The Political Church: A Thought Question Regarding the Political Divide

Church StateClass,

I’ve been thinking about something that popped into my head after today’s class while on the way to lunch. In the US, there are basically two political worldviews.

One view says that the government should stay out of personal morality but should be heavily involved in social justice. They contend that the government shouldn’t be involved in your decisions regarding sexuality or gambling — as these, if they are crimes at all — are victimless crimes. However, the government should make certain that the poor are well cared for through welfare, government-provided healthcare.

The second view says that the government should stay out of social justice but should be heavily involved in personal morality. They contend that the government should ban homosexual sex between consenting adults, gambling, and maybe even alcohol, but the government has no business providing nationalized healthcare or, some say, most other forms of welfare.

Now, those who support the first view argue that social justice is the business of the church, and the government does a very poor job of it. Of course, their churches rarely actually take care of the needs, but in theory their churches could, they argue.

Those who support the second view argue that personal morality is the business of the church, and the government does a very poor job of it. Of course, their churches rarely actually make a difference in the morality of those in their communities, but in theory, their church could, they argue.

You see, the Democrats lately have argued for legalized but rare abortions. In the healthcare debate, however, they argue for government funded abortions.

The Republicans, of course, lately have argued against national healthcare. But I don’t see any churches providing comprehensive healthcare.

Now, the fact is that they are both right and they are both wrong. Obviously.

Care for the poor is just as much a moral issue as homsexuality.

(Isa 1:10-18)  Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies. 14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; 16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Whom does Isaiah compare to Sodom and Gomorrah — so famously homosexual that “sodomy” gets its name from Sodom? Well, those who deny justice to the oppressed, the fatherless, and the widow.

(Ezek 16:46-49)  Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. 47 You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. 48 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

To whom does Ezekiel compare Sodom? Judah. Why? Because although Judah was wealthy, Judah did not help the poor and needy. This Ezekiel calls a “detestable practice,” which translates the same word sometimes translated “an abomination” — the word used to describe homosexual sex in the Law of Moses (Lev 18:22).

Plainly, the prophets considered economic injustice just as sinful — indeed, more sinful — than sexual immorality.

Meanwhile, Glen Beck has said,

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can! Social justice and economic justice, they are code words… Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes. If I am going to Jeremiah Wright’s church – Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, ‘Excuse me – are you down with this whole social justice thing?’ I don’t care what the church is – If it is my church, I’m alerting the church authorities, ‘Excuse me, what’s this social justice thing?’ And if they say, ‘Yea, we’re all in that social justice thing,’ I’m in the wrong place.”

Well, Ezekiel and Isaiah disagree. So do many others.

Economic and social justice are at the core of the scriptures —

(Deu 10:17-19)  For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that as a Christian I should agree with the social justice theories of either political party. Indeed, it’s pretty clear that both parties have little in common with God’s will. But sometimes one or the other happens to be right. But we decide that based on the scriptures, NOT based on our party affiliation, preference for FoxNews vs. CNN, or denomination.

And we begin by confessing that our attitudes are deeply worldly, and we need to hear God’s instructions from the words of God — and from no one else.

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57 Responses

  1. The church is not an agency of the government… and the government is not an agent of the church. The church can’t delegate its responsibilities to government. When the government takes care of the poor, it might appease the conscience of some Christians but it is not a substitute for Christians helping the poor. We can’t fulfil our obligation to the poor by proxy. We are supposed to do what is right, as a light to the world (Matt 5:16). How is that accomplished by government programs?

    Delegating care for the poor to government is bad for Christians’ hearts. Very bad. I’ve yet to meet a person who, moved by concern for the poor, pays more taxes to the government than required. Rather, people resent their taxes, and look for every possibility to pay less. We are not motivated to pay taxes by concern for the poor, but by fear of the IRS. It’s not an intrinsic motivation, but rather extrinsic.

    Rather than looking to the constitution for the proper role of government, maybe Christians should look to scripture. It seems to me that the primary role described in scripture is to punish the wrongdoer. If we want the government to do our benevolence for us, we have to look for justification outside the scriptures.

