The real meaning of Christmas, exposed

 

IMG_3787.jpg

Photos of oil on water by Christopher Cudworth 2017

On Christmas Eve the Christian world fills with anticipation as one of its high holy days is about to arrive. Millions will attend church to celebrate Christmas Day, the traditional time affixed to the birth of Yeshua, or Jesus.

Yet we now recognize the Christmas season as we know it is a fabrication. The most ardent biblical literalists are the ones that have exposed the ruse, and confessed. The website Answers In Genesis fashions itself a key defender of all things “inerrant and true” about the Bible, and even it has grave doubts about the time of year in which we celebrate Christmas.

After careful scriptural exegesis of the Jewish calendar and its documentation of the time of year in which John the Baptist was born, Answers In Genesis says:

“This would have put John the Baptist at about six months in the womb around August/September. Assuming about nine months for pregnancy, John would have been born about November/December by the modern calendar based on the assumptions we used.

If the Holy Spirit did come upon Mary in the sixth month (Elul) or around August/September, as it seems to indicate in Scripture, then Jesus should have been born about nine months later, which would place His birth around May/June. Since John the Baptist was still in the womb of Elizabeth when he leapt for joy in Jesus’ presence (Luke 1:39-42), this means that the conception had to take place within the next three months or so of the visit by Gabriel—before John was born. Regardless, by this reckoning, the birth of Christ isn’t even close to Christmas on the modern calendar.”

Answers In Genesis is not alone in this correction of supposed history, but this example makes the point that harsher cynics have long claimed: Christmas is an invention of religion designed to serve a specific purpose. The narrative of Jesus born in Bethlehem was cobbled together by a series of Gospel writers who either copied one another or chose a different emphasis depending on how they viewed the Christ story.

The Nativity with the animals gathered around and Wise Men attending is also manufactured for the purpose of giving the Christmas story a focus. People need that. It helps them pass along the Christmas tale to new generations. The story of the baby Jesus lying in a manger is appealing to parents sharing the tale with younger generations.

IMG_3794.jpgAnd so it goes. In the modern era, it has become a bit more difficult for Christians to defend the verity and meaning of this story because the season has become perverted by the massive commercial significance of the holiday season. This has not been the fault of the secular world. Many people celebrate Christmas because it’s fun, but that permission has long been granted by the competing tale of Santa Claus bringing gifts to small children and adults alike around the world. Christians have willingly conveyed this myth for over a century now. There is likely no turning back.

The history and popularity of the myth of Santa Claus is irrelevant to the true meaning of Christmas. But it does have a parallel significance in where we are in Christmas traditions today. Some Christians claim that Christmas as a religious holiday is under siege by secular forces who want to ban the words “Merry Christmas” from the cultural lexicon. The so-called “War On Christmas” is preached from the pulpits of Fox News and pasted like butter on the bread of social media for so-called devout Christians to spread the word that Christianity is under attack.

This serves as an important lesson on the real meaning of Christmas. If Christianity truly is under attack, then it is justified in every sense of the word. The holiday as we know it has been whored out to commercial interests just as the Jewish temple was once prostituted by the religious authorities in Jesus’ day. He attacked those authorities first through his words, warning them of their hypocrisy for making rules from scripture and basically charging people admission to the temple of God. Jesus castigated those same authorities as a “brood of vipers” for clinging to this power and lording themselves over others.

Jesus was born into this world to challenge that type of false authority. That baby in the manger was born out of need, not from kingly circumstance. His principle message was preached first by John the Baptist who exemplified the simplicity and virtue of true devotion to God in his call to repentance.

Jesus embraced and carried this message all the way up the chain of culture to the ultimate seats of power. He offended the chief priests and denigrated the scribes for the slavery of soul they imposed upon the rest of society. And when those offended gathered themselves in righteous fury they captured Jesus and delivered him to the Romans with the intent to dispose of the itinerant preacher they considered a blasphemer.

