Real information and actual facts

This is how newspapers are supposed to work when they’re doing their job.

First, a reporter does his job, taking a look at the economic reality facing the paper’s readers and the actual effects that proposed government policies will have on that reality. Michael Symons’ article “As poverty rises in NJ, cuts target aid” did exactly that.

Poverty is rising, demand for food stamps has rocketed and the job market remains tepid at best, more than three years after the economy began to crater.

Against that backdrop of need is a harsh reality anti-poverty groups say they struggle to overcome: Much of the public doesn’t want to hear about it. Driven by Gov. Chris Christie here and tea partiers in Washington, the conversation is all about cutting government services — the faster the better.

Then the richest man in town does his job, writing a letter to the editor praising the reporter for telling the truth and — because this particular rich man isn’t like the millionaires that Gov. Christie and the tea partiers think should be the primary beneficiaries of government action — criticizing the governor for trying to balance the state budget by cutting vitally necessary aid to the poor while giving bigger tax breaks to people like him.

Here’s that letter:

Thank you for your March 27 front-page story by Michael Symons, “As poverty rises, cuts target aid.” The article is one of the few that highlights the contradictions between a policy of large tax cuts, on the one hand, and cuts in services to those in the most dire conditions, on the other.

Also, you’ve shone some light on anti-poverty workers and analysts such as Adele LaTourette, Meara Nigro, Cecilia Zalkind and Raymond Castro, among others, all of whom have something important to add to the discussion: real information and actual facts about what is happening below the poverty line.

These are voices that in our current climate are having a hard time being heard, not just in New Jersey, but nationally. Finally, your article shows that the cuts are eating away at the lower edges of the middle class, not just those already classified as in poverty, and are likely to continue to get worse over the next few years. I’m always glad to see my hometown newspaper covering these issues.

Bruce Springsteen, Colts Neck

And then, finally, the editorial board of the paper gets off the fence and sides with its reporter and with the “real information and actual facts” of the matter, publishing an editorial with the appropriately imperative headline “Help those who are falling behind.”

The famous line from the gospels, “The poor you will always have with you,” is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. Our front-page story in last Sunday’s Asbury Park Press, “As poverty rises, cuts target aid,” certainly confirmed that.

What also is true these days is that New Jersey is not doing nearly enough to aid the increasing number of those in poverty or those living on the margins, which now includes many who once considered themselves part of the middle class.

… State budget cuts, past and present, have contributed to the problem. In Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget now being debated in Trenton, there are actions the state can, and should take, to mitigate the pain for those least able to absorb more of it.

… There is no legitimate fiscal reason for the so-called “shared sacrifice” required to fix the state’s still faltering economy to fall so disproportionately on our most vulnerable citizens.

Bravo and well done, Asbury Park Press.

I do want to quibble, however, with that editorial’s misattribution and misapplication of that “famous line from the Gospels.”

“The poor you will always have with you,” isn’t from the Gospels. It’s quoted there, by Jesus, but that’s not where it’s from. It’s from Deuteronomy.

“The poor shall never cease out of the land,” Deuteronomy 15 reads in the King James Version. “There will always be poor people in the land,” is how the New International Version renders the phrase.

Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy for an audience that he knew would recognize those words as coming from the books of Moses. He knew that they knew the phrase was from Deuteronomy, so he knew they would know the context of the passage he was quoting. That audience, knowing that context, could be trusted to understand what was being said in a way that we American readers have demonstrated we cannot.

Because we love to quote this phrase — “The poor you will always have with you” or “There will never cease to be some in need” — and we almost always do so in a way that suggests that this is inevitable, that this is just the way things will always be and nothing can be done to change it. We almost never quote this passage in its original context — which suggests exactly the opposite. In its original context, “There will always be poor people in the land” is a bitter rebuke — a condemnation of an inexcusable, epic moral failure.

That rebuke was the essence of what Jesus was saying when he repeated this passage as a rebuke to Judas Iscariot. And it’s a rebuke that American Christians desperately need to learn to hear, because it’s also directed at us.

Go back and read the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 15 and you’ll find that this fragment of it quoted famously by Jesus is part of a kind of syllogism, a conditional statement. The full idea, the full statement in Deuteronomy 15 says this:

There will be no one in need among you … if only you will obey the Lord your God by observing this entire commandment. … There will never cease to be some in need on the earth. (NRSV)

There shall be no poor among you … if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments. … The poor shall never cease out of the land. (KJV)

There need be no poor people among you … if only you fully obey. … There will always be poor people in the land. (NIV)

If you obey, then there will be no poor among you. But you do not obey, so therefore there will always be poor among you.

