Monday 16 October 2017

Jesus Was Left Wing

Or so we are sometimes told. But is it really true? Almost the definition of the left, certainly the modern left, is the denial of God. And even if God is allowed he is assuredly not the Father. Moreover Jesus taught that his kingdom was not of this world. This is a picture so far at odds with a leftist position, which ever seeks unrealisable utopias in the here and now, that really nothing more need be said to make clear that Jesus and the left have very different priorities.

But there is a lot more. We can set aside the point that Jesus's aims were purely spiritual and there are still no grounds for the statement made in the title of this piece. For a start, Jesus emphasised sin and the need for repentance, hardly a left wing preoccupation. He taught forgiveness but this was wholly dependent on turning to God. Its benefits were not to be handed out to everyone regardless of the state of their soul or whether they admitted their fault in terms of being a sinner or not. The forgiveness of sins demands acceptance of full individual responsibility and is not offered as a natural right.

The statement that Jesus was a liberal or leftist is meaningless anyway. There was no such thing until a little over 200 years ago. To make this claim is to project a contemporary ideology backwards to a time when it didn't exist and wouldn't have made any sense to anyone even if it did.

But again, let’s ignore that and assume that you can transport Jesus from 1st century Galilee to the 21st century West and quickly run through some of the reasons why people say he would have sympathised with the left of today.

They say he was a rebel who was against tradition and the establishment. The truth is the opposite. He was for tradition. He said "I have not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, I have come to fulfil them". That's pretty clear.  He deepened and expanded the Law but he built on what came before. He did not seek to destroy it and build something new. That's not how God works. And the only establishment he condemned was the corrupt establishment of the day which went by the letter rather than the spirit of the law, and who exalted themselves over God. Besides, against the establishment? Jesus was the true establishment.

The protagonists of this point of view like to claim that Jesus belonged to the ‘live and let live’ fraternity, and didn't judge or condemn anyone. I don't know where they get this idea from. Well, perhaps I do but it's a distortion of his real teaching. Jesus told us not to judge because he knew the human tendency to go in for self-righteous criticism of others rather than look to oneself. This does not mean there is no right or wrong. No judgement means no truth. It means everything is relative, nothing is better, nothing is worse and, eventually, nothing is even good and nothing is bad. This is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. He constantly condemned the sinner and the unrighteous. He even threatened them with hell and destruction. But what he didn't want was for us to use the shortcomings of others to excuse or ignore our own, or to condemn with hate in our hearts. Certainly he loved the sinner but he was ruthless in his denunciation of sin. The leftist affects to love the sinner and, as a result, excuses or denies sin thereby leaving the sinner mired in his sin. If you really do love the sinner, as Jesus did, you seek to release him from his sin not encourage him in it on the spurious grounds of non-condemnation. That's not love. It's complicity in sin. Jesus admonished the crowd chasing the woman caught in adultery but he did not stop there. He told the woman to sin no more.

Liberals mistake being nice for loving but what is the greater love, that you support someone walking over a cliff or you turn him back? Love does not confirm someone in their errors but directs them towards the truth.

Next, the liberal tells us that Jesus was all about peace and love, and therefore he would support us rather than the war-mongering hate filled right. I’m sure that Jesus would not condone either war-mongering or hate coming from any quarter but it cannot be denied that he specifically said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. That he would set husband against wife, daughter against mother and so on. Of course, Jesus taught peace and love but not peace and love on any terms, not fake peace and love. He taught real peace and love which can only come when you walk in the light of spiritual truth and give your heart to God, the living God before whom the liberal refuses to bend the knee.

Jesus did not teach equality. We may all be one in God but not as individual men and women.  He recognised and respected tradition. He was not a revolutionary.  That was Judas, the man who preferred radical politics to religion, the same Judas who ostensibly wanted to sell an ointment used to wipe Jesus’s feet and give the money to the poor. But what does St John tell us about that? “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and took what was put therein.” If anyone ticked the left wing box it was surely Judas.

I'm not claiming that Jesus was what we would today call right wing but the concerns of traditional religion are surely closer to what he taught that those of the contemporary left which actually oppose them at many points, most specifically with regard to the centrality of God.


Stephen Macdonald said...

The Apostles and early disciples were in purely technical terms, communists. Jesus repeatedly exhorts his followers to sell *all* their possessions and adopt a life where everything is shared communally. They were most certainly not modern Leftists, however. As for right-wingers, they are at least as far removed from the Christ-centered life as people on the Left (especially Randian libertarians, who if anything are more firmly opposed to God than even the Marxists). Bruce Charlton's assessment is correct: the entire Western system is corrupt, left and right. We don't deserve anything but hell -- every one of us. Only through divine grace and mercy do we stand a chance.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nova - I don't think it is correct to refer to communal sharing as communist since the situation is approximated (more closely than in any communist societ) by hunter gatherers.

