Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Religion and politics on the left

Jim Wallis is speaking truth to power again today. By his lights anyway. He’s certainly entitled to his prudential judgment about how best to address the needs of the poor, but calling those who disagree with him "unbiblical"? Will Americans United chastise him for his theocratic tendencies? Will the pundits at The Nation and Mother Jones tut-tut about the diminishing difference between Jim Wallis and Osama bin Laden? Will Maureen Dowd wring her hands?

Let me repeat what I’ve said before on the subject of poverty and religion. There are reasonable disagreements about how best to assist the poor. That we have a duty to do so doesn’t mean that we have to duty to support large government programs.

Update: Here’s a largely uncritical story that lets Wallis and his supporters speak for themselves. Here’s a critical commentary on the WaPo story, with a lively debate in the comments section.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Nice job, Joe! Way to sock it to those greater-than-though liberal bleeding-hearts! If someone doesn’t like being poor, and I think a lot of poor people CHOOSE to be poor, then there is a solution. They can get a job!

Mack: Christians have a biblical mandate to be concerned about the needs of the poor. As Prof. Knippenberg states, we have a duty to assist the poor, but, as he also indicates, folks can differ as to how to go about doing that. To me, the important thing is attitude: Do I truly love the poor like Christ does? Do I really care about their troubles? Am I honestly ministering to them as Christ would have me to do?

Isaiah 10:1-14

Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
2to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
3What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth,
4so as not to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain?
For all this, his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still.

I still say Mack isn’t a real person.

See, there’s proof that God favors tax cuts. Hallelujah!

Oh boy. I have a few quiet hours at work and I think well I will see what stimulating ideas people have to offer. I can always count on the good men Schramm, Knippenberg, Moser, Hayward and Alt to make provacative points. Now this Jeremy Richey fellow had some very good points to make and truth is I agree with him for the most part. Sometimes I am much too quick to speak. There are a few poor folks out there who are’nt lazy its true. I appreciate Jeremy’s remarks. God bless him! But once again Hal is at it. As "M.E.S." pointed out before this guy’s got a "single-minded obsession with me" (Good lord, I hope he’s not gay!). About the only time he pops up is after I say something and he has NOTHING of substanse to report. N-O-T-H-I-N-G! I could’nt help not to notice that he had nothing to say when I pointed out that unresponsible is a real word and not at all a "nonsense’ word as he claimed. Here is where I caught Hal in his false claim:


As I said before Hal, if you have nothing worthwhile or respectful to say you really ought to just zip it!

I agree, Hal. Mack is the troll king.

Yo, I’m the Troll King. This Mack ain’t even one of my minions. But I am recruiting, and Anna...hey, you my kinda gal.

The Real Christmas Scandal

For some on the right, this Christmas season is about little more than empty political symbolism.

The most important issue for people like Jerry Fallwell is ensuring the greeters at stores like Target and Lands End say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." Self-described "religious conservatives" in the House spent their time yesterday introducing a resolution "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected." Meanwhile, that same group of lawmakers has helped push through $50 billion in cuts for programs that provide vital assistance to the poor, including Medicare and food stamps, and passed over $90 billion in tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy. In the Bible, Christians are cautioned not to do as their leaders do, "for they do not practice what they preach." Following the teachings of Jesus, who condemned the actions of those who put public piety before care for the poor, a group of over 200 religious leaders came to Washington yesterday to protest the House budget, which they called "the real Christmas scandal." The Washington Post reports, "Outside in the frigid cold for several hours, more than 200 demonstrators sang religious and holiday songs, prayed aloud and chanted, ’Stop the cuts.’" In an act of civil disobedience, 114 religious leaders were arrested when they refused to leave the steps of the Cannon House Office Building.

THE BUDGET AS A MORAL DOCUMENT: Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian ministry group Sojourners who was arrested at the protest, noted, "The media seems to think only abortion and gay marriage are religious issues." Wallis pointed out, "Poverty is a moral issue, it’s a faith issue, it’s a religious issue." Wallis is not alone. Christian religious bodies that have weighed in against budget cuts to programs that serve the poor -- including the Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ -- represent more than 86 million Americans. It’s a small contingent aligned with the radical right that takes a different approach. For example, "groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities," and its priorities are opposing abortion, opposing same-sex marriage, and seating judges who will back its position against those practices. Wallis describes this approach as "trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They’re being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."

Matthew 23

11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
13 ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.* 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell* as yourselves.
16 ‘Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.” 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, “Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.” 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
23 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
25 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup,* so that the outside also may become clean.
27 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?* 34Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

Enter text descriptionPut Christ in Your ChristmasLet’s Talk Values

Wow, John.

All those Bible verses and yet not a one supports the coercive redistribution of wealth by Leviathan. Quite the opposite, most were written in the context of a social order in which an elite 10% of landowners who either fought or prayed for a living forcibly extracted from the 90% of the population who worked with their hands the tiny 20% surplus typically created in premodern agriculture. You might say the producers were brutally exploited by unproductive elites -through rapacious taxation .

A couple style notes. If you do find some Bible verses where Jesus anticipates the welfare state by demanding that the government force a massive redistribution of wealth, post them using the paragraph button so you do not get the "giant block o’ text maniacal screed" effect. And I think it is proper style at this point to refer to the ill-attended fever swamp of apostasy still clinging to expensive ecclesiastical real estate as the Episcopal "Church." Without the scare quotes an uninformed reader might think the denomination of "Bishop" John Shelby Spong and "Bishop" Gene Robinson participates in something remotely resembling Christianity.

I will give you this; since Target kicked the Salvation Army off their property, they have no business saying "Merry Christmas" to anyone.

That’s right. God hates the neocon Pharisees. Hey, you forgot the part of about driving the moneychangers from the temple. Let’s help the poor and make this a Christian nation again.

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