Now we know, the wages of sin are $57,000. Or so it would seem from what the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed was willing to take from Jack Abramoff.
Yet where is the Christian moral outrage? Why aren't the preachers who rend their garments at the thought of gay marriage or a Democratic president not having sex with that woman concerned about bribes?
An answer may be found in an article a neighbor passed on to me. In Harper's December issue , the piece titled "Jesus Without the Miracles," starts with an appreciation of Jefferson's editing of the gospels, extracting birth narratives, miracles and resurrection accounts into what is now published as "Jefferson's Bible."
A telling three sentences from the article struck me:
To read the Gospel of Matthew or Luke is to be dazzled by one miracle after another. But to read Jefferson's version ... is to face a relentless demand that we be better people -- inside and out -- than most of us are. Which leads, as Jefferson must have suspected, to this unfortunate conclusion: the relevance of Christianity to most Americans -- then and now -- has far more to do with the promise of eternal salvation from this world than with any desire to practice the teachings of Jesus while we are here.
Now I realize that propitiation is not exclusively an American phenomenon, but I find myself paying increasing attention to a divide between Jesus and Christianity, on which I mused some blog eons ago.
On one hand, you have essentially commercial self-serving churches, whose doctrines stress "pie in the sky, by and by," providing the illusion of divine favor to their customers ... ah ... members, and maybe a social club. Christianity has been responsible for wars, persecutions, mass murders, justification of slavery and racism, and in 20 centuries has served every miscreant in power.
On the other, you have an itinerant preacher of long ago, whose claims to divinity and Messiahship were ambiguous, to say the least, insisting on a conversion of life to which Christians never quite seem to get around.
In the itinerant preacher's grand vision, the order we know in everyday life is upturned:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As to the likes of Abramoff and his unctuous Christian buddies:
But woe to you that are rich: for you have your consolation.
Woe to you that are filled: for you shall hunger.
Woe to you that now laugh: for you shall mourn and weep.