  2. One more thing… If we are going to define economic justice in biblical terms, we have to factor in the teaching that if a man will not work he shall not eat, and that a man is responsible to provide for the necessities of his own household. The notion of forcibly taking money earned by one person and giving it to another is not justice. There may be an element of mercy in doing so, but there is nothing just about it.

  3. In context, Glenn Beck was dealing with “social justice” that places someone (not you) in a position of saying that someone (possibly you) have too much, and the just thing to do is to take from you and give to someone else. Beck’s vision of “social justice” is done through Charity, which has historically been one of the great traits of Americans, but the more we allow the Government be the ones that give money to the poor, the harder it is to be charitable on our own. This is the reason that so many good non-profits are having trouble right now.
    There are just too many terms like “social justice” that sound good, can be played off as good, and in certain meanings are good – but have been taken over for other purposes.
    In the end, I heard a great workshop keynote where the speaker talked about not giving any money to anything other than churches or preaching schools – nothing for cancer or any other cause – because it is the church that will spread the message of hope, not the government through any of their social justice programs.

  4. Alan, said: “We can’t fulfil our obligation to the poor by proxy.”
    by your own words, I assume you think it was wrong for Paul to collect money, and by proxy, carry it to the poor in Jerusalem.
    “Delegating care for the poor to government is bad for Christians’ hearts. Very bad. I’ve yet to meet a person who, moved by concern for the poor, pays more taxes to the government than required”
    Alan, would you pay more, if they assured you none of your taxes would go to “the poor” and only to wars.?
    Might I suggest, that when the little red bag comes around, just place a note in that reads “I gave at the tax office” maybe that will console ones conscience.

  5. As for Mr. Beck, I believe he claims to belong to the Mormon church (my opinion is he belongs to the moron group) do the Mormons hold the same teachings that Beck spew, I don.t think so.
    Beck is concerned they are going to take part of that 31 million he recieved last year for stiring up trouble against the government. If greed wern’t so prevelent in the christian society today the government wouldn’t need to help the poor so much.
    Alan, said ” if a man will not work he shall not eat, and that a man is responsible to provide for the necessities of his own household.” I get ill when a “christian ” says this.

  6. Under the Law of Moses, a portion of the tithe went to a welfare system to support aliens, orphans, and widows.

    (Deu 14:28-29 ESV) 28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”

    The welfare system had a blessing from God attached to it — caring from these people through the title was necessary to receive the blessing of God.

    Manifestly, not all welfare schemes are Godly. But neither can we say that all collective efforts to help the poor through the government must be rejected out of hand.

    By the way, the tithe was not an income tax but a gross receipts tax. 10% of the crop and newly born farm animals was contributed, regardless of how much profit the farmer made.

  7. We need to be careful in how we use or define terms. Social gospel or social justice has two definitions. The first is the old liberal perspective in which evil is embodied in capitalist systems. In the early 1920s, Christians withdrew from politics because of this. The second is the modern conservative idea that many of us accept; the need to help the poor, etc. But by using the same term, we confuse the issue.

    Jay used “welfare system” in ancient Israel. That brings ideas of our modern welfare system and that of Europe as well, both of which will take away freedoms the further it goes, and leads to socialism. It can be misleading. I don’t Jay has that intent.

    The problem is that no one has come up with better words. That is what got Glenn Beck into trouble with Christians both left and right. He corrected it in a later show. The religious left uses the second definition so as to motivate conservatives but they mean the first, liberal definition. So both sides have problems, and in my opinion, the left is somewhat misleading.

    If we could come up with a better term that takes into account a conservative perspective, i.e., one that accepts the rulership of God rather than government, then I think we would better understand what Jesus and the covenant of Moses had in mind.

    Until then, we must define which idea of social gospel we are using, the religious left that means much more involvement of government in our affairs or the religious right, the work of the church with government involvement in limited ways.

    Keep in mind, in catastrophies, like Hurricane Katrina, it was the churches that went into the destruction while government debated. However, it was the US military that also responded in a positive way to aid others.

