September 15, 2005

Christian Morality is Not About Sex

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:25 pm

Melinda Henneberger at Newsweek has a column out on the (im)morality of conservatism and the failure of Democrats to confront it. If that name rings a bell, it may because of this column of hers from the election season last year that pointed out that conservatives’ politics drives their religious beliefs rather than the other way around. In this column, titled “Overturning the Gospels”, she returns to this theme:

We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It’s wrong to help poor people because “handouts” reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.

Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.

Which is how “Christian” morality got to be all about other people’s sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can’t do? Piece o’ cake. But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch.

A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.

The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that. (The genius of the whole Republican program, in fact, is that it not only offers tax cuts and morality, but tax cuts as morality…when Republicans play to both our better angels and our less altruistic ones, it’s not that tough a sell.)

Jesus calls us to follow him. When I listen for his call through the gospel accounts, I don’t hear him calling me to worry about others’ sex lives or whether I’m paying too much in taxes. I hear him calling me to give up my shirt as well as my cloak, to walk another mile, to turn the other cheek, to forgive and love those that least deserve it. I hear Jesus calling us to put love of God and neighbor before the letter of the Mosaic Law, and before the letter of what we might otherwise interpret as a Pauline Law.

Following a set of rules, when the rules are interpreted as Henneberger describes here, isn’t too hard. Following Jesus is really hard. He asks that we die to ourselves, pick up our cross and follow. I’d much rather save poor people from the scourge of dependency by cutting back on the safety net, and my marginal tax rate. But as Christians, we are called to something more.

45 Comments

  1. Totally Awesome Words

    And, I am going to let them speak for themselves: Jesus calls us to follow him. When I listen for his call through the gospel accounts, I don’t hear him calling me to worry about others’ sex lives or whether…

    Trackback by My Walk — September 16, 2005 @ 7:35 am

  2. And just imagine if “America” were a *real* Christian nation,
    following Jesus rather than Leviticus. People feeding the hungry
    instead of melting the planet, clothing the naked instead of
    building gated communities, going to their rooms and shutting the
    door to pray rather than in front of everyone around a flagpole.
    We really *would* be city on a hill, shining our light for all
    the world to see.

    Comment by wildwest — September 16, 2005 @ 8:14 am

  3. I agree wholeheartedly (as a conservative even!) that we need to help the poor, and that helping those in need should not be relegated to a place behind sexual morality issues. I just tend to think it is far, far better for us to do more privately than to rely on the government to do it for us. Jesus called us to get our own hands dirty, not to pawn off poverty problems on the government. In fact, Jesus never told us to give up any of our responsibilities to others, but rather to be active in our own lives in this respect. If my taxes are lower, that allows me to give more to those in need because I have more to give post-tax. I see nothing un-Christian about that.

    Additionally, as much as I agree that social justice issues deserve a higher place in the public discussion, I don’t want to push other issues of morality downwards to the point where we are just advocating one form of morality to the exclusion of others. All morality is important. I have my own morality issues to deal with, and don’t judge others as greater sinners than me. But that doesn’t mean I need to accept the idea that something that is immoral should be condoned by the government through the action of making it legal. Yes, help the poor – by all means! It is vital and good to do so. But don’t ignore other forms of morality to the extent that the rest of the country goes to hell while we’re helping the poor.

    Comment by Ron — September 16, 2005 @ 12:03 pm

  4. Ron –
    I just tend to think it is far, far better for us to do more privately than to rely on the government to do it for us.

    The only problem I see with that idea is the relative amount that can be done by private citizens and organizations versus the government. The Red Cross and other groups have raised millions of dollars to aid Katrina victims, but Congress has already allocated $60 billion. That said, I can see where private organizations are often more effective than government programs. Perhaps a private/public partnership would be the best way to help the most people.

    Comment by BruceA — September 16, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

  5. Hello, Bob, just checking in because I haven’t in a while.

    There are a couple of things I’d like to comment on regarding this post.

    First of all, if Christians are using things like the fear of rewarding
    dependency as an excuse to not help the poor, then that would be wrong but
    clearly there are cases in which poor people are better served by helping
    them in other ways than just handing them cold hard cash. This has been
    demonstrated of late by the massive effort of Christian groups around the
    country to aid the poor and suffering from the Gulf States by putting
    temporary roofs over their heads. I’ve even heard cases wherein owners of
    rental properties have furnished their rentals and allowed families to move
    in rent free. There is no telling how many truck loads of food, clothing and
    other essential goods which have been delivered to help those who are withoug.
    I have also heard that there are cases wherein some of those who have received
    their $2000 have spent that money in going to strip clubs. That is not the
    way I would like to see our tax dollars spent. Jesus calls on us to be good
    stewards, as well as giving to the poor. Assessing the needs of the poor and
    aiding them almost has to be done on a case by case basis. Some people are
    able to use cold hard cash and make wise decisions, others are in the condition
    they are in today not because they have not had adequate cash flow to meet
    their actual physical needs but because they are incapable of budgeting it
    and using it responsibly. I view it this way: As a Christian, and in making
    an effort to be a good steward it may take more of my time to do it the right
    way, which would be to ensure that money given in aid to the poor is used
    wisely. It may mean that rather than spending the five minutes time in order
    to write a check to Bobby Joe John Boy that the more helpful thing would be
    to interact with him on a personal level and inquire what his needs are and
    spend one of those precious Saturday afternoons on a shopping trip and delivery
    mission. It may be true also that in dealing with Sally Sue Sheshe that
    giving her cold hard cash might be the best way to address her particular needs.
    As I said, it almost needs to be done on a case to case basis.

