As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
What we have here is our core values as Americans and Christians slipping away into this facade where we should take care of our poor, sick, and disabled. It is disheartening to know that the nation our forefathers built is no longer of importance to our president and his Democratic counterparts. Not only that, we are falling away from core Christian values. I don’t know about you, but I believe in the Jesus who died to save himself, not enable lazy followers to be dependent on him. He didn’t walk around all willy-nilly just passing out free health care to those who were sick, or food to those who were hungry, or clothes to those in need. No, he said get up, brush yourself off, go into town and get a job, and as he hung on the cross he said, ‘I died so that I may live in eternity with my Father. If you want to join us you can die for yourself and your own sins. What do I look like, your savior or something?’ That’s the Jesus I want to see brought back into our core values as a nation. That’s why we need to repeal Obamacare.
Ted Cruz, on the floor of the Senate, September 25, 2013
Lo and behold, this week's Gospel passage (Luke 17:11-19: read by Christians all over the globe this coming weekend) tells the story of 10 lepers who confront Jesus on the road, calling for free health care. And Jesus delivers. These lepers were not just following the Law (Leviticus 13:45-46), they were going beyond it. They were not simply warning the approaching pilgrims of their uncleanliness. They were calling for Jesus ("The Master") to bring them mercy. To do something about it. Anything. This only meant one thing: healing.
And this happens all over the Gospel narratives. It is a vital aspect of Jesus' Campaign. His compassion abounds and he even breaks the law to do it. Over and over. The inbreaking of the kingdom of God is intricately tied together with bringing health (physical, mental, emotional) and restoration to everyone. Those of us rugged committed to following faith and conscience with everything we've got pledge solidarity to all those afflicted with disease, disorder and the discrimination & demonization that comes with it.
The gospel according the Ted Cruz is so far off in his depiction of Jesus that phDs and pastors from all across the theological spectrum must be straining themselves to make any sense out of it whatsoever. Perhaps, Cruz just thinks he can get away with counterfeiting Jesus by placing his theological remarks in the middle of his 21 exasperating hours of Senatorial delay over Obama's signature policy victory: the Affordable Care Act. Incidentally, he also read from Green Eggs & Ham when it was time for his kids back in Texas to go to bed.
This can't possibly be what our theological and political debates have come to. Can it? Leaders can just say whatever it takes to fire up their base? Lies. Deception. Bullshit. Just say it and people will flock. And if people factcheck you, then you can just scream "liberal agenda." But it's one thing to claim that Obama is going to pull the plug on Grandma, this is Jesus he's fictionalizing.
I'm all about appreciating the diversity of biblical interpretations, but there are limits. It's not anything goes. Never has been. Never will be. The interpretive spectrum on any biblical passage goes from (A) absolutely compelling to (B) benign to (C) caught-being-too-creative to (D) down-right-harmful to (F) utterly fucked up. Cruz gets an F.
But the casualty of biblical untruths spouted by the rich and powerful has serious consequences in the lives of everyday people. They hear grown-ups wearing suits claiming insane things and take it for face value. Then they shout it from the mountaintop (or Facebook wall or bumper sticker) and use it to justify their own destructive mission in life. It keeps their own souls from being aligned with Reality. Cruz is immature, irresponsible and needs to be held accountable.
Turning Jesus into a capitalist superhero that looks like you and your corporate backers is not courageous faith. Cruz and his ilk do not take the Bible seriously. They refuse to read it critically, carefully or contextually. Cruz' Jesus walks around telling poor people to get a job. In the Gospel According to Cruz, Jesus sermonizes against being lazy and getting caught up in dependency. Cruz' Jesus dies on the cross telling his followers they will meet God in heaven if they get off their asses and start working hard for once in their lives. Perhaps, Ted Cruz was simply spending too much time reading the Republican Platform instead of the actual Gospel accounts. Whatever the scenario is, he's disastrously confused.
Towards the end of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, he is confronted by 10 hollering lepers. Much to the horror of Ted Cruz, Jesus heals them all. A free handout. And if things weren't bad enough for Cruz, the only one that comes back is a foreigner. When we, once again, hear the ancient story of the undocumented, physically disabled, unclean man getting free health care, we can rejoice that the unconditional, overflowing, generous, loving heart of God is nothing like what Ted Cruz says it is.
Here's a real quote from Ted Cruz (courtesy of Morgan Guyton over at HuffPost):
Priests were anointed primarily to minister the glory of God. They were anointed to pray for the people, to offer sacrifices, to care for the temple, to be God's representatives before the people... Kings were anointed to take dominion. Kings were anointed to go to war, win the war, and bring the spoils of war to priests so the work of the kingdom of God could be accomplished. The king needed the blessing of the priest in order to be successful in battle... The priest also needed for the king to be successful in battle because the priest needed the spoils of war in order to repair the temple, in order to carry out the ministry that God had entrusted him....Our churches unfortunately are very focused on only one of these anointings and that is on the priestly anointing... Those of you who think you don't have the anointing to teach the word of God, to be teaching Sunday school, you're second class citizens. And so you begin to lead frustrated lives... The majority of you... your anointing... is an anointing as king. God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what's the battlefield? The marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion.
Again, as stated above, Cruz' Dominionist brand of Christianity is far more capitalist than anything Jesus actually advocated for. It turns followers of the servant-king (who washed his disciples' feet before he gave his life for them) into Masters of the Universe. It's a religion hand-crafted for free-market fundamentalists.