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Trump’s budget slashes aid to the poor. Would Jesus have a problem with that?

President Trump photo courtesy of The White House. "Head of Christ Crowned" by Hans Sebald Beham,16th century. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

(RNS) Since it was unveiled last week, President Trump’s proposed budget has been widely denounced as “immoral” and downright “evil” for boosting defense spending by billions while demanding drastic cuts to vital aid programs.

Yet if liberals and some conservatives are upset about cuts to programs that help ensure clean drinking water, give financial aid to low-income college students, and even help support Meals on Wheels — which delivers nearly a million meals a day to the sick and elderly — would Jesus have a problem with slashing assistance to the needy?

The question has been roiling Christian commentators on social media in recent days, with many on the left arguing that of course Jesus would be outraged by sharp cuts in assistance to the poor while the exegetes on the right took the opposite view.

The latter said the truth of the matter — and, by extension, the Christian rationale for much of the nation’s safety net — depends on how you translate a single phrase in the early Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew.

“Winners and losers in Trump’s budget.” Graphic courtesy of Reuters

This scriptural smackdown began hours after the budget was unveiled on Thursday (March 16), when the conservative pundit — and newly minted theology student — Erick Erickson began bristling on Twitter and on his blog about critics of Trump’s budget cuts, reductions that he backs.

“If you don’t support Meals on Wheels you’re not a good Christian, according to people who aren’t Christians and don’t believe in Jesus,” as Erickson tweeted on Thursday.

Several people who are in fact Christians, such as author Rachel Held Evans and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, were among the many who expressed astonishment at Erickson’s take; some of them pointed to the well-known passage in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus speaks about those who will be saved as the ones who cared for the thirsty, the hungry, the homeless and the stranger — “the least of these,” as Jesus says.

Cue the translation wars.

Erickson, who in 2014 left his highly successful editor post at the conservative political website Red State to start a degree in biblical studies at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, said his critics were flat-out wrong. “When Jesus talks about caring for ‘the least of these,’ he isn’t talking about the poor in general, but fellow Christians,” he tweeted in response.

Erick Erickson speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9, 2012. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

Then on his Instagram account, Erickson — who pointed out that he could now read the Gospel in the original Greek — explained that when referring to “the least of these” Jesus qualifies the phrase with the term “adelphos,” which means “brothers” or “brotherhood.” Thus, he says, Jesus is talking about how you treat only his disciples, not the poor and certainly not the poor in general.

If this seems like a rather obscure point of scriptural interpretation, it has in fact become a fulcrum for conservative Christians to leverage arguments against the government providing many social services.

This is a vigorous debate that has been going on for several years as evangelical scholars, in particular, have pushed for a more restrictive reading of Jesus’ words in Matthew. The more prevalent view, and one espoused by believers ranging from Catholicism’s Mother Teresa (now a saint) to evangelicalism’s Shane Claiborne, is that Jesus was referring to anyone in need.

The argument gained a wider hearing in March 2015, when the leading evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, published a detailed article that sought to give “a more biblically accurate understanding” of Jesus’ words. Two months later President Obama took part in a Georgetown University panel, a “Poverty Summit,” in which he and other speakers invoked the “least of these” term to argue that government had an obligation to care for the poor.

That prompted Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to weigh in with a blog post arguing that the phrase does not refer to the poor but to Jesus’ disciples and how they are treated.

Denny Burk. Image courtesy of Vimeo

“It’s about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor,” wrote Burk, a prolific blogger. “It’s about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It’s about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals.”

In his social media storm over Trump’s budget, Erickson pointed to Burk’s article and claimed: “Shorter version is I’m right.”

Well, the longer version is — it’s not that simple.

Theologians and Bible scholars can and have easily argued that the wider context of Jesus’ preaching and the rest of the New Testament — as well as the Jewish Scriptures that Jesus and his followers drew on — clearly show that Christians are called on to care for all those in need.

Those who pin their opposing argument on a single verse from Matthew, and the translation of the word “adelphos,” are, they say, just proof-texting — isolating a phrase from its context to try to establish a larger principle. In this case, they say, it’s also an effort to downplay the crucial religious obligation to care for the poor.

In fact, back in 2015 several scholars and pastors critiqued Burk on those grounds, with one fellow evangelical saying that Burk’s “articulation seems to deliberately exclude the poor, and that is problematic.”

That led Burk to add a number of clarifications to his original column to note that he agrees that “the rest of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is clear about our obligation to care for the poor in general.” Burk said he was “not disputing that point.”

Whatever one believes Jesus meant by “the least of these,” what really seems to be at stake in this ongoing debate over what the Gospels say is what it means for today’s political battles and the role of government in caring for the needy.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally

President Trump holds a rally March 15, 2017, at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

As Steve Deace, the nationally syndicated conservative Christian radio host, wrote in response to Kirsten Powers: “The man who wrote most of the New Testament, Paul, was a free Roman citizen. Did he lobby Rome to create a welfare state?”

Erickson also picked up and ran with that line of thinking on his website, The Resurgent, in a series of posts that ripped the “political left” and theological liberals who he said have subverted Scripture “to tie your salvation to support of a government program.”

Care for the needy, Erickson wrote, “is the responsibility of the individual and church,” not government.

“I support cutting the funding of Meals on Wheels,” he wrote. “I think it should be each individual’s obligation to help their family and those in need in their community.”

Conservatives like himself, he said, are more generous than liberals who he said want to use wasteful, taxpayer-funded government programs for charity so they can pay less and do less to ease poverty.

Then again, as a famous man once said about paying taxes: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Whatever that means.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

199 Comments

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  • It is interesting that the great Anglican scripture scholar,Reginald H. Fuller (and author (now-co-author in the 3rd edition) of a book on Preaching the Lectionary) has for many years maintained that Matthew 25’s “least of these” refers to disciples of Jesus. This does not mean that we should not promote programs that assist the poor both at home and abroad, it just means that Matthew 25 is not a proof text for that obligation. There is plenty of other material in the prophets, and other scriptures to support an preferential option for the poor. (e.g. James)

  • You have to bear in mind Conservative Jesus is kind of a raging jerk. Somehow he supports indifference to the poor, discrimination, greed, holy war and fraud. There is nothing really moral or worthwhile to that Jesus. Certainly nothing for others to admire. Christians have a remarkable skill of justifying bad behavior through proof texting.

    A budget plan which provided benefits to the most wealthy and attacks the ability of the poor to survive is an abomination to anyone with moral fiber. With or without the word of religious figures.

    If you want to see how this crap plays out look at the fiscal black hole called Sam Brownback’s Kansas. If you want to see how a developed social safety net develops an economy, look at Minnesota’s budget practices.

  • Erickson’s antics reveal the moral bankruptcy of what is called “conservatism” in the United States. It is not “conservative” at all to deny services to those who need them. What is called “conservatism” is more correctly identified as classism and prejudice. It is not supported by scripture whatsoever. This is another case where religion is simply a tool for the powerful to maintain their power by fooling the public.

  • How one interprets “the least of the lease” says at least as much about the interpreter’s priorities as it does about the priorities of Matthew’s Jesus. If you think the gospel entails taking at least minimal care of of those in need, then you’ll likely read the passage more expansively. If you think the gospel entails defending free-market philosophical principles (like Erickson) or whining about faux-persecution (like Burke), you’ll read it more narrowly.

  • Not just Dr. Fuller but also, and more importantly, Origen, Clement, Tertullian, Chrysotom, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine.

    Of course Matt 25 was the promise to the missionaries. There is no question about that. The entire Mount Olivet discourse was about the future of the missionaries. It was a larger scale version of Matt 10’s commissioning of the disciples to take the gospel to the towns of Israel, with the exact same promises that “whoever receives you, receives Me.” Most ministers know this quite well, but they tend to leave the popular misinterpretation in place because it’s an effective fundraising ploy. That, however, is neither honest nor necessary in light of the entirety of the gospels. And it rings paricularly hollow when it comes from secularists who never want to hear the name of Jesus in the public square EXCEPT as a possible pathway into someone’s pocket.

  • How anyone reads the Bible is so much dependent on who that person is in the world, rather than the other way around.

  • From the headline to this story,

    “(RNS) The sharp debate that broke out among believers suggests that any Christian rationale for the nation’s social safety net depends on how you translate a single Greek word in the Gospel of Matthew.”

    Too funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Apparently, there is a class of Christian who does not believe in being kind, compassionate, generous and helpful, or that these are “Christian” values, unless God tells them it’s OK.

    Barely a week goes by where I don’t see some religious idiocy, either justifying behaving badly, or needing a justification to behave decently, and this whole article is a great example of a dictum I more and more see as true: how one reads and interprets the Bible very much depends on what kind of person one is. someone is usually made better by reading the Bible if he already has the stuff of goodness within him. THen, There are angry, ignorant, stingy, bigoted, and fearful people, who weaponize their bibles and use it to justify the bile, malice, and harm they direct at other people,

  • The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and it seems to me that if Christianity weren’t a hard-hearted, right-wing religion, then it wouldn’t have become so strongly associated with hard-hearted, right-wing politics.

    Perhaps it is time for progressive Christians to abandon the religion of Paul Ryan and Sam Brownback. For how can anyone hope to defeat the Republicans while worshipping their God?

  • “Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
    – -Tacitus, Annals 15.

    Plus ca change…

  • Funny how the persecutors of Christians, roll out the New Testament when they believe it can justify big government spending, but otherwise love to call them bigots, racists etc for espousing Christian values at other times. Jesus had never heard of the Communist or Socialist agenda when he beseached faithful followers to help our brothers and sisters in need. We are supposed to personally extend a helping and charitable hand to the needy, not demand that some richer person be compelled to do it for us.

  • You need to read your patristic authors more carefully, especially Jerome and Chrysostom. And your final sentence is just sad, but unsurprising: more worried about your money, and taking a swipe at people with more morality than you, than about people in need. Good job.

  • Question for you, David Gibson. Why didn’t you yourself reference, cite, read and explain Matthew 25:31-46 for us in this article? If to you “what really seems to be at stake in this ongoing debate over what (Matthew 25:31-46) say is what it means for today’s political battles and the role of government in caring for the needy” – where’s your very own plain & uncomplicated rendition of those controversial passages? What are you afraid of? That presenting it would prove to everyone that – OH NO – you’re actually on Denny Burk and Erick Erickson’s side? Because – OH NO – they’re right after all? – i.e. in the truth for believing that “When Jesus talks about caring for ‘the least of these,’ he isn’t talking about the poor in general, but fellow Christians … It’s about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor … It’s about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It’s about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals.”

