Look; the longer the Trump debacle goes on, the clearer the following becomes.
Republican/right-wing so-called “Christians” are to Christ as Charles Manson was to “social revolution.” To call them hypocrites is to short-change them somehow. Hypocrisy is a common human trait; what these people do with the “Word of God” and their so-called “Christian beliefs” is downright cruel. Anyone who can read the New Testament and the words of Jesus Christ and then turn around and take food and healthcare away from the poor is no Christian. Anyone who cites Jesus Christ as a rationale for denying rights to anyone who isn’t white and straight is far more than a hypocrite, that’s for damn sure.
Whenever modern-day Republican discuss “religious freedom,” it’s likely that the Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves. That is because the Founders were rational, and right-wingers never speak about religion rationally. Their discussion of religion usually has a political context. It also reminds us of what geniuses the Founders were, to enshrine the separation of church and state in the Bill of Rights.
You see, when used by Republicans, the term “religious freedom” is code. It has nothing to do with either religion or freedom; it has everything to do with political power. Republicans are in no way religious, they’re cynical and power hungry. They use Jesus and God as a tool to shut down debate.
According to the First Amendment, everyone in this country has the right to believe whatever he or she wants to believe, even if everyone else thinks what you believe is nonsense. You are free to believe anything you want, even if you choose to believe we’re all space aliens waiting after billions of years, for a ride to our own individual planet. And while it’s amusing to poke fun at religion sometimes, if anyone tried to suppress their right to believe that stuff, I would be at the forefront of their fight for freedom, not against them. Isn’t freedom wonderful?
We can believe in a single God, or we can believe in multiple gods. We can believe in the devil, or we can believe in “mother nature” or the power of witchcraft. We can believe that all wisdom of the ages was contained in the words of a single Jewish carpenter, a chubby mystic, or even a descendant of a great warrior and philosopher. We can even believe that the Jewish carpenter was little more than a really good magician if we want. This is the United States of America, and religious freedom has been our hallmark since the founding.
Even as we seem to worship money over everything else these days, we still get to attend church and pretend money isn’t a big deal for an hour a week, if we want. Or we can sleep in and watch cartoons or football and believe in absolutely nothing if we want. That is “religious freedom.” And we have it, mostly, in spades. Have you noticed how many places of worship exist here? It’s hard to walk three blocks in most cities without running into something of a religious nature.
When it comes to religion, the only limitation comes with how we practice. We can’t do animal or human sacrifice, for example, because humans and animals have some rights. And we don’t get to discriminate against people we decide are the “spawn of Satan” or “descendants of Cain,” or some other nonsense. We can’t claim our dog is God and kill people in the name of Fido.
Put simply, we can believe whatever nonsense we want, and we can practice any way we see fit, to the point where it starts to affect the rights of others. In other words, a right-wing “Christian” can practice their religion any way they want, to a point, but they can’t stand on someone’s lawn and preach at 3 a.m. and not expect to be arrested. I have the right to think God is a scientist named Phineas, and we live in his experimental laboratory, but I cannot claim that Phineas hates gays, and use that as a rationale for denying gays their civil rights. We all have the right to free speech, but we must also have a permit to hold a parade in the town square or to hold a march that honors the human fetus as the most sacred of God’s creatures.
Right-wing Republicans who constantly talk about “religious freedom” couldn’t care less about anyone else’s religious freedom. I’m not even sure they believe in anything religious. Consider their constant whining about an alleged “war on Christmas” and/or a “war on Christianity.” Only about seven percent of the population call themselves “atheist” or “agnostic,” meaning they claim no belief in a deity, which means 93 percent consider themselves religious, and 84 percent call themselves Christian. This, of course, begs the question; who are the oppressors here? Is it possible for seven percent to overthrow 93 percent?
The answer is, of course not. However, the “Christian Right” isn’t using religion as a basis for making life better, they’re using it as a cudgel, to suppress debate. I mean, they support Donald Trump, who is easily the least “Christian” person who has ever existed. They are largely defending Roy Moore’s actions, even though there is ample evidence he had a penchant for little girls. Apparently, according to these “Christians,” Roy Moore can attend teen dances and bed teen girls, but allowing transgender individuals into the bathroom they identify with is intolerable. Is there anything resembling the teachings of Christ in any of that? Don’t be ridiculous.
I’d be shocked if most right-wing “Christians” ever set foot in a church, except for an occasional wedding or a funeral. Paul Ryan claims a strong Catholic belief, but where’s the evidence, except for a fanatical anti-choice stance? I grew up Catholic and chose to give it up for Lent when I was a teenager, but let me tell you; there is nothing in the Catholic faith that would instruct Paul Ryan to dismantle Medicare and repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is nothing in the faith that would instruct him to cut SNAP and let the CHIP program expire.
Republicans invoke the name of God and/or Jesus every chance they get, and they pretend to piety, even as they deny poor people and minorities access to basic dignity.
It’s time to take back religion. Too many on the left seem to feel the need to put down religion in general in order to oppose the excesses of the GOP, but that’s not necessary. If this country is a “Christian” country, as Republicans claim, let’s make them act like that is the case. Jesus instructed his followers to treat everyone with dignity and to help the poor, the sick and the downtrodden. The fact of the matter is, progressives in this country adhere to actual Christian ideals, not right-wing “Christians.” It’s not surprising, since, based on statistics, the vast majority of progressives are probably Christian, or at least religious.
Stop allowing Republicans to co-opt Jesus and God and bastardizing religion for their own nefarious purposes. The Jesus of the New Testament was very liberal, in modern terms; it’s time. Take back religion and use it to help people, rather than hurt them.
Also published on Medium.