Do you see it now? Jesus was born to expose such charlatans. That is the real meaning of Christmas. And if we were to apply that meaning to the world today, who would those charlatans be? They would be religious authorities sacrificing true devotion to God for access and control of political power. They would be leaders who were unwilling to confess their own lack of virtue, yet who claim to know the true heart of God out of their own bold ego. They would be all those who embrace such leaders and buy into their serpentine logic that trying to act like God equates to being like God.

The characters we know as Adam and Eve fell for that trick once long ago. Christians call it Original Sin, and it resonates through the world to this very day.

So when you find a moment to consider the real meaning of Christmas, consider not how or where Jesus was born, but why. And apply that lesson to all that you do. The world will expose itself one egregious scam at a time.

And you will be blessed for knowing it.

Advertisements

The real dangers of clearcut ideology

Clearcut ideas aren’t always the prettiest in reality

Back when our family had plentiful opportunities to camp in Wisconsin and other woodsy sites across North America, we often traveled on day trips to visit other parks and go on adventures in places like Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It is always a pleasure when vacationing to enjoy the view of the woods as you whiz past on some state highway cutting deep through the forests.

Throughout the country there are designations for different types of state and government-owned forests. There are national and state forests. National and State parks. Bureau of Land Management property. All these different entities affect how those properties are managed, how much wood or other resources can be extracted (especially, these days, oil and natural gas) and in what manner.

In areas where tourism counts, keeping up appearances when it comes to the north woods is vitally important. Yet in areas where the timber industry, for example, is a key component of economic health, it is considered equally important to grant harvesting access to private firms that harvest wood of various types. Pine and hardwood are still valuable commodities in America. Competition for rights to harvest wood from public and private landowners can be quite keen. Building relationships and managing the extraction process well are also key elements of successful forest management. It is a convoluted game involving billions of dollars.

Balancing the economic and timber harvest interests of a region with tourism and outdoor recreation can be tricky. People on vacation are not exactly fond of seeing clearcut land as they drive from place to place. There are few more ugly sites than a forest that has been chopped down. Stumps and torn up brambles present a scene of apocalyptic chaos. It can be downright disturbing when you’re driving through thick pine forests mile after mile to suddenly be confronted with thousands of acres of torn-up forest and soil.

So they sometimes don’t let you see it. Timber companies adopted a practice of protecting the public from such sights by leaving a thick line of trees standing alongside the road. That tree line provided a visual buffer against the carnage of the clearcut land behind the roadside trees.

The first time one realizes the pathetic purpose of this ruse, there is a feeling of real betrayal. When you imagine you’re passing through serene forests and then get a glimpse behind the scenes where the roadside woods thin out and you can see through to the hell and waste beyond, it’s like pulling back the veil on a very bad dream.

Wandering a clearcut on foot gives a better view of what the extraction process is all about. For all the glorification of timber haulers and woodsmen on reality TV these days, it really comes down to one thing: chopping down trees any way you can. The woods are left to recover any way they can.

Yes, there are methods and techniques in place, and standards to be met. But let’s not fool ourselves. Once you chop down a forest, it really is gone. The whole ecosystem disappears, sometimes overnight. Along with it goes the naive dream that the forest was meant to exist for any reason other than providing profit to the people who extract those resources and leave little behind.

Yes, the companies that take down trees also plant new trees. Yet many times these trees essentially comprise a monoculture that grows at the same general rate, dominating the landscape with a consistent look and feel. Much of America’s north woods and especially its “National Forests” have this look and feel. A diverse woodland of mixed hardwoods and pines is considered much more difficult to manage and harvest than a simple plantation of trees where you can literally drive along the rows and level the trees when they reach a desired height.

Contrast that with the deep ecology of an old-growth forest with its nobnobbed layers of downed and rotting trees, mosses and native plants, wildlife and micro-climates, and the two just don’t compare. That’s a good thing. We need to protect it. That old growth forest symbolizes the deep roots of America values.

