Trump, Jesus, and Machiavelli

I’ve had my issues with Trump and the inexplicable support he had among Evangelicals, so I won’t dive too much into that right now. However, I did come across this article the other day that I found pretty interesting. It is long, but I think it is worth the read as it delves into some of the moral/political issues of Trump and his weird mix/brand of nationalism, fascism, and religion. Here are a few good quote from it:

When you hear the call for a “strongman” whose chief role is to protect the nation against enemies, do you hear the voice of Jesus or of Machiavelli?

Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote two months before the election that seeing fellow evangelists—he named Phoenix Seminary theologian and author Wayne Grudem, among others—“beclown themselves trying to justify support of a man like Trump makes me weep for the shallow faith of a church more wrapped up in its Americanness than its Godliness.”

New York Times reporter quoted one pastor’s resigned plaint: “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

I’ve also had issues with Grudem, so it was interesting to see Georgia’s own Erickson call him out; also  let’s appreciate the word(ish) beclown. Like I said, I’m not going to write more about the issues with Trump, but this articles really gets at the point that he does not really embody any of the values we do as Evangelicals. I remain perplexed at his massive amounts of support, including this coming weekend, from heavyweights in the Christian world. Of course, I have to add my favorite photo of one of his Evangelical supporters (this, if you don’t know, is the son of the man whom founded the Moral Majority, standing with a twice divorced, avaricious man, proudly displaying photos of himself on magazine covers, including playboy. Reference for the Hustler mention)

Image result for trump and falwell pictures

I just cannot see how we can throw such full support behind this man. I remain fully on the side of the #19Percent.


Book Review: One Nation Under God

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America – Kevin M. Kruse

My rating – Put it on your list

Level – easy, a little wordy, medium length but reads quickly

The title might be a bit of a misnomer. People expecting this book to be about whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation should look elsewhere. There a many, many books with this title that more or less discuss that idea or whether we are currently. In many ways, it is a great and accurate title as the insertion of the phrase ‘under God’ is a critical juncture in his story line. For those unaware, it was added in the 50’s, the so-called ‘good ol’ days’.

What the book is about, is how a group of people decided to try and revise history, and shape the future, for their own personal financial gain. Conflating Christianity with the nation is the method they choose. This started maybe further back than people might have thought. If you are like me, you might assume much of the rhetoric started with Reagan. Instead, Kruse traces is back to the 30’s and business responses to New Deal regulation. In fact, he barely discussing Reagan.

The book is broken into three major parts – creation, consecration, and conflict. That is, the ideas and actions behind the national religion push (very conspiratorially written), the achievement of those goals, and the current situation of those goals clashing with modern America.

I guess I should also note that Kruse is a historian. I have no idea his religious preference, if any, and do not think he mentions it in the book. Point being, this is not written from the Christian prospective and though quite fair and accurate, he does seem suspicious of it. However, it certainly isn’t anti-Christian or an attack in any way.

My Thoughts
I hate to admit that I like this book because it confirmed my own beliefs, but it is true. If you are ever involved in anything politically liberal, you will likely hear that Christians have corrupted the Republican party. However, it is the other way around. I’ve always viewed the situation as Reagan’s attempt to tie Evangelicals to the Republican party as a response to and actual Evangelical Christian, and likely the most religious president in American history, Jimmy Carter. If I ever do get a change to pursue a PhD, I’d like to write my dissertation on this topic.

Interestingly, the attempt to put them together is much, much older and was well in place and already successful before Reagan. It was very interesting, yet disturbing, to read the entanglement of business interest, prosperity gospel preachers, and politics. Perhaps the most shocking thing to me was the placement of the 10 Commandments at courthouses. Many people may have though, well, they’ve been there all along, perhaps hundreds of years. No. Almost all of the monuments, the large, stone tablet looking representations were put up in the early 50’s. They were a marketing ploy. Like a Captain American action figure in a happy meal, they were used to promote the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’.

