Wow, I actually got a comment that isn’t spam, a request for a washing machine part, or looking for Fry Sauce. It’s from a recent post called “My God is the God of the Poor,” which was just a link to a awesome recent post by Pastor Dan that ***Dave passed along.
In it, I said as I quoted pastordan
Something else I believe as a liberal Episcopalian, put a little more aggressively:
My God is the God of the poor. You can be for the poor or you can go to hell.
A month later, I get this rather condescending comment from someone named Dan Kegley, and since this is my blog, I get to be not only condescending right back, but also slightly snotty and obnoxious. But hey, it’s my blog. I suddenly got inspired to respond with important, well-thought out arguments, but those darn LOLcats got in my Bible and messed with my sin tax again.
How sad that one would relate a manâ€™s wealth, or lack thereof, with how God, in His wisdom, will judge us all at His time and place. How can you speak of liberalism, with its oddities and corruption of heart, being obviously at war with morality and values of any kind, as having a â€œleg upâ€, so to speak, in Godâ€™s eye? I have never heard that God wishes for us to take from producers and give to the lazy or unproductive. I am not referring to those on hard times, or those whose hardships have them in a bad place currently. Liberals, though, actually see a calling to punish hard working men and women, as if that elevates those who do nothing to help themselves. The Lord Himself, on many occasions, spoke of the need for man to strive and produce for his own family, as no one other than the head of the family can lay claim to the prosperity or destitution by which the family comes. I believe your words will never be taken seriously by progressives who cannot understand the good hearts of men, and who by their political nature want for destruction and chaos to reign, as in this they prosper in wealth, control over men, and unquestioned power. How sad.
— commenter Dan Kegley, who has a sad
How sad indeed that you seem to inhabit a completely different version of reality, because it will be very difficult for us to communicate across the divide. Since I know what state you probably hail from, I’d love to introduce you to some lovely liberal Christians there who might give you a whole new perspective on Jesus and His mission to the poor (and also the proper raising of cows, chickens, and dogs).Â I’m a pretty rotten liberal Christian by comparison to them, but I mean well, give as much as I can, and hope to do better.
What are liberalism’s “oddities?” What “corruption of heart?” Are we talking religion or politics? If religion, best not raise the spectre of corruption lest we have to go into the many and varied kinds of priest/clergy sex scandals plaguing the conservative churches, not to mention embezzlement or financial fraud cases by either clergy or lay leaders (all too common in Utah, for example, as the sheep are very easily clipped there).
I’m not at war with morality, and I have values. This doesn’t give me a “leg up.” This puts me on a path that may be different from yours that is no better, and no worse. I think war is immoral, I think capital punishment is immoral. I also think Han shot first, which is both a moral position and a value judgement.
Let’s talk about taking from the producers and giving to the unproductive next. You really need to stop reading Ayn Rand, and start reading your Bible – it seems that at least one reading in church each week mentions the poor in some context (I go to church every week, unlike many Americans who claim church attendance but don’t actually go). Strangely, I do not think Ayn Rand thought much of this Bible thing. She seems very selfish and unpleasant and her characters are cardboard cutouts. Seriously, producers? Do you grow your own wheat? Weave your own linen, unmixed with wool? Live in a gulch? Of course not.
Here are a few mentions of the word “poor” in the Bible. Several of them are very familiar even to non-religious Americans – the ones that keep buying the Bible, but not reading it, apparently.Â As it happens, the ones in the beginning are what Jesus said about the poor.
