Something Political, from T about Leaving the GOP

A “Dear John” Letter to the GOP

A little over a year ago I posted here at Jesus Creed an open letter to my own political party of choice, the GOP.   At that time I was concerned that the GOP was on a trajectory away from moderates such as myself.  To spare anyone from having to read the old post, I’ll just summarize that post my concerns from then that remain strong now:

  1. The GOP, through its rhetoric and supported laws concerning immigrants, and related positions re: English-only laws, the GOP is fomenting and giving support to anti-alien sentiment.  I fully realize and even hope that much of the GOP is ignorant of this.  The infamous Arizona law/policy threatened to subject illegal alien and citizen people of color to police stops and suspicion and the need to constantly have “papers” to prove their citizenship.  It does not take great empathy to imagine what that and some of the English-only movements within the party communicate to aliens and non-whites.
  2. Political Info-tainers and other extremists have always been a feature of politics, even before there were Democrats or Republicans. But more than any time I can recall in my lifetime, the extremists, and not the statesmen, now lead the party. Aside from the problems this creates for the party, for our government processes, etc., my main concern here is that we are just beginning to see the long-term effects of these many voices on the spiritual formation of their hearers, within and beyond the Church.  I would not allow my children to listen to any of the political radio or TV programs that are so popular with the GOP base right now, and not primarily because of the factual or analytic content, though that is too often badly done.  It’s the tone. It’s the anger. It’s the total disrespect or even demonization of others with differing views.  These have become our thought leaders as well as our mentors for political discussion, even in the Church.

So, what about now?  Well, I wish I had been wrong about what Hispanics were hearing from the GOP, but the presidential election confirmed rather than disproved the theory.  Worse, habits die hard, and the GOP’s killing of immigration reform was perhaps their most improbable “accomplishment” since Obama’s re-election.  What part of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform is the GOP house willing to pass?  The part that builds up more walls; that’s it.  That’s our sole priority concerning all that ills our mish-mashed immigration policy: more and bigger walls.

Honestly, I don’t even want to go on to talk about everything else that’s happened in the last year, and even what’s happening right now that leads me to say goodbye to the GOP except to briefly list two more straws that broke this camel’s back, and since this is a “Dear John” letter, I want to address it to the GOP leadership directly.  First, you had to try to cut food stamps?  Really?  I agree with David Brooks, no bleeding heart liberal, that “the people who deserve to get it are getting it; that was the basic conclusion I came to [after researching who was getting food stamps].  .  .  if you want to replace it with an EITC, or Earned Income Tax Credit, or another thing, that would be legitimate.”  But you’re not proposing replacing it with anything.

In our recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, with the poorest still lagging farthest behind in the recovery, you’re cutting food stamps.  You’re going to dig in against taxes getting raised back to 1990’s levels for the wealthiest Americans, but you want to cut food stamps for the poorest ones?  And second was the focus on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and how you’ve chosen to conduct yourselves these last few months regarding it.  Obamacare has become your elusive, defiant Moby Dick and you’ve become Ahab, with the federal government and perhaps the global economy as the unfortunate crew along for the dangerous ride.

I’m grateful that there have been several amendments passed with GOP insistence or assistance.  But I just can’t get behind putting the entire (recovering) global economy at risk (via refusal to pass debt limit increase in the face of exhausted cash flow) to try to get the Democratically controlled Senate and the Democratic President to defund or even delay/derail Obamacare at this stage.  And let’s be clear: demanding that the Senate and President “merely” delay the individual mandate, which is a very significant price factor for all the polices already being offered to the public this month (!), after all the insurance companies have spent 3 years and millions of dollars designing those polices with the individual mandate as an integral part of the system, is asking for total train wreck for the public and their healthcare at this stage, even if the Dems agreed, which they won’t do.

So, you’re holding a gun to the world economy’s head and threatening to shoot unless the Dems agree to let you take a wrecking ball to Obamacare, while it’s already entwined in companies’ and people’s real lives.  Let’s please try to remember that the part of Obamacare that has conservatives most upset is the individual mandate, which was an idea promoted by the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank), endorsed by then Speaker Newt Gingrich (no soft conservative), which then was implemented first in the signature accomplishment of a Republican governor (Mitt Romney).  I don’t like some parts of Obamacare either, but it’s much more accurate to call it a coopted Republican idea than calling it socialism.

Medicare is much more socialist than anything in Obamacare.  But above all I find your willingness to risk the financial stability of hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions or more, so that you can take one more shot at killing or maiming Obamacare as it finally makes its way into American residential areas, even with families in the line of fire, to be the opposite of statesmanship.  Ultimately, I just don’t want to be in a party that is so lacking in statesmanship.  I would believe the current protests (“We don’t want a shut down; we want to avoid default and raise the debt limit”) if shutting down whole sections of the federal government hadn’t been proposed by multiple Tea Party pols, including those seeking presidential nomination, multiple times in the last several years.  I’d believe you about your desire to raise the debt limit if (i) failing to raise the debt limit wasn’t a functional substitute for a balanced budget amendment, which you’ve pursued, and (ii) your Tea Party members weren’t, increasingly, talking openly that failing to raise the debt limit won’t be that bad, or will even be good for the global markets, despite all evidence to the contrary.

So; that’s it. I’m out.  I’m changing my registration, for now, to Independent. This is a summary of why I, a 40-year old, pro-life, self-employed, Evangelical Christian, married male with two kids (and another coming),and above average income is leaving the Republican Party after 20 years. Maybe I’m a perfectly acceptable and anomalous loss. That’s fine. I just hope for better—maybe not even in any party. Indeed, for the foreseeable future I’ll likely be what I’ve been for years: a quiet voter who is more involved in my family, my church and my work than anything else; reading the news online and keeping informed on law and policy changes but not expecting much from either party.

You may ask why I’m only talking about the GOP and not cataloguing all the evils of those dastardly Democrats. For one, I’ve never been a Democrat, and I’m not leaving the GOP because of anything the Dems have or haven’t done.  If this had been a marriage, there would be no “other woman.”  Further, I’d like to hear primarily from other Republicans and Independents or even folks from other countries.  I’m not as interested in getting a bunch of “Amens” or piling on from the many wonderful Democrat friends here, though I’d love their input on how Christians can help facilitate progress.  (See the questions for the post).   I’m just not staying in this GOP house anymore, and I thought it might be helpful in the long run to give some reasons in the public sphere as to why.  I hope here at Jesus Creed, even with folks who think I’m crazy, that we can talk to each other in a way that is worthy of Christ.