It all comes down to a basic fear felt by many of the Evangelical Left (that is, those who are political liberal, but deeply conservative in Christian belief) – that Christianity, God, and the Bible have all been used by business interest. Greed has lead to obfuscating history and the portrayal of the future as antagonistic to Believers. All so that certain people in companies could have less regulation and taxes.

This will be hard to swallow for many staunch conservatives. I know, because I used to be one. Then I started to become suspicious that we were being used. Now, I will say, if you are politically conservative, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t claim the Bible is the bases of your economic or tax policy. You’ve been used as a pawn, even voting against your own self interest by people who may not even view God as you do.

However, anyone will to sit, read, and review the facts about politics and religion, this book needs to be on your list. If you are a Christian and political liberal, who has always wondered how it got so off, this book is a must read for historical understanding. If you are a Christian, who maybe doesn’t even have strong political leanings, but were just always curious as to why, in America, the political right and Evangelicals are so intertwined, this book is also a must read. Any Christian with any interest in political at all, should add this to their list of books to read.

I want to wrap up with a quick note about Trump. I’m writing this 4 days before the election, but I don’t think it will be posted until a few weeks after. But, if you’ve looked around and wondered how in the Hell is Trump the supposed representative of the Evangelical vote, this book will help you understand. For one, Trump grew up in the church of one of the biggest, most popular/powerful prosperity gospel preachers. Sadly, this history presented in this book will also explain why so many ‘preachers’ or other ‘Evangelical’ public figures have support the thrice divorced, pro-choice, multi-millionaire. If you’ve read some of these guy’s condemnation of Bill Clinton from the 90’s, but their full throated support for Trump and though, that doesn’t make any sense, then read this book, and it will. We go from claiming that morality matters in the White House, to the weak and somewhat ridiculous claim that we are not electing a ‘pastor-in-chief’ (ridiculous, not because it is wrong, but that apparently only pastors shouldn’t grab random women by the pussy).

I will say, I do hope that the Trump candidacy will disentangle party politics with religion. As I write this, I have a sincere wish that Evangelicals will not vote (majority) for Trump; however, I am not hopeful.

Edit – He won 81% of the Evangelicals, more than Romney or even Bush. 

Evangelicals and President-Elect Trump

I’m not going to provide much in the way of commentary, because I’m just too tired and a little burned out at this point; in fact, I’m going to be extra lazy and just dump raw links. However, I have to note that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Trump. I was surprised at how high this was. Maybe you are thinking, well, that is just a consistent vote. Two problems with this, first it is actually higher than W received against Kerry or Gore. Second, that were a huge number of Evangelical leaders, pastors, seminary presidents, and public theologians that came out against Trump, so you’d expect the numbers to be lower.

Of course, things are much more complicated than one subgroup vote. I think, and the polls seem to be showing this, that the democrats lost (well, except the popular vote) due to the fact that they focused too much on identity politics and missed the most important part of elections – it’s the economy stupid. I think many Evangelicals voted for power, to stay a controlling force in government, and we sacrificed our moral voice for it. Unfortunately, I think most Evangelicals were simply tricked into becoming single issue voters – something I think is a terrible idea.

Anyway, that’s really all I feel like writing at this point. Grab them by the pussy, here’s your link dump:


Should Evangelicals be Single Issue Voters?

On Monday, I posted some thoughts and a great link to an article about why Evangelicals shouldn’t vote for Trump. This is something I am adamant about, and I am not alone. Now, this isn’t to say that Evangelicals can’t vote for Trump – but please, please do not call him the Christian candidate. If you like assault rifles, say that is why you are voting for him. If you are rich and want your taxes cut, say that is why. If you really think he will build an actual wall and believe this matters, vote for him. Just do not make the claim that he is the moral candidate.

All that to say, Mrs. MMT also posted the same article on her Facebook page. The results were, sadly, not all that surprising. Of course, there were some that questioned whether she was a believer or ‘knew the gospel,’ but most basically the questions came down to abortion.