The monoculture forests we tend to grow in their place symbolize the shallower approach to maintaining our heritage and values. The diversity of a forest is its life. Impatience with that diversity is a sign of a worldview that cares not whether the forest exists for any purpose other than extraction of its wood products. The fact that America’s national forests often stand only for that purpose is disturbing at its core, for it represents the commodification of life. It is an ironic fact that it seems the very people who proudly brand themselves “Pro-Life” seem determined to ignore that fact that the raw commodification of life is just as dangerous. It is apparent their worldview focused on the merits of human endeavor became disconnected from a respect for creation and life itself. The cause of this disconnect may be casual or willful selfishness, or an ignorant, shallow interpretation of the texts that inform their worldview. Hurdling over the issue by claiming a right to dominion over the earth ignores an important truth: that with dominion comes responsibility, and strictly commodifying the creation you were entrusted to protect is the most cynical abuse of that trust imaginable.

It is that strict commodification of nature that made timber interests leave buffers along the roads so that tourists would not get peeved or disillusioned by the sight of the radical clearcuts beyond. It is a desperate illusion, of course, and indicative of a cynical approach to social morality that says people won’t object to what they cannot see. The sad thing about not being able to see the clearcut former forest for the trees is that it symbolizes so much of what goes on in the American in other ways.

Our society puts up with all sorts of obscured commodification, including companies hiding dangerous truths about the chemicals and food substances we eat, as well as products that cause cancer and obesity and mental illness. We have politicians hiding facts about these practices while conducting government for their own cynical economic and political gain. This is far worse than the fox guarding the henhouse. This is a clearcut case of wholesale corruption in the political and civic business of America.

And it all starts with cynicism, the belief that “your ideas” are more important than the welfare of society as a whole. Others might call this fascism as well. For clearcut ideology, the “winner take all” brand of politics, bears all the signs of propagandist practices of the past. America fought fascism on a grand scale in World War II, yet it seems unable to recognize or control its own fascist tendencies back home.

As one illustration of American fascism at work, the term “greenwashing” was invented to describe the behaviors of companies that concoct environmentally friendly names to market products, services or ideas that are in actuality far from Green in nature. That line of trees along the roads designed to obscure the ugliness of forest clearcuts is a form of greenwashing. But so are “Astroturfed” organizations created to serve the interests of companies whose business practices actually harm the environment in many proven ways. The truth about the media age is that if you are astute enough to push your messaging out in palatable ways, and are aggressive about deliveyr of that message, you really can convince people you are acting in their own best interests even if it is literally killing them and their neighbors.

Ultimately all forms of ideological disguise is a form of greenwashing, and also fits in the fascism spectrum as well. It happens all the time in politics, religion, economics and entertainment. The sad truth is that it is often the most harmful forms of ideology that go to the greatest lengths to obscure their real purposes. We see it in politics when candidates make their stated goals sound appealing to the very people those policies would harm the most. By the time the truth comes out after the election, those candidates are elected officials with the power and authority to impose clearcut actions in their respective territories of jurisdiction.

It happens with Senators, Congressman, Presidents and Judiciary nominees. They can say whatever they want to get elected or be appointed, but once in office their clearcut nature comes out. Some even cut down the trees along their ideological roads and contend, “You knew what you were getting when you put me here. Now deal with it.” As a result we now have laws in place that grant personhood to corporations, the ultimate commodification of individual citizenship in America.

Still, America loves to foment its illusions of Yankee exceptionalism. We love to pretend that we live in the greatest nation on earth because from all appearances that we can see, that is true. So we drive along our country roads with green trees growing on either side and love to think those trees (there they are!) along the road symbolize God and Country and that all is right in America.

But too many people never take the time to consider the deadly illusion created by that thin band of trees, which were specifically left there to deceive the public, while behind that faux forest, grand schemes of extortion and extraction are being executed. The Great Recession of 2008 was an opportunity to witness the clearcutting taking place behind the barrier of social and economic trees, as Wall Street, mortgage schemes, derivatives and deregulation each got busy chopping down a sector of our economy. We almost got clearcut right down to a Depression.