    Secondly, regarding this statement:

    ” I don’t hear him calling me to worry about others’ sex lives or whether I’m paying too much in taxes. I hear him calling me to give up my shirt as well as my cloak, to walk another mile, to turn the other cheek, to forgive and love those that least deserve it. I hear Jesus calling us to put love of God and neighbor before the letter of the Mosaic Law, and before the letter of what we might otherwise interpret as a Pauline Law.”

    If Jesus did not intend for us to be concerned about other people’s sex lives
    why do you suppose that Paul wrote letters to churches and appealed to them
    to turn away from those practices and not to live their lives like the “heathen”
    do? By doing so, wasn’t he worrying about the sex lives of others? And didn’t
    Paul appeal to us to model our lives after him? (Which in and of itself, I
    marvel at because he was not perfect like Jesus yet he lived his life in
    such a way that he could claim himself as an example we should follow.)
    Sexually promiscuity was considered in the Bible to be especially vile because
    it was not a sin practiced outside the body but inside the body. You might
    also consider the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, on the one
    hand you wish to take the responsibility of addressing other’s needs, those
    needs of the poor, while ignoring the spiritual needs of those who do not
    live their lives in such a way as to honor the LORD.

    I leave you with this scripture from Paul, NIV:

    “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke
    and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time
    will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit
    their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers
    to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears
    away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”—2 Timothy 4:2-4

    Comment by Jacke — September 16, 2005 @ 6:57 pm

  6. My previous comment hasn’t made it through yet, I see. 🙂 No doubt the
    filter has hung it up. Before I give you my further thoughts, I’d like to
    say thank you, Bob, for the forum you are providing for Christians to
    discuss issues. I also appreciate the opportunities for thought you provide
    in your often thoughtful posts. That said, I have been reflecting further
    on this post.

    A part of what I have been thinking about is this new movement of “progressive”
    Christians. I think it is wonderful that Christians speak and dialog
    together, because the Bible calls us, after all, to edify and build each
    other up in the faith and that is what got me to thinking a little deeper
    about this post.

    You quoted from an article written by Melinda Henneberger at Newsweek, who.
    I assume you agree with. My questions revolve around what the purpose of
    this “Progressive” Christian movement is, Bob. I was of the understanding
    that “Progressive” Christians have grown tired of feeling that they are being
    spoken for by Christian “Conservatives,” at least that is what I gleaned
    from the previous article you had quoted from and which listed your site.
    It seems to me that a large part of what “Progressive” Christians are
    trying to accomplish is to be less judgmental toward gays and toward those
    who believe that abortion is an ethical form of birth control. The reason
    I was thinking about this is that I believe that a Christian should be a
    Christian first and foremost and a “Progressive” or a “Conservative” in a
    secondary role. What I am finding, and it is especially evident in this
    particular post, is “Progressives” passing judgement on “Conservatives” and
    putting their political viewpoints and beliefs ahead of their Christian
    viewpoints and beliefs. “Progressive” Christians seem to have an attitude
    that they are tired of being judged for their support of gay marriage or gays
    as ministers in God’s church, or on the subject of abortion and yet clearly
    this writer, Melinda Henneberger, has generalized all Conservative Christians
    as not being willing to give to the poor as though all Conservative
    Christians use not wanting to reward dependency as an excuse not to give
    charitably to those in need. Does Ms. Henneberger take into account the
    tithes and offerings that these Republican Christians give to their churches
    and which are distributed amongst various charitable missions, children’s
    homes, etc.? I don’t think so. Not only does she not take that into account,
    she also uses a broad brush to assume that all Republicans feel that Bush
    has used tax cuts as some measure of morality? This is poor reasoning and
    only serves to put partisan politics ahead of Christian values and morals.

    If your “Progressive” movement only serves to divide Christians rather than
    unite them, if it is not so much about following Christ as it is about
    justifying the backing of liberal policies which cannot be justified in a
    Christian’s life in the first place, (and I say that because I specifically
    asked your readers to justify their positions and they could not or would not) then you and all “Progressive” Christians are not Christians first, as we ALL should be, but Progressives first and foremost who happen to be Christians. Do you believe that is what Jesus intends?

    I don’t think it was ever the intention of Christians to be labeled as either
    “progressive” or “conservative” but as Christians working toward a mutual
    goal, that of serving and glorifying God. Why are we labeling ourselves
    and arguing amongst ourselves about political issues? Should we not be uniting
    rather than dividing? Should we not all be seeking what God’s will would
    be in these controversial issues? If any of you find yourselves in a
    position wherein you are unable to reconcile a political issue with your
    Christianity would it not be wise to reflect and meditate upon that position
    and ask the hard question: If it cannot be reconciled with my faith, why,
    then, am I supporting it?

    I am an individual Christian, not a Progressive Christian, not a Conservative
    Christian, rather a Christian seeking God’s will and yearning to glorify Him.