So, buckle in, I’m about to write about something I never wanted to have to do before, but I feel compelled to. Actually, let’s back up a second. Many people have written about being a single-issue voter, Kushiner even arguing that we are all technically single issue voters. So, I want to define what I mean when I say single-issue voter. Burk rightly, I think, points out that single-issue voting doesn’t mean that one point makes someone qualified to be president, it means only that taking a certain position disqualifies you. I think that is an important distinction. Also, I agree that everyone is technically a single-issue voter, so for that sake, let’s say we are only talking about the major ‘wedge’ issues – abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.

Abortion is clearly the big one for Evangelicals. As I said, Mrs. MMT found out the hard way, that it is almost the only thing people think about in this election. It is frustrating for a lot of reasons that people go there. First of all, the point of the main article was that Trump is not the option. Mostly, though, as I will explain later, we really shouldn’t be single-issue voters.

Alright, back to abortion. There are a few things to say about it as an issue. First, will a Trump presidency make an impact? Second, what would a Clinton presidency do? Third, how should we think about abortion as Evangelicals? Finally, should we limit pro-life to only abortions?

What would Trump do? My thought is nothing. I feel he will have roughly zero impact on abortion. He has been adamantly pro-choice his whole life. He claims to have changed his mind. I remain skeptical. Even if he has, I expect him to be as about as faithful to his claims as he has been to people named Mrs. Trump (I stole that line, but forget the source). I believe Bush was strong pro-life, and even he was unable to affect anything.

Clinton will do nothing for the legality of abortions. If anything, opportunities for abortion may expand. However, she does want to expand healthcare access. Currently, the US has one of the highest abortion rates in the Western world. Throughout the world, there is a correlation between universal healthcare and lower abortion rates. So it is possible that indirectly, a pro-choice candidate may decrease the abortion rate.

Besides healthcare, it’s also possible that some of her proposed social policies could lower the rate. Programs like expanded child care tax credits, maternity leave, sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other assistance to the poor. We know that roughly 50% of abortions are by women who make below the poverty line (just over $11K) and another 25% between the poverty line and 200% of the poverty line. So, generally speaking, about 75% of all abortions are by women who make $22K or less. To me, that is a clear indication that poverty impacts women’s decisions.

Now, I have a good friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, a strong believer who is actually working on his master’s in apologetics (follower of this blog, too), who righty points out that people who get abortions don’t do so because they are poor, but because they are sinful. This is true, abortion is clearly a sin, and it is our own sinful nature that causes us to sin. However, I think we have to go a step further and examine the sin. What is the heart of the sinner, why are they acting the way they do? I do not think that someone wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I’d really like to murder a baby today.”

No, I think they are afraid, maybe they are selfish, maybe they don’t want to lose their job. There is certainly the issue of economic security. Sadly, some people who have been interviewed have stated they were afraid they couldn’t feed their current children if they had another mouth to feed. None of these things excuse what they did. People are still choosing to end a life. But they aren’t ending a life for the sake of ending a life. There are other issues. These other issues are where Christians and public policy can help.

So, that is part of how I think Evangelicals should view the issue. The other part is the reality that the issue is just not going away. Maybe it’s because I’m young(ish) and was born almost a decade after Roe v. Wade, but I view the legal aspect as a battle we’ve already lost. I’ve lived my entire life under the legality of abortion. So, that could be biasing my view. However, we’ve had three republican presidents since 1980, serving a total of 20 years, and none have done anything. As it is, the country is only becoming more socially liberal, and I just don’t see us repealing it. In that case, I believe it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to minimize the number that will occur. Because they will continue, and this is true whether or not they are legal.

Finally, is being anti-abortion all there is to being pro-life? I believe pro-life includes at least two other aspects. First, war. And I believe Clinton is actually more hawkish than Trump, so we’ll call that a draw. Second, the death penalty, since killing people is clearly not pro-life. I’m a small government guy, so it has always baffled me that so many of the libertarians/republicans I know support giving the state the power to kill (and this could be a whole other post).

I suppose you could also make the argument that we could throw gun control in there, too. Many, many, people die every year from ‘accidents’, but much like abortion, I don’t think gun rights are going anywhere, with the possible exception of assault rifles.

