Michelle Obama and Jesus

A favorite meme of the anti-“Religious Right” is that Jesus wasn’t political, and they should stop mixing the Bible with GOP politics. And so, my left eyebrow raised all by itself when I saw this:

“He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.”—Michelle Obama

Jesus Marx

Well, actually, not really, Mrs. President. When Jesus saves the adulteress from being stoned in the well-known story from John 8, it’s not that she’s being done an injustice, it’s that those who would stone her are no more guiltless, and could use a little mercy themselves.

When Jesus whips the money-changers out of temple in John 2, it’s precisely because of the blasphemy against God. [Something the Religious Right wouldn’t mind picking up a whip against.]

No, Mrs. President, Jesus wasn’t out there like Alec Baldwin in sandals, doing the politics thing, fighting for truth, justice, and the populist way, “speaking truth to power.” He barely spoke to Pilate atall.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with people living their religion and not parking it in a lockbox until Sunday. And there’s certainly plenty of good Christian political theology on the “all men are created equal” front.

Theologically, I’m unhappy with Mrs. Obama turning Jesus into Malcolm or Abbie Hoffman and Christianity into #Occupy, but that’s OK. What I’d like to point out to those who would silence the Religious Right is that the door of religiously motivated activism must swing both ways.

I mean, she’s allowed to be wrong about her interpretation of the Bible, but so is everyone else.

“It’s kind of like church,” Mrs. Obama said. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well, especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight’s not on us, and we’re making those daily choices about how to live our lives.”

Mm-hmmm. We all agree on that much, then. It opens the door to another argument, though, one better made elsewhere, and a door I think Mrs. Obama would prefer to nail shut.

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


  1. I’m not a person of faith but I play one on TV. And actually, I don’t even do that – but I do live in a city (and house) that’s pretty full of what are often referred to as liberal Christians. And to that end, I have two fundamental issues with this post:

    1. I find it odd that focusing on “injustice” and “truth to power” are immediately dismissed by equating them with Abbie Hoffman and the Occupy movement.

    You are correct, of course that Jesus spoke with Pilate only briefly, but his fate had been sealed long before that – and it was sealed precisely because he did speak truth to power. He wasn’t asking men to go against Pilate, he was asking men to go against the entire system and power structure of his people at that time. That he believed he had a strong scriptural justification to back him up does not negate that.

    The story of the stoning (fwiw, a later addition, most Biblical scholars agree, as it does not appear in any of the versions in the first half millennia known to us) is indeed about injustice:

    It’s about a community deciding that one person be killed for a legal infraction that the rest were either guilt of themselves, or if not were at least guilty of a similarly heinous crime(s). For a liberal Christian, the lesson might not actually be about infidelity. Rather, the lesson might be, for example, to re-acess the way we as a society choose to punish a poor, urban African American boy caught smoking pot as opposed to a white, upper middle class boy in a gated community caught red-handed breaking the exact same law. You might not agree that this is “injustice;” or that Jesus would have been fine and dandy with different sets of punishments for the two boys. And that’s fine, of course, but know that Ms. Obama is on pretty commonly traveled theological ground, even if that ground is not your preferred standing place.

    2. Regarding this:

    “A favorite meme of the anti-”Religious Right” is that Jesus wasn’t political, and they should stop mixing the Bible with GOP politics.”

    FWIW, I don’t know of any liberals that believe this. Most liberals I know believe that Jesus was VERY political, and was a radical for his time.

    The sentiment that I believe you are misinterpreting is that most liberals do not believe that secular societies should be run by mandatory religious doctrine, especially when those that wish to impose such a mandatory doctrine based on Christian texts argue that their interpretation of the those texts is the only one that should be available.

    In other words, when liberal Christians reject your argument that divorce is OK but that gay marriage is so sinful as to be outlawed, they aren’t actually saying that they think the Bible should not be used as a moral influencer in public policy – they’re saying your reading of what Jesus wants us to do is entirely wrong.

