The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why Are People Democrats?

Posted on | June 21, 2010 | 37 Comments

This question wasn’t his research topic, but I think Cornell University psychology Professor David Dunning has found the answer:

“When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead . . . they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.”

Two words: Peggy Joseph.

UPDATE: Cassy Fiano links and Bob Owens chronicles the incendiary consequences.

UPDATE II: Obi’s Sister informs us that the Book of Ecclesiastes had already explained this phenomenon. In e-mailing me the link, Obi’s Sister — who lives in my hometown of Lithia Springs, Ga. – informed me that she recently had a long talk with my old buddy Scott Spencer. Scott lived on Creel Drive, across the woods from Deborah Lane. We thought we were pretty mischievous, but the real trouble began when a fellow named Brooks moved in on Janet Street. No need to recount those boyhood misadventures,  now that Spencer’s the eminently respectable fire chief of Douglas County. That is, unless Spencer starts telling tales on me, of course.

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Comments

  • http://usefuldissident.blogspot.com/ dude

    I’ll give you my 2 words, how about, “free gas”? But seriously, I think Democrats are those that haven’t made it and haven’t really tried to, or those that have, but have lost sight of how they got there.

  • http://usefuldissident.blogspot.com/ dude

    I’ll give you my 2 words, how about, “free gas”? But seriously, I think Democrats are those that haven’t made it and haven’t really tried to, or those that have, but have lost sight of how they got there.

  • http://tigeronpolitics.wordpress.com Ben (The Tiger)

    I rather like Jim Geraghty’s line on the political imperatives of amnesty for the illegals — that voting for Democrats is one of those ‘jobs Americans won’t do’.

  • http://tigeronpolitics.wordpress.com Ben (The Tiger)

    I rather like Jim Geraghty’s line on the political imperatives of amnesty for the illegals — that voting for Democrats is one of those ‘jobs Americans won’t do’.

  • victoria_29

    True believers are scary….

  • victoria_29

    True believers are scary….

  • http://pointofagun.blogspot.com/ Dave C

    That can explain why a certain ponytailed blogger can ignore his entire archive..

  • http://pointofagun.blogspot.com/ Dave C

    That can explain why a certain ponytailed blogger can ignore his entire archive..

  • Pingback: Cassy Fiano

  • http://pointofagun.blogspot.com/ Dave C

    From the link:

    Grammar, logic. And our test-subjects were all college students doing college student-type things. Presumably, they also should know whether or not they’re getting the right answers. And yet, we had these students who were doing badly in grammar, who didn’t know they were doing badly in grammar. We believed that they should know they were doing badly, and when they didn’t, that really surprised us.

    I blame public schools.

  • http://pointofagun.blogspot.com/ Dave C

    From the link:

    Grammar, logic. And our test-subjects were all college students doing college student-type things. Presumably, they also should know whether or not they’re getting the right answers. And yet, we had these students who were doing badly in grammar, who didn’t know they were doing badly in grammar. We believed that they should know they were doing badly, and when they didn’t, that really surprised us.

    I blame public schools.

  • KG

    Well, Obama DID make 5 mil last year, he could certainly afford her gas and mortgage…

  • KG

    Well, Obama DID make 5 mil last year, he could certainly afford her gas and mortgage…

  • http://liberalsmash.blogspot.com/ paul mitchell

    That whole “Hooray for Slavery” platform should have doomed the Democrat Party to obsolescence over 160 years ago. But, I guess morons have to vote for someone since we cannot actually make sure someone is not stupid before they vote.

  • http://liberalsmash.blogspot.com/ paul mitchell

    That whole “Hooray for Slavery” platform should have doomed the Democrat Party to obsolescence over 160 years ago. But, I guess morons have to vote for someone since we cannot actually make sure someone is not stupid before they vote.

  • http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/ keyboard jockey

    Speaking of Democrats…

    Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has joined BP as legal counsel. Many would remember her for stovepipping intelligence during the Clinton Years, and her conflict of interest sitting on the 9/11 commission. She made millions from Fannie Mae, and got out before the meltdown…she’s back. Look Who Is Back On The Pipe.