    Comment by Jacke — September 16, 2005 @ 9:34 pm

  7. wildwest says:

    “And just imagine if “America” were a *real* Christian nation,
    following Jesus rather than Leviticus. People feeding the hungry
    instead of melting the planet, clothing the naked instead of
    building gated communities, going to their rooms and shutting the
    door to pray rather than in front of everyone around a flagpole.
    We really *would* be city on a hill, shining our light for all
    the world to see.”

    Why do you enclose America in quotation marks, as though it really isn’t
    America?

    Why do you and Bob both insinuate that others are following Leviticus
    instead of Jesus? Are you suggesting that when Jesus said that he did
    not come to abolish the law that he was lying? The law was laid out so
    that man could see his sin, so that man would know he is in need of a
    Savior. I often find the liberal, or progressive, argument lacking
    because you would like to pretend that the rest of the Bible does not
    exist so that you can then claim that Jesus never spoke to a particular
    subject and that nothing else in the Bible is valid EXCEPT the words of
    Jesus. You and others do so to try to feign ignorance of God’s will, in
    my humble opinion. Let’s ignore Paul? Let’s ignore Moses and the other
    prophets? JESUS said in Luke 16 verse 31: “He said to him, ‘If they do
    not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if
    someone rises from the dead.'” 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God
    breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in
    righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every
    good work.” Now, I ask you, what purpose could you possibly have to discount
    every word of the Bible except those written in red? I know the answer, I
    just want to hear your answer.

    A very pertinent difference between “Progressive” Christians and
    “Conservative” Christians is this:

    Conservative Christians did not choose to label themselves as “Conservatives”
    the media labeled them as such. Christians are Christians. You either do
    your best, such as it is, to honor, serve and glorify God or you don’t.
    Progressive Christians, on the other hand, are choosing to label them-
    selves, choosing to separate themselves from their brothers and sisters in
    Christ. Why, for the sake of a political agenda, would you turn your backs
    away from the very people who Christ, himself, has admonished you to serve?
    “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded
    as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials
    exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to
    become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first
    must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
    but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 42-45.

    Honestly, none of us are perfect but to sit in judgement of your own brothers
    and sisters in Christ over something as silly as prayer around a flag pole
    or gated communities seems ridiculous to me. I thought your progressive
    movement was all about tolerance and love, following Jesus, etc. It is
    becoming ever more plain to me that it is about contorting Christianity
    to fit your political agenda, to divide and undermine what the media has
    labeled as the “Conservative” Christian. We are certainly called to
    separate ourselves, we are identified as “a peculiar people,” we are to be
    “in the world but not of the world.”

    I do not think it is God’s intention that we separate from our brothers and
    sisters in Christ by accepting and applying divisive labels to ourselves.
    Our goals should be the same, Jesus was not duplicitous, God is not
    duplicitous, either. “Study to show yourselves approved.”

    I pray that you all have a glorious Sabbath day tomorrow, if that is the
    day you incorporate to worship our Lord. 🙂

    Comment by Jacke — September 17, 2005 @ 1:49 pm

  8. If we follow Christ and He followed Leviticus, don’t we also follow Leviticus?

    Everyone forgets that Christ was obedient to Scripture. If the entirety of his every breath were documented for us to see, we would have to carry our Bibles to church in wheelbarrows. Could it be that His obedience was not recorded in minute detail because obedience has, until recently, been an undisputed given?

    Comment by Anonymous — September 18, 2005 @ 8:19 am

  9. If we follow Christ and He followed Leviticus, do we not also follow Leviticus?

    Why do we forget that Christ was obedient to Scripture? If the entirety of his every breath were documented for us to see, we would have to carry our Bibles to church in wheelbarrows. Could it be that His obedience was not recorded in minute detail because obedience has, until recently, been an undisputed given?

    There is no excuse for disobedience. Only repentance and forgiveness or judgement. Harsh words for a harsh reality.

    Comment by Carol — September 18, 2005 @ 8:21 am

  10. Carol, I think you are on the right track. I just wanted to say that we
    are, since Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins and rose again,
    under a new covenant. A covenant of grace. If Christians, conservative or
    otherwise, were still following the requirements of the old covenant we would
    still be practicing animal sacrifice. We, instead, understand that Jesus
    paid the ultimate sacrifice for us and that we, at that point were bought
    for a price. Our sacrifice under the new covenant is a sacrifice of our
    heart, soul, mind, and spirit. We truly do not belong to ourselves, that
    is why it is important that we keep the main thing, the main thing. What’s
    the main thing? Well, according to Jesus it is to love the Lord your God
    with all your heart, all your strength…(paraphrased, of course) secondarily
    we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. If THE MAIN THING is to love
    God with our all, then, I don’t think he would have intended for politics
    to trump God in our lives and for us to look for ways to make acceptable
    things that are not acceptable to God. You are exactly right when you say:

    “There is no excuse for disobedience. Only repentance and forgiveness or judgement. Harsh words for a harsh reality.”

    We aren’t supposed to judge each other until the Lord returns, yet we
    ALL fail miserably in that sense, don’t you think? Thank God for his
    perfect plan of salvation. 🙂

    Comment by Jacke — September 18, 2005 @ 7:19 pm

  11. If we follow Christ and He followed Leviticus, do we not also follow Leviticus?

    Or Deuternomy?

