A few weeks ago most House Republicans refused to extend to the Pope honors offered to other world leaders. According to one of the Republicans, he seemed “too liberal.” Apparently they were responding to remarks he made which could be construed as favoring ordinary people economically over the interests of the rich. When I read what he said dismissively about “trickle-down economics,” for instance, I came away with the same thought. I was reminded suddenly of Jesus Christ, who said something similar a long time ago. During the Sermon on the Mount, he is quoted as having said: “…you cannot serve God and money.” In Mathew 19:24 he says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” These remarks, perhaps taken out of context, seem to suggest a prejudice against rich people. Perhaps, even—dare I say it—“class warfare.” Similarly, every once in a while, the Pope speaks of caring for the downtrodden as a “Christian Virtue.” I think the Pope, whether he realizes it or not, was strongly influenced by Jesus Christ.
The Bible has strongly influenced the House Republicans also, particularly those who live in “the Bible Belt,” which is a wide expanse of land that encompasses a number of states from North Carolina all the way to Texas (looking more like a cummerbund than a belt.) These honorable men go to church regularly and are devout. They know better than anyone Christ’s teaching. But, let’s face it, Jesus Christ lived a long time ago before anyone had the internet and social media. Or pocket cameras. Before, even, we had the industrial revolution, which did so much for urbanization. Those whom I like to call “the Big Rich” appeared first at that time. And since then the Big Rich have gotten bigger and bigger, expanding in the same way the universe is expanding, full of dark energy and dark matter. Jesus Christ’s idea of a rich man was someone who hung out in the temple and changed money from one denomination to another, taking a cut each time. That was small scale. Jesus Christ had no idea of what it was like to be Big Rich, to have the responsibility of estates and private beaches and private elevators. He did not know how difficult it is to run a business and manage a bunch of self-aggrandizing underlings. In particular, he could not possibly appreciate all the good stuff you can do if you are really, really rich. (I am speaking here of the top 1%, also known as the “makers.” The bottom 99% are the “takers.”) These exalted few are the entrepreneurs and inventors who carry everyone else on their backs into the future. The value to society of “the Big Rich”
- The Big Rich set themselves up to be the model for everyone else, so that everyone can in his or her turn become Big Rich—by working two or three part-time jobs and investing in the stock market.
- The Big Rich sustain certain markets entirely by themselves: yachts, private jets, the caviar business, etc. Think of all those who would be put out of work if there were no one to buy these products. Not to mention the groundskeepers, the chauffeurs, and the people who manage the spa.
- Many movies are made about the Big Rich, providing entertainment for millions.
- The Big Rich pay for our elections and buy all our political representatives, so that we do not have to pay them large salaries. In such a way, they guarantee that “right-thinking” men are elected to office. They take the responsibility of running the government entirely on their shoulders.
- They pay through their taxes to support all those endeavors that keep our country safe: fences at the border and tanks for the police departments. And so on.
Jesus Christ was a keen observer of the political scene. If he were alive now, he would understand the importance to all of us of the Big Rich. He would not make snide remarks about the Big Rich wanting only more “filthy lucre.” (I don’t know what lucre is, but I’m sure it is bad.) Instead, he would be on the front lines, insuring the value of the dollar, perhaps dedicating himself to a return to the gold standard. There is no way to be sure of such things, but I think that Jesus Christ were he alive today might be a Republican. Instead of a “Christian.” The Pope, I’m sure, would follow along.(c) Fredric Neuman Author of “Superpowers.”