    Nicknamed the Mistress of Disaster because of her culpability in both 9/11 and Fannie Mae. I can see why BP would want to hire someone with disaster experience – and knowledge of pipes.

    http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/2010/06/former-deputy-ag-jamie-goerlick-back-on.html

  • http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/ keyboard jockey

    Speaking of Democrats…

    Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has joined BP as legal counsel. Many would remember her for stovepipping intelligence during the Clinton Years, and her conflict of interest sitting on the 9/11 commission. She made millions from Fannie Mae, and got out before the meltdown…she’s back. Look Who Is Back On The Pipe.

    Nicknamed the Mistress of Disaster because of her culpability in both 9/11 and Fannie Mae. I can see why BP would want to hire someone with disaster experience – and knowledge of pipes.

    http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/2010/06/former-deputy-ag-jamie-goerlick-back-on.html

  • CharlesMartel’sGhost

    As the sign in Missouri queries:

    “Are you a producer or a parasite?
    Democrat- The Party of Parasites”

  • CharlesMartel’sGhost

    As the sign in Missouri queries:

    “Are you a producer or a parasite?
    Democrat- The Party of Parasites”

  • Estragon

    The long dumbing-down of public education in this country at the behest of the federal government and teachers unions has resulted in the sort of ignorant and uniformed electorate which will swallow the pablum they are fed. As the study notes, even the college students don’t know what they don’t know, the traditional mark of a fool:

    He who knows, but knows not that he knows, is asleep – wake him.
    He who knows not, but knows that he knows not, is a child – teach him.
    He who knows not, but knows not that he knows not, is a fool – shun him.
    He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise – follow him.

    Whether or not the destruction of public education was specifically calculated to benefit the Democrats or not, the continuing influx of ignorant voters has certainly kept it alive far beyond any civic usefulness it may once have served.

  • Estragon

    The long dumbing-down of public education in this country at the behest of the federal government and teachers unions has resulted in the sort of ignorant and uniformed electorate which will swallow the pablum they are fed. As the study notes, even the college students don’t know what they don’t know, the traditional mark of a fool:

    He who knows, but knows not that he knows, is asleep – wake him.
    He who knows not, but knows that he knows not, is a child – teach him.
    He who knows not, but knows not that he knows not, is a fool – shun him.
    He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise – follow him.

    Whether or not the destruction of public education was specifically calculated to benefit the Democrats or not, the continuing influx of ignorant voters has certainly kept it alive far beyond any civic usefulness it may once have served.

  • http://therepublicanmother.blogspot.com republicanmother

    Estragon, the destruction of public education was most certainly calculated as you say. Here is an excerpt from the Reece Committee of 1954′s investigation into tax-exempt foundations influencing federal legislation:

    “[The foundation had been] directing education in the Unites States toward an international frame of reference and discrediting the traditions to which it had been dedicated, by training individuals and servicing agencies to render advice to the executive branch of the Federal Government, by decreasing the dependency of education upon the resources of the local community, and freeing it from many of the natural safeguards inherent in this American tradition, by changing both school and college curricula to the point where they sometimes denied the principles underlying the American way of life, by financing experiments designed to determine the most effective means by which education could be pressed into the service of a political nature.”

    For more vintage proof check out this link:
    http://therepublicanmother.blogspot.com/2010/06/greatest-subversive-plot-in-history.html

  • http://therepublicanmother.blogspot.com republicanmother

    Estragon, the destruction of public education was most certainly calculated as you say. Here is an excerpt from the Reece Committee of 1954′s investigation into tax-exempt foundations influencing federal legislation:

    “[The foundation had been] directing education in the Unites States toward an international frame of reference and discrediting the traditions to which it had been dedicated, by training individuals and servicing agencies to render advice to the executive branch of the Federal Government, by decreasing the dependency of education upon the resources of the local community, and freeing it from many of the natural safeguards inherent in this American tradition, by changing both school and college curricula to the point where they sometimes denied the principles underlying the American way of life, by financing experiments designed to determine the most effective means by which education could be pressed into the service of a political nature.”

    For more vintage proof check out this link:
    http://therepublicanmother.blogspot.com/2010/06/greatest-subversive-plot-in-history.html

  • Joe

    Republicans like this help:

    J.D. Hayworth, are you a real conservative?