    Me? My own plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46 tells me that: “31 when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne 33 and put the sheep on His right, 34 then say, ‘You, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom 35 for 40 the extent that you cared for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you cared for Me.’ 46 These the righteous will go away into eternal life.” So, do I see in Jesus’ Parable of the Judgment Day, as you put it, “the role of government in caring for the needy”? No, but just the mutually caring role of all of Christ’s truly faithful followers living by, and devoting to, the ransoming Fatherly love of God via the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His own beloved Son, Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and savior of the rest of the world. That I do see.

  • “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” — (Proverbs 14:31)

    “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” — (Proverbs 29:7)

    “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ ” — (Matthew 19:21)

    “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” — (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

    “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” — (Stephen Colbert; also see commentary on this quote at http://canyoncreekonline.com/blog/post/pretending-jesus-was-as-selfish-as-us/)

  • 80% of money used by government for helping the needy is used in administration. That is government workers. The poor get 20%. Apparently some poorly educated people, who like to assume that anyone who doesn’t support government worker enrichment is somehow not compassionate, are unable to grasp that if you truly want to help the poor you should get the government the hell out of the way.

    http://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/~/media/infographics/2014/09/bg2955/bg-war-on-poverty-50-years-chart-1-600.jpg

    Insanity is doing what you have always done and expecting a different result.

  • I think it evident, as has been stated, that government programs tend to absorb resources administratively at an exorbitant rate relative to the resources that reach the intended recipients. This is my greatest objection to government administered programs. We can argue all we wish about what Jesus meant in a specific text addressing a specific situation and whether it applies elsewhere, universally, or to an isolated program., i.e. the passage referred to in Matthew.
    However it ought to clear from the balance of passages on charity from both Testaments, that the faithful have an obligation to the poor, suffering, and oppressed; 1st to those within the faith community and additionally to the community at large as a testimony and witness. Not all the poor are poor as a function of poor life choices. Nor are all blessed with an education that increases the opportunities for greater remuneration, nor are all gifted and skilled naturally.
    And if it is a given that some are poor because of foolish choices, are we as a Church enjoined to abandon them when they have repented and are attempting to rebuild their lives? I think not. We are enjoined to minister to all without prejudice or bias, while exercising discretion and prudence in such ministration. God will weigh who responded appropriately and who did not; this should give pause to us all.

  • I just don’t get your comments…. I thought we began by talking about proper and competent exegesis of Matthew 25. It is not a question of how we read our own politics, prejudices, word-views into the scriptures (isogesis) but a sincere attempt to understand what it meant then so that we might begin to understand what it means now. as I said earlier, there are many, many, many scriptural teachings in both the First Testament and the Second to insist on care for the poor and, more importantly, to see this as an obligation not just of personal charity but of social/political justice and thus a moral demand on any political/economic system in power.. in other words,…. the obligation of the state to promote the common good and especially to make sure that the least advantaged can thrive. it is just not based in Matthew 25.

  • Hmmm, So i am a ignorant, stingy, bigot now? I am one that put my faith in the Lord Jesus a long time ago. when reading the Bible , it was up to the Church in the N.T. to look after those for a “safety net”, not the Gov. Read and then go do.

  • Worrying about money is for you guys. I’m disgusted by unbelievers who trot out the scriptures once in a blue moon to support their political agenda but the rest of the time scream “Keep your Jesus cr** out of our government!” THAT’S what is sad — when it’s not outright hilarious.

    Care to comment on the little quip above about our “Christian nation,” perhaps?

  • What is the point of such exegesis? To claim that charity is strictly for ones own group? Another excuse to avoid acting well to others? Ultimately it is far better to see the intention of the interpretation here. And here the intentions are pretty shaky from a moral standpoint.

    Conservative Christians are remarkably adept at taking sections of the Bible to avoid general obligations to act well towards others. About promoting indifference or hostility to the poor. It speaks badly of any kind of socially redeeming features of their faith

  • You are talking to people here who do not believe in the word of God and therefore see no value in proper and competent exegesis in and of itself. Scripture has value to them only insofar as it can be used to further their preferred agendas.

    Spud is (probably deliberately) not getting what you’re saying — that the gospels contain many exhortations to generalized charity but that this simply isn’t one of them.

  • In most likelihood, probably. The Christians who seem most against charitable readings are people who love to justify bad behavior to others from the Bible. People of high piety and low character.

  • Austerity and reducing government income has never stimulated an economy. Cutting back on social benefits while cutting taxes on the wealthy has a long history of demolishing quality of life. Kansas right now is a perfect example of how it plays out.

    40 years of such policies had little to show for it outside of undermining the middle class, free trade, infrastructure and protection of the public from those who could literally buy their way out of legal obligations.

    The Heritage Foundation has zero credibility. It’s a think tank specifically to promote supply side nonsense. That figure you quoted was probably phony.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Heritage_Foundation

  • First of all I do not believe that one passage is all that is said about the poor and needy. The whole Bible speaks of how we the children of God should behave. There are numerous passages mentioning how we are to treat one another. We are to love one another as our selves, we are to take care of widows, we are to help those in need not pass them by, we are to be a reflection of the love God has for us. Which by the way God is our provider. So yes it is our christian duty to make sure everyone regardless has what is needed to survive.

    When we politicize it is when it all goes to pot. People do not have the same opportunities for getting a job as there once was. Decent paying jobs are fewer and fewer, even to the point that having a college education does not get you much if anything. What used to be jobs with only a HS diploma needed, a college diploma is now needed meaning college is the new HS diploma. How are people suppose to take care of their needs when there is so little opportunity. Then when life throws people a curve ball what are they to do to get what they need. Assistance programs are most definitely needed and need to be funded, but something needs to be done to get people to be able to take care of themselves too.

    The funding of the military unfortunately is needed in today’s world, and to let our military wither on the vine is asking for trouble. However, cutting social programs is a cruel way of balancing the budget. I am sure if the tax funded programs were audited, they would find quite a bit of waste, salaries that are could either be considered too high or a bellwether for how low and stagnant non-gov jobs really are.

    I think what we all need to realize is that Jesus never turned away from those in need, shared everything he had with others (even nonbelievers), and if we claim to follow Him then we must do the same.

  • Shameful. The writer of this article using Jesus to promote a political stance. I have no doubt the reader would be one of the Jewish pharisees if he lived 2000 years ago.

  • Maybe we should pass a law that excludes conservative Christians from getting government aid if they dislike it so much.

  • What does any of this have to do with the government? There is no translation that says that the government should take money out the pockets of some people and give it to the poor or anyone else. This idea cannot be called compassion, but coercion. Mercy at the point of a gun. Compassion is voluntary.

  • “Shorter version is I’m right.”

    In five little words, Erickson sums up the only thing that ever has, or ever will, matter to Calvinists – winning debates and gloating about it.

  • Perhaps you would be so kind, then, as to crack open a Bible and read through the New Testament and regale us with the verses that say, ‘Give to the government, so they can give to the people’?

  • Just a thought, but how many of the commenters here, tithe, or say give 5% gross income to the poor or charity?

  • Acts 5:1-11. The New Testament is pretty explicit about how early Christians felt about people cheating the poor. Ananias and Sapphira basically got the holy death penalty for holding back proceeds from the sale of property to give the money to the apostles to help take care of the poor. If their sudden deaths for cheating the poor was really God’s will, then Trump is toast with God already. Debate over.

  • Isn’t the greatest law “to love God with all you heart, mind, self (soul=psyche), and strength/might” a call to use everything one has to fulfill the second greatest, which is “to love your neighbor as yourself?” It is beside the point whether Christians of the first three or four centuries compelled government fo use resources for the poor, which by the way was a common practice in some nations anyway. When the Church came into power as the government or with the current citizenry having influence and say in the government, government resources become part of our power (strenght/might) and within our responsibility to use it with honor toward God.

    Since we have this great power in our own lives we have a right as a citizenry to demand that government use its resources in keeping with our “philosophies.” Whichever way one interprets scripture then becomes the appropriate way to steer government programs, when one honestly and humbly interprets with a heart toward the Lord. Those that get out the vote are the ones who get to decide.

    Personally I lean toward reaching out to the general person in need because that is how I see the general sweep of the Bible on that issue. However, if my Christian brother or sister sees it another way I can live with that. It doesn’t stop me from doing what I am supposed to do. The government isn’t a savior but a servant of the people. There is no prescribed limit in scripture to the government’s role–except that it act justly.

    You may call me left, right, moderate, or whichever you like in order to circumscribe a boundary across which you may refuse communicate, but you and I are still answerable to the Lord–and our scriptural interpretation may not excuse us.

    The only problem I have with the article is a common problem I see among a lot of Christians, which is to ask “would Jesus have a problem with . . .?” The way I hear that is with the unspoken lament, “too bad he’s not around to tell us!” ????

  • “If you don’t support Meals on Wheels you’re not a good Christian, according to people who aren’t Christians and don’t believe in Jesus.”

    Jesus admonishes us to feed the hungry, but he didn’t name Meals on Wheels specifically! (Jesus was speaking to individuals and their obligation to “do unto the least of these.” And BTW, since when do “people who aren’t Christians” get to judge who is and isn’t a good Christian?!)

    I work for an organization with a Meals on Wheels component, and most people don’t realize those receiving meals actually PAY for them! MOW is definitely NOT a poverty program! They mainly serve the aged, who are unable to cook for themselves and have difficulty getting transportation to restaurants and grocery stores. MOW gets some money from state and local governments, but they also receive some federal and private grants. If ALL government assistance were withdrawn from the program tomorrow, they could easily replace it by increasing their fundraising efforts.

  • Perhaps you are forgetting that God, through the prophets, condemned the nation of Israel again and again for its failure to care for the widow, orphan and sojourner among them. Next in line for condemnation were the lazy rich who failed to care for the widow, orphan and sojourner.

  • Actually, that story shows that they could have done anything they wanted with the proceeds of the sale of land. It was the fact that they lied about how much they received and acted as though they were giving all of the proceeds:

    Act 5:3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
    Act 5:4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!”

  • So, now it isn’t the Bible, but the government that is preventing you from it? Otherwise, you would be like a flowing river of money, helping out the poor? And as for that silly hippy saying…

    “Give away all that you have and follow me?”

    STill, too funny!!!!!!!!

  • What I would call you is neither left, right, nor center, but someone who does what is right in accordance with his own principles FOR HIMSELF.

    And that I see as a good thing.

