Apparently unaware of the irony, local Presbyterian Pastor Scott Dalgarno admonished certain Christians for their cherry-picking selectiveness in how they follow the teachings of Jesus, particularly when it comes to showing kindness to children (“Jesus saw the children. Why don’t today’s Christians?”).
Making it into a double feature, Leonard Pitts similarly castigated conservative Christians, opining that their faith had little to do with Jesus.
Reality check, folks. The problem with the mean-spirited, exclusionary views and actions of some Christians isn’t that they aren’t following the decrees and example of the Biblical Christian God. The problem is that they are.
Let’s skip the excuse that the Old Testament doesn’t count when it comes to Jesus. For the overwhelming majority of Christians in Utah — that is, Mormons — the “Lord” speaking and acting in the Old Testament is Jesus, not God the Father. In more traditional trinitarian Christian sects like Dalgarno’s, Jesus magically is also God. Kinda like Superman and Clark Kent. Either way, it’s he — Old Testament or New.
So, what would Jesus do? How kind was he really, particularly to children? Is he indeed an exemplary, perfect role model as Christians claim him to be?
We have only the Bible to go on. There is no reliable contemporaneous extrabiblical source for what Jesus said or did. As religious scholar Bart Ehrman acknowledges, “In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. … Zero! Zip references!”
So let’s pretend for the sake of discussion that the words and acts of Jesus/God as portrayed in the Bible are real. Alternatively, if one views the Bible as fiction, one can still evaluate the merits of fictional characters.
For starters, the Christian deity drowned every baby on Earth. This worldwide infanticide, rather than his purported kindness toward children, is what “makes him unique among the great spiritual exemplars of the world,” Dalgarno’s worshipful admiration notwithstanding. This god makes Andrea Yates look like parent of the year.
He willfully targeted and slaughtered all male Egyptian firstborns as a terrorist act to show off that he was the biggest, baddest ruler around. Yeah, he “saw children,” as Dalgarno writes. And then killed them. Even President Trump’s discriminatory anti-immigrant executive orders and inflammatory comments don’t come close.
He repeatedly commanded that children of blasphemers or apostates be slaughtered, without pity. So much for religious tolerance and loving thy neighbor.
According to New Testament Jesus, God commanded that children disrespectful to their parents be put to death. Helpful hint: That’s no way for anyone to show “his love for children.”
And when it comes to health care, New Testament Jesus also preached that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. He rejected the plea of a Canaanite mother to heal her daughter, dismissing her as a dog. It’s the Christlike thing to do. Granted, he ultimately relented — but only after the mother had professed her faith. That’s not welcoming children at the border, or being the first “to guarantee health care for the helpless.” Even the cruelest, most bigoted government health care policy doesn’t do that.
Of course, the Bible also describes other, more kindly acts of God. But if God is perfect, you don’t get to pick and choose when to agree with him or not.
It’s informative that Christians must so often selectively reject their holy scriptures as ridiculous or repugnant in order to justify their own more humanitarian beliefs. Or to receive a salary by getting others to buy the story that they’re selling.
To paraphrase Dalgarno, with modifications: If you want to judge the goodness of a deity (or anyone else), one could easily make the case that that goodness could be measured by how they’ve treated children. Can’t we all agree that targeting and slaughtering children isn’t spiritually exemplary? Can’t we all reject the deliberate withholding of health care from children to extract a parent’s declaration of faith in Christ? Can’t we all find a better role model than that, fictional or real?
Gregory A. Clark is a father, husband and teacher in Salt Lake City. He rejects the glorification of genocidal rulers, fictional or real.