Socialist Jesus

On Facebook I posted an amusing little picture:

A friend of mine responded by saying:

“I think churches are more effective at tending to the needs of people than our bloated gov[ernmen]t is”

‎”It’s the churches’s job” is one of the favorite Christian responses to the idea of social helps, and it’s honestly a very weak answer. The churches of the world are woeful at meeting the needs of the poor for many reasons.

1 – Churches have no means of economic balancing. Churches in very poor communities and cities often have severely limited resources, whereas churches in wealthy communities have great resource, but are often far removed from the greatest area of need. There is simply no means for comprehensive, equal access to aid for all of the nation’s poor. Not even close.

2 – There is no equal standard for determining need and measurement of benefit. It’s all relatively arbitrary and often reflects the personal standards of the people and church involved rather than any sort of external benchmark.

3 – Churches tie aid to their religion. Whether it is subtle or overt, the purpose of aid is not to fulfill a need, but to propagate the religion. The execution of such is very uneven, and the fact is that people who are in need should not have to compromise their own religion or a desire for none in order to receive aid. Not only that, it creates a situation of ins and outs – if you’re in the particular religion, or have an affinity for it, you get aid, but if you’re out, and you don’t want to relate to people of a particular religion, you then don’t have access to aid.

4 – Furthermore, if the churches were really better at it, there would be no issue of need for the government to get involved in it in the first place.  Clearly the level of need far exceeds the church’s ability and/or willingness to address the need on a comprehensive societal level.

While we all criticize the government for moving slowly and being inefficient, the one thing the government is good at is making necessary aid available to all in need, regardless of creed, regardless of the good or bad fortune of geography, regardless of whether you’ve been in need before, or whatever other differentiators churches have no ability to to get around.

The truth is, if Christians wanted the government of the United States to reflect Christian values as a “Christian Nation” then the laws, regulations, and priorities supported by Christians involved in politics would reflect the comprehensive Christian ideals. If the government should be involved in determining who marries who (as opposed to leaving it to the churches and vice versa) then it should be involved in the other ideals as well, including caring for the poor, elderly, widowed and other needy in our country. The Christian Right’s priorities are completely out of whack, and the candidates they support are so far removed from the ideals of Jesus that it’s laughable.

Your comments are welcome.
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15 thoughts on “Socialist Jesus

  1. It’s not the churches’ job…however,it IS the church’s job. Not the organizations (the churches), but the people (the church). Toon, you know that the church is the body of believers but you deliberately used the word referring to organizations established by men. Subtle debate trick, but not too fair.
    Reality is that if the church (us believers) was doing what we are called to do by Jesus, there would be no need for the government to support the elderly, feed the hungry, or house the homeless. We (believers) are individually and collectively responsible, and we have not done our job.
    No political message, just people not being completely obedient to God. 🙂
    Of course, since you don’t believe in God your viewpoint is different. 😦
    btw, He still loves you.

    • It’s not the churches’ job…however,it IS the church’s job. Not the organizations (the churches), but the people (the church). Toon, you know that the church is the body of believers but you deliberately used the word referring to organizations established by men. Subtle debate trick, but not too fair.

      Tut-tut, Rick, who’s being dishonest? Your semantics, which I do understand, are one thing, but when the government doesn’t care what hairs you wish to split. To the government that is looking to fulfill the needs of the many, the “church” is the institution, not the people. And it is the institution to which the needy will go. The building, the office, the administration. If anyone is delving into trickery, it’s you, my man.

      Reality is that if the church (us believers) was doing what we are called to do by Jesus, there would be no need for the government to support the elderly, feed the hungry, or house the homeless. We (believers) are individually and collectively responsible, and we have not done our job.

      Dude, did you read the entire article? The church does not represent all of society. What if someone is in need but will not set foot into a church for one of many possible reasons? What if they are of a different religion that sees yours as heretical and dealings with yours as sinful? Don’t they have a right to their religion too? Who is going to help them in their hour of need? Your answer is typical of the Christian myopia on this topic. It seems you just assume people would come flocking to the church for help when they’re told to.

      And do you not see how slipshod, undemocratic, and unsystematic such a dependence would be? What works in Seattle doesn’t work in Kansas City, Peoria, New Orleans, or Chicago. Do you not see the serious role demographics play in this issue? Do you not see how terribly inadequate the church is in this manner? What motivation would anyone interested in helping the cause of the poor have in giving it over to the church?

      What you and so many other Christians miss in this is: the rhetoric you use to excuse your lack of support for social programs is being used by the right wing to cut those programs in order to enrich the wealthiest Americans with tax cuts. They are not interested in anyone’s well being, only in improving their bottom line. They don’t actually believe the church can comprehensively address the problem of poverty in this country. They just don’t want to help deal with it themselves.

