What Would Jesus Take: The Fundamental Confusion of the Christian Left

With embarrassing clarity, Lawrence O’Donnell recently illuminated the fundamental confusion among many left-leaning Christians: the belief that God is a God of coercion.

Watch this:

The attack is centered around a rant by Rush Limbaugh, who recently accused the Left of using Jesus as a prop for defending specific progressive policies and pet projects. Jim Wallis has demonstrated such a tendency with his legalistic “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign, but for Rush, it all comes down to a different question: “What Would Jesus Take?”

O’Donnell’s answer is as clear as can be: “Everything. Not 35%. Not 39.6%. 100%.” Jesus did not come to make a way. He came to make you pay up.

Although Rush lacks plenty of tact in his delivery (surprise, surprise), his conclusion is spot on: Jesus did not come to force us into submission — not with an elbow, a fist, or a bolt of lightening. His love is 100% coercion-free.

To prove it isn’t, O’Donnell trots out the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler, a tale that leftists love to get wrong. In the story, Jesus tests a rich man’s obdience by demanding he give all his possessions away to the poor. The man ultimately fails and turns his back on Jesus, rejecting the call entirely (I have commented on this before).

For O’Donnell, this isn’t a story about obedience or sacrifice or spiritual empowerment or supernatural devotion. This is not a story about the lusts of the flesh, the human heart, or even the Kingdom of God. For O’Donnell, as with most progressives, it all all boils down to material junk. As O’Donnell declares: “It seems very clear that Jesus would be cool with a 39.6% tax bracket for people making over $250,000 dollars.”

Right. King Herod was probably anxious to execute God’s will with whatever tax dollars filled his coffers. After all, if a rich man won’t listen, a government bureaucrat surely will! Plus, those Romans were totally on the cutting edge of neo-Marxist ”social-justice” policies.

But what did Jesus take? As the rich man walked away, did Jesus toss a lasso around his neck and snicker, “Not so fast, buddy!”? Did he initiate a heist on the rich man’s vault or petition the Romans to deem his beloved financial activities illegal? Did he turn to his disciples and say, “Alright. He’s had his chance. Now sick him, boys!”?

Nope. He simply watched the man reject him, letting the man reject his call, after which he turned to his disciples and explained the earthly impossibility of fulfilling such demands. Predictably, it is here  the camel-through-the-of-a-needle part — where O’Donnell rests his case.

It is impossible, says O’Donnell, for us to follow Christ if we don’t give all our stuff away to the poor. It is impossible for us to follow Christ if we oppose a 39.6% tax on the rich (or even a 100% tax, I suppose?). It is impossible, says the well-dressed MSNBC anchor, to follow Christ and keep your shirt on your own back.

Yet it is here where the faith stuff really comes into play.

The story continues, as Jesus encourages his disciples with the following words:

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with GodTruly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

rich young ruler, Jesus, obedience, stained glass, artWhere in these verses do we see an emphasis on materialism? Where do we see an advocacy for force? Where do we see Jesus promoting a collective attempt to manipulate one’s neighbors? When Jesus talks about the “last being first” is he referring to those who have been forced into submission via income tax withdrawl, or is he talking about those who have voluntarily heeded his call and left their earthly idols willingly?

There is a difference between “take” and “demand,” and to institutionalize the former is to dissolve the latter. To seize freedom is to seize obedience — the very essence of the Christian pursuit.

To believe Jesus is a Master of Coercion who calls his followers to join in religious thuggery is to reduce Christianity to a legalistic bullying match. Unfortunately, this is the crayon with which the Christian Left distorts the Gospel.

The good news is that with God, all things are possible. With socialism, it’s up to Self-Righteous Pharisees X, Y, and Z to decide.

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/65094745285857280 Remnant Culture

    My thoughts on @lawrence's recent rant on "What Would Jesus Take?" The fundamental confusion of the Christian Left: http://bt.io/GyU5

  • http://heart4thehood.wordpress.com/ MMJ

    so if the confusion of the left is coercion? … the confusion of the right is individualism. “I can do what ever I want with whatever I have, and unless i FEEL like it, I don’t have to give anyone anything….”
    TO simplistic Mr. Sunde…

  • http://heart4thehood.wordpress.com/ MMJ

    btw – when I say, FEEL like it, I am talking about how most Christians I know interpret the leading of the “holy Spirit” which I believe in! most christians USE the Holy Spirit as an excuse to do what they want – and know little of the real word of God.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Your definition of individualism is obviously different than mine.

    But I’ll meet you where you’re at: Even if the right promotes individual *freedom*, they do not, from what I have read, say that selfishness (which seems to be *your* definition of individualism) is a requirement for being a good Christian. They simply believe that all people should have the *freedom* to either be jerks or givers. One of those options is the Christian option.

    On the other side, O’Donnell is saying that you must *support* coercion (institutionalized, at that), in order to be in line with the Gospel. He isn’t saying we should support the *freedom* to coerce via force (which we shouldn’t, by the way), but that we should all give in to Bureaucrat X and allow him to manipulate our actions and redistribute our stuff on our behalf.

  • Modocrider1

    Being led by the Spirit is quite different from “feeling like it”. The two are quite often in complete disagreement. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit involves faith while the other is totally dependent on the whims of feeling.
    I mistrust anyone who would pull Scriptural verses out of context to promote their own agenda, especially when it applies to coercion. While the level and type of abuse is different, the same reasoning can be applied to both the Inquisition and tax burdens. Both are methods of removing by force something that belongs to someone else.
    Christ’s call was about trading in what would turn to rust and dross for an eternal reward that would never be worthless or ruined.
    As to individualism; aren’t we all gifted differently? There is no one person on earth who is exactly like another human being. So why should people be jealous of others who are gifted differently from them? If a person develops their God given individual abilities, and wealth comes about by doing that, why should they be punished?

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/65601724429250560 Joseph Sunde

    The Christian Left loves to ask the wrong question: "What would Jesus take?" Apparently Jesus is a Master of Coercion: http://bt.io/Gyk6

  • Pingback: The Morality of (Non)Profit: Defining Generosity in the Win-Lose World «Remnant Culture

  • http://www.perthelectricianwa.com.au/ greenpoual

    Yes remnant, you said true word. I have same opinion on this post. I really appreciate your word. Thanks for allocation!

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/166555435460075520 Remnant Culture

    "To believe Jesus is a Master of Coercion who calls his followers to join in religious thuggery is to reduce… http://t.co/wqQkHZl5

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/166557407139479552 Remnant Culture

    With God, all things are possible. With socialism, it’s up to Self-Righteous Pharisees X, Y, and Z to decide. http://t.co/uSXKIF64 #Obama

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/166581201103110144 Joseph Sunde

    With God, all things are possible. With socialism, it’s up to Self-Righteous Pharisees X, Y, and Z to decide. http://t.co/CnpFO8qN

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/166586164298522625 Remnant Culture

    @JBTanqueray @ValuesAndCap Sure. I comment on Jesus & the Rich Man here http://t.co/PxVuSoRd & here http://t.co/VbW5wAtj

  • http://twitter.com/rjmoeller/status/166590281632854016 RJ Moeller

    With God, all things are possible. With socialism, it’s up to Self-Righteous Pharisees X, Y, and Z to decide. http://t.co/CnpFO8qN

  • http://twitter.com/rjmoeller/status/166590281632854016 RJ Moeller

    With God, all things are possible. With socialism, it’s up to Self-Righteous Pharisees X, Y, and Z to decide. http://t.co/CnpFO8qN