Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Conservatives Make Horrible Christians

Why do so many conservatives pretend to be Christian? I really have so little to say on the subject of people who claim to follow Jesus while bitching and moaning about “handouts” to the poor. These people aren’t going to read this and actually provide me with any insight, nor can they even defend their position.

I guess my question is: how is it that the “atheist” system of Socialism more closely resembles the collectivist early beginnings of Christianity? Wait… you didn’t realize the early Christians were Communists? Well, as Pat Robertson would say, “true story.” Christians in the early church gave all they had in order to follow Jesus. Consider the following:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
~ Act 2:42-45 (NIV)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
~ Acts 4:32-35 (NIV)
The Bible has a lot more to say about money:

No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
~ Luke 16:13 (NIV)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
~ Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
~ Luke 14:33 (NIV)

John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
~ Luke 3:11 (NIV)

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
~ Luke 6:30 (NIV)

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
~ Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner.
~ Ecclesiastes 5:10-13 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
~ Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
~ Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
~ Proverbs 30:8-9 (NIV)

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death...
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
~ Proverbs 11:4,28 (NIV)
So what gives? Why are conservatives claiming to be Christians when it is quite clear that Christianity is not about hording your own riches and avoiding taxes. Do they even know what Jesus said about taxes?

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
~ Matthew 22:15-21 (NIV)
So my question stands: why do conservatives so often pretend to be Christian? Why don’t they just come out and admit they worship Mammon, a false god that even most atheists reject?


  1. Because there is a belief (quite unbiblical, but many Christians hold unbiblical beliefs) that wealth is a sign of God's blessing.... and so the richer a conservative gets, the more he thinks God is blessing him - even if his riches are at the expense of poor migrant workers who get paid substandard wages.

  2. I wish those Christians the best of luck worshipping Calvin and his ideas. My only consolation is the hope that real Christians are right, so I can laugh at them burning next to me for eternity.

  3. This is quite the quandary, and I feel that the ways in which people legitimize the situation leave thinking people with mouths gaping.

  4. I don't understand how Christians can throw a fit over homosexuality but be fine with greed, usury, and material obsession.

    Matthew 7:3 comes to mind.

    I cannot believe Christians claim to read the Bible. I think they hand them out so quick they don't have time to sit down with one. If they did, they'd get to the end and realize it's wrong, but that there's as many good lessons in it as any good fable.

  5. Kinda a bit of a paradox is it not? JC advocated for the poor, now they take money from the poor. Crazy, some might call it manipulation of the Bible to exploit the poor.

  6. The Bible anticipates this as well...

    If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
    ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NIV)

    Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.
    ~ 2 Corinthians 2:17 (NIV)

  7. Dear Ginx,

    This is my first time commenting at your fine blog.

    Permit me to do my best to help you gain some understanding on what is a very important topic.

    First, the examples you cite from the New Testament are truly inspiring and wonderful, but they really don't have any place in a discussion on secular economics.

    The distinction you fail to make between early Christianity -- formed as it was during the oppressive Roman occupation of Israel -- is that those Christians who shared everything among themselves did so FREELY. Socialism, on the other hand, is compassion BY LAW; it is compulsory compassion. There is nothing moral or wonderful or even kind about mandatory charity; about forcing people to care for their neighbors (which, ironically, is the exact opposite of what happens). The more "socialized" charity becomes, in fact, the LESS folks are involved with their neighbors. (200 years ago, if my neighbor's house caught fire, I would fight the flames, share my home, offer food and clothing, and help him rebuild. Today, I COULD call the fire department and let "social services" deal with the problem.)

    Second, you are suggesting that Christians who are also political conservatives should impress their religious views about caring for the poor on society and government, are you not? What about the separation of religion and state? Is it not consistent of Christians to care for the poor through their churches and then, to keep religion out of politics, resist the state's emulation of those very churches?

    Third, when Jesus talked about taxes, please note what he actually said -- and what he did NOT say. His rhetorically shrewd question -- Whose image is on this coin? -- opens the door to the implied corollary question NOT asked: Whose image is on you? Hence his answer makes incredible sense: Give to Caesar what is his -- essentially nothing -- and give to God, whose Image is stamped on you, what is His -- essentially everything. (Note, too, that when it comes time for Jesus to pay taxes, he encourages a disciple to cast a line into the sea and retrieve their payment from a fish's mouth. Jesus' is remarkably indifferent to taxation, which is odd considering his nation is under occupation -- a fact he never once mentions.)

