Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why not?

As I am the editor in chief (as well as the entire staff of journalists and the E-paper boy) here at DavoGrande, I can and do write what I want. :-)

I've been participating in a discussion about Mike Huckabee with a small group of emailers, and took the position that Huckabee was uncomfortably liberal in his view of how tax dollars should be used to 'help the needy'. I made the point that charity and government programs are not only not the same thing, but can be considered opposites, in that charity springs from the good will and volunteerism of the individual, while taxpayer funds for programs fail the 'charity' test; they do not spring from the good will of the taxpayer. Often the taxpayer is specifically against the program on which his money is spent, and thus it is uncomfortably like stealing, taking from him against his will for purposes of which he knows nothing or else to which he is opposed.

An emailer responded that the sort of thing I'm talking about sounds like real Christianity, and cited a couple of Biblical stories to show that Jesus was against capitalism and private property; he pointed at Jesus' words to rich people, eye of the needle, sell everything and give the money to the poor, etc.

I responded heartily, and will reproduce that here in case you're interested--

This is simply not true. Jesus did not issue a proclamation that Christians shouldn't own anything or earn anything. This biz of the eye of the needle and the rich man's difficulty going to heaven or being perfect were LESSONS, about the weakness and sinfulness of individuals, about how easy it is to rely on other things instead of God.

His whole point was that human beings (even the 'best' of them, by any measure) cannot be perfect and cannot earn their way to God's kingdom. He was preparing people, remember, to understand His future death on the cross. He needed to teach them that they simply COULD NOT be perfect, so they'd know exactly what He accomplished when He died on the cross.

This is Christian central station here. It's what Christianity IS.

Christianity is not monastic ascetiscism or communism. It is simply rearranging of human priorities, making God the most important thing in your life instead of wealth or happiness or other such temporary things, can't take it with you, yada yada.

And He was right, it is damn hard to quit relying on things and start relying on God. That's probably why so often we see people who go from something to nothing, to the bottom of their barrel, and then declare they're born again. Chuck Colson is a great example, a hotshot Washington guy who had it all, then went down in flames at Watergate and came out of prison a born again guy who has done nothing but good works in prison ministry ever since. There are lots of phony celebrity come-to-Jesus events, but the many real such events seldom attract attention.

Rich people make great Christians, and I know some, multimillionaires who donate millions to good causes and don't ask for props. That's real Christianity, giving it away in God's name, and it happens a lot.

Jesus only meant that being rich carries its own set of temptations and difficulties, not that one couldn't be rich and still be a Christian. To be a good steward, to make money and to make your money make money, is good-- provided you live by basic principles and you give a lot away. It's the hoarders and the venal and the corrupt and the competitive He's talking to, and of course to those tendencies in all of us.

The rich guy who walked away sad? The guy was asking what he had to do to be perfect, and claiming he had done it all already. Jesus gave him one more test of faith, to give away everything he has and follow Him, and the guy couldn't do it. The lesson was as much to the crowd as to the guy-- see, no matter how hard you try to be perfect, there's always the thing that holds you back. NOBODY'S PERFECT.

Not that rich guys are automatically failed Christians, but that they are held back by their love of money. It's the LOVE of money He's saying we have to overcome, not the HAVING of it. How can you be generous in the name of Jesus if you are ascetic in the name of Jesus?

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