Countless words of condemnation have been heaped upon George W. Bush and his hard-Right regime – a crescendo growing louder by the day, with voices from across the political spectrum. But the most devastating repudiation of the Regime’s foul ethos was actually delivered almost 2,000 years ago by the man whose birth is celebrated at this season of the year.
We speak, of course, of Jesus of Nazareth, whose Sermon on the Mount, as reported in the Gospels, called for a revolutionary transformation of human nature – a complete overthrow of our natural instincts for greed, aggression, and self-aggrandizement. This radical vision – erupting in the turbulent backwater of a brutal world empire – is the true miracle of Jesus’ life, not the clusmy fables about virgin births, magic tricks and corpses rising from the dead. The vision’s living force sears through dogma, casts down the pomp of church and state, and gives the lie to every hypocrite who evokes the name of Jesus in pursuit of earthly power.
Bush professes to believe that Jesus is the son of God, whose words are literally divine commands. Yet anyone who compares what Jesus really said to Bush’s actions in power – the abandonment of the poor, the exaltation of the rich; the dirty insider deals, the culture of corruption, the politics of smear and slander; the perversion of law to countenance murder, torture and predatory war – can readily see that this profession of faith is a monstrous deceit. Bush – and his politicized, pseudo-religious "base" – may well believe that some divine being approves of their unbridled greed, aggression and self-aggrandizement; but this mythical godling in their heads has nothing to do with the man from Nazareth who, as Matthew and Luke tell it, went up into a mountain one day and began to preach:
"Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh."
"But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you: Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. Thus you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even publicans so?"
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you: Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?"
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."
And what would happen today if a swarthy Middle Eastern man without wealth or political connections suddenly appeared in front of the White House proclaiming such a radical doctrine of mercy, forgiveness, charity, self-abnegation and love – love even for the "evildoers" who "want to destroy our way of life"? Would he be targeted by the lawless spy gangs that Bush has personally loosed upon the nation? Would he be condemned as a terrorist sympathizer and expelled from the country? Would he be seized and "rendered" to some secret CIA prison or Bush-friendly foreign torture chamber for "special interrogation"?
Or perhaps Woody Guthrie saw the truth years ago, as he sat in a cold boarding house in New York City, transfiguring an old folk song about an outlaw into a gospel for modern times: "If Jesus was to preach here like he preached in Galilee, they would lay Jesus Christ in his grave."