Open Season

Dear Les,

You say to me, this: “You never comment on my wall postings (where you know that others who disagree with you might see it). You only make comments on your own wall (where almost everyone agrees with you). Try testing your ideas in an audience with more diverse points of view. You might learn something.”

I take it you’re asking me why I don’t often respond to your facebook postings. The answer is twofold. (1) I don’t routinely see your postings anymore because I hid you from my feed a couple of weeks ago. (2) I seldom commented before I hid you, I think, because I take a different approach concerning facebook etiquette. I kind of view your facebook wall as your front porch. Just as I would not routinely go onto your front porch and start an argument, I refrain from arguing heavily on your facebook wall. That’s not a matter of objective right or wrong, it’s just my personal approach.

If you’re hinting, though, that I’m afraid to take my views outside my community, … well that charge falls kind of flat. As you know, I maintain a blog where I offer my thoughts on a variety of topics for anyone with internet access to interact over. I even named it “The Dartboard” with the idea that people may take issue with me, throwing their sharp words at mine. Feel free to re-post anything from there that you like. Feel free to invite your facebook community to have at it too. You did that once, before, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the interactions. That’s the beauty of an open market place of ideas.

With that in mind, I re-declare open season on my words. Consider this little post my personal invitation. In fact, you can subscribe to it by email if you want to get notification when something new’s gone up. So can they. There’s a click button on the home page.

Let the games begin.

Sincerely,
Terrell

59 Comments on “Open Season

  1. Let me add something I’ve noticed. Our neo commie opponents are like children throwing stones at windows and then run away. Social networks are useful tools for such behavior. But they shun open debate. That makes sense too, given that truth does not exist in their view, reducing any posit to “just another opinion”, a personal taste. Debating tastes is a useless exercise: two people will never agree if blue is more beautiful than green. Talks are over.

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  2. I thought you would like seeing this article on how un-Christian Libertarian and Tea Party philosophy is:

    The insurgent Tea Party and its Libertarian philosophy is a political phenomenon, not a religious one. Like the Democratic and Republican parties it seeks to challenge, it is a secular movement, not a Christian one. As with both major political parties, people who regard themselves as Christians may be involved in, or sympathetic to, the new Tea Party; but that doesn’t make it “Christian.” But like the philosophies and policies of the major political parties, the Tea Party can legitimately be examined on the basis of Christian principles — and it should be.

    Since the Tea Party is getting such national attention, our God’s Politics blog is going to begin a dialogue on this question: Just how Christian is the Tea Party Movement — and the Libertarian political philosophy that lies behind it? Let me start the dialogue here. And please join in.

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds individual rights as its supreme value and considers government the major obstacle. It tends to be liberal on cultural and moral issues and conservative on fiscal, economic, and foreign policy. This “just leave me alone and don’t spend my money” option is growing quickly in American life, as we have seen in the Tea Party movement. Libertarianism has been an undercurrent in the Republican Party for some time, and has been in the news lately due to the primary election win of Rand Paul as the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Kentucky. Paul has spoken like a true Libertarian, as evidenced by some of his comments since that election last week.

    He cited the Civil Rights Act as an example of government interference with the rights of private business. Paul told an interviewer that he would have tried to change the provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race. He answered a specific question about desegregating lunch counters by countering, “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?”

    A few days later, he spoke about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Referring to the Obama administration’s criticisms of BP, Paul said, “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

    Is such a philosophy Christian? In several major aspects of biblical ethics, I would suggest that Libertarianism falls short.

    1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue. Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition. The Christian answer to the question “Are we our brother’s keeper?” is decidedly “Yes.” Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. Loving your neighbor is a better Christian response than telling your neighbor to leave you alone. Both compassion and social justice are fundamental Christian commitments, and while the Christian community is responsible for living out both, government is also held accountable to the requirements of justice and mercy. Both Christians on the Right and the Left have raised questions about Libertarian abandonment of the most vulnerable — whether that means unborn lives or the poor.

    Just look at the biblical prophets in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and how they frequently follow those statements by requiring the king (the government) to act justly (these requirements applied both to the kings of Israel and to foreign potentates). Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.”(Jeremiah 22:16). Amos instructs the courts (the government) to “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15). The prophets hold kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and mercy.

    2. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul (not the Kentucky Senate candidate) describes the role and vocation of government; in addition to the church, government also plays a role in God’s plan and purposes. Preserving the social order, punishing evil and rewarding good, and protecting the common good are all prescribed; we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes! Sorry, Tea Party. Of course, debating the size and role of government is always a fair and good discussion, and most of us would prefer smart and effective to “big” or “small” government.

    Revelation 13 depicts the state as a totalitarian beast — a metaphor for Rome, which was persecuting the Christians. This passage serves as a clear warning about the abuse of governmental power. But a power-hungry government is clearly an aberration and violation of the proper role of government in protecting its citizens and upholding the demands of fairness and justice. To disparage government per se — to see government as the central problem in society — is simply not a biblical position.

    3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. The exclusive focus on government as the central problem ignores the problems of other social sectors, and in particular, the market. When government regulation is the enemy, the market is set free to pursue its own self-interest without regard for public safety, the common good, and the protection of the environment — which Christians regard as God’s creation. Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don’t, it’s not government’s role to correct it.

    But such theorizing ignores the practical issues that the public sector has to solve. Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean? And is regulating them really un-American? Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids? Given the reality of sin in all human institutions, doesn’t a political process that provides both accountability and checks and balances make both theological and practical sense? C.S. Lewis once said that we need democracy not because people are essentially good, but because they often are not. Democratic accountability is essential to preventing the market from becoming a beast of corporate totalitarianism – just as it is essential for the government. And God’s priorities should determine ours, not the priorities of the Chamber of Commerce.

    4. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. “Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money” is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy. “As you have done to the least of these,” says Jesus, “You have done to me.” And “Blessed are those who are just left alone” has still not made the list of Beatitudes. To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion. When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system.

    5. Finally, I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

    So that should get us started. Let’s have the dialogue about how Christian the Tea Party Movement and its Libertarian philosophy really are. Jump in!

    Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at http://www.godspolitics.com.

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  3. Les, that’s actually a good discussion to have. I’m on Jim Wallis’s mailing list and I read this yesterday and thought that I would like to think through his points and respond.

    It’ll probably be a few days, but I’ll get back to you on this. In the meantime, I’m curious: You don’t identify yourself as a Christian. Why do you bring this up with me? Do you really want to hear what I think so that you can evaluate it? Are you evaluating various self-identified Christians’ takes on politics because you want to evaluate Christianity? Something else? Please tell.

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  4. @Les, Even I haven’t got the time to read an entire chapter of your comments, but I thought I’d share this with you and Terrell. We are rallying the troops in the Netherlands for a Tea Party of our own. We’ve had our first last Saturday. It is composed of Classical Liberals, Calvinist Christians and Libertarians. The Calvinist component is a great surprise to some, but actually it is not. The Calvinist’s logic is that rights and goodies are dispensed by God. The postmodern state is usurping the role of God in that respect. So, contrary to your claim, the Tea Party’s premises are entirely compatible with Christianity, at least to those who still hold to some orthodoxy.

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  5. Les, you wrote: “1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue. Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition. The Christian answer to the question “Are we our brother’s keeper?” is decidedly “Yes.”

    With all due respect (and I truly mean that), where in Scripture do you come up with this conjecture about the imposition of the common good? Although as a Christian I do not agree with all facets of Libertarianism, I believe Scripture continually sanctions individual freedom within the framework of personally responsibility. You first must be free before you can exercise accountability, restraint and concern for one’s neighbor. This is a self-determined choice based upon the maturation process of the Christ follower. This is what prompted the Apostle Paul to write Romans 14.

    Romans 14:1-3 (NASB) 1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.

    Personal freedoms must NOT be superimposed upon the consciences of others. There is much liberty in Christ and sometimes it’s messy. Les, I believe you make a good point about our being our brother’s keeper, but I think you are misconstruing what that means in a practical sense. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a top-down totalitarian approach, dictating the “common good”. The only gatekeeper is Jesus Christ. Where do you find Jesus or any NT writer, authorizing the government to mandate the “common good”?

    In Acts 2 we find the wonderful communion of believers as they SHARED all things in common. This was a totally voluntary expression of their love for God and one another. You can only “share” what you OWN. Contrast the following two passages from very different authors:

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Isn’t that what they were doing in Acts?

    Acts 2:41-47 (NASB)41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    Doctor Luke wasn’t advocating Marxism! What’s the difference in these two statements? Freedom! The actions of those in the early church were motivated by their love for one another. There was no coercion. They weren’t forced to “voluntarily” share their property. 🙂

    Les, I agree that Libertarians overly emphasize individual rights at the potential detriment of other’s needs. However, they are far more correct in their application of Scriptural principles (whether they know it or not) than those who advocate socialism or liberation theology. The government is not our keeper and that’s what Cassandra rightfully recognized. Forcibly taking from me to give to a person in need is called theft and is a violation of the 8th Commandment, which creates an atmosphere of covetousness (which our government is in the habit of doing) and therefore is a breach of the 10th Commandment.

    Jesus never denied personal freedoms but at the same time He espoused a balance between freedom and responsibility. Let me say it again in a different manner. You cannot be responsible if you are not free. The Apostle Paul nailed it here:

    Philippians 2:2-4 (NASB) 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Yes, Les, we are our brother’s keeper to the extent we voluntarily become their servant. Everything we do and say should issue from humility, not regarding our personal interests more important than those of our neighbors. However, this attitude, being of the same mind, cannot be mandated by anyone and certainly not enforced by some authoritarian institution.

    Christians ought to be the best environmentalists, the most philanthropic, the most concerned about the plight of the poor and the unborn… Yes, indeed, our love for Christ should compel us to a higher standard. However, what the Tea Parties are attempting to do is first shed the overbearance of government, which is a significant part of the problem. On our current path we will cease to exist as a sovereign nation. Over 200 years ago we fought to be free of government tyranny, and far less than we have now. Just look what’s happening in Europe. Greece’s Marxist tendencies are coming home to roost. Les, do we truly want to emulate Europe?

    We must be free to do the wrong thing (and I don’t mean harming our neighbor which is a proper oversight of government) before we can do the right thing.

    In conclusion, yes, I agree that many in the Tea Party are overbalanced toward personal freedom. But this is a very natural reaction to the oppression of government? They have every right to be seething mad about the destruction of their/our personal freedoms and the emergence of the welfare state. I applaud their efforts and I join them as a Calvinist Christian who believes God alone is our Sovereign Master. You are correct, “individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue.” Regarding others more highly than ourselves is true maturity in Christ. Please don’t confuse the goal of the Christian with the responsibility of the government. Long live the Tea Parties!

    Blessings Les,
    Chuck <

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  6. Well, Les, you’ve sparked a discussion by copying Jim Wallis’s article to me. I’ve written an open letter to Jim Wallis as a result. You can read that here: https://terrellclemmons.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/an-open-letter-to-jim-wallis-social-justice-cross-examined/ I also posted it to Wallis’s opinion piece at sojo.net. An interesting discussion got kicked off over there too.

    Thank you for bringing this up. Researching Wallis was informative. I knew he took a different approach to Christianity than me, but I didn’t know he had such deep Communist/Marxist roots. At best, he views the calling of Christian political activity differently than I do. At worst, he’s using the words of Jesus Christ to advance a partisan, political agenda. That in itself would be a grievous disservice to Christ, but the fact that it is essentially indistinguishable from Marxism would make it insidiously destructive.

    But starting from this opinion piece at its face value, I disagree with Wallis’s contention that, “social justice is the central theme of the Bible.” I see the central theme of the Bible as reconciliation: God’s activity to save people from eternal condemnation and reconcile them to himself.

    Since you brought this subject up, in the interest at getting at the truth, I suggest we look at the foundational document of Christianity, the New Testament, together to determine which view is more accurate. This could illuminate the truth about Christianity. It would also sharpen your insight into what is and is not “Christian.” So what do you say, will you take a look at the Bible with me in order to determine which theme is most central? Please answer “Yes” or “No.” Failure to answer will be taken as a “No.”

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  7. Hello Terrell and fellow bloggers:

    As you know, Terrell, we began a dialogue on this over email, and you directed me to your blog (as well as your open letter to Jim Wallis). I take this as a clear invitation to check out your bolg and jump into the discussion, so that’s what I’ll do instead of responding to your email address.