    I know you do not care for your cousin Stacy, but this is not exactly principaled conservatism.

  • Joe

    excuse me, principled conservatism.

  • Joe

    Republicans like this help:

    J.D. Hayworth, are you a real conservative?

    I know you do not care for your cousin Stacy, but this is not exactly principaled conservatism.

  • Joe

    excuse me, principled conservatism.

  • Joe

    I am a victim of public education when it comes to spelling.

  • Joe

    I am a victim of public education when it comes to spelling.

  • http://effingconservatives.blogspot.com Jeff Weimer

    gg, you’re not even a creative troll. Here’s an excerpt form the wikipedia article you linked:

    One of his political works, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, self-labeled as “the Essential Guide for Progressives”, was published in September 2004 and features a foreword by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

    So, it’s pretty obvious that this Professor has an agenda himself. Could it be possible that had an effect on his output? That the results were not shaped by the research, but the research picked out to support his thesis? He was, after all, a protege of Noam Chomsky.

  • http://effingconservatives.blogspot.com Jeff Weimer

    gg, you’re not even a creative troll. Here’s an excerpt form the wikipedia article you linked:

    One of his political works, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, self-labeled as “the Essential Guide for Progressives”, was published in September 2004 and features a foreword by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

    So, it’s pretty obvious that this Professor has an agenda himself. Could it be possible that had an effect on his output? That the results were not shaped by the research, but the research picked out to support his thesis? He was, after all, a protege of Noam Chomsky.

  • jefferson101

    “Why are people Democrats?”

    Way too many legal and illegal mind altering drugs are available, and the legal ones are way too widely dispensed.

    Any questions?

  • jefferson101

    “Why are people Democrats?”

    Way too many legal and illegal mind altering drugs are available, and the legal ones are way too widely dispensed.

    Any questions?

  • http://www.justgrits.wordpress.com Obi’s Sister

    Thanks for the link – Scott is gonna kill me.

  • http://www.justgrits.wordpress.com Obi’s Sister

    Thanks for the link – Scott is gonna kill me.

  • Cathryn

    I loved this article by max. I did not agree with the conservatives way of doing things. I walked that path, however I realized I was a democrat. Always have been. I go to church, I read the bible but my main concern was that the conservative lifestyle seemed to be so different from what Jesus actually taught.
    I like this article. And I agree with it. I think we should be working together, instead of fighting!

    How Do Christians Become Conservative?
    by Max
    When you are in the political world, you have decisions to make every single day about who you will try to help and who you won’t. In spite of the earnest quest of good technocrats everywhere, the simple fact is that there are only a few win-win solutions. Who you tax, who you give a tax break to, what programs you cut or add to, who you tighten regulations on, and who you loosen them on, what kind of contractors are eligible for government work, which school districts and non-profit groups get federal money, etc: these political decisions are generally not win-win. Instead, they mean that one group of people win, and one group of people loses. It is the nature of politics, and you can’t take the politics out of politics.

    The most fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives is that question of which side you are on. Conservatives believe that the rich and powerful got that way because they deserve to be, that society owes its prosperity to the prosperous, and that government’s job when they have to make choices is to side with those businesspeople who are doing well, because all good things trickle down from them. Progressives, on the other hand, believe it is the poor and those who are ill-treated who need the most help from their government, and that prosperity comes from all of us — the worker as well as the employer, the consumer as well as the seller, the struggling entrepreneur trying to make it as well as the wealthy who already have.

    Usually, I might spend my time arguing which of those worldviews gives us better policy outcomes, or which is better politics, but in this post I want to focus on something else: which side the God of the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition is on.

    Between Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories about Christian social justice (Since Communists and Nazis both used the words “social” and “justice,” sometimes even together, the phrase must be bad along with other words they used a lot like the, and, one, thank you, please, today, tonight, and tomorrow), Sarah Palin’s “spiritual warfare,” and my very fun e-mail debates with a much-beloved but sadly misguided conservative Christian relative, I have been thinking a lot about Christians and political ideology of late. As those of you who read me a lot know, I was raised in a church-oriented home, and I write about religion a fair amount. This isn’t because I am conventionally religious: I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people. But I still have the social and moral teaching I learned from my upbringing embedded in me as a core part of my value system, and I still know my Bible pretty well.

