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Poverty, government, and the Bible

with 11 comments

[Please note that many helps came via Ron Sider’s excellent but aging book Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America. This page is also saved as a post, under the title A Bible Argument for Government Aid to the Poor. The text is about the same there, but the comments of others—and my responses to them—are different. Thanks for thinking along!]



Madison Free ClinicEvangelicals often struggle with the idea of a government role in addressing poverty. Often, I hear questions like these, from an honest blogger called RenaissanceGuy:

  • I want to hear a reasoned biblical argument for government-run health care.”
  • … if people are coerced, though the income tax code, to support the poor, then are they actually pleasing our Lord?”

Others put it like this:

  • “Is it government’s job to care for the poor, or should the church and their families do it?”

While sectarian government is antithetical to American democracy, people of faith in the USA do have the privilege of holding and sharing political values consistent with what they understand to be good. Those values may not well fit in either conservative or liberal camps, but there will be common ground that can be shared with both.

In order to do that, people of faith have to be deeply aware of their own faith, and not just the arguments of right or left. So here’s an attempt to think aloud on one of those issues.

Especially for evangelicals:

a Bible argument for government aid to the poor:

First, some assumptions on which I think all can agree:

1. Jesus, as described in the gospels, is much more focused on the poor than our evangelical theologies have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

January 12, 2008 at 12:24 am

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Conservatives of Jesus’ time were against him

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Remarkable conclusions of theologian Stanley Hauerwas:
clipped from findarticles.com
“The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere better revealed than in the upsurge of religious conservatism. While appearing to be a resurgence of `traditional’ religious conviction, some of these movements in fact give evidence of the loss of religious substance in our culture and in ourselves. Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the `American way of life.’ Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being `a good American.'”
Phillips Brooks, a Protestant pastor in the late nineteenth century, wrote: “In the best sense of the word, Jesus was a radical. … His religion has so long been identified with conservatism … that it is almost startling sometimes to remember that all the conservatives of his own times were against him; that it was the young, free, restless, sanguine, progressive part of the people who flocked to him.”
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So it seems.


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Written by Monte

January 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

A Bible argument for government aid to the poor

with 38 comments

[Please note that many helps came via Ron Sider’s excellent but aging book Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America. This post is also saved as a page, at the link shown in the blog’s title bar (above) called Poverty, Government, and the Bible. The text is about the same there, but the comments of others—and my responses to them—are different. Thanks for thinking along!]


Madison Free ClinicEvangelicals often struggle with the idea of a government role in addressing poverty. Often, I hear questions like these, from an honest blogger called RenaissanceGuy:

  • I want to hear a reasoned biblical argument for government-run health care.”
  • … if people are coerced, though the income tax code, to support the poor, then are they actually pleasing our Lord?”

Others put it like this:

  • “Is it government’s job to care for the poor, or should the church and their families do it?”

While sectarian government is antithetical to American democracy, people of faith in the USA do have the privilege of holding and sharing political values consistent with what they understand to be good. Those values may not well fit in either conservative or liberal camps, but there will be common ground that can be shared with both.

In order to do that, people of faith have to be deeply aware of their own faith, and not just the arguments of right or left. So here’s an attempt to think aloud on one of those issues.

Especially for evangelicals:

a Bible argument for government aid to the poor:

First, some assumptions on which I think all can agree:

1. Jesus, as described in the gospels, is much more focused on the poor than our evangelical theologies have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

October 18, 2007 at 12:09 am

Let’s chill. We’re both partly wrong. (Sermon of 1 Feb 09)

with one comment

In the aftermath of  World War II, many European intellectuals (later joined by Americans and many others) were forced to ask this question:  how could this have happened? This referred to two world wars, and especially the Holocaust. […] They diagnosed the sickness that had befallen Western civilization in general and “Christian” Germany in particular to be excessive confidence.

Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV*)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Strange thing to say, isn’t it?  Rabbis certainly did have authority to teach the Scriptures. But when Jesus spoke, something else happened.

And as if to prove it:

23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24″What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Remember, we’re in Chapter 1 here.  Who else in the room would have even thought this? Virtually no one but Jesus himself. How shocked they must have been to hear it. What a statement!

And what a source! Jesus reacts immediately. First:

25″Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.

Why would he shush, if it’s true? Why would an evil spirit say it, anyway? Read the rest of this entry »

UN Investigator: Israel commits “massive violations of international law”

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Richard Falk, U. N. Special Investigator for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, spells it out (h/t PeoplesGeography):

clipped from www.russiatoday.com
The Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Convention, both in regard to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
'Israeli air strikes represent massive violations of international law'Those violations include:Collective punishment – the entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants. […]

Targeting civilians – the air strikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world […]

Disproportionate military response – the air strikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians […]

Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims. […]

Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give Israel any right … to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes … in its response […] The one Israeli killed today … is the first in over a year. […]

The Israeli air strikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they have caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries which have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza, which itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe

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Since 2000, fewer than 20 Israelis have been killed by Hamas’ primitive rockets – and only one in the last 12 months. By contrast, 3,000 Palestinians have died, and 300 of them perished in the last few days.

Israel’s enabler is the USA, which provides American gunships, missiles, and bombs. Israel kills with impunity because the US vetoes near-unanimous UN rebukes.

Dispensationalism’s blind faith that Israel’s barbarous government is the Israel of prophecy demands re-evaluation. For the pogroms this outfit carries out make it more resemble the Third Reich than the children of Abraham.

And the USA—with the backing of the Christian conservative set—once again has blood on its hands.


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