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Reclaim the Moral High Ground

by James Kroeger


November 6, 2004

Mark Schmitt has made some noise posing this question on his blog: "...why it is that the current flourishing of religious faith has, for the first time ever, virtually no element of social justice?"

I would suggest that the “current flourishing” has lacked a social justice element because it has been largely driven by individuals---like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson---who have strongly identified with the Republican Party’s economic agenda.  In other words, Christianity---in the hands of Republicans---has developed a “moral focus” that selectively ignores the teachings of Jesus that they find...well, a bit unwelcome.

After all, Jesus urged his followers to not concern themselves with their wealth (“...sell all you have...”) and to be wimps when confronting bullies.  Republicans find themselves not wanting to follow such teachings because they sense that obeying them could end up threatening their privileged positions in society.  So they've tended to focus attention on moral “issues” that do not threaten their economic circumstances in any way, like abortion and homosexuality.  Republican strategists who have felt some identification with Christianity have simply recognized the political value of repeatedly focusing the electorate's attention on two key moral issues that Jesus never said anything about.

The time has come for Democrats to put Republican Christians on the defensive.  The first thing we need to do is accuse them of wrongly suggesting that Jesus would be a Republican if he were a United States citizen today, instead of a Democrat.  It is easy to point to specific teachings by Jesus that would clearly define him as a Bleeding-Heart Liberal.  Indeed, most Republicans would be quick to describe him as "far to the left" of the majority of Democrats.  Did he not teach his followers to give freely of their possessions to others, and to respond to any attack by an enemy from another country with acts of loving kindness?  Can there be any doubt that Arnold Schwarzenegger would call him a "Girly Man?"

When the arguments start, Democrats need to point out that it is only logical for us to conclude that Jesus told us which moral issues were the most important to him by the amount of time he spent commenting on them.  Which moral issues did he emphasize the most?  Two Jesus Concerns stand out before all others.  One thing he repeatedly stressed to his followers was that it was important for them to be willing to deny themselves materially if that was what was required in order to obtain the benefit of others.  The other sin that he repeatedly complained about was the one that the Pharisees were identified with most often: hypocritical moral posturing by those who never missed an opportunity to point out the sins of others.  Both are sins that largely define the modern Republican politician.

We need to repeatedly point out that neither abortion nor homosexuality were addressed by Jesus.  Does that omission mean that neither of those practices is wrong? Of course not. But it does strongly suggest that even if it seems obvious to us that Jesus thought homosexuality and abortion were sinful practices he clearly did not perceive them to be as alarming as the other imperfections he saw within human souls (mentioned above) that he did comment on repeatedly.

If Jesus did think that abortion and homosexuality were more serious “moral crimes” than failing to love your enemy or indulging in false piety, then why did he not mention them when he had the opportunity?  If one examines closely the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, there is no evidence that he believed abortion & homosexuality were more offensive than the failure of rich men to deny themselves for the benefit of others or praying in public like the Pharisees.  Democrats are clearly justified in believing that they have a stronger claim to a true identification with Jesus than Republicans do.

If they were to do this, Democrats would immediately put Republican Christians on the defensive. Whenever they try to defend themselves from the charge of hypocrisy, all Democrats need to do is ask them why it is that they can’t follow Jesus’ teaching re: social justice?  Why is it that they are concerning themselves with the motes they see in the eyes of others when they have beams in their own?

Is it because they like to willfully ignore Jesus’ teachings?  We need to start publicly pressuring Republican Christians to agree with us that Jesus’ specific teachings on moral issues should be taken more seriously than any advice on other moral topics that followers (Paul) or predecessors (Old Testament prophets) might have expressed at other times.

If we do this in good faith, we will be able to bleed away some of the support that Republican Christians have enjoyed because we will have made it safe for many devout followers to see that one can be a Good Christian and also a Good Democrat at the same time.  After all, Jesus was just such a man.



More trenchant political analysis by James Kroeger:

Middle East Peace Talks: Will Israel Bring Lasting Peace To The Region?

Reclaim the Moral High Ground

Democrat Image Makeover

When the Republicans steal an election

Our Soldiers Are Victims

Are You Proud To Be An American?


Economic Analysis...

Unemployment: Our Greatest Enemy


Trade Policy and Jobs


Universal Health Care


Government Bureaucratic Waste vs. Private Sector Efficiency


The Relationship Between Savings & Investment


Do Tax Cuts Stimulate The Economy?