So, which one really is the more pro-life candidate when looking more broadly at life? Probably a draw at best, since both candidates certainly have mixed views and records. That leads me to my larger point. I do not think we should be single-issue voters. Is it really wise to ignore so many issues in one person, for a single position the other person holds?

Trump has proposed banning an entire religious group. He has advocated war crimes. He certainly isn’t a family values guy. He either does not believe he has sinned or disagrees with the need to repent. Where do we draw the line?

It is also problematic to try to decide which issue is the most important. That is essentially what you are doing by being single issue. Is abortion the most important problem in our country? Can you make a Biblical argument that it should be the one and only qualifier to not vote for someone? I do not think you can. So, for me, I try to look at the multitude of issues, which maybe I’ll write more about later, but I should probably wrap this up, as I do have a few more things to say.

Granted, I do believe this would be a different conversation if abortion were not already legal. I could never, in good conscience, vote for someone advocating changing the law from illegal to legal. Because that can make an impact, that can change things. If you vote for someone who claims they will keep something legal that is already legal, there is no change. But as I said above, this is the world we live in. This law already exists, and it’s highly likely to NOT be going anywhere. As such, we can only try to reduce them.

Some may argue that I am simply accepting the culture, being conformed by the world as it is. I completely disagree. If I were engaging in some loose cultural Christianity, I’d probably just go ahead and support abortion. But I don’t. I’m pro-life. As I said, I think we should do every possible thing we can to prevent as many as possible, so that we can save as many children as possible. I do not see that as a cultural compromise.

However, in some senses, everyone is shaped by culture. As I said above, I do think the battle of legality is over and lost, but the war to save children is not. That’s why I advocate for things such as what is listed above – overcoming evil with good. So, I’m admitting my worldview has been shaped, to an extent, by my life, but I don’t think it’s any different than a previous generation having their views shaped by the moral majority and Christian right, who put tax rates up there on par with abortion in importance.

Let me wrap up by, again, pointing out that I want to be critical of Trump. This is not the same thing, in any way, shape, or form, as supporting abortion. I am pro-life, to the fullest extent. I do not think voting for either Trump or Clinton will have any impact on this. I do think Trump is the more morally repugnant of the two. What about third party? Well, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both support abortion rights, so those options aren’t particularly attractive. Obviously, I’m not going to just skip voting. So, what does that leave?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this issue. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me. If someone wants to write a longer response to me, I’d be happy to publish it here. It would also be great to hear from anyone who is a single-issue voter (that issue being abortion) and who plans to vote for Trump. I’d be really interested in hearing why you think he is the right/more or Evangelical/Christian choice. I welcome any feedback; however, I reiterate that I am pro-life and in no way support abortion, so if your only response is to tell me abortion is wrong, I am going to drop the ban hammer on you.

Some Election Thoughts

Edit – Russel Moore weighs in with his own thoughts on the affects of Trump, Andy Couch the editorial director for Christianity Today says Evangelicals must speak out about Trump, and Grudem finally pulls his support for Trump. I was critical of him previously when he claim Trump was the moral choice, so I want give him credit for admitting that that was a mistake.


I had originally planned to post something else today, but I think that in light of everything surrounding the election, from the newly released video to the debate last night, that I needed to address a few things.

Also, I came across this write up on the case against Trump that is by far and away the best I’ve seen.  It is long and comprehensive and you really should take the time to read it.

Trump poses special issues for Evangelicals this year. Mostly because he is unabashedly not Evangelical. He seems to take the vote for granted, that conservative Christians will just flock to him, and honestly, he has good reason. There is a Pew study out showing that a strong majority of Evangelicals still plan to vote for Trump (this is pre-video release, so it may change). If Trump wins Evangelicals after everything we know about him, we lose any right to ever claim to speak on moral issues.

It’s this support that causes the tension. Is Hilary the paragon of morality? Of course not. I personally believe that in our political system, you cannot make it as far as running for president without being morally corrupt. However, it’s a refrain I hear over and over, especially not with the Trump video. People say, well, Bill obviously didn’t have much respect for women and marriage. Two major problems with this reasoning. First, Bill is not running for president, so it some ways it is irrelevant. Second, and more importantly, he wasn’t the conservative candidate that Christians overwhelmingly supported. He never claimed any sort of religious high ground.