“This entire commandment” described in Deuteronomy included the Jubilee and Sabbath laws governing the forgiveness of debts, plus a whole host of other laws that made up the Levitical safety net. Taken as a whole, those laws really would have ensured that there would be no poor in the land. But those laws were never put in place, never enforced, never obeyed, never followed — not even during the reigns of the good kings.

The only time during which anything like those laws was in place was in the wilderness, when God was in charge of supplying an alternate currency. Manna, unlike gold, couldn’t be hoarded — only shared.

“The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus said 2,000 years ago, quoting a scripture written many centuries before that. And for all those many hundreds of years this has been descriptively accurate. For all of that time, the poor have, indeed, always been with us — the living proof of our perpetual, perennial moral failure.

  • Anonymous

    “if only you fully obey”
    “fully obey”
    “obey the Lord your God”
    “obey”
    “OBEY!”

    DALEKS!!

    ::dives behind sofa::

  • Anonymous

    I’m puzzled by the morality that decries cuts in aid, but eagerly accepts/encourages taking others money at the point of a gun to provide that aid.

    How come they never stop to consider that the people who benefit from their tax dollars may well be themselves?

    Our social systems aim to keep our elderly from having to live on cat food. If you detest that idea, consider that perhaps one day you may be only a government check away from having to eat cat food yourself.

    Voluntary charitable donations don’t work.

    There is no contradiction between trying to care for our elderly and enforcing the tax laws through threat of incarceration and fines. Nobody in the U.S. Government is taking peoples’ taxes at the point of a gun — that’s a strawperson.

  • Anonymous

    Also frequently seen in the company of “nobody ever gave me anything,” which is patent bull if someone has actually made it to adulthood.

    Or even been weaned. Do these folks get invoiced by their parents for services, or something?

  • Loki100

    Well, that and the mind-boggling enormity of their inherited wealth.

    True. No one ever made billions being a union organizer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    The traditional embellishment of the tale has it that the perfume’s value was 300 pieces of silver, and Judas’ habit was to skim 10% off the top. So he felt he was owed 30…

  • hf

    Pretty sure you’re all wrong about the story of the oil (except Fred, interestingly).

    The woman in the story anoints Jesus with fragrant oil. Does that sound familiar? She’s not doing him a favor, she’s declaring him King (or treating him like a living Ark of the Covenant).

    I think John, by making Judas a thief, actually makes sense of what otherwise seems like a simple lie by the Gospel writers. Obviously if this scene really happened, any onlookers who objected would do so for reasons unrelated to the cost of the oil. (‘Are you trying to kill us all?’) But if we treat it as a story and say the character who stole money from charity betrayed Jesus for that reason, we get a different message. Stop me if you know otherwise, but it seems like the Messiah by definition would bring about a world with no poor people. So here we have a cartoonishly obtuse character who doesn’t notice the promise of plenty because he only thinks of stealing money from the poor. This character prevents or delays the messianic age that should otherwise follow the anointing.

    Without John’s change it looks like obedience would get more of the story’s focus.

  • Jenny Islander

    I heard a sermon once in which the story was interpreted as Jesus saying, in essence, “You still don’t frickin’ get it, do you?” The preacher pointed out that actually, Jesus said that a lot to a lot of people in response to a lot of different questions. In this case, the answer was: “I’m going to die soon. As in die. As in dead. As in bundled into a hole in the ground without even the dignity of preparation for burial. This woman is doing what she can for me. And you’re pissing and moaning about what you want do to with the money instead. This is the moment. It’s passing now. I am on my way to death. WAKE. UP.”

    The same preacher invited us to keep in mind that many of Jesus’ disciples were commercial fishermen and play the familiar Bible stories in our heads as if they starred commercial fishermen we knew IRL. The boats featured in Deadliest Catch dock here regularly.

  • Daughter

    But… if you had spent 3 years with George, and had seen him live “with no place to lay his head,” and feed thousands of people, and heal dozens, and teach about giving to the poor, and so forth, then a little extravagence on his part wouldn’t make him a hypocrite. And as someone noted above, he was accepting the woman’s gift to him, while Judas was publicly shaming her.

    But even if he had been defensive, would it have been completely without merit? Personal story here, hardly comparable but perhaps somewhat relevant: a church I used to belong to was planning a community service day, which happened to fall two weeks before my wedding. I had a dress fitting and some other wedding prep activities planned for that day, so I wasn’t going to participate.

    A woman at my church decided to challenge me on “not having a heart for the poor,” because I wasn’t going. This, despite the fact that I worked in employment and gang prevention programs for low-income youth, and volunteered as a tutor and mentor in my free time, while her service to the poor consisted of participating in our church’s annual service day. Yeah, I was a little ticked about that.

  • Daughter

    LL lies for living? And you know this how? Is LL someone whose name we should all know, or does s/he work in some profession that involves lying?

  • Lori

    A woman at my church decided to challenge me on “not having a heart for the poor,” because I wasn’t going. This, despite the fact that I worked in employment and gang prevention programs for low-income youth, and volunteered as a tutor and mentor in my free time, while her service to the poor consisted of participating in our church’s annual service day. Yeah, I was a little ticked about that.

    Argh! There’s one in every church (and every other group of any size). What is wrong with those people?

  • Daughter

    @Bifi, if this were a passage that was just talking about an undefined “obey God or else” type of thing I’d agree with you.

    But if you read the whole context (Deuteronomy 14:22 through Deuteronomy 15:18), the word “obey” is mentioned only once in those 25 verses. And the context of what God is asking the Israelites to obey is very relevant: storing up their tithes every three years for the poor, widows and aliens among them, cancelling debts and freeing servants every 7 years so no one becomes too impoverished, and being open-handed and generous to anyone in need. So yes, if the Israelites obeyed those laws, there wouldn’t be any poor among them.

  • Daughter

    I would amend that (as someone who now works in charitable fundraising):

    Voluntary charitable donations don’t work in sufficient amounts to address all the needs in our society.

  • Lori

    Pretty sure you’re all wrong about the story of the oil (except Fred, interestingly).

    Considering that a number of posters have been agreeing with Fred I don’t see how it would be possible for everyone except Fred to be wrong.

    The woman in the story anoints Jesus with fragrant oil. Does that sound familiar? She’s not doing him a favor, she’s declaring him King (or treating him like a living Ark of the Covenant).

    Not according to Jesus. Jesus said that she was preparing him for burial.

    Stop me if you know otherwise, but it seems like the Messiah by definition would bring about a world with no poor people.

    Again, not according to Jesus, so I don’t think I’m following your point here.

  • Anonymous

    The latter.

  • Daughter

    Please clue me in; I don’t visit Slacktivist much these days. What profession is that?

  • http://horriblefoodogre.blogspot.com Samantha C

    I think I like that interpretation – but as an unbeliever, I find it vastly more satisfying to have stories in which a god-character behaves in an understandable, human way. (I was introduced to the Infancy Gospels last semester in a course and I found them absolutely fascinating, trying to watch a young boy grapple with the fact that he’s a god.) It’s both absolutely selfish, and entirely understandable, even sympathetic, for Jesus to have a moment of “Damnit you guys, I’m about to die, I deserve this one little fricking thing for once in my life.” I understand that. I’ve felt that way. It doesn’t put the character in the world’s best light, but it makes more sense and more pathos to me.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    No its not entirely fair, because if you thought your friend was the avatar of the living god, you’d be locked up in an asylum, wouldn’t you?

    Not in California – Reagan closed all of ours.

  • hf

    @ Lori: Not according to Jesus. Jesus said that she was preparing him for burial.

    Really, you see a contradiction between anointing someone “King of the Jews” in Roman Israel and preparing them for burial? Why don’t you ask Bar-Kokhba about that.

    Again, not according to Jesus,

    You mean the story? What has Fred been saying this whole time about the Book of Revelation?

  • Lori

    Really, you see a contradiction between anointing someone “King of the Jews” in Roman Israel and preparing them for burial? Why don’t you ask Bar-Kokhba about that.

    My point was that if Jesus thought the important issue WRT the anointing was his kingship you think he’d mentioned that at the time.

    You mean the story? What has Fred been saying this whole time about the Book of Revelation?

    I’ve been reading Fred for quite a while now. If he’s ever said anything that indicates that we’re supposed to read the Gospels the same way that we read Revelation I must have missed it. His point about Revelation is that it’s not supposed to be read the same way as the Gospels and that contention cuts both ways.

  • Bificommander

    @ Daughter: Ah, that context does make the whole thing much better. (Much like some context for those slogans might. Assuming the ones who wrote them indeed weren’t thinking of insulting Christians of course. I can’t be sure of that.)