    That’s why I am always puzzled by how people who claim to be followers of the Jesus I read about in the Bible can be political conservatives.

    Now I know there are many people who have not been brought up in the Christian faith, or who were but aren’t interested in it anymore. Perhaps like a great many folks, you have been turned off by all the high-profile preachers who claim to speak for Christianity but preach a brand of narrow, intolerant conservatism that you can’t relate to. My view is that even if that is the case, it is still important to know something about the Christian New Testament because it is such a historical and cultural touchstone in our country. I also think it’s important to have a sense of just how different the Bible is from how conservative Christians represent it. For those of you uninterested in all this, I understand why: you definitely won’t want to dig into what follows. But for those of who are, here is my argument about Christianity and progressivism in politics.

    Conservative Christians’ primary argument regarding Jesus and politics is that all he cared about was spiritual matters and an individual’s relationship with God. As a result, they say, all those references from Jesus about helping the poor relate only to private charity, not to society as a whole. Their belief is that Jesus, and the New Testament in general, is focused on one thing and one thing only: how do people get into heaven.

    The Jesus of the New Testament was of course extremely concerned with spiritual matters: there is no doubt whatsoever about his role or interest in the issues of the day, that the spiritual well-being of his followers was a major interest of his. How much he was involved with or interested in the political situation of the day is a matter of much debate and interpretation. Some say it was a lot and others that it was pretty limited or, as conservatives would say, not at all. However, much of a priority or focus it was, though, if you actually read the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus’ main concern in terms of the people whose fates he cared about was for the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast. Comment after comment and story after story in the Gospels about Jesus relates to the treatment of the poor, generosity to those in need, mercy to the outcast, and scorn for the wealthy and powerful. And his philosophy is embedded with the central importance of taking care of others, loving others, treating others as you would want to be treated. There is no virtue of selfishness here, there is no “greed is good,” there is no invisible hand of the market or looking out for Number One first. There is nothing about poor people being lazy, nothing about the undeserving poor being leeches on society, nothing about how I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps so everyone else should, too. There is nothing about how in nature, “the lions eat the weak,” and therefore we shouldn’t help the poor because it weakens them. There is nothing about charity or welfare corrupting a person’s spirit.

    What there is: quote after quote about compassion for the poor. In Jesus’ very first sermon of his ministry, the place where he launched his public career, he stated the reason he had come: to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, to help the oppressed go free, and that he was here to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord — which in Jewish tradition meant the year that poor debtors were forgiven their debts to bankers and the wealthy. In Luke 6, Jesus says the poor and hungry will be blessed, and the rich will be cursed. He urges his followers to sell all their possessions and give them to the poor. The one time he really focuses on God’s judgment and who goes to heaven is in Matthew 25, where he says those who go to heaven will be those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, gave shelter to the hungry, and welcomed the stranger — and those who don’t make it were the ones who refused to help the poor and oppressed.

    And he was a really serious class warrior, too — he wasn’t just into helping the poor; he didn’t seem to like rich folks very much. In Matthew 6, he focuses on the love of money as a major problem. In Luke 11, he berates a wealthy lawyer for burdening the poor. In Luke 12, he says that the wealthy who store up treasure are cursed by God. In Luke 14, he says if we throw a party, we should invite all poor people and no rich people, and suggests that the wealthy already turned down their invitation to God’s feast, and that it is the poor who will get into heaven (a theme repeated multiple times). He says that the rich people will have a harder time getting to heaven than a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. He chases the wealthy bankers and merchants from the Temple.

    I have never heard a conservative Christian quote any of these verses — not once, and I have been in a lot of discussions with Christian conservatives, and heard a lot of their speeches and sermons. The one verse they always quote (and I mean always — I have never talked to a conservative Christian about economics and not heard them quote this verse) is the one time in which Jesus says that “the poor will always be with us.” The reason they love this quote so much is that they interpret that line to mean that in spite of everything else Jesus said about the poor, that since the poor will always be with us, we don’t need to worry about trying to help them. Apparently since the poor will always be with us, we can go ahead and screw them. But Jesus making a prediction that there will always be oppressive societies doesn’t mean he wanted us to join the oppressors. By clinging desperately to that one verse in the Bible, and ignoring all the others about the poor and the rich, Christian conservatives show themselves to be hypocrites, plain and simple.

