Would Jesus Be a Liberal or a Conservative?

                                             by Jack Clark



Conservative Christians certainly would not think that Jesus would be a liberal, yet -- as with most things -- they are wrong.


We are given some hints in the Bible and the Catholic Church's teachings about whether Jesus would be a liberal or a conservative:


·       In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus proclaims that how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you treat Jesus himself.  And if you fail to help the "least of these," Jesus promises, he will send you to Hell.


·       Catholic social doctrine holds that the resources of the earth, and the output of man's work, are meant to be shared equitably by all.


·       The Catholic Church calls for a "preferential option for the poor."


·       An overwhelming concern for the poor and for economic justice permeates the Old Testament.


·       There is the redistribution of wealth injunction of the Old Testament Jubilee Year, when slaves were released and land returned to its original owners. [67]


·       And last but not least, do I even have to bring up the clarion words of Jesus repeated in virtual identical fashion in three of the Gospels:


Mark 10:25

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. [other translations] [68]


Such a teaching directly out of the mouth of Christ does not indicate a favorable attitude towards the type of unbridled accumulation of wealth celebrated by conservative "right-wing pseudo-Christians". [69]


To hear the conservative pseudo-Christians, the Messiah's real name must have been Jesus “Adam Smith” Christ.  Could someone please tell me where Jesus extols the effectiveness – let alone the morality -- of trickle-down economics?  Or the genius of the "free market"?  Or where Jesus indicates even in the slightest way that the Matthew 25 suffering "least of these" should not be helped?


The average liberal, at least in his or her concern that the world's goods be distributed equitably and that the suffering "least of these" be helped, seems a lot closer to the words of Jesus, the entire Bible, and Church social doctrine than does the blind, idol-level market-worship of conservative pseudo-Christians. [70]


In short, is not "Do unto others…" the essence of liberalism's goal, and the opposite of the operating principle of the conservative Golden Calf, unregulated capitalism? 

Liberal vs. Conservative Jesus: The Big Picture

On the overall question of redistribution of wealth and income, having rich people is fine, as long as no one is dying because the rich hoard too much of the wealth.  Once everyone is at least minimally taken care of, then the super-greedy can be allowed to have more than their fair share. [71]


The liberal case, however, is that because the rich monopolize such a grotesquely huge share of the income and wealth, there's not enough left for everyone else. [72]


The top 10% of individuals in the United States receive 46% of the income and control 71% of the wealth in this country.  Globally, 25% of the people receive 75% of the income, and the richest 20% of the world's population monopolizes 86 per cent of global wealth. [73]


In other words: 80% of humanity must try to survive on a mere 14% of the world's wealth.  To look at it in perhaps more comprehensible terms: Dividing up $100 among ten people in the same proportions would produce two people with $4.30 each, and 8 people with 18 cents each.  How can anyone doubt that such an inequitable division of the world's resources means that those at the bottom will suffer and die as the very least of "the least of these"? [74]


Bottom line: it really isn't about liberalism, conservatism, or any other -ism.  It's only about ensuring the well-being of "the least of these."


The purpose here is not to argue that Jesus would be a "liberal" and not a "conservative" if he were alive today. It is to point out how ludicrous it is for people who profess to be Christians to hyperventilate solely because serious measures to ameliorate economic injustice are proposed.


At the very minimum, Jesus would be for enough regulation of capitalism to accomplish the Matthew 25:31-46 goals, not for the law-of-the-jungle, let-them-suffer-it's-their-own-fault Hobbesianism of conservative philosophy.



This article is an adapted short excerpt from my extended essay about  Jesus, liberals and conservative Christians entitled:


Matthew 25:31-46: WWJD?

What Would Jesus Do? Jesus Would Send All 
These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight 
To Hell (And Liberals May Not Be Far Behind)




Leviticus 25:8-13,23-28

8. "And you shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9. Then you shall send abroad the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall send abroad the trumpet throughout all your land. 10. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. 11. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat what it yields out of the field. 13. "In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property… 23. The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24. And in all the country you possess, you shall grant a redemption of the land. 25. "If your brother becomes poor, and sells part of his property, then his next of kin shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26. If a man has no one to redeem it, and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27. let him reckon the years since he sold it and pay back the overpayment to the man to whom he sold it; and he shall return to his property. 28. But if he has not sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property. [other translations]


Pope John Paul II has utilized the concept of the Jubilee Year in order to call for the partial or even total cancellation of the foreign debts of the poorest nations.  See discussion here.


Also serving a redistributive function to prevent the undue accumulation of wealth, is the Deuteronomic command that debts should be released every seven years among the Israelites:


Deuteronomy 15:1-3

1. "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. 3. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. [other translations]


That foreigners are excluded from the debt release is ironic in light of the present international debt situation.  This passage's narrow scope is, of course, more a reflection of the unfortunate ethnocentrism pervading much of  the Old Testament, rather than a moral barometer to guide our present actions.


[68]   The other two passages expressing this thought are:


Matthew 19:24

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [other translations]


Luke 18:25

For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. [other translations]


Reading these words of Jesus in the full context in which they were spoken is perhaps even more instructive:


Matthew 19:16-30

16. And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" 17. And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18. He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19. Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20. The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?" 21. Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22. When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 23. And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25. When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26. But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27. Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" 28. Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30. But many that are first will be last, and the last first. [other translations]


[69]  Right-wing pseudo-Christians apparently don't realize that behaving as a true Christian may not be conducive to accumulating a massive personal fortune.  A liberal would understand this.


[70]  I've even heard right-wing pseudo-Christians on talk shows proclaim that "Jesus was a supply-sider."  How desperate right-wing pseudo-Christians are to convince themselves that they are not on the express train to Satansville!


[71]  Regarding those people for whom no amount of riches ever seems enough, I love the way a columnist recently fulminated:


What is it with rich people that 60 percent of a $100 million is not enough? What kind of sickness is that? You make $100 million on stock options, do you honestly think you earned it? Did you work 10,000 times harder than a guy who gets $10,000 a year for digging ditches? Even a thousand times harder? A hundred? Ten?


[72]  Sean Hannity loves to bash liberals as evil incarnate.  If Sean Hannity had cheerleaders, one of their chants might go as follows:


Hey, hey Sean Hannity
How much more money can you get for me?
I'm already rich
And I don't need more
But I know you'll be happy
To take it from the poor!


[73]  With respect to all these statistics about the distribution of global income and wealth, I am well aware – as noted in some of the documents themselves -- of the difficulties inherent in cross-national comparisons. That being said, the global numbers I present here do seem about right.  The solid U.S. statistics indicate that the top 25% of Americans receive 67% of the income, and that the top 20% owns 83% of the wealth.  So the global figures of 25% in the world receiving 75% of the income and the top 20% in the world receiving 86% of the wealth seem eminently reasonable, especially since most people would assume that income and wealth distribution globally is far more unequal than within the U.S.  Surprisingly, the statistics bear that out only to a minimal degree for income, and virtually not at all for wealth.  Very interesting.


[74]  Sean Hannity et al act as if the earth's resources are the subject of some frivolous global game of Monopoly where the rules allow you amass and keep as much wealth as possible, and when the losers get wiped out, the only consequences are they get up and leave the table.  No,  it's most definitely not a game of Monopoly.  It's a matter of life and death.  The rules of the game of Monopoly are not the rules the use of the earth's resources are subject to.  A liberal would never be so cavalier about people's lives.


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