No one in American life today proclaims their allegiance to Christ more conspicuously than those who have rejected most of what Christ actually taught: Republicans. The modern Republican Party’s hell-bent embodiment of nearly everything Christ warned against has become so serious that we have to call it out. You cannot be a Republican and a Christian.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There was a time, maybe even as recently as the early 1990s, when to support the Republican Party was not altogether evil. And further back, of course, things were even more different. As Garrison Keillor once reminisced, Republicans used to be: moderate, business-minded civic boosters and unapologetic patriots who were the linchpins and bulwarks of small towns across the Midwest, the enthusiastic backers of projects for the civic good, usually in partnership with the town liberals (the librarian, the bar owner, a lawyer or two, the Methodist minister, the banker’s wife). These Republicans were uniters and diehard optimists and persons of compassionate conscience, inveterate doers of good deeds.
Even today, there are probably some Republicans who still fit that description. The problem is that they are for all practical purposes invisible in American public life, and if their party found out about them, they would be hounded out of it. If they dared to compete in the lunatic talent show of Republican primary politics, they wouldn’t stand a chance.
The reason that you cannot be a Republican and a Christian is that today’s Republican Party doesn’t appear to stand for anything but what Christ strenuously rejected, like organized violence, self-righteous division, and greed. To say the least, this is hard to square with Christ’s teachings and example. I am not a Christian, and I’m certainly no Biblical scholar, but you don’t have to be. It’s not hard to tell the difference between who is and isn’t really a Christian, and Republicans, you’re not.
• In Christ, we’re talking about someone who said turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and that all those who take the sword will perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52).
• We’re talking about someone who warned “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) and urged people not to look for a mote in someone else’s eye while they have a beam stuck in their own (Matthew 7:3).
• We’re talking about someone who said, “woe unto you that are rich!” (Luke 6:24) and, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) Did Jesus ever have anything good to say about people who hoard wealth?
I know that many of Christ’s teachings are open to interpretation, but so many of the people who make a point of asking “What would Jesus do?” seem to have no interest at all in the most likely answers. It’s ironic that they have sometimes been referred to as “values voters,” since their values are so devoid of value, at least from the Christian point of view. Their main interest in Christianity seems to be an expectation of being rewarded in the afterlife despite bad behavior while alive. And as for their leaders, beware wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Most atheists and agnostics are truer Christians than this crew.
The impossibility of squaring what Christ actually taught with the words and deeds of today’s Republican so-called Christians is what makes this all fair game. These people are hypocrites. These people conveniently ignore most of what Christ actually said. Christ would scold and hold these people accountable for their reckless and downright evil behavior–and many of them, given a chance, would re-crucify Christ if he came back today and taught the still-radical ideas he apparently advocated.
You can’t have it both ways. You have to choose, because, today, you cannot be both a Republican and a Christian.