I agree that the entire official Western system is corrupt - but it isn't a matter of whether we 'deserve' hell. The Christian position is that we all 'deserve' hell but repentance will save anybody (with certainty, not 'a chance').

Our problem is that we do not repent; more exactly that Western Man actively-rejects Heaven (God) and *chooses* hell. From the Christian perspective, our value system is (mostly) *inverted*.

William Wildblood said...

Nova, I take your point and I don't disagree with it but I was juxtaposing modern secular left with traditional spiritual here rather than purely political left and right, neither of which interest me. I see the essence of this kind of leftism as anti-God as communism specifically was. So the motivations of Jesus and his disciples, like those of monks and nuns who also live communally, were completely different to communists.

Bruce Charlton said...

Chiu ChunLing has left a new comment on your post "Jesus Was Left Wing":

While the modernist doctrines of Marxism are relatively new, I think it is dangerous to disregard what Marxism has in common with every ideology of plunder (often calling for revolution against a locally established order before turning to conquest of other lands).

[Marxism insists] that coveting what others lawfully possess is the highest (and often sole) moral imperative in life.

This is why no Christians or any other honest communalists were ever Communists, because Communism absolutely requires that the pool of shared possessions be imposed and maintained involuntarily, it is a fundamental tenet of the ideology as defined from the outset and in every serious attempt at implementation since. All voluntary communes reject coveting entirely by virtue of allowing anyone to refuse to join in the first place. In other words, they renounce utterly any claim on what belongs to a neighbor until after that neighbor has already given up ownership of it.

[Note - I have edited this comment because it contains a false statement requiring refutation - but which raises issues which I have decided are outside the scope of this blog.]

Thomas Henderson said...

Jesus Christ, in orthodox teaching, is fully God and fully Man. As fully God, one can echo Isaiah, '"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways", declares the LORD.' Herein lies a caution against the sin of presumption.

'The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of Man may become sons of God.' The ideologues of modernity and post modernity are very far removed from any semblance of sons of God, including most progressive Christians.

One can argue that the Old Testament teachings are much more closely aligned to the Left than Christianity, emphasizing as they do that 'struggle' is part of the divine plan (such as the change of name of Jacob to Israel, "he who strives with God and man and lives") and the deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. Not unexpectedly, therefore, European and American Jews have tended to be at the forefront of leftist causes. Paradoxically, Israeli Jews, in contrast and for similar reasons, tend to gravitate toward nationalistic identities that are often associated with the right.

Secularism, however, is rooted in the Christendom past. In many ways the two major ideologies of the west, liberalism and communism, are derivative of a Trinitarian worldview whereby God is understood as an Oneness of distinct persons who move and have their being in communion with one another. If human beings are made in the image of God, then we, too, flourish best when as persons we move and have our being in communion with one another. Once people lost the faith, the temptation arose to idolize either the person (liberalism) or the communion (communism).

Jesus is not so much left wing than the right hand of the Father. He is the second person of the Trinity. To know God is to know the Trinity.

William Wildblood said...

Some interesting comments. Thank you. My view is that much modern leftism, whatever its origins, is the result of deliberate perversion of truth by demonic beings. But once you take God out of the equation more or less anything goes and the disintegration of society is inevitable, especially once the legacy of belief in God has died out and you've spent the interest on your spiritual capital.

Thomas Henderson said...

The Devil and his legion of demons would still have us ask Pontius Pilate's question, "what is truth?" whenever we are standing face to face with the Truth. Once we remove God from the equation, our universe becomes flattened to utilitarian and materialistic concerns - a Baconian view of what is provable by evidence only. Truth ceases to be a person, and thus personal, and becomes instead an abstraction. As an abstraction it can be readily subjected to manipulations by our whims and foibles.

If we are left wing, truth becomes left wing. If we are nationalist, truth becomes nationalist. If we are liberals, truth is liberal. If we are communists, truth is communist, etc., etc., etc.

Thank you for these follow up comments. The word diabolical is from the Greek diƔbolos, literally 'to throw across', i.e. to accuse, to scatter. The disintegration of society, and our current obsession with deconstructionism (an attack on the word and the Word) is clearly diabolical. We live in a nihilistic anti-culture that constantly accuses, that constantly scatters. Deliberate perversions of truth by demonic beings makes sense, perhaps the only thing that makes any sense.