Dives will always be with us — and so will selfish rich jackwagons who misquote the Bible

Southern Beale is not impressed with the exegetical skills of kleptocratic Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher:

Rep. Stephen Fincher, you are a horrible person who uses the Bible to selectively justify your greedy, selfish ways. Woe unto you.

Repent, asshole.

This is not Sunday school language, and the Civility Police will no doubt be horrified that Southern Beale is stating truth so directly and so accurately. (When someone like Fincher extravagantly flaunts his bad faith arguments, the Civility Police always insist we must pretend he hasn’t done so. Pretending, euphemistic inaccuracy, and never, ever calling out self-serving liars are the hallmarks of their idea of “civility.”)

But those who fret about such blunt honesty should note that Southern Beale’s condemnation isn’t nearly half as harsh as the rebuke Jesus himself delivers in the Bible passage the congressman misquotes. Nor is it anywhere near as stiletto-sharp as the rebuke that Moses delivers in the passage from the Bible that Jesus is reciting there.

Fincher, you see, does not like Food Stamps. He wants to cut $21 billion from food aid for poor people.

This cut would be part of the big Farm Bill — the same bill which guarantees that Fincher himself will continue to receive even more of the agricultural subsidies he’s been collecting personally for years, to the tune of $3.48 million to him directly since 1999:

At a Holiday Inn in Memphis over the weekend, Fincher expanded on his version of the Christian social gospel: “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”

While Fincher interprets food assistance for the needy as “stealing,” he has not similarly condemned the Farm Bill’s massive agricultural subsidies. In fact, he supported a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years. Fincher has a great personal stake in maintaining these particular government handouts, as the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history:

USDA data collected in EWG’s 2013 farm subsidy database update … shows that Fincher collected a staggering $3.48 million in “our” money from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the congressman was cut a government check for a $70,000 direct payment. Direct payments are issued automatically, regardless of need, and go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.

Fincher’s $70,000 farm subsidy haul in 2012 dwarfs the average 2012 SNAP benefit in Tennessee of $1,586.40, and it is nearly double of Tennessee’s median household income. After voting to cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, Fincher joined his colleagues to support a proposal to expand crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.

That argument takes a lot of gall to make. Even more galling is Fincher’s attempt to say that taking food away from poor people — in order to give more to him, personally — is the “Christian” thing to do. Cutting food assistance for the poor by $21 billion, Fincher claims, is what Jesus would want.

To find that anything other than infuriating you would need to share Fincher’s contempt for poor people, or his contempt for Jesus, or both.

This is Rep. Stephen Fincher, Republican of Tennessee. Or maybe it’s the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s hard to tell them apart sometimes, what with their shared agenda of taking from the poor so they can plunder the public treasury.

Jesus’ own response to this — to exactly, precisely, literally the very thing that Rep. Stephen Fincher is saying — was to say, “You are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Somebody better call the Civility Police about that one.

That’s from Matthew 25. Fincher didn’t quite have the audacity to cite that chapter, instead choosing to make a mess out of a passage from the following chapter, in which Jesus says, “You always have the poor with you.” Mark’s version of that story is longer, so let’s quote that, from Mark 14:7: “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish.”

That’s from the NRSV, not from Fincher’s GOP translation of Mark’s Gospel, which apparently reads, “For you always have the poor with you, and you can take $21 billion in food aid away from them whenever you wish.”

The authors of both Gospels, like Jesus himself, expected that everyone reading or hearing that phrase — “For you will always have the poor with you” — would recognize it and know where it comes from. Jesus was quoting scripture. Jesus was quoting scripture and counting on his disciples knowing that he was quoting scripture.

Fincher is quoting Jesus and counting on his listeners not knowing that Jesus was quoting scripture. Because anyone who knows that will instantly recognize that Fincher is twisting Jesus’ words into the opposite of what they mean.

Jesus was quoting from the Torah, from Deuteronomy 15. That’s another one of those Jubilee passages. The chapter starts with a quick rehash of the laws regarding the Sabbath year. Every seven years, debts must be cancelled. Thus saith the Lord.

Yes, the Bible says that. It says that over and over and over again. Every seven years, debts must be cancelled.

Jubilee and the cancellation of debt are kind of a major theme in the Bible. This tends to escape the notice of most American Christians — particularly those who most loudly proclaim themselves to be upholders of “biblical” morality. Years of painstaking conditioning have rendered this major biblical theme invisible to the eyes of American readers, so much so that people like Dave Ramsey have been able to create an industry out of teaching the opposite of Jubilee.

Every seven years, Deuteronomy 15 reminds us, “every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it.” Follow all these rules for Jubilee, Deuteronomy says, and there will be no such thing as poverty:

There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today.

Got it? Obey the rules, Deuteronomy says, and no one will be poor. So if anyone is poor, it’s because you’re disobedient. That’s implicit in the verse above, but Deuteronomy makes it explicit in the verses that follow:

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account theLord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

That is the context for Jesus remark in the Gospels. “For you always have the poor with you” is Jesus’ direct quotation of Deuteronomy 15:11, “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth.”

That statement is followed by a “therefore” — “I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor.’” In reciting the first part, Jesus was invoking the second, the “therefore.” He didn’t need to recite all of Deuteronomy 15 for his disciples because he knew that they, unlike American Christians like Rep. Stephen Fincher, were not biblically illiterate.

For Jesus, it was impossible to cite the first part without reinforcing the second part. The two are inextricably linked — hence that “For ..” and “Since …” in our English translations. People like Fincher who invoke the first part as a denial of the second part are mangling the Bible in obscenely perverse ways, turning Jesus’ words into their opposite and turning Christ into antichrist.

Don’t miss the rebuke there in Deuteronomy 15. That’s the key point here — it’s why Jesus chose to quote this particular passage, applying its rebuke to Judas.

“If only you will obey the Lord your God,” Deuteronomy 15 says, there will be no one in need. And then, six verses later, “Since there will never cease to be some in need …” Ouch. That passage just comes right out and says “you’re all a bunch of disobedient disobeyers who will never cease to disobey disobediently.” And in the context of the Pentateuch, that’s not good. (Do you know what Deuteronomy says should happen to the disobedient? It isn’t pretty.) In that context, that’s far harsher than anything Southern Beale had to say to Rep. Fincher.

Whenever you hear some blowhard quoting “the poor will always be with you” in the backwards, antichrist way that Fincher invoked it, there really is nothing more true, more appropriate, or more necessary to be said than just exactly what Southern Beale wrote: “You are a horrible person who uses the Bible to selectively justify your greedy, selfish ways. Woe unto you.”

And “Repent, asshole,” is actually charitable — an extension of mercy, offering Fincher, et. al., a last-gasp shot at escaping their otherwise certain fate of “You are accursed, depart from me.”

It’s not possible to avoid upsetting the perpetually upset Civility Police, but I’ll try not to give them an excuse to utter their well-rehearsed gasps here by avoiding S.B.’s salty language. Instead, I’ll just stick with quoting the G-rated, but far harsher, language of Deuteronomy:

Rep. Stephen Fincher, be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought … and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.

You would incur guilt. You have incurred guilt. You are incurring guilt.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Speaking of people with an utter failing to understand the Bible, Pastor Matt Trewhella says: “Not teaching your children to hate homosexuals is disgusting!”

    This position comes as little surprise to those who know he is a convicted arsonist currently being investigated for murder, who has signed petitions calling the murder of abortion doctors “justifiable,” who thinks children should be given a gun as early as possible and whose favored proverb to describe his position is Prov. 24:11-12.

  • walden

    I didn’t know any of this (the notion that Jesus was quoting/referencing Deuteronomy). Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the Bible lesson.

    Is there also textual support (viz..are the Greek words used in Matt and Mark similar to those used in the Septuagint in Deut. 15?) Not essential, of course, since you’ve made a really convincing case based on the sense of the texts, but interesting if supportive.

  • Miff

    Kudos for using the word “antichrist” in the classical fashion too, simply meaning “contrary to the principles of Jesus”.

  • atalex

    As I have said many times, a plurality if not a majority of American Christians actually worship Satan but delude themselves into thinking they worship Christ. Their beliefs about how they should live their lives are in almost every respect the exact opposite of what Jesus said about how his followers should act. I still expect within my lifetime to see government troops shooting down people rioting over a lack of food, and when that day comes, “Christians” will be at the forefront of excusing the government’s actions. I bet they’ll even have a Bible verse to quote as they do.

  • DCFem

    Incurring guilt means nothing to Fincher. Do you really think that anyone with this much hatred for fellow human beings feels the least bit guilty about how he treats them? The only way to make this jerk feel any pain is cut off his own government hand outs.

  • Susan Paxton

    What kills me is that this parasite is sucking off the taxpayer’s teat. OK for him and the rest of the Republican clowns, but if you’re poor, to hell with you. Well, to hell with them, i say.

  • hf

    The broader context certainly makes sense. Jesus was supposedly the Messiah. People have objected to this, pointing out with some justification that he did not usher in a messianic age. Well, here we see Jesus’ response – at least according to a story written after the destruction of the Temple.

    The part of the story which first clearly symbolizes said destruction (starting with the fig tree) also has Jesus say that someone-or-other had made his Father’s house a den of thieves instead of the messianic light for all nations, and that if you have faith you can make mountains leap into the sea. There’s another conditional statement.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    $3.48 million is less than two tenths of one percent of $21 billion.

  • ReverendRef

    Dives will always be with us — and so will selfish rich jackwagons who misquote the Bible.

    Oh man . . . Again???

  • Magpie

    What fraction of $3.48 million is food stamps for one person/family?

  • ReverendRef

    I bet they’ll even have a Bible verse to quote as they do.

    That would be Romans 13:1-4:

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

  • Lori

    What percent is it of $123,708? That’s what the total benefit would be for a family of 5 receiving the current Tennessee maximum monthly SNAP benefit of $793 every single month for 13 years.

    Regardless of what the answer is, please explain how it’s right for Fincher to take public money, but stealing for much poorer people to do so.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Also, one representative≠entirety of the tax base.

  • Lori

    What does that have to do with whether it is moral for Fincher to take public money, but stealing for much poorer people to do so? What does it have to do with whether it is moral for Fincher to use his position as an elected official to attempt to cut benefits to the poor while increasing benefits for himself?

  • Lori

    Funny how that verse doesn’t apply to Obama and their attitude toward him.

  • ReverendRef

    What I’ve seen from the right regarding this is something along the lines of, “Pray for Obama — Psalm 109:7-9″

    I was not amused.

  • hf

    Well said, spambot.

  • Fusina

    One representative doing this is altogether too many representatives doing this.

  • Jon Maki

    Back in the late seventies Jack Chick put out a publication that was more or less a guide to how to live according to the Bible in this modern world – the narrative focused on a man who had been away for years on a mission coming back to the US and staying with his sister’s troubled family, imparting life lessons from the Bible to heal their shattered lives.
    At one point, Bible Man’s (I don’t remember his name) brother-in-law was complaining about the President, and Bible Man actually quoted that bit of scripture as a way of admonishing him for speaking out against God’s anointed leader.
    That would have been Carter at the time, so it has been done in the past for non-Republicans. I doubt that we’d see something like that happen these days, because God clearly wouldn’t have anointed someone like Obama (even though some of Jack’s closest friends…).

  • arcseconds

    What is your point, exactly?

  • stardreamer42

    And your point?

  • Hth

    That’s right, Reverend — they just keep right on doing it! I share your dismay.

  • Abel Undercity

    That’s a high tolerance of blatant corruption you have there. Maybe you should see a doctor about it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    He’s *far* from the only example. He’s just the one Fred chose to write about in this particular article.

