The National Catholic Review

No, as Stephen Colbert tells us, it's worse than that: Jesus is for the poor.


Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 11:01am
Democrats "are for the poor" like Republicans "are for traditional values."

Both use these sentimental slogans to expand their power base and to expand centralized government - something they can both believe in.

Throwing money at a problem does not solve it, and throught unintended consquences it often reinforces the trap of poverty.

Want to see a good discussion of the problems of greed, (opposed to the ironic one presented by Colbert) look at the bloggingheads discussion between Robert George and Cornell West on the NYTs today:
Carolyn Hyppolite | 12/17/2010 - 10:59am
Very funny as always. I also appreciate it him calling out the false piety of the Republicans. But that begs the question of whether the government is the best way to help the poor. The government told us that they would help home owners by bailing out the banks. The money they spent was more than was necessary to just buy all those houses and very few people have been help. I recently heard that the overhead cost of many govt. anti-poverty programs is as high as 70%. None of us would give to a charity that is that wasteful but we want to sanctify this govt. waste, which does not help them door but creates lifelong dependency and entrenched poverty. Yes, Jesus told us to give your possession to the poor but he never said to take your neighbor's possession and give to the poor. That would be theft. Christians are called to be radically generous with their possessions not other people's possession.

Yes, Jesus is the poor, but he was not Robin Hood.

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppolite
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 9:56am
''Jesus is for the poor''

And so am I, and I am a conservative Republican who finds the policies of the liberal Democrats nearly always hurt the poor. 
Tom Maher | 12/17/2010 - 9:43am
Oh come on now,  Tell me this question is not wickedly baiting and provocting us conservatives.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  We are not that far gone you know.

I'm boycotting this ridiculous question.  
Beth Cioffoletti | 12/19/2010 - 10:13am
I see your point, JR, and in many ways I agree with you.   And then there is this from the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”  ~Isaiah 61:1

I tend to think the prophet is saying that the "answer" or "reason" or "solution" is not monetary wealth.  This is how Fr. Richard Rohr interprets is:

"In this reading from Isaiah, the prophet describes the coming Servant of Yahweh.  It is precisely this quote that Jesus first uses to announce the exact nature of his own ministry (Luke 4:18-19).  In each case Jesus describes his work as moving outside of polite and proper limits and boundaries to reunite things that have been marginalized or excluded by society:  the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the downtrodden.

Jesus’ ministry is not to gather the so-called good into a private country club but to reach out to those on the edge and on the bottom, those who are “last” to tell them they are, in fact, first!  That is almost the very job description of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of Jesus…and for that matter of us as bearers of Emmanuel, God with us!"
Anonymous | 12/18/2010 - 11:20am
The truth is that the editors of America Magazine are often critical of the teachings of the Magisterium.  Their reaction to the ''condom controversy'' proves this assertion.  Their joy about a possible ''change'' of Magisterial teaching must mean that they disagree with the current teaching.  Have the editors defended the Magisterium's policy concerning condoms in Africa?  Why so defensive?  Wow!
Bill Mazzella | 12/19/2010 - 3:42am

I guess you have not read the voluminous transcripts wherein the bishops are wholly interested in their reputation over the rights and feelings of children abused by clergy.
If that is your idea of thinking with the church then you certainly need the editors to help you out. The mind of Christ is not the mind of the hierarchy which too often is like the Scribes and Pharisees. We need the prophets in the church to keep the hierarchy on message.  
Marie Rehbein | 12/19/2010 - 12:59am

Are you implying that people who favored letting the Bush tax cuts expire want that so that government social programs can be expanded? 
Anonymous | 12/18/2010 - 11:28pm
I am still curious about those who favor increased taxes and government social programs.  I take Catholic Social Justice teaching serious so I volunteer my time and donate money to Catholic social programs.  I do not donate extra money to government run social programs becaue I think it is not a good ues of my money.