    As an evangelical Christian, I consider myself (among an increasing number of Christians disallusioned with the Christian right) somewhat of a fan of Jim Wallis, among other Christian leaders who espouse philosophies of social justice (which, as I will demonstrate, actually are entirely scriptural).

    I believe that many of the postions, as well as the tactics, used by the Christian right (as well as Tea Baggers) to defend their ultra-conservative political philospophies to often be very un-Christian. I begin with the continual use of labelling to try and make a point — to pin a label on someone with a different philosophy to try and destroy their credibility (a frequent ploy by conservative radio show hosts — e.g. “tree-huggers”, “femi-nazis”, etc.). I speak specifically of labelling any progressive thinker on this or other issues, whether Christian (such as Wallis) or non-Christian, as “Marxist” because they believe in principles of social justice. Other common terms thrown around include (on this same blog site) “communists” and “neo-commies”, etc.

    Agreed that the primary theme of the Bible is not social justice. However, most scholars agree that in terms of sheer volume of passages and words on the subject, it is one of the most repeated themes in the Bible, as well as Jesus’s own words. Contrary to what many of the Christian right may believe, the Bible is and was never a manifesto on capitalism, democracy, and all things American. In fact, as we will see, some might even present an argument to the contrary.

    I primarily point all readers to Acts 4:32-35 and to 2 Cor. 8:13-15, where the makings of a truly Christian society couldn’t be any clearer (and even rather radical by our modern capitalistic point of reference). And as we all know, Christ makes it quite clear that paying taxes to our government for the common good is not a sin, but something we are actually instructed to do (render under Caesar what is Caesar’s…).

    C.S. Lewis in his landmark work, Mere Christianity, discusses what a Christian society would look like if it were to be based on scriptural principles; and he goes on to describe the elements that would NOT be present, which read like a clear and stark description of modern American capitalism, consumerism, materialism, and consumption (and since when did these economic principles somehow become aligned with Christianity and the Bible?). He further goes on to say that a truly Christian society would actually be (dare I actually use the dreaded “S-word”?), “socialistic” in nature.

    Of course, C.S. Lewis and I (just as was done to Jim Wallis) could now just be dismissed disdainfully as “Marxists”, “neo-commies”, etc. (I even hear the rantings of Glenn Beck in my head spewing out these labels) for believeing that there is nothing inherently sinful about advocating a more eqitable system — one that is not so increasingly geared toward consumption and materialism, and in particular, rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor (which would truly be unbiblical).

    For a better biblical perspective on the subject, I encourage readers to look up an article I wrote (“Remembering Our Roots…”, by Scott Martin, in the Sept./Oct. issue of Prism Magazine, by the Ron Sider based Evangelicals for Social Action), in addition to the two Scriptural passages I laid-out, as well as C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

    Let us be able to have a well-reasoned discussion about what is truly scriptural and Christian in an economic system without digressing to attacking or shutting anything out of our minds that we fear might be labelled as Marxist, communist, or even socialist. Jesus did not come to advocate capitalism, democracy, the U.S. Constitution, or for that matter, any specific economic or political system on one side or the other. And the United States and its version of democracy and capitalism was never ordained in the Bible as the only system of governance and economics to be forced upon the world as somehow divine in nature, as many conservatives seem to believe.

    And finally, since when does encouraging economic/political philosophies such as caring for the poor, taxation for the betterment of our society (as Jim Wallis lays out nicely), greater governmental regulation, caring for our environment, etc. become “Marxism/communism/socialism”, rather than just a belief that government and taxation are not evil in and of themselves, and are actually essential to the successful functioning of any capitalist system? Most progressive thinking Christians (and non-Christians too) who believe in more socially just policies are actually not advocating communism or socialism as continually charged , but are only realistically trying to address the fallout and inequities that result from aggressive and unchecked capitalism. Perhaps we might even be people who actually believe in capitalism, but with with greater restraint, regulation and social justice. How radical!

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  8. Scott, there are a lot of different lines of discussion I could pursue, but I think the most important one is this: What is the central theme of the Bible? Jim Wallis says it’s social justice. I don’t. I say it’s salvation from sin. In fact, you agree to the extent that social justice is not the primary theme of the Bible.

    The most troubling aspect of Jim Wallis’s movement to me is the absence of the central gospel message. You know it – I know you do. The message that tells us we’re all sinful and in need of salvation from eternal condemnation, that the cross is the means of salvation, and that Christ is the sole savior. That’s why I asked him where was the cross and where was Christ in his ministry? I looked on Sojourners’s website for a statement of faith, but I couldn’t find one. Also, I’ve been on his email list for a few years now, and I have never heard him communicate it. What good is his ministry if his followers achieve the whole vision of social justice, yet never find salvation for their souls? Whose work will he have eternally achieved?

    You’re a Wallis supporter, and a member of God’s family with me. If you can point me to somewhere where Jim Wallis tells his readers how to escape hell, then I’ll stand corrected. Otherwise, as I see it, at best, he’s lost his Christian focus, at worst, he’s using the words of Jesus to advance a partisan, political agenda. Both are cause for concern in my book.

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  9. On a different note, I want to respond to suggestion that using the terms, “Marxism,” Communism,” or “socialism,” is equivalent to calling people names. That’s not how I’m using those words. I use those terms descriptively, not pejoratively. Jim Wallis, as I noted, was a leader of SDS, which was associated with the CPA (Communist Party in America). In fact, most of its members were called, “red diaper babies” because their parents were members of the Communist Party. To say that Wallis has been the leader of a group associated with Communists is stating a fact.

    This is also true of many leaders in the current administration, which Wallis supports with all his heart, as far as I can tell. I’m not name-calling. I’m stating a fact. If you think I’m either misinformed or lying, then I invite you to present something showing where I’m wrong.

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  10. Hi Terrell,

    1. First, regarding labels, I could have been clearer in that I was not necessarily singling you out personally. Another blogger (Cassandra) referred to those she disagrees with as “neo-commies”. I find this to be the most consistent tactic used by the political right, and to be honest, many in the Christian right, and I felt somewhat in your words too: That instead of a substantial exchange on the merits of the argument, to just demonize the other side with labels of commies, Marxists, etc. (plus the other labels I mentioned in my last entry). By now most of us know that Glenn Beck said that any pastor or church that preaches social justice are Marxists, and yes, he even said fascists and Nazis. Very strong labels to demonize those he disagrees with. I’m not pinning that on you personally, of course, but it is a tactic used consistently by many on the right, and there were elements of your letter to Wallis which I felt may have bordered on this, which I’ll address shortly.

    2. I thought Wallis’ piece on the Tea Party and Libertarianism was very well reasoned and explained. But you did not address the merits of the content of his piece, but rather, his motives and background. It puzzled me that your response was to dig up his past going all the way back to the 60’s and question his credibility, motives and integrity, rather than to simply address his points. When Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship (a conservative who I admire), as well as James Dobson of Focus on the Family come out in oppostition to global warming, I respond to the facts and strength of their argument, as opposed to researching Colson’s background and challeging his integrity by reminding him and others that he was convicted many years ago on Watergate-related charges in an extremely political way, and therefore, his motives regarding global warming must be political and thus dismissed.
    (And to be honest, what expertise does both P.F. and FOTF have on this subject anyway! What does this have to do with their mission of saving souls, or might that not be their primary mission?).

    3. I have never actually heard Wallis say that social justice is THE primary theme of the Bible. I have heard him say it is AN important theme. And I’ve also heard biblical scholars say that if you count the number of verses or words in the Bible, social justice and caring for the poor and oppressed among us is the most discussed theme in the Bible. (The most discussed, but you and I would agree that it is not the single most important theme).

    But I am very puzzled about the charge that Wallis’ points and motives are to be questioned because the apparent theme/mission of Sojourners is not salvation. I am confused here because when does an organization and its mission, and even its Christianly-ordained leader, need to make its primary mission evangelism and salvation? Are there not many Christian organizations that exist for the cause of administering to the poor or many other important causes, and are they to be called on the carpet for not making their primary mission salvation of souls? I do much volunteer work for Christian homeless missions, and their primary mission is to feed and clothe the homeless. Even The Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1800’s England, had as its primary mission to care for the most destitute among them at that time in England in a very inequitable society of haves and have nots (which is more and more the direction the U.S., and the Tea Party, are moving). Yes, they did also evangelize and save souls, but they were always clear that you cannot save souls until you first administer to their most basic physical/emotional needs. Even org’s I mentioned like FOTF have a very political agenda such as protecting the traditional family unit (which I applaud), and saving souls is not their primary objective and mission. What about Christian relief organizations whose mission it is to administer to refugees and those in medical need in hot spots around the world? Even Mother Teresa said the best way for her to save the souls of the sick and starving is to have compassion upon them, and thus for them to see the light of Jesus shining through her.

    My point is that I don’t follow the logic that Wallis’ arguments are to be dismissed because his objective is not on saving souls first, or that he may have a socialist-leaning past. Perhaps he does, and I may not subscribe to the radicalness of his past; but that doesn’t invalidate his strong points about the lack of Christian values within the Tea Party and Libertarian movements, as so many on the Christian right seem to be embracing.

    To be very honest with you, as I was reading your open letter to Wallis when you were throwing charges of Marxist leanings in his past, it just felt rather McCarthyish: Destroy the message and the credibility of the messengers by digging up pieces of their past and labeling them as radicals or Marxists, rather than on the merits of what they may be saying. I believe this is too often the tactic used by many on the right (including the Christian right), which I feel is hurting our evangelical mission and overall credibility. That is some of what I am alluding to regarding throwing around labels and charges of Marxism and communism — it came across rather mean-spirited. Sorry if this sounds blunt or harsh, but it’s my honest reaction for what it’s worth.

    But in the end, my point is not so much to defend Wallis specifically, as I don’t know everything about him personally or necessarily agree with everything he and Sojourners stand for. There are a growing number of other strong Christian voices (such as Ron Sider of the Evangelicals for Social Action) that also make some very strong arguments on issues of social justice, etc., which I again evaluate on the strength of their perspective; not by trying to invalidate them or drum-up fear by digging into their past and attaching political labels.

    The United Methodist Church, the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., recently came out with a strong statement in support of issues of social justice and ceation care, among others. Are we to charge the Methodist Church with being radicals, Marxists (or fascists and Naxis as Beck would have)? Or, perhaps, might we better have a reasoned examination of their arguments from both a biblical and practical point of view?

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  11. First of all, Scott, I like the tenor of your heart. I believe you care deeply for those in need and that’s highly commendable. Clearly it is our obligation as Christ followers to meet the needs of the impoverished. And as you aptly stated, it is not our primary focus. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Our foundation is the cross of Christ. Responding to temporal human need must never be considered the end game. If one does not taste the Bread of Life, although their bellies may be full, they will forever perish. And I think we agree, right?

    Scott, you wrote: “I primarily point all readers to Acts 4:32-35 and to 2 Cor. 8:13-15, where the makings of a truly Christian society couldn’t be any clearer (and even rather radical by our modern capitalistic point of reference). And as we all know, Christ makes it quite clear that paying taxes to our government for the common good is not a sin, but something we are actually instructed to do (render under Caesar what is Caesar’s…).”

    At the time of Acts 4, there were approx. 20,000 Christians and they clearly had minds of one accord. They were practicing what I call a Philippians 2 mentality.

    Philippians 2:2-8 (NASB) 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

    Their testimony was powerful because they were modeling their King, who had humbled Himself “to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Scott, this is the reason they loved one another and shared their most cherished possessions. They were indebted to Christ because He shed His blood so that they could live eternally. They were testifying to the truth of the Gospel. So yes, I agree with you that doing “nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves”, is the mark of maturity and something that should be strived for. However, giving and loving is an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ. It CANNOT be mandated. Loving others testifies to the truth claims of Christ i.e. they’re know we are Christians by our love for one another. Love is not a commodity that can be demanded or it ceases to be love.

    So with this short background, let me ask you a question. Where in the two passages you cited above, is the government inextricably linked to voluntary communal type sharing? I am thoroughly amazed how people make this kind of leap. No one is saying paying taxes is a sin, but where in the Bible can you argue that Jesus or an Apostle, advocated that paying taxes was to meet the needs of the poor or to spread the wealth around? Scott, once you interject the confiscatory powers of government into those passages, you in fact have a form of Marxism. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The issue is WHO is it that takes “FROM”? In the context of Christian community, if I give out of my ability to those in need, this is a wonderful thing. Once those “take” from me against my will, this is no longer charity. What is being advocated by Sider and others of his bent, is not Christian charity no matter what spin we put on it.