      And they’re trying to define your ideals and use your vote to do it.

      No political message, just people not being completely obedient to God. 🙂

      Of course – but again, completely missing the fact that we’re a much more diverse society, and that the structure and population clusters that make up society are far more complex than a simple “let the church do it” answer can solve.

      Of course, since you don’t believe in God your viewpoint is different.:-(
      btw, He still loves you.

      I’ve got news for you, Rick – when I still believed in your god, my viewpoint was different. I was disgusted with the people of my own faith for buying into the right-wing ideology and the hypocrisy of wanting my government to reflect my ideals when it came to sex, but not when it came to money or the poor. It’s downright Pharasiacal.

      • Anthony — your reply gets a big D’OH!!!
        You didn’t read what I said, you replied to what you thought someone who goes to church as an institution would say. What I said was that we (the church) have not done what Jesus told us to do. That’s right, Christians have not done what Jesus told us to do. We have abdicated our responsibility and the government has stepped in to fill the vacuum. It doesn’t matter if someone who needs help agrees with my theology, my responsibility is to help. btw, your assumption that they would be required to come to me for help is typical of the non-believer. I am supposed to go to them and give them help. If they refuse I can’t force them, but my responsibility is to try to help. Period. No quid pro quo, no indoctrination, just love in action. If you find that offensive, and based on your answer you do, then you don’t have love for your fellow man.
        And “dishonest”??? I did not use the word. I consider that an enormous, dismissive insult and would not say that about you.
        Oh, yeah…who said I don’t support social programs? You did, NOT ME! Please do not put words in my mouth.
        One more thing – obviously a program for Atlanta directed from Seattle wouldn’t work as well as one handled locally (another D’oh!). That is why the local believers should get off their collective posteriors and get out and try to help those who need help.

      • Anthony — your reply gets a big D’OH!!!

        Wrong. Period. You aren’t paying attention, Rick. And I guess I don’t have to be respectful about it even.

        You didn’t read what I said, you replied to what you thought someone who goes to church as an institution would say. What I said was that we (the church) have not done what Jesus told us to do.

        Yeah, no duh. That’s what I said. I also said it was irrelevant. I also said the church won’t, wouldn’t and can’t, for many reasons.

        That’s right, Christians have not done what Jesus told us to do. We have abdicated our responsibility and the government has stepped in to fill the vacuum.

        Now you’re overstepping your bounds and blatantly ignoring the other points I made in my post and in my comment.

        It doesn’t matter if someone who needs help agrees with my theology, my responsibility is to help. btw, your assumption that they would be required to come to me for help is typical of the non-believer. I am supposed to go to them and give them help. If they refuse I can’t force them, but my responsibility is to try to help. Period. No quid pro quo, no indoctrination, just love in action. If you find that offensive, and based on your answer you do, then you don’t have love for your fellow man.

        Dude, you are missing the point. Who said anything about what YOU think of their belief? That’s irrelevant. It’s about their belief. If they refuse because of what you represent, that’s their right to do so. Why should they even have to make that choice? So the government abdicates caring for its people to a particular religious group. A family in need is offended by your religion and can’t bring themselves to deny their own religious beliefs and therefore refuse your help. So they’re out of luck, period. Too bad for them. You see, Rick, we are not a *Christian* society – we are a diverse society with a poverty problem (magnified in this current economy) that cuts across creed, color, and culture. The church cannot meet these problems in a comprehensive way. Being a societal issue, it needs a complex system that both provides help equally to all in need and is equipped to manage those needs on a local level. There is no way the church can possibly meet that level of need comprehensively.

        And “dishonest”??? I did not use the word. I consider that an enormous, dismissive insult and would not say that about you.

        Did you read what you wrote? Here, let me reproduce it here:

        you know that the church is the body of believers but you deliberately used the word referring to organizations established by men. Subtle debate trick, but not too fair.

        Trick? Deliberately? Tell me how that doesn’t directly question my honesty in addressing the point. I don’t think you can.

        Now, to actually deal with what was being discussed – you made the distinction between the “church” as in the Body of Christ and the Church as a human institution – your point being that it was up to the church as the singular spiritual entity, because that’s the *real* church. The reason that’s dishonest is that you and I both know that such a spiritual distinction is completely irrelevant to the temporal necessities of meeting temporal needs, especially for those who adhere to the Bush Administration’s concept of providing government funding for faith-based institutions to take on the work of meeting the needs of the impoverished. Anyway, the rest of it is above.

        Oh, yeah…who said I don’t support social programs? You did, NOT ME! Please do not put words in my mouth.

        I thought it was clear I meant government funded social programs – and support from a political perspective, since that’s what the entire conversation is about. Sorry if that was not the case, but that’s what I meant.

        One more thing – obviously a program for Atlanta directed from Seattle wouldn’t work as well as one handled locally (another D’oh!).