  • I believe Jesus expected each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves without any compulsion from governments or other organizations. Two purposes are achieved by voluntarily serving the poor in our communities:
    1) We can discern the root cause of our neighbors’ poverty and provide assistance to help them help themselves. In other words, not just feed them a fish for the day, but teach them to fish for themselves if they are indeed capable of doing so.
    2) Jesus can judge us for our individual willingness to live his gospel. Satan wants to force people. Jesus wants us to have free agency and choose for ourselves. In His time on earth, Jesus never expected the government to do what He commanded us to do individually of our own free will. Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s and render unto the Lord that which is the Lord’s.

  • I don’t often agree with you, but I’m with you almost 100% on this.

    The “almost” comes around with the military. We spend more money on the military and imagining ourselves to be the world’s policeman, and worse, imagining ourselves always to be the good guys, than do the next 10 or so big military spenders combined.

  • The key takeaway from your reply is “services to those that need them”. Only those who live in proximity to the poor can discern the root of the cause of their poverty and assist with correcting it. Not all who claim to want assistance are truly needy. No government bureaucracy would know that. Only we, their neighbors, know.

  • Jesus’ commands apply only to apostles, not the government. He didn’t command his followers to fund their charity with theft.

  • I’m disgusted by believers who trot out the scriptures as their justification for all of their crappy behavior towards others, and then tell us how much the lovelovelovelove everyone, while simultaneously condemning non-believers for trotting out the scriptures is an effort to get the Good Christians (TM) to actually live by the principles they claim to espouse.

    But there you have it. Read the comments from all of the Good Christians (TM) posting herein who are obsessed with money before projecting it onto us non-believers.

    Who said “scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites”, and didn’t intend it as a compliment?

    No one important to the Scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites.

  • What would Jesus have to say about the government’s use of tax dollars? Simple, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Yes, Jesus did say many things about helping poor people, but all of his teachers on the subject were individual actions. If you see a poor person and you decide to take money out of your wallet and give it to the poor person to help them out then you are following what Jesus said. If I decide that poor people need to be helped and so I point a gun at you and force you to take money out of your wallet and then I give it to the poor person then neither you nor I are following what Jesus said. I may be trying to help the poor person, but Jesus’s teachings weren’t an ends justify the means sort of thing. You may have given money to the poor person, but you did it because I pointed a gun at you and not because you wanted to. The notion that the government spending money to help a poor person is the Christian thing to do is the notion that a Scrooge that hates the government, hates taxes, and hates poor people, but still pays his legal share in taxes is therefor following Jesus’s teachings because he paid his taxes.

  • “scripture has value to them only insofar as it can be used to further their preferred agendas.”

    Oh, most holy pot! canst thou not see the kettle? And verily, is the kettle not a Negro?

  • Government cannot love. That is the providence of the Church. Deuteronomy 15 clearly explains that indeed, there should be no poverty. Jesus does indeed tell us that, “the poor will always be with us”, but is he referring to situational poverty, or generational poverty? His words in Matthew 26:11 may have been a verbal notation to those who heard him to remind them of God’s commands in Deuteronomy 15. Unfortunately, situational poverty will exist in a broken world where disaster, divorce and sickness exist. However, generational poverty is another matter. God “commands” in Deuteronomy 15 that we “lend” whatever is needed, and not to be hardhearted or tightfisted. Lend implies a return, and this investment implies relationship. Government has poured $20-trillion dollars into poverty programs over the last 50 years, and the needle hasn’t moved. All we are doing is propping people up. When we invest in relationships, we build a bridge. A bridge has two foundations. We build a bridgehead on “our” end that reaches out toward “them” when we commit to investing in relationships; “they” establish a bridgehead on “their” end when the church hosts workshops that develop the soft skills, awareness and relationships that offer bridging social capital to get ahead in a just gettin’ by world. In the context of the local church, in each local community, followers of Jesus can accomplish what government has been unable to do.

  • Actually Ananias and Sapphira were punished for lying about what percentage of the proceeds of the sale of their land they gave. They could have given whatever amount they wanted of it, according to Peter.

    Act 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?
    Act 5:4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

  • If you want to show disinterest and hostility to the poor, just be honest about it. But don’t blame such feelings on government or claim it has anything to do with morality.

    There are rather rational and secular reasons for public assistance. Most notably that letting people starve to death or live in abject squalor is a public hazard. That government owes a duty to represent needs of the general public, including its poorest.

    Private charity has never been an effective solution to poverty in of itself. Religious charity tends to be discriminatory and self serving. Public assistance to the poor produces clear public results. It is not theft. It is meeting an obligation of a representative society.

  • With the drop of any attendance & the growth of self identifying non-religious, please lay out an idea of what & how “each local community” would cover what the government won’t? Oh, please tell me if there would be a religious test for their aid. Thanks.
    http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/religious-participation-survey/496940/

  • Well, just as long as my tax dollars goes to more & bigger machines of war. War on people of color, indigent people, sick, incarcerated, children & disabled. Oh & for oil. More war is the answer to the homeless, to the vets with PTSD & their families (caused by war) & public education.
    Funny how the religious don’t want their tax dollars going to things like abortion for poor women that they don’t agree with, but are outraged when I don’t want my tax dollars going to wars.

  • My pleasure.

    Many people think I am against religion. I am not, except for myself. I have said many many times that if your faith makes your life better and you a better person, I am all for it.

    Thanks for demonstrating my point.

  • Actually the law required growers to leave the edges of the fields unharvested so the poor could have it, and anyone could walk through a field and eat from the harvest, so long as they didn’t bag it and take it home. These laws applied also to the king. Not only was this coercion, but the government was required to do so also.

  • The needle hasn’t moved but the meter has. What was poor back in the in Rooseveldt’s, and even Johnson’s, time was much more destitute than the poor now. Though equity hasn’t been resolved, the programs have at least raised the poor above what they had in the past. It hasn’t been a hopeless effort, else even the “left” would be scrapping the programs.

    Yes, “followers of Jesus can accomplish what government has been unable to do.” But government can help, where churches can’t. And besides there are many follower of Jesus in government with power of say so, how can they not act for all those for whom they act, even the poor?

  • Funny, if the churches could/would do this, there would be no problem? Thing is, they aren’t. Many out of their own financial struggles, some out of mis-applied priorities (Food bank or fancy new building? Yeah, call the architect!) In the long run though, the need is far greater than the faith community can meet. Far, far more.

    Nothing is preventing you from giving. Are you? Are you giving as much as Jesus told you to?

  • Terribly sure of himself, yes?

    Thing is, Jesus often referred to the population at large as brethren. Not to mention he often cared for people who were not his followers.

    And Erick Erickson… has spent his professional life as a dealer of death. How can I take any claim he makes theologically to heart?

  • I think you can faithfully hold either view. There are reasons to think the government should care for its citizens and reasons to think the church and individuals alone should. What I find problematic is what seems to be inconsistent application of the role of government and church.

    If the government is to govern and not be or reflect the church, perfect. But then it seems with that view needs to come silence on moral or ethical questions raised towards the government (marriage, sexuality, taxes, programs, etc). Let them govern how they want, by their values, and their agenda. If they choose to help the poor or not has no baring on what is Christian.

    Or, people hope to see their Christian values and beliefs reflected in their government. Ok as well, but that means all of them. Love of enemy, care for the poor, etc.

    It’s what seems to be a blatant lack of consistency that is head scratching and ultimately undermines either position.

  • I think there is some important things to consider when we look at what is administration and the benefit that has on those who access programs.

    Its by no means wasted. Its staffing, its consistency, it rent for the building, etc. Its all the things that need to be present so the person can access the program. Its not waste and it does have material benefit to those who receive services.

  • Everything you just said is a red herring and goes right back to the first part of my statement. What would Jesus have to say about the use of tax dollars? He would say render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Jesus said for individuals to help poor people. He didn’t say to create a government to help poor people, or pay your taxes so that government programs can help poor people, etc. A Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or Flying Spaghetti Monster follower trying to get the government to do something has nothing to do with following what Jesus taught since Jesus’s teachings were all about individual action and intent and not about forcing someone else to do something.

  • (Nods.) I agree with you on the military issue, Ben. Our military is bigger than the next ten nations combined, and more than twice the size of China, the next biggest of those ten. Just who are we building this for? I’ll tell you what- we aren’t paying our soldiers any better. The money is going for the big toys- toys that the generals often say they don’t need, but toys that are built in the districts of the powerful in Congress.

    At any rate, we’re cutting social services to hand money to the rich, and that is the simple truth. And that is shameful. It is sinful. The Calvinists in power insist that the poor must take care of themselves, and if they are poor, it is their own lack of application. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, etc. But what are they to do when they have no boots? We’ve regressed into a Dickensian world, of the ‘deserving poor’, and the others.

    The Jesus I follow repeatedly tells me to care for those in need. And he does not make qualifications. No ‘but only if they-‘ statements. I choose to obey.

  • I just returned from a VA Clinic where I had an appointment with audiology. I have a 60% disability rating with hearing loss & tinnitus as part of the rating. When my appointment was over I went to the clerk’s desk to learn there is now a deductible taken out of my mileage I’m awarded do to the distance from my home to the clinic.

    I want to say to all my fellow service men & women current & veterans who supported Trump, this is what you voted for. A frontal attack on benefits we EARNED. Its only been 50 days since the Trump regime came to power and I’m very afraid of just what is coming to reduce and/or deny our service connected disabilities.

    You should get prepared as its going to get very ugly. Imagine vets marching on DC as they did during the Hoover administration which used the US Army to disperse those bringing a legitimate complaint.

  • And that money magically comes from where? If it’s out there, why isn’t it already in their coffers.

    We’re on a budget in our house. If we increase giving to MOW, it means we can’t give as much tot eh children’s hospital, or the food bank, or Red Cross, or Mercy Corps. The money does not magically appear because there is more need.

  • Jesus certainly exposed his views when he kicked the businessmen out of the Temple courtyard in addition to the eye of the needle parable. Bottom line you need to actually read the Bible in complete passages instead of little snippets that are used to support the alt-right and recognize the vast differences in cultures and language. In other words WWJD???????????

  • Fake news. Jesus never said anything about supporting ‘GOVERNMENT aid’ to the poor.
    He commanded His children to give of their ‘OWN’ resources as ‘individuals.’

    The author apparently believes that Jesus was a Marxist.

  • Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ).

  • While Jesus certainly called on people to demonstrate kindness to their neighbors, he also rebuked the one who asked why the oil used to annoint him was not sold for charity. And his question regarding the payment of taxes…was to produce a coin from the mouth of a fish. So Christ’s view of the role of government was, at a minimum, complicated. You can find plenty about caring for the needy in the Old Testament – right there next to strict requirements for piety, chasity, and the traditional family. Things to which those asking “WWJD?” seem remarkably deaf.

