Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taxing other people for public good is not Christianity

    It's been increasingly common in recent years for liberals to suggest that people who don't support lavish government spending aren't good Christians, or even can't be Christians.
    I actually attended a funeral in Oxford back in the 1990s where the pastor of one of Oxford's largest churches stated that he didn't see how anyone could consider themselves to be a Christian and not vote Democratic in the upcoming election. The comment came in reference to the fact that the deceased was a "Yellow-dog Democrat," but it is evidence of just how nutty some members of the Religious Left are.
    If you read the Bible, it's clear that Christ instructs all of us to help the poor, the sick, and to help each other. And Christ did just that in his personal life.
    What I have not been able to find in the Bible is Christ instructing people that it is good to force other people to help the poor, the sick or to help each other. Christ never agitated for forced charity.
    We know that Christ helped the sick and dying. But there were countless millions of sick and dying during Christ's time and he didn't help them all, even though he doubtless could have. Does that make him a bad Christian? (See, by the way, On Borrowed Time to understand the implications of doing away with death).
    We know that Christ could take a few loaves and fish and feed a multitude, which he did not because the people were in need but because he wanted them to stay and listen to his sermon. Yet the fact is that life at the time of Christ was hard and millions were starving. Christ did not feed them, even though he could have.
    Today's liberals would say this makes Christ a "bad Christian." I disagree.
    Let's consider what would have happened if Christ had simply handed out free food to everyone from the time He turned 13 until His crucifixion at 33. This could have been done by having Mana fall in the mornings, just as it did for the children of Israel during their 40 years in the Sinai.
    Yet what would have happened if Christ had done this? We know that in a subsistence society such as existed at that time population explodes when the food supply increases. Assuming a world population of 200 million on Christ's 13th birthday, it's safe to say that population would have increased to 600 million by the time of his death and the cessation of his miracles -- at which point 300 million to 500 million would have starved to death.
    Today's liberals would have berated Christ for being a bad Christian for not just feeding everyone willy-nilly. But as a matter of public policy Christ was right and the liberals are wrong. He was right not to have caused the starvation of hundreds of millions of people, even if it meant making hard choices.
    None of this is to say that welfare programs are good are bad. I think some are good and some are bad. Sometimes the programs are good but the rules are bad. But I support or oppose them on public policy grounds, not because I think being for or against them makes me a good or bad Christian. Likewise, I don't consider others to be good or bad Christians based on their support or opposition to these programs.
    It's not my job to rate the piety of others. But it doesn't make one a good Christian to support the taxation of others to carry out one's Christian duties.
    The fact is that two Christians can have differing opinions about what policies are in the best long-term interests of society. As long as they are sincere, their viewpoints are valid reflections of their Christian faith. They can have opposite views and still be good Christians.
    In the arena of politics and government, decisions ought to be made based on good long-term public policy, not by making baseless charges that one's opponents aren't good "Christians." There is a place for religion in politics, but that place is in one's own heart, not by publicly challenging and denouncing the faith of others.


Ignatius said...

Interesting post, Colonel. Made me run to look at Bible quotes on charity so, if nothing else, you accomplished something no one else has in recent years. I found a couple of contradictory quotes (go figure; both are written by Paul) including one specifically that supports your analogy.

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
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. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The word "command" jumped out at me as compulsory, that is, within the realm of the government to entertain, but is arguably not.

Col. Reb Sez said...

I may be getting in deep here, but I don't believe either book of Timothy was written by Paul. Many scholars say they were written by an admirer who put his own interpretations into them. A study of words and construction used in Acts versus Timothy bears this out (think Joe Klein and Primary Colors).

In the early church, women played a leading role. Why? Because worship usually took place in the home, which was the domain of the woman. By the time Timothy was written Christians were meeting in a more public sphere, and thus the so-called "Paul" of Timothy instructs women to keep quiet and obey their husbands, and to stay out of church leadership.

Here's a link to a course I listened to that covers this. Don't buy unless it is on sale, which happens at least once a year.

Ignatius said...

I really enjoyed Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus." I've read it twice and cannot say that about many books.

Does your analysis mean that we do not have to pay attention to 1 Timothy and 2 Corinthians? (You knew you were getting in deep.) If so, is there any way that we can get rid of the Book of Romans? It can be quite pesky in these modern times of debauchery.

Col. Reb Sez said...


You are stuck with the Book of Romans. Paul wrote or dictated it according to most scholars. Same for the Corinthians.

Understanding that the anti-woman bias of Timothy is not in fact endorsed by Paul is a message that needs to get out. But I'm not sure the average evangelical understands that the books of the New Testament were declared by Athananasius in 367, selecting from various translations of the same book and excluding many texts that were determined not to be legitimate. But given the hundreds of texts he had to choose from he couldn't have gotten it perfectly right.

Knowing what is and isn't accurate in the Bible can be troubling. Even the story where Christ says "He who is without sin should cast the first stone," is said to have been added later, although the story itself is believed to be true and for that reason was added by another author.

I've often wanted to do some research or reading about some of the rejected Gospels, such as that of Thomas or Peter, but I haven't studied the accepted Bible enough yet!

Ignatius said...

I find the history of the books of the Bible fascinating, moreso than the Bible itself. We could discuss the selective picking of certain verses and books as authoritative (or not) for awhile, but I have a different point to make.

You talk about the "nutty" Religious Left. Don't you think that the Religious Right should put its public policy where its dogma is? They seem to want it both ways. Children praying in school. Men praying in the public square. The 10 commandments posted in public places. The recognition that this country was founded on Christian principles. Why should the teachings of Christ not be reflected in our public policy?

Overpopulation is your answer? Really? Dependency on the welfare state making welfare recipients lazy?

Sorry. I don't accept that. I "got" Christianity early in life because the lesson is quite simple: it's about the ultimate sacrifice - willing to give your life - for your fellow man even if he is your enemy and has struck you in the face. Even if he is a pariah among your people ...

Col. Reb Sez said...


I made a point of saying I was not arguing for or against any welfare program, but rather the notion that if one is opposed to a program it makes one a "bad Christian."

I do think you make a good point about the Religious Right.

The point of my blog post was that arguments can be made for or against a lot of these welfare programs. If one honestly and truly believes that they are harmful to society, it doesn't make one a "bad Christian" to be against them. And I don't think it makes one a good Christian to support programs that are paid for by someone else.

Ignatius said...

Point is definitely taken, Colonel, and I will encourage all of my liberal friends (and they are many, but not all) not to be critical of those Christians ...

Ender1958 said...

OH MY, Frank!

You still have the style that makes me laugh and knash my teeth at the same time!