        Not so much – see above in this post. There is no way to properly administrate a fair benchmarked program depending on localized religious institutions of uneven resource and locally random demographics.

        That is why the local believers should get off their collective posteriors and get out and try to help those who need help.

        So the nation’s impoverished are supposed to wait around for the church to get its collective act together? Like it or not, the church is made up of churches, with uneven leadership, talent, membership, priorities, etc. They are notoriously inefficient. Most churches find that less than 20% of the membership do nearly all of the ministry work. Churches go up and down in attendance and in resources. They are, as a whole, not remotely stable enough to provide comprehensive, nationwide aid to everyone who might have a need. That’s why the government *has* to lead this effort. It’s the only way to provide help without depending on the vagaries of the faith community.

      • oh well, you really aren’t listening. The word that comes to mind to describe your style would be pontificating (ironic etymology on that one, eh?). I do not disagree with your premise that more needs to be done, nor that the current system is broken. I was only pointing out that we Christians have not done what we are called to do. However, if one looks a charitable giving, the people who identify themselves as “Christian” give more than those who do not identify themselves that way. And the largest charitable organization is -wait for it- Lutheran. hmm…

        And since when is pointing out your “not fair” debate technique questions your honesty? You knew the difference between the two words and chose to ignore it (and thereby pander to your audience) in order to make a point. I stand by my assessment of not fair.

        Awaiting your polemic 😉

      • oh well, you really aren’t listening. The word that comes to mind to describe your style would be pontificating (ironic etymology on that one, eh?).

        Oh really? Interesting. I have a feeling that with you it’s all about that upon which one pontificates. After all, this is okay:

        You have set yourself up as your own god, in charge of your own world. You said “I think it reprehensible that your god would…” The reality is that God doesn’t need your approval, and since He is God and we are not, we aren’t qualified to offer criticism of what He does. I am sorry for you that you are so blinded by what you call reason and logic, that you refuse to see my life as evidence of God’s hand. I am also sorry that you cannot see your own filter and its effects on what you conclude about life. You have allowed your heart to be hardened to the spiritual truths offered by God. Unfortunately, that is completely your choice…it’s called free will, and He allows you to go there if you want.

        But my missives are “pontificating.”

        Poppycock.

        I do not disagree with your premise that more needs to be done, nor that the current system is broken. I was only pointing out that we Christians have not done what we are called to do. However, if one looks a charitable giving, the people who identify themselves as “Christian” give more than those who do not identify themselves that way. And the largest charitable organization is -wait for it- Lutheran. hmm…

        Interesting – so Christians give more than anyone else, yet they are not doing what they’re called to do? You don’t think it’s more that the church (as a body *or* as an institution) is incapable of handling a complex, nationwide problem such as this? Perish the thought.

        And since when is pointing out your “not fair” debate technique questions your honesty? You knew the difference between the two words and chose to ignore it (and thereby pander to your audience) in order to make a point. I stand by my assessment of not fair.

        Go ahead. Stand on what you wish. You questioned my honesty be implying that I twisted the conversation, when I did no such thing. I explained *why* I chose the words I did, mostly because the government, who is supposed to support faith-based programs, isn’t very interested in the metaphysical aspects of Christian identification with the savior as his bride. You’ve ignored that twice now.

        You have gotten hung up on my style and on this one point and refused to address any of my other assertions. You’re focusing on the style and using that to ignore the substance. Much as you will deny it, I’m listening very carefully. There’s little on offer to hear, unfortunately.

        Awaiting your polemic 😉

        Translation: If I insult the manner in which you write, I won’t have to address the substance of the argument.

      • Toon — you said “Christians give more than anyone else, yet they are not doing what they’re called to do?”…my answer is yup, you were listening when I said that. Good.
        And it is obvious that the institution of the church cannot handle the situation (duh!)… and that is also what I am saying: because it is not being handled very well, the government has stepped into the breach. You were listening, but you tried to make it sound like a put-down when you agreed.
        As to pontificating, you know we both do it, all you have to do is admit it. (no poppycock there)
        Oh, yeah and the difference between the two meanings of “church”? You did know, and you did choose to use the word the way you used it. It was done in a subtle manner and it was not fair. If you feel that is “deceptive”, then the interpretation is yours, not mine. To me, “not fair” does not equal “deceptive”.

        My comment on polemic is, I think, completely valid. The word encapsulates your whole writing style:

        Definition of POLEMIC [from Webster]
        a : an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another
        b : the art or practice of disputation or controversy —usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

        No insult, just an observation of fact. You ARE agressive when you refute what others say. You do attack others opinions & principles in your writings. And you love disputes and controversy.

        btw…if there is an insult,it would be your opinion about what I have to say:
        “There’s little on offer to hear”
        Thank you, my friend for the positive and encouraging manner in which you assess my thoughts, comments, and observations. That is certainly the kind of thinking that will draw more people to participate in your blog. Yup, you bet that will bring them in – tell them that what they have to say is not worth hearing. You are so much more positive since you stopped being a Christian. A real joy to interact with. A paragon of virtuous communication. Thank you again. I can almost feel the love. Almost.