    If these laws were proposed in our Congress, how many of them would pass? (Congress would, of course, have to substitute Americans for Israelites)

    “Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed.” – Deuteronomy 15:1-2

    “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent.” – Deuteronomy 23:19

    “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the LORD against you, and you would incur guilt.” – Deuteronomy 24:14-15

    When Jesus first announced his mission, he read these words from Isaiah:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19, emphasis mine, but also his, actually

    The fact is, Jesus spoke constantly about taking care of the poor and needy. The United States, on the other hand, is focused mostly on taking care of the well-to-do. As a result, we have the largest gap between rich and poor of all the industrial nations, a gap on par with many third world nations. This is a nation whose obedience to God has always been superficial at best.

    There is no excuse for disobedience.

    Indeed.

    Comment by BruceA — September 18, 2005 @ 10:20 pm

  12. BruceA writes:

    “The fact is, Jesus spoke constantly about taking care of the poor and needy. The United States, on the other hand, is focused mostly on taking care of the well-to-do. As a result, we have the largest gap between rich and poor of all the industrial nations, a gap on par with many third world nations. This is a nation whose obedience to God has always been superficial at best.

    There is no excuse for disobedience.

    Indeed.”

    Yes, it is certainly true that Jesus repeatedly appeals to us to take care
    of the poor and needy, widows and orphans, among us.

    The key thing to note, however, is that Jesus calls on US, individually,
    as followers of Christ and believers to do so. Please provide a SINGLE
    scripture wherein Jesus tells us that we can be absolved individually of
    any responsibility because we pay taxes to CAESAR and that it is now
    CAESAR’S responsibility to take care of the poor and needy????

    I recently heard from a private source on the ground in Louisiana about all
    of the charitable acts being manifested by CHURCHES, the Red Cross and the
    SALVATION ARMY, there. He was careful to point out that he saw no
    relief effort set up in the names of the ACLU, the NAACP, the People for
    the American Way, or the American Atheist Organization making any effort
    to feed the poor or needy in Louisiana. His words:

    “Its the Christian people with love and compassion who do the work. The gripers in Congress should come on down and get in line to pass the water and the ice Are you listening Hillary, Chuck, Teddy and all the sorry loafers we call Senators and Congressmen. They don’t have a clue as to what this life is all about here on the gulf coast.”

    Now, while you are busy pretending that the U.S. Government under the
    leadership of a Republican Administration is doing nothing for the poor and
    needy they are busy helping, aiding and drawing up plans for the rebuilding
    of N.O., making certain that people’s needs are met and making certain that
    they have a roof over their heads. For those who are interested in the facts,
    they can be found. Those who are looking to smear the Republican Party
    and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who happen to support that
    party, will continue to pretend that America, the land in which they work,
    enjoy freedom and prosperity is a mean, evil country which cares nothing about
    anyone but big government and eeeeevvvviiiiilllll corporations. It’s up to
    you. And indeed, we’ll all be judged by the ONE who counts in the end.

    Comment by Jacke — September 19, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  13. I’m not sure how to respond to Jacke’s slanders. If he wants to paint all liberals and progressives with the same brush, I guess it doesn’t matter how I respond.

    But, if I may do a little foolish boasting (a la Paul in 2 Corinthians 11)…

    For the record, I have personally helped rebuild homes after disasters, through both Habitat for Humanity and my church. I’m not speaking as one standing on the sidelines expecting others to do the work.

    For the record, I think both parties in Washington have failed the poor and needy. Yes, I am a registered Democrat, but I don’t think the Democrats have done any better than the Republicans on this issue.

    For the record, I never said the current administration is doing nothing for New Orleans. In fact, in comment #4 above, I stressed that the $60 billion Congress has allocated — yes, the Republican-controlled Congress — is more than a private organization could hope to raise, and that providing funds is one way the government can make a difference that private citizens cannot. I also stressed that the government cannot do it alone.

    That said, I maintain my belief that the United States’ failure to care for its poorest citizens shows the hollowness of claims that it is a Christian nation.

    Comment by BruceA — September 19, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

  14. A nation, though, cannot be “Christian.” Criticizing it for not being a Christian is to completely miss the point. Only individuals can be Christians. And Christians in this country (and outside of it) are all doing much to help the poor, as we’re commanded to do. If there is a political concern about the government not doing enough, that’s a political issue. Complaining that the nation isn’t Christian is equivalent to complaining that my computer isn’t a Christian PC (never mind that it’s Windows, which to some automatically makes it evil.) I don’t want the government to usurp my role to help the less fortunate. I don’t want the government taking money from me that I can use more efficiently and effectively through private means to care for those who need help. This isn’t an anti-government philosophy as much as one informed by my faith. Jesus told ME to help the poor; He didn’t tell me to push that responsibility off on government. Do I pay taxes gladly? Yes. But I don’t think the government is our salvation in matters material.

    Comment by Ron — September 19, 2005 @ 3:34 pm

  15. BruceA, I am not sure how one would respond to Jacke honestly. It seems to me that Jacke reads this blog just to argue to make Jacke feel better about Jacke. I very well may be wrong, but that is how he comes across.

    I am not progressive. I have never claimed to be. I am a Christian. Some consider me to be a Conservative Christian but a Moderate Democrat. I have been called a Liberal and I am fine with that too. Honestly, I don’t take offense because I know the definition.