    The Jesus of the New Testament spent his public career preaching about the nature of God and our relationship to God, but also about how we should deal with each other. He repeatedly blessed mercy, gentleness, peacemaking, community, and taking care of each other. He lifted up the poor and oppressed, and spoke poorly of the wealthy and powerful. If anyone in modern society talked like he did, you can bet your bottom dollar that conservatives would condemn that person as a class warrior, a socialist. Jesus may not have been primarily concerned with politics, but for what politics he did have, it is virtually impossible to argue that he was anything but a progressive thinker.

    I want to close on one other note here. I focused here on the Jesus of the Gospels (principally Matthew, Mark and Luke — the Gospel of John is almost all focused on mystical spiritualism), but Jesus is not exactly the only Bible character concerned with issues of social and economic justice. All of the first five books of the Torah (the Old Testament for Christians) talk a lot about justice for the poor; the Psalms are full of verses about the helping poor; every Old Testament prophet castigates the Jewish people (and yes, their governments) for mistreating the poor. And in the New Testament, there are some dynamite passages promoting progressive thinking aside from all of the Jesus quotations I mentioned. Three of my very favorites:

    •In Acts 2: 44-45 says: “The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common: they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each are needed.” My question: did Karl Marx quote that line directly, or did he come up with his each-according-to-their-own-needs doctrine on his own?

    •Jesus’ mother Mary says that Jesus will “fill the starving with good things and send the rich away empty” and will “pull the princes from their thrones and raise high the lowly.” I guess the big guy came by his politics from his mom.

    •Speaking of the big guy’s family, in the Book of James, which is purportedly written by Jesus’ brother (and scholars think there is a pretty good chance it really was), James really goes heavy into the class warfare stuff. In James 2: 1-13, there is an extended admonishment on respect for the poor and mercy. In 2: 5-8, he says it is the poor whom God chose to be loved, and the rich “who are always against you.” In 2: 13, he says that “there will be judgment without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves, but the merciful need have no fear of judgment.”

    •And in 5: 16, he condemns the rich again starting out: “Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries coming to you… Laborers plowed your fields and you cheated them: listen to the wages you kept back, calling out: realize that the cries of the workers have reached the ears of the Lord.”

    Judeo-Christian scripture is a rich and complicated work of literature. Written over the course of (at least) several hundred years by dozens of different authors, there are a variety of perspectives and many times outright contradictions in the theology and the politics of the writing (if it’s all inspired word for word by God, He seems to have changed his mind a lot). But one thing is extremely certain: the poor seem to be who God is most concerned about. Yes, there are a few quotations (four, if I remember right) trashing gay people, along with quite a few more about the right way to do animal sacrifice and to be careful about eating shellfish and hanging out with women who are menstruating. But mercy, kindness, and concern for the poor and the weak and the outcast seems to matter a lot more, with literally several hundred verses referencing those agenda items. If you are a progressive, that is a pretty good ratio.

  • Cathryn

    I loved this article by max. I did not agree with the conservatives way of doing things. I walked that path, however I realized I was a democrat. Always have been. I go to church, I read the bible but my main concern was that the conservative lifestyle seemed to be so different from what Jesus actually taught.
    I like this article. And I agree with it. I think we should be working together, instead of fighting!

    How Do Christians Become Conservative?
    by Max
    When you are in the political world, you have decisions to make every single day about who you will try to help and who you won’t. In spite of the earnest quest of good technocrats everywhere, the simple fact is that there are only a few win-win solutions. Who you tax, who you give a tax break to, what programs you cut or add to, who you tighten regulations on, and who you loosen them on, what kind of contractors are eligible for government work, which school districts and non-profit groups get federal money, etc: these political decisions are generally not win-win. Instead, they mean that one group of people win, and one group of people loses. It is the nature of politics, and you can’t take the politics out of politics.

