Friday, October 26, 2012

God and Gimme



     A few times too many, I've been told that Christian charity requires support for government redistribution plans like welfare and public housing and Obamacare. This is a gross distortion of scripture. Sure, the Bible contains many admonitions to believers to care for the poor, but it never, ever tells us that government programs are the delivery system. Voting for big government to do the job of caring for the poor means outsourcing the duty that God lays on us as His people and violating a few commandments rather baldly.
     Start with "You shall have no other gods before Me," as in Deuteronomy 20:3. The Lord has just reminded His people that He is the one Who brought them out of slavery in Egypt. He fed them. He gave them water. He even made sure their clothes never wore out during their time in the wilderness. He was their rescuer, their provider, their sustainer. Those are solid credentials for being their one God, and He won't be happy if they replace Him. Now, if we claim to be followers of that same God in His Son Jesus Christ, shouldn't we look to Him first for food, clothing, shelter and freedom? Making government the source of all sustenance replaces God. He doesn't like it. He is a jealous God.
    "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven," says Jesus in Matthew 23:9. I used to think this meant that Catholics were wrong to call their priests "father," but a look at history (and current events) showed me something different. I remember reading that in Communist China, schoolchildren were taught to begin their day with thanks to Chairman Mao for their school, their breakfast, every valuable thing. Perhaps you've seen reports of North Korean children expressing the same gratitude to Kim Jong Il. Remember Germans calling "Heil, Hitler" in place of "hello" and "good-bye." No more "gruss Gott" (roughly, "greet God") as a greeting. More recently, we were treated to video of various American schoolchildren singing praises to Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm. Now that's calling someone on earth your father, seeing a human being, or a human institution, as the source of your well-being.
     Farther along in the Ten Commandments, we find "You shall not covet" and "You shall not steal." These two sins  are the basis of the welfare state. The leftist demagogue encourages "the poor" to ignore any of their own behavior which might have left them in poverty, such as scorning school, serial fornication, illegitimacy, drugs, alcohol, or crime, and to think only that some other people have more than they do. (Disregard also the self-discipline and work ethic of that group.) They get angry. They demand their "fair share." That's the coveting part. Next, they vote for the politicians who promise to use the power of the state to take what the "rich" have earned and hand it over to them in the form of food credit cards, housing, medical care and sometimes plain old cash. That's the stealing part.
     So what is my responsibility? I take my cue from Leviticus 19: 9,10. "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God." I think this tells me not to spend every penny, but to keep something to devote to charity. Widows and orphans may need something directly from my hand, but the gleaners were the "working poor," emphasis on "working." Landowners were to leave something for the poor, but the poor were to get into the fields and pick it up. (See Ruth and Naomi.)
      In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul recounts how he and his team declined to freeload off the townspeople, but worked for their food. Then he hit them with verse 10: "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." That's the element that seems to be missing completely from our "entitlement" system. Be responsible for yourself. Work to support yourself and your family. Make enough to help others.
     Mr. Obama is fond of saying he wants everyone to have a "fair share." Well, my share of Bill Gates's money is zero. My share of Mitt Romney's money is zero. And Obama's share of my money is zero. Listen, if you're hungry, I'll make you a sandwich. If you can rake leaves, I'll pay you for it. But don't send the IRS to ransack my pantry or my wallet and call me names when I object. I'll choose my own charities, individual or organized, and I'll answer to God. I'm pretty sure giving to the Salvation Army is better stewardship than promoting big government bureaucracy. 

13 comments:

  1. Very insightful and helpful. Shared with some people who I think don't understand this point of view.

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    1. Thanks, Dayna. Other responses will be interesting, I'm sure.

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  2. It just makes so much sense. That must be why we're not doing it.

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  3. I agree with your views on "the poor". I gave apples, walnuts, a Bible, and a hotel room to a homeless young woman last week. Then we went to the laundromat to wash her clothes. But she rejected my offer to go job hunting the next day. The cardboard sign thing was working very well for her, thank you.
    Your last paragraph is epigramic [don't know if that's really a word] and I might use it in a public forum if you say yes.

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    1. Yes. Our newspaper reported a while back on people who have made begging a career choice. It does happen. I would be happy to be quoted in a forum. I think "epigrammatic" is the word-- and if that's what you're saying about my thoughts, I'm delighted. Many thanks for reading and responding.

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  4. Your 4th paragraph here claims to know the heart of voters or representatives who vote for redistributive or "welfare" policies.
    Unless you have been such a person in the past, you can't know this, just like you can't claim to know the heart and motivations of any other person.

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    1. You're quite right about knowing other people's hearts, of course. I was interpreting public expressions of politicians who promise all sorts of benefits and the apparent desires of people who vote for them. I do think the welfare state encourages covetousness and the desire to take what others have earned. What are your thoughts on why politicians promise so many benefits and why people vote for them?

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    2. Briefly, a lot of politics is tribalism, and a lot of people that I'm closer to, when it gets down to it, vote with whichever party because they just don't "identify with" the other party even though they could support many of the policies of that other party.
      So from what I see it is very safe to say that there are Democrats out there who agree that government welfare is too expensive or morally questionable, but refuse to vote Republican for other, more personal reasons. And vice-versa; there are many Republican voters out there who would say that certain benefits could be even more generous and certain taxes on the rich could be higher if it were up to them, but they don't ever want to identify with or vote for a democrat for some personal reason.

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    3. To answer your question, let's focus on a question that is maybe less of a hot-button now; free college education. Such was promised by Obama in 2008 but he didn't get a chance to enact it. Clinton and Sanders in 2016 both had vague plans to make it happen, but they lost and now that issue is off the radar and less of a hot button.

      I didn't agree with it back in 2008 or 2016. If you put me in charge, I might have observed that we have the FAFSA system and that a lot of families that lack the funds to send their kids to a state school get help in the form of grants and student loans, up to a level where the money needed up front is affordable for them. I would study if that system is working as designed and I would try to use more grants and less loans going forward. I would also observe that a large amount of the loan debt out there originates at private schools, and I would try to transfer some of the liability for loan defaults away from the government and to them - they should care if their students' incomes don't line up with their student debt levels. Anyway, that's just my view and it doesn't answer your question.

      Why do people clamor for free college at the federal level? (1) They feel disconnected from their state or local government, perhaps because their federal government gets all the TV news coverage, so whatever aspiration they have for government goes straight to the national level. This impulse applies to social issues that trigger conservatives as well, of course. (2) No one would admit to coveting; they would frame it as a question of fairness. Is it fair that how much money you have determines your educational opportunities, even for state-run schools? Their own life experience would motivate them to ask that question. Some, of course, simply answer that "life is never fair" but many think that the government should be making things more fair which, if we didn't believe that at least partially, we wouldn't have lawsuits. In any case, they would work backwards from there and "just make it free for everyone" would seem to be the simplest solution both to describe and to implement, if you think that the current system is unfair and the government should try to make it more fair. Certainly those six words in quotation marks are simpler than my middle paragraph up there.

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    4. Good point on group identity. Look what happens to black people who state conservative opinions. On "free" college, or anything else, there's no such thing.

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    5. The only free lunches are economic growth and its cousin, increased efficiency/productivity.
      Obviously if any family sends their children to school "for free," their own taxes combined with the taxes of families who may not have school age children are paying for this. It's just that for generations and in all 50 states we have found this to be a good deal for society that helps more than it harms.
      I have no problem applying utilitarian ethics to some questions of government, because I'm not persuaded that a deontological principle such as "taxing is bad" or "progressive taxation is bad" or "redistributing is bad" is found from either the bible or the categorical imperative. You seem to have found it but I haven't.

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