Jesus at 45 as a Prelude

January 23, 2010

I’ll get where I’m going with this soon, but give me a moment to describe a hypothetical situation.

We’ll use Jesus as the example here. Thinking about the historical Jesus and what we can know, think we know and surmise in probability about what his character, values and actions were like, let’s imagine him living longer than he had and drastically shifting his ideology.

What if Jesus hadn’t been executed by the Roman Empire at age 33, but had instead married Mary Magdalene, had children, settled in Galilee and became what we in the modern American world would call a “conservative” with strong “family values.”

Would he have changed his mind about the coat parable and instead said “If you have two coats, keep them both, because you may need them.”

Would he have decided that temple authorities were right in limiting access to the temple and excuse it on safety reasons or traditional ones?

Would he decide that the political empire waging an expansive war and enforcing rule violently was no longer a bad thing, because it kept his family and his nation safe?

Would he say something like, “Maybe we should be careful before helping Samaritans. They aren’t exactly the same as us, we should take care of our own nation and people first.”

Maybe he would go back into the carpentry business, expand it and do very well. When the local government began to consider restructuring the tax system, proposing that people in Jesus’ income level would have to pay 5 percent more in taxes which would then be redistributed to the widows, orphans and sick, maybe Jesus would vote against it and say, “I’ve got to think about my own family. We’re considering adding a room or two onto the house next year and I need to save for the material.”

Maybe Jesus would fully and truly dull down his message of radical compassion, self-sacrifice and justice for fear that it would attract negative attention from his government and church. Maybe he would think his safety was too important to risk in any type of work to make things better for others.

*

I don’t think any of the above is likely. I’m using it as an example of refuting some arguments I heard recently and have heard in the past, ones that talk about how as you get older you become more conservative; if you are married and have a family you are more likely to be that as well, and that if you are married and conservative you are less likely to divorce than if you are married and liberal. Supposedly these speculations are based on US Census information and Gallup polls. It is true (or at least reported as true) that every state has more self-avowed “conservatives” than liberals, and I don’t doubt that more self-avowed conservatives stay married than liberals in some situations– I think there are many factors for this and it’s important to remember that remaining married despite the situation isn’t always good and admirable in itself (such as in situations of abuse). I’m truly not trying to fan the flames of the old “was Jesus liberal or conservative” argument–honestly, both sides would crucify him again were he preaching and teaching today. I’m not here to say liberals are better than conservatives either–I know plenty of both that are good, bad and in-between. The current political landscape in America is practically garbage right now anyway. As much as I like Obama and respect much of the progress he has made in many areas, I am still disappointed by all that he can’t do for whatever reasons–corporate control of political decisions (hurt even more by this weeks Supreme Court ruling that removes all caps from campaign contributions from corporations, removing what little voice the poor had in elections to begin with), exploitation of the public’s ignorance by state leaders, back-biting and one-upping each other on the senate and house floor, etc. I look around and I don’t even see a real liberal with a prominent voice in the situation at all– No Nader, Chomsky, Cornel West, etc. with any bit of sway in government. As for conservatives, as much as I dislike the policies and attitudes of Regan and his earlier predecessors, I don’t see anything like that either. I see a lot of talking heads controlled by money and playing off the fears and insecurities of the American public.

So what was I trying to get at? I guess the courage of convictions and the maintenance of belief. I could have invoked Dr. King, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Maya Angelou and any number of people to get this point across but played the card so many run to with Jesus. The point is, powerful, life-affirming, world-changing convictions shouldn’t damper and disappear out of fear, selfishness or age and income level changes. I can recognize the conservative stand-by interests of respect for the constitution, integrity of the family and society, protection of the people by necessary measures as understandable and desirable goals although I won’t always support their interpretation of what those things mean and how they should be attained. But can conservatives recognize liberals for wanting to work for true equality for all people regardless of their gender, race, national origin and sexual orientation? How about our desire to work for pacifism and peace as much as humanly possible? I could go on with talking points but won’t. I used to have a teacher in high school who constantly said, “when you’re young and you’re republican you don’t have a heart but if you’re older and a democrat you don’t have a brain.” He said this even though he was supposed to be teaching Biology, but whatever. My point is that it’s wrong to change your ideology because you suddenly have a family and you seek to protect them by doing things that hurt others even though it’s not really protecting your family any better in the first place or changing because you suddenly have a lot more money and you want to hold onto all of it. There doesn’t have to be a choice between brain and heart.

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