A lot of the locals thought he was an unsavory character. He was probably born a bastard, whose father almost chose to disown and abandon him; his family feared the law and fled the country at one point. He was accused of undermining the law, he followed a cult leader who was later arrested, and his friends were arrested often. He associated most of the time with the poor, and was often homeless. Throughout his life there is no sign he had any interest in women; his only known public display of affection is when a man kissed him late in his life.
He loved the poor. He spent a lot of his time helping the sick and the insane, worrying about children and those who had lost loved ones, and feeding the hungry. He did it all for free: he said he didn’t want credit or money for helping others and he told his friends to help others the same way too. He despised the rich, once launching an armed attack on bankers, and disliked people who ordered the labor of others while making no exertion themselves. He called for selling off possessions rather than piling up a lot of personal stuff, donating to the poor, spending liberally rather than seeking austerity, and paying taxes.
He spoke out for meekness, mercy, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, even for enemies and people who were cruel. He stood up for people who were being persecuted (like gays today). He opposed those who were vengeful or judgmental. He loathed organized religion, warning about dishonest religious people and predicting the collapse of the major local religious institution. He resisted the idea of teaching or interpreting religious language literally, and heavily stressed speaking in non-literal illustrations instead. Religious conservatives plotted to kill him and hired someone to betray him for money.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world’s first Democrat. Jesus of Nazareth. And he’s not some centrist DLC kind of liberal, either. He’s out there on the fringe with Tom Harkin and Dennis Kucinich.
I say this because religious conservatives often cherry-pick quotes from the Bible in their effort to tell the rest of us what’s God’s will is. Well, two can play at that game. You don’t even need to cherry-pick the Gospels to create a picture of Jesus who is really, really liberal. The notion that he would go tramping the countryside, claiming that God hates gays and abortion and evolution and stem-cell research and HPV vaccinations and sex education and scary books like conservatives do, is absurd. A Republican he was not.