Questions:

For Republicans: Am I crazy?  Do you see any truth to these assertions?  How so? How not? Do you see these as changes in the GOP or any movement in these directions, or is this the same as ever?  Does it make you cheer or groan?

For all: Can Christians do anything to stop cooperating with the demonization and polarization that is deepening in American politics?  Can we do anything to move things in the opposite direction?

Can churches do anything to facilitate helpful (non-yelling, non-demonizing) discussion among their members in different parties? Or should local churches just stay out of politics all together?

Is there a spiritual formation at work in the world of political info-tainment, in and outside of the Church? If so, how can we best address this? How can we overcome evil with good?  How do we make our gentleness evident to all in politics?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

    I am a mid-30′s evangelical originally from the Bible belt but who has now been living in western Europe for the past 5+ years as a pastor & missionary. Interestingly enough, we are moving back to the US in December. And my wife is British, so coming from a European country with a national, socially-focused healthcare system.

    While I’m still trying to get my head around all the points of the ACA, what I have found more and more tragic is this demonization of Democrats and the more “social” perspectives. I’m not Democrat (and I’m not Republican, though I used to lean that way before living in Europe). But what I find myself doing today is trying to convince southern American evangelicals that a “social” focus on healthcare is not evil in and of itself. Many still tend to connect the word “social” with communism. But that is far from the truth. What you have in Europe is more identified as a “social democracy”.

    There are positives and negatives to every perspective (every “-ism”). But NONE is perfect nor without its challenges.

    I remember dialoging once with a close ministry friend over here (from Canada, but more American in his outlook) and he well described things this way: When the war was over, America came home as the heroes with everything still in tact at home. Europe came home to an obliterated land with nothing and so they asked the government to help, and it did and has been doing it for the past 6-7 decades. Whether this will work in the US is a different question, but to see it as somehow inherently “evil” is odd.

    Matter of fact, America already functions somewhat “socially” in regards to things like education. One must go to school until a certain age and it is funded by taxes.

    We’ll never be able to have healthy dialogue if we keep fighting rather than listening to one another and seeing how we can work together.

  • tanyam

    Can you define “demonizing?” Some Christians hate politics because they can’t stand to say a bad word about anyone. If the third reich was an American political party (I know, I hate using them as an example too) they would be loath to call them morally bankrupt and feel it necessary to say, “they make some good points.”
    Also, thank you for indicating that you were once able to identify with a political party (not the one I have, but still) and have not felt as a Christian that somehow you are above all politics. There is an unfortunate tendency among Christians to believe that getting one’s hands “dirty” by following and participating is somehow wrong, and that if only politics were all-Christian, we could avoid the same pitfalls common to humanity.
    I happen to think that advocating for the poor and immigrants as you have requires us to enter into the political process, to vote, if nothing less, and to engage in conversation with our neighbors.

  • Dan

    All I know is as one raised to be a Kennedy Democrat, I will never, ever vote for a Democrat again. I trust a small handful of Republicans but none of the Democrats.

    As for the state of discourse, I still blame it on the trend started with Donohue and Jerry Springer, who mostly broadcast silly segments about nothing, but when Donohue did delve into social issues, he always stacked the deck to the left and ridiculed the conservatives. I have a hard time watching Hannity, but he has nothing on the likes of Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olberman, etc., etc, etc.

    As for immigration, I see nothing racist or uncaring about saying “we want immigrants to come to our country, but we want them to come here legally” especially at a time when drug lords south of our border are increasingly bold and there is evidence jihadist terrorists have also used the southern border to some extent.

    One does not need a statistical study to stand at the grocery store and watch food stamps being abused. The numbers on food stamps has skyrocketed in spite of the recession supposedly ending in 2009. Maybe a better solution is an actual recovery rather than propping up failed economic policy.

    As for Obamacare, is no one on the left paying attention to the utter disaster it already is? (Except for this guy from the ultra right wing Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/30/1242660/-Obamacare-will-double-my-monthly-premium#

    Obamacar has taken everything bad about the health care problems we face and magnified the bad things while ignoring solutions that might actually work. It puts all the decision making in the hands of bureaucrats, makes it a crime to not purchase a product, requires enforcement by the IRS, and at present the majority of folks who have tried can’t get the stupid web pages to work. Self-employed folks with plans they could afford (low premium, high deductible) are being dropped from the policies they were happy with, young singles are being asked to buy plans they cannot afford under penalty of law.

    You complain about the government shutdown and that Obamacare is Ahab’s whale to the Republicans, but the reality is the Republicans have offered multiple proposals to end the shutdown and the democrats have made Obamacare the line in the sand – refusing to even delay implementation of a program that IS NOT FUNCTIONAL.

    Don’t even get me started on the foreign policy that has emboldened those who are daily murdering Christians in multiple Islamic countries. The left lied repeatedly about Bush’s “unilateral” actions in the lead up to the war in Iraq, when he did in fact repeatedly go to congress and went to the UN and had the support of the Democrats until the war started and the election cycle started. Then it all flipped. And none of the criticisms of Bush’s Iraq policy seem to apply to the repeated unilateral actions of Obama who has stretched our military to the breaking point getting us involved in other conflicts for lesser reasons.

    Sorry. I was an independent once, saw the Republicans as the lesser of two evils. Now I am just a conservative who is sick of it all and most of all sick of the Christian progressives misrepresentation of conservative positions.

  • RobS

    Lack of statesmanship is a good way to describe it. I was definitely more behind the GOP and a supporter in the early 1990s and then was pushed away by “anti-Christian Republicans” in the local college Republicans group I had attended. Fortunately here in Virginia, we don’t register on party lines to vote and can vote in either primary.

    I think many elements/programs need serious reform. The more conservative Republicans were rallying against the ACA at the last moment to prove a point (they were elected to do so). They needed to them move on quickly and try to find topics that promote statesmanship and negotiate in good faith with all sides. Unfortunately, managing by crisis is the only way both sides will negotiate.

  • Kyle J

    I think it’s a tough deal for local churches. When the policies advocated on the right consistently assume that it’s the poor taking advantage of the system–a viewpoint I believe is directly at odds at what the Bible assumes throughout–at some point there’s going to be a clash within congregations, either explicitly or implicitly.

    I think, as messy as it is, more people need to do what the writer above has done–make it clear to both other Christians and to non-Christians that reactionary libertarian economic philosophy and a Christian worldview do not go hand in hand. If I were someone who can’t afford health insurance now due to a pre-existing condition or the loss of a job, I can’t imagine how angry and disaffected by the church I’d be right now to hear about the House GOP caucus singing “Amazing Grace” as they try to prevent the ACA from taking effect.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Good question. I’ve heard otherwise very reasonable people refer to Obama as a communist, socialist, Muslim, etc. which, in those circles are different versions of calling him a traitor of the US. That’s an example of demonizing. Neither side is made up people who are traitors and it does no good to say otherwise.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Dan, if you don’t see how citizen Hispanics and Asians didn’t like being made to feel like second class citizens by needing to carry proof of their citizenship with them under increased police suspicion under the Arizona law, then I urge you to find one of the vast majority of Hispanics that felt that way and listen to them. I won’t address the other issues because of venue restraints. Best to you.

  • Dan

    So the solution to hispanic citizens feeling they are under suspicion is to just allow more illegal immigration? You see no side effects to a compassion that lacks long range wisdom?

  • Jeff Butler

    Ultimately, I don’t really care if someone leaves the Republican party. I think it is good to be one to have greater influence especially if it is required to vote in the primary election. I do care how you think about these issues and how you vote.

    Let me share my thoughts on SNAP. My observations are anecdotal so I would like to see the research that led Brooks to his conclusion about SNAP. I am an urban pastor. I have SNAP recipients in my congregation and regularly encounter others outside it. The nature of those encounters leads me to believe that SNAP can and should be altered. The biggest problem, from my experience, is that the program is structured in a way that it encourages those that could work not to work. I know people who turn down jobs because their benefits would be reduced by the amount they would earn. Their overall standard of living would not change but they would be working for it rather than receiving what they get without working. I know people who turn down jobs because it would not bring, in their opinion, a large enough increase in their standard of living to justify the effort. Their standard of living would go up just not enough to justify working.

    I think it is a problem that we borrow money from people in other countries to pay our citizens not to work. It is bad economic policy. It is immoral to pass on that debt to future generations of US citizens. However, the biggest problem with excessive government benefits is how they corrode the character of the recipients. I have seen formerly hard working people becoming passive and lazy. Rather than working so they can take care of their own needs and have something to share with others. They focus on how they can get more or keep what they already get from government programs. There is a gradual change in self perception. No longer do they see themselves as independent responsible people but dependents of the government. Children grow up, not with the expectation of working and providing for themselves, but getting their own check from the government. People need to work it. It is good for them. It is good for their children and their community. A program that discourages work is harmful and needs to be changed.

    This does not mean that programs like SNAP should be eliminated. However, from my limited experience, there is plenty of room for reform for the sake of the country and those receiving the “benefits.”

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    There are many ways to address illegal immigration. The Arizona law was a very poor choice. Beyond that, GOP has made it clear that from their standpoint the only desirable change to our very strange and often unjust immigration law is more and bigger walls. The unwillingness to support even the slightest changes that the Hispanic community would like speaks volumes, and none of it is ‘wisdom’ talking.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Jeff, I’m all for reform, which is why I included the longer Brooks quote about replacement with alternatives. But this wasn’t reform or replacement. Just cuts.

  • Jeff Butler

    I am not sure what you mean by “just cuts.” It was not an across the board reduction in benefits. Yes, I know if all one does is read newspaper headlines one might thing that. However, reform often means a cut, a reduction in expenditures. The core changes were tightening eligibility requirements and restoring the requirement that able body adults work. The latter was part of the 1996 welfare reform act that drastically reduced the welfare roles. One lady I know said that being required to get a job rather than sit home and get a welfare check was the best thing that every happened to her and her girls.

    http://www.gop.gov/bill/113/1/hr3102

    The Brooks suggested alternatives would never get Democrat support.

  • Andrew Dowling

    -And the Reform law is still on the books; 24 months tops of federal food stamps, although there have been some extensions recently due to the severity of the 09 recession. So the common contention that SNAP just lets people eat off the government teet indefinitely is simply not true

    -Some states have extremely stringent requirements, which force single parents to travel extremely long distances to work two jobs. Not exactly good policy if one is interested in family cohesion.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Sorry; poor choice of terms on my part. The “tightening” of eligibility requirements was severe; IMO, especially when paired with unwillingness to raise taxes on those that are the least harmed by the recession.

  • Jason Lee

    Personally, I don’t give much weight to these sorts of anecdotal observations. Have you considered the possibility that you notice among your church members what supports your political commitments? I prefer hard data. The facts are in. The poor (including poor children) suffer less in countries with better social safety nets. Christians should be on the side of the poor.

  • Jeff Butler

    Actually you can certified for up to three years. At the end of which you can apply for recertification. Thus, you could get SNAP indefinitely.

  • Jeff Butler

    I am curious. On what basis did you decide that it was severe? How much in taxes should a person pay? Is there a limit?

  • Benjamin

    FYI, Republicans are the ones who want to make the “benefits would be reduced by the amount they would earn” problem WORSE. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/28/the-houses-food-stamps-cuts-arent-just-cruel-theyre-dumb/

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    I’ll swap anecdotes with you…
    I work in the restaurant industry. I work shoulder to shoulder with hard working people – some of them seniors – who do hard manual labor forty hours a week. Many of them have second jobs. Based on market wages, they still can’t afford to feed their families. There are legions of working poor. I’m sure they are in your congregation too. We have a responsibility to them. SNAP is an essential, humanitarian program.

  • Kyle J

    Who is proposing to allow more illegal immigration? Border security has been upped under the current administration. Every comprehensive plan includes further security enhancements.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/29/the-2007-immigration-bill-set-border-security-targets-weve-hit-most-of-them/

    If you merely caricature people and their political positions, it makes political compromise impossible. Which is where base conservatives are on just about every issue.

  • Kyle J

    “I think it is a problem that we borrow money from people in other countries to pay our citizens not to work.”

    I think this gets to the root of the issue many of us have with current right-wing evangelical politics. Is the SNAP program perfect? Of course not. But it’s not something new President Obama created which suddenly caused unemployment to double, and it’s hardly the main driver of our nation debt. Those things have been mainly things that benefit the middle and upper classes: Bush tax cuts, Medicare prescription drug benefit, two unfunded wars. In the long term, the spending issues are Social Security and Medicare.

    If you want to fix the deficit (and never mind that it’s already falling to half its peak level), there are a lot better places to start–from both a practical and philosophical perspective–than food stamps.

  • Tim M

    I know it wasn’t your main point, but I want pushback on the common idea that it is immoral to pass on national debt to our children: The US government passing debt on to future generations IS NOT the same as my passing my credit card debt to my kids. National debt IS NOT the same thing as personal debt. Why is that? Because 1) Individuals have to pay back their debt but governments don’t or shouldn’t and 2) Individuals have debt towards other individuals, while national debt is money we owe ourselves. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/opinion/krugman-nobody-understands-debt.html?_r=0

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    I’ll speak to the tax issue since that’s my area of some expertise. I’m not in favor of repealing the Bush tax cuts in total or all at once (economies don’t generally respond well to large, fast changes), but the argument, which the GOP has made too often lately, that the wealthy specifically or the economy generally cannot thrive under tax levels we just had in the 90′s is historically untenable.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    Regarding the budget, deficits, and national debt, I have not read every comment tot his post, but not one that I have read suggests cutting the largest part of our deficit spending: The Military. The US spends 1753 billion dollars (wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures), which is more than the next 15 nations combined. When Republicans (or Democrats) begin proposing reductions in military expenditures I will begin to listen to discussions regarding budget deficits and reductions.

  • danaames

    As to the questions, I think the best way is to model how we want our representatives to speak when we are speaking to others, as you have done here, T, and to let our representatives know when they are doing well (or not). It’s easier to write an e-mail, but I understand that a paper letter delivered to a representative’s Washington office actually gets read.

    I was registered Republican for +20 years, but grew increasingly disenchanted with how many people are in the pockets of Washington lobbyists/PACs/megadollar contributers (like the Koch brothers, but not only them). After reading “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” with my book group in the early 2000s, I had had enough, and re-registered Decline to State Party. In my state, I can still get a primary ballot.

    After these latest shenanigans, it will be a cold day in hell before I ever vote Republican again. I don’t think the system is broken; it’s the attitudes of the people in the system that are causing the problems. Telling poor people who simply don’t know how to plan for the future, don’t know how to have a bank account or balance a checkbook, and can’t get a decent education in our school districts to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is equivalent to giving them words only: “Go in peace; be warmed and filled.” If we don’t give them the things needful for the body (including health care and a good education), where is the profit? It’s a multifaceted problem to be sure, but attitudes (including the attitude that one must hold on to power/be re-elected at all costs) count.

    Dana

  • Andrew Dowling

    Only if you are working or can provide scrupulous evidence you have been looking for work. And many states have much tougher criteria than even that.

  • Rick

    “I was registered Republican for +20 years, but grew increasingly disenchanted with how many people are in the pockets of Washington lobbyists/PACs/megadollar contributers (like the Koch brothers, but not only them).”
    I agree with much of what you wrote, but I am sure you know that lobbyists are a problem for both Rep and Dems.

  • Dan

    Since the positions I hold are typically cast as hateful, phobic, racist, backward, stupid, etc., I have no sympathy for charges of caricature coming from the right. While no one explicitly argues for more illegal immigration, the lack of enforcement of existing laws and handcuffing of border agents by current administration policy does nothing to prevent it. Currently Paul Ryan appears to be promoting one of many reform plans that will be ignored by the left so they can call republicans racist in the next election cycle. Just as one progressive Christian acquaintance of mine yesterday suggested conservatives hate the poor because we find government programs inefficient and wasteful. Still, democrats refusing to negotiate on a massive program that doesn’t even function while calling Tea Party folks terrorists is why I will never vote for any Democratic candidate again.

  • JoeyS

    Here, here!

  • Kyle J

    So we’ve doubled the number of border agents within the last decade for no reason at all? That’s a strange way to handcuff them.

    Put another way: How much would we have to reduce illegal immigration for you to support practical steps to give current illegal immigrants, and their children, the opportunity to pay back their debt and more fully integrate into the economy and society?

  • JoeyS

    I direct an organization that runs a large food pantry, so I’ve been keeping a close watch on the SNAP debate. Frankly, the GOP did not offer enough reform, and offered way too many cuts. They did not make a compelling case to demonstrate care or concern for the those most affected by the economic downturn. Feeding America had some great suggestions for reform measures that any moderate would get behind (which means it would/should get support on both sides of the isle).

    http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/public-assistance-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-myths-realities.aspx

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    This is unfortunate. I know that positions and people get cast as racist, communist, etc., but I’ve tried not to do so here and even repudiate that kind of rhetoric. I know, for instance, that I’ve not called the GOP racist, but have urged you (and anyone) to talk to Hispanics to see why they feel the GOP is hostile and/or disdainful to them. The recent Hispanic shift away from the GOP is relatively dramatic. I think it’s appropriate to ask why. We can also ask ourselves how we would feel in similar circumstances.

    You’ve said at least twice now that you will “never vote for any Democratic candidate again.” I feel betrayed by the GOP in some ways and can sympathize, but I hope you can avoid this kind of bitterness and hardened (pre)judgment. I hope I’ve not presented the idea here that I will never vote for another Republican; I’m sure I will.

  • me

    Answer to question 1. You are not crazy. My husband and I are still registered Republicans but we are so disgusted with the Republican party. I doubt that I’ll ever vote Republican again.. EVER. The Republican party is extremely far right at the moment.

    The “hating on the poor” is top thing that really gets to me and I don’t understand at all from a Christian perspective.

    I wish that many more in the church would realize that Christianity does not equal being a Republican, does not equal the U.S., does not equal capitalism.

    I did not leave the Republican Party, they left me.

  • josenmiami

    I didn’t get all the way through your lengthy post. Didn’t need to. You had me at Point #1 on immigration. I already left the party in the last prez election and voted for a 3rd party. I have no plans to go back.

  • Susan_G1

    Someone (Churchill? Guisot? Clemenceau? St. Francis?) once said, If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; If you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no head. So it played out in my life as well. Though still a Republican, I voted for Obama, knowing how completely broken our health care system is. But now I am done with the GOP for many of the reasons you have stated. It seems that on almost every issue, they are either without a heart/love (immigration, poverty, homosexuality, etc.) or without a brain (climate change, taxation of the wealthy, gun reform, this irresponsible attitude toward the debt ceiling and the government shutdown). I have officially renounced them, and with a glad heart. So, no, you are not crazy.

    As Christians, we can vote responsibly (from local gvt. on up), keep track of elected officials who do not carry through on their promises and make it clear that they no longer represent us by voting them out. Can we suggest to our intelligent and disenchanted young that they might persue PoliSci majors? Economics? Science? Should we be getting more involved, even knowing that it is a powerful corrupting influence?

    As churches, we should be preaching Jesus Christ instead of Genesis, Leviticus, and Paul. Not just to combat the GOP’s hatred, but because it’s what we should be doing anyway.

    Politics is essentially about money, power and blame. Jesus gave us some parables about these worldly situations, such as the parable of the unjust steward. We should use mammon to advance the kingdom of God. Until that happens, maybe we have ourselves to blame. I don’t have any other answers or suggestions.

  • danaames

    Sure, that’s why I said “people” and “but not only them” – and that’s why I re-registered as Decline to State Party.

    Dana

  • Dan

    Just another day another quote from the left, Robert Redford on CNN calling opposition to Obama policies racist http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/16/redford-racism-involved-in-the-paralyzed-environment-obama-faces/.

    Reality: Our debt now exceeds GDP. In this context we are embarking on a massive government program that takes over 1/6 of the economy when we are broke as a nation, have massive unemployment. We borrow to pay interest on our debt and fight about increasing the power to borrow more – and the absurdity is that the program itself, Obamacare, is essentially NON-FUNCTIONAL as the democrats defend it.

    Opposition to this is dismissed routinely as racist without engaging the actual argument conservatives are making. D

    That is demonizing. Demonizing is not calling duck a duck when it walks and quacks like a duck. Demonizing is repeatedly labeling the other side as pure evil without engaging the argument that is being made.

  • Samuel Burr

    Three weeks ago I filled out the form here in Oregon to change my affiliation from Republican to Independent. I had been registered as a Republican for over 35 years. If I had sat down to write why I couldn’t have done a better job than T did. For me, he nailed it.

  • Dan

    I want the US to have the same level of tolerance for illegal immigration from Mexico that Mexico has for illegal immigration into their country. I am for fairness and for the right of a nation to not water down the meaning of citizenship.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/may/03/mexicos-illegals-laws-tougher-than-arizonas/?page=all

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Dan,

    You repeatedly say that the ACA is non functional (in caps no less). And yes the current web portal is barely letting anyone sign up. But that will be fixed or worked around. Insurance companies will manage to sell the policies that have been designed to comply with the new law, just like they did in Massachusetts. This is not Armageddon. it’s not even government owned healthcare. It’s a co-opted GOP idea.

    On borrowing, yes, we need to get back to balanced budgets and even surpluses ASAP, but we’re going to be in the red during and after serious economic collapse, (more than) two wars, and some of the largest tax cuts in history. But even the debt is not the end of the world, bad as it is. Right now, my income is less than I owe on my house. In other words, if I was a country my debt would exceed my GDP. Right now, I believe the deficit is 4% of GDP, half of what it was at the height of the recession. Again, surpluses should be the goal as we recover, but these are not sky-falling numbers. If the GOP is serious about fiscal responsibility, then higher taxes have to be part of the equation, cause that’s been a big part of running up the deficits in the last decade.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Thanks Samuel. Best to you.

  • Jeff Butler

    You did not answer the question. How much in taxes should a person pay? To me the main question is not whether a certain level of taxation helps or hurts the economy but what is the just amount to take from a person. People are not donating the money. The government takes it from them by threat for force. Can the government take as much it wants or is there a limit?

  • Ted M. Gossard

    I can identify. I used to be registered Republican, but am now Independent and if push comes to shove, I do lean Democrat. I disagree with the Republicans on a whole host of issues, but I don’t necessarily find a better alternative with the Democrats. I’m at the place now where I don’t vote Republican (unless someone I know at a local level) as a rule, anyhow. Not to the place yet where I want to vote Democrat, but this latest crisis is pushing me that direction.

  • Rick

    “The “hating on the poor” is top thing”
    From the post:
    “Can Christians do anything to stop cooperating with the demonization and polarization that is deepening in American politics?”

  • Kyle J

    Dan, What do you think motivates the typical illegal immigrant to enter the US? Do you think there are economic benefits to the forms of labor they typically provide? Would “fairness” dictate that all current illegal immigrants be deported? What about the children who were born and raised here?

    I don’t believe that, from a Biblical standpoint, fairness and nationalism trump all other considerations–most specifically, compassion and grace.

  • Kyle J

    I would say the limit is the level at which people are no longer able to enjoy the benefits of their work. That’s true from both a justice standpoint and from a practical standpoint–if they don’t, economic productivity will suffer. Most economists put the point at which that happens at a marginal tax rate of 60-70%. I see no evidence that that is occurring now–or was occurring with the somewhat higher rates of the 1990′s.

    The flip side to the question is: What’s the limit on economic inequality? All the evidence indicates that the vast preponderance of income growth over the last 20-30 years has flowed to the top 1-5% of earners. Is it acceptable for that to continue for another 20 years, or is there a limit?

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Jeff, I don’t think our concepts of justice are going to give us a specific effective income tax rate, let alone one that includes specific ‘just’ deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, and categories, such as ordinary income vs. capital gains. Add on top of that the fact that income tax is only one tax among many. And some states collect additional income taxes and others don’t. In sum, I think that justice can inform a discussion on taxes, but it won’t get us much in the way of specifics, especially in our federal-state structure. Yes, I do think that principles of justice do speak to our tax laws, both to total tax as well as method of computation and application, but our current top marginal rate is, IMO, not offensive to justice, nor were the rates of the 1990′s. Remember, our marginal rate structure doesn’t mean that someone in the 30% bracket is paying that percentage on all their income, just on the amount that is over th threshold for that bracket, so the effective rate is always much lower. But more importantly, if justice is your main concern remember that the wealthiest Americans tend to pay a *lower effective rate* than typical working class people because of preferred rates for capital gains and other features of the IRC. Buffet admitted he pays a lower rate than his secretary. Romney admitted his effective rate is below 20%. Is that just?

  • Kyle J

    How would you describe Romney’s comments about the “47 percent”? Maybe it wasn’t hating on them, but it was certainly dismissing or resenting them.

    We should be careful about judging others’ motives, but when the rhetoric coming from the top leadership of one party becomes that extreme, at some point you have to call a spade a spade.

  • Rick

    “How would you describe Romney’s comments about the “47 percent”? Maybe it wasn’t hating on them, but it was certainly dismissing or resenting them.”

