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Today in Juxtapositions (Falwell v. Jesus Edition)

LordJesus-609x330“He bombed those in the Middle East who were persecuting and killing Christians,” Jerry Falwell Jr., President of the Liberty University praising President Donald J. Trump this weekend.*

In juxtaposition, the following from Jesus of Nazareth came to mind.

First, Matthew 5:38-40

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

And, let’s add in the following passage from Matthew 5:  9-11:

9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and celebrate, because great is your reward in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.

The contrast here remind me of a quotation from Gandhi:   “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  This notion clearly applies to Falwell and, quite frankly, applies to anyone who revels in the notion that we are bombing people for religious reasons.  To focus here:  extolling an “eye for an eye” kind of justice is not in keeping with the ethics of Jesus.

I would also note that this is a great way to help recruit more terrorists in the Middle East, given that much of the narrative that drives those actions is the notion that the West is engaged in a new version of the Crusades.  Linking our military actions to religious motivations only serves to confirm, and deepen, that narrative.

I will reiterate a point that I have noted before, which is I understand why conservative Christians are happy with the Gorsuch nomination, enough so that they are likely willing to ignore a lot of what is going on in the Trump presidency.  I can further understand how their general dislike for Hillary Clinton will have reinforced the ability to accept any Republican president.  Still, the notion that Donald Trump should be considered some kind of exemplar of a Christian president (which Falwell basically said this weekend) should give believers more than bit of pause.

*The audio can be found at Morning Edition for May 15, 2017 at roughly the 1 minute mark.

(Photo from a Trump rally).

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I’m having flashbacks to when Phyliis Schlafly said that “the atomic bomb was a marvelous gift given to our country by a wise God.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Jay Gischer says:

    I agree completely. I love the Gandhi quote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Moosebreath says:

    Support for war has some support among Jesus’s words (e.g., Matthew 10:34, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”)

    On the other hand, I am constantly amazed by how so many Professional Christians (to use Mark Twain’s phrase) reconcile their support for programs to make life harder for the poor with Jesus’s teachings on the subject.

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  4. @Moosebreath: That just makes me think of:

    Maathew 26:52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

    Having said that, one can make an argument, one that I have heard often, that Jesus was not pacifist in the sense of eschewing all violence to the point of condemning the military (or even weapons, as clearly at least one of his Disciples carried a sword, see the context of the verse above).

    Beyond that, the verse you quote in context is not about violence, but about the disruption of following Jesus (Matthew 10). I am certain one could not use that passage, credibly at least, to support Falwell’s view of things.

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  5. al-Alameda says:

    This is fabulous theater: These people have sold their values out completely in the hope that an impulsive narcissist, somewhat misogynistic, lying salesman/con man, will deliver their agenda.

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  6. S. Fields says:

    Falwell also said, “I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community in such a short time span than Donald Trump.”

    One would think someone who fears damnation would not so cavalierly bear false witness.

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  7. KM says:

    Most fundamentalists are not “Christians” so much as “Paulites”. They also have this weird fascination with not being referred to as “religion” but rather “a personal relationship” with the Divine. It makes them feel more existentially important, I supposed, to think that the Creator of Everything somehow has the time or fwcks to give to hang out with special little ole’ you. Their Jesus is an angry, vengeance-dealing, smite-happy deity who bears no resemblance to the man portrayed in the Gospels – in fact, he is very much in line with the Old Testament portrayal they like to distance themselves from when they spout nonsense about living under Grace (meaning the rules they don’t like aren’t applicable anymore but smiting gays is fine with God).

    They remade Jesus in their own image: someone who hates who they hate and will make them burn for it. Christianity caught on as quickly as it did because of the revolutionary concepts of its founder: universal love and kindness as duty to our neighbors, doing good for those regardless of their station, turning the other check instead of blood feuds. It’s been said before but it’s true – the shortest sentence in the Bible is “Jesus wept”. Problem is they wrote that sentence in the past tense.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I see very little of Jesus in most of today’s Christianity. So little that I have “Matthew 6: 5-6” on the back of my truck. For those not intimate with the Bible:

    And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    Every now and again somebody will ask about it, I quote it and then add, “Jesus is not impressed with public displays of piety. Neither am I.”

