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Jesus was a wimp?

Apparently, “love your neighbor” and “turn the other cheek” are liberal talking points.

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Have you heard the latest from the folks of the “Jesus-is-my savior/Trump-is-my-president” persuasion?

Some of them are claiming that the Sermon on the Mount was lily-livered liberalism.

You can’t make this stuff up.

“Russell Moore, the editor of Christianity Today, has authored an editorial in which he worries out loud about evangelicals who are openly rejecting the teachings of Jesus as being ‘too liberal.’” wrote author Thom Hartmann in The Hartman Report, his progressive online column. He also hosts the Thom Hartmann Program, which, according to his website, is the country’s “#1 Progressive Talk Show.”

Historically, it’s been an article of faith among conservative Christian evangelicals that the Good Book is inerrant. Thus, scripture — especially passages attributed to Jesus Christ — are not subject to interpretation. “God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It,” proclaimed a bumper sticker I saw on a car in my native western Kentucky.

Moore left the Southern Baptist denomination when it swerved hard right. Hartman quoted what Moore said to a National Public Radio interviewer after “multiple pastors” had told him “about quoting the Sermon on the Mount, parenthetically, in their preaching — ‘turn the other cheek’ — to have someone come up after to say, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?’ And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.’ And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis.”

Call it "liberal" if you will. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expressed the essence of Christian humanism. Here are the salient passages from the Book of Matthew, King James Version:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

So Jesus was “weak?” The Bible says He chased the money changers out of the temple for defiling the holy house of worship (and for cheating the poor). Jesus bravely endured a horrible, slow, excruciatingly painful death by crucifixion.

Macho Christianity is nothing new. Billy Sunday, the country’s best-known evangelist in the early 20th century, preached a tough-guy Jesus gospel.

A conservative fundamentalist, Sunday prayed for Divine deliverance from “off-handed, flabby-cheeked, brittle-boned, weak-kneed, thin-skinned, pliable, plastic, spineless, effeminate, sissified, three-carat Christianity.”

Christ was anything but the gentle Lamb of God, according to Sunday, who had been a big league ball player. Oh no, The Prince of Peace was “the greatest scrapper who ever lived.”

Liberal Christians have long claimed that Jesus preached a liberal gospel. “It’s amazing that upon coming to that same realization, these conservative congregants don’t rethink their hateful ideology to better align with the teachings of their god,” wrote Markos Moulitsas in Daily Kos, the group blog and internet forum which he founded. “Instead, they declare the teachings of Jesus as ‘liberal talking points,’ call him ‘weak,’ and then cast him aside as anachronistic.”

Added “Kos” (Moulitsas’s pen name), “Of course, there’s always a Southern preacher willing to take these souls and give them a hateful, vengeful, conservative version of Jesus, one that skips over the Sermon on the Mount.”

Note to the Californian Kos from this Kentucky Kos fan: Such right-wing “you can’t be a liberal and a Christian” pastors are found in pulpits all over the country, including the parts of the Golden State.

Anyway, the notions that the Sermon on the Mount is just a bunch of “liberal talking points” and that Jesus was a wuss are as farcical as Billy Sunday’s sweaty sermonizing. But as Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV) reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY

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