Real Americans paid for the costs of that clearcutting. But here’s the sick part. We not only paid to have our woods chopped down, but let the people who chopped them down sell off the wood for profit, keep that money for themselves and award themselves bonuses for doing such a good job of clearcutting the economy. No one went to jail for this wave of criminality. Instead Americans were told we’d have to consider austerity as a means to regrow the forest of our economy. Go out there and plant a tree, we were told. And good luck. Hope it grows.

Maybe it’s fans of reality TV shows like American Loggers, that buy the myth that cutting down trees, both literal and metaphorical, is the path America needs to take to prosper and regain its moral high ground. So along comes a fellow with a square jaw and an outdoorsy look who says seemingly nice yet vacuous things about trees being the right height in Michigan. And people somehow buy his message. Yet he’s spouting the same clearcut ideology that wiped out the American economic forest the first time. He and his woodchopper friends are telling us again that chopping down the trees is necessary to save the forest.

Never mind that the vision of that promise remains obscured to this moment. The trees along the road are still very much standing. We can’t see or hear any details about what that clearcut ideology really means when it comes to cutting budgets, cutting debt, cutting programs, cutting off social programs, cutting and cutting and cutting until there’s nothing left to cut.

That’s a very clearcut way of doing things, to be sure. But what will we have left? Surely not the America we love, or will recognize. At least not behind the trees along the roadside of life.

Like a snake underwater: How the conservative alliance has led to flawed public policy

Conservative policies are often not what they seem

Snake Under Water

The goals of political conservatism are all noble ideals; keeping the powers of government in check, protecting citizens from excessive taxation, maintaining moral certitude as a principle of government, and encouraging free trade and commerce.  And at a values level, conservatism prides itself on support of tradition, liberty and love of God and country.

Despite its reputation as a staid element of society, conservatism has at times been quite progressive in pursuing its goals, especially as it set about using media outlets to communicate what it brands conservative ideals from the 1980s to the present. Conservatism’s doctrinal approach to seeking power, influencing culture and leading government has attracted many followers thanks to the aggressively proactive approach.

If you are looking for a single factor in the success of conservatism with the American public, convictions are the political capital of conservatism. Any discussion of politics, social policy or human welfare must contain a healthy dose of “convictions” to be taken seriously by the alliance of political, fiscal, social and religious conservatives.

People with strong convictions tend to love clarity. But the desire for absolute moral clarity among conservatives can lead to intolerance for other viewpoints and even cultural prejudice. Ironically, this may be one of the principle points on which conservatism runs afoul of the true message of the Bible. It is difficult for people to have compassion and tolerance for others if they are blinded by a discriminatory fixation on the competing interests of material, political and personal priorities. The apparently missing component of doctrinal conservatism as it relates to Christian beliefs is compassion.

There have been attempts by the conservative alliance to manufacture empathy for its political cause through invention of terms such as “compassionate conservatism.” But there is little room for compassion in a political movement bent on doctrinal dominance. The fact that the term “compassionate conservatism” even needed to be invented is evidence of the moral contradiction—one might even call it hypocrisy—at the heart of the conservative alliance of fiscal, social, political and religious conservatives.

By definition, hypocrisy means, “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not.” and, more specifically; “the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.” Hypocrisy is a strong accusation to make toward any belief system, but the alliance of fiscal, social, political and religious conservatives fits the description in at least one critical sense. Conservatism as a social movement still struggles in its ability to reconcile the market-driven demands of its fiscally conservative constituents with the call to charity and compassion inherent to religious faith and the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ. Specious terms such as “trickle-down economics” celebrate the supposed beneficence of the free market. But truly they only show how cynical some elements of the conservative alliance can be toward those in need. If the most that conservatives can manage to share is the grudging spoils of the rich, then greed remains in control and the collective ideology of conservatism stands in opposition to the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ.

