Friday, February 11, 2011

What Would Jesus Cut?

Sojourners is a “faith-based” organization. It was started up by “Emergent Church” leader Jim Wallis. Recently Sojourners released a letter about their spending priorities for the Federal government called “What Would Jesus Cut?”

In their own words, “We can’t move backwards on programs proven to work: international aid targeted at empowering women; vaccines and bed nets combating deadly diseases; school lunch programs and early childhood education that give poor children the opportunity to thrive; tax credits that reward work and help stabilize families. These are dollars we can’t afford not to invest.”

They attempt to bolster their position by saying, “The biblical prophets make clear that a nation’s righteousness is ultimately determined not by its GNP or military might -- but by how it treats its most vulnerable people. Jesus says our love for him will be demonstrated by how we treat the “least of these.” Their position is that Jesus would cut the defense budget, not these programs.

So what would Jesus cut? I believe that the answer is “everything.” He’d cut our “defense” budget, and He’d cut each and every program they list. He’d be in favor of letting people keep as much of what they earned as possible, then encourage them to give, of their own free will rather than government coercion, what they could to help the less fortunate. And I am very convinced that whatever “social programs” and “international aid” He might allow to be publicly funded, it would be an amount that would be paid for with current revenues. Using debt even to “do good” is grossly unjust to the next generation.

continued on the jump...


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Before I start on that, I’d like to address the thin scriptural basis they use to defend their position. They have quoted three words of scripture to justify their stand. Those words are “least of these.” This appears to be a reference to Mathew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats. To give context, here is the start of this parable…

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
The sheep are later told that they have done well because they have fed Him when He was hungry, and clothed Him when He was thirsty. This is how they answer “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
That last verse is where the “least of these” phrase comes in. The goats did not care for “the least of these.” But who are these? “These” are “brothers and sisters of mine.”


5:23 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

So my first point is that the “these” in the passage they are using to support their position is actually referring to Christians. They are not the Lord’s “neighbors” but His “brothers and sisters”. In other words, believers. If Sojourners wishes to use this passage to justify government transfer of resources from one person to another, then they should be advocating transfers to people on the basis of their Christian belief.
This is not what they advocate of course, and neither does this passage. The passage is not a call for a government program to engage in forced re-distribution of resources, but rather a call for individuals to be generous. Not generous with other people’s resources, but with their own. The sheep are not those who voted for higher taxes on the goats to give to all, but rather those who choose to give what they personally had specifically to those who shared faith in the Lord.
Notice in verse 32 that though all nations will be gathered before him, they will not be judged as nations. It says he will separate “the people”, not “peoples” from one another “as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” That is, they will be all mixed in together through each of the nations. This is not a scripture talking about what nations should do as public policy. It is a scripture talking about what people should do.
The Old Testament Law has many commands- more than any of us can keep. Some of those commands had civil penalties attached for failure to obey them. In other words, they were against “the law of the land” and governmental sanction was specified for violating them. Those laws were divided into the ceremonial or religious law and the civil law. The latter part concerned doing justice to one’s neighbor. Another class of law was one where no civil penalties were authorized. God reserved to Himself giving out penalties for violations of those laws. He did not delegate handing out penalties for breaking those laws to the civil government. In this category fall His commands to be merciful to the poor.


5:23 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Let me make it clear. In all His commands in the Old Testament, and in the New, there is not one instance of God authorizing civil penalties for failure to be merciful to the poor. Yes, there are plenty of commands to be merciful, but the law is perfect. Authorizing the state to penalize people for failure to be merciful sets the stage for all sorts of abuses. It ruins the joy the giver should have in giving and the gratitude that the receiver should have in getting. It sets the two against each other rather than gives them a mutual interest in each other’s success.
I once had a debate with a prominent liberal Christian in the area. I challenged him to find one instance where God authorized civil penalties for failure to be generous to the poor. But he could not find what isn’t there. Today’s religious left wants

to remove civil penalties for actions that God has authorized civil penalties for, while moving the state into God’s seat by giving them the authority to punish people for things where He reserved the right to punish for Himself.
Without giving specifics they say that a nation’s righteousness is determined not by its GDP or military power but, rather by how it treats it’s “most vulnerable.” Though they don’t cite specific scriptures, I agree with the sentiment. But what they owe to the poor and the rich alike is justice. It is freedom from oppression and oppressive laws, such as those which assume all wealth you have earned is really for whoever the state thinks deserves it more than you do.


