Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jesus and the Coin* (When Evangelicals Aren't Evangelical 2)

This may be a shocker to some of you, but I have a few conservative and libertarian friends that I like to engage. One thing I've learned from them that some of my other progressive friends don't seem to understand is that we may actually be playing for the same team, just with different ideas on how to manage said team. My friends are my friends largely because we have a curiosity on the problems of the world, and we want to knock around in each others' heads in order to find ways to fix them.

Through these engagements, I am able to understand the libertarian arguments for reduction in federal aid for schools (what critic of high-stakes testing wouldn't, really?) and even global poverty. They can build some clear cases where government intervention leads to unintended consequences, for instance, or bogs a formerly-clear-headed ministry with paperwork and overhead and arcane rules that merely get in the way. And then there's government confluence with big money (Ron Paul's makes the most sense when he talks about the military-industrial complex and how that type of spider-webbing has spread to other areas - like the aforementioned Academic Testing Industrial Complex) and how that perverts the stated goals of government as well as the agencies. **

I don't agree, for the most part, with these arguments. I think they're short-sighted. But I'm okay with working with real, tangible solutions. And since I don't believe that government is THE answer, or the best answer, or the only answer (comprehensive problems call for comprehensive solutions, after all), I'm more than willing to work hand-in-hand to find alternative solutions. Or at least ask the questions.

However, the trend with the 'Evangelicals' in the budget survey (from yesterday's post) wasn't just reduced federal aid, it was also increased war-mongering and prison-building. More money spent to secure our goods. Less money for those who don't have those goods. More money spent to protect our goods from those who don't have the goods.

That's not, as far as I can tell, consistent with libertarian principles. That's consistent with an ideology that promotes a War on the Poor. And for a people (Evangelicals) whose main goal is to deliver people to God in restoration through Jesus Christ and from the clutches of the devil and hell, this seems oddly ass-backwards.

International Money Pile in Cash and Coinsphoto © 2011 epSos .de | more info (via: Wylio)

A case-in-point that one of my libertarian-minded friends argues is that Jesus did not waste time marching on Rome, carrying a bull-horn for equal-healing rights. He actually healed others himself. He didn’t write blogs on better equity of food. He fed the poor.

Good points, of course. But they lead me to some counter-points:

  • Jesus may not have ever entreated the capital directly, but the prophets that came before him did. Directly. For a point of reference, check out the book of Amos. Or Hosea. Or Micah. The Proverbs and the Psalms and Ecclesiastes are filled with examples of men and women of God demanding justice from unjust rulers.
  • Jesus had power to demonstrate healing himself. The power was within him. Most of us do not have power to give vision to the blind. That’s why there’s Lasik (ok, maybe not, from what I’ve heard recently). So we do what we can with what we have. Or... we're supposed to do so... So I have immense trouble when people tell me that we can find solutions anywhere but through government. I know it's stereotypical to believe that liberals depend on a large government, but the fact is, life is complicated. And you just can't rule a possibly effective solution out completely just for ideological reasons.
  • Jesus did directly confront the leaders of his time and place, and even condemned them for their treatment of the poor. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things." (Gospel of Matthew, 23rd chapter)
  • Of course, Rome, unlike, say, the US, was never really supposed to be founded on Judeo-Christian teachings. I just find that ironic. Those who are most likely to bill the USofA as a 'Christian Nation' are the least likely to use that base to take care of the poor and outsiders.
  • I argue that Jesus' healing and feeding was part and parcel of his larger agenda: The Way (which is him leading to The Father in a manner for us to follow) and the Kingdom (the reign and rule of God as it impacts earth, vis-a-vis, the impact of Christians in the world doing the things of God). Jesus told his disciples that they will be able to do even greater things than he was doing, in referring to his miracles of healing (their later history will point to that).
  • The first and second century churches made a good point of doing these greater things, to such a point that they ridiculed Rome. One of the Caesars was said to announce that he was shocked that not only did the heavily-persecuted Christian community take care of their own, but they took care of non-Christians in their sphere of influence.

I'd like for the government to say that about us. Of course, that would probably mean that the modern, consumerist Western Church have to make huge sacrifices and change the way we do business. We'd have to do with lesser-quality sound-boards at our churches. We'd have to abandon the idea of megachurches. The typical church-goer would have to dig in more than ten percent, on top of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's. Because, after all, don't we belong to God? And, by extension, if we Christians belong to God, doesn't our money and resources go to God's purpose, where God wants it to go? And if that's done through sharing our homes, paying our taxes for services of good, volunteering our hours and muscle and mind, operating our businesses, etc., in ways that take care of those around us and outside of us, isn't that loving our neighbors?

*I wanted to tie together some loose ends from former series and posts and open up some new ends. But then I'll never finish. And it kind of goes against my ideals of opening up dialog and asking questions by "having the last word." Something about having the last word does appeal to my authoritarian side, though. But that's the side I'm trying to crucify... ;)

** Another prime example of this would be lobbying and all the moral complications that arise out of that quandary. Not that lobbyists are evil, but, not that they're not...


  1. Well, if the world and forms of government hadn't changed a wee bit in the last 2000 years, perhaps those libertarian points would make some sense.

    I appreciate and agree with some of the libertarian views on personal liberty, but they seem to be in complete denial that the world is a vastly different place than it was 200 (or 2000) years ago.

    And Jesus wasn't a blogger?

    What about the Sermon on the Mount - the ultimate bar setting blog of all times!

  2. Anonymous8:43 PM

    thank you been in the trenches for year and suing what I am given to help as many as I can ...and I am not a christian or for that matter believe anything other than the good nature of man himself, seems to take me further,a day at a time. Hugs around your neck for understanding..Auntie War..


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