Jack Hitt ponders:
The question is bizarre, of course, but the fact that many prominent religious and political leaders believe that there is an answer surely marks our time as pretty strange.
How quickly it has all happened that the media, particularly television, has convinced itself that Christianity is little more than a Republican political action committee. When the pope died, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer introduced former Clinton aide Paul Begala and right-wing pundit Robert Novak this way: “Bob is a good Catholic; I’m not so sure about Paul Begala.” At the bottom of the screen, CNN ran an informative factoid for the audience: “Many Catholic doctrines are conservative.”
Broadcast media prefer to cast Christianity in the role of “right-wing values PAC” because it’s so neat and tidy. They don’t much like even to say the name Jesus on air because then we might have to talk about his ideas. “Evangelical Christianity” is much simpler because you can treat it as just another special-interest group, like the Teamsters or the neocons.
Leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson have used the media to redefine Christianity as the “Republican base” all between commercials hawking family-values videotapes or pleading for more contributions.
Gosh, WWJD? It makes me wax nostalgic for the days when people wore those bracelets and asked the question, “What would Jesus do?” At least people said his name then and pondered his ideas, using the question as the beginning of an engaged moral debate. Few would have appreciated those bracelets as much as the man himself Jesus, who preached a new way of thinking about religion. Instead of taking orders from temple chieftains, Jesus provoked his followers into thinking for themselves. His preferred media outlet? A literary genre called the parable. It’s a style of Q&A wherein the teacher doesn’t give the answer but challenges the listener with a half-finished story that forces him to think through to the answer by himself. The radical right has swapped out this genius preacher for some easy listening. They insist that everything will be fine if we just nail the Ten Commandments above every courthouse.
Curious. Jesus updated the Ten Commandments in his most famous speech, the Sermon on the Mount. In it, one finds the Eight Beatitudes. Why don’t we ever hear about nailing those somewhere? Here’s why: It’s not simply the law in the Ten Commandments that attracts fundamentalists. Rather, it’s the syntax. The authoritarianism of so many “Thou Shalt Nots.”
The syntax of Jesus’ Eight Beatitudes is not so easy (Blessed are the poor in spirit…. Blessed are the peacemakers). These words invite the kind of hard questions that Jesus loved to tweak his followers with. How are they blessed? And why? It’s just like Jesus to leave us with questions instead of answers.
More, go read.