Poor (276 Occurrences)
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 6:2 When then you give money to the poor, do not make a noise about it, as the false-hearted men do in the Synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Truly, I say to you, They have their reward. (BBE NAS)
Matthew 6:3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, (See NAS)
Matthew 11:5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 26:9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 26:11 For you always have the poor with you; but you don’t always have me. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 10:21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 12:42 A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 12:43 He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 14:5 For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” They grumbled against her. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 14:7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 1:48 For he has had pity on his servant, though she is poor and lowly placed: and from this hour will all generations give witness to the blessing which has come to me. (BBE)
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 6:20 He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 7:22 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:41 But if you give to the poor such things as you are able, then all things are clean to you. (BBE NIV)
Luke 12:33 Give what property you have in exchange for money, and give the money to the poor; make for yourselves money-bags which will not get old, wealth stored up in heaven which will be yours for ever, where thieves will not come nor worms put it to destruction. (BBE NIV)
Luke 14:13 But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 14:21 “That servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant,’Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 16:20 And a certain poor man, named Lazarus, was stretched out at his door, full of wounds, (BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Luke 16:22 And in time the poor man came to his end, and angels took him to Abraham’s breast. And the man of wealth came to his end, and was put in the earth. (BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
What Jesus said, world without end, amen.Â Pray silence for reflection…
Okay, pause over. And as it happens, it turns out Jesus’ Mom the God-Bearer was poor!Â No wonder he’s always harping about them…
That’s only about a third of the quotes – some of them are repetitive because of the multiple versions of the Gospel. But Luke is my favorite of the Evangelists, because his language is poetic and full of interesting detail. There are a bunch more quotes on that web page of course, these are just the Gospel ones to illustrate what has become an increasingly tiresome and over-argued point.Â Jesus loved him some poors.
So how is it that the unproductive are different from those fallen on hard times? Poverty is poverty. Or are you quietly saying “the undeserving poor?” Kind of like the sort of people who show up on Hoarders screaming and yelling and arguing over piles of garbage and dead animals? The “those people” that live in urban blight and rural squalor, far from where sight of their hovels would disturb us?
Hard times is hard times. Sometimes poverty is a multi-generational weight crushing people down so far that they don’t know that there’s an up. Sometimes we’re only 4 or 5 decisions from shitting in a bucket.
Can you possibly see that liberals fight to support working class people? Fight for clean air and water and food? Fight for family leave legislation, fight for a fair wage? fight for worker’s compensation laws? Fight for universal, affordable health care (and don’t succeed because of conservative obstructionism)?
These are all things political and religious conservatives were AGAINST. Conservatives are AGAINST health care coverage for children, and against adult children who don’t yet have insurance staying on their parents’ plan for a few extra years.
Conservatives were AGAINST civil rights. They were AGAINST abolition of slavery. They were AGAINST the minimum wage, and AGAINST any increase in the minimum wage. They were AGAINST the 40-hour work week. They were AGAINST health and safety laws in the workplace. AGAINST. AGAINST. AGAINST.
Conservative means STOP. Progressive means GO. Liberal means GO FAST. Oh, and independent might therefore mean “Could go either way, stuck in neutral, may need a new clutch.”
Conservatives were FOR tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent in this country, whose deep pockets paid for their political campaigns and for their huge megachurches, and also paid FOR whisper campaigns and “funny business electioneering” to disenfranchise the poor and the brown. Wealthy Christian Reconstructionists like the Mellons and Howard Ahmanson Jr bankrolled “dissenters” and “orthodox believers” within mainline churches bent on splitting them apart from within. They did this because they claimed to be “for life, Jesus and morality,” but really they were in favor of regaining all the power, property, and prestige that they had lost as the mainline churches liberalized through the 60’s and 70’s. As the older churches lost membership – a lot of people stopped believing, stopped caring about religion – the newer churches that survived gained converts who were hardliners fleeing from the Lutherans or the Presbyterians or the Episcopalians, who weren’t real Christians in their eyes any more. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to be told by a fellow Christian that I am not Christiany enough, because I don’t make the Christianist cut by being more Christianish than thou.
People are supposed to be different. Conformity is boring to the Creator – we were created to be a beguiling and delightful array of allsorts. Anyway…
The moderate and liberal Christians stayed put, wondered where everyone else was, and got on with the work of the Church: serving the poor, and praising God in prayer and song. The conservative Christians preached the Prosperity Gospel and solicited donations from… yes, the poor, promising them riches on Earth as it would be in Heaven. And they had really, really crappy music (sorry, I’m a church music snob, I’m sure God is happy with whatever joyus ruckus His children make on any given Sunday).
What would Jesus think of that Prosperity Gospel, I wonder? I wonder.
The 80’s marked the time of the Republican Right’s resurgence – and also a time when the Reagan “Teflon Presidency” produced a remarkable amount of administration officials being convicted for corruption, which never touched Saint Ronnie himself. Strangely enough, Reagan was for emigration amnesty or reform, and raised taxes, and the Jim Brady law must have been galling to the NRA crowd. Reagan must have been a closet liberal, but then you can’t trust these faux-Republican Hollywood actors, can you?