    While we all complain about the rise of medical costs, no one has thought to look back. The more the government became involved in regulating the medical industry; insurance, doctors, hospitals and lawsuits; the more the cost have gone up. Just like the welfare system that had several hundred thousand at the beginning, now there is over twenty million. And it has been costly, not just in terms of money, but in terms of the destruction of the family, especially in the inner city. Maybe the problem has been government all along. ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” might more problemic than positive.

    Enough rambling.

  8. If you believe your church will do a better job of caring for the poor, the elderly, the orphans and widows, just check what precentage of the offerings go to, that, and what precentage goes to wages, building up keep, payments on loans, trips for preachers, elders. none even come close to the government, yes even the republicans do a better job than any church you name.

  9. My opinion is that the government should never take sides on moral questions. Our present administration is pushing homosexuality and abortion. Why is that a proper concern of a government in a republic such as the U.S.A.? As for taking from the well off to supposedly give to the poor, that could not possibly be a proper function of government. To defend us, a federal government is needed. Otherwise, they should be allowed to meddle only in matters which concern interstate commerce. State governments also should keep their nose out of personal matters, legislating only to protect the weak and to raise sufficient money to handle necessary business of their own state. When our schools were locally controlled they were usually better schools than at present. Churches can’t provide for the poor in competition with governments.

  10. Jay said, “By the way, the tithe was not an income tax but a gross receipts tax.”

    Lawyer 🙂

  11. Mike,

    Guilty as charged. Some consider the tithe a much lesser burden than the modern income tax, but 10% of your gross is often much more than 28% of your net (total taxes Americans pay are about 28% of GDP — a measure of total national income). I know there are plenty of years that farmers would far prefer to pay US taxes than a 10% gross receipts tax.

  12. Jay, I don’t think the two positions outlined in your post represent worldviews as much as positions particular to the major political parties. The parties represent coalitions of worldviews, I think, and these specific positions characterize religious views within those coalitions. I think the nuance of terminology is helpful because it is a reminder that the positions of the parties are necessarily less consistent, being coalitions, than they would be if they were attempts to be pure worldviews.

  13. Great point Jay, I just couldn’t resist ribbing you a little bit.

  14. Do you think the churches would do more if the government were less involved? Perhaps we have defaulted our benevolent work to the government, but many that are on food stamps or some other program, I would hope, would be helped by the church if the government program were not already in effect.

    If the tax burden that goes to welfare, etc. were to be reduced , that would free up personal and corporate income that could be given to the church to be used for “social justice” purposes. Surely no one would argue that the local church would be less efficient in the use of those funds than the government.

  15. John, if we were to visit with some of these welfare families, I can’t see us coming to the conclusion , they are doing so well they couldn’t use a little help from the church.

  16. As for the churches being less efficient than the government, the only way the church could come close to covering the percentage of the poor, would be to have a central governing body, and a special committee to check on those in need, and distribute accordingly. I don’t believe the catholic church has the record of world governments.

  17. The local churches would look after their own community’s needs. To say that that would not work is to say that none of the local work of the church would work. If they were in a specially deprived area, they might need some assistance from churches in more affluent areas.

    I don’t know if there would be enough money to go around. I don’t have the numbers on that. But, I think the principle of local people seeing to the needs of their own community is a sound one. I think we have an Acts model for what I’ve said in this comment.

  18. I think it’s highly doubtful that the freed up tax dollars would automatically go to social justice issues!

    Indeed, Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which is the original root of much of the current rhetoric in this direction, would have staunchly opposed such. Granted, there may be some who would use the funds for charity and job creation, but would that cover the majority of needs, or do so consistently? Additionally, we should factor in the ways that current tax structure encourages charitable giving!

  19. John, that is exactly why the government has local offices to handle welfare.

    Steven, well said.

  20. Strangely enough, not many Christians follow Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

  21. The current welfare system, by doling out tiny amounts once/month, operates like a hamster water bottle – it provides just barely enough water to live on, so that a) the hamster doesn’t drown or befoul the water, and b) the hamster has to keep coming back over and over and over – it can’t go anywhere.