    While Jacke says that no where in the Bible does it say that we are to give to Caesar and let Caesar take care of the poor … all I hear “Right-Wing” Christians complaining about is tax dollars going to the poor. Welfare. Food Stamps. Medicaid. I have had more discussions and arguments with “Conservative” Christians (self-proclaimed) who were totally against these programs but were just fine with their tax dollars being used for corporate “welfare” and making bombs.

    Honestly, Jacke keeps talking about “Progressives” judging their brothers and sisters in Christ when all I hear from Jacke is his judging of you. Progressives, like other Christians, are just tired of the “Right-Wing” speaking for them. Jacke doesn’t seem to grasp that at all and obviously thinks, like most “Conservative” Christians do that the “Right-Wing” somehow has the lotto holdings on all things Christian.

    When in reality, none of us do.

    Comment by Angel — September 19, 2005 @ 4:50 pm

  16. Hi righties,

    I put “America” in qotation marks because it is actually the United States of America.

    Actually, the idea of government not taxing citizens to help the poor is a good one. The poor won’t waste their money, and I can decide what to do with my own money, including *not* helping the poor if that is my choice. Then only “Christians” who *really* care about the poor will help them. And it will all work out just fine because *all* Christians will be *personally* doing their very best to help the ppor on an *individual* basis, sacrificing *all* their time to determine whether to give every last John Doe or Sally money or job training or counseling or health care as they see best.

    What a wonderful world this would be!

    Comment by wildwest — September 20, 2005 @ 9:15 am

  17. Bruce, I’m not sure what “slanders” you are referring to, and clearly I did not paint all “Progressives” with a broad brush, my wording was “those who” so, unless you are claiming that all “Progressives” are “those who” I don’t know what you mean by that.

    That said, I would like to apologize to you for lumping you in with Bob and the author he quoted, who did, in fact, appear to suggest that all Conservatives are “(im) moral” I did as you suggested and went back to look at your previous remarks, which were, in fact, quite moderate. My points were valid, however they should be applied to only “those who” … just as I stated in my email, if you are not one of those, then I would suggest that you do not take it so personally. My main point, which I hope has not been lost is that Christians should be uniting and edifying each other rather than accepting labels put upon us by the media or adopting labels among ourselves which serve ONLY the purpose of dividing us along political lines.

    Again, my apologies for not taking more care and time to address you as an individual.

    For Angel, if all you hear Conservatives complain about is: “tax dollars going to the poor. Welfare. Food Stamps. Medicaid.” Then I’m not sure that you are reading everything Conservatives say.

    I truly don’t intend to be as confrontational as I sound at times. I have a novel idea! We could pray for each other!

    I think you raised some other valid points and your criticism of me was for the most part fair. Another point I have tried to make and which you may have missed is this (from a previous post):

    ” We aren’t supposed to judge each other until the Lord returns, yet we
    ALL fail miserably in that sense, don’t you think? Thank God for his
    perfect plan of salvation.”

    So, I do feel it is unfair of you to claim that I “keeps talking about “Progressives” judging their brothers and sisters in Christ when all I hear from Jacke is his judging of you.” I have pointed out that we ALL fail miserably at not judging one another. I mean, read your own post. Are YOU not judging me? Have a nice day.

    Comment by Jacke — September 20, 2005 @ 9:55 am

  18. wildwest, where have I given you the impression that I don’t think we should be taxed at all and that none of our tax dollars should go toward aiding the poor? If I have given you that impression then I need to clarify myself.

    I am the daughter of a mother whose sole income is Social Security. I can tell you that the amount of money she receives does not cover all of her expenses. I believe Social Security is here to stay and it would be ridiculous to argue against it, at this point, I view it as a bit of an insurance policy, not as a total means of support. The Bible calls on family members to take care of the widows within the family and if the widow has no family the church is to step in. Now, we need to remember we are talking in strictly Christian terms, not in secular terms.

    Your dripping-with-sarcasm response makes me feel you think I do not want to government to have any part in aiding the poor. Not at all. Further, I feel I have made some very reasonable remarks, please, all of you, don’t try to paint me as though I am just an argumentative, judgmental “right winger” so that you can discount everything I write, that would not be fair and I know you all are of greater intelligence than that, I see it in every post you write. 🙂

    Comment by Jacke — September 20, 2005 @ 10:19 am

  19. I breathe a little easier now, Jacke.

    I am getting a bonus check as we speak. Taxes will be taken out, and I have never been happier to pay taxes than I am this time. I hope the money will go to the poor of New Orleans who really need it, and not to Halliburton, where many fear it might.

    Comment by wildwest — September 20, 2005 @ 10:44 am

  20. wildwest, you do realize that Karl Rove is leading the reconstruction efforts in the gulf, don’t you? Lol. Bet that chaps ya! Tee hee.

    Comment by Jacke — September 20, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

  21. You are very correct, Jacke. Though, I am not one of those Christians that cries “that shalt not judge” everytime someone says something about me. In some ways, we all judge. We judge whether the actions of a person are right or wrong. We judge whether we want to be friends with someone based on the kind of person they are. What I try real hard not to do is make the kind of judgements where I decide you are not a Christian because you don’t agree with me or that someone is going to Hell because I doubt their sincerity. I see a distinction. Does that make sense?

