Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

                                                                         — Matthew 22:21

Somebody didn't get the message!

You have to wonder if anybody on the extreme Christian right ever actually reads the Gospels.  I personally suspect that many of them just get briefings with all the out-of-context quotes that seem to support the social and political goals they've already embraced and would embrace even if Jesus had never set foot on the earth.

Jon McNaughton, the guy who painted the image above (and whose narrative ambition I sort of admire), has depicted Jesus as a kind of President of Presidents, the über- generalissimo of the American state.  This Jesus is presenting the republic with a copy of the Constitution, instead of a copy of the Sermon On the Mount, as though he's the actual author, or Holy Ghostwriter, of the document.

There's no doubt that the Constitution owes a lot to the Christian tradition, with its radical respect for the worth of each individual before God, but really — if Jesus wrote the Constitution, or even Ghostwrote it, do you think he would have left in the original clauses allowing slavery, which evaluated the worth of a slave at three-fifths the worth of a white person?  A perusal of the actual Gospels would suggest otherwise, which may be one reason the extremists can't afford to peruse the actual Gospels.

We may be grateful for the Christian influence on the Constitution, but while we're at it, how about a little gratitude for the Masonic influence?  Many of the Founding Fathers were Masons, and the Masonic tradition has always incorporated a radical respect for all religions.  As President, George Washington, a Master Mason, the highest rank in the Fraternity of Freemasonry, met with Jewish leaders and told them that Jews would not just be tolerated in the new republic but welcomed as full citizens of it.  That attitude, which is one reason America has, to an almost unprecedented degree among nations, risen above violent religious strife between its peoples, is not one which has normally characterized the Christian tradition, with its long history of virulent anti-Semitism.  It is quintessentially Masonic, though, and also, one might add, most perfectly in tune with . . . the actual teachings of Jesus.

It might be good to start thinking of the Gospels as “the lost books of the Bible”, and to deal with the irony of this, since the world would probably be a better place all around if they were the only books of the Bible.