5:24 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Here is what God’s idea of “social justice” is, from Leviticus 19. 15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
In principle I agree with their statement that the righteousness of a nation can be gauged by how it treats it’s “most vulnerable.” That would be unborn babies. Sojourners is pro-life like the Republican leadership is pro-life. When pressed they make the claim they are, but they never intend to really do anything about it. Sojourners does not talk about abortion, except in the context of wild claims about how there would be less abortion if we had government health care. They use it as an excuse to argue that being “pro-life” means advocating for a cradle to grave welfare state.
If they were really concerned about how we treated our “most vulnerable” then they would make stopping the rivers of innocent bloodshed from abortion a top priority. Next, they would protect the unborn, truly the most vulnerable among us, from being made into debt slaves. They would argue for a reduction in government spending so that politicians would have to quit buying votes on the backs of the next generation.
Government should not make my choice of charity for me. I should be the one deciding if an “international aid program to empower women” is more worthy of my earnings than my family. I have some women I’d like to empower. My wife, my daughter, my sister, my mother. The scriptures task parents, not the state, with the care and nurturing of children. Shame on any parent who thinks that a school lunch program is supposed to feed their child for them. And shame on any so-called Christian ministry who thinks that it is the kingdom’s business to make sure such programs are well-funded. The job of the church should be to teach people what the Bible says about their responsibilities as parents, and connecting those who are not able to meet those needs with mentors who choose to provide both the food to the children and the counsel to the parents.


5:24 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

The alleged benefits of “early childhood education” programs go away after a few years. That is according to every study done on them except one, whose methodologies were flawed because for one thing they did not control for parental involvement. Even vaccines are over-hyped. They are a massive subsidy to the drug industry. There are no scriptures on this one way or the other, but I believe we are over-vaccinating young children. They get 10 or 20 vaccines by age three! It is time to quit borrowing money from the Chinese in order to give our infants as many injections as the vaccine industry thinks we should.
Even the so-called “tax credits” are wrong. If I get back what I paid in, that is a tax credit. If I get back more than I paid in, its welfare calling itself by another name. Those extra dollars more than I paid in had to come from somewhere. Either from my neighbor or if through debt then from those not yet born. The “tax credit” they want to protect is one that divides people against each other. If less than half of the population pays any income taxes, if the whole burden is on the upper 45%, then the rest will be basely motivated to keep the individual income tax. That is because it turns the high earners into unwilling slaves of the low earners.
This is not the first time in history religious phonies used God-talk to undermine God’s actual word. Hear this from Matthew 15:
4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
In the same way these false teachers substitute our burden. Instead of taking care of our mother and father, we can just be for more welfare. Instead of personally taking care of the less fortunate, we can vote that others have to take care of them and consider ourselves righteous.


5:25 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Remember these are religious professionals who do not have a private sector job where they have to make something and add value to the economy. They are like the lawyers Jesus described (Luke 11) who lay grievous burdens on people, but lift not a finger to help them. And our big government, with its massive debt, is a grievous burden. These are men who produce nothing demanding the earnings of those who produce everything we enjoy be redistributed as their faux-priesthood sees fit.
Jesus did not care to get into who should have what. Luke 12 13And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Jim Wallis and company rush in where Christ cared not to tread. They do want to get in the middle of these matters, using government force, to make people divide their possessions with whoever has government favor at the moment. They are obsessed with material things, Christ focused on eternal things.
Christ did not use force to get His way. His kingdom was about getting people to choose right, not making them do it against their will. What would Jesus cut? He’d cut it all. He would set people free. Free from government looting when they had more and free from government dependency if they had less. He would act to restore the giver-receiver relationship to its natural and God-ordained condition. He would free the next generation from having to spend their lives paying for the wild promises of the politicians of the last generation.
Jesus would cut it all. He would cut your favorite government program, and mine. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

5:25 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

Jesus cared very little about the politics, taxes, and government spending of this world from what I read in scripture. I'm annoyed when any organization, be it Sojourners or the Christian Coalition, claims to be doing his work through the political sphere.

Honestly the "render unto Cesar" scripture which so many leftists point to as support for taxation, seems to be the one place where a policy towards government is explicitly addressed by Jesus. And that seems more like an example of him pleading the fifth and staying out of it.

He would wouldn't advocate for more government spending or taxes or for less of the same.

I even have a hard time believing he'd be a protester against abortion. I definitely think he would have opposed it, but probably not as an activist. I don't see in scripture stories of Jesus protesting the murderous actions of Rome. His life was itself a protest because of its contrast with the Jewish and Roman lifestyles of the time.

Every person is free to keep their religious values in mind when they pull the lever, but I would never dream of claiming Jesus would say or do this or that. God's work was and is so much more important than cutting or raising government spending.

3:42 PM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

The very fact that He did not advocate political solutions proves my point. He did not consider government programs the answer. He did not advocate government solutions. So what would Jesus cut? All of it. He was not a believer in the power of Government to do good. He was interested in empowering people to do good by getting them born again.

And He protested plenty at the actions of the government- not Rome, but Herrod and the Sanhedren. He protested the acts of the Jewish leaders. If He had not offended them, they would not have executed them.

5:08 PM, February 12, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

But there needs to be a distinction between Rome and the Jewish leaders. The Jewish leaders didn't execute Jesus, they coerced Rome (in the form of Pilate) to do it for them.

This leads me to think that in a current context Jesus would be going after the religious leaders of our day (maybe the Sojourners for instance and the conservative religio-political groups as well) and have little to do with the topic of our government's policies.

I see little evidence in scripture of his outspoken opposition to the laws and rule of Rome. Jewish leaders did have a certain degree of self-governing political power, but his problems had less to do with that and more to do with their hypocritical religious teachings and practices.

7:51 AM, February 13, 2011  

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