For those who favor government run social programs, how many donate extra money (in addition to forced taxation) to the goernment for these programs?  Do you need to be forced to donate through taxation?  Is there a reason that you don't give the government money voluntarily?  Do you donate to other organizations in preference to the government?  Why do you want to force others to donate to these goverment-run programs if you are not willing to donate voluntarily?  Is this hypocracy?
Anonymous | 12/18/2010 - 11:23pm

Your comment is a good example why we need the editors of this Catholic magazine to teach their readers.

My obedience is not blind.  I am obedient like the Jesuits.  I think with the mind of the Church.
Bill Mazzella | 12/18/2010 - 7:14pm
Joe Kash, 

Even St Paul insisted on the primacy of conscience. The magisterium has changed its view on the ends of marriage. Humanae Vitae was the first time the Church acknowledged love of spouse as an end of marriage along with procreation. The magisterium also changed on the doctrine no salvation outside the churchs. There are more examples. The magisterium was terribly silent during the Nazi reign.

Your path of blind obedience  is a perilous one and fraught with danger. The People of God must constantly challenge the magisterium when it goes astray from its mission of service to one of domination. Jesus challenged the existing authority in like manner. Being at the seat of power in Rome does not give one laisses faire privileges in interpreting the gospel. The Vatican is just one part of the church. When it stresses service its leadership is at its best. When it stresses domination it goes astray.  
david power | 12/18/2010 - 7:00pm
Deacon Robert,

You make a lot of sense.I have posted below the O-antiphons and below them 
there are fantastic videos of the "posadas".
A wonderful Mexican tradition that I had the pleasure to participate in and I hope take root in the US and every Catholic Community. 
Robert Killoren | 12/18/2010 - 6:48pm
Fr. Jim, you better stop reading this message board if you want to get any peace while you are on retreat. In fact, stop watching the news or reading papers all together. It will all be here when you get back!

To all: how about a cease fire to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace? Let's read the O-antiphons this week instead. Any translation you want...

A Blessed Christmas to all. 
david power | 12/18/2010 - 6:08pm

I got that.It was one of the reasons I liked him.
But implcit in his portrayal is that it is a Republican who is clueless and therefore the hypocrite.Normally I agree with this assertion as I dislke both of the American parties and see them as equally flawed but under the cover of dimwittedness Colbert can have a pop at those who are not as pure as he.It is clever but once you see past the irony you realize that the guy spent some years in the pews looking up and thinking when do I get the mike?
In the video footage there is no reverse humour which would save it. Maybe it is a difficult thing to do but I dont think he is interested .He was on a moral high,he was giddy and reduced Christ to a winsome sledgehammer . It is humour I understand that but I dont like it when people make Jesus Christ out to be a more loveable Karl Marx.
Any Christian  who was watching and thinking "You got it  Stevie boy" needs to have another go at the Gospels.    
But thanks for trying to put me right Marie.       
Marie Rehbein | 12/18/2010 - 5:50pm
David, part of Colbert's act is to be clueless to his own hypocrisy. 
david power | 12/18/2010 - 5:07pm
I like Colbert a whole lot less after seeing this.Self-righteous hypocrisy from start to finish with not an ounce of reverence for God.He thinks he has  a  get-out-of-jail-free card because he is "defending the poor".How much does the Guy earn?He could probably save thousands of people just from a fraction  of his wealth like Bono in Ireland. They speak so they do not have to act. In Ireland during the 80's the two most famously radical clergymen were Bishop Casey and Fr Michael Cleary.They never stopped talking about the poor.There was a very good reason for that too.They did not want to talk about other areas of morality as both of them had children.Mother Teresa said very wisely "Today it is very popular to speak of the poor,unfortunately it is not so popular to speak to the poor". Apart from the two examples cited I can recount endless other examples of people talking a lot about and exorciating others  on "the poor". The end was always messy.The Conscience of a liberal might not be as clean as it sounds dressed up in humour. Maybe Jon Stewart could lend him some self-awareness.     
Edward Hodkinson | 12/18/2010 - 4:27pm
It's OK to say that Democrats are for the poor without the knee jerk, res ipse loquitor that Republicans are for the rich. You can make a claim for your own group without denying it to a competing group.  As a Republican, I could make a statement that
''Republicans are pro-life'', but not all are, just as not all Democrats are pro-choice
(witness Bob Casey, Democrat Senator from PA who is pro-life, among others)

