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Archive for August, 2012

Issue Advocacy Funding

August 20th, 2012 No comments

Just awesome: I’m helping to fund a tool Presbyterians can use to pressure congress without the effort of writing a real email of their own. (Bonus: it uses Flash.)

Just take a look at the items in the “Legislative Alerts” tab.

Good grief. That’s what the PC(USA)’s Presbyterian Mission Agency (i.e. the GA Council, lately known briefly as the GA Mission Council) is doing in its Office of Public Witness?

Socialist Jesus

August 16th, 2012 No comments

I sometimes wonder about people who write stuff like this:

As near as we can tell, Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of “If you have two coats, give one to the man who has none”) and 100% (if you want to get into heaven, be poor).

What I wonder is if they’re truly that ignorant, or if they know enough to to be consciously and deliberately twisting the Christian message.

Where do we start? I suppose the first clause, advocating a 50% tax rate, since it is a direct quotation of Luke 3:11. That’s where the problems begin, though, because it’s not Jesus who’s talking! This quote is from Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Here is what John said in context:

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Given vv. 12–13, it would be amusing to see verse 11 used to justify arbitrary taxation — does it matter whether the tax collectors are free-lancers or if they have the apparatus of government on their side? and if so, why? — it would be amusing, except that it does so much damage to the economy.

I had a guy the other night tell me that prosperity shouldn’t be the goal of the government. Maybe he might feel differently about that if he’d spent the last few months looking for a job, his house was underwater, and his marriage was coming apart because he and his wife argue about money all the time.

Then there’s the other clause, arguing for a 100% tax rate. Notice that it doesn’t have any quote marks. That’s because it’s not a quote. What it seems to be is a bungled citation of Mark 10:17-22:

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” … 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

1) Inheriting “eternal life” isn’t “getting into heaven.” I can’t spare the time to demonstrate this, so you can believe me or not.

2) Jesus looks at him. The left can’t do this. They see everyone as a member of a class—the rich or the poor, the 1% or the 99%—but never as an individual.

3) Jesus loves him. The people writing these sad, sorry little articles don’t seem to love anyone, and certainly not people who are rich. Read some of their tweets.

4) Jesus says this rich young ruler lacks something. Jesus wants to rectify that; he wants to give him something. (I suppose you could argue that Jesus wants to sell him something, or trade for it, but Jesus sends the money elsewhere, and besides, 2000 years of Christian theology have insisted we receive salvation and new life as a free gift.) Leftists think they’re Robin Hoods: they want to redistribute wealth by taking it from the rich and giving it to the poor. The rich have too much already; they sure don’t need anything else!

5) Jesus tells him to give the money to the poor. Not to the emperor. (Not here, that is—more about rendering to Caesar in a moment.) Jesus doesn’t explain his reasoning. Maybe he wants the rich young ruler to do what he did: to look at someone and love them, to see them as people and not as causes. Perhaps he wants to be sure the money gets to the poor, rather than being diverted to (say) public-sector unions and other cronies of the elite.

6) Jesus tells him to follow him. Is the left seriously proposing that the government should not only take people’s money from them, but make them follow Jesus too? If not, why only quote the part about giving your money away?

7) Jesus lets the man decide what to do. Is the left planning to make taxing the rich optional? Will the 100% rate be a check-off box like contributing to public financing of elections? Of course not.

8) Despite what the writer says, Jesus never tells the man to “be poor.” Far from it, he says by following him, this fellow will have riches in heaven. If I were psychoanalyzing the left, I would see this statement as projection. It has become transparently obvious that the left’s policies make people poor; the best approach, then, is to suggest that Jesus wants people to be that way.

In fact, Jesus had all kinds of opportunities to advocate a tax rate, and never did. Once, however, he had to bail out a disciple who erroneously assumed that Jesus was okay with paying taxes:

27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Make what you will of that, but it certainly isn’t a call for higher taxes!

Finally, Jesus once told some people to “render unto Caesar.”

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. …

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Evil people try to trap Jesus, and he escapes. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the tax power. But it’s about the best you can do if you want to make him an advocate for big government and leveling.