    What would Jesus say, indeed? What would he say about government mandated birth control? About foreign aid to create solidarity with homosexuals? About jailing those who try to uphold their faith in the course of business? About, for that matter, the idea that we must open our borders to, and allow the worship of, those who deny him as the Messiah?

    If nothing else, you must acknowledge it is easier to address the priorities of the left outside the government than the priorities of the right. A soup kitchen can feed the needy as effective as food stamps. A sermon offers far less guarantee against abortion or deviant lifestyles than a law.

  • Can you talk like an ordinary person, Ben?

    Again, I’m not sure what your implication is. That I have an agenda? What is it? There are many things I am glad scripture says, and many things I wish it did not say. But it does no real good to lie about it, even if we think we have a “good” purpose in doing so. If the scripture are God’s word (as Jesus told us they are) then it is our business to try to ascertain its import as accurately as possible in light of surrounding text, history, and supporting ancient commentary. If it isn’t God’s word, then its actual meaning makes no difference and it is fair game to be molded to fit the personal/cultural /political/etc. agenda du jour.

    Which is your position? Never mind; we all know.

  • I wonder if it is very sinful to spend billions of dollars to help the poor and see their plight becomes even worse because these liberal policies were flawed from the beginning? And perhaps it’s even more sinful to have evidence of that waste and still do it over and over. Maybe that money could have been spent on something Christ-centered that actually works. And I wonder if Christ was speaking to individual souls and not the organized church when he said feed the poor. Maybe the church is to save souls by feeding souls with the truth of Christ, and maybe some of those are rich people.

  • We would not be having this discussion at all were it not for “the principles we claim.” We would still be living by the classical Greco-Roman principle that it is injustice for anyone to receive what he has not earned.

    And I will certainly remember your ringing endorsement of this concept, which is quite an about-face for you: “Since we have this great power in our own lives we have a right as a citizenry to demand that government use its resources in keeping with our “philosophies.” Whichever way one interprets scripture then becomes the appropriate way to steer government programs”

    Are you still going to clap when those “philosophies” diverge from the DNC’s preferences?

  • And that is changed by individuals, not by vast governmental agencies. have you forgotten the NT?

  • The root cause of all poverty is inequality. As to “Not all who claim to want assistance are truly needy,” one need look no further than how the President’s private businesses have benefitted from tax abatement and the like to see how this is so. As to, “Only we, their neighbors, know,” this is exactly why China established neighborhood councils and used them administer programs.

  • Without doubt Jesus often cared for people who were not His followers, and exhorts us to do the same. But where, exactly, does He call the population at large His “brethren?”

  • I was talking about two different laws. One was that the grower was to leave the edges of the fields for the poor to gather for their livelihood. And the other was for anyone, regardless of economic status, wanting food could eat it on the spot. Ruth was receiving advantage of the first law I mentioned.

  • My understanding of Burk’s view, and feel free to correct me if I’m getting it wrong, is different than Erickson’s view that Matt. 25 is about how Christians treat other Christians (an odd choice of words, considering that Jesus was not a Christian, the word did not exist in his lifetime, and his followers were not called that until several years later if at all). Burk seems to be saying that it is about how NON-Christians treat Christians. There are several problems with this, first being that I was under the impression that Christians believe the only way to get to heaven is to believe in Jesus. However you treat someone on earth will not get a non-Christian into heaven. So if I, as a non-Christian, politely listen to someone who knocks on my door to talk about the Gospel, but ultimately pass on it respectfully, I’m still going to hell, was my understanding. But I find it the height of theological obnoxiousness — of which there’s a lot to go around — to insinuate that my “eternity” is dependent not on how I treat others — just on how I treat Christians.
    But my schadenfreude has been aroused by this. We’ve all been around the RNS and other religion comment sites concerning same-sex marriage, LGBT pastors, etc. Someone will inevitably say “Leviticus prohibits homosexuality!” I point out that the text of Leviticus in Hebrew reveals only a prohibition on anal sex between men, and that the broader prohibition on gay sex was added on later, by both Jews and Christians. I get told that I’m a “leftist, an “adopter of the traditions of men,” someone “trashing the commands of God in favor of his own desires.” So it’s gratifying to see those people’s thought leaders focusing on what “adelphon” means — a word, by the way, that appears to be missing from the companion “least of these” verse in Matt. 25:45.

  • “How Minnesota’s governor performed an economic miracle by raising tax on the rich and increasing minimum wage”
    http://boingboing.net/2016/10/30/how-minnesotas-governor-perf.html

    “Kansas Employment Decline Continues”
    http://econbrowser.com/archives/2017/03/kansas-employment-decline-continues-2

    “Kansas’ Tax Cut Experience Refutes Economic Growth Predictions of Trump Tax Advisors”
    http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/kansas-tax-cut-experience-refutes-economic-growth-predictions-of-trump-tax
    ….
    Its not simply a matter of charity either by coercion or choice. Its a matter of increasing general standards of living, creating jobs and a government which represents the broadest interests of the society.

  • The big problem with military spending is that for the last 15 years war has been used as an excuse not to audit and check how money is really being spent.

    The military budget wastes far more money on bribes to local warlords, “outside contractors” and a nuclear weapons boondoggle than it does on “big shiny toys”. Where it should spend its money judiciously, The Veterans’ Administration, it is dangerously parsimonious.

  • You really missed the point on what rendering unto Caesar means.

    There is no compelling reason why it should mean indifferent or hostile to the poor and destitute. A representative government serves rich and poor alike. A government to help poor people is one that represents poor people as well. Should it matter to the poor where their help comes from?

    The idea of looking for carve outs and exceptions to general concepts of Jesus involving treating fellow people well is typical of Conservative takes on Christianity. So much of the religious belief is spent finding ways around the plain and simple teachings of its founders. Because it is difficult, requires a deal of moral fiber, and inconvenient. Such belief takes whatever is beneficent and socially redeeming aspects of the New Testament and finds ways to ignore and subvert them. Conservative Jesus is one which extols bigotry, malice and indifference. It is not the Jesus people look up to nor respect.

  • “Debate over”, RidingTheLine, in your 1st comment? You can’t initiate a debate, then end it as soon as you finish telling your for- or against-side of it. Especially when your argument – that “If their [Ananias and Sapphira’s] sudden deaths for cheating the poor was really God’s will”, and, per your 2nd comment, we “Substitute ‘Trump’ for ‘Ananias'”, “then Trump is toast with God already” – rests on your, let’s just say, very forced reading of “Acts 5:1-11”. Going by your statement, “Acts 5:1-11” is forced now to read as follows when, per your textual experiment, we “Substitute ‘Trump’ for ‘Ananias'”:

    Acts 5:1-11 – 1 But a man named Donald J. Trump sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with Melania Trump’s, his wife’s, full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the American people’s feet. 3 But RidingTheLine said, “Trump, why has your god of fascism and other labels filled your heart to lie to Democracy, the god of America, and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to Americans but to Democracy, the god of America.” 5 And as he heard these words, Donald J. Trump fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men who were with RidingTheLine got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. … 11 And great fear came over the whole country, the United States of America, and over all throughout the world who heard of these things.

  • It’s just that Matthew 25:31-46 referred to in the so-called Matthew 25 Pledge, the mantra these days among the religious progressives who’ve been sorely defeated by Trump, has become THE word of god for all their social justice warrior stuffs. Just be glad Denny Burk and Erick Erickson fought them on that; it’s high time somebody calls their bluff, the progressives’.

    My own plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46 tells me that: “31 when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne 33 and put the sheep on His right, 34 then say, ‘You, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom 35 for 40 the extent that you cared for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you cared for Me.’ 46 These the righteous will go away into eternal life.”

    What’s yours? You didn’t commit yourself in your comment, Edward Borges-Silva.

  • “Debate over”, RidingTheLine, in your 1st comment? You can’t initiate a debate, then end it as soon as you finish telling your for- or against-side of it.

    Sigh. Thanks for the “lesson” on your sense of debate rules but I was not opening or closing an actual debate. Thanks for making an art of being obtuse.

  • My own plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46 tells me that: “31 when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne 33 and put the sheep on His right, 34 then say, ‘You, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom 35 for 40 the extent that you cared for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you cared for Me.’ 46 These the righteous will go away into eternal life.”

    What’s yours, Eric? You didn’t commit to stating your reading of those scriptures.

  • My own plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46 tells me that: “31 when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne 33 and put the sheep on His right, 34 then say, ‘You, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom 35 for 40 the extent that you cared for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you cared for Me.’ 46 These the righteous will go away into eternal life.”

    You didn’t say what yours is, john6625. Name-dropping Reginald H. Fuller doesn’t count but opens to further inquiries about the guy.

  • Like I said before, my own plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46 tells me that: “31 when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne 33 and put the sheep on His right, 34 then say, ‘You, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom 35 for 40 the extent that you cared for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you cared for Me.’ 46 These the righteous will go away into eternal life.”

    Never mind what those passages DON’T say. What DO they? Let’s have it from you, please.

  • Jesus included in the ‘least of these’ even your enemies, not only ‘Christina Brethen’! These conservatives will go to any length to ignore what Jesus really said and meant. One conservative even told me, that by the ‘least of these’, Jesus actually meant fetuses in the womb, since they are the smallest ‘human beings’. So to follow Jesus, all you had to do was to becomes a rabid pro-life activist – the poor did not matter that much!

  • I always called reading and interpreting the Bible a Rorschach Test. Tells more about you.

  • While I agree Brethren should be interpreted broadly and all needy should be aided. It is also clear to me that Jesus intended us to do this as individuals (with charity/love) and not necessarily rely upon Rome to do it.

  • That idea seems common on this thread and twitter if you spend much time there.

    To some extent I agree. I don’t think Jesus expected us to leave it to government. But in that way it seems to me more of an indictment of the Church than an issue with government that they needed to step in to fill the massive gaping holes in the care for the “least of these” left by the church.

    If the church was not only capable but also interested in providing the care, I doubt the government would stop us or duplicate the care. Strikes me we should get our house in order first.

  • I’m glad you’ve come around to seeing with me, RidingTheLine, that this “obtuse” idea of yours and no one else’s around here – to “Substitute ‘Trump’ for ‘Ananias’ and we are still there”? – is a NO CAN DO.

  • No, I got it right. Render unto Caesar is simple, it doesn’t matter what the government does or does not do, paying your taxes or forcing someone to do something doesn’t make you a good Christian. If our government was replaced with a Christian theocracy and everyone was forced to follow the Bible it wouldn’t mean the forced people were now good Christians. Your last paragraph is the most interesting because on an individual level it’s correct. An individual is supposed to do the right thing, but that’s not what the government does. The government doesn’t provide the option of paying or not paying your taxes or allowing you to decide what you will choose to fund. Instead it says that if you don’t pay your taxes , which will be spent on what the government dictates it will be spent on, then a man with a gun and a badge will come and visit you.

