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Hypocrisy Alert: Bible Thumping Pols, And The Trouble With Religion In Politics

John Winters: "Today, we hear politicians talking about God one moment, while at the same time singing from a very different hymnal." Pictured: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a Bible as he speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's annual fall dinner, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
John Winters: "Today, we hear politicians talking about God one moment, while at the same time singing from a very different hymnal." Pictured: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a Bible as he speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's annual fall dinner, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
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I’m about the furthest thing from devout, but even I have to admit that Jesus said some pretty amazing things. His main message, if I may be so bold as to summarize, was love and take care of each other.

There’s little disagreement on this. In fact, if Jesus had a Twitter account, it would be filled with admonitions such as:

Help the needy. Care for the sick. Let there be peace. Treat every man as a brother.

He wouldn’t need a quarter of those 140 characters to spread His message, because it’s pretty simple and straightforward.

...over the past four decades, as Christianity has grown to play an ever-larger role in our political system, the primacy of the religion’s values have been diminished or outright forgotten.

These notions get convoluted, however, when they get tangled up in politics, as they have done, in spite of Jefferson's warnings about the political abuses of Christianity, and in spite of the dictates of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Today, we hear politicians talking about God one moment, while at the same time singing from a very different hymnal:

Help the needy, but only if they look like me and have a job.

Care for the sick, but not on my dime and not through that damn Obamacare.

Let there be peace, unless it’s easier to simply carpet bomb the bejesus out of them.

Treat every man as a brother, unless he lives on the other side of the border.

The amazing thing is that, over the past four decades, as Christianity has grown to play an ever-larger role in our political system, the primacy of the religion’s values has been diminished or outright forgotten. More than ever, we live by rules that champion the individual over society and favor the rich and powerful over the poor and unlucky. Has Jesus been replaced by Ayn Rand?

The upshot of this is pretty ugly. Many of us support tax cuts so we can buy another big-screen TV, not caring that the elderly lady next door can’t afford her insulin. The image of a dead toddler being carried off a Turkish beach makes us feel bad, but we support building a wall to keep such foreigners out. Millions call themselves pro-life while supporting the death penalty, even for prisoners deemed mentally challenged. Government officials routinely cut funds meant to help the neediest among us. And in recent years, we seem to have backslid to a time when equal rights for all were just a dream and not something guaranteed.

I'm more heathen than saint, but even I know these actions don't jibe with anything found in the Good Book. Yet so many Americans fail to see the hypocrisy or feel the anger at having our intelligence so baldly insulted by politicians clasping the Bible with one hand while slashing the food stamp program with the other.

Trump says he’s proud to be a Christian. So do many of those whose hate mongering has put him on top of the polls.

All this goes beyond the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, for whom evangelical voters can’t get to the polls fast enough, in spite of the fact that their candidate stands for everything they, in theory, find contemptible. Trump is merely the most visible symptom of the disease. He is the product of the blow-back racism wrought by the election of a black president. He is the result of decades of hate-filled diatribes on TV, radio and blogs. He is the result of a partisanship that preaches the importance of standing on principle but that is, in reality, nothing less than outright contempt for the process, the public and the man in the Oval Office. He is the result of our growing propensity to find a scapegoat for the general suckiness of our lives.

Of course, Trump says he’s proud to be a Christian. So do many of those whose hate mongering has put him on top of the polls.

What would Jesus do? He’d probably give up, close his Twitter account and move back to the desert.

Is there hope? Short answer -- no. But then again, evolutionary theorists have concluded that selfishness is not a part of human nature. Maybe we will learn that we’re all in this together, and that we can probably do without that second TV and pay a bit more in taxes so the neighbor can have her insulin. Maybe.

Then again, Jesus said some amazing things. Just look where it got him.

Related:

John J. Winters Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
John J. Winters teaches at universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and is the author of "Sam Shepard: A Life."

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