        **SIGH**

      • and that is also what I am saying: because it is not being handled very well, the government has stepped into the breach. You were listening, but you tried to make it sound like a put-down when you agreed.

        I was making a quantitative statement. It’s not that the government steps into the breach because the church (either interpretation) isn’t do a job it can do, it’s because it cannot, for many reasons mentioned already, which you still refuse to address.

        As to pontificating, you know we both do it, all you have to do is admit it. (no poppycock there)

        Then don’t complain about it 🙂 You’re quite good at making pronouncements. I think a careful reading will show you tend to resort to that when your arguments run out of steam or into a corner.

        Oh, yeah and the difference between the two meanings of “church”? You did know, and you did choose to use the word the way you used it. It was done in a subtle manner and it was not fair. If you feel that is “deceptive”, then the interpretation is yours, not mine. To me, “not fair” does not equal “deceptive”.

        Well, I will just give you enough credit to say you misunderstood – but having explained it at least twice, you’re kind of running out of excuses. I *did* choose it deliberately – not to be deceptive, but because it is not the metaphysical, overarching “body of christ” that is the global church that will be administrating such work. It is the institution – rather, the institutions, thousands of individual churches of uneven resources, capabilities, priorities, etc. One might suspect you’re willfully ignoring my explanation (which I’d bet money is clear enough for most readers) in order to carry on an argument you’ve become enamored with for some reason.

        My comment on polemic is, I think, completely valid. The word encapsulates your whole writing style:

        Definition of POLEMIC [from Webster]
        a : an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another
        b : the art or practice of disputation or controversy —usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

        I guess I’d have to disagree. This is about what I used to believe. This is for me. It’s a deep exploration of so many details of what I once espoused. It is a critique of the general Christian belief system, perhaps a refutation of as well. An attack? I guess you could characterize it that way, if a hard look feels threatening to you.

        No insult, just an observation of fact. You ARE agressive when you refute what others say. You do attack others opinions & principles in your writings. And you love disputes and controversy.

        Not far off the mark. I am aggressive – though I suppose I prefer the word persistent, perhaps stubborn. I’m pretty sure I warned you right up front 🙂 I think I go out of my way to back up what I write. I don’t mind being called on it when I don’t – but I think I’m reasonably careful. I could be wrong about that. Or you could be sensitive 🙂

        btw…if there is an insult,it would be your opinion about what I have to say:
        “There’s little on offer to hear”
        Thank you, my friend for the positive and encouraging manner in which you assess my thoughts, comments, and observations. That is certainly the kind of thinking that will draw more people to participate in your blog. Yup, you bet that will bring them in – tell them that what they have to say is not worth hearing. You are so much more positive since you stopped being a Christian. A real joy to interact with. A paragon of virtuous communication. Thank you again. I can almost feel the love. Almost.

        LOL – quit whining 🙂 I said that for a reason – because you were ignoring what I wrote and casting aspersions about my methodology and motivation in this post. You ignored my explanations and plowed right on through with your point – even though I’d countered it (to my satisfaction, of course) – you added nothing to the argument to meet that counter. If it implied that I think that in relation to all of your participation, then I’m sorry. I meant no general insult. I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t mean a mild insult to your tack in this particular conversation. Not the most skillful way to banter, I know. Just human.

        The truth is, Rick, I *am* more positive than before – in many ways. However, we’re interacting over a set of issues about which I’ve made a lot of negative judgments (I guess that’s the best way of saying it) and given our styles, we’re bound to wrangle.

        You’re not always so squeaky clean in your methodology either. I’d bet you won’t argue that point either 🙂

        As far as bringing them in – what does it matter? I have no onus on me to win people over. This is my exercise. I appreciate the challenge and the conversation, very much so. However, I will not – I believe I cannot – beat around the bush. If I think your argument is strong, I’ll tell you. If I think it’s weak, I’ll tell you. If I think you aren’t listening, I’ll tell you. I don’t imagine you operate much the same.

        **SIGH**

        Hey, that’s mine. Get your own condescending exasperation indicator. 😉

      • **sigh**
        see, you don’t really read carefully…you use *sigh*, where I said **sigh**
        but you did get the humorous intent. made you smile
        🙂

      • **sigh**
        see, you don’t really read carefully…you use *sigh*, where I said **sigh**

        LOL – oh, right, my bad 🙂

        but you did get the humorous intent. made you smile 🙂

        You did 🙂

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