    In the early post-Pentecost Church, the concept of sharing all things in common was born out of their love for one another because Christ first loved them. What does the government have to do with testifying to the love of Christ? The passages you cited are a powerful testimony, if and only if, they are kept in the context of the Church.

    The following passage contains the verses prior to that which you cited above:

    2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NASB) 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,

    Scott, please realize that if giving is not voluntary, then love is excised from the equation and the entire foundation is destroyed. You cannot mandate love nor can you require giving. It must come from an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ and it cannot issue from a secular authoritarian institution. “THEY GAVE OF THEIR OWN ACCORD.” This is critical to recognize! No government involvement. No confiscation of wealth. No Marxism. No socialism. Once government SIEZES, it can never be a function of GIVING. The community of the Corinthian Church would have been destroyed if Rome became the distributor of their resources.

    Please consider reading “Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators”. It was penned by David Chilton in 1981 in refutation of Sider’s “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”. Until reading this book I shared your opinions. Skip the forward; it’s far too aggressive for my blood. The pdf is here: http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/dcpc.pdf. BTW, Chilton died in ’96, and it was his treatment of eschatology that helped me change course which ultimately rescued my spiritual life 5 years ago.

    Blessing to ya Scott. You sound like someone I’d like to have a high pH water with. 🙂

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  12. Scott, I’m going to get back to you, too, about your post from last night. I see this is an important issue for you.

    Chuck, what on earth do you mean by ” someone I’d like to have a high pH water” with???

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  13. Terrell, nothing like an inside joke that only the jokester understands. 🙂 Having a cup of coffee is so mundane and random and I don’t like coffee anyway. I Could have mentioned a soda but it’s high in acidity and not a healthy option, so I decided to go for the ionized pH positive water. Most of the really bad stuff like cancer, thrives in a low pH (acidic) body environment. Although affecting blood pH is not possible (since outside 7.2-7.4 and you’re a goner), it is, however, helpful to raise your body pH to the 7.0-7.5 range.

    Not exactly on topic, but you asked. 🙂 http://www.icurecancer.com/ is a pretty interesting website. But if we eliminate cancer wouldn’t that put a drain on the world’s resources. LOL

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  14. Regarding labels: labels are used by subjective nominalists. They are a substitute for normal language. In normal language a word describes an entity or concept with a referent in reality. Postmodern subjectivists however, who do not believe in universals, see words as mere ‘labels’. When I say e.g. commie, the subjectivist thinks this is merely calling someone bad names. I can assure you however that when objectivists call someone a commie, they mean quite literally that that person is a communist. In fact, they’s a Marxist revival going on. That is serious, because through its history experiments on the basis of Marxist theory have cost over 110 million lives worldwide, and that’s a conservative estimate.
    And to postmodern subjectivists I’d like to say, that it very hard if not impossible to believe in God and not believe in truth at the same time.

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  15. @Cassandra
    I agree with your insight re labels. My only caution is that using potentially perjorative terms such as “commie” or “homie”, are rarely constructive. Often the person who most closely resembles these words never get past the feeling of being demeaned. However, using Marxist, socialist or Communist, in the correct context should not in the least be rejected. When people’s beliefs model those labels, I think it is not only appropriate but necessary to call a spade a spade. If someone doesn’t like being called a Marxist, while their views reflect those of Karl Marx, then they ought to consider changing their dogma. When Pres. Obama talked about “spreading the wealth around” and sat under the teaching of Liberation Theology for 20 plus years, what’s wrong with identifying him with Marx? The legalized confiscation of private property for the “common good”, is Marxist at the core. Bravo, Cassandra!

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  16. First, to Chuck, I would like to thank you for your genteel manner in your response. (Although that seems to dissipate a bit within your above kudos to Cassandra). However, this of course does not imply that we are in agreement.

    Regarding your interpretation of Acts and other Scripture discussed, we apparently read different interpretations into them. It seems to me that you have taken fairly simple and straight-forward Scripture — repeated calls for caring for the least of us, including passages like Acts which describe the components of a Christian society — and over-complicate them by adding layers and layers of interpretation which I just don’t see.

    There are numerous passages that also discuss God’s expectations and wrath upon the nation of Isreal (the collective), the king (leadership), and so forth for favoring the rich and failing to care for the poor and oppressed. The biblical demand for justice clearly stretches to the leadership and collective level, not just the individual. Why over-complicate this so much? Jim Wallis also effectively referred to various Scriptures and laid out a strong case, if we could go back and re-read his piece with an open mind and address the content of his charges.

    What needs to be so complicated about the Bible’s and Christ’s repeated commands to care for the neediest among us? To be honest, it sounds to me like a lot of rationalizations to defend a system, and a new Party, that is designed to continue to give more back to the rich at the expense of the poor. There is no biblical justice in this!

    Regarding labels, I am dumbfounded as to when advocating more of a safety net for the poor and rolling back tax cuts to the wealthy ever became Marxism. I am just blown away at how much this term is being innacurately thrown around to exaggerate a point and political belief. Our nation has always swung back and forth from conservative to liberal, and I don’t recall all these charges of Marxism to such an extent before. The most liberal president I can think of in modern time was FDR, and by today’s standards he was very liberal, but I don’t believe anyone credible seriously considers him a Marxist. And the charges I keep hearing about Obama and some of his administration being Marxist is so over the top that it becomes ludicrous, and to be honest, makes it very difficult to take conservatives who do so seriously at all.

    This is the plain truth: Obama has NEVER raised taxes on the middle class, nor has he ever advocated doing so. All he has done is advocate rolling back some of the Bush tax cuts to the most wealthy. This is not Marxism — it’s been an on-and-off part of our system of governance for much of our history. It seems to me that many of the wealthier Christians among us (i.e. many on the Christian right and Tea Party) are militantly calling for lower taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the poor or less wealthy, and then somehow rationalize this on Christian principles, while at the same time accusing those who disagree (many of whom are actually Christian) as being Marxist (or whatever other over-the-top label you want to choose), which totally befuddles me. This is not about feeling demeaned in the least, but rather, recognizing the tactic by the right to use over-the-top and emotionally-laden labels to instill both fear and anger in people. It’s the likes of Rush, Anne Coulter, Glen Beck, etc. at their worst, and very damaging to our Christian witness.

    But bottom-line, I continue to be astonished and mystified as to how and when applying Christian principles (commands), particularly related to the caring of the least and most needy among us, began referring only to the individual and not to the collective? The Bible is clear in a number of areas, as well as in the many strong ways that Wallis laid-out, that this is a collective as well as individual call. I’m sorry if I sound a bit blunt here, but advocating otherwise just seems to smack of rationalization of materialistic self-interest. Thank you, all, for excusing my passion here, as you can tell that this gets my fur flying! … The Bible and Christ’s own commands here couldn’t be much clearer!

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  17. Scott,

    Your tone changed appreciably, so I guess the dissipation is mutual. The exasperation in your reaction is also mutual, because you didn’t deal with ANY Scriptural arguments or answer ANY of my questions. Perhaps I was unclear because of my attempt at being genteel. 🙂 Since we’re Christians, why don’t we deal with Scripture, and center on the passages you cited? Support your principles from Scripture and I’ll be all ears. The burden is not in proving that we are to care for the needy (as you said, any caveman can get that), but on transferring the bulk of the responsibility from the individuals/Church to the secular state. Last I checked, those who treated the income tax as “optional giving” are in prison.

    2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NASB) 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,

    This is the basis/context of the verses you cited (2 Cor 3:8-15). Scott, please take this very straightforward (your word) passage and tell me what the last six words in verse 3 mean to you?

    Scott: “To be honest, it sounds to me like a lot of rationalizations to defend a system, and a new Party, that is designed to continue to give more back to the rich at the expense of the poor. There is no biblical justice in this!”

    This attitude is what drives me insane. “Give more back to the rich”? Scott, what right do you have to steal from the “rich” to begin with? It’s not your money to give back. That’s like heisting $1,000 worth of auto supplies from Wal-Mart and magnanimously offer to give them back $200. But sadly, you are in fact getting your way. Apparently people don’t learn from history, and it’s not like we have to back too far…just ask Greece.

    Is the “collectivism” you continually refer to, stated below? Now, don’t bristle at my audacity in associating your usage of “the collective” with these not so popular fellows; I’m referring to the concepts they espouse. Divest the names for a moment.

    “Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels strove to put into practical effect the humanitarian concept of Feuerbach. In so doing, they founded a new economic movement called Socialism. According to Marx, the supreme end of man is an immanent and material one, and consists in happiness. This material happiness must be obtained through organized collectivism. In fact, according to Marx, reality is governed by economic needs (historical materialism). Economic reality develops according to Hegel’s dialectical principles; that is, reality must deny itself in order to reach a higher degree of being.

    In application, this principle means that the present organization of society must be destroyed (even through violent revolution, if necessary, because only through such destruction can a better political, economic, and social organization be achieved. To establish this new format of society, working men (the proletariat) must be organized and take up the struggle against the capitalists who defraud them. Thus the actors in this drama are the social classes — the proletariat is arrayed against capitalism. This struggle, according to Marx and Engels, will end in victory for the proletariat, that is, in the triumph of universal Socialism. (The Philosophy of Karl Marx
    and Friedrich Engels)

    For anyone interested, I thought the following was a nice article by John Stossel, “Thanksgiving vs. Socialism”. http://www.theatlasphere.com/columns/071121-stossel-thanksgiving.php

    As you wrote Scott, “The Bible and Christ’s own commands here couldn’t be much clearer!” Amen!

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  18. Hi Scott,

    I appreciate your honesty, and I don’t have a problem with you telling me how my words sound to you. We’re friends, and the discussion can be meaningful.

    In answer to your question, Why do I bring up the issue of Jim Wallis’s leadership in SDS in the 1960s rather than respond to the points he made about Tea Party Libertarianism:

    When Les first posted the Wallis piece, I did a little research on Wallis. That was when I discovered he was a leader in a Communist organization. This is not name-calling. This is stating a fact, and if you have a problem with Wallis’s name being associated with Communism, then your problem isn’t with me. It’s with him. Anyway, this was news to me. So my first question became, Has Jim Wallis renounced this political worldview or not? I don’t know the answer to that question. That’s why I asked it. No one at Sojourners answered it. You didn’t either, but you in effect responded by questioning my question.

    To clarify why I ask that question, let’s take Chuck Colson, whom you mention. Colson has written voluminously about his conversion. He even named his autobiography Born Again. Colson’s witness is all the more beautiful, in fact, because of the stark contrast between his former self-serving, power-hungry way of life and his later selfless service to prisoners, communicated with genuine humility.

    Back to Wallis, you’re more familiar with him than me, and he’s a voluminous writer too, so if you can find for me where he’s written about his personal testimony, particularly if it demonstrates a renunciation of Communism, I’ll reconsider my view of him. Otherwise, it remains a serious problem in my mind when he takes it upon himself to tell his 250,000 readers what actions they should take politically.

    And the more I read him, the more disturbed I get. Throughout his communiqués, I’m detecting this theme: The problem with the world isn’t sin in the human heart, but large corporations, Wall Street bankers (he wrote a piece recently and titled it, “Wall Street, Repent!”), and other various forms of “rich” people. The solution isn’t individual repentance and looking to God for renewal, but it’s generally a call to support a far left progressive political agenda. This is a problem in my mind. To say it has Marxist overtones isn’t calling him a name. It’s stating a fact. According to the Marxist view, the problems of society arise because of the unequal distribution of assets, and the prescribed solution is for those assets to be redistributed – voluntarily if possible, but by force if necessary. The end justifies the means, with the end always deemed to be the common good.

    This is why I asked, Where is the cross? Where is Christ? Because I don’t see them. Wallis’s writings seem to promote salvation by political progressivism more than salvation by Christ. Progressivism is a false Messiah, and as a Christian saved by the real Messiah, I have a problem with false Messiahs.

    So I invite you again, show me where he’s renounced Communism, and I’ll reconsider. Show me where the cross and Christ figure into the Sojourners ministry, and I’ll reconsider. Otherwise, in Sojourners, I see Marxism advancing under the guise of Christianity, and I feel compelled to speak. Strong words, I know, but I say them to you as gently as I know how, and I invite you to show me where I’m wrong about Jim Wallis.

