Jesus was a Liberal

I was born and raised conservative and fundamentalists I even have a thank you letter for my support from George C. Wallace. I still live in the deep South. Yet the more I study the Bible, the more I worship and pray, the more liberal I become because Jesus was a Liberal.

Of course everybody has their own definition of liberal and conservative, but I think that one key difference is on the issue of personal responsibility. Conservatives emphasize personal responsibility and liberals tend to emphasize corporate responsibility. Conservatives tend to argue that morality should be coerced (e.g. sodomy laws), and liberals not. So with this framework in mind, let me cite some reasons I think Jesus was a liberal.

Personal responsibility is tied to the concept of punishment and rewards. Jesus turned this concept on its head in several ways:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

Summarized briefly, a young man asked his father for his inheritance early. When he received it, he left town and blew the money on prostitutes and drunken revelry. When the money ran out, so did his friends, and when times got hard, he began to starve. The fellow figured that he would be better off at home so he went back with a rehearsed “I’m not worthy speach” ready to deliver. But when the son returned, before he could get his speach out, the father ran out to meet him and called for a celebration. The son’s older brother just sulked because of the injustice of it all.

Any number of morals can be found in the story, but the most accessible one is that love and generocity trump personal responsibility (and that Conservatives sulk).

The Parable of the Landowner (Matthew 20:1-16)

In this story a landowner hires day laborers. Some early in the day, some later and some pretty late in the afternoon. He paid the ones who worked all day the amount agreed upon, but the last ones hired got the same amount as those who worked all day. The long workers were upset, but the landowner said “are you jealous because I am generous”? (or substituting a synomym: “are you jealous because I am liberal?”) Again, the idea of reward for work is turned on its head.

The Parable of the Slave (Luke 17: 7-10)

In this short account Jesus points out that when we do good works, we are doing nothing more than what is required of us, and not deserving of a pat on the back.That is, we don’t deserve anything.

I heard someone say of the current problem with terrorism, “we want a President who lets the terrorists know that when someone messes with us, we will ‘smack them down'”. Jesus, of course, is a great preacher of non-violent responses.

(Mat 5:38-42 NASB) “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ {39} “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. {40} “And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. {41} “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

Hmmm, “give to him who asks…” Sounds pretty liberal to me.

Let’s talk about enforcing personal morality. We know that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors (government extortionists in his day) and was accused of being a party animal. When he was asked to sanction the death penalty for a case of adultery, he defused the mob and forgave the sin. Forgave, not after repentance or bowing and scraping, just forgave. (John 8:1-11),

Jesus emphasized the character of the heart rather than public shows or morality and piety. Jesus said to pray in private (Matthew 6:6); Conservatives say to pray over the public address system. Liberal Christians tend to practice their piety privately. Jesus was a liberal.

(Mat 6:5 NASB) “And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Jesus himself was the victim of capital punishment on a trumped up charge. Conservatives have not been in the forefront of those trying to get the innocent out of prison, but liberals are. A follower of Jesus should be more sensitive to those suffering the same fate as the founder of the religion. That is, they should be more liberal.

Jesus proclaimed “release to the captives”. Conservative congressmen are more into mandatory sentencing (to prevent those damned liberal judges from exercising compassion in special situations). Jesus was a liberal.

Finally, Conservatives, paticularly conservative Christisans tend to be very anxious about things. They figure that the world is “spinning out of control” (to quote Mom). Jesus, on the other hand, told his followers not to be anxious:

(Mat 6:34 NASB) “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I do not claim that my way of seeing things is “the way things are.”
But this is how I put them together. And, ultimately, that is all
any of us can do: We put it together in the way that makes sense to us.
– Marcus Borg (1993)

Update: I now have a separate blog for this sort of content: Jesus Was a Liberal.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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4 Responses to Jesus was a Liberal

  1. You certainly have it right. I also am from the deep south and both my grandfathers and father wer country Baptist preacher. For more on Jesus being a liberal, please visit my web site

  2. Gil says:

    If I had found a church where the congregants looked at Christianity the way you do, maybe I wouldn’t have given up on it. I wouldn’t have felt like I was rowing upstream all the time. My problem with “the church” is that there is so much picking and choosing as to what people want to take from the scriptures and what they ignore. If it goes along with their own personal (i.e., selfish) agenda, they shout it out and expect other people to toe that particular line. If it doesn’t suit them, they play like it isn’t even in the Bible.

    Anyway, good for you. I admire your outlook greatly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is so interesting, because I was saying the same thing last night. Jesus would be a Democrat. Do you think he would want a tax break for the rich? Absolutely not. Conservatives believe that if I make enough money then maybe I can spare some time and go work in a soup kitchen for a day. Democrats believe that we make money so all of us can eat. I believe Jesus would have been o.k. with paying higher taxes so all of can eat.

  4. rhi says:

    I always figured Jesus, if he exsisted (just my opinion) would be a liberal, because he had so much love and understanding for everything and everyone. Conservatives, do not to some extent, they are more particular and a little colder. To my understanding and in my opinion anway.

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