  • “Jesus included in the ‘least of these’ even your enemies, not only ‘Christina Brethen’!” The passage reads “the least of these My brethren.” At the culmination of a discourse about the things which those brethren could expect when He sent them out to the nations with the gospel.

    Please demonstrate where He referred to His enemies as brethren. As I recall He referred to His enemies’ parentage, in comparison with His own, in some rather unflattering terms…although He was eager to change that state of affairs for them.

  • So let me understand. Your daughter/wife gives birth to two premature babies, and the cost for them to be in the NICU for 6 months is $2 million. Either your congregation pays for it, or they are left to die. That’s the sort of country you want to live in, where we don’t create a safety net which protects everyone, but decide in the moment whether we want to help you or not?

    2,000 years ago when the average lifespan was 35, 25% of babies died in their first year; and half of all children died before the age of 10. It was also up to the father to decide whether or not the family would keep a newborn baby. If the baby was deformed or the family could not afford to keep it, the baby would be abandoned in the street where someone might take it in as a slave or servant. Is this the world you want?

  • I think the problem is that an arrangement which made sense 2000 years ago — isn’t our only choice now. We aren’t ruled by a cruel Caesar, (who left plenty of people to die) we live in a democracy, and the question is what sort of a country do you want to live in?

    Today you can give birth to twins who will live, but they need to be in the NICU for 6 months. We can share those costs over a whole country, but most people don’t have a congregation that can pony up $2 million and a lifetime of therapy. We can’t write prescriptions for schizophrenia or heart disease. Or perform surgery on our neighbors. If these things are good, we have to have a system which delivers them. They were not even options 2,000 years ago when the average lifespan was 35, 25% of babies died in their first year; and half of all children died before the age of 10. It was also up to the father to decide whether or not the family would keep a newborn baby. If the baby was deformed or the family could not afford to keep it, the baby would be abandoned in the street where someone might take it in as a slave or servant. Is this the world you want?

  • Re “persecutors of Christians”:
    “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-boeskool/when-youre-accustomed-to-privilege_b_9460662.html

    Re “justify big government spending”:
    Of course “We are supposed to personally extend a helping and charitable hand to the needy”! And of course “We are supposed to… demand that some richer person be compelled to do it” — but with us, not “for” us! Because, of course, non-profit charities, for-profit organizations, and citizens who willingly contribute, combined, still aren’t sufficient to meet the ongoing needs of all our equals who can’t support themselves due to disability or a lack of jobs for which they qualify. So of course our government, which has a legitimate interest in and solemn duty of protecting us — all of us — must assume that responsibility.

    Re “love to call them bigots, racists etc for espousing Christian values”:
    Some of us, regardless of spiritual beliefs, think it’s a virtue to dismiss, disparage, and dissemble about “Them” (whether we otherize Them according to religions, races, classes, cultures, sexes, spouses, ages, or abilities). Some of us are disgusted by the very idea, let alone the claim that such acts are virtuous. Some of us believe mistreating Them is tolerable but not commendable. And some, perhaps most, of us consider subordinating, neglecting, abusing, and telling mean-spirited lies about Them to be cruel, primitive, and contrary to all that is moral and honorable.

    The issue isn’t beliefs; it’s behavior. And this isn’t about Them. It’s about “Us”.

  • What would Jesus do? He said “Man, who has appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you” To one who requested the partition of an inheritance to which he deemed entitled. Much more tht this is a little noticed part of the Epistle to Philemon, concerning the fate of Onesimos at the hands of his owner: “I did not want to do anything without thy counsel, in order that thy kindness might not be as it were of necessity, but voluntary”. A virtuous act loses its virtue when it is forced, and to deprive individuals of their merit by force is not good. Virtue and sin are personal acts. And it has been proved that the deplorable conservatives are significantly more generous than the compassionate liberals.

  • Increasing their fundraising efforts, Seriously?!
    You have any idea how expensive that would be?

  • By all means, lie about publicly available figures that anyone can check. It shows just how much you care about reality, or the poor. But you get to feel good about yourself though, so that is the benefit.

    There is no such thing as government income. And making such ludicrously absolute claims about reducing the size of government never doing anything is just plan irrational.

    Kansas’s ‘Austerity’ attempted to increase tax revenues (without reducing spending) using tax cuts was ridiculous and nothing to do with any argument I have made.

  • If any charity had such a terrible rate of funds reaching those it was meant to help it would be made a pariah. Go to Charity Navigator and see how well such things get rated. Hand waving the bureaucratic entitlement program as ‘not wasted’ seems a particularly poor reason for using force to take money off people.

  • You were citing a neo-liberal think tank. As far from an objectively reliable source as one can get. No such thing as government income?They are called taxes. Tax collection is what pays for the functioning of government.

    Things don’t seem to run smoothly when tax cuts are made at the top levels and austerity is introduced at the bottom. Its very tough to take complaints about how well the government runs when one is actively trying to keep it from functioning properly. By cutting off money going in and attacking its power to act. You can’t complain a ladder doesn’t reach when you are sawing it off at the base.

    We have real life examples of how “trickle down” never seems to work. It seems to make markets less free, makes corruption endemic, and destroys the stability of those who work for a living.

    Kansas Austerity reduced spending as well as the tax cuts. Spending on public assistance plummeted. Money wasn’t going in or out of that government. It is a failure.

  • Frankly, using the Bible to justify any action tends to be a self-serving affair. But pretending passages concerning charity really are so limited in scope is hardly an honest way to treat the scripture. But that kind of thing is so commonplace, it has become standard.

    Which is why I spoke of secular reasons for public assistance (to avoid public hazards). The government doesn’t give you options to get out of paying taxes. But the public controls what is taxed and what isn’t. The public controls how taxes are spent. That is assuming we are a representative government and our elected leaders follow what their constituents demand of them.

  • Our Rocky Mountain Meals on Wheels has a Director of Development who solicits donations from local entities including the two major grocery store chains. It would be a small matter to add an assistant to expand their outreach with the big food corporations. Such an effort would pay for itself in less than a year. Keeping it up would then be easy!

    I have always followed marketing trends, and this “social issue marketing” is for real!

  • LMFAO…charity is exactly what the Bible is talking about. Charity is optional. No one holds a gun to your head if you don’t want to pay a charity. Taxes are not optional.

    If Jesus said you should wear purple, and you lived in a place where you could wear whatever color you want, and you choose to wear purple, then you’re being a Christian. If you decide to help draft, pass, and enforce a mandatory purple clothes law enforced by armed men, then you’re not, and neither are the people wearing purple through no will of their own.

  • I question whether Jesus would have the same level of commitment to freedom of religion and pluralism as is enshrined in our Constitution.

  • My comments about god are rarely snarky. About christian hypocrites who hide behind their weaponized religion– well, I’m always happy to contribute my bit. But don’t feel picked on– I’m happy to point out the moral deficiencies of Muslims and Jews as well.

  • Nothing I ever said that I recall. I’ve been quite consistent about opposing purely theological concerns being forced onto secular law. And if republicans were not such religious and religiously hypocritical a-holes, I might find it possible to vote republican. But because they are run by the dominionists, and support deficit spending, and believe in government just small enough to fit into your vagina, jock strap, pipe, marriage, and church, I don’t vote for them

  • My position is consistent. Believe whatever you wish and live your life accordingly. Stop trying to insist that I must as well, or you’ll hurt me. Stop flinging Theo poo at other Christians because they are not sola scriptorum like you.

  • They had the opportunity to state that, but they did not. One mention of the creator in the declaration, no mention of god, Jesus or Christianity in our founding document, and only two references to religion– both negative.

  • I thought not. So why are you here applauding attempts to influence secular law and government with “theological concerns?”

  • Charity is a moral imperative. If you are trying to avoid charity it makes it difficult to consider yourself moral. As for public assistance, you are right, using the Bible to justify it is silly. As is using the Bible to decry it. Religion is not useful here.

    Attacking public assistance because it isn’t like charity is a ridiculous argument. Charity is hardly the only acceptable way to help the poor. Government has an obligation to prevent public hazards caused by poverty. It is also a measure of the government representing the needs of the represented.

    If the Bible said Jesus commanded people to wear purple, Christians will parse the text and perform exegesis to claim it really means red or a deep blue. They will say only certain people are allowed to wear purple. They will say wearing green is a sin and makes one evil. They do remarkable self serving things with their texts.

  • Your position is consistent all right. Consistently contemptuous of scripture, and therefore immaterial to all matters of Christian faith and practice.

    Live your life as you please — no one is stopping you. And as for theo-poo, about the only substance of that sort that I’ve seen on this thread is from you and your mostly unbelieving buds who, according to Jesus, can not even SEE the Kingdom, much less act as self-appointed and irrelevant umpires of doctrinal disagreements among those of another faith. Perhaps you need to take some of your own exceedingly abundant advice.

  • Not something you said — something you called “a good thing” 11 hours ago as I write.

    What’s slipping — your reading comprehension skills or your memory?

  • I’m having a little difficulty following the syntax of your reply. However, I think it clear that the Church and its members have an obligation to all of our fellow creatures, but that obligation requires some adherence to prudence and discretion on a case by case basis. I am less sanguine about the capacity of government to meet the needs of the downtrodden in an effective manner. God will reward each of us according to our works, our salvation is not dependent on our works, but our works are a good measure of the level and genuineness of our faith. That sums up a large part of the Epistle of St. James.

  • I see the poor at food banks and they smoke have cell phones and decent cars..they’re not really poor..cigs and cell phones aren’t cheap..they toss money around quite easily . programs are for the real poor not the self entitled miserly poor who bitch about cigarette costs and stink up the food banks with bad hygiene from smoking.I know this for a fact we spends a lot of man hours on an underclass that often cares little about self sufficiency and wanting freebies to enable poor decisions on their part. Screw the leftist political marxism.

  • We are not that poor here in America..the so called poor here are far better off than 3rd world poor. Govt programs are misused by the poor..I’ve listened to how Many people have manipulated the system..it’s atrocious.Bill Clinton years ago in office did a major overhaul of welfare..yet the anti Christian left forgets thAt!!!priceless

  • I haven’t given any opinion of mine against or for charity. Nor have I done so for government social welfare programs. My opinion on these things is irrelevant and a red herring.