    The Jewish system provides a lump sum so that a person can go build a foundation to begin providing for themselves. Is it more dangerous? Certainly – what if they go crazy and blow that three year’s worth of resources?

    But the American system doesn’t even offer that chance.

  22. Those who can work, should. Those who need help, should be helped.

  23. Here’s a very common scenario, Mario.

    1) Single-parent family of 3.
    2) Mother works, because she feels morally obligated to do so.
    3) Pay doesn’t cover bills, but exceeds government standards for assistance.
    4) Can’t look for a new job because current job takes too much time.

    Should she continue to work, or not?

  24. She should work and be helped. 🙂

  25. OUTSTANDING, Jay. Best post in quite a while. Thank you for a reasoned, balanced approach to thinking about the church and political alliances.

  26. Nick and Mario:

    This is exactly the type of dilema that I’ve been moved to address with Hope Canyon – http://www.hopecanyon.org .

    The dialog here reminds me of the apostles talking with Jesus about feeding the 5,000:

    Jesus: “You give them something to eat.”
    Apostles: “We don’t have enough money. All we have is a little food.”
    Jesus: “Bring it to me.”

    If the church takes what it has and puts it in the hands of Jesus, then the problem is solved.

    I don’t “have” Hope Canyon yet. but every day, I put it in His hands, and look with great expectancy for the multiplication.

  27. John,

    Only about half of Americans pay any income tax. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_04/023260.php. That half might pay social security and state taxes, but no federal income tax. So I wonder whether the federal tax system is the real reason churches don’t do more than they do.

  28. I was thinking of the federal pay out programs. If they didnt exist, surely the churches would do more. I dont know if the federal dollars could be replaced with church dollars that would actually be spent to help. If they could be replaced, it would seem that local churches would be more efficient (with the obvious plus that God would get the glory) in the distribution of the funds, if they would actually distribute them.

    The local government officials follow the rules of their Washington handlers – I would suggest that it is not the same “kind” of local as autonomous congregations doing the work in their communities. Of course, could and would are separate issues.

  29. This idea that if the government stopped helping the poor the churches would step up to the plate is completely upside down.

    If the churches had both the capability and the desire to eliminate poverty they would, and there would not be any goverment welfare because there would be no need.

    So long as churches do no meet the needs of the poor they have no right to complain that the government is doing it.

    If you really think that churches are more capable of helping the poor then make it happen. As soon as the churches solve the problem of poverty, I’m sure the government will be very thankful not to have to carry the water anymore.

  30. We’ll get to that solution right after we solve the problem of brethren arguing back and forth.

    Jesus did say we will always have the poor. So I don’t know if there is a Final solution…

  31. Mario,

    Here’s a fuller quotation of the text Jesus quoted from the Torah —

    (Deu 15:11 ESV) 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

  32. As soon as the churches solve the problem of poverty, I’m sure the government will be very thankful not to have to carry the water anymore.

    That ain’t how the ball bounces. There is so much money being made in the system that there is sufficient incentive for the government to keep their hands on the system.

  33. “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
    Confucius

  34. > Alan, said:
    >>“We can’t fulfil our obligation to the poor by proxy.”
    > by your own words, I assume you think it was wrong
    > for Paul to collect money, and by proxy, carry it to the poor
    > in Jerusalem.

    Not at all. If you think about what I said, you know that is not what I meant. When the church takes up money and sends it to the poor in another place, it is doing exactly what the scriptures teach. When government collects taxes and distributes it to the poor, the church hasn’t done anything. The world doesn’t see the church doing good works. No glory comes to God from it. The church hasn’t met its obligation to the poor by paying taxes to the government.

    It is not the job of the church to eliminate poverty in the world. Jesus didn’t eliminate poverty in his day. Instead it is our job to do good to all men, and especially to those in the church. We are to do good to those we encounter as we go through life, just like Jesus did.

