality or even by the most basic requirements of the Bible they claim as the central adjudicator of their faith.
I must admit that at times the success of the right-wing’s distortions of the biblical witness and the untruths they utter in the name of God (although sometimes unknowingly, to be fair) seem too much to bear. At those moments I despair of the nation I love ever becoming fully equitable and just. Then I am reminded of the pronouncement of that great Christian apostle of love and justice, Martin Luther King, Jr., that “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Then, in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “I feel like going on.” For that cosmic arc of justice contains the promise of a different reality — a reality in which houses of worship try to change the world instead of masquerading loud fun as spirituality that, in the end, only changes the way people feel, leaving the unjust status quo fully intact. A reality in which politicians do not spend the bulk of their time defending corporate greed while every year fewer and fewer of their constituents are able to make ends meet. A reality in which Christians remember that while Jesus declared that the first commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart,” they also remember — and act like they remember — that in the same breath he also said to “love your neighbor as yourself,” not with dripping sentimentally, but concretely, actively seeking for our neighbors the same goods, rights, opportunities and overall well-being that we want for ourselves and our own loved ones — with our elected officials following suit.
I am convinced that most rank-and-file right-wing Christians are sincere and not cynical in the politics they embrace. Yet they have been so egregiously misled that even though they might be sincere, they are sincerely wrong according to the most fundamental moral and ethical imperatives of the Bible. Their political agenda reflects little recognition of the egalitarian Old Testament prohibitions against serving the interests of the wealthy and powerful to the detriment of everyone else, or the Good Samaritan model of selfless care and responsibility for those in need of it, or the oft-recurring Old Testament commands to those in authority to alleviate the deprivation of the poor and the needy, to practice equal justice in every way in every stratum of society, and on and on.
Moreover, the right-wing political agenda seems to reflect little love or concern for anyone but those who think like them. That is why right-wing candidates for elective office must be opposed this November and in every election to come with a carefully considered spirit of loving fellowship devoid of demonization and personal attacks: because the selfish, extremist right-wing libertarian agenda they espouse as if from God gives unjust pride of place to the interests and desires of those possessed of great wealth, while evincing little love for great swaths of their neighbors, especially those trapped on the lower rungs of America’s economic ladder.
It is absolutely crucial (I personally believe it is a biblical imperative) that people of good will and open-hearted biblical faith oppose this right-wing political agenda if we are to save the soul of our nation and together build a better world. For one does not have to consult the Bible to know that no nation can be truly healthy or just if those who govern it do not value the welfare and life-chances of everyone in the same way and in the same measure as they value their own.