You look at certain people, such as Ralph Reed and Wayne Grudem, who in the late 90’s thought that Bill’s morality and infidelities were issues. So, where are the now? Reed literally works for the Trump campaign.

I get that some people don’t like Hilary, and that’s fine. But there is a huge difference between not voting for her and actively supporting Trump. I feel like I will just keep repeating myself if I keep writing, so I’ll wrap it up. We just cannot afford to have the Evangelical vote go for Trump. We will lose any voice we have left in ethics or morality.

Go read the article I linked above, it really does provide invaluable guidance.

Wayne Grudem and Trump

If you are a Christian Theology nerd, internet theologian, or follow the intersection of Evangelical (whatever the hell that even means anymore) and Political, you have probably heard about Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump, call him the morally good choice. I’m not even sure where to start. I read this last Friday night and was honestly very saddened. I’m a huge fan of Grudem. His Systematic Theology text was the first I ever read; really the first of any kind of theology I had ever attempted to study. His book was the gateway to my study of theology that has had a profound effect on my life today (including leading me to become a pretend theologian).

It’s not even that I disagree with all of his points. While I believe his thesis is wrong – Trump being the moral choice – he mentions other policies and outcomes that I support. I think two things bother me most about his article.

First, his lack of originality. His article more or less reads like straight up FoxNews or Tea Party talking points. I am always highly skeptical of anyone who agrees 100% point-for-point with any institution or political party. Maybe that’s a bit much, a little too cynical, but I certainly do not know anyone personally who aligns perfectly with the whole of one political stance (though, I suppose, to be fair to Grudem, the people closest to this tend to be the Tea Party types). When someone does this, it seems they are not thinking for themselves, but instead are reiterating what they have been told to say.

The second major issue is the weight that Grudem carries and the amount of credibly that seems to lend to Trump. He is the general editor of the massive (and massively popular) ESV Study Bible, he is co-founder and former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he was also chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (likely the best broadly evangelical seminary in America). My point is, he’s kind of a big deal. However, as you’ll see below, his is not the only view from evangelicals. Furthermore, and what is the most concerning to me, his view is not the outright, perfect Biblical view. Someone of his stature making this statement would cause some to believe that Trump must be the correct Biblical or Theological choice, which he most certainly is not.

Alright, with all that said, I’ve already gone longer than originally intended. There is just so much wrong with this, including the fact, as many have pointed out, that he disagreed with most of his own points almost 20 years ago when discussing Bill Clinton. This seems to come from such a political and personal viewpoint, couched as the Evangelical and Theological view, and because it bothers me so, I am removing his book from my recommendation for building your theological library  and replacing it with Erickson’s Christian Theology.

If you disagree with Trump, but still can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, check out Russell Moore’s thoughts, which get a little more support here.

Responses to Grudem:
“Make no mistake: if we follow Professor Grudem’s advice we will lose this election and lose all moral authority to say character counts in the White House.”
What Grudem should have said.
Why Grudem is wrong.
“Grudem’s article makes no space for uncertainty, no room for dissent, and uses definitive, dogmatic language.”
An Answer to Grudem.
Is Grudem Right?

I wanted to be fair and post a few articles that side with Grudem. Problem is, I couldn’t find any. I literally searched “support for wayne grudem’s position on trump.” If any of my dozen or so followers has seen anything, please let me know.

I’ll end with this bit of satire and a reminder for Christians out there to really think and pray about the upcoming election. Talk to your friends, elders, pastor, or people you respect at church. Think seriously about the impact on our nation, of course, but also (and more importantly on us and how we are viewed) on the voice of Evangelical Christianity – a voice we hope is representative of Christ Himself.



Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote?

I’m excited to post my first advanced review of a book. The book goes on sale May 17th, so check out my review and then go buy it (from the link below). It is a must read for anyone interested in current political issues.