As a prolife Republican, I am also ''for the poor'' as anyone who knows me can attest. I am grieved also that more Republicans do not speak out against the wars we are involved with, since to be pro-peace should not just be seen as only supported by Democrats.  After all, it was a Democrat who escalated our involvement in Vietnam, and a Republican who continued it. Just as it was a Republican who got us into Iraq and Afghanistan and a Democrat who has escalated our involvement in Afghanistan and like Nixon, is pulling back troops from Iraq.

Jesus is for those who willingly follow the principles he has outlined, and those who follow His father's will, and seek to know the truth. American lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, on American streets do to hunger and neglect, and those innocents aborted each year (some as just a form of birth control!) are lives lost. For those rich individuals calling for their taxes to be higher, why not give away to those who need, those funds you ''want'' to pay in taxes. I credit liberals like Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates for doing just that, and they aren't even follwers of Christ, but may God bless them nonetheless. I am sure God will look on their kindness, with His perfect love, as they do for the least- action seeking faith.
Anonymous | 12/18/2010 - 4:25pm
Fr, Keane,

Either you are making a joke or making a diversion from the my assertion.  It is not about sex.  It is about whether the Editors of a Jesuit magazine use this bully pulpit to defend the teachings of the magisterium and pope.  Do the editors aim to defend and explain the teachings of the Church?  Many of the bloggers at this site often write very very incorrect statements about church teaching (basic Catholicism 101 type of stuff) and I never see the editors correct them.

I have been reading the print magazine for at least 15 to 20 years.  My opinion is that the editors have been very selective in both the choice of teachings that they defend and in the strength of their defense.  I only used the "condom controversy" because it was a recent obvious choice; not an obsession with sex but an example of America Magazine's obvious disagreement with the Magisterium concerning Condoms in Africa.
Vince Killoran | 12/18/2010 - 1:26pm
America's war of poverty: declared but never really fought.

As for Walter's fantastic claim way back at #29 about Chile: in fact,unemployment went way up and  real wages way down under Pinchet's  free-market strong armed rule.

David's question at #42: we covered this is h.s. civics-it's called "checks & balances." 
Anonymous | 12/18/2010 - 12:19pm
Poster #49 - just what we needed...MORE irony.  
Marie Rehbein | 12/18/2010 - 10:18am
"Well, Marie, if 'take care' of the poor really means promote policies that destroy the family structure, promote dependence and atomization and sexual libertinism, then they are doing a great job.  The government does its best to undermine civil associations (including religious organizations) that rival its power - or to co-opt them via flooding them with federal money."

 Brett, public assistance programs in the US were begun at a time in our history when men were the breadwinners and women and children depended on them for that.  Therefore, the programs were set up to provide for man-less households.  In time, people began to figure out how to exploit the system.  Therefore, it is not really the system, but simple human greed that has led to the destruction of family structure, etc.
Beth Cioffoletti | 12/18/2010 - 1:38am
"So I continue to troll this blog in the hopes that one day I will see the Editors more fully defend even those Magisterial teachings where they have difficulties." (#25)

How does insulting the editors (and writers and readers) of America Magazine by questioning their credibility further that agenda?

