Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Reading Rexroth

March 19, 2009

I’ve been reading Kenneth Rexroth lately and enjoying him a great deal. In his long poem (200 pages!) The Dragon and the Unicorn I found in one small section two statements of belief that I’ve held myself for quite some time. They’re related. The first one is this:

A real religion is not
Believed in, it is practiced.

I think that’s an important idea. A lot of Christians think that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you’re covered—which isn’t true. You have to put the principles he taught into practice—and they’re tough ones. You can’t understand religious ideas any other way. You can’t take your understanding from a book. Books get messed with. More importantly, religion—real religion—is ineffable, and no book can contain the ineffable. It’s only there to get you started.

The second statement is:

Neither Augustine nor Karl Barth
Are religious men. They are
Emotionally unstable
Philosophers…

I don’t know anything about Karl Barth, but I’ve had a gripe with Augustine for a long time. He wasn’t a saint; he was an intellectual. And while not the first, he was one of the biggest distorters of the teachings of Christ. He was, in part, trying to make the new religion palatable to the Empire, which has nothing at all to do with spirituality. It’s a perversion of it.

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Redistribution of the Wealth

December 3, 2008

For me, the most irritating episode of the 2008 election was the Republican attack on Obama for being a “socialist” after he suggested to the faux plumber that it might be a good thing to spread the wealth around some. In an interview with Joe Biden, a Florida television news reporter tried to tie Obama to Karl Marx’s dictum

From each according to his ability to each according to his need.

Biden, to his credit, replied, “Are you joking? Is this a joke?” She might well have tried to tie Obama to

And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need,

which is from Acts in the Bible and predates Marx by nearly two thousand years. But that would have foiled her aim. To the Republicans, redistribution of the wealth is, of course, a Great Evil. And yet, here’s Jesus in Matthew telling a rich man:

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

Here Jesus is clearly advocating redistribution of the wealth. And it’s hardly the only instance of it in the Bible, which is radical in its condemnation of materialism. But within the general culture, it was decided long ago to ignore this sort of statement. They are always explained away. I did an Internet search on the second quote and found a forum where somebody asked what Jesus meant. The response was invariably, “Well, he didn’t mean that,” and “He certainly didn’t want people to be homeless.” But Jesus urged his disciples to leave their jobs and their homes and to follow him in his wanderings.

I tend to see a blog as a ridiculous place to explore this kind of idea in depth. The Internet is too ephemeral for deep discussion. But somebody needs to point out that you can’t condemn redistribution of the wealth while simultaneously embracing Jesus, as most Republicans do.