How Would Jesus Vote?: Do Your Political Views Really Align With The Bible? by Darrell L. Bock

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Fairly Easy, moderate in length

The book seeks to look at broad topics in American politics and see what we can determine about them from the Bible. Bock does this mostly by listing verses and how they can apply. Along with an intro and concluding chapter, he writes 13 chapters:

  1. Principals that built America – interesting chapter on the point of religious freedom as the founders saw it.
  2. Loving your neighbor – obviously a major point for Jesus, not only was it the second greatest commandment, but gave us the famous story of the Good Samaritan. Bock points to this idea as our starting point for looking at issues the way Jesus would.
  3. Big or Small Government – brief overview of the pros and cons of each. The best take away is more his point that we needed to realize we can’t have everything and need thoughtfully seek a balance.
  4. Economics of Poverty – he continues the balance idea from the previous chapter and extends it to balancing helping the poor and personal responsibility.
  5. Health Care – this is a tough topic, as there is nothing in the Bible about healthcare. He does a great job pointing out the massive failures of our current system, but doesn’t really say much as to how Jesus or we should vote about it.
  6. Immigration – you really forget how much about immigration there is in the Bible, especially the OT. This seems to be an ancient problem that has affected most societies. Due to this, he takes a stronger stance in this chapter as to which way we should vote and consider this issue.
  7. Gun Control – similar to the health care discussion, there isn’t much in the Bible about guns, as, you know, they didn’t exist yet. He summarizes the horrible impact of our gun violence, but isn’t willing to go as far as saying we should vote to curtail it.
  8. Foreign Policy and Globalization – this chapter explores National Interest or Common Good, the latter being international good. Not much from the Bible here either, but interesting overall and a good general analysis of how the issue impacts America.
  9. War and Peace – looked at the ideas of ‘Just’ War or Pacifism, tracing the concept of a ‘Just’ War (as in justified) to Augustine and the idea of Pacifism to the Bible. Not many policy implications outside of war as a means of last resort, and some questions regarding whether preemptive war counts as justified.
  10. Race – great chapter to take on this issue. Walks a nice line between looking at race and realizing there are real differences and problems as well as clear historical issues, all while reminding us to look past race in the sense that all are created in God’s image as well as tying everything back to ‘loving your neighbor’. He also calls on Christians to care about these issues and to acknowledge there is an issue.
  11. Education – obviously an important topic that is not discussed as much as it should be in our society, but again it felt more like some of the other chapters where he points out how poorly we are doing without really taking up one policy or another.
  12. The Family – one of the stronger chapters as far as policy goes, there are two aspects focused on in this chapter. One is the problem of single parent households and the other is gay marriage. He points to the damage and disadvantages of growing up in a single parent household and focuses on how Christians should seek to strengthen families. He views gay marriage as unbiblical with clear scriptural proofs, but then seems to tie it to the family issue, without discussing the fact that a child could be brought up in a two parent household this way.
  13. Abortion – pretty clear here. He never points to an exact time in which life begins, admitting that we really don’t know. However, it is certainly sooner than 12 weeks. Most Christians will not find anything new in this chapter, but it is a compelling reminder of the issue, nonetheless.

My Thoughts
My only disappointment in this book is he never really states how he thinks Jesus would vote. He usually has a heading at the end of each chapter that asks what would Jesus have to say but never goes as far as picking a side on many of the issues or even alluding to which party may be better than the other on a particular topic. That likely has to do more with the title the editors gave the book than what Bock intended to do.

This is a very important book for people curious as to how their faith should interact with politics, especially in our current political climate where each side, at different times, claims Christ and disparages the other party as the unbelievers. People should take the time to read through the issues and really think about the verses listed.

Christians and the ACA Continued

Last week I had a post up about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and specifically whether or not pastors should be speaking about it. That post ran long, so this is basically part 2.

I’ll be up front and state that I support the ACA. I don’t think it is a great law, especially with all the exemptions, and I fear it will be implemented poorly, but I have to support the idea behind it. If anything, I think the law doesn’t go far enough. I’d have preferred a true universal single payer system. I am fairly alone in the Evangelical community in my support for this. A lot of people have doubts and concerns about it, and I think that’s fair, but I’m not sure their criticism is based on the Bible.