Real contradictions enter the picture when conservatism seeks to justify the doctrine of free market conservatism with the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ. In Mark 10:12, we find the story of a rich young man who wants to know what he can do to reach the kingdom of heaven:

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good––except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

“At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Granted, this passage may be steeped in hyperbole. But this and a good number of other passages (John 2:12-17, Luke 12:22-34, Luke 12:16-23, Matthew 27:3) leave little doubt that pursuit of personal wealth and social advantage are not the top priorities of Jesus Christ.  As Mark 10 suggests, a ministry in the name of Jesus calls for a selfless disregard for wealth as opposed to the “winner-take-all” focus of unbridled capitalism.

If the Bible is to be trusted as a tool for social justice and democracy, then those who borrow its authority must keep in mind the liberal standard at its core. That predicates treating people as equal souls, avoiding discrimination and exploitation and promoting the virtue of charity through actions as well as words. Jesus emphatically calls us to reach out to others with resources that we might normally keep for ourselves. The liberal agenda of Jesus Christ always puts the needs of others first. Otherwise its message is captive to motives that have little to do with the ways of God.

Some Christians, frustrated by their inability to promulgate their version of faith in the free market of ideas have decided that politics may be the means to force society to accept their doctrine. The problem with this approach is that a contradictory theology never leads to good public policy,and that is at least one of the reasons by the United States Constitution guarantees freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.

The conservative alliance has led to flawed public policy because of the contradictions and hypocrisies at the heart of its own doctrine.

A divided Republican Party tests the conservative faithful

American Bald Eagle

America's symbol seems to be looking for direction

It has become evident that the race for the Republican nominee for President of the United States is completely different from any campaign in history.

Some Republicans have been scratching their heads wondering how the race produced four such disparate candidates. Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul appear to have very little in common with each other. And you would think that would not be the case with a political party where doctrinal lockstep has been the hallmark of the ruling class for so many years.

You can analyze the cause of the shakeup all you want. The Tea Party. The collapse of the Bush presidency. On and on goes the analysis as to why Republicans are fighting among themselves. But there’s really a simple reason why Republicans have four such strange candidates to choose from: Sooner or later, it had to be this way.

The Republican platform in the last 30 years has relied on four doctrinal pillars that have had to work together to deliver Republican candidates to power. And for a long time, it worked. But now those four doctrines are set apart in stark outline.

Fiscal conservatives are the branch of the party that focuses on monetary policy and prefers to let economic markets determine distribution of wealth. “Less regulation” is their call to action.

Political conservatives contend that the freedoms of democracy (especially as originally outlined in the Constitution) are sufficient to provide opportunity for every citizen to succeed. “Less government” is their mantra.

Social conservatives promote the value of traditional institutions and cultural laws as a foundation for government and society. “Less liberalism” is their war cry.

Religious conservatives bring God, faith and moral values to the cultural and political table. Hewing most closely to fundamentalist approach to the scriptures, their political action plan is “Less God means a weaker country.”

So, do you know which candidates fall into which conservative category by now?

Romney is the most obvious. His background as a venture capitalist is how he became fabulously wealthy. And his statement on the campaign trail that “corporations are people, my friend,” illustrates his worldview. Definitely playing the role of the fiscal conservative.

Next up is political conservative Ron Paul, who would prefer that government be shrunk down to almost nothing. The man with the Libertarian bent occupies a political conservative space so far to the right no one dares to reach out and touch him, for fear of being sucked into an invisible vortex.

Newt Gingrich should be functioning as a political conservative. As the key proponent of the Contract For America in the 1990s he led the Republican charge to distill politics down to a laundry list. With its politically fundamentalist bent, that tactic appealed to political conservatives at the time. But as Gingrich succumbed to his own hubris and drew breach of ethics charges that seemed to have destroyed his reputation as a political conservative, he was forced to abandon that strategy for a political future and came back through a different channel, and he chose that of a social conservative. But first Gingrich had some baggage to unload, so he conveniently joined the Catholic Church, that portal of confessional virtue, and briefly surged as a frontrunner leading up to the Florida primary where social conservatism is so highly valued. But playing the social conservative has been a strange and difficult role for Gingrich, and he has ultimately failed, in part because he walks sideways and talks out of the corner of his mouth about everything, at least figuratively. In  other words, he ultimately wasn’t believable as a straight-talking social conservative. But it was the only card he had to play.