The real question about the Christian left is this: why is it bad for the Christian right to invoke faith in opposing abortion or premarital sex but good for the left to invoke faith in supporting ever-increasing government indebtedness? What right do bleeding hearts have to impose their morality on other people’s bank accounts, and what principle distinguishes that right from the perceived duty of wing nuts to impose their morality on other people’s bedrooms?

But I see this kind of crap on Facebook all the time, so it must really work, at least for people who are looking to have their politics validated.

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Tab Sweep

August 14th, 2012 No comments

As you might guess from the scarcity of blog entries here lately, I’m a net consumer (not a net producer) of internet content. Here are some links to things I’ve read this last while.

Hero boy, 4, dies after saving 3-year old girl in pool. Heart-breaking.

Card swipes in church make giving easier. Why yes, I’d imagine they do. The story is sort of unfocused, but worth a few minutes to read.

One big player is a service called ParishPay, which works with many Catholic churches and a few synagogues to help sign up worshipers to pay via credit or debit card or automatic payment from their bank accounts. Nearly 1,000 institutions have joined the service, and it claims a 20 to 30 percent increase in giving by individuals who enroll.

Miss. church blocks black couple’s wedding. Appalling.

Wilson said he had been attending the church for about a month and his now wife had been attending for more than a year. His wife’s father also attended the church, and her uncle was custodian at the church.

Are Lavalier Microphones Dead? No. Watch late-night TV. Well, okay, but what about in church?

I wish every church said what this church says in their bulletin.
This is a little old, but worth reading.

Giving Vacation Bible School an update for the 21st Century.

This month, his brainchild drew nearly 10,500 children between kindergarten and fifth grade, and every one attended free of charge. Two-thirds of them do not even belong to Second Baptist, and somewhere between one-third and half come from single-parent homes, a particular target of Mr. Young’s ministry. After the Bible school session ended, each child’s parent received a hand-delivered thank-you letter, homemade cookie and invitation to church.

Defining Religious Liberty Down. Ross Douthat sees a troubling trend exactly where I did … maybe he’s smarter than I sometimes think he is.

You can see this confusion at work in the Obama White House’s own Department of Health and Human Services, which created a religious exemption to its mandate requiring employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and the days-after pill that covers only churches, and treats religious hospitals, schools and charities as purely secular operations.

Haunted demographics: Cells and church towers. As is typical of Get Religion, this article points out all the things that would have made an interesting story better.

These churches are earning, readers are told, about $1,000 a month — per carrier. That’s not a lot of money, but, if you read carefully, it’s clear that these churches — the ones with the prime locations — tend to need the money. … The story never addresses the membership trends in these flocks.

What kind of disciples are we making/ Stay PC(USA).

We don’t want to make disciples like the prodigal younger brother, nor the unloving older brother. So if you are staying in the PC(USA), you have to clearly explain to your people that we are not staying to tolerate heresy, but in love for our siblings who seem to be wandering astray—and to make disciples who stand in community even through disagreement.

A Hungry World Population? Oh Well, Let Them Eat Ethanol! The problem with “think globally, act locally” is that it’s hard to do the first part but really easy to do the second part.

Despite the wailings of Paul Ehrlich and his tiresome compatriots, there were no great famines because of some fantasy “limits to growth” that were forecast to soon to be breached. Instead, corn yields continued their steady climb. A good year now yields around 160 bushels.

In defense of eating at Chick-Fil-A.

Where’s the beef? What the Chick-fil-A boss really said.

A Formula for Cutting Health Costs? Alaska’s native-owned Southcentral Foundation in a New York Times editorial.

In the Aftermath of a Massacre: the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program responds to gun violence. Sigh.

This attack, along with the mass shooting earlier this week in Tuscaloosa, AL in which a military style assault weapon was used, reawakens us as a church, a nation, and as people of faith to the immense and ongoing epidemic of gun violence in our country.

Methodists in Northeast Approve Pro-Gay Resolution.

A Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has approved a pro-gay resolution denouncing the denomination’s Book of Discipline’s opposition to homosexuality.

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