    And, honestly … what I said about most conservatives has been my honest experience with them. One of the most popular political/christian bloggers is La Shawn Barber. Everytime she writes about the poor and welfare programs, I cringe. Even when Bush spoke about sending mobile homes to house the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, she was griping about it claiming most of them never had homes in the first place. She behaves like we should just let the poor starve to death and live at the mercy of the elements — if they do then they will pull themselves up by the bootstraps and succeed. Those that die, will deserve to die.

    Unfortunately, I have met more like her than I have not. It is a shame too. Because you know, I know, we all know — that is not what Jesus would want. Our welfare system is one of the greatest aspects of our country. As good as it is, it should be much better. And, we all know that if we left it up to the individuals and the churches, there wouldn’t be enough time or money or resources to help them all. Goodness knows many of the people on welfare still have to depend on those individuals and churches as well.

    Comment by Angel — September 20, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

  22. You make a lot of sense, Angel and I couldn’t argue with much of what you said.

    I am unfamiliar with the blogger you are speaking of, so she wouldn’t be very popular with me since I have never even heard of her.

    We can all find extremes in our parties. There are those on the extreme right who I probably disagree with as much as those on the extreme left.

    I don’t know that I agree with you that our welfare system doesn’t do enough. Welfare should be a hand up. I liked the legislation that Clinton passed on welfare reform. I also like GW’s ideas on Social Security reform.

    It’s always amazing to me to see the outpouring of help to victims of disasters such as Katrina. You would admit that the outpouring of charitable funds from individuals has been nothing short of miraculous, wouldn’t you?

    In our city, so much was given to the relief efforts in the gulf that our own local shelters and food kitchen’s shelves were becoming bare. Our local news stated that our “kitchen” could not feed a full balanced meal to people. That tells me that there is something right about our society and it is not as bad as some would like to insinuate. After that initial news broadcast nothing else was said about it. That tells me that people got out and restocked those shelves and there was no further need for the media to alert us. America is a generous Nation, the most generous Nation, imo. We have much to be proud of and much for which to be thankful.

    Comment by Jacke — September 20, 2005 @ 8:29 pm

  23. Ron –

    No, I’m not trying to say that this should be a “Christian nation”. No, I’m not trying to say that we should push off our responsibility on the government. What I’m saying is that as Christians we should do whatever we are able, to serve the less fortunate. In a democracy, especially one in which the leaders boast of their Christianity, I think it is appropriate to expect the government to spend money on the poorest citizens. There are things the government can provide that individuals cannot, e.g. low-cost health insurance, housing (it could do a lot better at this that it currently is), mass evacuations and cleanup after major disasters. It’s not either/or. Both individuals and government have a role to play.

    Angel –

    It’s good to hear your perspective. I’m not sure how I would be labeled. To me, conservative and liberal are not necessarily opposites. Conservative means “honoring tradition” and liberal means “promoting freedom”. My theology is pretty liberal, but my actions (according to my wife) are pretty conservative. I usually call myself a progressive Christian, because I don’t feel comfortable in conservative churches. But I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the theological spectrum.

    Jacke –

    In your reply #12 you asked for a scripture reference for absolving us individually of responsibility, then later in the same comment you said, “while you are busy pretending…” (emphasis mine). Since you were replying to my comment, I assumed you were directing these remarks toward me specifically. If not, I apologize.

    I do agree that coming together in unity is better than allowing ourselves to be divided by labels. Still, labels can be a convenient shorthand. For example, I know people whose faith is defined by their opposition to gay rights and abortion. They elevate these two issues above everything else. If I say these people are “religious right,” everybody knows what I am talking about, and I don’t have to use multiple sentences to describe them. On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that no label can accurately describe any of us. Human beings are much too complex to be defined in a couple of words. If that’s what you mean about labels, then I agree.

    Comment by BruceA — September 20, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

  24. Jacke,

    Yeah, that chaps me all right.

    Comment by wildwest — September 21, 2005 @ 5:19 am

  25. BruceA writes:

    “Jacke –

    In your reply #12 you asked for a scripture reference for absolving us individually of responsibility, then later in the same comment you said, “while you are busy pretending…” (emphasis mine). Since you were replying to my comment, I assumed you were directing these remarks toward me specifically. If not, I apologize.”

    I apologized once for lumping you in with others, what do you want a gold star? Lol. 😉

    Comment by Jacke — September 21, 2005 @ 6:37 am

  26. wildwest, per #24 reply:

    Good. 🙂

    Comment by Jacke — September 21, 2005 @ 6:39 am

  27. I agree that welfare should be more of a hand up than a hand out, unfortunately most of the programs that are a hand up tend to be underfunded. I recently got to see first hand some of what goes on through a niece of mine. She applied for daycare assistance. She got a job but couldn’t afford on her income daycare. Daycare assistance would have subsidized the payment. There was a waiting list six months long and if she wasn’t working, she couldn’t be on the waiting list. She couldn’t work without the daycare assistance. It was a no win situation for her, especially since there was no one without a day job in the family to keep the child for her. And, that was the only job she could find in a years time. We have lost two plants around here and she doesn’t have anything but a high school education.