    • when liberal Christians reject your argument that divorce is OK but that gay marriage is so sinful as to be outlawed, they aren’t actually saying that they think the Bible should not be used as a moral influencer in public policy – they’re saying your reading of what Jesus wants us to do is entirely wrong.

      This poses another problem: if the Bible should be used as an influence, what about the rest of the “holy” books? Where does it end, and who is drawing that line? After all, contradiction exist between them, and even within the same volume.

      Religion is about belief not asking for evidence. Operating politics off of such a principle regardless of what particular angle someone interprets from it strikes me as akin to playing chess with checkers pieces.

      • The response, as I understand it, is that the Holy Books contain wisdom, not instructions, and that we can use their stories to help nurture our wisdom. That wisdom can then be used to make better decisions, but the two are but tangentially related.

        I think of the tendency to say “The Book specifically says to do X, so we’re going to make a law that says you have to do X” as being a socially conservative approach, not a liberal one.

      • Reverend Timothy Lovejoy: [Reading from his Bible] And the Lord spoke, saying, Whack ye all the snakes that slither upon the ground, and thy town shall be a beacon unto others. So you see, Lisa, even God endorses Whacking Day.

        Lisa: Let me see that.

        Reverend Timothy Lovejoy: [Putting his Bible away] No.

    • I don’t see how you’re letting the door swing both ways here, Tod.

      FTR, “truth to power” is definitely speaking about politics, if you follow the phrases’ origins and use ever since. It’s not unfair to allege Michelle Obama is indeed speaking of her own brand of left, confrontational politics here.

      As for the “liberals” hoping to silence the Religious Right, I was thinking of certain Front Porchers specifically, who never seem to give that advice to the Religious Left, which has quite a history of its own. Neither am I aware of “liberals” who encourage the Religious Right putting their faith into action. Present company excepted, no doubt, as we are all reasonable fellows here.

      As for the argument that America [or any secularish state] should not be run as a theocracy, that is not the RR’s argument, and hasn’t been. Not even the Putitans were entirely theocratic, and OTOH, neither did the Founders toss the Bible in favor of a volume of Voltaire. They were not bound by the Bible, but neither did they seek to be in disharmony with it.

      “The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them from each other.”
      Founder and Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, Of the Law of Nature, 1804

      Virtually all of the Founders, whether they be the “2nd tier” ones of the Dreisbach/Hall book or the Big Six, either believed the Bible was divine writ or believed it was a pretty wise book, so nobody sought to do things that contradict it.

      On that much they agreed, and the civil peace depended on it.

      • As for the argument that America [or any secularish state] should not be run as a theocracy, that is not the RR’s argument, and hasn’t been.

        I could introduce you to a member of the RR who made that exact argument, actually. He was the minister at the first church I attended, where I went for most of my childhood and adolescence, and he put that idea forth during the local high school’s baccalaureate ceremony. You may not be making that argument, but I’ve certainly heard it from others.

        • I wouldn’t deny it, Russell. But I am familiar with the Rushdoony-type “Dominionism” [the “legitimate” form of theocratic argument] and a key tenet is that America would choose to be ruled Biblically, not that it should be imposed like, say, shari’a.

          • Well, as a liberal Christian who advocates a secular society, I’m quite chary of any religious document being what we use to set the laws of our country. The Bible isn’t particularly nice to some of us.

          • Well, I hope you understand that my point recognizes the difference between politics and theology. What Jesus does in the temple is against the Jews and their power structure, not against the Romans and theirs. Jesus, on a divine mission, is empowered to take on the former, but is silent with the latter.

            As for the gay thing, it becomes a completion-backwards conversation killer, if only because it gets too personal to hold an arm’s length examination of the concepts. I get it, Russell, I get it, in fact that’s a reason the conversation never gets past Square One. Peace.

          • Peace you say, and peace we’ll have.

            But certainly you understand that for some of us this never has been and will never be at arm’s length. The implications of a Biblically informed public policy will always, always, always impact directly on our lives. Always. If what you’re wanting is a conversation at an intellectual remove, then I will bow out now (it’s dinnertime anyway) and let it be. It’s your blog, and I am not here to get into a contentious discussion with you. I believe you are a person of good faith and sincere belief, albeit ones that do not congrue with mine. But I can love the theology of the (or, perhaps more accurately, my) Christian church, and want to emulate the person of Christ, without wanting the religious text of any religion to inform the laws that govern us all.

