Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Thoughts on Politics

Thanks to Dave and Roy for your comments about Democrats and Republicans. Both of you had good things to say.
Yes, of course, I was describing both parties with a very broad brush, but in some ways that is necessary. Candidates do tend to vote along party lines.
And yes, Christian Republicans do make a big argument that the church is supposed to care for the poor, not the government. In fact, Focus on the Family's politics magazine, Citizen, makes exactly this point this month in a scathing (and somewhat illogical) article on Barak Obama. However, this argument fails on two points.
1) The Bible never makes this claim. The Bible only says that the church should care for the poor, not that the government should not. In fact, the biblical picture of the ideal (often Messianic) government (given in the OT) is one in which government makes sure that the poor are given justice and resources to have a dignified life. The article I mentioned from Citizen Magazine cites (with horrible biblical scholarship) the parable of the Good Samaritan as justification for the government not playing a significant role in alleviating poverty or human suffering. This parable was a definition of loving action, not a description of how society should engage poverty.
2) As Christians, we should support any and all moral means to help the poor - even through the government. The argument that the church should care for the poor falls flat in the face of the fact that the church is not caring for the poor. The church is (with wonderful exceptions) more concerned with evangelism and bigger, "better" churches and church buildings than with serious care for the poor which would involve sacrificial giving (something far beyond mere tithing) and sacrificial service (something far beyond a morning in Sunday School). The fact is that some crises are so large that the government (if it is to be faithful in the least to its power and potential for good) must get involved. Imagine what would happen without FEMA, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, disability payments, unemployment benefits, HUD, etc, etc, etc. The church should (and is increasingly) involved in relief in all of these areas, but the government should also be involved. Moreover, we as a society should empower the government (through our tax dollars and votes) to do what we as individuals and churches cannot - lift large groups out of poverty and into more dignified lives, provide universal health care, etc.

Also, some are concerned that the liberal left might lead us into socialism. Perhaps we need to go more in that direction. The Old Testament seems to offer a socio-economic system of capitalism tempered by socialistic remedies. (See for example, the permanent possession of land by family lines and the forgiveness of debt every 7 years at the time of jubilee.)
For more reading on these issues, I highly recommend Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Snider and www.sojourners.com (where you can read regular posts under the heading: "God's Politics").
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