    I think the response to Hurricane Katrina has been wonderful. But we tend to be a very giving people when disaster strikes. A lot of people aren’t that giving when there has been no disaster, at least of the natural kind, and it is just someone down on their luck. If that weren’t the case, maybe we wouldn’t have so many homeless people in our country. Or even so many poor people. I know so many people that could do so much better for themselves if someone gave them a roof over their heads and two thousand dollars to get themselves started. 🙂

    Comment by Angel — September 21, 2005 @ 6:53 am

  28. Angel, that’s exactly why I didn’t like the precedent set by giving the victims of Katrina $2,000.00. Why don’t we give everyone below the poverty line $2,000.00 and a house rent free for 6 months – 2 years, and why stop there!? Wouldn’t it be nice to give them all a car so they can drive to work and back!? If the welfare system meets ALL the needs of the poor, Angel, what incentive is there for them to get an education and go to work? I just don’t see the stopping place. A certain amount of conservatism is a good thing, that is, unless you WANT a socialistic society? :O

    Comment by Jacke — September 21, 2005 @ 4:07 pm

  29. A little liberalism is a good thing, too, Jacke. Where would *you* draw the line?

    Comment by wildwest — September 22, 2005 @ 4:53 am

  30. wildwest:

    Nice deflection.

    I believe I’ve made my thoughts fairly clear, read my posts. Angel, on the other hand brings up other people who she knows who would be able to put $2,000.00 to use. I think I asked some valid questions. Would you like to see the U.S. Government hand every family who falls below the poverty level $2,000.00? Would you like to see the U.S. Government go to all cities, find their homeless population and hand each of them a $2,000.00 check? I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers but I do not like the precedent handing people a $2,000.00 check sets for the future.

    Many liberals are busy looking for one of us “GOsheeP” to disagree with the President on something, anything, well, there you go. I disagree with this plan. As I posted earlier, there are already paper trails showing that some of the recipients of the debit cards, which were passed out in the first days, were using the funds to go to strip clubs. So, here I sit, unable to afford a vacation, myself, funding someone to go to a strip club!? Give me a break, wildwest!

    Comment by Jacke — September 22, 2005 @ 7:07 am

  31. Bruce –
    I agree with you to an extent, and thank you for your clarification. However, I still think the government is too inefficient (due to size and competing consituencies) to be more effective in most endeavors than private individuals and organizations. Relief efforts post-hurricane show the failings of government at all levels; yet relief agencies had provisions staged (I’ve read the Red Cross and others were prevented from moving in by government officials.) And cleanup/care post-disaster should never be focused on the poor, but should be focused on everyone affected. Katrina didn’t pick out the poor areas to wipe out – it hit everyone. Why should the government prioritize along financial class lines?

    In regards to government care for the poor…in my opinion the current structure is not as good as it should be, and it’s wasting money that could be better spent on both poverty relief and other things. How much money have we thrown at the poverty problem without really being effective? We really need to be addressing root causes, not symptoms. That type of government intervention is what I can buy off on. But until the government spends its (I mean, our) money wisely, I can do better to help people individually than I can through my taxes.

    We don’t disagree on the end, just on the means.

    God bless!

    Comment by Ron — September 22, 2005 @ 8:06 am

  32. Ron,

    But Dubya has been trying very hard not to waste tax dollars on the poor by subsidizing the rich. Give him a break if he messes up once, will ya? Geez.

    Jacke,

    Now *that’s* an idea for a groovy big government welfare state! Hand out cash for people to go to strip clubs! Yeah, make love not war and all that, dude! Guess Bush isn’t such a conservative after all. Betcha *this* would never have happened if Strom Thurmond had been elected in ’48!

    Comment by wildwest — September 22, 2005 @ 10:25 am

  33. Nice, wildwest. If you want to go down that trail, I could certainly accommodate you but I don’t think this forum is the place for such partisan debate. Would you be interested in an invitation to a private debate group where all are friends but wage political warfare everyday? I could hook you up, you cool cat, you! 😛

    Comment by Jacke — September 23, 2005 @ 6:01 am

  34. Wildwest –

    What does President Bush have to do with anything I’ve said? I don’t think money spent on the poor is wasted; I do think that it is most efficiently spent in the private sector charities and organizations than by government. Why not go the efficiency route and do more good?

    Frankly, class warfare doesn’t do anything for me. There’s nothing especially moral about being poor or immoral about being wealthy. Morality has to do with a person’s character, not a person’s pocketbook. If people are rich, bully for them. If they’re poor, I’ll do what I can to help. Beating on the rich is tired, old and pathetic.

    Comment by Ron — September 23, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  35. Ron,

    Then I guess the situation in New Orleans is going swimmingly with private charities doing so much of the work. Imagine if the federal government had been there at the start. Things would really be messed up.

    I don’t know how you got onto the class warfare thing. It wasn’t me who said the wealthy were immoral and poor moral. At least I don’t *think* it’s “beating” on them to suggest that a progressive taxation is a good thing because they can afford to pay more than I can. Doting on the rich is getting to be *very* tired, old, and pathetic.

    Jacke,

    You want to sucker me into long conversations just because you like my sense of humor?

    Comment by wildwest — September 23, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

  36. Well, I got the class warfare thing from your assertion that President Bush was subsidizing the rich. That’s class warfare talk insofar as I understand the term. Sorry if I misinterpreted your meaning.

    And I didn’t see anything in your post about progressive taxation (which I am a proponent of, though I think the current tax structure is badly designed.)

    I think doting on the rich would be old and pathetic too if I saw any of it. I don’t have to be pro-rich to think that anti-rich talk is old and tired. I’m pro-people of all classes (and races, and creeds, and political affiliations.) But I’m a pragmatist, and find that being anti-people doesn’t solve problems. Disagree with someone else’s methods? Discuss that. Don’t attack the person with whom you disagree.