There was more political corruption through the 90’s, mostly from the Right side of the aisle (yes, Clinton was a bad husband, but also a good statesman, and the country prospered). Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich went through a few wives, usually when they were seriously ill. Who’s the moral man? The man who asked his wife for forgiveness, or the man who did the unforgiveable?
And then there was Bush, and then…Â and we all grieved together, and then our grief was cynically used against us to frighten us into acquiescing when they curtailed our civil rights, because TERRA!Â A noun, a verb, and 9-1-1! And then Madrid and London, terra terra terra WAR WAR WAR.
Of course, the conservatives, who are always FOR the military-industrial complex were FOR WAR WITH afghanistan IRAQ (but whispered that IRAN was next and the fringe hoped that Armageddon was nigh).
And they were all FOR Halliburton getting the bidless contracts for services to the military, because duh, they were FOR OIL too.
And they were FOR the Supreme Court being just as hard-right conservative as possible, which came in deucedly handy when the Florida election almost got won by that creepy Al Gore guy.
It wasn’t just the hanging chads, it was the shortage of voting machines in urban precincts in both Florida and Ohio – but the Supes stopped the recount and there we were, stuck with that idiot pretzel-gobbling Bush guy again and his evil puppet master, Darth Cheney. Talk about your high crimes and misdemeanors, you had ’em all along with that pack of robber barons in office.
The Republicans are FOR the right people having the right to vote and AGAINST the wrong people having the right to vote. And of course they are AGAINST any group that works to enfranchise the urban and suburban poor, who the Republicans don’t wish to represent anyway, because they are unproductive parasites who can’t give them more than a few dollars.
Liberal politicians and religious leaders have always fought FOR hard-working people, but the message isn’t getting out to the people who need to hear it. It’s been co-opted and turned around 180 degrees, so that the oppressors and the corporate plutocrats cry foul, play the victim and claim all the financial benefits for themselves and their cronies. How do they do it? They own the loudest, gaudiest, blaringest propaganda machine since 1940s Argentina: FOXNews. All lies, all the time. Unfair, and unbalanced. All the news we think you need to know. Meanwhile, a good bill or a great innovation for local communities goes unreported, because politics is boring unless somebody is getting beat up by the Republicans on their pet “news” channel. And local or national religious leaders can’t get any press UNLESS TEH GAY.
How can you possibly say that conservatives have ANYONE’s interests at heart unless it’s the corporations and lobbyists who take them to the Caribbean and Scotland, and the shadowy people in the background buying the media and Congress? Whether we’re talking religion or politics, no progress has ever come from going backwards.
The Lord himself, on many occasions and not just the ones quoted above, urged his followers to sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow Him. He urged disciples to leave family behind, if necessary. Now, that sounds pretty radical and extreme to me, and I doubt many people would take Him up on it; but that’s what’s on the table. Not “get your hands off my stack, Jack” or “I’ve got mine.”
No, it’s “Possessions and wealth will not get you into heaven. It’s what you do here that counts. Put on your sandals, pull up yo’ pants, and go tell it on the mountain.”
Now you go on to this: “no one other than the head of the family can lay claim to the prosperity or destitution by which the family comes.”
What does that even MEAN? OH, right, it’s part of the doctrine of submission and the headship of the man in the family over the woman and children, his chattel. This is a disgusting tribal artifact inflicted on Western civilization by cranky old zealots with an axe to grind, who wanted to keep the uppity wimmenfolk (especially the purty-mouthed fertile ones) under their control. It’s one of the reasons I absolutely cannot stand much of what St Paul wrote regarding the role of women in the church. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this one, Daniel, because I am a very uppity woman indeed. The man as “head of the family” is an insulting, offensive concept to me personally.
By the way, that whole SUBMIT thing is sekrit fundamentalist code for “you must have sex with me every time I want it, whether you want to or not! And wash my smelly socks! And you will like it! And now I will read aloud from the Bible, and after that we can pretend I am a slavemaster of Gor and you are my latest acquisition. Send the children and goats out into the fields, and assume the position.”
See? Disgusting tribal artifact.
