In the 1980s, British pop group, Culture Club led by the inimitable Boy George, had a hit song called 'Church of the Poisoned Mind'. It included the lyric:
Love is hard to find
In the Church of the Poisoned Mind
While the song was more of a love song than a critique of modern religion, the lyrics can certainly be applied to modern Christianity. The religious right has hijacked Christianity from being an inclusive, loving religion to one that is exclusive, hateful, spiteful and driven by greed.
Much of the modern church is a church with a poisoned mind.
The religious right treat abortion and homosexuality as the worst things in the world, they regularly vote for politicians who's primary focus is on the support of big business at the cost of the poor. They vote for politicians who wage illegal wars based on false claims. They vote and campaign for politicians who wilfully imprison and demonise asylum seekers.
It is these policies that are the biggest threat to family values, to the poor, to the downtrodden, to the vulnerable, to the persecuted.
Considering that many conservative politicians claim to be Christian, their treatment of refugees, the poor, the needy, is anything but Christian. Take Australia's abuse and torture of children for example. The United Nations has found that Australia's treatment of asylum seekers breaches the international convention on torture(1). Yet, both the Liberal and Labor parties continue to support the brutal and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
Christ said, "suffer the little children". This doesn't mean to make the little children suffer.
While the religious right is distracted with abortion and same sex marriage, children are being tortured and murdered by the very political policies they support. Conversely, less conservative churches, such as the Uniting Church, are protesting against the government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
Abortion is a biblical issue that is younger than the McDonald's Happy Meal (2). As has been pointed out by The Christian Left, abortion was designed by the founders of the religious right in the 1970s to 'coalesce a right wing political movement' (3). It was instilled purely for political manipulation and not from faith.
While abortion maybe unsavoury for many, the religious right's concern for the child ends at child-birth. They oppose welfare, they oppose rises to the minimum wage, they oppose refugee resettlement, they oppose foreign aid but they often support war in third world nations. Each of these factors contributes to the reasons women choose abortion, each of these factors contributes to child mortality and each of these reasons are not consistent with the teachings of the bible that the religious right so voraciously claims to support. The bible teaches sharing, caring, peace and love. These are the things that the religious right either actively campaigns against or at best, pays lip service to.
Opposition to homosexuality is the other key issue that underpins the religious right's narrative and drives their political choices. Given that the bible is not the best role model for marriage, it is strange that the religious right declares that they support the biblical view of marriage.
Let's unpack marriage according to the bible:
Take your pick: rape, incest, polygamy, infidelity, sexual slavery, arranged marriages.
Yeah ... let's go with marriage according to the bible.
Same sex marriage is not going to ruin society. It is no threat to anyone else's marriage. Critics will often argue that it will destroy family values.
What does destroy families is the wilful imprisonment of children. The wilful imprisonment of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters without charge. The wilful demonisation of innocent people based on lies often perpetrated and perpetuated by the religious right in their blind support of politicians who pander to racism, xenophobia, fear.
What destroys family values is hate-driven ideology and slander. Something that a number of Christians are doing without thought of scripture commanding them to love their neighbour. instead, they're happy to spread lies about Islam or twist the words of the Quran in order to justify their own hate and fear. We're seeing an increase in attacks on Muslims and mosques reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Martin Niemöller, a German Baptist minister at the time, firmly blamed the church for the rise of the Nazis, because it tolerated the persecution of communists, the sick, the Jews(4).
Capitalism succeeds through exploitation. It is a fallacy that the rich earned their wealth from their own hard work. Most of the rich got rich through the efforts of people who slaved their guts out for little return: some not even being paid minimum wage. Workers contribute to the wealth of the company. It isn't theft to expect that wealth to be shared at least with those who contributed to it, whether they're the cleaner, checkout operator or the CEO. It is obscene that the executives are paid thousands times more than what their employees are paid. Some CEOs earn thousands of dollars an hour, while their staff barely make minimum wage.