  35. laymond wrote
    > Alan, said ” if a man will not work he shall not eat, and that a man is
    > responsible to provide for the necessities of his own household.” I get ill
    > when a “christian ” says this.

    It’s a sad thing that the teaching of the inspired scripture makes you ill.

    It’s also a sad thing that you feel the need to put christian in quotes because I repeated a biblical teaching. That biblical truth needs to be factored into the discussion. Sometimes we may not like what the scriptures say, but those parts are God’s word also.

  36. One of the things I think we are missing here is that many of us start from the assumption that our income tax dollars are going toward social justice programs. Your federal income tax dollars go straight to the pockets of international bankers who create money out of thin air and loan it to the government at interest! In other words, it’s not a coincidence that the same year (1913) gave us the income tax and the private federal reserve cartel. Once this is grasped republicans would stop harping about socialism and communism and start talking about corporatism and fascism. Glen Beck cries “wealth redistribution” when in actuality it is wealth confiscation.

  37. Alan, “The world doesn’t see the church doing good works. ”

    Christians are not to do their good works in order to be seen by men.

    If we love the poor, we will rejoice when they prosper even if we are not the ones who get the credit for their prosperity.

    It all comes down to love. Squabbling over who gets the help the poor or who gets credit for it is not love.

  38. Christians are not to do their good works in order to be seen by men. If we love the poor, we will rejoice when they prosper even if we are not the ones who get the credit for their prosperity. It all comes down to love. Squabbling over who gets the help the poor or who gets credit for it is not love.

    Wrong.

    In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
    (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

    Christians are not to do good works in order to draw attention to themselves. We do good so that our God is glorified, not the powers that rule this evil age.

  39. Nick,

    I can understand why you would disagree with the part of my statement, “Christians are not to do their good works in order to be seen by men.”

    Mt 5 is a good point, but we still need to make sure that we aren’t “glorifying” God in the same way the pharisee was in Like 18:11 when he “thanked God.”

    But the rest of my statement is correct.

    Furthermore, God is not glorified when we tell the government to stop helping people because we want to do it. It is particularly galling since their are more than enough poor to go around.

    God has not been glorified by this thread. This thread is an example of why a lot of people don’t go to church.

  40. Mike,

    If the current system was helping the poor to prosper, as you assert, I would be very happy.

    Survival is not prospering, and the current system doesn’t encourage prosperity.

  41. I know the government has failed to solve the problem, but the churches have not solved it either.

    Bottom line is their still plenty of good to be done so people need to stop complaining that the government is taking away opportunities from Christians to do good works by doing the good works for them.

    Not only is that a loveless attitude, but it ignores the fact that there is plenty of good to be done if anyone wants to do it.

  42. I tend to agree with Alan.

    What’s the point of saving a belly, when the eternal soul is lost.

    Of course we are obligated to do good, help those in need, but the point should be to show Christ and salvation through him.

  43. Mario,

    We can do both. If we feel we have to choose we will of course always choose to feed the Spirit and not the flesh and as a result we will never feed the flesh.

    Also, I believe the best motivation for helping the poor is our love of our neighbor. Not everyone agrees. Some people beleive that our love for God should motivate us to obey Him, and our obedience should motivate us to obey his command to help the poor.

    However, I beleive there is a reason Jesus went on to name the second greatest commandment when he was only ask for the first.

    Gal. 5:14 puts even greater emphasis on the foundational nature of loving our neighbor and doesn’t even mention loving God!

  44. Now does that mean you only love your neighbor, because God said you should (quoting Gal 5:14)?

    😉

    just poking fun, our beliefs on this are not far apart.

  45. Mike,

    you’re approaching the heart of the dilemma for me –

    demanding that the federal government force my neighbor to love me, no matter what good things that neighbor would prefer to give their funds to, is hardly the loving thing to do.

    The welfare system is precisely that: a system – faceless, personality-less, unable to offer relationship, unwilling to expect accountability. It grinds on, heartless and dispassionate, creating more and more dependency wherever it appears.