Kay Satterfield | 12/17/2010 - 11:49pm
As a family with 4 young adults, we frequently watch Colbert and Jon Stewart together.  We are a mix of Republicans and Democrats and we have some interesting discussions after watching their programs whether we agree or don't agree with the view presented and it's funny.  However, it's not for everyone.  With regards to poverty the Republican contingent would say that stimulating the economy creates jobs and a person having a job is what is needed to help end poverty.  The Democratic side would fight that our government needs to help those who can't help themselves, particularly the ones who fall through the cracks.  As mentioned before there needs to be balance between the two in my opinion.
Chris NUNEZ | 12/17/2010 - 11:07pm
Marie Rehbein | 12/17/2010 - 11:02pm
Let me try this another way.  Jesus is for the poor, but government has its own reasons for looking after the poor.  It would be the same if this were a kingdom instead of a democracy, in that it would be in the king's best interests to prevent discontent from spreading throughout the lowest classes.

As to people who choose to look after the poor on their own, they do have the government's blessing in the form of tax deductions for charitable contributions.  And, there is a place on the US Treasury website that accepts contributions to lower the Federal deficit.
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 10:34pm
This David Foster Wallace quote sums up Colbert all-irony, all the time style and the generation that it addresses:

"Postmodern irony and cynicism’s become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage."

It is the opposite of communication, and civil (even incivil) discourse.  It is nothing but a rejection or mocking of the opposition - one step above nhiliism.

How is that for light!  ;)
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 10:12pm
Hmmm...the problem is Fr. Jim, that Colbert is not truly a "comdey" routine - it is a political commentary through the only medium that our youth culture can now converse in - i.e. the ironic.

Perhaps the problem is with this mode of communication - this completely ironic and hyper-political discourse - rather than the reaction to it?

Bill Mazzella | 12/17/2010 - 8:43pm
St Francis chose poverty as a means to bring peace to the world. Since all wars are made over property and money, by renouncing material goods completely he saw this as the way to have a world without wars. Iraq was clearly about oil. Afganistan was just in the sense that it went after those who attacked the US. Yet the conundrum in the Middle East is Israel driven with Israel being quite unjust to the Palestinians. It is one thing for the Jews to seek a safe haven. But their leaders have shamed the Jewish people by persecuting a poor minority. Over land.

The hierarchy has possesions all over the world. No bishops, priests nor monks go homeless. This is a far cry from the homeless Jesus. So our problems are more basic. Do Christian Catholics follow Jesus? There is enough activities like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services to keep up appearances. But the face of the church is not poor at all and that is where the need for change must focus.
Gabriel Marcella | 12/17/2010 - 8:23pm
If you wish to see how government action can lift people out of poverty study the conditional cash transfers of Brazil (called bolsa familia-the family basket or family grant), whereby the government gives money to mothers, who must sign a deal that they will send their children to school, where they are also fed. A health card also provides for access to free medical care. Begun earlier, the program expanded in 2003 and has helped lift out of poverty over 12 million (Brazil has 190 million people.) The purpose is to break the cycle of poverty by raising the quantity and quality of human capital. A number of countries, such as Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, and others have established their versions of conditional cash transfers. Though bolsa familia is not without its problems, it works and it's based on taking advantage of the human desire to better the family's future.
Crystal Watson | 12/17/2010 - 5:39pm
I do think Jesus is a liberal democrat, and that the government is the best resource or helping the poor.  But thanks to the republicans, the wealthy are getting tax cuts while this is the second year that those who are disabled will get no "raise" in their government checks.  I remember a line from the tv series The West Wing ... "government no matter what it's failures in the past and in times to come for that matter, government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. An instrument of good."  That's the ideal I believe in and I think it best represents the gospel values acted out by Jesus.
Beth Cioffoletti | 12/17/2010 - 5:34pm
I know some very rich people who want the Government to take the responsibility of spreading the wealth.  They want government systems in place to make sure that the wealth of the nation raises the standard of living of all of us.  Private giving simply does not have the breadth to accomplish that.

Bill Clinton has expressed similar sentiments.