    The most fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives is that question of which side you are on. Conservatives believe that the rich and powerful got that way because they deserve to be, that society owes its prosperity to the prosperous, and that government’s job when they have to make choices is to side with those businesspeople who are doing well, because all good things trickle down from them. Progressives, on the other hand, believe it is the poor and those who are ill-treated who need the most help from their government, and that prosperity comes from all of us — the worker as well as the employer, the consumer as well as the seller, the struggling entrepreneur trying to make it as well as the wealthy who already have.

    Usually, I might spend my time arguing which of those worldviews gives us better policy outcomes, or which is better politics, but in this post I want to focus on something else: which side the God of the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition is on.

    Between Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories about Christian social justice (Since Communists and Nazis both used the words “social” and “justice,” sometimes even together, the phrase must be bad along with other words they used a lot like the, and, one, thank you, please, today, tonight, and tomorrow), Sarah Palin’s “spiritual warfare,” and my very fun e-mail debates with a much-beloved but sadly misguided conservative Christian relative, I have been thinking a lot about Christians and political ideology of late. As those of you who read me a lot know, I was raised in a church-oriented home, and I write about religion a fair amount. This isn’t because I am conventionally religious: I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people. But I still have the social and moral teaching I learned from my upbringing embedded in me as a core part of my value system, and I still know my Bible pretty well.

    That’s why I am always puzzled by how people who claim to be followers of the Jesus I read about in the Bible can be political conservatives.

    Now I know there are many people who have not been brought up in the Christian faith, or who were but aren’t interested in it anymore. Perhaps like a great many folks, you have been turned off by all the high-profile preachers who claim to speak for Christianity but preach a brand of narrow, intolerant conservatism that you can’t relate to. My view is that even if that is the case, it is still important to know something about the Christian New Testament because it is such a historical and cultural touchstone in our country. I also think it’s important to have a sense of just how different the Bible is from how conservative Christians represent it. For those of you uninterested in all this, I understand why: you definitely won’t want to dig into what follows. But for those of who are, here is my argument about Christianity and progressivism in politics.

    Conservative Christians’ primary argument regarding Jesus and politics is that all he cared about was spiritual matters and an individual’s relationship with God. As a result, they say, all those references from Jesus about helping the poor relate only to private charity, not to society as a whole. Their belief is that Jesus, and the New Testament in general, is focused on one thing and one thing only: how do people get into heaven.

    The Jesus of the New Testament was of course extremely concerned with spiritual matters: there is no doubt whatsoever about his role or interest in the issues of the day, that the spiritual well-being of his followers was a major interest of his. How much he was involved with or interested in the political situation of the day is a matter of much debate and interpretation. Some say it was a lot and others that it was pretty limited or, as conservatives would say, not at all. However, much of a priority or focus it was, though, if you actually read the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus’ main concern in terms of the people whose fates he cared about was for the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast. Comment after comment and story after story in the Gospels about Jesus relates to the treatment of the poor, generosity to those in need, mercy to the outcast, and scorn for the wealthy and powerful. And his philosophy is embedded with the central importance of taking care of others, loving others, treating others as you would want to be treated. There is no virtue of selfishness here, there is no “greed is good,” there is no invisible hand of the market or looking out for Number One first. There is nothing about poor people being lazy, nothing about the undeserving poor being leeches on society, nothing about how I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps so everyone else should, too. There is nothing about how in nature, “the lions eat the weak,” and therefore we shouldn’t help the poor because it weakens them. There is nothing about charity or welfare corrupting a person’s spirit.

    What there is: quote after quote about compassion for the poor. In Jesus’ very first sermon of his ministry, the place where he launched his public career, he stated the reason he had come: to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, to help the oppressed go free, and that he was here to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord — which in Jewish tradition meant the year that poor debtors were forgiven their debts to bankers and the wealthy. In Luke 6, Jesus says the poor and hungry will be blessed, and the rich will be cursed. He urges his followers to sell all their possessions and give them to the poor. The one time he really focuses on God’s judgment and who goes to heaven is in Matthew 25, where he says those who go to heaven will be those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, gave shelter to the hungry, and welcomed the stranger — and those who don’t make it were the ones who refused to help the poor and oppressed.

