In God (Not Government) We Trust

I find it curious that many of the people who argue for removing the Ten Commandments from courthouses and outlawing nativity scenes from in front of city halls are some of the same ones who use an appeal to my Christian faith when trying to persuade me to approve certain other progressive agendas. “What would Jesus do?” isn’t just a bumper sticker anymore, it seems to be the newest battle cry for liberals looking to sway Christian conservatives into gaining an appreciation of government-funded social programs.

I’m familiar with several different translations of the Bible, and have spent much of my adult life studying the history and background of the different source materials and interpretations, yet, I can’t quite figure out how the political left reads “love thy neighbor as thyself”, and turns it into a call for more government welfare. I’ve read the parable of the Good Samaritan dozens of times, but not once did it make me think, “Hmmm, perhaps the government should have had more cops patrolling the road to Jericho.” And not once during Christmas Eve service did I ever hear a sermon suggest that, “If Bethlehem had universal healthcare, Jesus wouldn’t have to have been born in a manger.”

Yet time and time again, in conversations dealing with a number of different political topics, I have someone quote me scripture in supposed support of their argument. “You should support a progressive tax structure, since wasn’t it Jesus who said, ‘It’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God’?" The problem with this line of thinking is that it bastardizes the initial message. It perceives specific moral responsibilities from the general teachings of Christ, then manipulates the lesson into fallacious support of a completely unrelated course of action.

If the Bible were meant for that purpose, the story of the Prodigal Son would have read something like this…

Luke 15:11-21 of the NLAT (New Liberal Activist Translation) Bible “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So the man divided his property between them. After paying the appropriate inheritance taxes, the younger son got together all he had and set off for a distant country, and there squandered all his money. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine due to global warming and he began to be in need. So he went to sign up for government assistance, but since he had not filled out the proper immigration forms, he was not eligible for food stamps. When he had reached his breaking point, he said to himself, “My father’s workers are unionized, and because of this they all have food to spare, I will set out and go back to my father and say to him 'Father, the government failed to subsidize crops and the land owners refused to support the working class and as a result have created much suffering, certainly your God would want you to share your abundance.'" So he went back to his father. But, while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion and said “Capitalism has failed the people of that country, but you are still worthy to be called my son…”

Yet, somehow, I don’t recall reading about anyone getting that type of interpretation out of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and for good reason. The Gospels speak to a personal relationship with Jesus and define moral responsibilities on an individual level.

This doesn’t mean that the government can’t offer social programs, but it does remind us that we cannot simply delegate our ethical and moral responsibilities off to some faceless government agency. Jesus came to Earth to give us a personal relationship with his heavenly father. Apparently, God wasn’t satisfied with the bureaucracy of the existing church.

Whether or not you believe you are your brother’s keeper says nothing for how best to provide care. And I’m not sure that you’ll be able to find any biblical passages that support the notion that government intervention is the first and best response to serving the greater good.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 8:26 AM, 05.06.2010