            With that, peace indeed. Have a good weekend.

          • Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. However, in a democracy, We Are Caesar, hence the problem. Caesar [or Luther’s “Prince”] cannot simply bless everything under the sun.

            But we understand each other, which is cool. Shalom.

          • Um, sharia’s a choice, too. They’re called Islamic Republics for a reason.

          • that America would choose to be ruled Biblically

            Unanimously, or if 51% choose it, does it cease to be a choice for the rest? (I expect that in most places where sharia is in place, it’s approved of by a significant majority.)

          • A couple of nits here:
            First, I’m glad you threw out the Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s verse. However, I disagree that we all are Caesar, simply as a matter of participating in an electorate. The whole issue of federalism and everything. I would love to discuss that at another time.

            But you do have the point on this one, as stylized in the tune of “Simon Zealotes” from ALW’s JC Superstar. There were many of Jesus of Nazareth’s contemporaries who wished for him to be a political figure, and were more than a bit put off by his refusal.
            The whole “Lion and the Lamb” thing.

            Christ, what more do you need to convince you
            That you’ve made it and you’re easily as strong
            As the filth from Rome who rape our country
            And who’ve terrorized our people for so long?

            There must be more than fifty thousand
            Screaming love and more for you
            Every one of those fifty thousand
            Would do whatever you asked them to
            Keep them yelling their devotion
            But add a touch of hate at Rome
            And we will rise to a greater power
            We will win ourselves a home
            And yours will be the power and the glory
            Forever and ever and ever

            Secondly, I just want to point out that sharia isn’t one law, but a particular set of rules applicable to a certain group of people, and that there are many such groups. It’s more or less an oral tradition, as many of the mullahs are illiterate, but they know what’s in the book because they’ve studied it from someone else who told them (through several lines).

            Third, the notion of supplanting doctrinal religious belief for the laws of our nation is hardly “conservative,” but subversive. This is more perverse than Van Halen playing keyboards; more staggeringly idiotic than MTV through most of the 80’s.
            The conservative view is that many strong social institutions are preferable to the One (ie Big Government, the fabled haven of Leftists), and that both the Church and the Government should be empowered to the extent of, not only rule-making, but enacting the rule over their prospective spheres.
            We don’t want Lindsay Lohan in charge of the Nyquil stash at the YMCA (among other stashes), and we don’t want government running the churches either– or vice versa.

            Also, I don’t think that being nice to people is the business of the government. If people need someone to be nice to them, they can go visit their grandma. Have at it. But the government isn’t there to have a pie waiting for you.

            I think I’m done for now.

          • JC Superstar made me learn to read music. I can play Simon Zealotes from memory to this day. [Sing it pretty well too, esp all the shrieking at the end. ;-D]

            Been working on the We Are Caesar for awhile. Otherwise, Romans 13 is in force, and that sucks.

            Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

            Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

          • Perhaps I phrased things inaptly, Will. Let me try again.

            Using a literal interpretation of the Bible as a basis of public policy would make life absolutely awful for many of us. “Not very nice” was my euphemistic way of saying “abjectly oppressive.” And if it’s not the government’s job to be nice, neither is it its job to make miserable and second-class a particular religiously unfavored group of people.


          • Yeah, me too.

            When they did a revival tour of the play back in the 90’s, it starred Ted Neeley and he hadn’t aged a day.

          • “Simon Zealotes” has a fantastic piano part.
            I think they should have overdubbed Ted Neeley with Ian Gillan.

            Thank you. Much clearer.
            And we are agreed.
            It’s the distinction between positive liberty and negative liberty that I was getting at.
            Whereas positive liberty can prove worrisome for some, we all tend to pretty much agree on negative liberty, with the disagreements arising from the degree to be observed.

