Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spreading the Wealth Around

I find that some of the most vocal objections to Socialism (especially Socialism as laid at the feet of Sen. Obama) come from my Christian friends.

This to me is the height of irony. The Book of Acts is held up as the paradigm of the Christian utopia. It describes exactly what Christianity looked like following Christ’s resurrection as the fledging religion tried to form itself into a something resembling the teachings of its master.

Acts 4: 32-35 says: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

Sounds like spreading the wealth around to me.

Wherever did the early Church get the idea from?

Might it have been from the teachings of Jesus Christ who called all people his brethren (Matthew 23:8), told his followers that they should love their neighbors as they loved themselves (Matthew 22:39), and to do to others what we want done to us (Matthew 7:12)? Might it have been Christ who said to give to anyone who asks (Luke 6:30), and let “everyone who possesses two shirts share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise” (Luke 3:11)?

Christ spoke continually about delivering the poor (Luke 4:18) and constantly warned the rich that their wealth imperiled their souls (Luke 6:24, Matthew 6:24, Matthew 19:23). Christ (and therefore God’s) ideal plan for humankind was one of concern for all people. He modeled a life poor in material things and for centuries afterwards, those who called themselves Christians were characterized by their cooperative fellowships.

Socialism is practical Christianity.

I’m not advocating for the overthrow of Capitalism or anything. I’m just pointing out to some of my Christian friends, who are among the most strident in opposing Obama’s supposed Robin Hood policies, that it was their own Lord and Savior who commanded such behavior in the first place.


Blogger CNEIL said...

The biblical figures in the book of Acts practiced socialism by laying their wealth at the feet of the apostles.

I don't think anyone every really liked paying taxes. When analyzing the book of Matthew, I've heard many preachers emphasize that tax collectors were among the outcast of the society.

Of course their are reasons not to, but if you really want to advocate Biblical socialism, you would find ways to strengthen the local church, and give to the poor, especially the poor that believe Christianity.

I really don't mind socialism though. In Singapore they have socialized health care and dentistry and it is great. How does Singapore do it? They don't have a minimum wage for nurses, doctors get paid less, it is difficult to initiate a malpractice suit, and the government pays a percentage for the elderly and civil servants.

The solution really works! But there are lots of Democrats that just don't believe it. Come to Singapore. They've got great dentists that you can go to for less than $30 and doctors that cost about the same. I've never had problems with access or quality either.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

You do recognize that there is a difference between voluntary contributions, such as those practised by the early Christians, and state-enforced confiscation of property for the benefit of whoever the state happens to favour, yes?

If you're going to make a bold claim like "it was their own Lord and Savior who commanded" that people like Obama act like Prince John while claiming to be Robin Hood, then please, by all means, point to a verse that actually makes your point.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Letter of the law versus spirit of the law. Technically, why should one object to how the deed is done if the deed is to be done in the first place?

12:50 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

So you believe in forced conversions, too?

2:11 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Oh, so now that's a command?

2:16 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

"Repent and be baptized" is a command, sure. It's right there in that Book of Acts that you talk about. Whereas there is no command to send all our money to the secular state so that it can give it away to whichever group of "community organizers" has its ear.

Incidentally, Matthew 23:8 does not say that all people are Christ's siblings. Maybe some other verse says that, but that particular verse does not.

And of course, doing to others what we would want done to us is one of the key reasons many people oppose excessive taxation. You wouldn't want me to take your money away by force, now, would you? Well, then, don't try to take my money.

Oh, and it is John the Baptist, not Jesus, that you are quoting in Luke 3:11. :)

2:33 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

There is nothing more important to our country and its citizens than personal material wealth. It is the foundation of our society. It is drilled into our children's heads throughout their education. It has even infiltrated the pulpit (God wants Christians to be wealthy too!).

Talk to students and their families as they are preparing for college. The most popular question asked is: "How much money will I make if I get this degree?" and it is frequent that students are prevented from getting certain degrees because their parents feel "you can't do anything with that".

Our government can strip away our civil rights and not only is there no protest but people defend it.
Tell people (regardless if it is true) that someone is going to make them pay higher taxes...now that, THAT is something the American people will not stand for!

