"Even in my own personal experience, the most outspoken opponents of universal healthcare have been self-proclaimed “born again Christians” who are quick to tell you that they read the Bible literally. Mind you, they don’t generally read the parts about caring for the poor and marginalized literally...Those who know me well will know that I am very sympathetic with Skinner's critique. Indeed, Christians generally cherry pick from the New Testament and have little rhyme or reason for which passages they take literally. Moreover, when I hear platitudes like "lower taxes" and "smaller government" I tend to think in these terms and these terms.
The Jesus I read about in the New Testament and more importantly, the one I attempt to follow in my own life, wants—I believe—to be taken seriously (and literally) on things like caring for the disenfranchised among us."
It should be said, however, that there is another version of fiscal conservatism that Skinner's post does not represent. Fiscal conservatives whom I have come to respect do indeed read Jesus' message about caring for the poor literally. These folks believe that the Church can do more to combat poverty than government programs. And (while many don't) many of these fiscally conservative Christians put their money where their proverbial mouths are. I know lots of bloody-do-gooder Christians who want lower taxes so that they can do more for the disenfranchised, usually giving to places in the world where poverty is perilous. Now, I don't see the dichotomy between taxes and generosity like they do; I'm with Skinner on this one. There is a troubling inconsistency among many of my coreligionists. So this post does not negate Skinner's; it just adds a small wrinkle. Not every fiscal conservative is greedy and/or over-spiritualized in orientation.
Skinner makes another really good point and one that bears repeating. O'Reilly, in his vague categorization of "parable", dismisses any literal interpretation of Jesus' fiscal ethics. Skinner correctly points out that Papa Bear does not represent most conservatives on this point. I would extend this further: Tea Party advocates in general do not represent most Christian conservatives. In tone and content, the average Christian conservative has very little true representation in congress at present. In this way, O'Reilly's "apolitical Jesus" fantasy mirrors the silent majority of Christians who choose to be absent and ignorant and therefore cannot hold their congress person accountable for willful negligence. I wish it weren't so, but Skinner is absolutely correct on this point.
Anthony Le Donne (PhD) is the author of The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals