Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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From the web cartoon series Shortpacked.
The attempt at humor fails, because the cartoonist has no awareness of the difference between me distributing everything I own to the poor, and me distributing everything YOU own to the poor. He also shows no awareness that Jesus’ words were spoken to your conscience, without threat of lightning bolts for non-compliance.
To capture this, your cartoonist should portray Jesus with an AK-47, saying, “sell all you have and give to the poor, or face some Kalashnikov justice!”
Sorry, where does the cartoon depict someone being called upon to redistribute the wealth of others?
But if you want to address the relationship of the call of Jesus to taxation, I assume you oppose the redistributing of wealth by taking from the poor to fund the military, and the use of taxes to support foreign aid? Or is your indignation at a society taking money from some to benefit others selective?
James, the person replying to Christ is a moron: being encouraged to give to the poor is not “redistribution.” He obviously doesn’t know what redistribution is. Perhaps that was the cartoonist’s intent? To communicate that some people are so ignorant that they don’t know what redistribution is, but will nevertheless use words in sentences whose meaning they don’t know…
But that would be a mighty abstruse joke. The real intent of the joke is clearly to say that anyone who objects to ACTUAL redistribution, would equally object to an exhortation to be charitable, and therefore is against what Christ is for.
That punchline, however, denigrates a large class of people, based on assuming facts not in evidence, seemingly because the cartoonist sees no meaningful difference between giving one’s own resources to charity, and giving someone else’s.
But yes, James, you’re a bit forgetful: I have already stated unequivocally that taking from the poor (or anyone else) to fund this government’s illegal foreign invasions, or to funnel the money into the pockets of foreign dictators, or just about any other purpose to which such funds are put, is absolutely a moral crime, and in most cases an actual crime as well. I’ve pointed out multiple times that you appear to mistake me for a Republican.
I’ve also asked the challenge question whether you, who have lots to say about theological fundies, aren’t yourself a political fundie. The fact that anyone who disagrees with you is mistaken for a Republican, and that even after repeated correction you persist in thinking them Republican, speaks strongly of political Manichaeanism.
No, I suspect that it is rather you who are assuming that this cartoon is somehow about you, even if it does not fit. Why not accept that the cartoon is aimed at those Republicans who selectively object to “redistribution”?
I don’t assume anything about whether the cartoon refers to me at all. Rather, I point out that charity is to redistribution as the Papacy is to marshmallows, and therefore the cartoon makes no sense of any kind–unless one posits a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the cartoonist.
Selectively objecting to redistribution does not come up at all in the cartoon, since charity is not redistribution. You’re thinking of a cartoon that condemns welfare while earnestly claiming that the banks are “too big to fail,” or something along those lines.
The point at which “I” came into it is when you asked whether I object to redistribution into the pockets of war profiteers; I remarked that this question was actually asked and answered more than once before, and that asking it yet again suggests that you have trouble distinguishing any differing political opinions from yours, but lump them all loosely under the rubric of Republicanism. (Also there’s the fact that I said nothing whatsoever to suggest that I support the things you asked me about, so your question was a propos of nothing–except, again, the assumption that you were talking to a Republican.)
I’ve also pointed out, though, that you use an otherwise excellent blog about theology and textual studies to denigrate approximately half the population of the country, typically via straw men such as this cartoon, which portrays their (inconsistent) opposition to “redistribution” as if it entails an opposition to charity. In other words, you as good as say that approximately half of your countrymen would be obnoxious in the eyes of Jesus, due to misanthropy you attribute to them.
This type of view is diagnostic of fundamentalism. It pains me to see it. I know that you and I would disagree on plenty of political questions, but I do not attribute it to any misanthropy or fundamental evil on your part. Equally I disagree with right-wingers on most things, but do not believe that they are misanthropic or evil either. Both right and left are incorrect about a few things, in my opinion, and it leads them to bad conclusions, but not because either is fundamentally different from the other or from myself.
Your brand of Christianity prides itself on its philanthropy; is it so self-satisfied that it cannot see the contradiction that it withholds its charity from roughly half the people it meets, having decided that they’re just plain wicked, and therefore unworthy of it?
Straw Man, politicians who accuse other politicians of “redistributing wealth” are accusing them of socialism or communism as part and parcel (usually they include those demonizing words as well). That’s the political context of the way the word “redistribution” has been used for the past several elections. Throwing such accusations back in the fun of a cartoon is a delightful way to respond.
How nice for you that you can sit back in your anonymity and “disagree” with both the right and the left (whatever that means). But how do think James’ “brand of Christianity” “withholds its charity from roughly half the people it meets”?
Are you taking the word “charity” away from it’s usual context of caring for the poor, to suggest that James is being “uncharitable” by not being “polite” to others?
Straw Man – the fact that James may not remember your political opinions probably has less to do with his political discernment and more to do with the fact that you hide behind an anonymous handle.
This is the blog of Dr. James F. McGrath. It’s not really his responsibility to keep up with your opinions, but you might make it a little easier if you used a real name rather than the anonymity of a “Straw Man”.
By the way, James, the cartoon is hilarious!
The really funny thing about this recently manufactured horror at the idea of redistribution is that “sharing the wealth” used to be a solid Middle American Republican value. Like the guy (I’ve seen more than one) who reminisces on how his Dad hated cheapskates and would never shine his own shoes, because there were people who did that for a living because they needed the money. Yes, dignity of work and all that, but that was implicit in such stories (and absent from the Gospel story, of course), while sharing the wealth was the point.
And, contrary to the Straw Man, this horrified reaction is applied widely when someone talks about spreading the wealth around, whether or not Government is to do the sharing. The phrase is enough. If in doubt, read some blogs.
Porlock, people react with horror to redistribution–often hypocritically, since they often don’t object to redistributing wealth to banksters or war profiteers–but you will have a difficult time finding people who react with horror to charity. Social Darwinism peaked about a century ago. You’re erecting… wait for it…
What about that passage in acts where that couple were struck dead by the Holy Spirit for not giving everything?
I too am shocked and disappointed with how uncharitable you are to your fellow Americans and (as your blog is visible from the Internet) more generally fellow Earthlings.
You’re continually using an otherwise fine blog about cute toys as a mouthpiece for not just your political views, but your views on Christianity, the Bible, and BBC science fiction shows.
How dare you suggest that everyone else apart from you is stupid, tasteless, evil, or just plain wrong by saying things they disagree with or talking about shows they don’t care about?
From now on, kindly stick to cute toys. The ones with the jigsaw puzzle are nice.
No Problem, as long as the Government is not the “middleman.”
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