          • I can sing all of Man of La Mancha and Fiddler on the Roof and most of The Music Man. All of Tommy and most of Quadrophenia too, come to think of it. But I’ve never cared for ALW’s work. (By the way, is Jeeves any good? It’s an interesting idea, especially since PGW on more than one occasion described his work as musical comedy without the songs.)

          • Ditto, Russell. I used to sand drywall in new houses, and by the time I finished the score, the house was done too.

            I’m not a huge Ted Neeley fan, esp compared with Ian Gillian, who has a baritone quality that the little weasel Neeley can’t match.

          • This piece shows Gillan’s voice rather well.
            Parts of the arrangement are sorta hokey, but this is ALW, after all.

            I don’t know much about Neeley, and I consider him to be more of an actor.

          • “Gethsemane” is how I taught meself to read music. Key of Bb minor, 5 flats. After you slog through 5 flats, it gets a bit easier.

          • You could transcribe it as A# minor. Seven sharps, so at least you don’t have to remember which notes are sharped.

          • I’d rather call a spade a spade, and a “C” a “C.”

          • Hehehehe… I saw Tom’s comment show up in the Gifts of Gag thing with zero context and was like, “HOLY SHIT, IS HE IMPLYING HE THINKS MICHELLE OBAMA IS THE C-WORD?!?!?!”

            Of course… he wasn’t. But I’m still laughing about it…

          • The way sharps and flats work with keys is very pretty mathematically. Flats are introduced in the order BEADGCF. These are also the orders of the keys in increasing flats, and we extend it by adding the same notes in the same order, but sharped to the left and flatted to the right. (The same is true of sharps, but with the order reversed.) If m + n = 12, then m flats and n sharps are the same key with different names (e.g. F# and G flat, or your example of B flat minor and A# minor.) While the usual thing is to stop at 7 sharps or flats, you can keep going and all the logic still works (e.g. 9 sharps, key of D# has F and C double-sharped and the rest single-sharped, and it is the key of E flat (3 flats) under a different name.

            How this is related to the wonder and beauty of music itself, I leave to wiser heads than mine.

          • That’s the difference between artists and mathematicians. The way I was raised, the conversation goes:

            “B# and Fb are just fishing unnatural!”

            “Is it clear how they work?”

            “Well, yeah.”

            “Do they break any of the axioms of the system?”


            “Can you prove they don’t?”

            “I guess.”

            “Then your intuition that they’re unnatural is wrong. Get over it. And now that we’ve characterized keys with an arbitrarily large finite number of sharps or flats, try to generalize it to infinite numbers. “

          • Ecch, for anyone confused by the sharps and flats, it’s just this simple: learn to play all 12 scales by heart, major and minor. Get comfy with the modes of those keys and the cycle of fifths, you’re off and running.

            Thereafter, you’ll know why the sharps and flats work the way they do. Fat Charlie Goes Down Alleys Eating Biscuits. Them’s your sharp keys. Battle Ends And Down Goes Charlie’s Father. The flat keys.

          • A “C” by any other name will still sound about the same.

      • Tom, I’m not sure exactly how to respond. You make many points, but they don’t really address what I had said.

        Of course Michelle Obama is using scripture to back up her political beliefs – as I said, I’m not sure where your belief that liberals say Jesus’s teachings and politics don’t mix comes from. It is no more or less legitimate an argument than the religious right using scripture to back up their political beliefs.

        And I am not aware of liberals encouraging the religious right to push their agenda either – but never claimed that they were. What I had tried to do was refute your statement that liberals don’t mix the Bible and politics. They do it all the time, but their theology is different from that of the religious right.

        Also, I’m not claiming that the religious right is out to make a theocracy. But they do use scripture to make a case for any and all right causes, including tax-reduction and eliminating various safety-net programs. It has also been my experience that they find liberal Christians to be “squishy” *because* they liberals don’t argue that there is only one single way that the Bible can be interpreted, which is in my observation far more of what separates the two from getting along than any particular tenet.

        I am not arguing for or against any of these positions at the moment. I am simply pointing out to you that when liberals oppose them, they do not do so because they don’t think Jesus’s words mean anything; they do so because they think Jesus’s words DO mean soothing, just not the same thing you do.