Not the Government’s Job

From the article:

Wages says the Bible teaches that the care of orphans, widows and the sick are given to the church, not to the government. Early Christians were the first to create hospitals, orphanages and hospices.

“I have an issue with the government coming in to get money through me – through taxes – to take care of people, when my argument is that I should be free to give to charities or to my church in order to take care of the sick and destitute,” he says.

Wages says he has no doubt that lack of health insurance is a monumental problem, and that many people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. Yet there is no New Testament example of Jesus trying to shape public policy on behalf of the poor.

“I do not see any biblical precedent where Jesus ever went to Herod or Pilate and said you should be taking care of the poor,” Wages says. “Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”

This is probably the most common line I hear about why we shouldn’t support healthcare for the poor. It’s not the government’s job, it’s the churches.

Frist, does the Bible prohibit the government providing healthcare? No. We are simply told to take care of them. Where the Bible is silent, we should remain silent. Forget the long laundry list of things that would be prohibited due to not being mentioned in the Bible, we’d also be required to be against Medicare and Medicaid, and I’ve never heard those arguments before.

Second, the writers of the Bible couldn’t have imagined the power Christians would have today. The early Christians were an upstart maligned sect of a minority religion who weren’t considered citizens of an empire ruled by a Caesar. This is why we don’t have Jesus arguing for public policy. Forget for a moment that modern medicine didn’t exist 2,000 years ago, but try to figure how such a small powerless group could have even gone about making the change to have care provided from the empire. Today, however, the President puts his hand on the Bible to be sworn in. The congress opens its sessions with a prayer. The majorities of Americans attend a Christian church and believe in God. We have to read the Bible in the context it was written and realize we have far more power to do far more good than Paul could have fathomed.

Third, while early Christians were very active in care, we modern ones have failed. I’ve seen multiple new hospitals and urgent care centers built in the general area where I live. None have them been Christian based. Old city centers are filled with Frist Pres and Methodist General, but even with all the new urgent cares that pop up in old shopping centers over the past 5 years, I’ve never seen a Baptist Urgent Medicine. But you hear this all the time, Christians should care for the sick and needy, but we just don’t. There probably isn’t a financially feasible way to care for all the uninsured, but that is moot as there certainly isn’t the will.

Finally, related to the last two points, how much do you give? We hear the common line of leave it to charity, but how much do people who express this actually give? I certainly don’t give extra money to some Christian charity that helps with peoples’ healthcare, I’ve never even heard of one. My guess is that most people aren’t out giving more than to their church and that very few volunteer to provide free medical services. My understanding of the ACA is that unless you are extremely rich or frequent tanning beds, you will not pay extra ‘through taxes’ to help provide people with insurance. If your taxes do go up, you always have the opportunity to gain charitable deduction by giving away more money to organizations that care for the poor.

God’s concern for the poor

Wages’ position is impractical and unbiblical, says Ronald Sider, a longtime advocate for the poor and author of “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics.”

Churches and charities don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who don’t have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s fury over economic oppression of the poor, which Christians should regard as scandalous, he says.

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” he says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.

“As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.”

While I think it is too harsh and a jump to judgment to say someone isn’t a Christian, I agree with the rest of the sentiment. Again, maybe there are a lot of Evangelicals out there that care, but there just are not very many who show it. We are called to go the other mile and to give someone our jacket and I like people believe that, but when it is time to step up we get this:

“Government programs sometimes encourage dependency, unintentionally break down family structures, and become unsustainable financially,” Moore says.

This is probably true, but not to the extent that some people fear. My question is, so what? Christ didn’t ask us to determine how much someone needs and then to provide only that; he didn’t command us to judge how worthy they were of assistance; and there is certainly no mention of the question of why the person is in need.

Final Thought

I think this quote perfectly summarizes the American Evangelical Christianity:

… a memorable quote from the late Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist.”