    Fourth, let it not be forgotten that there was gold brought to the manger in which Jesus was born. Wealth and poverty, together.

    Fifth, I don't really see what is gained by asking Christians to take heed of their own Scriptures, which you do, while at the same time telling them that they should NOT heed those Scriptures, which you also do. Which is it? Should I be kind to the poor because the Bible tells me so, or should I reject what the Bible says about caring for the poor because the Bible is little better than a quaint fable?

    Lastly, I ask you this: Can you present a secular reason why anyone should care for the poor? Seriously, why should anyone be at all concerned about poverty? As far as I can tell, you wish Christians would impose their religious practices on the secular state.

    I think the problems in your essay have to do with conflating Christians and conservatives, Christianity and conservatism, and the voluntary caring for the poor with socialism's mandatory compassion.

    Peace, and be well.

    (Sorry for the long comment.)

  8. PS. Ginx, because I consider you a blogging friend, I offer this link to a series I did on poverty. As a Christian, I have some very conflicted thoughts about what to do (and my thoughts have changed quite a bit since I wrote that series).

  9. Bill:

    1. I think you will find what Jesus said to be very apropos, especially regarding giving to those in need and expecting nothing in return, for those who have nothing now will not magically have the means to provide for themselves (not to mention repayment or even interest, which is why usury is a sin).

    While America has low tax rates, those with the most money give a smaller percent of their disposable income to charity. I don't believe in collectivism or crippling taxation, but I don't buy the sob story of yacht owners when there are women in the battered wive's home down the street who work two jobs and can't afford to rent an apartment or save a dime.

    2. I don't want anyone to "impose" anything. Democracy is supposed to work on the premise that the popular opinion ought to prevail. I expect Christians to be influenced by their religion, and I cannot expect someone to pretend to be someone they are not simply when voting. Instead, I am disgusted by the fact that such a minor issue as homosexuality (with only a few passages dedicated to it) which only has an effect on the two individuals engaging in the act is touted ahead of Biblical economics, which is based on forgiveness and sharing.

    My concern with relying on private charity is manifold, least of which is the fact that charity should not be an opportunity to proselytize. This gives direct incentive to churches to enact policies which encourage poverty (such as preventing women when to start families, ending secular government aid, underfunding public schools and even getting "school vouchers" out of government pockets to send kids to Brainwashing Academy... strangely all conservative issues).

    3. Then give your money to Presidents and Secretaries of the Treasury (which are the people on our money) and give your soul to Jesus. I think our tax system just needs to be simplified.

    4. But they brought twice as much incense, so clearly it's more important to smell good...

    Actually, they weren't poor. You know well they had the money, there was simply no room inside the inn, so the owner obliged to provide shelter for the in utero Christ and his parents. It is mock poverty, for Jesus' "father" was a skilled craftsman. He would have been middle class, and perhaps better than that with the gold.

    5. Other than the basic idea that I am atheist (and the stereotypes so frequently accumulated surrounding the self-applied title), I am not sure what gave you the impression that I believe Christians should ignore Biblical ethics. Quite the contrary, I've said many times before: religion plays an important role in society. For all those people who think we would all be out raping and shooting heroin into the eyeballs of infants if we didn't have Jesus... I'm very thankful they found God. Clearly they need it, because if they can't figure out there are ethics beyond the Bible, even Leviticus is better than raw human nature.

    I would also love to bore everyone sometime with a post about the secular reason for the economic stance I hold, but the sociological underpinnings for socialism are already quite succinctly outlined by many others. Besides, it's not really the focus of my blog. I don't think it's my job to tell people why being selfish not only makes them a dick, it makes the world around them a worse place.

    I think you would find that socialism is just the current system we have with a slightly higher tax rate, less crime, higher life expectancy, and the exact same amount of bickering over what to do. You won't wake up one morning and find another family squatting in your living room, or have to share your car.

  10. Dear Ginx,

    Thanks for the engaging dialogue.

    You are right, Jesus's words are very "apropos." For it was he who said, "The poor you will ALWAYS have with you." What did he mean?