    There’s a famous behavioral experiment where animals were offered freedom to roam and look for pleasure, or else they could sit in one place and press a button that would send a charge to the pleasure center of their brain. The animals starved pressing the button.

    The welfare system is a lot like that button.

  46. Mario,

    To a degree yes.

    You see there’s the ideal and the reality.

    The ideal answer would be no.

    Ideally, I should have an inate love for my neighbor. When God shows his love for me that love for my neighbor should be strengthened. When God teaches me through Paul that his entire law is founded on love for outrneighbor that love should be stengthened more because I want to be like Christ and the Father and that love is so much a part of who they are that all the law is built on it!

    In reality, some days I live up to the ideal and some days I don’t. Somedays I fall into loving my neigbor just because it’s on my list of things I’ve got to do and I’ve got to get my check mark.

    But spiritual growth is a process and putting on Christ is a process.

  47. Mike,

    I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say. How many medical bills for the uninsured were we paying before national health care passed? It’s rather flimsy to argue that the churches should take care of it when we’ve had the chance and declined.

    For that matter, most of the bill doesn’t kick in for 4 years. Will we be filling the gap in the mean time?

  48. Mario said;
    What’s the point of saving a belly, when the eternal soul is lost.

    Lets look at what James said about that.

    Jam 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
    Jam 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit?

  49. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36325869/ns/health-behavior/ … Five personality traits ghat divide us politically. I wonder if these hold true for dividing us in matters of faith, too …?

  50. Since Glenn Beck’s name was dragged into this conversation, I thought this article from Beck’s executive producer would be relevant:

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/04/what_glenn_beck_meant_about_social_justice.html

    One thing “justice” does require is that we not distort what someone has said for political (or other) purposes. Context matters. For those who don’t want to read the whole article, I’ll quote some relevant parts below:

    He told his listeners that if they were in a church that preaches Jeremiah Wright-style social justice, they should leave–or at least get educated on what exactly that means. It took him all of eight seconds to clarify the type of church he was speaking of, but that was long enough for most in the media to end the transcript.

    To restate the obvious, some simply use the term “social justice” as a substitute for “outreach to the poor.” This is not the kind of “social justice” Glenn was talking about. The fact that this term has been utilized for purposes other than good Christian charity is well documented. One scholar explained it quite clearly: “it is true that term [has] been used by the right and the left for all kinds of ideological purposes that aren’t necessarily the purposes of Christ.” That scholar was [Obama’s spiritual advisor] Jim Wallis.

    But for Wallis to continue getting attention, he must act as if he believes Glenn is against churches helping the poor. Any honest observer would realize that isn’t the case. Is anyone on earth against charitable outreach to the poor?

    Certainly not Glenn.

    In his book Arguing With Idiots, Glenn describes helping those less fortunate as an “obligation.” He wrote that capitalism “will inevitably fail if individuals stop caring about the welfare of others.” He just believes the bulk of the help should come from people like you and me, not government bureaucracy. When is the last time you felt charitable on April 15?

  51. Alan, I suppose Mr. Beck might be charitable toward some, as long as they have the right skin tone. but everything I have seen and heard indicates Mr. Beck is for Glen Beck.

  52. Laymond, what makes you think this is about “skin tone?” Is that Mr. Beck’s agenda, or yours?

  53. Alan, you might notice I said “from what I have heard” If I were to attempt to discuss the agenda of Mr. Beck it would only show my ignorance of the subject,( I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it) the only thing I can address is what I have heard on MSNBC because I never watch FOX, I have heard many clips of his show, and they sound pretty, much racist and really pretty much ignorant of the things he speaks about. But he must have a lot of viewers he made 31 million last year.So he must be spreading someones agenda, someone with money.

  54. Jay, what if you considered the two camps as basically statist vs. anti-statist?

    The statists seem to try to redeem society through direct, positive government power, influence and outright control.

    The anti-statists consider government action as basically reactive–put in place to keep order, but recognizes the limited ability to control society.

  55. Jon,

    I don’t disagree, but I think there are more categories than two.