2:43 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

The reason that it makes a difference in how it is done is because when forced by the government you are not doing it out of obedience to what Christ commanded to do, you are doing it because you are forced by the government, you have no other choice. As I said yesterday "I'm not opposed to helping others as christ commanded, but it wasn't his command for the government to decide to take money from people and tell them what to do with it. It was for christians to help others." In Proverbs 14:23 it says "All hard work pays off. But if all yo do is talk, you will be poor." Proverbs 21:25-27 says "25 Some people will die while they are still hungry That's because they refuse to work.26 All day long they hunger for more. But godly people give without holding back. (notice it says godly people, not the government takes and then gives where they choose) 27 God hates sacrifices that are brought by evil people. he hates it even moe when they bring them for the wrong reason." Those verses are enough for me to see that God wants our giving to be done because we are doing it for the right reasons, not because we are being forced to support people who won't work. As I said in my post yesterday," I am all for helping people who need it. But, that should be my choice and by reading scripture as a whole it doesn't appear that God ever wanted the government to have control over what people give. He wanted them to give out of a loving heart and for giving to be the responsibility of the christians. You will also notice in Acts that it was talking about the church taking care of the church. The verses you quoted weren't talking about them taking care of those outside of the church. Does that mean I don't believe we should not care for those who are outside the church. No, Jesus does want us to reach out to others. When you say that you and I have different ways of dealing with the same problem you are right. I am willing to help those in need who are working, or even those who might be out of work that need help getting back on our feet. This is my duty as a christian to do these things. It is not my duty as a christian to hand over money that the lord has blessed my family with to be dispersed to people who are to lazy to work. God also had many things to say about laziness and where that gets you. Proberbs 21:25 said it best I believe. You work you eat, you don't work you die. I sure hope that next you are not talking to me about people who can't afford insurance. When Chris was in college, I stayed home, had two babies in the process, and we paid for our own insurance. First we had our own insurance that we purchased through someone, then he got a part-time job and we purchaed it through his employer. We had to make sacrifices to make it without the support of the government, but I can proudly say we managed even though we probably could have qualified for everything under the sun. The problem lies for most people in the fact that they don't want to give up their cell phones, car payments, cable, high speed internet, etc. etc. to be able to support themselves. We did it and so can others if they put what is most important first.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Reacher said...

State-enforced confiscation. Let's not use loaded language anything. I guess "voluntary contributions" always work out better. Ask Ananias and Sapphira.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

The problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they didn't contribute as much as they said they had, and they lied about it to gain prestige within the early Church.

There are plenty of examples, throughout the New Testament, of Jesus and the early Church having wealthy followers. There are also examples of Jesus (and other prophets) speaking out against excessive taxation. And there are examples of the early Christians sharing their wealth in various ways (the method followed by the earliest group in Jerusalem being one of them). Add these things up, and one thing you do not get is a state-sponsored socialist agenda -- and anyone who would try to co-opt Jesus for such a political agenda is doing him a disservice, to say the least.

And yes, if you refuse to give the government the money that it demands from you, you get sent to jail, sometimes by men carrying guns. Some would say that that looks a little like force.

And let's not even get started on the draft.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

It's all so cut and dry: if you are poor its because you are lazy didn't work hard enough. Following this line of thought, if you are rich its because you worked hard and deserve it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

That thought process is downright insulting.

I was unemployed for three months. I was applying to multiple jobs each day, I was signed up at multiple temp agencies and I still was only getting a day of work per week if I was lucky. This despite the fact I have a master's degree and an excellent resume/work history.

But you're right. I just was too lazy. I wasn't trying hard enough. I refused to cut costs. Nevermind the fact that my expenses were less than a 1000 a month. I share a two bedroom apartment with three people, I slept on the floor, and had no furniture whatsoever.

And no, I didn't turn down jobs. I spent two weeks inspecting stuffed animal baby bottle holders for holes in the seams and the stuffing bottles in them to make sure the animal didn't split open, and would have continued to do so if they had needed us for longer than that.

If it wasn't for the fact that my family was gracious enough to help me out financially during this time period I would have had to either try and get unemployment benefits or be out on the street.

I for one am glad that these "socialist" programs exist because there are many people out there like me and many of them are not fortunate enough to have families that can help them out or happen to run into someone willing to help them in their time of need.

As far as tax collectors and taxes go, of course they were outcasts during Biblical times. They collected taxes for a foreign government that occupied Israel by force. Those taxes did not go to the Israeli people. That is entirely different than paying taxes that benefit your own country.

Romans 13:5-7:

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I find it interesting that no one has brought up tithing within this discussion.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

This is for Grinth. If you will notice I said "I am willing to help those in need who are working, or even those who might be out of work that need help getting back on our feet." There is a big difference in that and saying that all people who aren't working are lazy. My point was, it is not ok to support people who are to lazy to get a job, or to even look for a job because it is to easy for them to get help from the government. Good for you for looking every day, taking whatever work you could get, living as cheaply as possible, and in turning to your family for help. That is exactly what you should have done, and if more people would do that this country would be a lot better off.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Grinth said...

I did not miss that part. What you do imply is that a majority of poor people are lazy. You also suggest that since there are people who choose to be lazy and abuse government programs, they shouldn't exist at all (since to exist they require you and all other Americans to pay taxes).

My point is this: there are many people out there who, despite their best efforts, find themselves at the bottom of the barrel and unless they are fortunate to run across someone like you who is willing to help them, it is game over.

In an ideal world enough people would be willing to help others in need there wouldn't be a need for government run programs of this nature. Unfortunately that is not the case, and to denounce a program because there are those who seek to abuse it, is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

Grinth wrote:

I for one am glad that these "socialist" programs exist because there are many people out there like me and many of them are not fortunate enough to have families that can help them out or happen to run into someone willing to help them in their time of need.

I, too, am certainly glad for some of the so-called "socialist" programs out there. I would never want to go back to the days when fire departments were privately owned and had contracts with only certain people, etc. And I am grateful that my wife and I never had to pay any user fees for the three months she spent in a hospital, on bed rest, when she was pregnant with our twins. (Even as a conservative, I am committed to a certain baseline of state-funded healthcare -- especially when it encourages the creation and development of new taxpayers. :) I just do not believe that the state should have a monopoly on such things, or that the taxpayer should be forced to pay for certain procedures.)

So, yeah, I'm not one of those Fraser Institute types who would want to have everything privatized. But even so, I still think my own country has gone too far in the "socialist" direction in some areas, and I see no reason to believe that Obama wouldn't push your own country too far in some of those directions himself. Heck, Bush has pushed your country too far in some of those directions.

As far as tax collectors and taxes go, of course they were outcasts during Biblical times. They collected taxes for a foreign government that occupied Israel by force. Those taxes did not go to the Israeli people.

If you narrow your focus to the New Testament, sure -- though even then, you still have the Temple tax, which by definition stayed within Israel, and which Jesus told Peter they really shouldn't have to pay because they themselves were God's children, but never mind because he'd perform a miracle to cover both their taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).

If you turn to the Old Testament, you find an even stronger anti-monarchical streak in passages like I Samuel 8:10-18, which warns of the excessive taxation and the military draft and so forth that will result if Israel is ruled by a king and not by God himself. Yes, once the monarchy was established, the prophets made the best of it, and even cast it in a messianic light. But traces of resistance to such statism are still there in the scriptures.

Romans 13:5-7:

It's funny how liberals brush this chapter aside whenever the conversation turns to the military versus pacifism, yet cite it so authoritatively in contexts such as this.

One obvious difference between the situation now and the situation when Paul was writing is that, as John Dominic Crossan has put it, Caesar is no longer simply someone else, but rather, because of our democratic structures, Caesar is "us". So we no longer have to passively roll over and pay the taxes that Caesar demands; we have an active role in determining what those demands are in the first place.

I find it interesting that no one has brought up tithing within this discussion.

Why would we? We tithe to the church, not to the state.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Delahunt (POD) said...

I do agree with Mr. Chattaway in regards to having LIMITED government services available, at the lowest level possible - at least not on a federal level.

Whenever I am in doubt about my postitions, I defer to the Declaration of Independence and the Constituion of the United States: the federal government has no authority beyond what it stated in the preamble of the Constituion (provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, etc, etc) and as a conservative that is what I (try) to strictly adhere to. I thank my lucky stars that I was born an American citizen, because I live in a system of government that allows me freedom of movement up (or down) the economic ladder based upon my personal merits as an individual. Having those fallbacks (welfare) should as always be considered a last resort, as Grinth eloquently stated in his personal story.

However, I find myself questioning why after all these years of the New Deal, and the Great Society, Bush's prescription drug program, why after all the trillions of dollars that we have put into these programs, that things haven't gotten demostrably better? Is socialism a culprit?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

However, I find myself questioning why after all these years of the New Deal, and the Great Society, Bush's prescription drug program, why after all the trillions of dollars that we have put into these programs, that things haven't gotten demostrably better? Is socialism a culprit?

A good question if you choose to ignore the fact that Republicans, have done everything in their power to handicap or eliminate these programs.

The Reagan administration cutting 1 Billion for child nutrition programs and then reclassifying ketchup, pickle relish and other condiments as fruits/vegetables is just one example of conservatives version of capitalism over socialism at its finest.

1:39 PM  

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