        I am not trying to argue which Jesus is the real one, since I am not a believer. I am simply saying that just because people’s politics do not align with yours is not a sign that they eschew Jesus; they just believe different things about Jesus’s teachings than you do.

        • Tod, I hope it’s clear I think Mrs. Obama is being sophistic in her theology, but is totally valid in putting her faith into action no matter what I think. And I hope their opponents would say the same for the Religious Right.

          • This is a pretty good example of what I was saying above about how social conservatives differ from liberals: it isn’t enough that Ms. Obama have a different opinion about what is the Christian thing to do. Either she agree with you, or she is a sophist.

          • Hit the scripture. Show us Jesus “speaking truth to power [in the political sense, because that’s what the phrase means] or fighting injustice [or fighting atall]. You seem hellbent to elude my argument, or have it elude you.

          • John 18:37

            “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

            Give it up, Tom. You’ve been quoted to, chapter and verse. That is speaking truth to power. Any further discussion is just you squirming.

          • Sophistic, as usual. Where is your kingdom, asks Pilate. You’re arguing words, not ideas, not truth.

            If you had good examples you would use them. But you don’t because my point is correct.

          • The only sophistry here is you acting as if Jesus did not speak truth to power. Pilate was political power. His kingdom was in the hearts of men, this is true. But to say Jesus did not speak truth to political power is nonsense. Jesus condemned the Sanhedrin, beyond any doubt a political power. You want to play little Bible Games with me, Tom Van Dyke? Come around here again and tell anyone to Hit the Scripture, you’ll get an answer from me.

          • That doesn’t lay a glove on my argument, since it twists what “speaking truth to power” even is. Telling the president thy sky is blue is technically “speaking trth to power,” but that’s an asinine sophistry.

            I don’t mind if you have any good examples, but they don’t exist.

          • You’re way out of your depth, Tom. The sky is blue? Let’s just try a bit of this bit of John 8, describing the Temple officials.

            Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

            Now that’s speaking truth to power, Tom.

          • Addressed in the OP. Jesus has power over the temple [and its officials]. He’s the Messiah, fer crissakes. I’d really expected you to have made a better show of this and I’m disappointed in your crabbiness.

          • Don’t like my crabbiness? Quit trying to carry water for Matt Drudge in here. It’s stinking up the joint. Running around with your hands flapping, your eyebrows a-twitching like Groucho Marx about how Jesus hardly spoke to Pilate at all, obliging me to point out what he actually said to Pilate, that he was a king and the truth was on his side.

            Jesus Christ did speak truth to political power and his political enemies made sure the legal authorities dealt with him as they saw fit.

          • Yes, you keep saying that. But Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. You skipped that part.

      • “It’s not unfair to allege Michelle Obama is indeed speaking of her own brand of left, confrontational politics here.”

        It is indeed unfair for you to allege this falsehood since you are alleging it based on only a few lines from the First Lady’s entire speech. Practice full scale honesty instead of your own ideologically based interpretation of what the First Lady was saying by linking to her full speech for an honest context or you won’t be taken seriously by those who value honesty. Comprende?

        • I live to make heads like yours explode, ma’am. I recommend you stop reading this blog immediately for your own safety.

    • Excellent, excellent excellent take down of this truly delusional post. Spot on!

  2. How did Rev. Lovejoy put it? “Once the government approves something, it’s no longer immoral!”

  3. Well, unlike my good friend Tod, I am a real, live Christian. (In truth, my religious affiliations are a bit more nuanced than that, but for the purposes of this comment “Christian” sums it up fine.) I go to church regularly, pledge, have taught Sunday school. Y’know, the whole megillah.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure I’d count as one of those liberals you talk about in your post.

    Anyhow, I am confounded that anyone could read the Gospels and draw a conclusion other than that Jesus confronted the authorities within his society. If he didn’t, that raises the rather pressing question of why he was executed, then? Under whose authority? At whose behest?

    And casting the moneychangers out of the temple is a quintessential example of same. How were those people in the temple in the first place, if not with the imprimatur of the religious authorities?

