Friday, April 20, 2012

McKnight, "Christians, Politics and the Poor"


I found this on McKnight's blog and thought it was a good beginning to the previous post by NPR.
As you may know, there’s a “serious” discussion about how best to care for the poor. Some in the GOP think it’s not the government’s business; some in the Democrat party think it is.
What would Jesus do with the U.S. economy?
That’s a matter of fierce debate among Christians — with conservatives promoting a small-government Jesus and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate for the poor.
After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus’ command to care for the poor.
Not so, says Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. He told Christian Broadcasting Network last week that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor.
“Through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities — through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community — that’s how we advance the common good,” Ryan said.
The best thing that government can do, he said, is get out of the way.
There’s enough simplicity-it is in this whole discussion that one wonders whether or not these folks really do care to dig both into Scripture and into the Christian tradition enough to be challenged by Christian truth.
1. Some folks are poor. They deserve, in most cases, our empathy and our compassion and our help — both as relief and as a path to employment.
2. Scriptures teach God’s people to care for the poor, and when God’s people ignores the poor, God makes it known that he is on the side of the poor. (Let’s not debate the specifics of the “preferential option for the poor.”)
3. Scriptures don’t emerge from either socialism or from free market enterprise, and those who think they do are making a gross historical error. It requires historical finesse and hermeneutical nuance to move from that world into our world. Turning the Bible’s laws into eternal laws is great example of biblicism and will land you in trouble most of the time.
4. God’s people responded to the poor in a variety of ways, including distribution — ever read about Moses in Egypt? And Jubilee? And the laws of gleaning? These are divinely-commanded and governmentally-administered required donations designed to help the poor.
Sometimes God’s people responds individually and locally to care for the poor. Ever read about Paul ad his collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem? (Which, by the way, was a Christian concern for fellow Christians, was an offering and not a tax, and which is not a good set of texts for how democratic societies care for their poor.)
5. The Church’s teaching traditions are worthy of serious exploration, including how Christians have helped shape public policy in a variety of countries in order to make sure the poor are cared for.

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