    My point on the risk of reminding the tea partiers of it still stands though. As we see during LB monday-ish-s, context is not something that will stop most of them from homing in on the quote like I did. Only with glee, rather than dread.

  • hf

    …What do you believe the word “Messiah” means? What does it mean literally, and what necessary connotations does it have for Jewish people?

    In connection with the second part of that, what do you see as the message of Revelation?

  • Lori

    What do you believe the word “Messiah” means? What does it mean literally, and what necessary connotations does it have for Jewish people?

    Considering that Jesus said more than once that he didn’t come to be what people expected I don’t think I see the relevance of those expectations WRT to Jesus’ comments in this story.

    Personally I think the message of Revelation is that John got a little too much sun.

    Setting that aside, the Gospels are supposedly the story of what happened when the Son of God was on earth. Revelation is prediction about what would happen to Christians in the years after it was written. Because of the opposition Christians were experiencing at the time those predictions were given in a less than straightforward way.

    Writings done at different times, for different audiences, in different styles, for different purposes are generally not meant to be read in the same way.

  • Dea Syria

    I believe that that was the position advanced by the Gospel of Mark, in distinction to Jn.

  • Dea Syria

    Look at my original post. It is unlikely to be an accurate reflection of anything Jesus said. But that doesn’t change the fact that meaning of Mark and Jn are quite different, and that Jn purposefully changed his Markan source.

  • Dea Syria

    Your theory is undercut by the fact that everyone (who could afford it), anointed themselves with oil every day as a hygiene measure. there was no soap. One rubbed on oil, then scrapped it off and some of the sweat and dirt with it later. While anointing was part of the ceremony of crowingn a Hebrew king, that isn’t the only time anointing was done.

    Though what you say is possible.

  • Mau de Katt

    “This entire commandment” described in Deuteronomy included the Jubilee and Sabbath laws governing the forgiveness of debts, plus a whole host of other laws that made up the Levitical safety net.

    Next time the public representatives of the Religious Reich start thumping for “instituting Biblical Law” and “bringing back Levitical Law,” I want to hold those laws up to them and say “yay, this means all those monetary debts are forgiven, then?” and watch them backpedal madly as they try to defend their whole anti-Biblical system of Predatory Capitalism.

    (p.s. I said Predatory Capitalism….)

  • Lori

    Look at my original post. It is unlikely to be an accurate reflection of anything Jesus said. But that doesn’t change the fact that meaning of Mark and Jn are quite different, and that Jn purposefully changed his Markan source.

    I’ll repeat the same thing I said the first time—if one assumes that the story is not an accurate reflection of what Jesus said then I fail to see the point of the entire discussion. Even if John’s additions about Judas aren’t accurate that seems to pale in comparison to the idea that Jesus didn’t say what the Gospel’s say that he said.

  • hf

    that seems to pale in comparison to the idea that Jesus didn’t say what the Gospel’s say that he said.

    I give you The Story of the Fig Tree as a Transparent Allegory for the Temple. It immediately follows the triumphal entry of the prophesied Messiah. Note the allusion to necessary conditions for a Messianic age (“not the season for figs.”)

    But hey, maybe God just hates figs. Or maybe he felt his disciples needed to understand the power of faith, because the part about walking on water didn’t get that point across.

  • Lori

    What is your point? If Gospels is allegory then what is the point of trying to get a moral message out of a reference Jesus probably didn’t even make?

    Keep in mind that I’m an atheist so I don’t believe any of it. I also don’t use any part of the Bible, let alone “the poor you will have with you always” as the basis for my personal morality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Excuse me, if you have something to criticize about LL’s post, please do so WITHOUT an ad hominem attack, poisoning the well, or any other fallacious, rude, and offensive argument techniques. This is a place for respectful engagement. Unless you are seriously presenting an argument that NO ONE who works in the field of marketing can be trusted to make an honest statement, then address the words, not the speaker.

  • arghous

    It’s still Thursday here…

    We were in Leadership Class, studying along with some book whose major premise was that we should look to Jesus as the perfect example of a leader. How he made use of his time. How he used humor (yeah, I never figured that one out). How he carefully chose his disciples for their various roles, and how he discipled them to reach their potential.

    Yes, the topic of Judas came up, and that tradition said he was a thief (or in our way of looking at things, not so much that he was a thief per se, but that the temptations of money affected him more). I was always very uncomfortable with that — why would Jesus, the bestest rootintootinest manager/leader evar, place someone like that anywhere near money??? This, along with similar inconsistencies, would eat away at me over the years, until I was able to throw off the Jesus Myth once and for all.

    There is a simpler explanation. This part of the Jesus Story is not about a “rebuke” of Judas, nor about standing up for some woman’s sensibilities, nor about kingship or servanthood, but rather about manipulating the Judas character into betraying the Jesus character, as Prophesy Says that must happen. Just as Ellinjay has a Prophesy Checklist that the LB world must be shoehorned into, the Biblical writers had their own Prophesy baggage to deal with.

    It’s a testament to the honor, character, and talent of the writers/compilers/editors of the Bible that they could construct a world orders of magnitude more complete than Ellinjay, but sometimes there isn’t enough spackle to hide the cracks. I’m impressed that people like Fred can still be kind, gentle, just, and honorable under the weight of Christianity, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if he applied to his own holy book the same thoughtfulness and reason he uses to eviscerate LB.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Ron Paul gave his son Rand Paul an itemized bill upon his 18th birthday…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Ron Paul gave his son Rand Paul an itemized bill upon his 18th birthday…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ding ding ding! We were overdue for another serving of “I can’t believe Fred is part of such an evil religion, because he seems to be a decent guy. Guess he doesn’t *really* believe all that crap”.

    Who wants to speculate on the paradox of Fred’s apparent high intelligence alongside his clear stupidity in believing in God? Anyone? There’s a nice serving of smugness in it for you.

    Truly, it never grows old.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I’m impressed that people like Fred can still be kind, gentle, just, and honorable under the weight of Christianity, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if he applied to his own holy book the same thoughtfulness and reason he uses to eviscerate LB.

    Because the only way he could possibly be a Christian is if he never ever thinks about it very hard?

    Rather patronising, aren’t you?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Come now, Deird, you know that the statement “membership of Group X is incompatible with [decency/intelligence/insert positive attribute of your own here]” is only bigoted when Group X is something I belong to or otherwise respect.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Oh, gosh, you’re right. *facepalm* How could I have forgotten?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    This was Isaac Asimov’s interpretation of this scene as well, as I recall from a collection of his essays I read several years ago. Whatever else Jesus was, he was certainly a man, a human being, who from all accounts worked tremendously hard at trying to get people to listen to his message. Having a woman rub his feet with oil or whatever was happening then probably simply felt good and Jesus felt like he deserved to have a bit of relaxation and pleasure.

  • arghous

    Because the only way he could possibly be a Christian is if he never ever thinks about it very hard?

    Fred recently asked the question, “Is God a Monster?” I think that someone who takes his Christianity seriously has to take that question seriously, and Fred’s series of posts over the last several months indicates to me that he is indeed taking it seriously — that he is thinking hard about it. And that as one who takes his Christianity seriously, the answer to that question had better be ‘No’. I won’t speak for Fred, but when I was a Christian, trying to take my Christianity seriously, questions such as this had better not have a ‘Yes’ answer, as that would have had a devastating effect on my faith. The preservation of the image of a non-monstrous God was central to the whole concept of my well-being as a Christian. It is my impression that Fred needs to keep a similar image of God for a similar reason.

    Is God a Monster? I’m sorry, but after reading the text that is commonly agreed to describe and speak for this God, the answer seems rather clearly, All Signs Point to ‘Yes’ (well, Many). The Bible seems replete with stories of a God who is capricious, vindictive, demanding, jealous, ineffectual, and even frightened of his creation. It is an unenviable task to try to turn that apparent ‘Yes’ into a ‘No’. Fred has been trying for the past few months to make a dent where thousands of years of apologetics has been unsatisfying. The amount of thinking shown, the mental gymnastics displayed has been indeed impressive.

    Rather patronising, aren’t you?

    Hey, just trying to keep alive that old Thursday spirit.

    But am I the only one being patronizing? Is not Fred being patronizing to Team Hell, in assigning them ignorance or worse to their interpretation of the Bible? To actually represent some of them as experiencing joy at the hope of eternal torture for others? Are not many of Team Hell instead honest and honorable people, who after studying the same suspect texts have reached in good faith a different opinion than Fred?

    When Fred tries to bend over backwards six different ways to explain away the uncomfortable usages of Hades/Sheol/Gahenna/whatever, is he not patronizing the writers of those Books? I commented in an earlier post that Jude, for example, would feel very comfortable in today’s Team Hell. Is it not patronizing to discount his, IMO, rather clear and straightforward statements? Whom should I believe? A contortionist Fred, or Jesus’ own brother? (I’d want to believe Fred, because I’m a liberal and a humanist, but if we’re going to argue from authority, Fred loses.)

