This book blew my mind. I read it based on the recommendations of both George Saunders and Bill Clinton. Saunders’ recommendation pretty much sums it up:
“It deals with the way our brains process political information, and particularly with the need for people on the left to become more honest and direct in the way they talk about things – to stop trying to appease the growing right-wing movement and really say, flat-out, what they believe and why they believe it, directly and fiercely. Westen includes an incredible “here’s-what-he-should-have-said” speech that Al Gore should have made when Bush questioned his character during one of the debates. Really a mind-expanding book…”
I’m confused by the bottom right quadrant. The Golden Rule isn’t “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, but it its an interesting passage in light of the Christian Right who want to erode the separation of church and state.
I feel like that passage was about Jews living under a non-Jewish government and wanting Jesus to give them the go-ahead to be disrespectful and insubordinate. Yet, Jesus told them to continue to pay their taxes.
Would Jesus tell the Christian Right to stop throwing a fit about prayer in school and instead focus on helping the needy and the poor?
Austin Kleon says
You’re correct: “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” isn’t the Golden Rule, and really, they had nothing to do with each other — I just happened to unintentionally draw them together on the map.
In the book Westen relates “render…” to the idea of the “sacred and the profane” — as in, there SHOULD be a separation of church and state. “Render unto Caesar,” as in, when it comes to the profane, everyday world, pay your freaking taxes, and “to God what is God’s,” as in, when it comes to the sacred, you can do whatever you want on Sunday.
But I am no theologian.
As to your question, “Would Jesus tell the Christian Right to stop throwing a fit about prayer in school and instead focus on helping the needy and the poor?”
I’m no theologian either, but I’m not sure if Westen is reading that story correctly. (Though I agree that there should be separation of church and state)
The religious elite in Jesus’ day expected him to overthrown the Roman government. They thought by asking him if they should pay taxes it might get him to spill the beans about how he was going to do this. But Jesus had no intention of over throwing the Roman government and instead reminded them that they had God’s image stamped on them so they should be honoring God with their lives just as they should pay taxes because Casar’s image was stamped onto the coin.
So yeah. . . Jesus is saying “guys its not about starting a new political kingdom of Israel, its about starting a kingdom of loving your neighbor which is what God is more interested in any way.”