    And he was a really serious class warrior, too — he wasn’t just into helping the poor; he didn’t seem to like rich folks very much. In Matthew 6, he focuses on the love of money as a major problem. In Luke 11, he berates a wealthy lawyer for burdening the poor. In Luke 12, he says that the wealthy who store up treasure are cursed by God. In Luke 14, he says if we throw a party, we should invite all poor people and no rich people, and suggests that the wealthy already turned down their invitation to God’s feast, and that it is the poor who will get into heaven (a theme repeated multiple times). He says that the rich people will have a harder time getting to heaven than a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. He chases the wealthy bankers and merchants from the Temple.

    I have never heard a conservative Christian quote any of these verses — not once, and I have been in a lot of discussions with Christian conservatives, and heard a lot of their speeches and sermons. The one verse they always quote (and I mean always — I have never talked to a conservative Christian about economics and not heard them quote this verse) is the one time in which Jesus says that “the poor will always be with us.” The reason they love this quote so much is that they interpret that line to mean that in spite of everything else Jesus said about the poor, that since the poor will always be with us, we don’t need to worry about trying to help them. Apparently since the poor will always be with us, we can go ahead and screw them. But Jesus making a prediction that there will always be oppressive societies doesn’t mean he wanted us to join the oppressors. By clinging desperately to that one verse in the Bible, and ignoring all the others about the poor and the rich, Christian conservatives show themselves to be hypocrites, plain and simple.

    The Jesus of the New Testament spent his public career preaching about the nature of God and our relationship to God, but also about how we should deal with each other. He repeatedly blessed mercy, gentleness, peacemaking, community, and taking care of each other. He lifted up the poor and oppressed, and spoke poorly of the wealthy and powerful. If anyone in modern society talked like he did, you can bet your bottom dollar that conservatives would condemn that person as a class warrior, a socialist. Jesus may not have been primarily concerned with politics, but for what politics he did have, it is virtually impossible to argue that he was anything but a progressive thinker.

    I want to close on one other note here. I focused here on the Jesus of the Gospels (principally Matthew, Mark and Luke — the Gospel of John is almost all focused on mystical spiritualism), but Jesus is not exactly the only Bible character concerned with issues of social and economic justice. All of the first five books of the Torah (the Old Testament for Christians) talk a lot about justice for the poor; the Psalms are full of verses about the helping poor; every Old Testament prophet castigates the Jewish people (and yes, their governments) for mistreating the poor. And in the New Testament, there are some dynamite passages promoting progressive thinking aside from all of the Jesus quotations I mentioned. Three of my very favorites:

    •In Acts 2: 44-45 says: “The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common: they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each are needed.” My question: did Karl Marx quote that line directly, or did he come up with his each-according-to-their-own-needs doctrine on his own?

    •Jesus’ mother Mary says that Jesus will “fill the starving with good things and send the rich away empty” and will “pull the princes from their thrones and raise high the lowly.” I guess the big guy came by his politics from his mom.

    •Speaking of the big guy’s family, in the Book of James, which is purportedly written by Jesus’ brother (and scholars think there is a pretty good chance it really was), James really goes heavy into the class warfare stuff. In James 2: 1-13, there is an extended admonishment on respect for the poor and mercy. In 2: 5-8, he says it is the poor whom God chose to be loved, and the rich “who are always against you.” In 2: 13, he says that “there will be judgment without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves, but the merciful need have no fear of judgment.”

    •And in 5: 16, he condemns the rich again starting out: “Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries coming to you… Laborers plowed your fields and you cheated them: listen to the wages you kept back, calling out: realize that the cries of the workers have reached the ears of the Lord.”

    Judeo-Christian scripture is a rich and complicated work of literature. Written over the course of (at least) several hundred years by dozens of different authors, there are a variety of perspectives and many times outright contradictions in the theology and the politics of the writing (if it’s all inspired word for word by God, He seems to have changed his mind a lot). But one thing is extremely certain: the poor seem to be who God is most concerned about. Yes, there are a few quotations (four, if I remember right) trashing gay people, along with quite a few more about the right way to do animal sacrifice and to be careful about eating shellfish and hanging out with women who are menstruating. But mercy, kindness, and concern for the poor and the weak and the outcast seems to matter a lot more, with literally several hundred verses referencing those agenda items. If you are a progressive, that is a pretty good ratio.