August 19, 2011

It's only class warfare when we fight back

I don't think we need any more evidence of that than the response to Warren Buffett's great op-ed. Jon Stewart Highlights Conservative Hypocrisy On "Class Warfare" (VIDEO) | TPM LiveWire. Worth watching both clips, as he really takes apart both the idea that taxing the rich is class warfare, but also the reverse warfare that Fox and others are pushing about the bottom 50% not paying income taxes.

I find this all so disgusting. Everywhere I turn, there appears to be more and more attacks on the poor, and defense of the rich and comfortable. What troubles me the most is how many of them are Christian conservatives who seem to have forgotten just about every aspect of the faith's take on wealth and poverty. Instead, they have transformed Jesus into the patron saint of the SUV driving, gated-community class.

When did Christianity become about protecting the comfortable and chastising the uncomfortable? Obviously, not all do that, as we know from our friend Monk and others. But the the right wing Christians seem to worship Adam Smith more than the Christ they like to talk about.

31 comments:

Bob said...

And many in the bottom half and much lower buy into their crap that lower taxes on the rich will benefit them. They then walk into the voting booth alongside Jesus to vote for the Republican scum.

Joe said...

When did Christianity become about having the government take the property of some and give it to others? Where would I find that in the New Testament?

Streak said...

Yeah, that is a disingenuous question, but you might start with render unto Caesar. Then you might check the NT's challenge to the wealthy--easier for a camel, yada yada. But I doubt you are actually interested.

Bob said...

When did Christianity become about spitting out the talking points of the far right and Fox News??

Joe said...

Streak,

No, it's a legitimate question. One for which I see you have no Biblical answer.

Render unto Caesar does not mean giving the government whatever it wants. The government has a responsibility to do right by its citizens, which does not include taking their money and giving it to others, whether the "others" are bankers, farmers, or poor people. Interesting that our politicians are giving taxpayer funds to all of those people, and many others. And getting kickbacks in the form of "campaign donations" from the wealthier recipients of the tax money, and votes from the poorer ones. Nice game for everyone, except the people paying the bills.

Streak said...

Actually, Joe, you are still being dishonest. So, I will ask it this way. The Bible clearly tells you to take care of the poor. You bitch about your tax money going to help the poor. If we were to get rid of medicaid, Medicare, and any nutrition or food programs, would you and other "Christians" actually make sure that no elderly person died of malnutrition, or no disabled person died of treatable illness, or no child went without either basic nutrition or basic healthcare?

I am guessing the answer is no. You won't guarantee that, but will instead hide behind some vague bullshit about the government taking your money.

Joe said...

Streak,

Where in the Bible can I find instructions for me to take care of the poor?

And if those instructions really are in the Bible, do they apply only to Christians, or to everyone?

Streak said...

Wow. I tell you what, Joe, I am going to be kind and turn this over to Monk and Tony (if they are reading) because if you think that Christians are not supposed to take care of the poor? Well, then you may not be a Christian.

Joe said...

Streak,

LOL! You're going to be kind? OK.

Mrs. Smitty said...

Where in the Bible can I find instructions for me to take care of the poor?

And if those instructions really are in the Bible, do they apply only to Christians, or to everyone?


Are you *really* asking those questions? Like really really, like you either honestly don't know, or actually believe the bible is mute on the topic completely? If it's the former, we can talk. If it's the latter, then please go back to gazing longingly at your wall of autographed Joel Osteen photos.

Streak said...

Smitty, I suspect even Joel Osteen knows that we have an obligation to help the needy. I am not sure that Joe comes from that tradition. His seems to be more of the "I've got mine, you can go screw" tradition. It isn't actually Christianity, however you slice it, but it is a thing. Great for self-centered assholes, btw. And commonly practiced by Republicans, though certainly not all.

Joe said...

Streak,

Why won't YOU answer my questions? I suspect it is because you are ignorant of the actual content of the Bible and have no idea how to answer. But, I see your ignorance has not prevented you from telling Christians what they should do.

Streak said...

Let's just start with this:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
(Matthew 25.35-40 ESV)

Streak said...

Or how about this: Mark 10:21-22 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Streak said...

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

Streak said...

Oh, and this great one that I certainly don't live up to:
Luke 6:27-31
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Streak said...