    You may be right about those Americans with the most money giving a relatively small percentage of their income to charity. But what is that to me? Why is that immoral, or even un-Christian? Of course, the point you are trying to make is that conservative Christians apparently do not practice in the secular arena what they allegedly practice in church; or that they seem to ignore their own Scriptures regarding charity. However, we are not talking about the richest people on the planet, many of whom, if not most, are not conservatives at all (and are more often than not liberals). Conservative Christians in particular and conservatives in general give more money to charity than their more liberal counterparts; though this is a debated fact, it is nonetheless documented.

    Of course, there may be liberals WORKING at the women's shelter down the street, but there are conservatives volunteering right now in countless ways helping women and men who are suffering. Conservative Christians, Catholic and Protestant, are at this moment, without any thought of compensation, offering help all over America.

    Freedom is plain messy. The most socialized societies MAY have more equitable outcomes, but such outcomes are the result of force and indoctrination, not love, grace or freedom. In fact, the most equitable societies on the planet -- where no one is ahead of anyone and everyone works for the common good, with all earning the same wages and enjoying the same meals -- are laudable, but they just happen to be actual prisons and concentration camps. Allowing people to FREELY care for their neighbors, without interference from the scolding state in all its moral rectitude and with all its laws, rules and regulations, provides, albeit imperfectly, humans the room and freedom to actually improve. Besides, socialism and its siblings strike me as inherently pessimistic: statism is needed everywhere because, well, people are selfish, gluttonous, corrupt. Capitalism in comparison seems remarkably sane and optimistic: people, making their own rules and contracts, can generally work things out for themselves; you know, like children once did on the playgrounds of the world before parents came along to MONITOR and REGULATE every single baseball game or soccer match.

    (And I don't understand how socialists do not see the irony in their pessimism: If the world is full of broken, selfish people, then collectivizing them does not magically make them whole. It just means they are tied together in their brokenness in a more legalistic and oppressive way.)

    I don't know how you can escape my assertion that you are asking Christians to behave AS Christians, following their Bibles and all, in their work in the secular state. And I don't see how your position is not a threat to the separation of religion and state. Plus, I still don't think you've even approached explaining, without reversion to some tautology, what the secular reasons are for caring for the poor. It's not enough merely point to socialism; objecting to selfishness is itself a religiously-based idea. What is wrong with selfishness, intrinsically and ontologically, in a secular, non-religious world? Of course, you are not compelled to give an answer. But it is clear at this point that you don't have an answer.

    Again: Without referring to any religiously-based ethic or value, please tell me what is intrinsically wrong with selfishness?



  11. Just as disease will always be with us, the persistence of poverty should not deter our effort to end it in whatever small corners we can.

    I have no desire for a donation dick-measuring contest between groups, suffice to say we live in a nation with nauseatingly high levels of wealth within the hands of a very few (most of whom are conservatives, despite the neo-con rallying cry of elitism among celebrities, who make up a tiny contingent of the "rich," while the true wealth holders are billionaire CEOs, CFOs, hedge fund managers, and other Republican fat cat stereotypes).

    Referees and umpires have always existed in professional sports because when the stakes are high, a disinterested third party with authority is required to settle disputes. If mankind could live without rules, if it were our nature to be "good," or even know what "good" is, we would not have government.

    I'm not surprised those who are selfish would devise all manner of reasoning for the virtues of selfishness, but that doesn't mean the additional tax money they provide will help any less. If they hate doing the right thing, fuck them. That's why we have society, to pick up the fallen and to kick the slow pokes in the ass.

    Socialism is not about wealth destruction. There are wealthy people in "socialist" countries... and yes, ha ha, some of them are corrupt government officials, but they get that money from the private sector which buys their influence, just like in America.

    The only difference between that system and ours is that everyone in "socialist" countries get health care for the cost of paying slightly more taxes. Republicans blather on and on about "pro-life,""choose life," and "culture of life," but what they really are is pro-birth. As soon as you're born they don't give a flying fuck about your life or what happens to you. In fact, they would prefer if the government gave you nothing and your parents (if you even have any who claim you) have to pay for everything (or what little they can afford).

    If someone has any human compassion, regardless of what they believe is going on in fantasy lands above our head, they would not deny someone the ability to seek medical treatment when ill. We even provide prisoners health care, and I'm glad we do. What awful thing did poor people do to not deserve the "hand-out" of medical treatment?


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