    On a personal note, I’m genuinely curious about something you said. Why does this subject get your fur flying? Going back to the Wallis opinion piece on Tea Party Libertarianism, if I as a Christian citizen prefer to give my dollars to God-fearing, wonderful ministries that I know do beautiful work rendering help to the poor instead of surrendering them in the form of taxes for the government to dispense with as it chooses, why does that get your fur flying? If there’s something wrong in me holding that political stance, I fail to see it, and I invite you to show it to me.

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  19. I am admitting right off, I have not had time to read all of the comments.
    Before I do, I would like to ask people to respond, specifically:
    What do you think of when you say social justus, what does it look like to you?
    Basically if everything was socially just, how would everything look?

    I am not asking why you believe what you believe, it looks like that has been covered.

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  20. Barb, I just pulled this off of Wikipedia: “Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution.”

    The more I look at it, it appears to be a new name for a failed economic system.

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  21. Terrell, I agree with your surmise of “social justice”, at least how it’s been defined. I would choose to define it differently from a Biblical perspective.

    Although I disagree with Prager’s conclusions regarding Bush’s 2nd term in the video linked below, I think he makes some great points that speak to this topic. He references the dichotomy between loving your children while potentially being poor parents. Too often, conservatives assault the left as less patriotic, when in reality they rightly bristle at the notion because many deeply care about this nation. Although they care, that doesn’t make them good citizens.

    The Single Greatest Threat to the Survival of Our Country

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  22. I have read the dialogue and would like to post this article from Thomas Soul. Which system really helps the needy more, the “evil” capitalistic system or the socialist system. Scott, the redistribution of wealth is a socialist/marxist theory. The redistribution of wealth in the end only makes the common man poorer and the wealthy wealthier. The government leaders in these societies are living very well, and by lifestyle capitalist. The question is what system enables the most people to live independent lives, without the help of others and enables them to assist those in need. I find no where in the Bible where being rich is inherently wrong, it is the attitude toward the wealth that is the issue. The Bible uses many wealthy people for good, but we are always to reealize our blessings are from God and to give him first fruits.
    I would like to post an article by Thomas Soul that outlines how the capitalistic society has helped people in some many ways.The Real Public Service

    Denny recently discussed “The Real Public Service” by Thomas Sowell, a comparison between college campuses and the real world of the marketplace. Here is the full essay.

    The Real Public Service
    By Thomas Sowell

    Every year about this time, big-government liberals stand up in front of college commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible– become big-government liberals.

    That isn’t how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.” There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen– over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.

    What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want– not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.

    You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer– if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.

    Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of producing things or more efficient ways of getting those things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost.

    That’s what a man named Sam Walton did when he created Wal-Mart, a boon to people with modest incomes and a bane to the elite intelligentsia. In the process, Sam Walton became rich. Was that the “greed” that you have heard your classmates and professors denounce so smugly? If so, it has been such “greed” that has repeatedly brought prices down and thereby brought the American standard of living up.

    Back at the beginning of the 20th century, only 15 percent of American families had a flush toilet. Not quite one-fourth had running water. Only three percent had electricity and one percent had central heating. Only one American family in a hundred owned an automobile.

    By 1970, the vast majority of those American families who were living in poverty had flush toilets, running water and electricity. By the end of the twentieth century, more Americans were connected to the Internet than were connected to a water pipe or a sewage line at the beginning of the century.

    More families have air-conditioning today than had electricity then. Today, more than half of all families with incomes below the official poverty line own a car or truck and have a microwave.

    This didn’t come about because of the politicians, bureaucrats, activists or others in “public service” that you are supposed to admire. No nation ever protested its way from poverty to prosperity or got there through rhetoric or bureaucracies.

    It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.

    Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.

    The wonderful places where you are supposed to go to do “public service” are as sheltered from the brutal test of reality as you have been on this campus for the last four– or is it six?– years. In these little cocoons, all that matters is how well you talk the talk. People who go into the marketplace have to walk the walk.

    Colleges can teach many valuable skills, but they can also nourish many dangerous illusions. If you really want to be of service to others, then let them decide what is a service by whether they choose to spend their hard-earned money for it.

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  23. Oh Chuck, this is outstanding!! I’ve read Prager in the past, but this is the first time I’ve heard him speak. Mark Levin wrote exceptionally well in the same vein, on the foundational differences between the left and right in America in Liberty and Tyranny. One approach preserves liberty; the other inevitibly leads to tyranny. I summarized it here: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo10/10clemmons.php

    The more I look at this social justice movement, however well-meaning many supporters genuinely are, I see inside a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And I don’t think I’m overstating it.

    I am reading at this very moment, Witness, by Whittaker Chambers. Chilling. And it’s not, I repeat not fiction. We live on the precipice between liberty and tyranny.

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    • Terrell wrote: “The inexorable culmination of statism is tyranny. For statists, government interventions are required to perfect society. Capitalizing on human imperfections, the statist, who has an insatiable appetite for control, stirs up grievances. Then, in classic divide-and-conquer mode, he poses as a champion or savior for one “oppressed” group while reviling another, all along camouflaging the reality that both groups’ liberties are being gradually subjugated to the insuperable authority of the state.”

      So well stated, Terrell. No matter how well-intentioned the statist system is, it always ends in tyranny. There is no other option.

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  24. I have attended many Tea Party events, I agree it is a political movement, not a religious movement. The Tea parties I have attended are based on limited government, not an absence of government.
    Our current government in growing at a spending pace that is unsubstaniable. Our government should be a referee in our society , not a participant. Who made the rules that mandated and back the banks loaning to people that could not pay back loans, who made the policies that allowed wall street to take huge risk. Who bailed out the car companies, took over student loans. Who are the people that took the loans. The people that made these decisions are our lawmakers
    How can a person be elected to Washington making $70,000 a year and come out a millionaire.
    To blame everything on a single entity is shortsighted at best.Elected officials are to blame, the corporate execs that took advantage are to blame and the people oursleves are to blame.
    I asked in an earlier post what does social justice look like, and have not recieved an answer> Perhaps I have just missed this entire conversation or perhaps it is just a term with no meaning.

    It is a Biblical principal to use your resources wisely and not go into debt, mentioned in Proverbs and Levicticus, should we not expect our government to have restraint, as not to harm the citizens.

    Les made it sound like that BP just opened a spicket and walked away, It sounds more like a bad judgement call on several people behalf. We have the toughest enviromental regulations in the world, what would have been helpful, if government would have done its job and BP would have done their.

    Les also alluded that the Tea Parties are racist, like I have told him before, it must be the ones he is attending. Some of the most dynamic speakers, at the Tea Parties I have attended have been black. It may very well be that the Tea Parties do not have an issue with minorities, but that the minorities have an issue with the whites at the Tea Parties. It is very difficult to be a conservative minority in America.

    (How neat, Cassandra, that the Netherlands are having a Tea party movement start. It will be grow to be a success, because it is not based on race but on freedom)

    McGovern and Dukais also had liberal agendas and were soundly defeated, so one may
    give thought, that maybe one of the reasons OBama was elected was because he is black.

    The momentum for the Tea Party movement came from Jake Tapper on the floor of the Chicago Stock exchange, shortly after the stimulus bill. So would the Tea party movement exist if Obama was white, from the people I talk to the answer is yes, because no matter how Obama supporters try and spin this movement, it is not about his color, it is about the out of control spending and the path away from free choice and economic freedom this administration is taking us.

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  25. Just to clarify, the comments at the beginning of this posting were NOT mine. I was sharing an article with Terrell by Jim Wallis. As a non-Christian, I would never comment whether someone’s action were “un-Christian”.

    Social justice IS a core belief of Judaism. “Justice, justice shall you pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The Hebrew Bible possesses in unique measure: a passion for justice for the poor, the weak, and the despised. According to one Midrash the Torah begins and ends with an act of lovingkind- ness. According to another the whole Torah rests on justice; and with justice it will end: Not until just judgment has come, on the one hand, for the poor and the meek, and on the other, for the wicked, will it be possible for the wolf to dwell with the lamb. (Isa. 11:4-6)

    It is no accident that so very few Jews are either Republicans or Tea Party advocates. Democrats are by no means perfect, but more often than not in the past 50 years, Democrats have been on the side of equal rights (justice), protection of the weak, the poor and the stranger (justice).

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  26. One point: Justice, both in the Dt and Is referrences you mention Les, as well as in the entire Hebrew Bible, is an entirely different concept from social justice. Entirely different. Both of them are worthwhile topics for discussion, but to confuse them at best clouds the issue; at worst, if done knowingly, is intentionally deceptive.

    And one question: You launched a good discussion here. Some people have responded to you and some have asked you questions. Have you read through any of it? If you’re familiar with your Hebrew Bible, you should be familiar with this Proverb. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinion.” (Pr 10:23) What was your purpose in sharing the article?

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  27. My purpose in sharing the article was to see what you thought of it. Yes, I have read through the blog. And, no, I do not wish to study the so called “New Testament” with you. Most of the questions asked of me by your other bloggers assumed I had written the article I sent you, which of course I did not.

    You are totally wrong about justice in the Hebrew Bible not being about Social Justice.

    I found this very good article from a Catholic Theologian (http://www.cuc.claremont.edu/bible/jus.htm):

    ________________________________________________________________________
    On Justice

    In every age Christians ponder their mission in the world.
    Is a passionate concern for justice part of being a follower of Jesus?
    Or is seeking justice something Christians may choose to do or not do?

    When we examine the scriptures, we find out how central justice is to the life of the Christian. There is no concept in the Hebrew Scriptures with so central a significance for all relationships of human life as that of justice. The people of the Hebrew Scriptures were in relationship with God because of the covenant that existed between God and Israel.

    As a member of this covenant community, each person was in relationship with every other person, including poor and needy people, one’s family, and even strangers and aliens. Out of these relationships arose responsibilities and demands. The just person was faithful to these responsibilities and demands.

    God’s Ownership, Our Stewardship

    God created the world and all that is in it. Therefore God is the owner of everything in creation. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it (Psalm 24:1). God invites human beings to be stewards of creation. We are invited to be good stewards of what belongs to God. Stewardship is not a way of managing our possessions. It means rather that we care for what God has entrusted to us.

    Let My People Go! The Cry of Yahweh

    The justice of God is vividly portrayed in God’s concern for the Israelite people when they were in Egypt. In the hold of bondage and slavery, they cried out to God, Yahweh, for help (Exodus 2:23-25). Yahweh called Moses to deliver the Israelite people from slavery:

    Then the Lord said: I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians (Exodus 3:7-8).

    The Exodus is the fundamental experience for the Jewish people. Every year the community of Israel gathers to celebrate and relive the Exodus. They are to remember that their God frees them from oppression and injustice. If they are to be faithful to God, they must free the oppressed and do justice toward others.

    Yahweh: Defender of the Oppressed

    In the legal tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, we find the theme of concern for the oppressed and poor of society: The resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

    Concern for the oppressed and the poor was at the core of the Israelites’ calling. This concern was rooted not only in the covenant, but more importantly, in the very nature of Yahweh. Yahweh is the defender of the oppressed, the One who liberates the captives, the One who feeds hungry people:

    (The Lord) executes justice for the oppressed; … gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind (Psalm 146:7-8).

    Share Your Bread with the Hungry: The Message of the Prophets

    Throughout Israel’s history, the prophets reminded Israel to remain faithful to the covenant. Their primary mission was to lead the people back to the path of righteousness and justice. The prophets were sent not only to speak Yahweh’s word, but also to speak on behalf of those who had no voice.

    Yahweh complained through the prophets that the people had forgotten who it was that gave them their land and provisions. They, who once were hungry and oppressed, refused to feed the hungry and themselves became the oppressors. The people of Israel spoke folly and left the craving of the hungry unsatisfied (Isaiah 32:6, paraphrased).

    Amos was one of the strongest in calling the people back to the way of justice. Israel was at the height of her economic and political power when Yahweh sent the poor shepherd Amos to call the people of Israel to repentance.

    These people had often transgressed against the covenant. One transgression was that they oppressed the poor and robbed them of their grain (Amos 5:11a, TEV). The injustice that the rich engaged in completely negated the value of their worship:

    I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream (Amos 5:21-24). Where there is not justice, life is barren and worship of God is a sham.