    As for anything else I might say, my friend has already done it far better than I could in his comment above.

    • But the Religious Right are confronting the “authorities within our society,” say over Roe v. Wade or any number of other issues.

      • I was responding to this:

        No, Mrs. President, Jesus wasn’t out there like Alec Baldwin in sandals, doing the politics thing, fighting for truth, justice, and the populist way, “speaking truth to power.”

        Eliding your glib reference to Alec Baldwin, that seems the thesis of your whole post. He was doing precisely what you say he wasn’t doing. Whether the Left or the Right is more rightly following his example is not the point I’m trying to argue.

        • Jesus wasn’t fighting injustice. That part she made up. In fact, as you know, Romans 13 says not to fight injustice.

          • 1) Jesus didn’t write Romans.

            2) Advocating mercy is just one way of fighting injustice.

            3) Even though I detest the phrase myself, “speaking truth to power” was what Jesus spent his entire ministry doing.

            4) Whether or not you’d term it “populist,” Christ spent all his time with the outcast and the poor. When he spoke with the wealthy, he told them to give their money away. Again, I don’t care at all what term you use for that, but it certainly seems concerned with the plight of suffering people.

          • Jesus said, turn the other cheek, same principle. He said not to fight injustice.

            And I’m sorry, Russell, but you’re just appropriating words and phrases with stuff like

            2) Advocating mercy is just one way of fighting injustice.

            Mercy, in fact, short-circuits justice—the guilty don’t get what’s coming to them.

            Not that that’s wrong in the Christian sense, but mercy and justice are not synonymous, in fact to the contrary!

            Again, I don’t care at all what term you use for that, but it certainly seems concerned with the plight of suffering people.

            Concern is fine & proper. He did not address it by “speaking truth to power” and be out there “fighting injustice.” Precisely my objection to what Mrs. Obama said, bending Jesus concern for the poor into her version of political action.

          • Tom, he most certainly challenged the dominant power structure of his society. That those authorities were there by virtue of religious rather than secular power does not mean they were authorities. And you’ve never answered my question — if he did not challenge those in power by speaking to them a different truth than they were interested in hearing, why was he executed?

            No, indeed… the guilty don’t get “what’s coming to them,” do they? Rather a recurrent theme in the Gospels, isn’t it?

            And.. well, as I’ve already said, I happen to think he addressed his concern for the poor and the outcast exactly by confronting those in authority.

          • Heh. Not the Jesus of the Bible.

            Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

            For I have come to turn `a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

            Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

            This entire diary is nothing but Troll Bait. Everyone sees the Jesus they want to see. The Jesus of scripture is an embarrassment to the Turn the Other Cheek Crowd. His enemies were all political because his message was political.

          • Russell, the Sanhedrin and the Romans are 2 separate issues. Jesus doesn’t say “Give to the Pharisees what is the Pharisees’,” etc. This is my key point and conflating the Romans and the Sanhedrins under the “authority” and “power” umbrella is precisely what I’m criticizing Mrs. President for.

            It sloppy theology and sophistic politics.

          • There’s a joke going around in Arabic. In Egypt, as you may know, there’s a big division between one group who want to impose religious law and another which wants to return to past glories. The Americans, they joke, are much more efficient in this regard: they have one party which espouses both viewpoints.

          • Jesus in part WAS fighting injustice. Please just admit that you know absolutely nothing about Jesus and stop pretending like you do. You’re beginning to look foolish.

          • So I see the source of your objection being that Jesus saved his criticism for the religious leadership and was largely silent regarding the secular powers of his day. Fair enough, I suppose, though I still think one could call the former “speaking truth to power.” The Sanhedrin were undoubtedly powerful within the context of Jesus’ society. But I’ll lay that point aside.

            How is this anything but an argument that religious leaders should therefor restrict their belief-based advocacy to ecclesiastical matters? It seems what you’re saying is that, to emulate Christ, what we really ought to be doing is using scripture as a basis for remaking the Church, and leaving the State to itself. Which is fine, really, and isn’t all that far from my own secularist POV. I would take it to be much more a criticism of the RR, which from my perspective is far more apt to mix religion and politics, than of liberal Christianity.