    What the government should or should not do is also irrelevant. It too is a red herring. The topic is what would Jesus say about government cuts. The answer remains the same. He avoided discussing politics and instead focused on individual responsibility and action. The one time he was pressed on the issue he made a separation of church and state comment.

    As for your last statement my analogy was simple, there’s a clear distinction between what one chooses to do and what one is forced to do. That you would use it to provide your anti-religious and anti-Christian opinion says more about your confusion and argument than anything else.

    But alas, I am open minded. My posit is that Jesus spoke often of personal action and individual responsibility. But, if you can point to a Bible verse that shows Jesus saying that his followers need to use the threat of force to make people do something then I’ll happily concede.

  • Mixed into your ramblings I think you missed the point. Jesus made a statement about the separation of church and state, but your rambling does do a good job of adding to my point. The ludicrous notion that it would be the Christian thing to get the government to help poor people will always be offset by everything else the government does or has done such as wars, slavery, and genocide.

  • The whole debate is stupid, because Jesus had nothing to say about government programs and a great deal to say about PERSONAL responsibility. If you don’t personally donate time or resources to helping the poor because “that’s the governments’ job,” you are failing in your Christian duty.

    Beyond that, it’s quite possible to be a Christian and have serious doubts about government welfare programs, especially when that government isn’t living within its means and has been busy gutting the military for years and so failing at its first responsibility.

  • The system works in your microcosm, therefore it will work in all others. I hope your director works for no salary.
    Solipsism is a piss poor approach towards regaining the funding that will be lost to many communities.
    I’m in the southern bible belt. My county program delivers 37,000 meals a year and receives 60% of its funding from state and federal sources. This is an increase from the less than 30,000 prior to the 2010 census. Being a region known for its heavy concentration of retirees, elderly, and disabled, it’s misguided to assume merely increasing fundraising efforts will recoup that large loss. My county is also heavy on churches, banks, and millionaires…all are rather skimpy on donations to the county’s many needs. The state university fights for its own funding each year, so not much offset from it.

  • My understanding of Burk’s view, and feel free to correct me if I’m getting it wrong, is that Matt. 25 is about how NON-Christians treat Christians. There are several problems with this, first being that I was under the impression that Christians believe the only way to get to heaven is to believe in Jesus. However you treat someone on earth will not get a non-Christian into heaven. So if I, as a non-Christian, politely listen to someone who knocks on my door to talk about the Gospel, or don’t sue them for discrimination for refusing goods and services on the basis of my non-Christianity, I’m still going to hell, was my understanding. But I find it the height of theological obnoxiousness to insinuate that my “eternity” is dependent not on how I treat others — just on how I treat Christians.
    The other thing is that my schadenfreude has been lit up by this. I often post on RNS and other religion comment sites concerning the proper textual analysis of the Bible by looking at the original language. This comes up often in what I’ll just say rhymes with bay carriage. I get told that I’m a “l*ftist, an “adopter of the traditions of men,” someone “trashing the commands of God in favor of his own desires.” So it’s gratifying to see those people’s thought leaders focusing on what “adelphon” means — a word, by the way, that appears to be missing from the companion “least of these” verse in Matt. 25:45.
    Finally, I’m glad Erickson is proud of himself for knowing what adelphon means. Most college students who join fraternities learn that word their freshman year, often while heavily intoxicated, but he deserves a win.

  • I must have hit a nerve!

    I’m not consistently contemptuous of scripture. I just don’t believe that it represents the absolute, final, clear-as-A-bell word o’ god. Neither do most Christians, as far as I can tell–even those of your persuasion. And as for contempt? If I actually believed in a god, I think trying to contain him-her-it-them, the creator of the infinite universe, between the pages of a 2000 year old book and portraying him as obsessed with my genitalia and just fine with genocide shows the utmost contempt.

    But you knew that.

    As for the theopoo, it isn’t me, but it is your lot that is constantly claiming that this Christian or that Christian is just not the right sort of Christian, doesn’t know god, and is doomed to burn forever.

    Doctrinal disagreements? How could such a thing be possible with the Clear Word o’ God? It defies logic, it does. But not experience. Not to mention, it is those very doctrinal disagreements– what I like to call purely theological concerns– that keep being pushed onto the civil law that governs all of us. I’m Tired of being called a threat to marriage, family, faith, freedom, morality, heterosexuality, children, and western civilization– and all because someone thinks they understand something written in a book 2000 years ago, and that their particular and peculiar version of god agrees with and justifies their prejudices, and endorses the harm wreaked on the lives of millions of people.

    But you knew that as well.

    And if you were actually a good person, you would be aghast at the weaponization of your faith and your God of Love. But it never seems to bother you in the slightest. Not when it’s directed at me, and mine, not when it’s your lot attacking others.

    If you want to keep your doctrinal disputes out of My line of sight, keep your religion in your church, your home, and your heart. As I have said many, many times, and will repeat as often as necessary, if your lot would just stop using faith as your excuse for theocracy, you’d be absolutely amazed at how little peoople like me would concern ourselves with people like you.

    Until next time.

  • Shawnie. Really, you’re not stupid.

    One side wants the government to help people. They use their purely theological concerns for the benefit of others. But they could make exactly the same claims and push for the same policies out of just being decent, compassionate, caring humans. No need for god at all.

    The other side wants to use the power of the law to harm others, to control their lives, to insert themselves into the intimate lives of everyone else, to demand that “freedom of religion is for me. The freedom to follow my religion is for YOU”. Nothing that they want, apart from– and just maybe possibly– abortion, can be justified by any other means except their toxic theology.

  • Gutting the military is NOT what has been happening. We STILL spend more money than the next ten nations combined. And not much of it does any good except to enrich defense contractors and oil magnates, put more weapons in the hands of thugs, and enable our delusions about being the world’s policeman.

  • “But they could make exactly the same claims and push for the same policies out of just being decent, compassionate, caring humans. No need for god at all.”

    And yet, they didn’t. Governments did not see the care for the poor as any kind of public responsibility until the Christianization of the west. Up until then civilization operated upon a more or less Darwinian model that it was morally right, and healthy for the tribe or nation, for the weak to get out of the way of the strong. And the only reason you see it differently now is nothing to do with your personal “decency” or what-have-you but that someone “pushed their purely theological concerns” upon our society centuries before you were born and you have never known anything else.

    Integrity would demand that if you don’t want anyone compelling YOU to follow their religion via the law then you shouldn’t be calling for ANYBODY being so compelled to follow it. Get your moral imperatives from your materialism, if you can.

  • Yes. Once again, Christianity is responsible for all that is good, and not responsible for all that is bad. And once again, you’re not addressing my point.

    I do get my moral imperatives from being a decent human being, raised by decent human beings, interacting with decent human beings. Just as so many of the a-holes posting here don’t get their moral imperatives from decent human beings, let alone from their religion. And again, you never seem to have the time to calll them out for it.

    I don’t see what materialism has to do with it, unless that means living in the real world. Just as I don’t see what religion has to do with it, apart from living in a fantasy world where, once again, Christianity is responsible for all that is good, and not responsible for all that is bad.

    Are you a decent human being only because god tells you to be one?

  • “However you treat someone on earth will not get a non-Christian into heaven.”

    Jesus is speaking of returning to an inhabited earth and reigning over an earthly kingdom after stopping a world war and a period of vicious persecution of His missionaries. Those who participated in the mistreatment of those missionaries will not be permitted to remain on the earth as citizens of His kingdom.

    You can’t “like” the Bridegroom while hating the Bride, for Jesus is one with His Church. When He knocked Paul to the ground on the road to Damascus He didn’t ask him why he was persecuting the church, but “why are you persecuting ME?”

  • “I must have hit a nerve!” Darlin’, you ain’t even in the operating room! You can’t see the Kingdom — you’re stuck in Flatland. That’s the pity of it all.

    “As for the theopoo, it isn’t me, but it is your lot that is constantly claiming that this Christian or that Christian is just not the right sort of Christian, doesn’t know god, and is doomed to burn forever.” Nope. Your gang has been on the attack all over this thread from the start . The article itself was written for the purpose of inviting attack upon a couple of persons’ view of a particular passage of the NT (the predominant view of the passage from the early church era up until quite recently), and right on cue all the unbelievers, some of whom have obviously never picked up a Bible in their lives, were out in force telling us we’re not “sane” or “honest” or “compassionate” etc etc etc. Which doesn’t bother me one bit, for it’s to be expected and I’ve got a rather tough skin — but it DOES make you look rather odd for whining about “attacks” that are actually all coming from your own.

    “If you want to keep your doctrinal disputes out of My line of sight, keep your religion in your church, your home, and your heart.” I’m not trying to keep doctrinal disputes out of your line of sight. You can look all you want — you just can’t be taken seriously when you weigh in because Jesus told us the natural man can not receive the things of God. But I’m afraid I can’t accommodate your request to keep my religion to myself. Faith is transformative; it infuses every aspect of life — or it’s not faith at all. You have to live with us just as we do with you — sorry.

    “And if you were actually a good person…” I’m not a good person. I don’t measure up to my God’s holiness — that’s why He had to pay such an awful price for me. You’re not a good person either, for nobody here is more weaponized than you — but He paid the exact same price for you.

  • Don’t want to see the kingdom. Not if it is restricted in the way so many seem to think it is– the ones who will be left after the trash is removed. SpenDing an eternity with you or Floyd or sandimonious is not my idea of a good time.

    Nope. We’re not on the attack, and I don’t have a gang. Why are Christians always being persecuted, at least according to them? Maybe because they are always attacking others.

    Jesus said that natural man cannot receive of the man of god, and yet, you are always telling us exactly what we have received, and why we unbelievers are always wrong. As for faith being transformative? Well, it certainly transformed me into an atheist. And lots of other people. But you just say that is all as it should be, as you continue to assign yourself and your fellow travelers the status of god’s BFFF.

    I actually think you are a good person, you have just let your faith hijack that goodness.

  • We are not even capable of knowing what “decent” IS apart from knowledge of God, Ben.

    Please tell me that you would have been the lone “decent” hold-out of the pre-Christian ancient world that believed it was only “decent” to practice slow and lingering infanticide, to let the poor starve and the sick die in the streets, to force human beings to kill for popular entertainment, for men to keep multiple mistresses and force grisly abortions upon their wives, to torture and kill one’s enemies and parade their corpses through the streets, and to keep a third of the population as slaves. For it’s been a busy day and I could use a laugh.

    Funny how you libs have such absolute faith in this innate human “decency” that is conspicuously absent from the historical record.

  • G key,1. You were right, that I would bump into you again, this time on RNS. Perhaps because we have similar interests. Hi. 2. The only problem I have with what you wrote is that what you wrote is mostly (a) proof texts that masquerade as (b) real zingers.

