What a terrific title!
I wish it were mine, but it is not—it is the delightful creation of two lawyers from Louisville, Kentucky: Barbara Young and her son Stuart Young.
And it appears on a book that all my friends (and a few of my enemies) could read with great profit, especially as the nation heats up the 2020 election cycle.
The full title is Jesus Loves Obamacare and Other Liberal Causes, and the thesis of this book is this: liberals, progressives, and Democrats need to make more use of the Bible in presenting their case to the American people.
“I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1950’s,” Barbara Young writes in the Introduction. “My mother was a Pentecostal minister, who founded her own church, which later grew into an international organization….I still look to the Bible for inspiration and guidance for my life, for deeper meanings to reality, though I’ve gained a few tools for interpreting it and historical facts I did not know as a child….I am writing this book…to give a voice to many ex-evangelicals like myself to awakening people who consider themselves socially progressive to the power and untapped potential of Scripture to support their policies.”
The Youngs pack quite a powerful punch. She is a graduate of the University of Indiana (PhD) and Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville (first in her class!); and he is a graduate of Emory University, London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School. While neither are biblical scholars, their devotion to Christ, love for the Bible, and commitment to Christian solutions for contemporary problems result in a book that every Bible-believer I know will find challenging, even compelling.
“Political leaders who want to work towards a more compassionate society,” they write on page 39, “a society that balances economic prosperity with protections for those less fortunate, would do well to start drawing on the resources of the Bible.”
Conservatives and Republicans have claimed the Biblical, Christian mantel ever since Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority and the Southern Baptists entered the culture wars. This movement used the Bible to defend their campaign against abortion, homosexuality, and government interference in American life. Along the way, they have resisted racial reconciliation, equal rights, and assistance for the poor; and their vision of America has led them to become the primary voting block for a president who personally and politically contradicts most of the basic tenets of Biblical Christianity. I agree with this: “Trump is merely the fruit of the tree that evangelical alliances have planted, fertilized, and watered. The Bible says that we reap what we sow” (241).
One of the curious things about this Conservative-Republican version of Christianity is how little it actually quotes or evokes the Bible to support its political and cultural agenda. Jesus is noticeably and curiously absent from their presentation of how then we ought to live.
Not so the Youngs.
Jesus Loves Obamacare is a sane, sober, and consistent interpretation of the Bible. It highlights the laws given by Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), the sermons preached by the prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Malachi, and others), and the practices of the first century Christians.
The capstone of their interpretative scheme is, of course, the teaching of Jesus, focused on his famous story of the Great Judgement Day (Matthew 25), when God the righteous judge will separate the sheep from the goats based on a series of six observations:
“I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me water. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
These two Youngs demonstrate convincingly how the entire narrative and instruction of the Bible is summed up in these six statements and how the civic structure (what today we call government) is responsible for implementing these policies.
Consequently, their presentation is a series of chapters: Jesus Loves Obamacare. Jesus Loves Illegal Aliens. Jesus Loves Reformed Welfare for the Poor. Jesus Loves Prison Reform.
The final chapter is about the role of government in the administration of these priorities, challenging the Conservative Christian contention that following Jesus is about personal charity rather than public policy.
Christians need to read this 286-page book. The Youngs need to produce a 75-page version and distribute it widely around the country. And Americans everywhere need to rediscover the Bible as the source and sustenance of our vision of the common good.