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  9. KM says:

    @S. Fields:

    Falwell also said, “I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community in such a short time span than Donald Trump.”

    Falwell is anticipating goodies from the White House that aren’t coming. “Benefiting the Christian community” to a rat like Falwell means letting preachers make money off politics, discriminate at will and basically set up a fiefdom within the US the law can’t touch. Keep dreaming, buddy – you might get some but the system is designed to fight you at every turn. Dominionists won’t be happy till the Republic of Gilead is on our shores.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. michael reynolds says:

    My dad’s third wife, Linda, is an actual Christian. She acts like a Christian is meant to act – she’s kind, self-sacrificing, genuinely humble. So of course she is a startling contrast with self-described evangelical Christians who, by and large are miserable, nasty creatures.

    We’re in the midst of a rolling tragedy out in the extended family and Linda is head and shoulders above every other participant, absolutely including me. If I may appropriate Christian terminology, Linda ‘witnesses’ through her actions, and I have to tell you, it’s powerful stuff seeing a human being behaving in a way Jesus would have approved.

    Thankfully for me, the other Christian participants in the issue range from utterly useless to abusive, so my atheist virtue remains intact.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: My Aunt Jean was one such. A sweeter woman never lived.

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  12. KM says:

    @michael reynolds :

    If I may appropriate Christian terminology, Linda ‘witnesses’ through her actions, and I have to tell you, it’s powerful stuff seeing a human being behaving in a way Jesus would have approved.

    His message is simple: don’t be an ass. Give a damn about your neighbor then actually go do something about it. Make the world a better place then how you found it. Don’t judge because you’re not perfect either. We’re all the same in the end regardless of what differences we impose upon ourselves.

    Easy to say, surprisingly hard to live. Kudos to someone who actually tries to be a good person rather then showing the world they are a Good Person (TM).

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  13. bookdragon says:

    Falwell is the type of person that lead to all the warnings about false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Matthew 7:21-23 seems especially fitting:

    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

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  14. Hal_10000 says:

    Still, the notion that Donald Trump should be considered some kind of exemplar of a Christian president (which Falwell basically said this weekend) should give believers more than bit of pause.

    The hypocrisy over this sort of things does not surprise or particularly bother me. I mean, it does bother me, but in the same way gravity does; it’s just a fact of life. We see this all over politics or maybe you missed how the Party of the Little Guy nominated a darling of Wall Street last year. One of the things I’ve realized lately (cooking a post on it) is that politics isn’t really about issues or consistency and certainly not about morals. It’s much more about tribalism and identity. Trump panders to religious conservatives and, like most voters, religious conservatives are willing to vote for almost anyone who panders to them whether his behavior or his policies are consistent with their beliefs or not.

    I know a lot of religious conservatives and they are not unaware of Trump’s manifold personal failings. They are hoping he will overcome them. That’s a vain hope, but it’s all they’ve got right now.

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  15. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    In fairness, I have to note that the post, the comment thread, and Rev. Falwell’s comments show why using the Bible (or probably any other religious text for that matter) as a guide for designing foreign policy is, at best, problematical. Alas, the practitioners of a “Biblical” foreign policy based on The Sermon on the Mount would be most likely to inherit the earth, as the wags have put it, “in parcels 6 feet long and 2 feet wide.” Not that I believe that God would care, considering that, according to those same scriptures, He seems to have a major renovation plan not based on the supremacy of some self-identified “Christian” nation or another.

    I find myself the tiniest bit befuddled by Evangelicals worrying about having a “Christian” President when “our inheritance is not of this earth,” and we are supposed to be longing for the time when we will, in the words of the old spiritual, “go to live with God.” It doesn’t make any sense.