    And I didn’t say government has NO role, only that it badly handles the roles it takes on, for the most part. It needs to be fixed. When the Red Cross and other charities staged supplies around New Orleans but were told by local (i.e. Democrats) government to stay out, that’s a government problem. The charities were there, the government kept them out. A liberal, democrat-led government. Not the Federal government. Which, by the way, in the tsunami and hurricanes, did the best of any government level via the military assistance provided by the Navy (and here, the Coast Guard.) FEMA messed up, yes. Absolutely. But some parts of government at the federal level worked well. Nothing at the local level did that I see, at least in LA. Private charities worked the best of all – where they were allowed in.

    Comment by Ron — September 26, 2005 @ 12:32 pm

  37. wildwest, that and yer need of a good butt whoopin’! 😉

    J/K, we’re looking for more liberals to level the playing field a bit. It’s, for the most part a highly intellegent group, not counting me, of course.

    Comment by Jacke — September 26, 2005 @ 5:29 pm

  38. I’ll just note that I’ve discovered through reading lately that these same terms
    and arguments were tossed around in this country in the 1930s. But I know, I
    know. I’m reading James MacGregor Burns, and that colors my thinking. Perhaps I should be reading Paul Johnson. Maybe next time.

    Comment by wildwest — September 27, 2005 @ 8:15 am

  39. The rest of them aren’t clowns like you, Jacke? Then it couldn’t be much fun, could it? 😉

    Comment by wildwest — September 27, 2005 @ 8:16 am

  40. Now, now, wildwest, I represent that remark! :0

    We have a good time for the most part, some very thoughtful discussions, some clowning around, some heated debate. What makes it nice there is that even though we don’t always disagree I don’t think there is a person in the group that wouldn’t fight for another, whether of the same political persuasion or not. In other words, WE’RE FRIENDS. 🙂

    Comment by Jacke — September 27, 2005 @ 11:42 am

  41. COOL!

    Comment by wildwest — September 27, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

  42. Haven’t read through all the comments, I apologize. Just commenting on the original post.

    Jesus calls us to an obedience of -both- the letter and the Spirit of the Law. The issue here is not pitting Christ against the Mosaic Law, the Levitical Law, or a so-called Pauline Law.

    First, if Christianity as presented in the New Testament is in fact “new”, then we have little reason to follow it; that is, it builds on the Old Testament and is not apart from it. We recognize the truth of the New Testament in part due to its continuity with the Old.

    Christ never pits the letter against the spirit or vice versa. What He does do is pit the -true- Law of God against the “laws” of human traditions, which were the -additional- writings and teachings of the scribes and pharisees (now known as the Talmud).

    True, some of the Law has passed away, as it was but shadows and forms of the truth manifested in Christ. Not committing adultery, by way of example, is NOT one of those types of Laws.

    There is no conflict between Spirit and Letter. Can’t have one without the other, can’t “obey” one without the other.

    -Rob

    Comment by Rob French — October 2, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

  43. Bravo! As a non-Christian of Christian upbringing I have always attemped to maintain a Christian pattern of morality about my life, beleiving that you don’t need to worship a cross between folkloric mythology and a 2000 years dead middle eastern man to agree with a lot he said (or what was written that he said).
    It has always dumbfounded me that so many people who actually do define themselves as Christian fall so far outside the parameters of Christian morality themselves, prefering to creativley interperret old testament passages as a vindication of their predjudices against gay people (I’ve read lots of the bible and there is very little said about or against concensual gay relations) than to actually take on the trails of living to the standards of Christian morality themselves.

    Comment by S — November 7, 2005 @ 5:53 am

  44. One other comment, having read some of the other comments.
    I AM a socialist and a socialistic country is what I want. A lot has been said along the lines of ‘the more money I have the more good I can do myself, and better than the government can to’. The truth is, do you?
    How many people can actually keep up with current affairs to know every area that requires spending to engender equality? If the government took and gave nothing and the citizen had full responsibility for giving, only those tradgedies exciting enough to make the evening new would receive any help.
    And I would challenge most people who say they would give more if they were taxed less. The USAs percentage of charity giving to population is woefully low compared to Europe, and Europes woefully below the requirements neccesary to engender world wide equality.
    One final point to the pious, a lot of talk about katrina, but who has given to kashmir, a tragicly poor and conflict torn region that has been all but wiped out by an earthquake. With winter coming and thousands entirely homeless and possesionless. The emount given by the people and governments of the world will ensure that the majority of them die this winter. And still, every US website with, donate to katrina fund links, wheres the compassion for kashmir?
    The Irish government gave the US millions of Euros after katrina, millions of euros to the richest country in the world, what has it given to pakistan? 0.

    Comment by S — November 7, 2005 @ 6:02 am

  45. Americans finally realize the try-before-you-buy works just as well with sex as it does with commodities. Rather than marrying and then shacking up with hot sex coming after the nuptuals, Americans are increasingly putting out before putting on the wedding rings.Women are just as likely as men to get it on before matrimony.
    I think this is just the sign of the times. I mean, we like to test things, try them out, before making a purchase. Why should sex and marriage be any different? The stigma associated with pre-marital sex is dead. Long live free love!

    Comment by Brent — December 27, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

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