You Cannot Be a Christian and Be a Christian

Spend any significant time reading the Bible, and you're sure to have encountered a certain saying that not many wise were called to be Christians.

We have reason to believe that Paul was being serious when he said it.  Not only because the majority of the Christian epistles were written to people who apparently misunderstood everything about Christianity (I refer the reader to the Book of 1 Corinthians), but because even after two thousand years of reading the epistles, many Christians have difficulty understanding that Christianity and killing children are mutually incompatible.

Heresy was a problem from the beginning of the church, and it has always been a problem, quite possibly because Christians (despite the alleged indwelling of the Holy Spirit) are still very bad at understanding what words mean – which is probably because Christians are people.  If the letters from Christ's own personal disciples haven't been ignored, they are likely to have been misunderstood.  Philosophy hasn't always helped, because theology means thinking out of your senses.  The "unification" of the church resulted in schism, the unification of church and state resulted in murder, and the liberalization of religion during the Enlightenment resulted in a thousand cults.  And now that we've tried everything we could have possibly imagined to straighten out an embattled and struggling church, we find the Daily Kos trying to fix things by saying you cannot be a Republican and a Christian.

In the Democrats' defense, the excommunication of other political parties has been an uncharitable tactic of nearly every political faction.  The Republicans say you can't be Christian and support the party that supports gay marriage; the Democrats say you can't be a Christian and support the party that wants to give less to the poor.  The Nazis did it by saying they were against the Jews (just like Jesus wasn't); and the Communists did it by saying the early church lived in communes (which happened to be voluntary).  The hippies claimed that Jesus was a hippie because He was interested in a love none of them could safely define.  The libertarians claimed that Jesus was a libertarian because He gives people the choice to commit any sin and go to hell (!).  The feminists are perhaps the most technically correct, in that both Jesus and they spent a lot of time with whores, and the socialists claim that Jesus was a socialist, probably because He said poor people were better at getting into Heaven, and socialists are very good at making people poor.  In general, everyone's so incredibly convinced that his own ideas are divinely inspired that he's convinced that everyone else's are essentially diabolical.  And they're almost all right about the second part, because they're almost all wrong about the first.    

The one thing that almost nobody is convinced of is that Jesus was Jewish.  And the reason why is so inconvenient that we shouldn't be surprised nobody is willing to mention it.   Because if there is any one thing that Jesus did support so wholeheartedly that He claimed to have created it, it was the Law of Moses, and if there is anything that the Law of Moses supported, it was slavery.  And slavery was alongside an entire slew of things anathema to the entire ethos of both American political parties.  Whether you're a conservative or a leftist, whether you're against land reform or gay marriage or the death penalty, whether you want everyone to worship according to his conscience or survive working on a Sabbath, you'll find something so objectionable that you'll find yourself willing to believe that only a non-Christian could endorse it.  In other words, you'll find yourself almost saying you cannot be a Christian and be a Christian.

In this respect of theo-political condemnations, the Democrats may not be alone – but they are in every respect exceptional.  We may give many Democrats a pass in their disowning of Thomas Jefferson, not only because Thomas Jefferson was never a statist or a redistributionist or a gay rights activist or an abortionist or even a Democrat, but because Thomas Jefferson isn't even the man they claim to be their Lord and Savior.  Not everyone knows he tried to abolish slavery in the United States, because Thomas Jefferson's autobiography is not in the Bible.  We might even shake our heads and laugh at the Democrats for trying to sever all ties with the man they never had any ties with – or apparently knowledge of.  But when it comes to the Man they claim to be the Founder of their religion, their ignorance of His position can be regarded only as deeply irreligious.  Jefferson was thrown under the bus because (against his political principles) he owned slaves.  Jesus is endorsed because His own followers are completely unaware of His political principles.

The point of the matter is that if Jesus Christ openly supported the Law of Moses, we might almost infer that His followers should be forgiven for being Democrats and Republicans.  I'm not trying to say that both parties are equally Christian or biblical, or that they are both equally safe or sane, or that both of them are even actually American (although we might say that if not many wise are called, the Democrats may be the most Christian of the two).  What I'm saying is that the originally Jewish religion known as Christianity isn't particularly American, and neither was Jesus – and that we are better off for it.  The first Christian states killed many honest Christians because they were a different brand of Christians, and the Jews were even worse, because they killed every Christian they could find.  The United States defends even our Christian and Jewish idiots from murder, because (in the original theory) it is afraid to persecute the enlightened ones.

It might be naive to expect that a person's religion will never influence his politics, because religions influence ideas, and ideas influence politics.  But if anyone's going to claim the God of the Bible for his own political party, he ought to be humble enough to recognize that God was God before Abraham, who was before the Law of Moses – and that if He can create His own political system and then throw it away, then maybe He's bigger than any political system we can create for ourselves.   

We may draw principles from His political system.  We may compare Moses with Lycurgus and Burke and Locke and Marx and Jefferson, and we may (perhaps most wisely) compare the results of their philosophies to see which works best.  But if we think that we in our ignorance can ever create a political system more Godly than the one the God of the Bible made for Himself, and excommunicate the people who refuse to subscribe to it, we ought at the very least to examine ourselves seriously, and wonder whether we actually worship the God of the Bible – or whether we in our own lack of Christian humility secretly worship ourselves.

Jeremy Egerer is the editor of the troublesome philosophical website known as Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

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