12 March 2005

off-topic essays

this has really nothing to do w/ d press, but i thought people might find it interesting. someone asked me to write an essay on this topic. what follows is the second draft. i also am not sure how to make a paragraph tab over, so i'll make a new line

“Jesus, etc.”
an essay by Lucas McNelly

I have this idea for a movie where Jesus Christ comes back, but instead of rapture and angelic voices and the four horses of the Apocalypse, he ends up somehow on the talk show circuit and by the end of the movie he's so fed up with the whole thing he goes back to Heaven, leaving us to fend for ourselves. The breaking point, if I remember correctly, is when Bill O'Reilly calls Him an anti-American liberal communist and Jerry Falwell suggests He may be gay.

In my movie idea, no one on the Religious Right finds this upsetting at all.

I'm reminded of this every time someone from my parents' church emails me an article from Fox News about how a cartoon character is gay or how liberal Hollywood is corrupting our youth or how the situation in Iraq isn't so bad anymore or how France must be harboring terrorists simply because one of them had a French passport.

I have an American passport. Does that mean America is harboring cynics?

Ok, maybe that's a bad example.

But what those emails seem to be suggesting is that as a Christian, I will automatically agree that a gay cartoon character signals the end of humanity as we know it. I don't, though, and try as I might, I never can find that section of the Bible. Neither can my roommate, for that matter, and his father is a pastor.

Nor can I find the verses that suggest we should scale back welfare or privatize social security or provide tax breaks for the wealthy or any of the other tenets of the modern Christian faith.

Supposedly it’ll be harder for a rich man to get to Heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle, but it’s harder still to keep the Religious Right from voting that same rich man into office.

I’m thinking of writing a book called “Jesus Was a Socialist and Other Things I Didn’t Learn in Sunday School”. The moral outrage alone would make it a best-seller.

And if Jesus was a Socialist then why are all His so-called followers on the complete opposite end of the political spectrum? Is abortion that crucial of an issue that it can make someone deny the basic principles of everything else they profess to believe? Assuming you do save the child’s life, will all the cuts in social services make that life worth living?

To me, that makes as much sense as watching “Van Helsing” instead of “Amelie” because I don’t like the color of the subtitles.

Admitedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to church on a regular basis, but I distinctly remember the constant reminder to not be a “Sunday Christian”, that is, someone who only embodies Christ’s virtues on Sunday and raises hell the rest of the week. So how is that different from donating some canned goods to the church food bank on Sunday and voting for someone who will cut funding for poverty on Tuesday?

Exactly how many cans of vegetables does it take to offset those cuts?

Just how many times do you have to volunteer for nursery before a single mother can feel better about leaving her children home alone while she works two jobs?

Eugene V. Debs, the great American Socialist, once said, “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Jesus urged His disciples to care for the poor and widows. George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative, proposed using $300 million in welfare funding to encourage “healthy, stable marriages” and increasing the welfare working requirements while cutting funding for job training.

One of these men is not like the others. Can you guess which one before I end this page?

Growing up in a Baptist church, it was often assumed every Christian was, by definition, a Republican. To be otherwise was unthinkable. What self-respecting Christian would want to kill an unborn child?

Regardless of morality, voting based on abortion is nothing short of idiotic. It’s worse than voting based on how a candidate looks. If you’re going to vote based on something so inconsequential, you might as well pick the candidate’s favorite baseball team.

Abortion isn’t going anywhere. Not this year, not next year, not in our lifetime. There isn’t ever going to be a meaningful vote on it, and even if there is, it’ll be overturned by the courts. Bet the farm, it’s here to stay. And even if it were to get overturned, do you honestly think it’ll significantly limit the number of abortions? Just like Prohibition, it’ll turn into the sort of underground industry where women die from infections because they couldn’t get it done properly. You end up endangering more people than you save.

Just how many meals do you have to cook to make up for someone’s daughter dying from a coat hanger?

Everyone is always talking about the Ten Commandments, but no one seems to care about the Sermon on the Mount. Why not put that on display outside a courthouse?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called songs of God.”

“Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”


The early church was socialist. The believers shared everything equally and no one was left behind. Ananias and Sapphira died because they lied about contributing to the general good. Peter and John made it a point to look after the widows and orphans, just as Christ had instructed them. The general welfare of the church took priority over an individual’s pursuit of wealth. That’s socialism in a nutshell: the general welfare of a community is more important than an individual’s pursuit of wealth.

How utterly logical.

They say a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Socialism strives to redistribute the overwhelming strength of the strongest link to ensure the chain can’t be broken by a stiff breeze.

Because what good are two steel rings held together by one made of paper?

My father always tells me that Socialism will never work, and he may be right, but is capitalism actually working? Not really. There’s a continental divide of wealth in this country. The rich get exponentially richer and the poor get poorer, once you adjust for inflation. When the Yankees’ payroll goes past $200 million, everyone screams for competitive balance, but when Bill Gates’ net worth goes past $60 billion, no one says a thing. And sure, a single mother using sheer ingenuity and good old American entrepenuership can compete with someone like Bill Gates, but something tells me she’s got a better chance of beating the Yankees with a local softball team.

What would Jesus do in this situation? Well, I’m quite sure He’d be on the side of the single mother, making sure she didn’t run out of food and, who knows, maybe even serving as hitting coach and scouting the Yankees for weaknesses.

And I can’t imagine He’d spot the Yankees a run and hope it trickled down to make everything even.

So why is it that His followers would? Why is it that they’d be against any sort of advantage for the single mother? It can’t be in the interest of fair play.

Could it be that we only want to embody Christ’s beliefs on Sunday?

Could it be that we aren’t filled with Christ’s love at all, but rather inviting the moneychangers back into the Temple?

Jesus wouldn’t think our single mother vs. the Yankees was a fair fight, and Eugene V. Debs surely wouldn’t, but most Christians, I suspect, would.

Can you guess which one is not like the others before I finish this game?

-- Pittsburgh, 2005

1 comment:

mattreed said...

1) I would take out the part you ripped off from K. V.
2) Try to avoid using the word 'idiotic' in essays, it makes you sound reckless.
3) I'd soften you're language on abortion a little.
4) You might point out that abortion is a part of a larger problem in society, along with capital punishment, and war, and actions destructive to the environment: we live in a society whose engine is violence.
5) Is the last word of the last sentence really supposed to be game.
6) On socialism not working: you might quote to your father Wendell Berry who reminded us that if the Golden Rule was universally followed the Economy wouldn't last a week. When did morality have anything to do with pragmatism?
7) You should go to church, heathen. Maybe it'd do you some good.