When conservative Congressman Todd Akin a few months back suggested that liberalism was a “hatred of God,” I postulated that given the overwhelming support for liberal and progressive values in the Judeo-Christian Bible, perhaps he had never bothered to actually read the Bible. With Rick Santorum's recent comment that Obama's agenda is "Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” I am now beginning to wonder if Santorum, Akin, and other conservatives are just reading a different Bible entirely than the one I read.
Because here's the thing: while you can — if you really work hard to do it — find verses here and there supporting a more conservative political point of view on certain specific issues, there is simply no way to read the Bible I read and not come to the conclusion that it is overwhelmingly supportive of helping the poor, showing mercy to the weak, refraining from judging, treating others as you would treat yourself, calling on the wealthy to give their money to the poor, and all kinds of other liberal, lefty, progressive values. You would have to ignore a great deal of Genesis and Exodus, with their talk of being our brother's keeper and bringing justice to the poor, oppressed slaves in Egypt; you would have to skip over a great many of the verses of Psalms with its poetry about justice and mercy for the poor and the widow; you would have to avoid the books of the Prophets almost entirely since so much of what they are angry about is the Israelite society's mistreatment of poor people and immigrants in their midst. Then there is the New Testament, where between St. Paul, the relatives of Jesus, and the big guy himself, there are so many verses on these subjects that it is virtually impossible to ignore them.
In fact, as I noted in my piece about Todd Akin, Jesus talks about mercy to those in trouble in 24 verses of the Gospels, tells people not to judge in 34 verses, tells people to love and forgive even their enemies in 53 verses, tells people to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would want to be treated in 19 verses, and specifically tells people to help the poor and/or spurn riches and the wealthy in 128 verses.
That is a lot of verses, 258 by my count, where Rick Santorum's savior and George W. Bush's favorite philosopher sounds like a tried and true, solid to the core, far-out, lefty liberal. And all those where Jesus sounds like a conservative? I couldn't find a single one. He never once condemns abortion, even though it was very common in ancient times. He never speaks against homosexuality, even though the ancient Greeks before him and the Romans living in those times openly practiced and celebrated it. He called on the Romans and the Jewish establishment to treat the poor better, not condemn an adulteress to death, and to take the moneychangers out of the temple, but he never once asked the Romans to lower their taxes or lessen their regulations on over-burdened businesses. He never celebrated the greatness of the invisible hand of the market, and never discussed the virtues of selfishness, as conservatives today are so fond of doing.
The anti-immigrant conservative has to ignore Leviticus, which says: "Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself." The pro-death penalty conservative has to ignore Jesus who told the Pharisees that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. The anti-labor conservatives have to not worry about Jesus' brother James (the undisputed first leader of the early Christian church according to most historians) saying "Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries coming to you ... Laborers plowed your field and you cheated them: listen to the wages you kept back, they are calling out: realize the cries of the workers have reached the ears of the Lord." Conservative anti-class warriors have to pretend that Jesus' mother Mary never said about her son: "The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away." Conservatives like Mitt Romney who say the housing market has to hit bottom need to avoid thinking about Jesus very first sermon, where he called for a year where all debts would be forgiven. And the anti-welfare conservatives? You guys are in big trouble, as verse after verse condemns you. The one time Jesus specifically talks about how the last judgment will go down, he says, "All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate them one from another as the shepherds separates sheep from goats." Who gets to go to Heaven in this story? The nations and people who fed the hungry and welcomed the stranger. The ones who didn't go straight to Hell.
These are not isolated verses: there are thousands of examples of them, and they are in every book in the Bible.
Now, look: people have every right to believe whatever they want to believe about God, Heaven and Hell, sin and salvation, the soul, and all sorts of theology. Adherents of multiple religions believe the founder of their religion ascended physically to a heaven somewhere in the sky. Fundamentalist Christians of many varieties believe that God created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago, and that there really were talking snakes and donkeys. Mormons believe the founder of their religion discovered special glasses sent by God that allowed him to read and memorize sacred texts that no one else could read. Just because I don't personally think those things happened doesn't mean I have anything against the faith of those who do; they are welcome to believe whatever they want to. And if you want to believe in a God who doesn't care about the poor, loves the wealthy more than anyone else, and wants you to be selfish, feel free. But when you claim to fervently believe in the holy words of the Judeo-Christian Bible, and your political philosophy is violently opposed to most of what is actually in that Bible, I have to call you out on that. When Rick Santorum says that Obama follows a theology not based on the Bible, I have to say this: either he is not reading the same Bible I do, or he is not reading the Bible at all, because Rick Santorum's political views are in direct, fundamental opposition to the Bible he claims to follow.
I will go so far as to say that the modern conservative faith is the direct opposite of what the Judeo-Christian Bible teaches: modern conservatives argue that everyone should take what they want and devil take the hindmost, that we are all on our own, and that if you are rich it means that a Darwinian selection process allowed you to succeed, and that you owe nothing to anyone else. Modern conservatives are far more faithful to Ayn Rand, who openly rejected Christianity because of its values of helping the poor and caring for others. Give her credit for one thing: at least she was honest. Conservatives like Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich celebrate we're all on our own selfishness, and are happy to let the poor starve and the ill die from lack of health care, yet they proclaim their Christian holiness and denounce Obama's theology. As Jesus would have put it: you have to take the log out of your own eye before you can take the speck out of your brother's, you hypocrite. Mr. Santorum, if you don't know the Bible any better than you do, you should be careful calling other people anti-Biblical.