    1. There are those Christians who, in response to such passages as the Judgment Day parable in Matt 25, seek to help the poor through government action.

    Some in this camp have come to conclude that the government provides a sufficient solution, and so they’ve turned the government into an idol — and many very wealthy people in this category give very little to charity, as they see their taxes as fulfilling their biblical obligations to the poor. These would be what you call “statist.” In a sense, some see goverrnment as the sufficient cure for society’s ills. Rather than pursuing evangelism or insisting that good works be done in the name of Jesus, the goal is a happy, prosperous society created by the hand of wise government — making the fully realized statist agenda a replacement for the kingdom.

    2. But you also have those who see the government as an essential adjunct to private charity but not sufficient. The government is neither God nor God’s preferred means of curing society’s ills — but governmental action is necessary for at least two reasons —

    First, many ills of society result from bad governmental policies, and only the government can repeal those policies.

    Second, the needs are greater than private charity can finance — due in part to the government’s foolish efforts to do good.

    These people still pursue a kingdom agenda: evangelism, good works in the name of Jesus — but recognize the good the government has done (not just good, of course), and think engagement with the government will lead to more good and less evil from the government — which isn’t going away until Jesus returns.

    Thus, it’s entirely possible to advocate for government action without being statist — although the history of the social gospel shows the very real danger of moving toward statist solutions. It is, after all, so much easier to hire lobbyists than to actually do charity.

    3. And then there are those Christians who see the government as outside the kingdom and simply not part of the equation. Christians are to meet the needs of the poor as Christians and as the church, and the government can do neither. Therefore, the church has no business asking the government to help those in need — it’s a purely private, kingdom matter.

    4. Within this camp, however, are those who see that the government is sometimes the cause of poverty and suffering, and they see the need to declare oppression “oppression” and so to point out to society when the government proposes to harm. Thus, they would never ask the government to provide welfare, but would feel compelled to urge the government to end anti-family policies.

    5. And within this camp there are some who see the government as evil — an opponent of God. Lipscomb fits in that category. Therefore, Christians should have nothing to do with government, refusing government jobs, jury duty, voting, and military service.

    Within all these camps, there are any number of differing opinions about what is wise and prudent and good.

  56. Laymond, I think it a bit unjust for you to paint Glenn Beck as a racist when you admit yourself you don’t listen to him that much. I have listened to him a bit and see nothing racist in what he says.
    Also in reading some of your earlier posts I have to ask if you have ever directly dealt with the poor in reference to churches helping the needy? Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I get a sense from some of your posts that you feel that the poor are helpless and oppressed by the rich and neglected by the churches. I have been involved with church benevolence for 20 years and I must admit that I am a bit jaded. I have seen professional church hustlers that travel from church to church feeding upon the compassion of Christians. I have seen my husband give money to some of the poor (and believe me we didn’t have it to give) only to find them less than hour later in a convenience store buying lottery tickets, not food for the hungry children. I could go on and on and on with numerous other stories like this, but I would probably inflame my carpal tunnel wrists if I were to list all of them.
    There were some truly needy people that we have helped, and even fewer that when helped saw that they had a greater hunger in their life. But I’ve also seen what I believe is government inflicted helplessness and laziness when money is handed out. You say ” that if a man will not work he shall not eat, and that a man is responsible to provide for the necessities of his own household.” I get ill when a “christian ” says this.”But that Christian is only quoting what God has said first. When I read through the Old Testament I see charity and taking care of the poor, but I also see God requiring even the poor to put out some effort. Boaz didn’t tell his workers to gather the grain for Ruth, but instructed them to leave grain around the edges of the field for the poor such as Ruth to gather. In the New Testament I see crowds of people turning back when the free food dries up or when the teachings of Jesus become too hard.
    When I give everything to my children they don’t have any incentive to help out around the house or earn any money on their own. But when I require them to pay for some of the things they want they suddenly see the value of a dollar.

  57. Jay wrote:

    I don’t disagree, but I think there are more categories than two.

    Very well summarized. I think there are great hearted Christians in most if not all of those categories.

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