That’s because Rick Santorum had locked up the position of religious conservative well before the campaign even began. Santorum’s views on virtually every subject are so heavily tinged with a conservative brand of Catholicism that many Republican voters early in the race shied away from such a marginal candidate. His recent rise in popularity is a sign of conservative desperation. The label “authentic” is being applied with some pride to Santorum, but what they really mean is “suitably extreme,” and we’ll get to what that means in a minute.

Because you see the electoral process for Republicans worked like a centrifuge this time around. The tightly spinning centrifuge of debates, caucuses and media exposure have slung the substance of Republicanism hard against the walls of the conservatism. And this time around the ideology produced four completely separate candidates, each of them pushed to the extreme limits of the ideology as a means to look convincingly clear about their respective subjects. In fact it has been the extreme failure of Republican policies under Bush that put so much centrifugal force to play upon conservatives in general. Economic policy: Costly Fail. Political and foreign policy: Damaging fail. Social and education policy: F+. Religious policy: Just plain creepy and hypocritical. Republicans tried everything they believed would work in America and got four “F’s” for the effort. So the pressure was on, especially now that President Barack Obama’s policy’s have actually had time to correct some of the mistakes made by conservative legislators the last decade. Obama rescued the automotive industry. Slowly stimulated the economy and didn’t overheat it. Provided intelligent support in foreign policy and military action that led to the death of Osama bin Laden and the fall of several dictators. These actions have got Republican heads spinning. And now the economy is bouncing back as well.

All this centrifugal force has left the formerly unified party to wonder aloud, “What happened?”

The fact is, reality happened. Conservatism as a social movement is, after all, a deeply hypocritical and confused mess. In fact, if you look close enough, it is possible to argue that the ideal we know as conservatism does functionally exist at all.

We’ve seen the effects of literalistic capitalism in America. The less we regulate the more things blow up in our faces. Like a bad chemistry experiment gone awry, the economy definitely needs a set of processes and ground rules and regulation performs that function. So conservatism likes to talk ideologically about the power of the free market to govern itself, but that is an exceptionally Darwinist notion that is not at all acceptable for civil society.

The claim of political conservatives that “less government is always better” is hypocritical by definition. If you don’t believe in the power of government to do good, why run for office?

Social conservatives simply fail to account for the fact that the world is not only changing all the time, but it has to change. Even if something was good in the past, the environment in which it functions is altering daily through technology, science, social progress and globalization. But if social conservatives had their way we would still have slavery, women would not have the right to vote and Jim Crow laws would still exist. Prohibition would still be in force. The list goes on and on. Anachronism is not a force for social good.

The archest forms of religious conservatives want to impose theocracy on America, and the Constitution defies that. Plus the belief system of fundamentalist Christians ignores and distorts the true meaning of the bible in ways that are simply irreconcilable to the natural laws and science upon which modern society depends.

Jam all four of these dysfunctional worldviews together and you have a real mess on your hands. And that’s what we got under 8 years of the Bush II presidency. A near total collapse of our economy, the 9/11 tragedy, illegal wars, torture and flaunting of Constitutional laws like never before, and Bush claimed his actions were the will of God somehow.

The dysfunctions of conservatism as a conglomerate doctrine complicate matters by trying to reconcile ideologies that stand for different truths. These are meant to balance each other out, but instead conservatism tries to pretend the differences don’t exist.

For example, if one truly believes in the literalistic version of market capitalism, then sharing your wealth as Jesus recommends in the bible is a ridiculous and socialistic notion. But in fact the Bible shows Jesus frequently requiring the wealthy give away their riches if they hope to gain entrance into heaven. Recall the parable of the camel going through the eye of the needle?