    You are right- it wasn’t “hating”. So why use the word? That is exactly the kind of demonization talk that makes things worse. Why even say “resent”?
    Both sides are into extreme rhetoric (as has been seen in this government shutdown talk), so it should be our job as Christians to not fall into that same trap. Let’s raise the standard, rather than join the trashing bandwagon.

  • Jeff Butler

    I understand marginal tax rates. You are right they pay a “lower effective rate” because income from investments is taxed differently than income from work. It has been thought that to encourage people to invest their money to create jobs and in the process risk loosing it, they should be taxed at a lower rate to encourage that risk taking. Whether that should happen is an open question but it needs to be noted that is the reason for the discrepancy. Also, the reason Buffet’s secretary is in such a high tax bracket is because she is so well paid, much more than the average secretary. He could cut her salary to get her in a lower bracket. I am not sure that the injustice is Romney’s rate is too low rather than the secretary’s rate is too high.

    So basically, there is no way to determine a just tax rate. The amount of money a person earns that can be taken by the government is up to the subjective opinion of the majority. If they think someone is not paying enough and the covet a person’s wealth they simply raise the tax rate so they can confiscate it.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Jeff, you know what I’m going to call you out on how you ended that comment. I, as just one of many, think that the upper classes tax rates, including cap gains need to be raised and for lots of reasons, none of which is that I want to use government to “confiscate it” for myself. This is a huge part of the problem right now. Even if everyone does it (I’ve done it!), Christians cannot be disparaging whole swaths of people with covetousness or laziness or whatever just because they disagree with us! This is Spiritual Formation by political info-tainers. It will probably take just a long time to undo, assuming we even want to try. I urge you to try.

  • Jeff Butler

    T,

    I did not use the second persons pronoun “you” but they third person “they.” If you don’t think covetousness drives most, not all, people’s political decisions, I think you are mistaken. I think our theology tells us that we are fallen. Or perhaps it covetousness only drives the decisions of Republicans?

    What do you think getting your fair share political rhetoric is about? Someone has more than you and we will take if from them and give it to you.

    Confiscate. What else do you call it when you take income from someone who has earned it and it give it someone who did not earn so they will vote for you and give you political power?

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Part of loving others, even enemies, is not assuming the worst about them all the time. Many republicans here have bemoaned being called racist or greedy or having hatred for the poor. If you don’t want people to put that on you, why is it okay to put covetousness on others?

    And I call taxes what they are. Taxes. If we call the king a thief for collecting taxes, I don’t think we are giving the respect that the NT teaches. Our taxes, unlike those in NT times were put in place by elected officials even. It’s not confiscation. That’s libertarianism talking, not Jesus.

  • Jeff Butler

    As I mentioned my observations are anecdotal but they are not because of my political commitments. When I moved from the upper middle class suburbs to the the city I was registered Democrat. I did not vote for Reagan once and thought he would get us into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Urban living and ministry changed by politics primarily because what I saw government dependency do to the spirit and character of people.

    I will share another anecdote in response to the post below. Please check it out.

    Christians should be on the side of the poor is generally true. However, Leviticus 19:15 states “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

    We can always be sure we are being fair when we use our own resources to help rather than taking the resources of others.

  • Jeff Butler

    No one is talking about eliminating SNAP. The discussion is whether the changes proposed by the GOP are draconian. Also, SNAP is not the only program helping the poor. There are others: WIC, Earned Income Credit etc.

    I was bivocational, managing a restaurant, when we first moved to the city. Even after leaving there, I spent a lot of time there. One of my “formative” experiences was with a woman that started working there because of the Clinton change in welfare that require those that could to work. I mentioned this before but let me go into a little detail. She had two daughters in grade school so she could. She resented working at first but over time she enjoyed it and became a valuable employee moving from cashier to shift manager. Work brought about a change in character, part of that came about because of her interaction with other working people. She had a greater sense of worth and self esteem. She was happy that of the example she was setting for her daughters. She took their education more seriously and was more involved in their homework and interacted with their teachers more. They started doing better in school. The first year she spent her tax refund on a big TV. She later, because of change in values, thought that was unwise. The second year she bought a computer for her girls to use for school. Her words, not mine, being force to work was the best thing that ever happened to her. Of course, if compassionate Christians had their way she would have stayed home and watched TV all day, her self description. Compassion is sometimes doing what is best for a person not easiest for them or us.

  • Jeff Butler

    It is not loving to be in denial about what motivates people. Problems are solved by looking at them honestly.

    Taxes in NT days were collected for the support of the government not to transfer wealth. Perhaps it would be best to look at the OT to see who these issues were handled. As best I can tell the Israelite were commanded to be generous to the poor but I can’t find any where that God said to tax people to help the poor. Actually, a king with taxing power was man’s idea not God. God warned them against a king in 1 Samuel 8.

    So if it is your opinion it is Jesus and if it is different than that it is libertarianism? Nice.

    The vote of the majority may make it legal but it doesn’t make it moral or wise.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Jeff,

    If you’re going to look in the OT, don’t stop with one verse. There is a ton of aggressive mandatory sharing. When the OT uses the term “justice” it has those laws as part of that concept.

  • Jeff Butler

    Please share those so I can see exactly what you mean by “aggressive mandatory sharing.”

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Gleanings and Harvests: The corners of fields and the grapes dropped by the workers were reserved for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:17; Leviticus 19:9-10). The poor were also allowed to eat from land that lay fallow or idle in the Sabbath years (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-11).

    Protection from Creditors: Creditors could not charge interest or keep garments (which provided warmth and doubled as one’s blanket at night), nor could they take the tools of a man’s trade as security for a loan. These provisions ensured people’s ability to earn a living and also prevented extreme hardships (Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 24:12-13).

    Year of Jubilee (the Big One!): Once every 50 years, Jubilee provided a comprehensive program of debt cancellation, liberation from indentured servitude, *and the complete restoration of each family’s ancestral real property*, granting the poor a fresh start (Leviticus 25:8-22). Think about how aggressively merciful that is, how substantial.

    Kinsman Redeemer: Family members were to help each other repurchase their land if they fell into debt and lost it (Leviticus 25:23-34). Family members could also purchase freedom for one another if they were forced into slavery to meet financial needs (Leviticus 25:47-55). Widows could also be saved from their plight by kinsman redeemers, as in the case of Boaz’s aid to Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 4:1-10).

    Scaled Prices for Sacrifices and Offerings: Poor people who could not afford to present costly sacrifices and offerings were allowed to sacrifice less costly sacrifices that they could afford (Leviticus 5:7, 11; 14:21).