    In Fred’s latest splits-attempting post, the word ‘eternal’ gets a makeover. Its meaning lies beyond our imagination, and we better keep that in mind when we read the Bible. Really? Does Fred really think the writers of the Bible were using the term in that manner? Could most of the modern translators be so wrong to use the term in the modern vernacular if they didn’t have reason to think it best applied to the ancient vernacular? I think I’m the one in danger of the groin pull to work that out.

    Despite all this, I condescend to be impressed by and congratulate Fred. If it takes this amount of effort for him to convince himself that his God is Not a Monster, and if that then helps him to continue to be a Good Person, I’m all for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Condescending, insulting, and smug. The ladies (or gentlemen, or both, as per your preference) must really find you irresistible.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I doubt Fred really needs your knee-jerk defense against arghous’ comments. It is also noted that you are unable to defend the substance of the complaint that Fred often has to parse Biblical stories and injunctions rather finely to maintain his idea of a God that is good and just. Sometimes this effort does lead to strained arguments. Noting that is neither condescending nor insulting nor smug.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    It isn’t actually clear to me that Andrew was defending Fred there, so much as objecting to arghous in his own voice.

    Either way, I agree with you that no defense is needed.

    I also agree that noting that tension exists between an “unfine” (coarse?) reading of the text on the one hand, and a belief in divine goodness and justice on the other, is not necessarily condescending or insulting or smug.

    But I would agree with Andrew that the way arghous did so was in fact all those things.

    As was Andrew’s reply.

  • Josh

    Kurt Vonnegut in his essay collection Palm Sunday challenges the selfishness interpretation from a different angle—recommended.

  • Rikalous

    Care to be a bit more explicit about what that angle is for those of us who don’t want to buy the book?

  • KevinC

    Is “Arghous, you’re a meanypoopypants!” really the best counter-argument that can be mustered? How exactly does a “fine” reading of a passage like Numbers 31 or, say, the extermination of all the firstborn children in Egypt to punish an autocratic king over whom their parents had no control* transform genocide into something consistent with “God is Love?” If you can do that, reconciling Jesus’ teachings on money with Republican economics is easy.

    *How many Egyptians would even know about any of the dramatic confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh in the royal palace? Villagers in Aswan would have their land laid waste and be burying their firstborn before any messengers came up river with tales of a conflict between their king and an angry Hebrew magician.

  • Josh

    Sure: it’s not unlike what a number of the other commenters here have suggested: it’s based on the premise that Judas is a thief and an “envious hypocrite,” whose resentment is aroused by seeing Jesus enjoy the way Mary and Martha are ministering to him, and that Jesus’s response is to dismiss his obviously insincere complaint with, “Dude, don’t worry about it . . . ” The key passage in the Vonnegut is “This is about what Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln would have said under similar circumstances. If Jesus did in fact say that, it is a divine black joke, well suited to the occasion. It says everything about hypocrisy and nothing about the poor. It is a Christian joke, which allows Jesus to remain civil to Judas, but to chide him about his hypocrisy all the same.”

    People who don’t want to buy the book and don’t have libraries can easily look at the whole chapter using Amazon’s Search Inside feature. Search for the word “hypocrisy” and you’ll get there.

  • Rikalous

    Thank you kindly.

  • PJ Evans

    Adding to that, that it might have affected only the part of Egypt around Luxor or wherever Pharaoh was living: local by our standards, widespread by the standard then.

  • mfin

    And how are incarceration and/or fines enforced but if not at the point of a gun?

    You can try to parse it all you like but taxation, (especially income taxation), is theft. At least be honest about what you are advocating, i.e. taking more from one group, (at the point of a gun), to give to another group.

  • Anonymous

    How, then, do you propose we fund road repair, keeping in mind that not everyone who needs to use the roads can afford to pay a toll? How do you propose we fund the schools, keeping in mind that not everyone who needs an education has parents who can pay for same? Yes, progressive income tax is spreading the wealth, and that’s a good thing from my perspective, but what it is not is anything at the point of any guns. It’s about getting the people who can afford to fund the damn roads and schools to fund the damn roads and schools that they benefit from rather more than the rest of us, as evidenced by the fact that their products get from place to place efficiently and their customers have money that came from jobs that said customers wouldn’t have if they were less well educated. Social contract, folks. Learn it, love it.


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