    Shalom: The Vision of Peace

    But where will justice lead us? What is the goal toward which the prophets call the people of Yahweh? In doing justice, we come to know God better: Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord (Jeremiah 22:15b-16).

    In addition to knowing God better, doing justice leads to shalom, peace: Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever (Isaiah 32:16-17).

    Where there is justice there is the possibility of peace. The opposite is also true: where there is oppression and in justice there can be no shalom.

    What is this shalom God is calling us to experience? It is certainly more than the absence of war and violence. The basic meaning of shalom is wholeness. It involves all the conditions of life that make for wholeness and harmony. Shalom is the goal of God’s work as deliverer and liberator. God’s purpose in the world is to restore shalom wherever it has been broken. God’s will for all is shalom, and the task of the community of faith is to do God’s will.

    Prepare the Way of the Lord

    When we turn to the New Testament, we find these same themes. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ’s public ministry, exhorted his hearers to change their lives. When the crowd asked him what to do, John replied in clear and certain terms: Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise (Luke 3:11).

    The Work of Justice and Peace: Jesus’ Ministry

    Jesus characterized his own earthly ministry by service to the poor, the outcasts, and the downtrodden. Early in his public ministry, Jesus entered the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah to describe his ministry: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).

    Luke presented us with Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus identified himself with the Servant of the Lord and saw himself as part of the great prophetic tradition of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos.

    Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign. But not only did he announce its coming in the power of the Holy Spirit, he also embodied God’s reign. In his life, in what he said, and in his deeds, we see what God’s reign is all about. In his death and resurrection, God’s reign is inaugurated in a new and definitive way.

    With Jesus, we have the fullness of shalom, of justice and peace. Jesus is our path to justice and peace. In him, we know and have the justice and peace of God. In Jesus, Yahweh’s covenant has been renewed, and we are called to be agents of God’s shalom in the world.

    Paul reminds us that Jesus, though he was rich, … for your sakes … became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

    Christ Among Us

    Jesus is the Poor One among us. He identified himself with poor and hungry people and those who suffer and are in need of help. Christians thus come face to face with a great mystery. God in Christ is present in a special way in poor and hungry people (Matthew 25:31-46). Christ represents himself to us in a special way in the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. He is among us in the outcasts and the oppressed of our age. Their cry for justice is Christ’s cry for justice. The very Christ who suffered and died on the cross that all might be reconciled to God is crucified again and again in the suffering and death of poor and hungry people.

    One of the distinguishing characteristics of the new Christian community was care for those in need. Following the example of their Lord, the early church found ways to care for poor and hungry people, the needy in their midst.

    The Bible does not offer us a ten-point program or a five-year plan of action on how to combat injustice in our world. Rather, the scriptures give us a vision of a new creation. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelations 7:1 6a-1 7b).
    _________________________________________________________________________

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  28. Les, that’s a beautiful article. I enjoyed reading it very much. I don’t know of anyone who disputes the call of God to act justly, share what we have, give freely to people in need, never oppress, resist oppressors, give food to the hungry … etc. If by “do justice” you mean that kind of behavior and conduct, I take no issue at all.

    About the “call to social justice”: You, apparently, along with Jim Wallis and others suggest that supporting government programs which purport to do these things is the way to fulfill the commands to “do justice.” I don’t.

    About studying the “so-called New Testament”: I issued the invitation in response to your post about the Tea Party being unChristian. Of course you’re free to decline the invitation, but what that indicates is you’re not interested in what is or is not Christian. Rather – at least as it appears to me – you’re interested in what does or does not support your political views. I mean this respectfully, but if you’re uninterested in examining the defining text for Christianity, then you’re not in a position to determine what is or is not Christian. One can find people who identify themselves as Christians on both sides of the left/right political divide, but as a Jew who’s familiar with the Hebrew Bible, you should also be familiar with the existence of false prophets, so it’s at least possible that’s somebody’s misusing God’s words. An examination of Scripture can help bring the essence of it into better focus.

    Which brings me to the subject of Jim Wallis and your saying you wanted to see what I thought of it: Unless Scott or someone else can show me where Jim Wallis “gets” the foundation of Christianity – that Jesus Christ is the Messiah; that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; that Jesus is the sacrifice of atonement allowing us to be reconciled to God; that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through him – something like that, then Jim Wallis looks to me like a man quoting Scripture to advance a political agenda. I remain open to correction, but that’s what I think until I see something that convinces me otherwise.

    Thank you again for the article. It was nice. But it completely fails to establish any call by Scripture to support any government program.

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  29. I agree with Terrell it is a beautiful article and know of no one that would disagree with it. People work diligently in a variety of capacities to insure that
    the work is done, but as Christ reminds us the work will never be done.

    I have been taught that all we have is from God, and we should respond with First Fruits that go to God.In Deutronomy 30 (NIV) God talks about making those properous that turn to him. It is not our wealth that is the issue, it is our attitude toward that wealth. Do we acknowledge that it is a blessing from God?

    As a matter of fact without the wealth it would be impossible to feed the hungry,
    clothe the poor, administer medicine to the sick.

    I see nowhere, where government should be the provider of these responsiblities, as a matter of fact the more we rely on government to administer these responsiblities,the more we abdicate our own call to care for others.

    I also note that we are to care for the total person, not just the physical needs.
    I have been taught the total person has four components. Spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. It is clear that physical must be taken care of in order to administer the other components.

    When Government provides to the physical, who is to administer the other components and in many cases when just the physical is administer to, people don’t see the need for the other components.

    Les, you see the democrats as taking care of these issues, but as I look at the
    government taking care of physical, while the mental, emotional and spiritual are left out of the equation and the results are dismal.
    Proverty is still high, our schools, esp inner city are abject failures, housing is
    disgusting, crime rates are much higher in inner cities.
    So, while it sounds good the results are dismal, because merely providing physical cannot poosibly meet all the needs humans have.
    The programs that you support are condemning people to a life of hopelessness.

    Programs like Habitat for Humanity-I am not saying that it is a religious organization- I don’t know it roots. I do know on any given day you can find a house going up somewhere, with help from a church family. It combines the 4 components that I spoke of earlier. Salvation Army, Wheeler Mission, Shepard Community center work for all the components.(Will everyone that goes through these programs become Christian- the answer is no and that is not the focus.
    The focus is to do God’s work and expose people to the hand of God, the out come is up to God.)habitat for hummanity has a higher success rate for decent housing than does government run housing projects.

    These programs also are a way to teach the young compassion for the people in need, because the goal should be to liberate people so they are no longer in need.
    That is true compassion and social justice.

    One last note Amos 5:11 (from the article) talks about oppressing the poor and robbing them of their grain. Is that not what is exactly happening now.
    The fear of mandates and higher taxes (taking of grain) are making business owners
    afraid of hiring and by direct relation depriving people of jobs. (causing a vicious cycle of oppression)
    Teaching people to rely on government, takes away their need to rely on God, or
    at least each other for stabiltiy-what is the proverty rate for single mothers,
    what is the prison rate for males born into homes with single mothers?
    With the rules of the Great Society, men were no longer needed or allowed.
    The 90’s reform has somewhat addressed this issue, but not with any great success.
    So when the government decides who has to much, when it is really determined by God(whether people believe in God or not he is still in control) and government takes it, the government is limiting the ability of other to help others out of proverty.
    The Bible does not condemn hard work or being paid for it, as a matter a fact, it is a principle of the Bible-please read at least minimally proverbs.

    So from a Biblical point of view, I too fail to see a call for government programs.

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  30. I haven’t been on for a while, and I know there have been a number of responses since then, and this will most likely be my final lengthy comment on the subject, so please hang in there with me on this. Also, my previous “got my fur flying” comment was actually meant to be a humorous and self-effacing one regarding my passion on the subject, but didn’t come out right. I hope that my tone was not too sharp, as this is obviously a bit of a hot button issue with me . . .

    From C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity . . .
    “The New Testament, without going into details, gives us a clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take … There will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. …
    Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid that very few of us would like the whole thing. … You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. …
    Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. … A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. … And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward.”

    – 2 Cor. 8:13-15:
    “Our desire is .. that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'”

    – Is. 2:7-9a:
    “Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; thre is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols… And so people are humbled, and everyone is brought low. … The haughtiness of people shall be humbled, and the pride of everyone shall be brought low.”

    – Col.2:20:
    “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?”

    Condemnation of rulers and societies who fail to address the cause of the poor is clear here and elsewhere in the Bible. There are, again, hundreds more biblical verses that could be laid-out here on the cause of social justice (however you want to define it). The verses I referred to before (Acts 4:32-35: “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had … There were no needy persons among them …”); as well as 2 Cor. above couldn’t be any clearer that the call to action is a collective as well as individual call.

    Chuck, I feel that you have cherry-picked 6 words out of the Bible to position your interpretation that the hundreds of verses on compassion for the poor are meant only to be an individual voluntary call. And your point that the Acts passage (among the rest of Scripture on the subject), as per these 6 words from 2 Cor., are meant only to imply that giving should be voluntary also ignores the fact that further in Acts a couple are struck down dead for not sharing their wealth with others and trying to conceal that.

    I’m sorry, but what a difference between the spirit of these passaages and the original disciples of Christ vs. the self-interest of the modern Tea Party / etc. movement.

    Even if one were to agree with Chuck’s interpretation of Scripture, can anybody seriously believe, as individual and collective Christians who are concerned for the plight of the poor, that we have ever demonstrated a true (and successful) ability to meet the needs of the poor (through the church and charity)? Do you really believe that our true human nature (even as a Christian citizens), is up to, or has ever demonstrated that it is up to, this challenge? (If so, then please go back and read the last paragraph of Lewis’s quote above, as well as the others, and “be driven onto something more inward”).

    Terrell and others’ refusal to examine and discuss the content of Wallis’s actual charges on a logical and biblical level because over 40 years ago (in college?) he was affiliated with a communist group seems not only McCarthyish, but, to be frank, rather troublesome. (I hope nobody goes back and researches me and most of the people I knew in our college days, or from the 60’s!). Terrell, you know how much I admire and respect your work and your writing on subjects dear to both of our hearts. But I certainly hope in 40-some years from now if you write something political in tone that someone won’t do research and go back 40-plus years to your blog here and label you as a political extremist (which the Tea Party will be seen as), and also perceive you as using your voice on this blog to promote political views as opposed to salvation issues, and as a result completely dismiss the content of anything else you have to say. Even though you and I may differ strongly on politics, I still value and examine each of your works on their individual merit, which is what I also do with Jim Wallis’s works, and believe he should be afforded the same courtesy.

    I still read and admire many of James Dobson’s writings based on their merit, rather than attacking and dismissing whatever he might say because he consistently pushes a strong political agenda (including overt endorsement of Sarah Palin for VP), and because his ministry is not geared toward salvation of souls. So let us try and focus upon the message as opposed to shooting the messenger.

    So, has anyone on here yet actually examined the content of Wallis’s piece that Les originally offered?

    Finally, some on here are still insistent on trying to label anyone who disagrees with their position as Marxist. One or two definitions have been thrown out on Marxism, with the clear charge that anyone or anything that taxes others for the purpose of administering to the poor is Marxist. Virtually every nation on earth taxes their citizens (most at higher rates than the U.S.), with higher rates on the rich, to create some type of programs for the betterment of society, and for the poorest specifically. So are we to assume virtually every nation on earth is Marxist?

    By labelling and dismissing anyone with a divergent viewpoint as evil Marxists who must therefore lack any credibility, some of you are trying to paint all your dissenters into a corner, attempting to justify a rather extreme argument with an over-simplified, black-and-white, evil vs. good one. An inability to step back and do any honest self-assessment and concede any ground on just this one rather ludicrous point (labelling your dissenters as Marxist) is troubling, and smacks of too much Glenn Beck and other similar Fox (“fair and balanced”) News’ extremists. Folks, how can you not see and take some responsibility for over-the-top extremism on at least this one point? How can you not see (or admit) that this is clearly damaging your credibility and witness? The Tea Party and right-wing views will never be taken seriously by the masses as long as this shallow tactic is repeatedly used.

    It often feels here as though we have just been two sides talking at each other but not really hearing each other (as I am sure you also charge me with). Perhaps, then, we should all reconsider what Lewis said and “be driven onto something more inward.”

    Thanks for your patience and hanging in there with me on this long post.

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  31. Hey Scott. Thanks for the kind words. I respect the authenticity of your faith. We should be able to have a real discussion on this topic because we have that common point of reference. Because of that, and because I value your friendship, I responded to Wallis’s points. You can read that here. It’s concise and to the point, but I did that because you asked about it.

    In response to the suggestion that we’re talking at one another but not really hearing: I explained, in answer to your question, why I used the term Marxist and why I mentioned Wallis’s leadership position in SDS. I invited you to show me where he’s renounced it, because if he has, then I will reconsider. If he hasn’t, I think the point is of supreme relevance, no matter how far back in his past it goes. I get the feeling you didn’t hear that. Respectfully, would you consider that you may be labeling and dismissing me by calling me McCarthy-like? (Side note, but very important point: McCarthy was largely vindicated in 1995 by the Venona Project. Though he may have had his failings, MacCarthy was doing his job, and he was largely right.)

    And I don’t think I’m labeling and dismissing anyone with a divergent point of view. You have a divergent point of view, and I’m willing to engage. I’ll hang in there with you as long as you’re willing. Can you produce something that shows the authenticity of Wallis’s Christianity and that he’s renounced the Marxism of his past?

    One other side note, also because we’re friends: There are way worse things someone could dig up from my past than the fact that I’ve written on political subjects. But that just illustrates the beauty of authentic Christianity. I can honestly say, “That was then. But this is now.”

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  32. Pingback: Who Wants this Kind of “Christian” America? « The Dartboard

  33. Scott, the only thing I would like to add, is that any view points you don’t agree with you call extremist: Ie the Tea party movement. I am not sure what you consider extreme about it, except it does not reflect you view points.

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  34. I just had a thought, lets say the case has been made, from a Biblical point of view-which I don’t believe it has- that we are to give up everything or as much as the government demands to provide social justics ( which thank you for the definition Terrell, but no one has provided details on exactly what a “ocially just”country would look like).
    Let say we jump on board with this ” from a Biblical point of view”, the re-distribution of wealth, then are we pushing our beliefs onto the rest of society.
    Les, I thought us “shoving our beliefs” into other peoples faces was the problem.
    Funny, how if it works with your agenda, it is ok. Just a thought.
    My whole life I have been an ordinary person, this year I am an extremist-sounds like something out of Sal Lewinsky’s book. To use a phase from my kids, ” I am just saying.”

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  35. Oh, Barb, you know I love you … but that would be Saul Alinsky. But since you brought it up, I thought I’d bring in this reference. There’s no overt connection that I know of to Jim Wallis, but this makes for some very illuminating reading. David Horowitz knew these people personally – in fact he was one of them, until he separated from them sometime in the 70s. Anything he’s written after about 1980 is worth reading.

    Click here to read his profile on Saul Alinsky. It’s not long, and it’s worth the time.

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  36. Thank you Terrell, I later looked up the correct spelling. I wasn’t really trying to make the connection to Jim Wallis, per se. I was trying to make the connection that the changing of the vocabulary, is from the play book of Saul Alinsky.

    My point was that when people that show up in mass to protest an expanding government as the Tea Party does, they are called extremist. Two years ago these same people, who go to work, pay taxes and raise their families were just normal Americas, but becuase they show up to a peaceful rally, they are extremist. While the anti immigration people that throw bottles at police, or the muslim in dearborn
    are not labeled extremist. I realize this is a long way for Jim Wallis,
    That is changing the vocabulary and was responding more to Scotts naming of the Tea Party participants.

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  37. Hi Terrell, Barb and others:

    I feel I need to clarify some things here that apparently were misunderstood . . .

    Terrell, I agree that we should be able to have a postive dialogue (“real discussion”)on this because of our common point of reference, and that our friendship is of real value. I say this also because in going back and re-reading what I wrote before, I am not comfortable again with my tone (although that does not, of course, extend to the content of my arguments).

    I thank you for addressing the content of Wallis’s arguments. Of course, although I appreciate and admire you for doing that in response to my stated concerns, I would disagree with many of your assessments and conclusions, which I will not go into detail at this moment.

    Also, Terrell, one of the clarifications I feel I need to make again is that I believe I very much have addressed very directly your challenge regarding Jim Wallis’s socialist or communist leaning past. I went into quite a bit of detail in my last response (as well as the previous) that just because Wallis may have had some radical dealings in his past does not mean that whatever he has to say today must then be summarily dismissed, which I don’t believe you truly heard. I then went into much detail in both posts, even using examples such as James Dobson’s political leanings and writings, for example, among others, as a case where I do not “shoot the messenger” in place of hearing and considering his actual message. Thus, my point again is that I don’t agree with your challenge that I need to find something in Wallis’s past where he denounces his Marxism (or whatever the technical term/charge is), when I made point after point as to why I don’t agree that Wallis’s views should be summarily dismissed because of past radical leanings.

    So, on this same subject (and another example of where I don’t feel as though we are really hearing each other), I think you missed my point regarding you using your blog to write on political topics. I am actually making the opposite point — that you have every right to use your voice and mission here to voice your opinions. My missed point is that one might use the same tactic on you, or anyone else, which you originally used on Jim Wallis: That being a Christian somehow excludes someone from using their mission or cause to pontificate on political matters (as Wallis and you are doing), and to use their ministry on non-salvation issues (as Wallis and you are doing). So I was just making the point that someone could someday charge you with the same things you leveled against Wallis by digging into your past politics. Thus, I don’t feel as though you really heard what I was saying here: It was not an attack on you regarding how you use your blog, but rather a defense of how both you and Wallis choose to use your ministry to state your political and other non-salvation-related opinions.

    I did not intend to “label” you as personally being a McCathyist, but I felt that your letter to Wallis specifically used McCarthyish tactics by digging way back into someone’s past to unearth political leanings as a way of discrediting anything they might have to say today. Again, as I have been charged with by others on here in regards to “Marxism”, it is not meant to be a label, but only to point out my disagreement with your tactic with that one letter only. But I also point this out because in deference to our friendship and my respect for you, I might have worded that differently in retrospect.

    I also want to clarify where you say that I am charging you with labeling and dismissing anyone with a divergent point of view. My charges there were not actually aimed at you specifically, but at others on your blog who continued at labelling anyone who disagrees with their philosophy as being Marxist extremists (or neo-commies, or whatever labels were attached). I won’t re-hash that argument again, but I wanted to clarify that it was not directed at you personally. I believe you have been very respectful with me, which I appreciate, and I want to ensure that I am extending the same courtesy to you.

    Finally, I want to address Barb’s concerns that I am labelling Tea Partyish views as extremist. Although my passion and rhetoric may have gotten the best of me, the extremist comment was really meant specifically at those who use the tactic of labelling those who disagree with them as Marxist extremists, among other extreme terms (not to belabor the “Marxist” point). Although I do believe that some of the positions of many on the right, including the Tea Party, when put into actual practice may be seen as extremist, I do not want to contribute to the angry rhetoric that is out there and begin to throw emotionally-laden labels around. I have asked for the same consideration from those who disagree with my perspective and have yet to hear any concession on this point.

    I hope this clarifies some of my previous points and arguments, particularly with you, Terrell. And I hope it is apparent that I recognize some of the stridency in my tone that may have come across, and hopefully did not come across as personal in any way (although I stick by the content of my arguments), as I hope we can continue to disagree respectfully. I hope I have also demonstrated the willingness to do some self-reflection and realization here (or, as Lewis stated, to “be driven onto something more inward.”)

    Let us continue to recognize and rejoice together in the freedom we have through Christ! In that, Terrell, we are bonded as friends and as Christian brother/sister.

    – “Real Christianity is known for its fruit … for the happiness, deliverance, and emancipation of the slaves of the earth, for the rescue of the down-trodden women of the world, for the care and consideration it instills for the poor and helpless children, for the idea of justice it brings wherever it goes.”
    (Catherine Booth, Co-founder of The Salvation Army, somewhere in the late 19th century)

    (What will our legacy be in the early 21st century?)

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  38. Scott, you don’t need to apologize. I’ll assume goodwill until I tell you otherwise. I believe you’re doing likewise. Tell me if I’m wrong.

    I hear your point about it being acceptable for Christians to write on political subjects. I did miss that earlier. I agree that it’s fair game for Jim Wallis to write on political subjects without always explicitly including the gospel message. I think the question is still open, though, as to whether the central point of Christianity – the gospel – has a place anywhere in his entire ministry.

    Leaving behind emotions and distilling our different takes on this subject to facts, here’s where we are – correct me if I’m wrong:

    (1) You believe Wallis and Sojourners are correct to interpret biblical passages about caring for the poor as calls to support government programs. I don’t. I believe those passages are directed at individual Christians and the Church.

    (2) Jim Wallis held a leadership position in a socialist organization in the past. You believe his Marxism is only in his past and is therefore irrelevant. I don’t. In fact, it appears to me to be very much in his present.

    (3) You believe that my mentioning his Marxism was an attempt to dismiss his views. I don’t. I discovered his Marxism while in the process of evaluating his views, and see it as a relevant aspect of evaluating them unless he’s explicitly renounced it. I have since addressed his views more specifically. I’ve not dismissed them.

    As I see it, from this point we could do any of three things:
    (1) Evaluate the different takes from a biblical perspective.
    (2) Evaluate them from a public policy perspective.
    (3) Drop the subject, leaving it at having identified the points of disagreement.

    Your call.

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  39. Scott, it may not have been your intention, but in your most recent entry you took a few shots at those not named Terrell. 🙂

    You wrote, “My charges there were not actually aimed at you specifically, but at others on your blog who continued at labelling anyone who disagrees with their philosophy as being Marxist extremists (or neo-commies, or whatever labels were attached).”

    Since Barb and I are the only others who have opposed your view since Les appears to be in your corner, it would be helpful in the future to reference us directly. Listen, I don’t flippantly throw around unwarranted labels. I have no fight to pick with you. I am simply challenging your views on Scripture. You contend that Scripture fleshes out your view and I categorically disagree. You say there are hundreds of verses that support your view and yet I have not seen one that mandates a confiscatory secular collectivism.

    You wrote: “Chuck, I feel that you have cherry-picked 6 words out of the Bible to position your interpretation that the hundreds of verses on compassion for the poor are meant only to be an individual voluntary call. And your point that the Acts passage (among the rest of Scripture on the subject), as per these 6 words from 2 Cor., are meant only to imply that giving should be voluntary also ignores the fact that further in Acts a couple are struck down dead for not sharing their wealth with others and trying to conceal that.”

    Distorting Scripture is a charge I take rather seriously. I have done it and probably will again but I do everything in my power to be a faithful Berean. You accused me of cherry-picking 6 words from the Bible to supposedly foster my capitalistic views. Listen, unless you want to get me a little exercised, please don’t insinuate that I’m misusing Scripture to ignore the needs of the poor. I take my responsibility seriously and I GIVE quite generously to those in need…and the operative word is GIVE. I don’t advocate stealing from others through the progressive income tax in order to feel compassionate.

    So at this point, since you have my blood pumping, I think it might serve us well to define the term “cherry-picking”. In my view (and I’m open to correction), the term “cherry-picking” is a method of skewing a debate in one’s favor by excising verses from their immediate and original context, thereby distorting their intended meaning. Would you agree with this definition?

    If we agree at that point, why don’t we consider one of the passages you quoted to see who it is guilty of this “cherry-picking” crime. LOL You accused me of ripping 6 words from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (actually this letter was most likely one of four letters —the other two did not find their way into the Canon) in order to manufacture my unjust cause.

    You quoted the following:

    2 Corinthians 8:13-15 (NASB) For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.”

    Scott, as you know, these words were not written in a vacuum. Therefore, would it not be prudent to look at the prior verses in order to gain a greater understanding of Paul’s intent? Would it not be cherry-picking to pluck the above three verses from the entire passage, if in fact, those verses are used in a manner not consistent with the context of Paul’s affirmation? Wouldn’t it be important to determine if Paul was actually mandating sharing so that “those who gathered little had no lack”; or on the other hand if he was simply lauding their graciousness as a testament to God’s work in their lives? Was Paul truly arguing that the basis of their generosity should be compulsory? Doesn’t the very nature of the term “generosity” imply voluntary? If someone is being forced to give, then isn’t the attitude of generosity totally negated?