For Christians to support this is anathema to the precepts of the bible. James 5:1-5 condemns the hoarding of wealth and the robbing of the workers through withholding of wages. Interesting then, that the USA's right wing so voraciously opposes lifting the minimum wage to a standard that it can be lived upon:
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
Much of the Western world is built on the rape of the third world. Corporations are continuing to source their labour from low-income nations to avoid paying higher wages. This doesn't benefit the third world. It only serves to drive a wedge between the rich and poor, it increases poverty and child mortality.
The religious right campaigns for smaller government. It sees taxation as theft. Yet who is going to build the roads and bridges, the schools, hospitals, electricity generators? The west has seen a major drive towards privatisation. This may reduce the tax burden, but privatisation comes at a cost. It is a fallacy to expect competition to drive down prices when consumers are prisoners to the greed of the capitalists who control that competition. Corporations introduce user-pays systems to cover their costs.
Of course, the reality is that even with privatisation, the government doesn't reduce the tax it takes, so consumers are hit double:
Taxation by government and taxation by corporation.
One of the religious right's recent mantras is that government is evil. Yet again, the bible clearly states that the government is the minister of God to do good. Romans 13:1-7 states: ' ... the authorities that exist are appointed by God ... For he is God's minister ... For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers ... '
Dare to state that the Bible promotes Socialism and one will be lynched in some Christian circles. Yet the bible consistently tells us to share wealth.
The basic premise of Marxism is biblical. 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a summary of the bible which states, 'He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack' (Exodus 16:18).
Acts 4:32-35 which speaks of the basic elements of communism - communal ownership and redistribution of wealth:
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. .... 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
The bible is opposed to capitalism, to the accumulation of wealth while others suffer. Luke 12:33 - 'Sell your possessions, and give to the needy'.
The racism, bigotry and intolerance that permeates the ideology of the religious right is borne of fear. If the religious right read their bibles they'd realise there is an antidote to the fear that consumes them, as stated succinctly in 1 John 4:18:
Perfect love casts out all fear
Sadly, many in the religious right would rather reference the teachings of arch-capitalist and atheist, Ayn Rand, then reference the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow.
If the religious right is genuine in the love of Christ, they would do well to free and care for refugees, to share wealth and care for the poor, to share love and stop attacking Islam, to promote peace and stop voting for politicians in the mould of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard, who waged war based on lies and fear.
The religious right are happy to twist scripture to support their warped view of Christ, however it is all legalism. All they try to defend is anti-abortion (or pro-life as they misname it, as their concern ends at birth), anti-homosexuality, anti-Islam, anti-immigration. Their view of scripture is 'thou shalt not' rather than 'thou shalt'.
Right wing Christianity is all legality and no morality.
They care more for capitalism and greed than they do for people. They fail to care for the poor, for the refugee, for the least of these as the bible calls it in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-45): inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.
The religious right should ditch its poisonous teachings and embrace the socialist teachings of the bible, the teachings of love, peace, caring and sharing.
1. Human Rights Law Centre, 'UN finds Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers violates the Convention Against Torture', 9 March 2015, http://hrlc.org.au/un-finds-australias-treatment-of-asylum-seekers-violates-the-convention-against-torture. Accessed 14 February 2016.
2. Patheos, Fred Clark, 'The "biblical view" that's younger than the Happy Meal', 18 February 2012, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/18/the-biblical-view-thats-younger-than-the-happy-meal. Accessed 14 February 2016.
3. The Christian Left, 'Abortion', 2 February 2015, http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/abortion. Accessed 14 February 2016.
4. 'Of Guilt and Hope, by Martin Niemöller', document and analysis by Harold Marcuse, http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/projects/niem/Niem1946GuiltHope13-16.htm. Accessed 14 February 2016. This page provides the following quotation from Martin Niemöller:
'When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers. Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians - "should I be my brother's keeper?" Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. - I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it's right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn't it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? -- Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren't guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers. … I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out. … We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 - there must have been a possibility - 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30-40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now'.