Lemuel K. Washburn: “Fashionable Hypocrisy”
There is nothing more inconsistent than for the rich to praise Jesus. There is dishonesty in every word that the wealthy speak in approbation of the poverty-preacher of Galilee. Jesus was poor, almost a beggar. He had no house, no home. But more than this, he did not see the good of such things. He did not tell his disciples to work and try to improve their earthly condition. There is no sound, sensible advice for a man to follow, who has to live and support his family, to be found in the so-called teachings of Jesus.
It is simply hypocrisy for a man who is rich or well-to-do, and who is living to add to his wealth or to increase his comforts, to pretend to honor Jesus. The truth is, Jesus did not do anything that deserves the honor of those who are trying to fill the earth with flowers of happiness, who are laboring to make brighter the homes they live in, and who are sowing the seeds of plenty and joy. Jesus did not do what this age regards as best for man, and he did not teach the philosophy which the wisest men today apply to human life.
Now, was Jesus right or wrong? That is the question. It is pure nonsense for the people of this country to claim to respect Jesus. We cannot respect a person who does what we think is foolish, or we cannot do so and have any self-respect. We are right or think we are, and Jesus was wrong; or else Jesus was right. Which is it?
The whole world, Christian and unbeliever alike, is living contrary to the precept and example of the New Testament preacher. Is every person on earth doing what he believes to be wrong; doing what he believes to be injurious to himself; doing what he considers will end in disaster and misery; doing what he feels will bring suffering and sorrow upon humanity? Not a bit of it. Every man is doing what he believes to be right when he is working to get out of poverty and degradation; when he is trying to better his condition in society; when he is improving his home and giving his family more blessings, more enjoyments.
We unhesitatingly declare that Jesus was wrong. It is impossible to make poverty popular. There is not an argument in its favor. Poverty has not a single blessing. It is a curse, pure and simple, everywhere and for everybody. It is not to be praised; it is to be condemned and got rid of. It is the father of vice and the mother of suffering. It sheds more tears than grief. It cuts more throats than crime. It breaks more hearts than cruelty. It is the one great giant evil of earth. It is the foe that every Knight of Labor is sworn to battle. Every heart that loves another is pledged to drive poverty off the earth. This monster devours more children than disease, and tortures the aged more than pain. Want is a flood, a drought, a famine, a pestilence. It is a prison, a work- house, a convict’s cell. It is the hell of the twentieth century.
Can we praise Jesus and be honest? No! Jesus and his gospel of poverty are not in harmony with the work, the love, the desire of this age, and for any one who is living above want, on the walls of whose home is the sunshine of peace and comfort, to pretend to honor Jesus or to follow his teaching, is to be guilty of hypocrisy!