Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Nevertheless ..."

OK ... if you're sick of hearing about my HuffPost piece on Rick Warren then skip this one. But the comments are coming up on 700 and it really IS a fascinating exercise in public theology ... and managing it wasn't on my Easter Week agenda....

And ... as my rector would say ... "Nevertheless ..."

Here's the comment I just posted in response to yet-another commenter taking me to task for "mis-reading" Matthew 20 & 25 to be about "wealth distribution."

I'm bemused by the projection onto this post the idea that it promotes "wealth redistribution"

Let me make it really, really, REALLY clear: It. Does. Not.

My point in using the parables from Matthew is not that God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or Ruach or whoever) favors a particular economic solution to the problems of poverty. My point is that God's preferential option for the poor calls us to examine all our preconceived ideas about what is "fair" and trumps them with what is "generous."

And my issue with Rick Warren's ABC interview is not that he isn't entitled to his interpretation of Scripture -- because he most certainly is -- but to challenge the idea that his interpretation and his alone speaks for all Christians. Because it does not.

Critique my position all you want. But kindly critique what I've written ... not what you project onto what I've written. (Thanks for taking time to comment ... fascinating exercise in public theology going on here!)

And then ... if you're in the mood or have some time to kill ... go check it out and comment yourself. Seriously!


Mark Crain said...

I think the real crux of the argument is that President Obama believes it is his job to ensure that the wealth is, in his words, "spread around." As Christians, we believe in charity as being one of the most Godly things we can do in this world. What kills me that people and politicians (they can be mutually exclusive) who scream about "separation of church and state" will use a faith-based argument to support their ideas for "charitable" wealth redistribution. Can we just get a consistant opinion? How about we take it upon ourselves, as Christians, to do the works which God has set on our hearts to do? If someone doesn't want to participate, they will have to take that up with God, not the DoJ or the White House. We should not force them to share in our values of charity through taxation.

MarkBrunson said...

The problem is, according to Acts and the Ananias and Sapphira story, you don't have to give over your wealth to the community, but, if you don't, you aren't part of that community, i.e. - Christian. You really can't escape that story. They lie about it and lose their lives . . . that's how serious it is. They didn't have to. They could've stayed out of the communal Christian life, but they wanted - as most modern "christians," including me, do - their private comfort and Christian transformation.

We wax poetic about Christ's death and resurrection - oh! we love that part! - and how we, too, are willing to die and be resurrected. He took the sting from Death!!!!

Yeah, well how about the sting from poverty, begging, living on others charity - all of which He did while alive? We don't like that part so much, do we? We're more afraid - and, yes, I say "we," no matter accusations of arrogance - we are more afraid of poverty, of material lack, than death! We spend more time looking for ways to increase our accounts than our souls. When there's even an argument about economic systems when faith discussions come about, it means we don't have faith. Even in the most liberal interpretation - "special option for the poor" - we never take the logical step of saying "Maybe God wants us to be poor!" Heaven forfend! No . . . you see . . . God wants me to earn and have private property so that I can . . . help the poor! (Yeah. That's the ticket)." See, if nobody owns anything, then everything is available to everyone - "stuff" doesn't go away because it isn't owned.

Conversely, St. Francis taught that if anyone owns anything, then that is his god and takes his worship. If there's any "economy" of God it's "Here's everything, including Me, and all of you, and I share it without cost. Go and do likewise." God's "economy" is no economy.

For Christians, in this case, it isn't about the economy, stupid.

Patricia Brush said...

Mark's comment is a good example of the lack of a Christian "hive-mind". I will agree that many Christians believe what you wrote about Charity, but many Christians believe that the Biblical imperative to challenge and change structures and systems so that the poor are not unnecessarily created is of equal or greater importance. Doing "Charity", in the current sense of the word, only makes the giver feel better and it should just be a stop gap measure. Changing structures for the better makes a very real difference in people's lives.

uffda51 said...

"Spread around" is a figure of speech. It means we can't allow Mitt Romney and others like him to hide their money in the Cayman Islands, become even richer off carried interest, and pay a Federal tax rate of 13.9, while our schools and infrastructure crumble, homes are foreclosed, people are denied healthcare, people go hungry, the justice system is unjust, corporations are considered to be people and money is considered to be speech, we wage wars of occupation, etc. We used to understand the idea of the "common good" in this country.

Trickle-down economics is voodoo economics, as we have always known. Unions and working people are not the problem. The problem is a poorly enforced tax code written by and for the 1%. And it's always those who label taxation as charity, and government as "the other," as if we weren't a self-governing people, who believe that the worm can never turn. They will never be one of those who loses a job, declares bankruptcy, or suffers a medical catastrophe. But they might win the lottery someday in the future and thus will gladly vote against their own economic interests today, especially if it means LGBT persons can’t marry.

We are repeatedly told that Wise Use (read: environmental degradation) is God's will, that God wants us armed with guns in church, and that wealth is a sign of favor by God, among other things. Pardon us for pointing out the actual sayings attributed to Jesus, which show his concern for the poor, and bringing our deeply held values into the voting booth.

M. C. Rain said...

The story of Ananias and Sapphira has also been interpreted as being a parable about the need to be honest with God. They wanted to receive the same credit as Barnabas, who sold his land to give the proceeds to the apostles, while keeping some of the proceeds for themselves. This made them hypocrites on a promise to God. That is why they were both struck down without opportunity for repentance.

The way that you get into heaven is by doing all things according to His will and for His glory alone. If he tells you to sell everything you own, live in a communal environment, and give the money to charity, you should do it and accept no praise for that action. All glory is to be to God. Ananias and Sapphira wanted glory for themselves, unlike Barnabas.

Also, the "communal Christian life" is a human invention. The first Christians believed in communal living, but He said nothing about having to give up everything in order to be closer to God. Jesus commanded us to give when asked by someone who needs. Matthew 5 And if we are going to get technical, within the same book and chapter, he refers to divorce being allowed only if SHE is unchaste. That seems to say that he believed that divorce can only involve a man and a woman. If that is true, than it is not a far jump to say that since divorce ends marriage, only men and women can be married. That is a different discussion, but it is the can of worms that can be opened by interpreting the intensions of God.

Speaking of the words of Jesus, he said this:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17 Seems to contradict the belief that many Christians have that the Bible wants us to challenge and change structures. Not even Jesus Christ himself came to abolish the law. He lived within it.

Also, saying that "we cannot allow" means that you are passing judgment on someone. Commandment 10: Thou shall not covet. In the words of Jesus:
Matthew 7:2-5 declares, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.