Strange that Jesus spoke to unmarried and widowed women who were not his blood relatives, whose place in His society was so precarious. This was unheard of at the time, and it’s still unheard of in ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and the US. Imagine how RADICAL, then, this was 2 millennia ago. His actions and statements were not just radical, they were dangerous and possibly blasphemous according to the standards of the time. They threatened the status quo.
Jesus had radical compassion for women, because they worked so hard drawing water (the Syro-Phoenecian woman), were too busy cleaning house and cooking to hear the Gospel (Martha), because they were poor and still gave what they had to others (the widow and her mite), or they were so broken up with grief that they didn’t even recognize Him (Mary Magdalene).
Stranger still that He chose to appear first to women at the Resurrection, including the woman called “apostle to the Apostles.”Â Why do you think that might have been?
If you ask me, Jesus was very much a long-haired hippie radical. After he left, the literati got busy and did a re-write for the masses so he was a little more moderate, a little less rabble-rousy. And they made sure to put the women back down in the dust, even though the rich ones were financing the church and the poor ones were doing all the work looking after the priest’s house. It’s always the way…
It doesn’t matter to me if I’m not taken seriously by other progressives – most of whom aren’t interested in this churchy stuff.Â Meanwhile, I think that progressives DO understand “the good hearts of men;” I think that progressives and liberals are good men and women who are inherently generous in spirit,Â and community-minded. I think that conservatives and fundamentalists are like the Grinch, with hearts two sizes too small, never thinking of other peoples’ needs and certainly not giving any of their money away to those horrible parasites, and grumbling about the taxes they pay as the drive on federal highways and drink clean water.
Like I said, stop reading Ayn Rand and think for yourself. Because, dude: don’t you get who you’re really talking about? When you say “who by their political nature want for destruction and chaos to reign, as in this they prosper in wealth, control over men, and unquestioned power” you’re talking the Republicans, Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce, the TSA, the Bush Era FEMA, the Bush Era Federal Secrets Act, the AT&T deal for wireless wiretapping, Halliburton, BP, Xe, and the Koch Brothers, man!
These are the ones who:
- took us into war with Afghanistan (right country, still there, trillions of dollars later)
- Iraq (wrong country, still there, trillions of dollars later),
- prospered at the expense of everybody else (toxic mortgages, credit default swaps, Bush era TARP),
- controlled men (stop-loss rules in the military, limited amount of credit available for small business loans and job creation, obstructionism in Congress, offshoring of jobs by large companies for obscene profit margins)
- held unquestioned power and drove the national narrative with questionable motives (Hello, Congressman-Oversight Police Officer Darrell Issa! Hello, Orange Speaker Boehner! Hello, Weeping Glenn Beck! Hello, Word-Salady Sarah Palin! Hello, Batshit Crazy Michele Bachmann! Hello, all you double-talking, fact-spinning, truth-distorting, fake-crying, black-boarding, propaganda-spouting wool-pullers!).
Do you see it yet? Soylent Green is people. SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE.
No? Oh, right, you’re in that other reality where the black man in the White House isn’t American (psst, they’re lying to you) and the Founding Fathers wrote Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit into every paragraph of the Constitution (no, they didn’t) and that this is a deeply Christian country with deeply conservative values (actually, most people aren’t all that interested in religion or politics – NEWS FLASH). Also, they have your back (sorry, they’re lying again) and share your convictions (the only convictions they have will be for election fraud, financial chicanery, or sexual misconduct).
We are all so screwed, but the delusions of people who think as you do got us in this mess by electing Bush and his pack of merry military-financial plunderers. And then you and they believed all the lies they told you and elected even more of these geniuses to the Congress, and we are all so screwed double-plus-ungood.
So after years of obstructionism by the Republicans, the Democrats “failed” to pass a GOP bolus in the bowels of the Senate pass a budget. Yet they somehow managed to get a lot done in spite of the kicking and screaming from the GOP (and health care could have been so much better, but is watered down thanks to these same obstructionist goops).
And now, it’s up to the Boehner Congress. We get to sit back and watch the stupid unfold before us for the next few years, especially going into the 2012 elections. We’ll all have to watch them punish hardworking men and women, and send many more families into destitution without “laying claim” or taking the blame for it, just to prove to President Obama that they are the ones with unquestioned power.
How sad indeed.