Sunday, May 28, 2006

Good Smackdown of a 'Christian' Conservative

One of the best commentors at is Paul Rosenberg. He writes a devastating response to a conservative who whines:
I must say that I grow tired of being portrayed as a heartless, uncaring, so-and-so just because I don't believe in the majority of government hand-outs (or at least to the extent they are taken).

I won't attempt to argue the meaning of this parable from Matthew (other than to say I would not interpret it as literally as you are doing; but if you want to be literal, look at vs. 33 and see which side the goats and sheep are on :-) because yes, the Bible obviously does say that we need to take care of the poor and less fortunate. However, it does not say that it is the government's responsibility to do so. The thing is, us "hard-core conservatives" (at least the evangelical christians among us) believe it is the church's duty to do this. This is why I give money to my church and to other private charities.

Donating to private organizations allows me to target my giving to the causes I most believe in. Plus these groups are infinitely more efficient than some big government bureaucracy. And if they do go astray and mis-spend their donations, it is much easier to hold their feet to the fire.

So, it's just a different way of thinking and acting. And stating that "hard-core conservatives" don't care about others because we don't believe in hand-outs is completely inaccurate, as you are only dealing with a single side of the issue.

Rosenberg's response (bold original, italics mine):
Two points:

(1) There is no Christian love shown in the rhetoric of those who demonize "welfare queens." However you rationalize your policies positions, if you gain political power in this manner, you clearly do not see Jesus in the least of these. End of story.

(1a) The same applies to "tough-on-crime" rhetoric. And anti-immigrant rhetoric, as well. No matter what you claim on policy grounds, the rhetoric used for political advantage reveals your side to be firmly headed for the fire. No ifs, ands or buts.

(2) We've already tried your way, and it failed miserably. People only turned to the welfare state--rather reluctantly, I might add--after repeated failure to solve social problems by voluntary means alone. Social historians like Michael Katz have thoroughly documented how prolonged this failure was. This is not to say that I'm opposed to chruch-based charity. It's just that nation-based justice does a much better job. We have decades of experience in dozens of counties across the world to back this up.

The fact that you don't know this--or even, perhaps, willfully deny it--is an indication that you don't really care about people being helped. You don't really see the treatment they receive as the way that you treat Jesus. If you did care that way, then you'd be very motivated to find out what works, what really, effectively cares for them.

But you don't. Your interest is in feeling righteous. It's narcissism, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with the people you profess to care about.

I don't blame you for this, necessarily. Most folks who think this way have been lead astray. There are many lead astray for every one who leads them. But here you are also doing some leading astray of your own. So that makes me rather dubious about you. If you really consider yourself a Christian, then you are in a heap of trouble here, just like I already said.

That's gotta hurt.

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