Is Jesus a Liberal Democrat?
No, as Stephen Colbert tells us, it's worse than that: Jesus is for the poor.
James Martin, S.J.
Carol Glatz - Catholic News Service
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Everything becomes one (sad) joke - especially, any religion or cultural norms that could challange their cultural liberalism or rebuke the dominant relativism.
For instance, you would never see a joke aimed at the irony of the left's support of abortion on demand while claiming to be compassionate and fighting for the weakest amoung us...
- THOMAS MERTON
Stephen Colbert is doing a pretty good job.
There was a gospel a couple months ago about the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus seemed to have a free ride into heaven but the rich man was in hell and couldn't even warn his brothers about it. Are the poor getting a free ride to salvation? And if so why should we feel sorry for them. The person we should feel sorry for is the rich man. After all it is he who lost all. Why do we automatically defend the poor? Are the poor there for each of to do something individually.
My point being is that when we try to solve the plight of the poor through some coercive action on the masses are we really missing the point. Is the real message that the rich must voluntarily use their resources to help the poor. This is not saying that we shouldn't try to make society better in whatever way we can. It is saying that each of us will be judged not by what political action we have taken but what we do individually through our actions and not by our votes on what others should do.
I could make a pretty strong case that the actions by liberal Democrats have hurt the poor immensely and that capitalism in general has helped their plight more than any government action. But is that what Catholicism is all about? It shouldn't be. There is a line from the new testament
''For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.''
When we have eliminated the poor by our attempts at establishing a heaven on earth have we missed what it is all about. We are striving to reach Him not to eliminate every possible source of discontent in our world.
Did Jesus actually come for the ''rich?''
Kay, the "hot air" started with the polemic video at the top of this post placed by Fr. Martin.
Great replies on here, though - esp. J.R., even though our poor have even now been infected with the theraputic, liberal vices and solipsim of the elite in the US. A result, no doubt of materialism and rampant individualism promoted by both the left (sexual libertines) and the right (economic libertines).
In any case, Christ shows us a way past these petty ideologies on both sides so - a Merry Christmas to all the America bloggers!
I assume that people favor raising taxes (letting the Bush tax cuts expire) in order to pay for government programs. I assume that those who want to raise taxes like those programs otherwise the alternative would be to cut the programs.
If they like the programs then why not donate money in addition to forced taxation?
I donate money to private programs in addition to my forced taxation because i believe in those programs. Do people who believe in goverment programs voluntarily send money? If not then why?
I'm sorry Walter but the NPR report does not "prove" what you assert. No disrespect intended, but have you actually read the piece?! It's bascially a pro-World Bank story but even then it doesn't endorse what Pinochet did. The sad story is told in Peter Winn (ed.), Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973-2002 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004).
The Milton Friedman fan club has been trying to perpetrate a myth about his "free market" reforms in 1970s Chile. Ten years after he came to power unemployement had skyrocekted and real wages were way down.
It's always interesting to me that so-called hard headed Friedmanites have no success stories-just raw- self-assertion.
I think most people are caught up in worry about what is happening to the world's economy, and the US place in it, when they object to continuing the Bush tax cuts. There is a real danger at the moment that not only will the US economy not recover without money going to those who are most likely to spend it, but that ratings of US creditworthiness will be downgraded based on the deficit. For most people, then, the logical thing would have been to have those who could afford it to go back to paying more in taxes and those who had no income or low income to continue to get what amounts to economic stimulus money.
Wars are costly, far more so than any of the social programs that have been in place for decades. From the government's point of view, providing for the poor, or raising the minimum standard of living, has nothing to do with Jesus at all. It has to do with the impression the US gives on the world stage. US credibility suffers when some of its citizens live as though this were a third world nation. While a high minimum standard of living may draw the attacks of terrorists at this time in history, our country having taken care of its poor did play a role in the triumph of our way of life over Communism.
Furthermore, it is not the welfare eligibility policies alone that have led to weaker families in the inner cities. It was the defacto discrimination combined with the policies that led to this. The policies were meant to help families that had lost their breadwinner, but when those who were traditionally meant to be breadwinners were unable to even find employment that would equal what the government provided, the reasonable thing was to set up the circumstances that would qualify the family for aid.
The government's interests will not be served if it leaves the poor to the care of the charitable, so attributing a charitable government to the influence of bleeding heart liberals who don't want to get their hands dirty is off the mark. The government's interest will be harmed, in fact, if the ranks of the poor grow, especially if they grow with the ever increasing number of elderly citizens that are anticipated in the coming decades.
All taxation is forced, and to my knowledge, no one has ever volunteered to pay for a war or to impress a foreign government or to build a highway system. You sound like you would like to protest your taxes because they are used to help the poor just like some people who are opposed to war don't pay their taxes.
Exactly! It is in the government's interest to expand their reach and control into EVERY area of a citizen's life because they will then be dependent on a centralized bureaucracy for needs and services that were once provided by LOCAL communities and religious organizations. Part of this is due to a decline in religious populations, but a good deal is also due to a power-hungry and expansive secular government.
The more atomized citizens are the better for this secular system - because they are then unable to organize to assist their own neighbors and/or rebuke federal over reach.
They claim to be "charitable" when the reality is that they rely on ever expansive government for their very jobs and power (this applies to both Dems and Repubs - esp on war issues).
Please open your eyes, liberal catholics...liberal programs and centralized power in government are not the pancea that you think they are. They simply maintain and increase the degredation of the population in the name of compassion. These programs really uphold the status quo.
Decentralization is coming whether you want it or not - and the Church will be there to help create small, sustainable communities away from the levithian...
Brett embraces "small, sustainable communities." I, too, am intrigued by this way of life, but this is anathama to the ethos of corporate capitalism.
Both are perversions of the natural order and of true communities.
As in, "share their time"?
Lots of kinds of poor......aren't there?
*poor in spirit, see Mt.
There are lots of riches. One of them is intellectual riches. Some are better educated, read, have more unusual experiences. Some just think they are better educated, smarter, have better insight. Sometimes I think that a lot of these people have a harder time finding the truth. More educated people are atheists than the non educated and are arrogant about their position but they cannot defend it.
''Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it''
Q. Is Jesus a Conservative Republican?
Q. Which way would Jesus vote in a U.S. Presidential Election?
Now I am going to sit back and wait for the angry denunciations to begin.....
Carolyn raises the question "whether the government is the best way to help the poor." Is there an example of a society in modern times where large segments of society were lifted out of poverty without government action? The utopians always roll out the so-called "free market" solution but never offer any concrete examples.
Recently I was talking to a friend who spends a lot of time in Haiti. He was telling me that the people survive by depending on each other: "They really could never make it though a day if they didn't help each other."
Colbert is sounding more and more like a prophet these days, rather than a comedian. I take it as a good sign that he's popular among the young people.
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 : http://www.tomwoods.com/
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: http://www.amazon.com/Who-Really-Cares-Compasionate-Conservatism/dp/0465008216 ; 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,
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.
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.
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?
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...
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.
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!
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"??
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???
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.
Now, everyone say something nice about the liberal or conservative next to you...
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.
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,
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?
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,
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps the problem is with this mode of communication - this completely ironic and hyper-political discourse - rather than the reaction to it?
"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! ;)
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.
How does insulting the editors (and writers and readers) of America Magazine by questioning their credibility further that agenda?
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.