So just how would Jesus have voted on H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, by House Budget Committee Chairman and Wisconsin Republican and Catholic, Paul Ryan?
When Moral Majoritarians in 1979 began pushing back against sexual revolutionaries, liberal Democrats railed against mixing Biblical dogma with Republican politics. But some on the left now seem eager for a political Holy War of words, pitting Luke against Leviticus for New Testament "social justice," to counter Book-of-Moses admonitions about men lying down with men and more capital punishment than Texas.
Priests at Georgetown Univ. recently protested a speech by Ryan, charging him with un-Catholic callousness toward the poor, about whom St. Luke quoted Jesus in Chapter 6, Verse 20: "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." Those words are from a King James Version bestowed upon me in 1956 at the Central Church of Christ, at age 9, when I also got a glow-in-the-dark cross for reciting all the books of the Bible and was admonished I'd burn in hell if I didn't accept Jesus.
Apparently irrelevant to the Georgetown Jesuits, Luke did not explain appropriate levels of spending on food stamps and Medicaid, nor say anything about tax rates for the "one percent."
The Bible has been employed throughout American history by politicized Believers. Southern Baptists used verses to justify slavery, and northern Unitarians invoked the Book to advocate abolition. In the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe popularized a wrathful God's "terrible swift sword." A hundred years later, mainline Protestants marched against the Vietnam War, invoking a peace-loving Jesus.
Widely shared ethics have an obvious place in policy-making. But that's different from religious dogma for partisan maneuvering. Since the 1950's, when we added our Godly trust to filthy lucre, Americans have witnessed politicos wearing the Savior on their sleeves.
It's not surprising the left is attempting its mix of piety-and-politics. Observing clout wielded by religious conservatives in 1994's GOP House take-over and political Svengali Karl Rove's 2004 mobilization of evangelicals for George W. Bush, clamors for overtures to God-fearing voters have been heard among Democrats, some serious believers, others, poll-driven consultants pushing Religion Lite.
Sen. John Kerry navel-gazed about what more he could have done to explain his faith to fellow Catholics. A writer on religion and politics for Time with a Harvard Divinity School degree, Amy Sullivan wrote a 2008 book about Democratic piety problems, The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap.
Getting in on the act was Jim Wallis, the Christian writer and political activist who founded Sojourners magazine and a same-named liberal religious community in Washington, D.C. (which is kind of like setting up a chapel in a whore house)
Wallis's books include God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. In June 2007, he persuaded Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards to discuss faith in a cable-cast.
In a stunning pander, Edwards avowed, "I have a deep and abiding love for my Lord, Jesus Christ." He continued: "If I've had a day….where I haven't sinned multiple times, I would be amazed. I believe I have. I sin every single day. We are all sinners. We all fall short, which is why we have to ask for forgiveness from the Lord." He apparently had a lot on his mind.
Clinton said she prayed during dark days after Bill's intern sinning. Obama was subdued, recalling Lincoln: "We shouldn't be asking whose side God is on, but whether we're on his side."
Since his election, perhaps over-compensating for nonsense about fealty to Muhammad, the President has his TelePrompTer permanently programmed to seek God's blessing for America in every speech. But he's gone beyond petty piety. At a Feb. 2, 2012 prayer breakfast, he talked about "…finding Christ when I wasn't even looking for him so many years ago," causing squeamishness among secular liberals. To his credit, he had bowed to non-believers in his inaugural address.
But the former Constitutional Law professor seems to forget the Founders consciously, and conscientiously, avoided a single mention of a deity in the Constitution, not even a tip-of-the-hat to the amorphous "Creator" who endowed unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence.
With the religious right's influence waning, perhaps liberals will be restored to secular sanity and stop trying to emulate what they scorned for several decades.
As for Jesus and what he'd do about that budget bill? Well, if there were a Number One Son, I hope he would advise politicians to treat others like they want to be treated, since empathy is the basis of all ethics; that he'd tell them to stop seeking forgiveness and just behave themselves; and, for God's sake, stop asking Him to bless every damned thing they do!
Director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, Terry Michael is a former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. He writes at his libertarian Democrat web site,www.terrymichael.net.