I fall short on all of these, Joe, including the passages that tell me to care about someone like you--a callous person who seems more like an asshole than a human being. But I don't delude myself into thinking that I am living as I should, nor that I don't have an obligation to those less fortunate than myself.

If you truly think that Christianity doesn't ask you to take care of the poor, then you worship someone other than Jesus.

Joe said...

Streak,

Before I comment, would you mind also answering my second question?

Does this obligation apply to everyone, or only to Christians?

Streak said...

I am not sure that you have actually earned any answers. You have been an ass here, which is annoying.

But I will answer anyway. I think we all, believers, unbelievers, etc., have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate. That is what community is. It is about living in a civilized and compassionate community of people.

Joe said...

Streak,

While some liberals are very much in favor of social programs because they think God requires it, I think you would get a strong objection from many on the Left to the idea that they have any obligation to God whatsoever. Many of them deny God's existence. And many more, some of whom claim to be Christians, would object because they would regard it as mixing church and state.

If you want to pay attention to what you think is an obligation to God to help the poor, and you want to have the laws of the country reflect that obligation, what about the other things God demands of people? Why limit the imposition of God's requirements just to "social programs"? For instance, God prohibits sex outside of heterosexual marriage.(see the New Testament) Why not have laws that reflect God's position on that? And I don't think the answer can be, "Well, that's going too far." If God really requires things of everyone, as you say he does, then you can't just choose those things you like, and ignore the rest.

If I get time, I'll have more comments later on some of the Scripture you referenced.

Streak said...

So this has never been about what the Bible says. This is about your anger at liberals. First it was about the government, then about the absolute insanity that Christians are not called to take care of the poor. When I gave you just a few references on the Christian responsibility to help the poor, you suddenly switch back to your attack on liberals and their lack of biblical inspiration.

I am seriously not terribly interested in this conversation, because you are not, as we suspected from the beginning, interested in any kind of dialogue. You hate liberals, consider them all to be unChristian, and nothing will dissuade you. Perhaps you need to find a blog where they blame the poor for being poor, and obsess about gay sex and extra-marital sex. Not interested here. You have always been free to move on. Perhaps now is the time.

Tony said...

Streak,

How many times have we resolved this same comment thread? Because ya know, all those verses about homosexuality, gay clergy, abortion, flag burning, and women who would dare to serve as pastors, those verses are cut and dry. But the ones about Christians helping the needy, THOSE need interpretation. Yes, I am being pretty sarcastic. It angers me when self-righteousness trumps simple obedience.

And we'll all wait with bated breath to hear Joe's interpretation on those verses you cited. Well, I'm not, I have much, much more important things to do, like visit the sick and shut in at the church I serve, and I have duties later in our associational food pantry. And there is a benevolent issue I have to attend to later today.

*Yes, I'm still reading! :)

Streak said...

Yeah, Tony, this does feel like an old retread. Not sure why we get these people here at the blog, but we do. Perhaps I should just create a faq and direct the fundys that direction.

Glad you are still reading. :)

Smitty said...

Perhaps I should just create a faq and direct the fundys that direction.

Now *this* is an idea with some promise.

Bummed I missed this discussion after my post; I'd say more in response to His Holiness Joe but I don't feel like poking that bear any more. That bear is tired and old and sick and I feel bad for it.

Which makes me a weak-kneed liberal, I'm sure.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Joe said:
"Where in the Bible can I find instructions for me to take care of the poor?

And if those instructions really are in the Bible, do they apply only to Christians, or to everyone?"


Are you asking if the instructions of the Bible apply to non-Christians?

That's like asking if the laws of the United State apply to Canada. If you really think the laws of the Bible apply to everyone, that explains a lot about the crazy right-wing Christians who are running for office these days.


What would you call someone who wants the rules of their religion to apply to everyone?

steves said...

While I know that some Christians fall for this crap, I see it more of a conservative talking point. I guess just because you see some Christians taking this position it doesn't mean that Christianity is responsible. "Christians" that buy into this are going to justify it no matter what you say.

Monk-in-Training said...