That being said, I personally believe that this is a bottom up job, and nothing will change with the poor until enough people give up the quest for personal wealth.  Hoarding huge amounts of money is a symptom of deep spiritual insecurity and fear.  It's a spiritual problem more than an economic or political one.

Carolyn Hyppolite | 12/17/2010 - 5:15pm

Thank you for pointing out that. I wish I could find the source but I recently read an article that the office of the IRS that takes donations for the government has receive a few thousand dollars over its life. Warren Buffet who made a big show that we should tax him more is actually going to leave his fortune to the Gates Foundation.

I want  to support those organizations that I believe in. If you believe in Uncle Sammy, send the IRS the check.

Carolyn Hyppolite | 12/17/2010 - 5:04pm

I think the US government is mostly responsible for the weakness of the dollar but that's a little off topic. I only brought it up to say that when people are speaking against government intervention, it is not because they hate the poor but because they think the government is causing more harm than good. Again, we can debate the facts here but at least grant us the benefit of the doubt on our intention.

Frankly, I am tired of both sides of the American Church. The Republican wing acts like all it takes to be holy is trying to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Democratic side of the Church believes that raising taxes on the Rich is the real mark sanctity. I think you're both wrong.

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppolite
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 5:03pm

It is curious that recently there was a poll where a significant portion of the super rich were in favor of increased taxes.  I find it curious that they need to be force to donate to such a noble cause.  Why not just right an extra check to Uncle Sam?

They must not really think this is a good investment of their money, otherwise they would be sending that extra check  to Uncle Sam each year rather than hiring accountants to find loop-holes in the Tax code.

I am curious whether any of the bloggers here who favor higher taxes and increase social progams, donate extra money to the US government?  If not why?
Carolyn Hyppolite | 12/17/2010 - 4:58pm

I dispute the fact that I have to live in a Catholic Worker Commune to care for the poor. In fact, I actually looked into it and I could find nothing useful in the ones that I looked into. And I agree with you that the wealthy benefit way too much from public welfare. I am pretty upset about corporate welfare as well.

That does not change the fact that believing that individual Christians have a duty to help the poor os the most defensible interpretation of what Jesus says. If you want to pay taxes so that the govt taxes, I am cool with it. What I have a problem with is not being able to opt out. I think there are better ways to help the poor than Uncle Sam.

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppolite
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 4:49pm

I admire St. Ignatius and I am a big fan of Ignatian Sprituality.  I also love the Church and long for the day when the Jesuits as a whole defended the teachings of the Pope and the Magisterium.

So I continue to troll this blog in the hopes that one day I will see the Editors more fully defend even those Magisterial teachings where they have difficulties.
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 4:30pm
It's a Christmas miracle, Vince!!!

Now, everyone say something nice about the liberal or conservative next to you...
Vince Killoran | 12/17/2010 - 4:22pm
Signing off for the weekend but I love Jeff's last plea that we not bring Jesus in on this debate about poverty!
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 4:13pm
I don't think this is a matter of ''liberal vs conservative'' in the first instance.  After all, it was a great liberal Senator, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who pointed out first the detrimental effect many of the Great Society programs were having on the black inner city family.  The Harvard sociologist William Julius William Wilson who carried some of this research forward and showed how government programs had undermined many of the values middle class Americans live by.  Let's not also forget that Ronald Reagan saved Social Security during his Presidency.  And there is no shortage of ''ideology'' driving interpretations of the Gospel today, left and right.