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  16. DrDaveT says:

    While we’re quoting ironically, Matthew 25 is always good for flustering conservatives:

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    (Of course, you have to use the King James Version for American fundamentalists, because they think those are “Jesus’s actual words”…)

    It’s hilarious yet pathetic to listen to the explanations of why this passage has no implications for public policy, unlike their favorite passages…

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  17. KM says:

    @DrDaveT :
    They will tell you with a straight face its supposed to read the “one of the least of these CHRISTIAN brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

    One of the more insidious fundie tenets is that Christ didn’t mean *everybody* when he spoke like that; instead, bleeding hearts through the ages abuse the passage to steal from God-fearing folk and give to the undeserving. When phrases like “your brothers and sisters” are used, they are implicitly meant to have “in Christ” after them. It’s all well and good to be charitable to them but charity is first and foremost for those deemed worthy. That why an Evangelical can cheerfully bleat that churches and private charities should take care of social issues instead of the government without acknowledging there’s not enough resources to do so at the current levels. They have no intention of helping those that won’t accept their religious strings and would feel perfectly righteous in turning away a “sinner” in need because they won’t “repent”. See the global gag rule for more details – let’s have poor women and children suffer because the program mentions something I disapprove of! If they don’t like it, no aid for them! Appalling.

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  18. dennis says:

    @KM:

    Exactly right, KM, the primary reason why I left the church 29 years ago, and accepted the atheist position in 2012. Because the caring, loving, I’m-all-about-you personal God of the New Testament is irreconcilable with the goings-on of this world; hence, I can no longer accept any premise of the Bible.

    Kind of OT, I just caught up with all “The Handmaid’s Tale” episodes, and the parallels are dis-fkg-sturbing. And I ain’t no milquetoast, snowflake kinda guy, either.

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM:

    They will tell you with a straight face its supposed to read the “one of the least of these CHRISTIAN brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

    Funny thing about that. There were no Christians when Jesus was alive.

    @DrDaveT: As an atheist, I am rather fond of the King James Bible. I find the language beautifully poetic. And yes, Matthew 25 puts their teeth on edge.

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  20. Kylopod says:

    The embrace of Donald Trump by evangelical leaders is even more bizarre than it might first appear. It isn’t simply a matter of their putting party first. Falwell endorsed Trump during the primaries over the likes of Cruz, Rubio, and several other GOP candidates who as far as we can tell have only been married once, have never committed adultery, and who didn’t refer to the Communion wafer as “my little cracker.”

    The precursor to this might be Pat Robertson’s 2008 endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, not only a multiple divorcee and a Catholic, but the only Republican candidate at the time who was openly pro-choice–this during a race that included Mike Huckabee, not only a staunch pro-lifer but an actual Baptist minister.

    The immediate temptation is to say these folks care more about politics than religion, but we need to be clear what we mean by “politics.” After all, the crusade against abortion and gays is generally thought to be part of “politics.” But even that stuff turns out to be secondary. In fact, the prosperity theology is a lot more central to these guys’ worldview than is generally acknowledged.

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  21. @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    In fairness, I have to note that the post, the comment thread, and Rev. Falwell’s comments show why using the Bible (or probably any other religious text for that matter) as a guide for designing foreign policy is, at best, problematical.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/today-in-juxtapositions-falwell-v-jesus-edition/#ixzz4hCiL2gyE

    In fairness, the point of post was not to use Bible verses to make foreign policy. The point of the post was to note that Bible verses ought to better inform the behavior and words of the head of an ostensibly Christian school (and, more broadly, ought to have some direct influence over the followers of said religion).

    Indeed, one of my main points is that we decidedly do not want foreign policy in the name of a specific religion.

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  22. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Bible verses ought to better inform the behavior and words of the head of an ostensibly Christian school (and, more broadly, ought to have some direct influence over the followers of said religion).

    I wish that were true, too. Alas, I have given up on the notion that Evangelicals are Christian at all. To be sure, there is undoubtedly a minority within the movement that is truly committed to following the teachings of Christ. Unfortunately for both those few Evangelicals and for the Church universal at large, the leadership of what is probably the single largest group of Protestant Christians love the world and the power that they can attain from it than they love the God they claim to worship. I don’t see that changing because liberal socialists such as you and me protest that they are hypocritical. They already know that–and don’t care.

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