    Do you force your kids to give you birthday cards or gifts? It wouldn’t be a gift if it was required, right?

    Let’s consider the context of the verses you quoted so I’m not unfairly accused of cherry-picking:

    2 Corinthians 8:1-8 (NASB) Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. 7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

    Paul specifically highlighted the graceful joy with which those believers so liberally gave. It should be noted that Paul condoned a sense of reverse wealth distribution. He lauded those of meager means who gave out of their own poverty. “In a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality So the notion that only the rich should give, totally violates Paul’s point. EVERYONE, including those of lesser means, should attempt to meet the needs of others. It’s not the amount that is given that blesses God…it’s the sacrifice of the heart. The parable of the widow’s mite was a perfect example. By placing the poor in a victim’s role, they are often robbed of their responsibility and ultimate joy in meeting the needs of others. This in my view is a travesty.

    What does Paul mean by “gracious work”? What is the definition of grace? It’s a bestowed gift of unmerited favor. The giver of grace does so on his/her own accord and the recipients have no grounds whereby they demand anything. Compulsory giving robs us of being gracious givers. And the reality is that using the words “compulsory” and “giving” together, is an oxymoron much like the Postal Service. 🙂

    In verse 3 Paul wrote: “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord

    Scott, it’s NOT cherry-picking to point out the voluntary nature of their giving. I didn’t bring up this passage, you did. I’m simply alerting you to the intent. It’s absolutely an essential part of the Text. This is THE basis that makes their situation so special. Don’t rob the amazing work of the Holy Spirit by insinuating that they only gave because they were forced to or terrified not to under the threat of impending death. They gave, not because they were compelled by the parish leadership, or because they were taxed by the Roman gov’t, but because they loved God and in turn loved their neighbor. Their love for on another issued from the grace and mercy that the Lord had bestowed upon them. This was genuine agape love and could never become a byproduct of forced wealth redistribution. You simply cannot mandate love.

    And if this is not clear enough, in verse 8 Paul went further to make certain that no one could confuse or misconstrue his statements.

    “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”

    This is the context of the outpouring of their love on one another. What a beautiful thing we witness in the verses you quoted. Not out of compulsion, but through the magnificence of love, did these early church believers manifest the grace of God.

    So is your charge that I was cherry-picking and proof-texting, valid? I’ll leave that determination for others.

    I’d be glad to go verse by verse through the hundreds of passages you say support your conclusions. I can tell you right now that the result will be no different. As I said in an earlier blog post, I once held your views after being exposed to “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”. But after reading David Chilton’s “Productive Christians in an age of Guilt Manipulators”, I realized that I had been wrong. Scott, without the context of the preceding 12 verses, the ones you quoted could be misused to support something that Paul never intended. And I believe that’s exactly what has happened.

    Lastly, Scott, I was totally shocked by your usage of Ananias and Sapphira to support your version of mandatory collectivism. You said, “…to imply that giving should be voluntary also ignores the fact that further in Acts a couple are struck down dead for not sharing their wealth with others and trying to conceal that.”

    Did God strike them dead for not complying with some sort of mandatory collectivism? Again, consider the context.

    Acts 5:3 (NASB) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

    This couple was guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit. They attempted to lie to get the approval of men. They wanted to appear pious when in fact they were filled with adversarial thoughts. Their real crime was lying to God. This was not a crime against humanity. It had nothing whatsoever to do with your contention. They were struck down because they lied to God.

    Acts 5:4 (NASB) “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

    So please Scott, don’t accuse me of cherry-picking. Nowhere in Scripture does God advocate the forced confiscation of private property by a government or even a local church body for that matter.

    Clearly God compels us to be concerned about the less fortunate. Meeting the needs of the disadvantaged is an opportunity to live for Christ. No one here has even remotely insinuated that we should not be God’s hands and feet on this earth. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are commissioned to be change agents in all facets of life.

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  40. David Chilton, the author of PCIAAOGM, was quite the theologian. Really funny guy who loved life. He died in ’96 after recovering from a serious heart attack a year or two earlier. On my website, I’ve got a couple of very poor sound quality lectures he delivered on “The New Heavens and Earth”, shortly before he passed away.

    As I mentioned in another reply above when I included the link to this FREE pdf, I was NOT pleased with the forward, written by publisher Gary North. I thought it lacked sensitivity toward the opposition. The book has a slightly combative feel, but I think it is nonetheless well argued.

    North is 30 years in the process of writing a financial commentary on the Bible, and I think it’s nearly completed. I’m not a huge fan of his style or his occasionally demeaning rhetoric, but he produces extremely well researched books with very formidable arguments.

    As I sidebar. in early ’96, Chilton departed from North’s eschatological views, creating a huge rift between them. North labeled him a heretic but Chilton refused to recant. A decade or so prior, Chilton had written “Paradise Restored”, a postmillennial work which North published. After further study, when Chilton discovered a few significant errors in his own book, he attempted to get North to let him republish with the changes. Instead North refused and therefore, “Paradise Restored” was never edited by Chilton. North remained a postmillennialist while Chilton embraced full preterism not long before his death.

    Both North and Chilton were fans of Ludwig von Mises, an Australian economist. The institute founded in his name in 1981 has had a serious impact worldwide. Ludwig von Mises institute

    Now you know the rest of the story that you really didn’t want to know. 🙂

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  41. Well string me up Chuck, you did mention that before. I guess I was reading too fast. I caught the high pH drink comment and missed this intriguing title. I really have been reading your comments as they come in, but since you and I are basically on the same page, I guess I haven’t been reading them as carefully as I have Scott’s. A thousand apologies …

    I’m a fan of Ludwig von Mises Institute too. Mises and Thomas Sowell are about all anyone needs to understand economics. My 11-year old daughter gets it better than half of Congress, if you ask me.

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  42. Terrell, stringing you up wouldn’t be my first choice. Maybe a forced reading of a Keynesian economics textbook would be sufficient torture. And the thousand apologies, well, I can surely appreciate the symbolism considering my eschatological leanings. One thousand is the perfect number ten, cubed. So, in fact, it would be the most utterly complete reparation ever!

    I should have guessed, since you’ve often referred to Sowell, that you were a fan of von Mises. Although I’m an admirer of very few in Congress, don’t ya think that comparing them to your daughter is a bit unfair. I suppose her wit and wisdom might put a significant percentage of non-Washingtonians to open shame. I see great things ahead for your Taekwondo master young’un. 🙂

    BTW, I think you might appreciate the recent WSJ article The Keynesian Dead End

    Here’s a short excerpt: “For going on three years, the developed world’s economic policy has been dominated by the revival of the old idea that vast amounts of public spending could prevent deflation, cure a recession, and ignite a new era of government-led prosperity. It hasn’t turned out that way.”

    It’s difficult to believe that anyone could fall for the notion that we can successfully borrow our way out of increasing deficits. The world has clearly reached the Keynesian dead end. Will we learn or continue to repeat experiments that have never ended well?

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  43. The good thing about Christians arguing with one another is that they tend to leave the rest of us alone — at least temporarily. Don’t let it get out of hand, however, since you Christians have a history of burning each other at the stake a lot!

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  44. Gosh, thanks Les. I know your sentiments are genuine although you sound a mite cynical. That’s okay I guess. There was a time when I doubted a few things and looked at the Church with a jaundiced eye. But the truth is, Les, if I didn’t believe Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, forever conquering spiritual death, I’d leave you and everyone else alone. I surely try not to be obnoxious about it, but since I’m convinced I have really good news to share, I can’t be silent.

    Listen, I’m not going to claim Christians don’t bicker among ourselves (because we often do) but the reality is that most of the time the arguments arise over ancillary, non-foundational issues that aren’t central to the Gospel. And the fact is, the reason I’m a Christian is not because I think I’m perfect but because I’m totally convinced that I’m not even close. Jesus died for me (us) because I (we) was born fatally flawed, not because I earned His attention by my righteous living.

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  45. Terrell: You’ve been rather quite lately. I hope nothing is wrong, and I presume it’s not because you’ve “seen the light” regarding your rather extreme conservative views. Any, I found this very good article on the role of social justice in Orthodox Judaism that I thought appropriate to share on your posting on social justice:

    Social Justice and Orthodox Judaism

    by Tali Adler is a student at Stern College for Women where she is pursuing a double major in political

    Last summer, Jesse Rabinowitz, a 19-year-old Orthodox Jew, found himself in a hot, dusty Guatemalan village. A participant in a service-learning trip, Jesse built houses and learned about the lives of migrant workers and their families who stayed behind. At the end of his trip, Jesse made a promise to the people he met in the Guatemalan village: he would fight for the rights and dignity of their relatives in the United States.

    This summer, he is working with a social justice organization in New York to fulfill his promise. At first glance, the group he works with would not seem out of place among other social justice organizations. Twelve excited, idealistic college students are gathered around a long conference table, discussing a text about worker’s rights. A closer look, however, shows that this group is different. All the males at the table wear kippot (skullcaps), and several of the women sport long sleeves and skirts despite the 90-degree weather. The text they are discussing is not a contemporary justice article; it is over 1000 years old and in Aramaic.

    These 12 students are members of the Uri L’Tzedek summer fellowship. Uri L’Tzedek, Hebrew for “Awaken to Justice,” is America’s first Orthodox Jewish social justice organization. Founded in 2007, it is leading an awakening within the Orthodox community: Orthodox Jewish youth are rediscovering the Jewish tradition’s call for social justice work. Orthodox college groups are sponsoring service learning opportunities in developing countries, which would have been unheard of 10 years ago. This past year, a group of Yeshiva University students spent their winter break working in a small village in El Salvador. These are the kinds of students, profoundly committed to Orthodoxy and social justice, who comprise Uri L’Tzedek’s summer fellowship.

    Uri L’Tzedek’s mission is twofold: to pursue social justice in the world and to educate the Orthodox community to understand that social justice values are not only permitted but commanded by the Torah and rabbinic literature. In pursuit of these goals, Uri L’Tzedek created the Tav HaYosher, or Ethical Seal. The Ethical Seal is meant to parallel the supervision that kosher restaurants have to make sure their food is prepared according to Jewish law. However, rather than certifying the restaurant’s food, the Tav HaYosher certifies that the restaurant’s workers are treated and paid ethically and legally. The Tav HaYosher’s standards include minimum wage, overtime, and basic worker dignity. While these standards may seem basic, they are often flagrantly violated in hundreds of New York restaurants. A joint report by the Ford Foundation, the Haynes Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation indicated that 26 percent of restaurant workers in major US cities are paid less than minimum wage.

    The Uri L’Tzedek Fellows are hitting the streets, encouraging kosher restaurants to sign on. Many restaurants have been enthusiastic about the idea of receiving free publicity for treating their workers ethically. Others, however, are less receptive. Some restaurant owners object to the idea that their ethical practices need to be monitored by an outside organization. One restaurant owner said: “The way I treat my workers is between me and God.” Another chased the fellows who approached him out of his restaurant, yelling that he didn’t “want anyone looking at” his “Mexicans.” Others are suspicious of the organization’s motives, asking the obvious question, “What’s in it for you?”

    An outside observer might ask the same question. What is it that motivates these college students to spend their summer working for no pay, spending hours walking from restaurant to restaurant in Manhattan’s 90-degree summer, often enduring verbal abuse from the restaurant owners they approach? According to Noa Albaum, a rising junior at Brandeis University who is involved with her school’s Labor Coalition, “This is one of the most productive things I can do, both for myself and society. I’m not only doing volunteer work, I’m being trained to do even more effective service work in the future and to bring back my new training to my campus community.”

    Jesse’s promise to the people he spent time with in Guatemala is materializing. In the past two weeks the summer fellows have convinced seven restaurants in the New York area to sign on with the Tav HaYosher, adding to the 40-plus restaurants that already carry the seal. When asked about the experience of signing a restaurant, Elianna Pollak, a student at Stern College for Women and one of the fellowship’s most successful marketers says, “Signing a restaurant is a truly fulfilling experience. Despite the hours spent in the hot sun and the many rejections, signing a restaurant really spurs me on to continue. I know that I’m slowly making a difference in the way restaurant workers are treated and the way consumers relate to their food.” Emmanuel Sanders, a student at Yeshiva University, adds, “One of my favorite quotes by [philosopher] Emmanuel Levinas is, ‘Ethics is not the corollary of the vision of God, it is that very vision.’ That’s exactly how I feel about what I’m doing at Uri L’Tzedek. It’s not in addition to my religious obligations, it’s an intrinsic part of them.” The other fellows in the room nod their agreement and turn back to their individual projects, eager to continue spreading Uri L’Tzedek’s mission throughout their communities.

