Thursday, December 18, 2008

I deserve nothing, but I totally deserve to keep my money.

I had a recent thought about the connection between conservative Christians and the horror felt over a concept of "spreading the wealth." It's a generalization, yes, but one sparked by the recent US presidential election.

In many cases, I think we can say that conservative Christians are also Republicans, and also felt rather angry over the response to the infamous question from Joe the Plumber: how Obama wanted to "spread the wealth" and all that.

From what I've seen, the conservative Christian theology tells you that you deserve nothing more than to simply go to hell, but Jesus took the punishment you deserved, suffering the horrible fate that you deserve, all so you can go to heaven -- a place that you really don't deserve. Your good works, no matter what they are, earn you nothing. If you're really conservative, they're nothing more than "filthy rags," unless one has Jesus.

Yet much of the anger I saw in terms of Obama's comments was that Obama was taking their hard-earned money and giving it to people who did not earn it.

I'm wondering if that anger is a backlash against the theology that teaches someone they deserve to be tormented eternally, that they are filthy disgusting creatures in God's sight and can do nothing to remove that filth on their own. That any good works they do are from God, and yet anything bad they do is their own personal responsibility. Maybe there's a latent sense of injustice over that, which then translates into another sphere such as finances? Even though "spreading the wealth" somewhat echoes the concept of grace, which gives mercy and help to those who deserve it the least.

Especially when looking at those who did favor Obama's tax plan, which placed a higher burden on the wealthy, and wants a safety net for the poor and unfortunate. Many supporters of Obama would say that good works would count for something in the afterlife, that we do deserve good things in life.

Like I said, this is a generalization. Not every Republican would feel that no one deserves anything good, nor would every Democrat feel that we're all good people. But in watching how Sarah Palin motivated her crowd -- much of whom were conservative Christians -- and the words she used, it makes me wonder.

5 comments:

societyvs said...

"Maybe there's a latent sense of injustice over that, which then translates into another sphere such as finances? Even though "spreading the wealth" somewhat echoes the concept of grace, which gives mercy and help to those who deserve it the least." (OSS)

It's ironic to say the least - those who glory about being saved by grace cannot also save by grace. Makes me lean to the left a lot I can tell you that.

I think this is what I want to get at also - how someones theology does effect their real life - and if this is true (the blog) - then we are onto something important for churches to address (Luke - we need a skit for this).

I find the right wing agenda useless - and not very fair to the poorer aspects of society (or there is way less concern). I think those that see a Jesus who cares for the 'poor' in those gospels - have a tougher time not being gracious in all aspects of their life.

I am not American...I am un-American...I am a lowly Canadian in a place with these 'gracious' systems in place - and I thank God my taxes help people in need (and society in general).

Pastor Bob said...

In Jesus' day caring for the poor was a complicated thing, just as it is today. One gets the impression from the Gospels and the Torah that caring for the poor was an individual thing, like not cutting the grain at the edge of a field. This is simpler in an agrarian society as the poor live in the same communities with the more wealthy.

But Roman society in Jesus' day was not just agrarian it was also urban. And if a Roman emperor failed to feed the poor of Roman he might soon find himself dead. So sharing the wealth was also a government operation in that day.

The early Church it seems shared the wealth within the Church as we can see both in Acts and in some of Paul's letters.

So how to apply all of this today? One could make the argument that non government organizations including churches did a much better job after Katrina. I don't think any of us would argue that the government shouldn't have been involved and done a much better job.

As to the question of how to make sure all have food, shelter, education, health care, etc. that I think is a political/economic question. But the Bible is very clear that the poor should be fed and sheltered, (health care being rudementary in those days and education not universal).

Now personally I'm an Evangelical. For that matter I'm a Calvinist. I don't think anyone will do a perfect job of making sure all have what they need to live and thrive today. But I'm willing to consider a variety of options, including the government taxing people to make sure all eat, etc. What the government should do with the money is up for another political debate.

Oh, and I rather like Obama's plan to lift the cap on Social Security payments on salaries. It might take a burden off my children if those making a lot of money kicked in. I'm not entirely sure what one needs more that $100,000.00 a year for anyway and I live on a lot less. Pastor's salary, you know.

I don't think this makes me a liberal, a conservative or a socialist. I'm just trying to be Biblical. The poor get fed. How that happens today is a matter of debate, not if.

Pastor Bob

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**I find the right wing agenda useless - and not very fair to the poorer aspects of society (or there is way less concern). I think those that see a Jesus who cares for the 'poor' in those gospels - have a tougher time not being gracious in all aspects of their life.**

For me, what it also comes down to is that I find in the right-wing agenda an impression that if only those poor people would put some effort into it, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they wouldn't be where they are. It's completely ignoring the fact that someone born to the middle-class will have a much easier time bootstraping it compared to someone who is poor. Where you live, how you're raised, the education you have access to, your peers -- all of that factors into the level of success we experience. It's connected.

Pastor Bob,

**But I'm willing to consider a variety of options, including the government taxing people to make sure all eat, etc. What the government should do with the money is up for another political debate.**

As am I. The thing I like about government help is that it's a "fixed" help. You get a set amount per month. Whereas with personal contributions, that can vary month by month based on people's inclination, them remembering to donate, and their financial situation.

It just fascinated me watching Palin play on the aspect of the people's concept of deserving their money, and the government taking that away. Since much of her audience was made up of those following a theology that says God's grace is given, not earned. When someone is constantly told what not only did they not earn, but didn't even deserve, I would think that would create some negative feelings, and maybe those negative feelings just poured out in terms of the financial aspect.

Pastor Bob said...

I hate to say it but government help isn't what it used to be. And furthermore some of it makes no sense to the point of tragicomedy.

Trying to get SSI without help is a study in futility. They always turn you down the first time. I know. I spent a year on disability. Fortunately my insurance company had an agency that fought with Social Security. Of course, my insurance company wanted money back from SSI.

I've taken people to the welfare office a variety of times over my years of ministry. Going to the state welfare office, whatever you want to call it, can be humiliating, (because of the behavior of the staff) frustrating, (because you have to earn almost nothing to get help) and then there is the job thing and limits on aid they put out in the late 1990's.

The strangest experience I've ever had was taking a woman who was 8 months pregnant in to get medicaid and WIC. She came out laughing and shaking her head. They wanted proof that she was pregnant before they would give her aid. I suspect their rules said she had to no matter how pregnant she might be. She had to have proof from her doctor which ruled out the local Planned Parenthood. Now all she needed to find was a doctor who would see her when she had no money . . .

Also you have to have an address to get aid. This is problematical for the homeless person although I hear some shelters will let you use their addresses as a home address until you get an apartment.

All of which is to say not that we should go to nonprofits to do the job as it would be overwhelming. Rather I think the system needs a drastic makeover.

I have no problem paying taxes to help the poor. I just want it done better.

Pastor Bob

OneSmallStep said...

Pastor Bob,

These situations totally aren't comparable, but what you described sounds like my latest bout of "tech support" from a computer company that I recently purchased a computer from.

**Going to the state welfare office, whatever you want to call it, can be humiliating, (because of the behavior of the staff) frustrating, (because you have to earn almost nothing to get help) and then there is the job thing and limits on aid they put out in the late 1990's.**

This is one of the things I don't understand about the aspect of "welfare queens," or this fear that if there's welfare available, it convinces people to not get jobs. I have no doubt that some do abuse the aspect of welfare in order to not work. But surely the majority aren't happy to be on welfare, and would rather be supporting themselves, than be subjecting to those circumstances.