Wednesday, August 05, 2015

We are Jesus, Not God

"So who made you God?"

I want to ask this when people of my own comfortable socio-economic status argue that this or that liberal policy will just increase dependence on the state among the lower classes. A bright guy like Paul Ryan tries to soften his rhetoric about "makers and takers," but it's still just Social Darwinism: let the weak (lazy, addicted, promiscuous) ones go homeless, go to jail, return to their home countries, whatever, and let the "fittest" keep all their stuff, unburdened by taxes and unbothered by public projects anywhere near their backyards.

[Cartoon posted by Ben Witherington.]
One religious friend of mine opined that we should never have extended the vote to the unpropertied masses, as they just elect politicians who promise the most benefits.  I notice that social Darwinism is bedrock belief among my acquaintances who dislike the real Darwinism. 

But Jesus pointedly doesn't discriminate among the people he helps.   Disciples ask him,  "Who sinned, the blind man or his parents?"  Jesus doesn't care.  Does the victim belong to a despised category (Samaritans, Gentiles, lepers, women, "the unclean")?  Regardless, Jesus touches, heals, nourishes.

Jesus commands us to follow his example.  Jesus says, straight out, that the kingdom of heaven is reserved for those who came to his aid when he was hungry, thirsty, a "stranger" (meaning, an immigrant), naked, sick and in prison.  Asked by disciples when he was ever in such dire straits, he replies, "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Mt 25.45).  No drug tests, photo ids, or means testing required.

Jesus also empowers us to follow his example, so long as we do so in community.  Any "two or three" gathered in his name -- that is, representing Jesus -- have power: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven," he says to his disciples.  (Mt 18:18.  The same story also is applied to Peter alone in 16.19). 

When I've heard politicians and preachers decry how the Supreme Court has threatened "core religious beliefs," I have to wonder what "core" means to them.  Teachings about justice for the poor and caring for the weak is core to both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.  But Jesus is most angry whenever someone presumes to judge another for any breach of ancient purity laws.

I know that free markets encourage innovation, and I know that state-directed economies are stultifying and coercive.   In between, there's a vast range of choices.  (See my blogpost on economist Wilhelm Ropke.) If we support government policies that redistribute a portion of our wealth to others in need, then we can deal with shirkers in some other separate way.  We can do what Jesus would do, and leave judgement to God.  

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