  • Just asking for your “plain & uncomplicated rendition of Matthew 25:31-46”, if you have any, that’s all; so I can understand where you’re coming from, having been informed by your understanding of those passages.

  • Other transcripts quote Trump as saying, “Big league”, not “bigly”. May wanna 2x-check on that. No, let me do that now, in fact, and get it over with:

    “Donald Trump has settled a hotly contested debate surrounding his campaign: whether he’s saying ‘big league’ or ‘bigly’ at his rallies and speeches. Political observers and journalists have been arguing over the issue for months, and the Republican presidential nominee finally delivered some clarity in an interview with EWTN, a Catholic broadcasting network. ‘In appearance after appearance, there is one bit of Trump syntax that has created debate in households across America,’ interviewer Raymond Arroyo said. ‘My final question, it is perhaps the most portentous … are you saying “bigly” or “big league”?’ ‘Are you talking about for me?’ Trump said. ‘I use “big league.”‘ Trump’s answer jives with what linguists told The New York Times earlier this week — that ‘acoustic cues’ indicated a second ‘g’ sound when Trump used the phrase.” (Pamela Engel, “It’s settled: Trump clarifies whether he is saying ‘big league’ or ‘bigly'”, Business Insider, October 28, 2016)

    You’re welcome. I’m glad to be of service. Still doing time servicing the community, I am, you know. Hence this 🙂 I know he talks funny, but let’s stop gossiping about POTUS’ lisping from now on, alright? Just kidding. Calm down.

  • “Don’t want to see the kingdom.” OK, you’re free to make that choice. But if you don’t want to see it, you should give up arguing about it and go talk about a kingdom you CAN see.

    “Nope. We’re not on the attack, and I don’t have a gang.” The very first response to the very first comment on this thread (a very abstract and harmless statement about Matt 25 itself) was this: “You have to bear in mind Conservative Jesus is kind of a raging jerk. Somehow he supports indifference to the poor, discrimination, greed, holy war and fraud.” And the comment so rudely responded to had to do with neither conservatism, nor indifference to the poor, nor discrimination, nor holy war, nor fraud. And who should immediately chime in me-too-me-too but, you of course. And so you get credit for that unjustified attack, too.

    You sure seem to like “theo-poo” a lot, for someone who whines so much about it.

    “But you just say that is all as it should be” Nobody has said that is as it SHOULD be. But Jesus told us that it WOULD be. Not all will respond to the call. Some people love the darkness more than the light. Many hated Him. Many hate us too. I’d be lying if I said I was surprised to see things happen as He said they would. You guys accuse us of “dishonesty” all the time but it seems like honesty is exactly what you can’t stand from us.

  • Of course, I actually always heard “big league”, but “bigly” is so fun! 😉 It’s very telling on the “political observers and journalists” that they had “been arguing over the issue for months.” Perhaps this is why Trump is so easily able to detract attention away from the real issues with his inane tweets–it’s like throwing shiny objects to the crows.

  • Ruth was gathering under the first law I mentioned, which was for the poor. The second law, being able to eat from the fields, was for anyone passing through.

  • Do you know someone who is misusing the system? Report them. The poor in America are better off,yes, because of the laws that take care of them.

  • “Shorter version is I’m right” – but of what, though, Jeff? You didn’t clarify, but instead judge Erick Erickson as typical “Calvinists – winning debates and gloating about it.” Here, let me prep you for a homework you didn’t do. The answer is found in all 5 phases below serving as “the context of the whole conversation” he had with Denny Burk.

    PHASE I – “In Matt 25, when Jesus talks about caring for ‘the least of these,’ he isn’t talking about the poor in general, but fellow Christians.” (Erick Erickson, @EWErickson)

    PHASE II – “Yes, this is absolutely correct. [Link to Denny Burk, “The ‘least of these’ are not the poor but the Christian baker, photographer, and florist’, Denny Burk: A Commentary on Theology, Politics, and Culture”, May 13, 2015]” (Denny Burk, @DennyBurk)

    PHASE III – “The secret to understanding Matt 25:45 is to put it in the context of the whole conversation, which requires you to read Matt 25:40, where Jesus is specially referring to ‘my brothers.’ The Greek is more accurately ‘brotherhood.’ The reference is to Christians, not the poor and needy in general. Judgment of the nations will be based on the response to the gospel. In other words, Denny Burke is right.” (Erick Erickson, ewerickson, Instagram)

    PHASE IV – “The secret to understanding Matt 25:45 is to put it in the context of the whole conversation,… https://www.instagram.com/p/BRwsNuggYkF/” (Erick Erickson, @EWErickson, Twitter, 6:19 PM – 17 Mar 2017)

    PHASE V – “Shorter version is I’m right.” (Erick Erickson, @EWErickson, Twitter, 6:20 PM – 17 Mar 2017)

  • That is, the “Shorter version” of Erickson’s “conversation” with Denny Burk. He wasn’t boasting, selling theology, etc. but using Twitter’s parameters to refer to an article Burk wrote 2 years back. Context, folk, context. And stop with your quick tongues.

  • ohh i get it..In the past i have run into various people, once when i was unemployed from HP in 2001 i saw a lot of people in the employment office and the same Building was used for other welfare services..listening over my shoulder i recall lots of insider knowledge as to how people misuse the system by lying and using other methods. its got to be still done today. govt. needs to clean up this mess and it takes a lot of work. Here in my small town with high unemployment I see stealing of property i hear about- a lot of riff raff so called poor who abuse our local system not to mention tax the police enforcement here daily with crap.

  • Ben in Oakland, No, I don’t get my morality because god tells me about being moral. A useful paraphrase of any of the Ten Commandments is to replace “Thou shalt not” with “You won’t have to …” Suppose I had severe lust for my neighbor’s new car. The good news of Jesus’ coming, and resurrection, is that this sin can be forgiven too – and not by the blood of lambs and other animals. It’s getting my moral standing – right standing before God and my neighbor vis-a-vis his car.

  • Yeah, I’ll need chapter & verse where JC talks about separation of church & state. I’ll wait.
    *BTW, my comment was snark., I detest christianity as much as I do war.

  • So are you saying that neither god nor the Bible are the source of your morality? Then what is? I’m asking a serious question.

    Do you know why I don’t steal my neighbor’s car? first, because I was taught that taking someone else’s property is called theft, and it’s not a good thing. Also, I try my best not to harm other people, because I was also taught that was a Bad thing, and I don’t like it when other people harm me or my friends and family. “Do unto others etc.” is far older than Jesus as a moral precept. Also, as mammy yokum says, good is better than evil because it’s nicer.”

    When I do things I think are wrong, I don’t ask Jesus for forgiveness. I ask the person I wronged, and I do my best to make amends. That’s another reason not to harm other people: it costs a person with ethics time, energy and money.

    Even “that sin can be forgiven ” reminds of this. A little boy says, “I asked Jesus for a bike, but I know that Jesus doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike, and asked Jesus for forgiveness, because he always gives you that.”

  • I am saying the use of force is inherent in government activities. I am also saying that the use of force needs to be justified otherwise it is immoral and oppressive. And finally I am saying the use of force to take money off some people on the basis of ‘helping the poor’ when there is no evidence to suggest it does in fact help is immoral and indeed only serves to enrich those in charge of the confiscated money.
    This is why charities with the same efficiency ratings as the government are derided and do not get significant support, and yet the government, which forcibly takes money from people via taxation, can get away with such pathetic performance.

  • I think it is worth one more answer.

    Unfortunately, I can’t see the comment that spuddie originally responded to, and which I responded to as well. Either the vagaries of discus, or I’ve been blocked. I can certainly understand that, though I have never blocked anymore myself. I’m far too interested in what they have to say, and I’m not a delicate snowflake like so many of the conservative bent. I don’t mind being disagreed with,though being called on hypocrisy, is never fun, whether a true accusation or not.

    I’m sure some people hate you. I have known the number of gay people who hate Christians of a certain sort almost as much as they are hated– errr, ummm, loved. I don’t hate you. As I have said many times, and just today, you’d be surprised at how little purely theological concerns would concern me, if only the promulgators didn’t seem to take so much joy in them, and if only…

    …Beautiful gay kids didn’t kill themselves because of the toxic hate of gay people disguised as sincere religius belief.

    …my family and the families of my friends and loved ones , and our marriages,were not under constant attack by a certain class of so called Christian

    …some states still maintain their sodomy laws just to send a message to the people they despise.

    …we weren’t blamed for every possible social illl that we couldn’t have had a thing to do with, and almost always by so called religious people who have never found a lie too vicious or too detached from facts, logic, and experience that they were not willing to employ it on their unceasing vendetta against out right to live and participate in our society fully.

    …so-called Christians weren’t demanding the legal right to discriminate on the basis of religious belief, something forbidden at every level of our government, in THIS CASE AND THIS CASE ONLY.

    …my brother hadn’t taken so much of this garbage to heart, adding one more reason to his aresenal of bad choices, before he died of murder or suicide or both in the Mexican desert.

    And on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

    I don’t need to keep going through this with you. So I won’t. I will continue to be present, to say what I have to say, to fight for the rights of the future gay kids so that they don’t have to grow up in the kind of society that I had to grow up in, and can live their lives as fully and completely as any straight kid can.

    That society will exist not because of your brand of Christianity, but despite it.

    And if you want your brand of Christianity to be respected, perhaps it is about time that you– a generic you, not you personally– started behaving respectably.

  • Speak for yourself. It may be that You’re not capable, Shawnie. I have no problem with decency. And funny, I don’t need god to tell me about it. Somehow, I just manage to be a nice guy that most people like and trust. I think only two people can justifiably accuse me of perfidy in the past forty years. Not perfect, but not bad either.

    And yes, the ancient world was pretty bad. And a lot of that has just proceeded into modern times, because actions beget consequences, and bad actions beget bad consequences which beget more bad actions.

    My disagreeement is that somehow, your religion made things better, instead of just being a part of the general mayhem. That’s an accurate historical fact, as are religions support for slavery, war, lack of charity, exploitation, and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Christians killing Christians killing Jews killing Muslims killing buddhists killing Hindus kIlling Christians killing gay people.

    You are certainly entitled to your view of humanity, and I certainly can’t argue with it. But I also think that maybe you should get out more, and perhaps devote some of your considerable intelligence to making the world better, rather than moaning about how it just doesn’t measure up, or spending all of your time preparing for the world to come.

  • Hi, Tom. We disagree on that. Personally, I think the recent trend of calling uncomfortable citations “prooftexts” in an effort to shift the reader’s discomfort onto the citer is already stale. To so easily dismiss multiple quotations of such plainspoken clarity, topical relevance, contextual support, and consistent moral focus seems unworthy. But to do so without even bothering to substantiate their alleged inapplicability — to summarily rule that these basic guiding values are officially invalid when it comes to the unwilling subjects of this article — strikes me as almost royally insulting, and not just toward me.

    As for “zingers”, I can’t imagine that you consider the quotations to be surprising or unusually pointed or telling, or that they leave you dazed. However, if you equate this word with “gotchas” (as I did before checking Wiktionary), that certainly is not my intent. As you may recall, my entire reason for posting here is that I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else. These citations are some of the best ones I know, faith-based or not, to remind people of our responsibility, as well as our government’s — see my later reply to jhapper, and my still later reply to Rich Zebro in this thread — to provide for those in need; to encourage compassion toward our equals; and to discourage the “let them eat cake” mentality that seems even more trendy than “prooftexts” these days. I may be an atheist, but I believe the Bible addresses this trend both handily and emphatically. I hope we at least can agree on that.

  • Well, I thought I had done so. Though I don’t know if there is a plain uncomplicated rendition of the passage; if there were would we all be having this discussion? Sometimes scripture is quite plain, sometimes there is room for nuance, sometimes there are passages that I just don’t get (generally passages dealing with future events). Again I think it means Christians have obligations first to fellow believers, secondarily to everyone else. Thaat’s as simple, succinct, and plain as I can make it.

  • “And funny, I don’t need god to tell me about it.” Sure Ben, with no Judaism or Christianity you would have come up with the Imago Dei all by yourself while no one else on earth did. You’re not just “decent,” you’re a marvel.

    “And yes, the ancient world was pretty bad.” Aw, really? The people who lived it didn’t think it was so bad. They thought they were pretty “decent.” Wherever did we get a standard by which we can pronounce the ancient world “pretty bad?” Oh wait…

    ” And a lot of that has just proceeded into modern times” Well duh! That’s because human nature is still fallen. God’s law doesn’t change our natures — it points out what is wrong with our natures. But He also offers a prescription that CAN accomplish transformation from the inside out — if we take it. For the sea change in western civilization began in the heart, one heart at a time. The problem is those who feel they don’t need it because they’re already “decent.” That included a number of Pharisees Jesus encountered, including Saul of Tarsus until he met the living Word of God. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. 🙂

    None of us, when we stand before God, are going to be able to point to anyone else and say “Well so-and-so thought I was a nice guy” or “I’m not as bad as so-and-so over there.” It’s just going to be ourselves face-to-face with the holiness of God. Do we want to live forever in union with a perfectly holy God, and if so why should He let us?

  • Or not.

    Enough. You complain about human depravity, and that’s where you want to put your attention. Good for you. I can’t see the slightest bit of evidence that your brand of Christianity has made the world a better place, but has merely put a holy stamp on human depravity, made excuses for it, participated in it, wallowed in it, but nevertheless wants to take credit for whatever non-depravity may exist.

    Here’s what I see. You take so much pride in being one of god’s super duper BFFF’s, one of the ones who will remain in holiness while all the rest of the branches are pruned. That’s your comfortable delusion. I’m sure it makes you feel better about all of the depravity. It’s like prayer. It’s what you do instead of doing something useful.

    I’ll stick with reality, thanks, I’m a human being, and prepared to take the consequences. But the last consequence I’ll ever be concerned about is your particular, peculiar version of god. Or anyone’s god.

    Until next time.

  • I think that point is highly arguable. Just ask the Middle East, which we attempted to “protect” via shrub’s two undeclared wars. Or the Vietnam war– there was a winner if I ever saw one. VIetnam, Cambodia, Laos. What a picnic!

    I think it was Einstein who said that it was insanity to believe you could promote peace while simultaneously preparing for war.

  • Not all laws involved the government. There were moral/ethical laws, governmental laws and ceremonial laws. The government basically enforced the Ten Commandments, or were supposed to. This falls under laws like tithing that were not enforced by government.

  • Look, the government should *NOT* take care of every poor person in the world, or the US will go to hell even faster than it has been the past 8 years. Let the countries like China, Russia, Japan, Germany, etc take care of them. We are too far in debt to shell out money to every Tom, Dick, and Foreign Country that has their hands out. We need to tell them to pull their hands back.

    Let families take care of families, Churches should get OUT of the Political arena and go back to taking care of communities.

  • Ben,

    (This may be truncated or sloppy because I get put to bed in only 45 minutes. But I didn’t want you to feel ignored. I’ll fix up anything really egregious tomorrow.)

    I use the Bible as a map, as a navigator might use it. But it’s not the territory itself. You get into serious trouble if you confuse the 2. If this metaphor doesn’t help you, throw it away; it’s hardly “de fide”.

    Somewhere in those words about your source(s) of morality, lies something Good. Your concerns deserve good answers. My answer for the little boy that your note ends with, is that he was inadequately catechized and should return to whatever school he graduated from, asking “can or should we separate confession and restoration?”

    My answer for those of who have reached adulthood in a Western nation is to put away childhood things. It is “always” good to get to know you.

  • Funny how conservatives and their fellow travelers, so called libertarians, consider taxation, which as old as civilization itself, to be “forcibly taking money from people.”

    Liberals such as myself consider taxes to be the price you pay to live in a civilized society and the support the benefits that come from it.

    My objections come from how those taxes are used, often to benefit the wealthy, the powerful, and the military.

  • g key, I will read your note and get back to you with a considered & responsive response. It’ll be a few days, tho’. My brain is “fried”;we had the GKs over yesterday; it has taken me all day to compose my note to Ben in Oakland.

  • Thanks, Tom; I’m patient. It took me many hours to compose my reply, and I don’t even have grandkids — just the need to repeatedly edit in order to compensate for anxiety in lieu of composure, absence of mind rather than presence thereof, and distractibility instead of concentration. I guess you could call this legacy my “GKs”. Hope you had fun with yours!

    Please note that I have yet again edited my previous reply, as well as this one. Sigh.

  • Wow. So you are saying government doesn’t use force to collect taxation? Try not paying and see what happens.

    But let us look at your second comment. You see, you are in fact arguing the same thing as I do. That taxes are a necessary price of civilization, that there is some benefit to them. I don’t disagree, but I don’t generalise to believing the non-sensical notion that ALL taxes are necessary or beneficial. But without assuming that this ridiculous notion is what you meant, what you say does not contradict my comments. That is, government taxation needs to be justified for its uses.

    And clearly, if only 20% of money for ‘helping the poor and needy’ gets to them and the rest only enriches the government bureaucrats, the justification for this portion of taxation is incredibly weak. When you further see the systematic poverty and ghettoisation that government welfare has created, it seems clear that the poor are not being helped, only kept weak and dependent.

    Your lack of attention to factual detail is reminiscent of Marxist thinking, not liberal thinking, where reality is ignored and dishonest propaganda is continually repeated without understanding to the detriment of the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us. Much like the left wing side of politics in america which has ‘all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry.’ https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3599

  • We didn’t go into the Middle East to protect the Middle East, at least not all of it. But for Vietnam, I agree, it’s a huge shame that the Democrat-controlled Congress under President Ford chose to violate our given word to South Vietnam and throw away the victory we’d achieved there. If you want to know the fruits of the Democrats’ betrayal, check out the tragedy of the Vietnamese boat people.

    As for Einstein, he was opposed to war as a regular tool of international relations. But when Adolf Hitler rose to power he became an advocate for preparedness, encouraging Belgians to join the military to protect civilization. He explained his switch to the New York Times in 1941:

    “In the twenties, when no dictatorships existed, I advocated that refusing to go to war would make war improper. But as soon as coercive conditions appeared in certain nations, I felt that it would weaken the less aggressive nations vis-à-vis the more aggressive ones.”

    And he put his money where his mouth was by helping encourage the creation of the Manhattan Project.

    Of course during the twenties a dictatorship did exist, the USSR, but it wasn’t an existential military threat. And he doesn’t include Wilson’s fascist regime during WWI. But I expect Einstein was a better physicist than an historian.

  • Please.

    I’m not writing a book, I’m commenting on an Internet forum.

    Wilson a fascist? I Just must be a Marxist? Our involvement in Vietnam started with Eisenhower, and brought us to our knees with NIXON. It must be those darned Liberals cutting education budgets and demanding that creationism be treated as science?
    Save the insults for someone who cares.

  • I don’t think Jesus was looking for a Department of the Beatitudes – he was seeks the hearts of individuals to be surrendered to God.
    .
    Those who’s hearts are turned toward God will hear His calling and establish loving programs for food, clothing, shelter, health services, employment services etc.

  • Is you’re saying “whoever” as followers of Jesus – yes.
    If you’re saying “whoever” is government agencies – I disagree.

  • I understand your point, Rich. The quotations I cited are clearly aimed at Judeo-Christian believers. Personally, as an atheist who cares about how people treat each other, I find it easy both to see the wisdom in these quotes and to extrapolate that wisdom to the secular world, including U.S. government agencies. For example: “Whoever oppresses the poor (by establishing oppressive laws and rules which agency workers are obliged to follow) shows contempt for their equals whom they are supposed to serve, but whoever is kind to the needy (by replacing oppressive laws and rules with ones which responsibly support those in need) honors our great nation.”

  • You already have, through your consideration, not to mention our previous long conversation! It’s just a legacy of My Big Fat Mental Health History. I’m fortunate to have a knack for writing and composing. I can’t imagine how, or even if, my life would be without the ability to converse via the keyboard. It lets me communicate with others in a way and to a degree that are far beyond my abilities to accomplish in person-to-person, real-time, think-on-your-feet contact. By extension, it lets me participate in and contribute what I can to society. And, as a salve to MBFMMH (and an indulgence to my ego), it lets me sound “sound” for a while.

  • The govt would not have any $$$ if not for someone GIVING it. It’s a pimp-ho relationship here. Govt makes us obligated to pay taxes, which transfers and controls wealth. Common sense.

  • There’d be no such thing as money if the gov’t didn’t determine what is legal tender. We would have to arbitrate with our neighbors over the value of any exchange instrument if the govt didn’t determine its value locally, nationally, and internationally.
    In order to arbitrate with our neighbor we’d have to hack a trail through the woods if the govt didn’t build the roads. In order to make things just for everybody the govt needs to be able to do some things for us that we must do to have a peaceful society.
    The gov’t establishes, mints, and underwrites legal tender. It belongs to the govt, and in our case the govt is us. And as far as I am concerned I don’t mind a portion of my government supporting money going to the poor.

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