Christians and the ACA

There was a great article up last Friday over at the Belief Blog that touched on the Affordable Care Act’s  (ACA) coverage gap as well as how pastors should handle discussing it. The gap being a ridiculous situation where, in some states, people can make too much money to qualify for Medicare but not enough to qualify of subsidies for health insurance (see more here).

I guess more specifically the author is trying to call out ‘Bible Belt’ pastors because their states rejected the Medicaid expansion.  First, though, as a Southerner and someone with academic and professional training in cartography, let me clarify; this is a map of the states that rejected the Medicaid expansion:

States and Medicare Expansion

Half of the states and DC (dark green) are expanding coverage, 21 states essentially rejected and four states are considering expanding. Now, for comparison, two more maps, first, a map that Wikipedia deems as the Bible Belt and second, a map showing church attendance based on Gallop polling data (source):

Bible Belt Map

Church Attendance Map

So you have Arkansas and Kentucky expanding coverage while known Bible thumpers like Idaho, Main and Wisconsin rejecting expansion. Again, I get his point, that most of the most religious states rejected the expansion. Also, writing against the Bible Belt draws views and honestly I just get really nitpicky about things like maps, stats and facts. For example, as even Jon Stewart noted, a better overlay would be which states have Republican governor s. I’ll also note that Southern states are the poorest and had the most to gain from expansion but sadly the vast majority rejected coverage.

Pastors and Politics

Sorry for the digression, back to the article: a major theme is whether pastors should be talking about the coverage gap or the ACA in general. This is a really interesting topic that has been in the new recently. Not necessarily the ACA side, but rather churches discussing politics topics overall. There are a number of groups that say if churches are supporting specific political causes or politicians they should lose their tax-exempt status. By the letter of the law, I think they should, because the law explicitly prohibits certain non-profits from engaging in political activity. In reality, that is not what happens. Many pastors do speak out on political issues and the IRS has never challenged any churches’ exempt status.

The author seemed to be of the opinion that the pastors should be speaking out on the issues of healthcare. You have to wonder, though, what he would have said about speaking out against gay marriage. I think that is the frustrating thing about the discussion about pastors and church involvement in political issues. If it is a conservative cause, you see groups calling for the end of the exempt status, but no one would disagree with Martin Luther King, Jr. calling for racial equality. The problem becomes exacerbated then as conservatives double down with a bunker mentality as they claim the media or government or society is against them.

However, maybe there is a case to be made that you could support ‘justice’ politics over let’s say, ‘sin’ politics. That is you could support pastors discussing things that help the poor and need while avoiding promoting law that seek to prohibit sin. I think the coverage of the issues does a poor job of pointing this out, instead showing a fairly clear bias towards supporting so-called liberal ideas.

Conservatives are just as hypocritical, the article points out:

“When their own interests are involved, they are very much involved in politics,” Cone says.

And I think that is right. You have a number of conservative pastors who talk issues like gay marriage and the ‘sanctity of marriage’, but then turn around and say that the issue is a political one and something they don’t need to address.

Sometimes pastors have to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

My bigger concern is that the pastors are scared. They know the ACA is a political landmine that most of their congregants do not support. So they don’t speak up for the poor, because speaking for the poor seems to be liberal, and that can get you run out of the church. Maybe that is another post all together, but it seems ever since the fundamentalist controversy, conservatives and evangelicals are afraid to be associated with anything related to the social gospel.

Pastors shouldn’t be afraid. They should be calling out their congregants to love the world. That should include taking care of the poor, and we should be concerned for those without healthcare. I guess, in my mind, pastors should discuss political issues from the pulpit. They are, after all, our shepherds in life that are supposed to help guide us. Some issues are large and divisive and affect many people, and those are issues we shouldn’t shy away from. I think pastors should have the freedom to give what they believe is Biblical guidance.

Of course, pastors need to be cognizant of what they speak for or against. They need to remember that we can’t hold non-believers to the same standards as we hold ourselves; that we need less condemnation and more calls to action and love; and mostly that we need to look towards Christ and remember that most of his admonishment where for the religious.

To be continued…

The other main theme that comes out of the article is how Christians react to and view the ACA. That will be another post sometime next week.