Michael Rappaport

"Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land, a hard working man and brave. He said to the rich, 'Give your goods to the poor,' but they laid Jesus Christ in His grave."

No matter what the right-wing pastors who preach the prosperity gospel tell you, Jesus Christ was not a fan of the rich.

Nor when he said we will always have the poor with us did he mean we didn't need to do anything about it.

In fact, something like 30 percent of the words credited to Jesus in the New Testament deal with how we should help the poor. When a rich man asked Christ how to follow him, he told the man to sell all his goods and give them to the poor. Then he could follow him.

But in the last 30 years or so in this country, ever since the national emergence of the Christian Right, one segment of that Right has been preaching something called the "prosperity gospel."

The prosperity gospel basically says that God provides material wealth for those he favors spiritually. "God wants you to be rich." That's the battle cry of prosperity theology. "Give to God and God will repay you tenfold."

It's funny that Christ didn't say much about that. The prosperity people have misinterpreted the "talents" story and stretched it to favor wealth, but I can't get past that old thing about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Part of this has been a way to get the moral wing of the GOP to support the money wing's constant drive for lower taxes for the rich. If you believe that rich folks are God's favorite children, it makes a lot of sense.

Yes, Christ was talking about more than just handouts. He did tell the story about teaching a man to fish and feeding him for a lifetime, but he certainly didn't say not to feed the man if the fish weren't biting.

In fact, he didn't say much about rich folks feeling good about themselves. His greatest message was that there were two great commandments -- love God with all your heart, sould and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

It wasn't a popular message.

Remember, they killed Him.

I always liked Jackson Browne's song, "The Rebel Jesus."

"... and once a year when Christmas comes, we give to our relations, and perhaps we give a little to the poor if the generosity should seize us. But if any one of us should interfere in the business of why there are poor, they get the same as the rebel Jesus."

I have been a Christian all my life, and I know we do not make laws according to Christian precepts. But I do know that the Law of Reciprocity exists in all religions -- including Secular Humanism -- except Satanism.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

So whether it's health care, jobs or just a helping hand up, we really ought to figure out a way to stop helping the rich and powerful and start doing what we can for the least among us.

Remember that Jesus said that too.

"Such as you do to the least among you, you do to Me."