So based on dichotomies such as these, it was inevitable that the conservative wad of ideology would someday blow apart. We should be surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But people desperate for political power will cling together under the most egregious of banners, and conservatism has served that purpose for many people too many years.

Now we have Romney, Paul, Gingrich and Santorum standing before us like they don’t even want to be in the same room together. They argue and claw at each other furiously, proving forever that the four pillars of conservatism really have little to do with each other. Not if you look closely enough, and we’re getting that chance now. Real Republicans, the kind that understand the art and benefit of political compromise, want to puke. But one of these candidates will either get the nomination or the Republicans will arrive at an ugly conclusion too late and throw the whole lot out in favor of a brokered nominee. We can only hope it is not Jeb Bush.

But it’s quite obvious the Republicans prefer a messy wad of a candidate to the clearly defined truths that divide their party. Republicans have been so busy dismissing the various faults of their highly flawed candidates… even the strident bellows of Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly and Fox News are almost squeezed out with the effort. But like always, they’ll find a way to justify whatever they believe is good for the country, even if it’s not. Based on what we can learn from this year’s electoral race, it is still power that matters to Republicans and conservatives in the end, not principles.

It all seems like art imitating life. The Burt Reynolds character in the original football flick “The Longest Yard” once said, “I’ve had my shit together a long time. It just doesn’t fit in one bucket.”

Truer words could not be said of this year’s Republican nomination race.

Is Newt Gingrich a latter-day King David in our midst? Maybe so. But not how you think.

Whether Christian believers like to admit it or not, the Judeo-Christian tradition is both a religious and political story. Jesus Christ was willing to challenge both the religious and political leaders of his day, calling them to guide their actions with truth, justice and morality. In the process he stood up to some politically powerful people, and we know the earthly results of those efforts. But if the moral of the story stopped there, Christianity would not be much of a religion. Instead the courage of Christ in standing up to the forces of earthly power and poor religious judgment is the ultimate model for Christians to hold leaders accountable for their words, deeds and actions.

Truly, as Christians we need to draw on the example of Jesus to guide us in not sacrificing the spiritual purpose of faith in pursuit of power. Jesus set a clear example for us all. It is not okay to rationalize our faith to try to win favor with the rich and powerful. We are supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that.

But many Christians find that a tough example to follow.

You would expect that Christian leaders would demand basic patterns of moral behavior from political candidates who come to them for support. These include of course reasonable respect for marital fidelity, embracing financial ethics and legislating on behalf of the the poor and needy, whose welfare Jesus most consciously favored.

Yet a certain breed of politically motivated evangelical Christian leaders seems willing and even eager to ignore basic moral principles whenever political power comes within their reach. Thus we find evangelical Christian leaders dispensing forgiveness like Pez candy to front-running political candidates who have nasty personal and professional records.

We all know forgiveness is a powerful and wonderful thing. Some would argue it is the heart of faith itself. But let us be honest: it is not true forgiveness if our primary motive is power-brokering. That is nothing more than an ugly rationalization. Christian evangelicals who claim to have their finger on the pulse of faith yet lend their support through rubber-stamped forgiveness for corrupt leaders should be called to account for giving away the authority of faith for cheap political promises.

By example we have the 2012 election cycle, in which we find Christian evangelicals bending over backwards to support none other than Newt Gingrich, the serial wife-dumper and man of apparently confused moral character who recently blamed his propensity for dalliances and faithlessness on an overabiding love of country. Talk about a cynical argument for patriotism and a poor damn excuse for a husband! Why would any Christian evangelical support such a lout?

The answer is that Christian evangelicals are still achingly desperate for political power. Frankly it may be that because their attempts to convert society to a theocracy through religious means have failed, they hope to leverage political influence to impose a virtual theocracy that would fulfill the motives of an often warped, anachronistic interpretation of scripture. In fact the consistent policy failures of conservatives in general, all who seem set on turning back the clock through an agenda of regressive, repressive doctrines is driving the movement to new extremes. They really have nowhere else to go. So they push back even harder. And that is why social and religious conservatives are willing to dismiss all sorts of sins in political candidates. It is rather like the Old Testament stories where people in the desert beseeched God to deliver them from exile. But this time round they are not justified. Quite far from.