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  46. I’ve been quiet, huh? I don’t know that I’ve been any quieter than usual, but if you’re referring to the fact that I didn’t respond to your comment of 7/7, that’s because that comment was so impertinent, it seemed to me the best thing to do was to was to just let it hang there as you left it. (I did however find it humorous that you would express delight at being left alone by Christians. “The good thing about Christians arguing with one another is that they tend to leave the rest of us alone” It’s ironical that this long thread began with your question to me, “You never comment on my wall postings.” which I took to mean, “You always leave me alone, Why?”) And then this, “Don’t let it get out of hand, however, since you Christians have a history of burning each other at the stake a lot!” was even farther out in left field. If there is anywhere in this entire discussion when one of us Christians have spoken to another one (or to you, for that matter) with animus or hostility, then point it out to me and I’ll stand corrected. Otherwise, your remark was just the kind of childish sneer that’s better left unanswered. There’s a proverb that goes something like this, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” It’s in your Hebrew Bible, so if you’ve read it, it should ring a bell for you.

    Les, you’ve demonstrated that you’re not interested in discussing this subject for the purpose of seeking better understanding. What you seem to be interested in is airing your own opinion. You are still free to do that, but I don’t see much to be gained by engaging with you over your opinion. We’ve already done that, on multiple subjects in fact, and reached the same or a similar impasse multiple times.

    If there’s a specific question you want to ask me, fire away. But you weren’t interested in evaluating the last article you posted with respect to its own claims. I’m not interested in moving on to discuss another article right now, unless you demonstrate to me that you’re now interested in seeking understanding over airing your own opinion.

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  47. Oh, by the way, thanks for saying, “I hope nothing’s wrong.” That was kind, and I’ll take it at face value. There’s always a short and a long answer to the question, “How are you?” There are no crises in my life at the moment, though when you’re a parent, that can always change on a moment’s notice.
    T

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  48. I just read the article. I actually like it. I like the way the students go to the restaurant owners and encourage them to voluntarily adhere to a certain standard. No government coercion. No government mandates. So much more amicable and practical than filing lawsuits. If some of them were to get together and open their own restaurant and hire the workers they want treated well, then they’d be even greater bridge builders.

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  49. This may be my final post on this, due to time constraints, as well as in answer to your question, Terrell, as to which option I choose to proceed. I do not see the point of further debating Scripture point by point, as I believe this is exactly what we have been doing (and not exactly hearing each other). And there may be something to Les’s cynical comment, so I wonder about the benefit to arguing politics back and forth. Where is the Good News in all of our political posturing? (although I recognize Chuck’s previous attempt to witness to Les).

    But I do want to answer one of Chuck’s points which is that he did not see where the labeling (Marxist, etc.) occurred (outside of the two of you and Barbara). Chuck, I believe you forgot the early parts of this thread where Cassandra was a part of the dialogue. That is where (and with whom) the discussion of labels arose, and you first admonish her for it, but then proceed to give her kudos for it at the same time, further feeding my perceptions of extremism.

    I would also like to clarify something regarding what appears to be our main point of contention. So please bear with me for one more passionate plea . . .

    We agree that we disagree on whether the call to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for the needy is more than just an individual, voluntary call, but also a collective one. I believe it is both. Therefore, my primary point, Terrell, is not that the biblical call for justice is specifically and only a call for governmental programs, as you framed it.
    [Although, let’s see, the Bible is clear that . . . 1) we are to love and care for our neighbor as ourselves and for “the least among us”, while 2) also submitting to our governing authorities, while 3) also giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (pay our taxes). These things together would sure seem to support a collective call for action . . .]

    And Chuck, in your argument that giving is meant to be voluntary and not compulsory, I believe you are missing the point that Paul is addressing our call to give to the church/kingdom voluntarily. He is not addressing or opposing a collective responsibility to give to our governing authorities (which Christ supports) for the betterment of society in addressing poverty, inequality, injustice and oppression of the poor, etc.

    So, Terrell and Chuck, I think we can agree that we are NOT being commanded to withhold or resist the paying of taxes for the betterment of society.

    Therefore, even if I were to accept that there is no overt call to collective action in Scripture, why would Christians want to fight to prevent a process or programs that would help to collectively address the needs of the poor, hungry, etc.? Why would we, as loving Christians, not use whatever means we have at our disposal to take care of our neighbor and “the least among us”, as commanded? Again, can you not perceive the contradiction this creates in so many minds regarding the actions and resulting witness of many on the Christian right?

    This is where our philosophies differ and I frankly take issue with Christians who claim to love and care for the poor, while at the same time preaching a message of lower taxes for millionaires. This appears to me and others to be a gospel of prosperity.

    Why, as caring and compassionate Christians, would we not want to use our relative wealth to support a program or process, whether governmental or not, to lift-up the least among us? How can you not see how self-serving this appears otherwise? Can you not at least open yourselves up to a caution from one Christian to another of how this is perceived by others, and thus, how it damages our witness? Les and Jim Wallis eloquently tried to sound this same caution, and the initial response to Wallis was to shoot the messenger rather than open yourselves to the message (which I don’t believe you ever sincerely did).

    The extremism to your perspective is that it is ridiculously idealistic in our modern society that Christians and the church are going to seriously step forward to fill the huge and growing gap between the rich and poor in an affluent society. Since when have we seen any evidence of this throughout history? This is why we have programs for the poor which use our tax dollars, and yes, even use a bit more from those who have been blessed with more, because the hearts of men and women are ultimately self-serving (i.e., our sinful nature). We have simply never shown the capacity as Christians and as a church to obey Christ’s commands to care for the neediest. I am afraid the reality is that many are now too absorbed in clamoring for tax cuts for themselves, through the Tea Party and other movements involving many on the Christian right, to do so.

    I volunteer for The Salvation Army, the largest and most successful charity in the world. The SA obtains its revenues from both private donations (including churches) and government funds. Due largely to cuts in government funding (much caused by tax cuts to the wealthy), they have been massively cutting programs for the hungriest and neediest in Philadelphia. Where are all the Christians coming to their financial rescue? I’m still waiting. I even worked on the Church Partnerships program where we tried to tap churches to partner with us in making up this huge budget gap, but of course, the response has been tepid. Without government funding (supported by tax dollars), where again are all the Christians and the church stepping forward out of individual, voluntary love and compassion? So I ask, as Christ asked, “Where were you (the religious authorities then, the Christian church today) when I was hungry…?”

    So let’s get back to reality here. It is not going to happen in this world/kingdom, but rather in the next. For now, we need to deal with the realities of this world.

    I quoted C.S. Lewis that most Christians use “bits and pieces” of the Bible to support their own party, and therefore, should be driven onto something “more inward” (i.e., let’s be driven onto some honest self-reflection on the subject). Might there not be some truth to this (i.e., materialist self-interest) in all this political posturing and advocating more tax cuts for the wealthy?

    Chuck, you talked about the parable of the widow’s mite. This is not a call for the poor to give the same as the rich. It (as well as numerous other biblical examples) is clearly aimed as a warning to the wealthy that the poor are more generous in spirit than the rich. How true! Can the Tea Party make the same claim? Don’t you think Christ’s message is clear that much more is expected of those who have more? Then why do you folks fight so darn hard when it is a collective obligation through our governing authorities rather than an individual one? I believe we’ve answered that . . . Go back and re-read what C.S. Lewis (or even Jim Wallis) said: Let’s be driven onto something more inward here.

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  50. I think I’m operating in reality just fine, though I’m sure my kids might take issue with that occasionally, and I don’t think I’m engaging in political posturing – I’m responding to questions and explaining what I believe and why I believe it as best I know how.

    But I’m not going to protract this any more unless someone asks a direct question and makes it clear it’s not rhetorical but is a genuine question that wants an answer.

    Scott, when you and I get to the other side I bet we’ll find that both of us had some valid points and both of us were off-base with respect to others. If it turns out that I was completely wrong, I’ll buy you a drink of your choice and we can look back on it and thank God for his mercy.

    Maybe we could invite Chuck to join us and he can have his high pH drink too.

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  51. I will answer one question you asked, Scott: “Where is the Good News in all of” [this]? I refer you to my comments #9 and #31, above. It’s there.

    No one has shown me where the Good News is in Sojourners.

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  52. I don’t want sound obtuse, but I would like to make the point that THE Good News is found in no other than the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is the proclamation that all our efforts should point to. The fact that, while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us, should reverberate throughout our entire being and thus be the motivating force in all that we do.

    Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    How magnificent is it to know that there’s nothing we can DO to earn God’s favor. What is the key that unlocks the door of God’s grace? Simple belief.

    Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

    All God requires of us is to BELIEVE. Isn’t that the most marvelous news anyone could ever hear? “But to the one who does not work, but believes” is justified. We have received the righteousness of Christ and have been absolved of ALL sin!

    How amazing is the love of God who chose to incarnate Himself into the body of a baby and enter the world in the humblest of means. Then, after living a sinless life, He chose the most wretched of deaths while allowing His maggot infested creation to perform the dastardly deed. The Lamb of God came to take the sins of the world.

    Yet, after 3 days in the tomb He forever conquered sin and death and is alive forevermore. No one could produce the body because our Savior was resurrected, appeared to over 500 people, and then disappeared in a cloud, ascending to the right hand of the Father. Under divine inspiration the Apostle Paul wrote:

    “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

    Our faith is not in vain because Christ indeed was raised from the dead making what He told Martha some months prior, reality. Just before resuscitating His best friend Lazarus, He said:

    “I am the resurrection and the life [spiritual]; he who believes in Me will live [spiritually] even if he dies [physically], 26 and everyone who lives [spiritually] and believes in Me will never die [physically]. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

    And if we believe this, we will live forever with Christ and never perish! Now that is GOOD NEWS!

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    Sorry for the diversion from this debate, but I thought it worthwhile to accentuate our common beliefs in Christ. Whether we believe in collective or individual responsibility, or a combination of the two, everything we do should point people to Jesus Christ, because only in Him can a person be truly satisfied.

    Let me close with this. We can and should meet the needs of those less fortunate. However, if in so doing we don’t challenge them to investigate the claims of Christ, we have neglected to perform the greatest act of love. Whether we die clothed, fed, or needy, if we know Christ as Savior, this life’s toil will not compare to the riches we will experience when we shed this body and move from this life to the next.

    Luke 12:4-5 I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

    Thanks for your indulgence….

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  53. One final submission here, folks, as I believe we have all reached a point of exhaustion on this debate, and I applaud (and agree) with most everything that you (Terrell) and Chuck just wrote. (How about that: We actually have points of agreement here!).

    In that same spirit, I wanted to pass on something brief that I just wrote and am publishing in a couple newsletter type issues, which was inspired by our dialogue together here. Assuming we can all agree that we are to respond to the needy at least on an individual as well as a church level, than perhaps there is a common call to action here that we can all agree and act upon (even if just at the volunteer level) . . .

    “Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They … [left] him for half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and … passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite … passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan … saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds … Then he … took him to an inn and took care of him. …

    ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man …?’

    The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

    Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'” (Luke 10:30-37).

    ********************************************************

    In this parable of the Good Samaritan, the true neighbor attends to the every need of the hurting man. I don’t know how often you may visit urban areas such as Philadelphia or Camden as I do, but when each of us do, how often do we notice the numerous physically and mentally ill, homeless persons on the streets?

    Do we then personally attend to them just as the Good Samaritan did? Why not? Because, let’s admit it, deep down inside we believe it is not our individual responsibility to do so, but a collective one. We calmly pass by knowing that there are various governmental and charity-based programs set-up for these purposes. And we are glad for that.

    But in our modern world, with so much emphasis on personal wealth and tax cuts, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to collectively act in the role of Good Samaritans. If we are to continue to cut programs for the “least among us,” than it is our duty as Christians to step-up (as individuals and as the church) to provide for the needy.

    This was not a request by Christ, but a repeated command. Let us not forget the desperate and increasing need for Christian mercy upon our “neighbor” in these tough times for all.

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  54. Pingback: Ground Rules « The Dartboard

  55. Pingback: Ground Rules « The Dartboard

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