I am coming to this discussion late, but I assure you, there are many, many portions of Sacred Scripture that deal with the poor and our responsibility toward them. From the oldest Hebrew inscriptions ever discovered to the Apostolic Father of the Church, the theme is the same. God cares for the least, the last and the lost. In fact, I consider that fact to be one of the 'proofs' (if you want to put it that way) of the Faith, after all, we humans generally don't give a care for anyone outside our own circle, but God does. I am somewhat concerned with Joe's questions, they do not seem possible to me, because even a cursory glance at the Scriptures would seem to answer him in the affirmative.

As I read the Sacred Scriptures I see that it is God, Who invents progressive taxation in requiring more wealthy people to pay more for sacrifices and for passover than their poorer neighbors, God mandated inefficiencies in the gleaning system, and didn't He damage private property by the year of Jubilee? I am pretty sure the Koch brothers wouldn't be too happy about giving it all away and starting over...

I think that one of the issues comes from how we read the Scripture. The Bible doesn't seem to view us as individuals as much as we Americans may understand ourselves. When God speaks to us via the Apostles and in the Hebrew prophets, it is my understanding that the 'you' He speaks to, is most often 'us' and not a single person necessarily. He speaks to communities and cultures demanding justice for the poor. Over and over the Hebrew and Apostolic witness is justice for the poor.

In fact, in the oldest Hebrew inscription yet discovered, the text seems to speak of what appears to be to be a call to social justice. I would submit that the text in question is written to a community of believers, not just to specific individuals.

English translation of the deciphered text:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Psalm 72 echoes some of this text, saying that the King is to care for the poor. We don't have Kings so much now, so you could reasonably insert whatever government your culture has in that slot.

"Justice" is a word that is part of the problem here, I think. It seems to me that we tend to think of it in terms of lawyers, courts, jails and juries, but God's justice is about coming and setting things to right. It is my belief that God's way of justice is about caring for people . If that takes a whole community and our government, well why not? He seemed to want Kings (the government of the time) to care for the poor.

Monk-in-Training said...

And in case you didn't get enough of a sermon in my first comment...


It is my belief that Jesus Himself modeled a life of service to the poor, and how He always was concerned for their welfare. When He began His ministry one of the very first statements He made was in Luke four where He reads from Isaiah "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor", then when asked by John's disciples for His messianic credentials in Matthew 11, His response is "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."

The Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain, and constantly throughout the Gospels, Jesus identifies with the poor and downtrodden of His society. This is why I am interested in the subject, not some new social fad, God's concern for the poor shines through in the Hebrew Scriptures as it does in the Christian Scriptures.

The Hebrew scriptures are full of non efficient methods of running a culture/business. If you actually cleanly harvested your fields you were in violation of the Law. If you took someone's cloak (like he pawned it to you) as collateral for a loan, then you HAD to let him sleep in it.

How did we get so far from this thinking? I believe that the political theories of John Locke are so soaked into our culture that we don't even realize they are not from the Bible. Locke was the son of a well-to-do Puritan lawyer, and was intensely interested in protecting the financial and political rights of his class. God is interested in taking care of His people of ALL classes. Locke's argument was that it was wrong for the "government" to take his money and give it to the poor. The Bible says that ALL things are God's, we are only stewards. Very different viewpoint.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Gospel is about saving souls and inviting people to believe in, and journey with Jesus, but as the brother of the Lord says : James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. I don't think you can separate the two.

leighton said...

The question of what the Bible commands is a red herring from a public policy perspective, but I do think it is perverse to read "Care for the poor" as "Stop anyone but you from caring for the poor."

Streak said...

I think this is an example of bad thinking. I don't know what to call it, but it appears to be a truncated moral equation. I see it in issues like the death penalty, where the only discussion for Christians is whether or not capital punishment is acceptable within the faith at a very theoretical level. Those who think so, usually stop there, and don't ever question how it is applied in this country, or how race and class weigh in. The thought process stops at that "is it acceptable in the best case scenario" and doesn't follow up.

In this case, many Christian conservatives agree that we are to help the poor (Joe seems to be an exception), but get caught up in some theoretical discussion about whether the church or government should be involved. Rick Warren said as much a few weeks ago. Their thinking is focused on who should do it, and biased against the government doing it--but they never walk it out to say, "what would the church do if Medicaid disappeared today? What would they do if Medicare stopped providing healthcare for the elderly?" The question of who should do it, is, as Leighton puts it, a red herring, because there is plenty of need to go around, but also because some of these people simply haven't thought this through.