          • Do not look at the Sanhedrin through the modern lenses of the separation of Church and State. They were both political and religious authorities and Pontius Pilate knew it. The Sanhedrin did put Jesus Christ on trial.

            The one power the Sanhedrin lacked was the death penalty. When Pilate demurred, the Sanhedrin threatened Pilate.

            “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

            They were political animals, all of them.

          • You seem determined to blur the distinction. Part of the claim of Jesus’ divinity is that he is empowered to correct the Sanhedrin, Judaism.

            The Romans, different story, different sphere.

      • Roe vs Wade is not an authority, it’s a law.

  4. The Jewish prophetic tradition has many prominent examples of speaking truth to power: Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Nathan, John the Baptist, and so on, and even more of championing justice (in addition to several of the foregoing, Micah, Amos, and Hosea) . Is Jesus an heir to this tradition or not?

    • Jesus subsumes it; he is no mere prophet. He says Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. He does not say give the religious authorities ‘theirs,” because it is His. Thus, he calls them vipers, and chases the moneychangers out of the temple.

      Mrs. Obama is simply barking up the wrong tree here, co-opting Jesus for leftist cliche. Jesus does not speak truth to power and fight injustice, and tell Pilate to stop oppressing the Jews, or give them universal health care. It wasn’t that kind of party.

      • You lie. Here’s what she said:

        “We see that in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church,” she said. “He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day. He was out there spreading a message of grace and redemption to the least, the last, and the lost. And our charge is to find Him everywhere, every day by how we live our lives.”

        Your problem is not being able to distinguish between capital D and lowercase d democrat.

        • I quoted her correctly, Blaise. And now you’re throwing around the “L” word. crossing the line as you always do when you lose an argument, which is often.

          Unless you have an actual argument and not that crummy one about Pilate you’ve made 4 times, our work here is finished. Good day, sir.

          • You quoted her correctly, all right. I’m the one who furnished the context for that quote and the video.

            If you knew anything about how the Roman system worked, you’d know they delegated everything to provincial authorities, almost always local yokels. They weren’t interested in the day to day politics of their provinces. They established a King of the Jews and Jesus described exactly how Herod Archelaeus ruled the Jews:

            He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’

            That’s the reality of the province of Iudaea in the times of Jesus. It was not ruled by a Jew, but by a family of Edomites, converted Jews, the Romans called them Idumaeans. I hear sermons about the Parable of the Ten Minas, where we’re sposta take away something about how winners will win more. No. This is probably a description of what really happened. Herod Antipater went to Rome and left his cronies and servants to run the place while he was gone. Herod Antipater ruled so badly he was overthrown and exiled. This is not a parable about how to faithfully deal with one’s master, but of the idiosyncratic cruelty of despots. Herod Antipater crucified thousands of people.

            We all see the Jesus we want to see. The Bible really does clarify quite a bit about him, though. Jesus certainly wasn’t the only Messiah to die on a cross. Pilate was sick of the Jews and their murderous instincts. So was Augustus. Everyone was sick of them.

      • The Sanhedrin wasn’t just a religious authority, It had great authority to run things day to day, under the suzerainty of the Romans, of course. If I had to make an analogy to today, I’d say “Render unto Washington, but get the lobbyists the heck out of the state legislatures.”

        And, much as they talk about Him, I’ve always thought that Falwell and his crowd pattern themselves after the Old Testament prophets. “9/11 was a punishment for tolerating sodomy” is straight Jeremiah.

        • If Mrs. Obama wants to go Jeremiah, she’ll be on solid ground. But she cited Jesus instead, so she’s off the mark.

          • I am not going to say anything about Jesus — not my area of expertise. (Though there would have been a lot less trouble if he’d just listened to his parents and gone to medical school.)

          • Jeremiah gets a bum rap. You might know this if you’d actually read him:

            They shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. —Jeremiah 31:34

            Now doncha wish your God was a forgiving God, like the one Jeremiah preached about?

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