  • Jim Roberts

    Rights and/or money for me, but not for thee.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    “”Got it? Obey the rules, Deuteronomy says, and no one will be poor. So if anyone is poor, it’s because you’re disobedient.”

    Ehhh…okay, almost, but not QUITE, true.

    There’s still going to be poor people. What periodically wiping out their debt does, though, is it gives them more than one shot to get themselves and their families and loved ones OUT of poverty, without being held down and kept in debt-slavery indefinitely.

    Strangely, we don’t seem to see very many conservative “bible-believing” conservatives in this country championing this idea. Oh well.

  • smrnda

    Let me provide you with an example.

    Let’s say that I, personally, receive 100,000 dollars from the government for No Particular Reason. Then I vote against a measure that would give 10 dollars, per person, to everyone else in the country for No Particular Reason.

    Obviously in raw numbers, my 100,000 is chump change compared to the 3 billion that I have voted against giving the rest of the country (population approximate, of course.)

    However, the idea that I would feel entitled to 100,000 while I believe that everybody else deserves *nothing* would make me a greedy, entitled sh*thead, particularly when I’m voting on my own compensation.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    To be fair, Exodus also has a section which can be summarized as “if a person needs money and can’t repay a lender, give them money. If they are loaned money and can’t pay it back, forgive their debt.” Either way, the person gets the money they need, period.

  • christopher_y

    Not wishing to argue with the Deuteronomist here, but if there was actually any chance that “The seventh year, the year of remission, was near” , I might be more inclined to give these SoBs a break. So, tell me, Congressman, The Jubilee, how’s that coming along?

  • The_L1985

    Pray for Rush Limbaugh — Proverbs 26:11.

  • The_L1985

    You could still feed a lot of children with $3.48 million. And let’s not forget that of the 20 million “food-insecure” Americans, quite a few of them are innocent children who could not possibly have done anything to “deserve” their poverty.

  • Gary

    “You could still feed a lot of children with $3.48 million”, or you buy about 3 cruise missiles to destroy a bridge in Iraq, then spend the same amount to rebuild the bridge 5 years later. Priiority mix-up. But it does make lots of profit for the defense contractor. And collateral damage usually means a few children get shrapnel instead of food. Not too biblical.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Not giving≠stealing. My point was that what Fincher is doing is not “exactly” what Jesus was responding to in Matt 25:41.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    You’re right.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I don’t think this section exists.

  • The_L1985

    Why not read Exodus and find out for yourself?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    What reason have I to give a shit what you think? Piss off, troll.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I have.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    What reason do I have to accept your apparently false claim?

  • JustoneK

    It’s really closer to embezzling, which is a type of stealing, so.

    If he were in a corporation and doing this, it would certainly be.

  • jimmyfromchicago

    Fincher expanded on his version of the Christian social gospel: “The
    role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each
    other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and
    give to others in the country.”

    That’s from the Book of John (Galt).

  • Matri

    “You always have the poor with you.”

    It always amazes me how these assholes interpret this.

    -I- have always seen it as, there will always be poor so never ever stop helping.

    These idiots on the other hand, show every indication of thinking: Here’s an unlimited supply of cheap, disposable labor that you should never ever help or they will go away.

  • JustoneK

    the poor will always be with us BECAUSE we can’t really stop the assholes completely.

  • Matri

    quite a few of them are innocent children who could not possibly have done anything to “deserve” their poverty.

    Of course they deserved it! They were born poor!

    Haven’t you been paying attention?

  • Matri

    … So, they just made it meta and recursive?

    I’m feeling an odd mixture of impressed and terrified at the same time.

  • Lori

    Neither are food stamps. Which is the actual point.

  • Lori

    I think the issue is that it’s descriptive and some people seem to take it as prescriptive.

  • Dan Hetrick

    “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”

    Exodus 22:25-27

    Not exactly what the OP was talking about, but pretty damn close.

  • arthur Piantadosi

    this Congressman actually said and supports this? What a swine!

  • mountainguy

    Maybe you are confusing the pentateuch of Moses with the one by Mises


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