For example, many of today’s Republican evangelical leaders are attempting to forgive the politically front-running Newt Gingrich his many sins. Gingrich recently converted to Catholicism and that would seem to give evangelicals grounds to forgive. As if he were a changed man. Despite his very long track record of questionable ethics and a calculatingly harsh demeanor toward his enemies. In fact he does not even seem to have all that much patience or compassion for his supposed friends. Or anyone. Given his strange act of endorsing child labor to teach them the value of work, one wonders if Gingrich’s next act will be protecting child-abusing priests because it will teach children the merits of obedience.

Gingrich is a living, breathing hypocrite as well as misanthrope. We can all recall how Gingrich and the entire GOP castigated Bill Clinton for his extramarital affairs. Yet we now know that Gingrich was engaged in behavior as bad or worse than Clinton’s while the whole political takedown took place. That makes Gingrich a hypocrite and a liar.

Jesus really did not like hypocrites most of all, especially in political and religious quarters. He saved a particularly harsh brand of invective for anyone leveraging religious influence to gain power, calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” for turning scripture into literal law. So why does anyone think Jesus would favor a hypocrite like Newt Gingrich for president? It’s frankly ludicrous. And yet so-called Christian evangelicals seem to be lining up to endorse him.

In a November 2011 Newsweek article, writer Michelle Goldberg documented just how far Christian evangelicals will go to partner up with politicians approaching the nation’s key seat of power. When asked why evangelicals were suddenly willing to embrace Gingrich as a candidate when his serial affairs indicate a man of poor moral character, prominent evangelical Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Center, brushed away concerns about Gingrich by saying, “Under normal circumstance, Gingrich would have some real problems with the social conservative community. But these aren’t normal circumstances.”

That is moral relativism, plain and simple.

Consider also the moral gyrations of influential conservative radio host Steve Deace, a conservative talk show host who outlined the evangelical moral quandary over Gingrich this way; “Maybe the guy in the race that would make the best president is on this third marriage. How do we reconcile that?”

Deace goes on to answer his own question by drawing on examples from the Bible: (Deace says) “I see a lot of parallels between King David and Newt Gingrich, two extraordinary men gifted by God, whose lives include very high highs and very low lows.”

But let’s follow that comparison of Newt Gingrich to King David to its true conclusion.

The supposed parallel is that both King David and Newt Gingrich lived less than exemplary lives. Both committed adultery, and in David’s case he conspired to have the husband of his desired mistress sent to a war front, so that he would essentially be killed so that David could then claim the man’s wife.

The Bible also tells us that David committed multiple counts of genocide, including crimes against his own people.  So bad was David’s behavior in life that when he asked God if he could be allowed to build a temple to his Name, God responded: “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.” You see, even God has his limits when it comes to accepting rationalizations of bad behavior.

The Christian evangelical community conveniently forgets to mention this sordid little episode toward the end of the life of King David. That is because it does not seem to fit the conservative narrative of the triumphant leader who wins the permanent favor of God, and who is rewarded for everything he has done.

Instead the honor of building a house for God must be passed to David’s son Solomon, who asked God not for wealth, nor riches or honor, nor the death of his enemies, not even for a long life. Solomon instead asked for wisdom and knowledge, a decidedly liberal engagement of the Almighty, you see. And God granted Solomon that request. And Solomon built a great temple to God.

Solomon went on to educate himself on matters of the natural world and became known for his great capacity for equity in judgment and justice for all. But even Solomon had his failures of character, proving that it’s altogether dangerous to use religion to justify placing our hopes on our political leaders, both flawed and virtuous, because they are virtually guaranteed to place their own priorities and motives over those of the people they are elected or appointed to serve.