Jesus Was No Leftist

Jesus Was No Leftist
by Dennis Prager

March 13, 2007

Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards told an interviewer from the religious website that Jesus "would be disappointed" at how little Americans help the destitute who live among them. Jesus, Mr. Edwards said, "would be appalled" at our selfishness.

In the view of John Edwards and other Christians on the Left, Jesus would raise taxes, promote single-payer, i.e., socialized, medicine, be pro-choice and advocate same-sex marriage. But most of all, Jesus would be anti-war, opposed to the military and essentially be a pacifist.

This is based largely on one of His most famous statements: "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

The flaw in interpreting such statements as policy statements on how a nation should behave is that Jesus was speaking about the life of the individual — the micro — not about nations and the macro.

This confusion of micro and macro morality not only afflicts the Left, it also afflicts the Right. One example is when religious conservatives equate public and private cursing. While ideally one should refrain from using expletives in private as well as in public, there is no moral comparison between using such words in private conversations and using them in public. One trusts that if a religious conservative overheard a teacher using an expletive in a quiet conversation with one other person, he would not compare such speech to the teacher's using that expletive while teaching a class. The first may be a personal sin, but the second is destructive of society.

Nevertheless it is the Left that is most oblivious to the distinction between the micro and the macro. Its understanding of Jesus is a good example. The Left would have us as a nation put this admonition of Jesus into practice: "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

But Jesus was clearly referring to interpersonal relations. It is critically important when trying to understand any portion of the Bible or any other text to read a passage within the context of the surrounding material. As biblical commentaries often put it, "Context is king."

Noting what precedes and what follows this verse shows that it deals with attitudes and behaviors of individuals in such matters as anger against another individual in one's personal life, adultery, divorce, oath-taking, giving to the poor, prayer, fasting, prioritizing, worrying, etc. Jesus was talking about interpersonal relations and noted that in our relations with people in our lives, it is not generally a good idea to hit back.

Now imagine applying this to nations: Should we have said to the Japanese after they attacked Pearl Harbor, "Now that you have attacked us in the West, please also bomb our cities in the East"?

The idea that a country should offer its other cheek to an aggressor is simply immoral, not to mention suicidal. Such thinking renders Jesus and the Christian Bible foolish.

It also shows how hypocritical are the Left's attacks on religious conservatives for taking the Bible literally. It is the Left that engages in a far more dangerous literalism when it applies Jesus' words to national policy. Those on the religious Right who believe that God created the world in six 24-hour days are engaged in, I believe, a completely unnecessary literalism. But it is hardly dangerous. The Left's biblical literalism, however, applying "turn the other cheek" to millions of its own citizens, is fatally dangerous.

Besides literalism, another point of hypocrisy: The Left attacks the religious Right for threatening to replace our democracy with a theocracy that will impose fundamentalist Christianity on the nation. Yet the people who loathe conservatives for using Scripture have no difficulty with those who cite Jesus' words when arguing their positions — even when citing them incorrectly.

Jesus was no leftist. He was, among other things, a religious Jew who knew and believed his Hebrew Bible, which contains verses such as this one from Psalms: "Those of you who love God must hate evil." That, not offering another city for terrorists to bomb, is likely what Jesus believed.


Dennis Prager