    The Tithe: One of the tithes (there were many) was collected with a particular command to include aliens, the fatherless, widows and other poor people in a yearly community feast and celebration (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
    That’s a good quick summary from a website I found. I’ll try to do a more thorough look at these issues in a future post. Jubilee alone is more aggressive than any US program, by far. This was part of the OT (God’s?) concept of “justice.”

  • Dan

    Senator Obama said in 2006 that raising the debt limit was a sign of leadership failure, shifting the burden of bad choices onto our children and crippling us domestically and internationally. He called such policies reckless then. Today those who resist his absolute insistence on raising the debt ceiling are called extremists and terrorists while his health care takeover will potentially add 6 trillion to the debt. Which Obama are we to believe? All I see are premiums rising when he claimed the would not, many losing plans they were happy with and having to change doctors, companies cutting hours to 28, and the spectre of the IRS looking over our shoulders just in case we use words like Tea or Patriot. Armageddon? Maybe not. An increase in the downward spiral? Yes. Irreversible? Probably.

  • Kyle J

    You have to use some word. What word would you use? Is “dismissing” OK?

    If so, then I think it’s important for Christians to public say we don’t dismiss the poor in this country.

    So I agree “hating” is over the top if we are giving people the benefit of the doubt in terms of motives. But it’s not extreme to point out extremeness. And there may be extremeness on both sides, but it’s not driving the ship on the left like it is on the right at the moment.

  • Rick

    “extremeness on both sides, but it’s not driving the ship on the left like it is on the right at the moment.”
    But not in language. And that is part of the problem. I agree, the Tea Party has taken things too far in 1 direction, but the demonization language from all sides (not just the Tea Party) continues full force.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    We are a debt-based society. Our economy is built on people going into debt. Think what might happen if we limited the debt the nation and families could take on?
    The economy would crumble.

    So with that in mind it would be interesting to “implement” a Year of Jubilee (YoJ) concept. It would totally change the way debt and loans would be designed and structured.

    Do you think you would be able to buy anything with a credit/card with the limits you have now if there was a YoJ?

    Do you think you would get a 30yr mortgage 2 years before YoJ was to occur?

    On the flip side, I don’t think God ever commanded people to go into debt to help others. Gleaning & Tithes was giving part of what you had. Yet where do we find the US today? We are increasing spending and expanding entitlements w/o paying for it or even having a plan to pay for it.

    And yes, we need to help those in need. But in addition to Lev 19:15, there are verses about who qualifies for aid (see 1 Tim 5 or 2 Thess 3:10) that give us guidelines on how to do this justly which need to be taken into account.

    All that to say this is a complicated problem and neither side of our government is dealing with it in a comprehensive and just way.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    Are you arguing that governments don’t/shouldn’t have to pay back their debt? Don’t tell all the people who bought treasury bonds.

  • https://timothy.posthaven.com/ Tim M

    Haha, I don’t know nearly enough about this to attempt to argue that. I’m saying that national debt works differently than personal debt. My point number 1 above is directly tied to point 2: individuals and governments have different obligations when it comes to debt because of who they owe the money too. I have a very elementary understanding of this, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand the US government going into “debt” really to mean that (to use a one person analogy) we are taking salary advances on our paychecks, with the belief that we are going to be getting a raise that will cover it. It’s not like we are going to BofA and taking out a loan.

    I’m not sure what that means in terms of how we should manage the debt, or even if we shouldn’t take salary advances. I just want to show that there is big difference here. Too many people relate national debt to personal loans. Check out the article I linked–it is pretty interesting.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    Tim

    Just b/c we “owe the $ to ourselves” does not mean we don’t have to pay it back.

    Also a “salary advance” is different than spending with the expectation for a raise. Say I earn $1000 but payday is next month. I need the $ now so I might ask (and get) the $1000 I earned and am due earlier – that would be an advance. But if I make $100K and spend $ like I make $150K then I am “gambling” that I will get that raise. If I don’t then what?

    I am no expert on this but the national debt has several different components. In each case the US still pays back the debt.

    1) the US borrows $ from other nations. That would be a loan similar that which would exist between a bank and a person. For example, we owe China something like $1.2 trillion. If these nations were not lending us the money we would not have it to spend right now. And they are expecting us to pay it back (with interest).

    2) the US borrows $ from its citizens when individuals buy Treasury bonds.The US borrows $ that it would not have to spend right now. That would be similar to a person buying a corporate bond. These individuals are expecting us to pay it back (with interest).

    3) the US borrows $ from itself. For example the “general fund” borrows from the social security trust fund. That is b/c we wanted to spend more than we have right now. And the trust was collecting more than it needed. However, the $ in the trust is used to pay SS benefits. When the trust needs that $ back the “general fund” will have to (1) stop borrowing from the trust *and* (2) pay back the trust what it borrowed in the past in order for SS benefits to be paid. This seems most similar to an individual borrowing from their IRA/401(k). I need the $ now (and I need the $ when I retire), but if I don’t eventually pay back the retirement account it will not be there.

    HTH

  • https://timothy.posthaven.com/ Tim M

    Interesting points–again I don’t know enough to argue for or against them specifically, though I wasn’t attempting to say that the government does not have to pay the debt back.

    The article I cited stats explicitly that if the GDP grows as expected, national debt becomes absorbed/over-shadowed. I’m not sure if that means that it doesn’t have to be paid back or not. I found it pretty interesting to read.

  • Gary in FL

    I feel the same way. I’m part of the GOP’s core demographic, and I’ve made a promise to myself to never vote for a Republican candidate for anything again. They’ve permanently lost me.

  • patriciamc

    Count me in as another disenchanted Republican. I’ve never been a Democrat, so I don’t get upset by what they do, and I’ve usually been a Republican for fiscal and national security issues, but the party is now way too right for a moderate like me. The party leadership doesn’t understand that the days of the Christian Coalition are long over, so ignoring the moderates and appealing to the far right fringe is only going to make them loose elections like they’ve done in the last two presidential races. Also, I have a feeling that way too many Republicans in the state and federal houses have been bought and paid for by special interest groups.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    Tim, appreciate the discussion. And working toward a common understanding of debt is important if as a nation we are going to tackle the justice issues both now and in the future.

    “if the GDP grows” only works if it outpaces the growing debt & deficit spending (and that is currently going the opposite direction). But yes, a faster increase in GDP (cmp to debt) would make the debt ratio smaller and result in increasing revenue (more taxes collected).