The diversity of the comments here illustrates for me the need to be cautious of too quickly reducing the message of the Gospel to political platforms, especially on issues of economics (thus the wisdom of the Church's very general formulations).  First off, the words of Jesus should be taken in context - uttered some years (to say the least) before the birth of modern economic systems and certainly before the birth of the modern nation state and the welfare state.  Secondly, the question of applying ''the Gospel'' to economics and public policy is complicated by the fact that we live in a pluralist culture that is, quite frankly, hostile to faith claims.  Its a very complicated matter on which people of goodwill can disagree.  In reality, the real argument isn't over ''socialism'' vs. ''free market''; its over whether ''the rich'' should be taxed at 39% or 32%; its whether gov't spending should be set at 28% of GDP or 24%; its over whether capital gains should be 10% or 15%.  And, finally, its really over how much risk should we tolerate in this country versus how much should we insulate people from risk, even when they themselves are the cause of the risk.  After all, if there were no one willing to accept risky mortgages on houses they couldn't afford, the big, evil, greedy banks wouldn't have made any money in them to beging with.  And in the meantime, the politicians will do what politicians do: doube-speak, get cushy mortgage deals, arrange special favors, and dither. 

What most frustrates me about these types of discussions is the lack of context.  Its as if liberals are wholly unaware of the fiscal reality facing this country.  Sure, we could tax ''the rich'' at 100% of their income levels and spend at such at 70% of GDP in an attempt to end poverty, but the reality is that such actions would be economic suicide and leave everyone worse off.  Perhaps that's not such a bad alternative for folks like Beth C. who seem to embrace a calling to radical poverty.  But for most folk, such a result would likely be detrimental. 

In short, the public policy debate is complicated and acrimonious enough without bringing ''What would Jesus Do'' considerations into it, even as a bludgeon against our ''ideological'' opponents.
Beth Cioffoletti | 12/17/2010 - 3:53pm
Oh, come on Joe (Kash #17). 

Stephen Colbert teaches a Cathechism class!   And what's wrong with the credibility and credentials of the editors of this magazine?   If you don't like it, why are you here???
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 3:51pm
Wrong, Robert.  I will critique ORielly and Hannity and Limbaugh all day long. 

However, what I have noticed is that liberal Catholics cannot do the same for their side.  When was the last time a Catholic liberal criticized Pelosi for her promotion of abortion "rights"??
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 12/17/2010 - 3:48pm
I think our conservative bloggers are indeed defensive -no critique of O"Reilly here from them.
What's the poverty rate? One in ten?
One in seven kids in te Us goes to bed hungry.
But the Government  "created dependence, etc."
As long as ideology  drives our view of the Gospel, we'l lget that kind of slick talk.
I know. ala Dickens,"what a way to pick a man's pocket."
We maybe need a new Christmas Carol in this country!
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 3:42pm
Dare I say that when it comes to Catholicism Colbert has less credibility than the editors of this Jesuit Catholic magazine?
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 3:42pm
Opps, the author is Arthur Brooks:

Conservatives give at much higher rates to charity than liberals according to IRS stats. 

Liberal believe that paying their taxes to Ceasar all that is necessary (even though that is only half of the equation according to Christ).

Who really cares is right...perhaps it is not the King of Irony, Colbert.
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 3:31pm
Well, Marie, if "take care" of the poor really means promote policies that destroy the family structure, promote dependence and atomization and sexual libertinism, then they are doing a great job.  The government does its best to undermine civil associations (including religious organizations) that rival its power - or to co-opt them via flooding them with federal money.

What we need are healthy, local communities and correctly ordered lives; when virtues are addressed, chairty for the less fortunate is included naturally in the conversation.  There is no federal, technical answer to poverty - no "war on poverty" will fix this human condition.

Those liberals who like to promote the "government solution" to all our problems - esp. the poor - are less likely to get involved on a personal level (this has been well documented by Michael Brooks, the academic). 

Liberals have a great and lofty "love for humanity" in the abstract - they just do not want to get their hands dirty with the actual poor...let the bureaucrats/technocrats handle that.

PS - they also "look after" the value of the dollar by devaluing it through the outrageous printing of money by the central banks...

