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Why Progressives Can't Ignore Religion

Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won't win until we recognize and deal with that fact.

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The church leaders in the 300s who cut the deal with Constantine to create the "one true creed" that all Christians thereafter were supposed to follow, and that the state would adhere to, had nothing to do with the man who had supposedly founded their faith. A religion tied to state power, a religion that uses violence to enforce its ideas, a religion of the authoritarianism and conservatism of the Catholic church of that era had nothing to do with the teachings of the Jesus of the Gospels. And the religion of modern conservatism has nothing to do with that Jesus either.

The Jesus who launched his ministry by saying he had been sent to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, that he had come to set the downtrodden free and "to proclaim the Lord's year of favor" (which in ancient Israel meant a year where wealthy bankers and moneylenders were obligated to forgive all debts the poor owed them) — that Jesus would be astonished and bemused that men like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney say they are his followers. The gentle man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would be stunned by an audience of people who had cheered the idea of a man dying because he had no health insurance, or another audience that laughed and cheered when Glenn Beck gleefully said in a speech to a conservative conference that "in nature, the lions eat the weak.” And that Jesus would be appalled to learn that most of the people in those audiences would say they were his disciples.

Those who worship the gods of selfishness may proclaim themselves to be saved by Jesus, but they do not follow his teachings. As politics and religion continue to influence each other in America, progressives need to realize how completely conservatives have distorted the religion they claim to believe in. And we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our own values using the familiar language of Christ — a language the vast majority of our fellow Americans already understand. 

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