    But that still might not fix anything. Even if GDP grows there is actual debt that has been accumulating. That is real $ owed that needs to be paid back.

    To pay back these debts the US needs to do one of three things (or really a combo):
    1) revenue growth (w/ $ used to pay debt not new stuff)
    2) less spending (w/ $ directed to pay debt)
    3) take on new debt to pay the existing debt bills

    right now we mostly rely on #3

  • me

    Okay, maybe I shouldn’t use the word ‘hate’, but I’ve seen a lot of angry FB posts about the recipients of welfare, SNAP, WIC, etc. being lazy.

    And how do we talk about this subject, especially when it’s coming from people at church (even an elder)?

    Up until now, I haven’t responded to the posts.

  • Jeff Butler

    Gleanings and Harvest: Notice there is a work requirement. The poor were not simply given that which was harvested by someone else but worked for what they got.

    Protection from Creditors: The lenders were not required to give to another person just not charge interest etc.

    Year of Jubilee: Not sure why this is a big one. Ultimately it means that in Israel land could not be sold but simply entered into a long term lease arrangement. It is not a redistribution of wealth but the end of a lease. It only applies to land, not gold, silver, cattle, crops etc.

    Kinsman Redeemer: Doesn’t seem particularly relevant.

    Scaled Prices for Sacrifices and Offerings: No redistribution here. God like any business owner is free to set the terms of his “business.” There is nothing here about requiring others to do the same. However, notice what God says about the “temple tax” in Exodus 30:15 “The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives.” Why? Because the rich are not more valuable than the poor and the poor not less valuable than the rich. I don’t think our government dependent system communicates that.

    The Tithe: The tithe referred to is an every third year tithe. Notice. Fixed amount not determined by a dictatorial majority based on their subjective opinion about how much they want of someone’s wealth. It is interesting to note what the website you quoted does. Deuteronomy 14 (NIV) says the tithe is for “the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns” and does not include “other poor people.” The website you quoted decided to add that to God’s word.

    I find this to something less than “aggressive mandatory sharing.” However, it is sharing because it all seems to be voluntary. It is mandatory because God commands. But it hardly seems aggressive. But most of all, I don’t see any government enforcement mechanism nor do I see the terms subject to the whims of politicians seek to buy votes.

    This discussion is not about what we as Christians should do but the role of the government. Christians should be very generous with what we have but we should be careful about how we use the coercive power of the government.

    Still curious about how you came to the conclusion that the GOP cuts were severe.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Jeff (and, somewhat, Mike Barlotta :) ),

    I appreciate the investment of time in this discussion, but this will likely be it on my end; all the best to you both going forward. On YoJ, initially, the land was given/leased to all Israel’s families (save priests) for zero. Pure grace as promised (with trees that they did not plant; cities they did not build, etc.). Then, God mandates that the land be given to those same families anew every 50 years. (!) If you take time to think about the fact that land, in that economy, was the most significant form of capital and means of production–by far, you will begin to see what I mean by aggressive. It is a straight “entitlement” without condition, renewed every 50 years for all Israel. It’s why those odd “boundary stone” laws make sense. It was like God was giving the land anew to each generation. The land is, literally, the bedrock of the economy for farmer and shepherd alike. Israel’s whole system of economics and and justice rests on undeserved gift of the land to the people (preceded by the undeserved gift of rescue from Egypt), a gift he renews every 50 years, regardless of merit.

    I’m not giving you those laws to say, “Here, see, our system of charity is just like that (or even should be).” You’ve raised the issue of “justice” and argued from a verse in the OT that mandated (legally required) charity is “unjust.” I’m telling you that you are laying your own concept (likely libertarian) of justice over top those verses. You need to re-look at the total picture of the laws that made up *the OT concept of “justice”* because there’s a heck of a lot of mandatory, non-market-driven, unearned kindness that under girds and shapes the whole system; indeed grace is the foundation, and God repeats that fact often as the reason they must obey (“I am the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt.”). I will do a future post (or series), Lord willing and if Scot is game, on why the libertarian idea of justice is simply not the same as the Judeo-Christian one; they are philosophies with very different origins and justifications and values.

    All that said, you are right to point out that some of Israel’s charity laws kept the poor who were able at work, which is great! In our day, as we attempt to wisely incorporate both kindness and responsibility into our systems, I think much can be learned from what God was attempting to encourage as well as discourage and how he sought to do both. If you read the OT and conclude that charity was not mandated or that the YoJ was not significant economically, especially to the poor, then I will agree to disagree. Again, best to you. Thanks for taking the time.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    I really hope you’re not justifying taxes in the NT (the ones that Jesus and Paul told churches to pay) by the “justice” of what they were used for. Rome was a conquering, oppressive empire. It was wealth transfer . . . from the conquered to the conquerors! Jesus and Paul didn’t say that the taxes should be paid because the rulers or their rules were just! Ha! They knew better than that.

    And, FWIW, I’m not saying something is or isn’t from Jesus because it suits me. I take the idea of putting words in Jesus’ mouth pretty seriously. If you think I’m doing that, please show me. I just think that too many Christians think/assume/have been told that libertarianism is gospel. It’s not. It’s not the devil incarnate either. It’s like most “isms”–some good and bad.

  • Marta L.

    I realize I’m coming into this very late, and I don’t necessarily want to wade into the political waters. But I did want to offer my personal encouragement.

    I considered myself a Republican my entire childhood. I came of age for the 2000 election and voted for Bush. In 2004 I voted for Bush again but was increasingly disenchanted by the Iraq war – this was around the time I was growing increasingly pacifist, and the emphasis on perpetual war, a war on an ideal and against a country that wasn’t directly involved with 9/11, just seemed like almost sacrilege compared to the loss of 9/11. But what really drove me away was the 2004 election’s anti-SSM amendments. It just seemed like such a political move on the backs of a much-maligned sub-population. I wasn’t exactly a gay rights advocate at the time and I don’t expect everyone here to agree with me that this was a bad move; but it served as the same watershed moment as the current GOP’s nativist tendencies I think did for you, Scot. It just wasn’t a movement I wanted to be part of.

    But breaking up is hard to do, always. So I feel for you as you go through this process. Interestingly, I finally felt at home in the Green Party, of all places! I don’t always agree on their specific policies, but they have a commitment to human dignity, the value of strong communities, and other things I found very attractive when I was in the GOP, along with (in practice if not in terms of the stated platform) a freedom to make up your own mind and disagree on other issues. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty,” as the line goes.

    Good luck on your journey.


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