Robert Killoren | 12/17/2010 - 3:25pm
I don't get to watch TV much, but thanks to Fr Jim I got to watch this segment from Stephen Colbert on the computer. Like my brother Vince I feel some people here are sounding a little bit defensive about where they stand. But they shouldn't be offended. Seems to me Colbert likes to make fun of anybody who acts pompous and self-righteous not even seeing their own hypocrisy. I consider myself a proud member of that category of sinners, but I'm trying to recognize my sin and am trying to get over it. That means biting my tongue very frequently. If you are looking for politicians to reflect the frailties of human nature you'll easily find it. If you are looking for sterling examples of moral uprightness and commitment to truth and justice, you'd better look somewhere else than the halls of the Capitol Building. If you read the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church you'll see that neither the Republicans or Democrats have a corner on the market. In fact, you'll find that both fail to come close to those standards by a long shot. But all things considered we have a better government system than just about anywhere else. If you do read it you'll find out about subsidiarity (which is kind of like the conservative view that central government ought to keep its nose out of communities and people's lives) and how it must be balanced with solidarity (which is kind of like the liberal view that we are all in this together and sometimes only a central government is big enough to provide for the common good). It's like anything else: it's all about balance. I personally believe that's how the Constitution is written thanks to the founding generation. Anyway, relax a bit and enjoy some comedy, even if it means laughing at our own foibles. But what do I know, I'm just a deacon.
Marie Rehbein | 12/17/2010 - 3:11pm
The government's role in looking after the poor is to ensure the stability of society. 

Carolyn, you don't think the government has a right or responsibility to look after the value of the dollar in the world economy given that it created the dollar?
Vince Killoran | 12/17/2010 - 2:58pm
I think Michael and Carolyn have missed the point (or the meaning of my question).

Michael's ticking off of consumer items and how good the poor have it in the USA is irrelevant. I wasn't necessarily focused on the USA. Besides, I would argue the modicum of security the American poor have come from  our admittedly paper-thin safety net.  If you widen the analysis to include publicly-funded schools, highways, health and safety laws, etc. then your getting closer to addressing my argument about the fanciful notion that libertarian models are Christian.

As to Carolyn's argument, why is a law passed by a representative government "Robin Hood" in nature? I take your point that our compassion and connectedness for the poor must come from the heart (Beth's has a great take on this), but I believe that I do that through my political & voting decisions.  Your argument would be more compelling if, for example, you lived in a collective or commune (e.g., Catholic Worker house) but if you identify with and benefit from our economy, legislation, and public policies then it seems inconsistent to put anti-poverty measures off-limits.   We had this debate several months ago: the people who benefit the most from publicly-funded aspects of our society are the wealthiest. 
Anonymous | 12/17/2010 - 1:47pm
Well, Vince, I'm not sure whether you would credit the government or the free market for this but, the following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports (according to a 2007 report published on the Heritage Foundation website):

    Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
    Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
    Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
    The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
    Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
    Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
    Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
    Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

So, if Jesus is for the poor, he must be for America.
Carolyn Hyppolite | 12/17/2010 - 1:40pm

There are many people who have documented that government often does not solve problem but takes credit for problem solved by civil society. I highly recommend the work of Tom Woods :

There is also much evidence that it is government who is impoverishing us by doing things like inflating our dollar, just to give one example.

But all of that is besides the point. The point is whether the Gospels require that we support these particular regulatory and distributive schemes offered by the democrats. We can debate whether or not they are prudent and effective and that makes for interesting dialogue. But what we have here is not interesting dialogue but the assertion that Jesus must be interpreted through the Robin Hood lenses of the democratic party. I understand that Jesus says if a man asks you for your coat, give your tunic and I think we can all be better about doing that. But that's not the democrats message. Their message is if a man asks for your coat, come together with the village and go to the Rich man's house and take his coat.

And given the relatively low levels of charitable giving reported by those on the left: ; it seems to me that this rhetoric has an impact on people's practice, and I think that is problematic, morally and spiritually.

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppoolite