Christians cannot serve both God and the GOP

Christians cannot serve both God and the GOP
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The “Christian right” is the backbone of the Republican Party. Christians of all stripes — from Catholics to Protestants and evangelicals — consistently (and often overwhelmingly) vote Republican. The core tenets of the modern Republican Party, however, are at stark odds with biblical scripture.

Over the last four decades, few priorities have consumed the Republican Party more than economic policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy. The Ronald Reagan presidency, in particular, ushered in an era where corporate bottom lines took precedence over fair wages for American workers. The rise of the Reagan-Republican ethos, which preaches the elevation of shareholder profit over virtually all other considerations, directly influenced decades of outsourcing of American jobs to countries with vast pools of cheap labor. Ditto for union-busting and the adoption of job-killing automation in pursuit of maximum profit.

These factors, unsurprisingly, decimated the American middle class. Moreover, Presidents Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump all pursued radical tax policies that overwhelmingly — if not solely — benefitted a small group of exceptionally wealthy Americans at the expense of the working and middle classes.

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Republican policies favoring the ultra-affluent, however, stand in stark contrast with biblical scripture. The Bible’s condemnations of the wealthy and the accumulation of riches leave zero room for ambiguity.

In one particularly striking example, a rich man agonizes in hell simply for having lived a life of “luxury.” In another passage, “rich people” are instructed to “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming” to them.

According to scripture, “those who want to get rich” fall into a trap of “ruin and destruction,” making for quite the biblical rebuke to capitalist philosophy. The Bible further warns that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” while Christians are instructed not to “store up treasures on earth.”

In short, followers of Christ must choose between “God and money.”

Jesus’ parable explaining that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter” heaven is one of a select few teachings to span all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), cementing the Bible’s anti-wealth message.

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Contrary to GOP priorities, the well-to-do and the accumulation of wealth are not portrayed positively anywhere in the scriptures.

But there’s more. Many right-wing Christians would be surprised to learn that the earliest Christian communities practiced a form of proto-socialism. Early church leaders redistributed wealth from affluent Christian communities to poorer ones (“Your plenty will supply their need”), with the ultimate goal of achieving “equality.”

To the first Christians, the concept of personal property was anathema: “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own” and “they shared everything they had.”

Property was sold and the proceeds “distributed to anyone who had need.”

Clement of Alexandria, an influential Christian writer, held that “all possessions are by nature unrighteous when a man possesses them for personal advantage ... and does not bring them into the common stock for those in need.” Another prominent early Christian, Justin Martyr, wrote that “we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring what we have in a common stock and communicate to everyone in need.”

In response to these biblical passages and writings, many contemporary right-wing Christians would argue that members of the early church were not compelled by a government to redistribute their wealth. That is undoubtedly true. However, the threat of instant death or the agonizing torment of facing the impending apocalypse without having sold one’s possessions for distribution to those in need would, in all likelihood, prove far more compelling — and frightening — than any government tax collection agency. Moreover, had the earliest Christians created their own state, there is little reason to doubt that it would have been founded upon the socialist tenets outlined in the Bible.

Beyond issues of wealth and property, biblical scripture is crystal clear on the subject of taxes. Right-wing Christians railing against taxation would be wise to remember Jesus’ unambiguous commands to pay taxes in full and without complaint.

The same goes for vitriolic attacks, frequently perpetrated by self-described right-wing Christians, on elected political leaders. Such attacks run entirely contrary to explicit biblical guidance regarding interactions with governing authorities.

Perhaps more importantly, millions of American Christians base their political decisions solely on the issue of abortion. Throughout all of the scriptures, however, Jesus does not say a single word about abortion.

While the practice dates back to antiquity, Jesus’ silence is noteworthy. It appears that Jesus’ berating money changers or ensuring that a particular tree could never bear fruit were more important than speaking out against abortion.

Finally, the topic of immigration presents yet another stark disconnect between the GOP and the Bible. The scriptures make clear that only those who provide comfort to tired, hungry, sick or imprisoned “strangers” will ascend to heaven. On the other hand, those who deny aid to strangers in need are doomed to “eternal punishment.”

Ultimately, the Bible serves as a fierce rebuke to decades of Republican Party orthodoxy. Much like Jesus’ command that his followers must choose between “God and money,” Christian Republicans must choose between their political inclinations and their faith. To borrow from the Bible, they “cannot serve both.”

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense.