Put your money where your faith is

In 1972, the first year I could vote, I proudly wore my McGovern for President T-shirt every where, even to the Well in Austin and the Morningstar Coffeehouse in San Marcos, two coffee houses where the Christian kids would hang out and evangelize to the generation of love.

The elders who ran the Well had no problems with the shirt, or at least they never expressed their concerns to me. On the other hand they also dealt with an international community of students at the University of Texas, an international community that included Israeli and Palestinian students, students from the liberal east and west (or so the mythology went) coasts, hippies, homeless veterans, hard core drug dealers and bikers.

The elders at Morningstar coffeehouse constantly suggested I leave the shirt at home because Christians don’t engage in politics. The college community they dealt with, I might add, consisted of primarily central and west Texas kids who grew up in farm communities and hippies rebelling against the farm communities they grew up in. In those days San Marcos was as much a farm community as a college community.

I would ask these elders if they intended to vote for Nixon. Not surprisingly, they were. I reminded them that voting was getting involved in politics too. They would laugh and tell me that voting wasn’t politics.

During the next forty years conservative Christians (and many of the charismatic students they embraced) evolved into the Moral Majority and then the Christian right. They no longer believed Christians didn’t get involved in politics. They now believe Christians have a responsibility to promote Christian values in the pursuit of governance.

Strangely, however, this agenda includes a number of platforms I find absent in the Gospels and New Testament. They want to eliminate taxation, even though Jesus clearly commanded us render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (i.e., pay taxes). They want mandatory public prayer in schools, even though Jesus said the faithful shouldn’t pray in public make a display of piety. They want statues of the Ten Commandments in public places, even though Jesus spoke out against idolitry.

They want to teach creationism as a legitimate science even though Jesus showed no concern whatever for public education. They want to ban abortion even though the Bible explicitly forbids the sacrifice of living children but never mentions the rights of the unborn. They want to stop medical research and deny health insurance and health care to the poor even though Jesus made it clear that one of the missions of Christians is to heal the sick.1

They do, however, make the case that it isn’t government’s responsibility to provide for the poor. The responsibility falls to private citizens and the faithful. And I accept that principle. It isn’t government’s responsibility as a matter of pure principle. But when the government represents the people, and twenty percent of the people live in poverty (and many more close to it), that government has a responsibility to everyone’s welfare.

If we accept the belief that private citizens are responsible to the poor, needy and sick, we must also recognize that Jesus taught his followers they were the private citizens responsible for the poor, needy and sick. We can rightly expect the religious right to step up to the plate and provide those services out of their own pockets. If, in fact, they want to do as Jesus did.

So we should also expect that, instead of pouring millions into political campaigns to unseat the Democrats, members of the religious right would be inviting the homeless into their homes, feeding them and paying their medical bills. If not that, they should be spending those millions on homeless shelters, food lines and free health clinics.

For some reason that isn’t happening. Where are the Palin sponsored homeless shelters? Where are the Salvation Army centers funded by Rick Perry’s wealth? Where is Michelle Bachman’s campaign to raise funds for medical care or to build free clinics? Why is it that the only Republican to show any desire to provide for health care for the poor is Mormon?2

When I was still a member of the church that founded the Morningstar coffeehouse, they sponsored a revival a few weeks after a flood that ruined the homes of several of the poorer members. During the revival they asked for clothes and food for those displaced by the flood. But they also collected thousands to help the visiting evangelist buy a private jet.

Several of the elders made sure to let members know how much they raised for that jet, but never mentioned the clothes and food. I even asked why they couldn’t have taken ten percent of the money raised for the jet and given it to the displaced families. I was assured that God would take care of the needy; the evangelist couldn’t spread the gospel without that jet.

Jesus walked on foot to spread the gospel, and collected money and food for the poor and starving. In 1972 (and now) I think he would have at least settled for driving to make sure those in need were clothed, housed and fed. And whether or not he would have voted for Rick Perry, Jesus would have told Perry and Palin and Bachman and Romney to sell everything they have and give it to the poor.


1Yes, I know I’m playing verbal sleight of hand here, since Jesus didn’t use doctors to heal the sick. But we could assume that it is not in the spirit of Christianity to deny treatment to those in need in order to make a political statement.back

2Sure, the Religious Right turns down the anti-Mormon rhetoric now that they’re all political bedfellows. But, trust me, deep down inside they believe Mormons are more like that weird spin-off program adopted by the SyFy channel than the official broadcast network variety of the faith.back


Is Pro-Life also Pro-Damnation?

Hardly a week goes by in my peaceful reflections on the faith when I don’t find myself distracted by the Christian Charity of the Republicans. To be honest, I can already hear half of my two readers going, “There he goes again, Republican bashing for Jesus.”

That’s exactly how I feel whenever Republicans get indignant about some little thing, which is just about every half hour.

What would Jesus do? He would say, “Get over it. The kingdom of God is greater than this.” But I was raised a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), where indignation is a product of both inbreeding and indoctrination. Not cousin inbreeding; indignant Christian inbreeding. The day we Baptists don’t find something to get indignant over is the day we die, and then we’ll probably get indignant if St. Peter doesn’t show up to escort us personally into God’s throne room.

Only Baptists don’t believe in Saints, that’s a Catholic thing. So, St. Peter’s definitely not going to show up for us, and we’ll have to be doubly indignant because the insult is our own damn fault, and even though we only have ourselves to blame, it’s easier just to blame liberals. (After all, Jesus forgives Christians. He doesn’t forgive the Left.)

Remember the story of the good Samaritan? The guy who took care of the sick and injured man when nobody else would? The Samaritan in the story would be the equivalent in today’s society of a Moslem or secular humanist. The nobody else in today’s society would be Christians, who just walked by willing to let the poor guy lay there and suffer or even die.

An example of this is the recent Republican rider in a Texas bill on hospital funding. The rider would deny funding to hospitals if they pay for elective abortions. In other words, in the name of Jesus and life, we will deny health care funding to those in need, mainly patients who have no influence on hospital policy, because we think that policy isn’t Christian.

And that means they would deny care to many fellow Christians. That’s right, Republicans would let their fellow Christians, not to mention poorer Republicans, lose access to hospital services because a not-quite baby might die.

But last week they hit a wrinkle. After the bill went to committee, it came back with an amendment. Hospitals could pay for abortions if there is “an irreversible abnormality that is incompatible with life after birth.”

According to the American Statesman, Republicans have split over this new language and that could jeopardize the bill’s passage. Rep. Brian Hughes has thinks this new language would create too big a loophole thanks to the powerful hospital lobby. A lobby that has been so powerful they couldn’t prevent hospitals losing their funding if they pay for elective abortions.

Hughes has a interesting rationale for his position. “We want to err on the side of life. The language is so broad that it would compel tax payers to pay for abortions on disabled children.” (my emphasis).

Well, not exactly. Isn’t that one of those super-superlatives like “most excellent” or “better than perfect?” Are we honestly going to say it’s worse to kill a disabled child than a child who would otherwise be healthy? This seems dangerously like mindless spin. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it sure triggers the heartstrings of faith.

It irritates many Christians to be reminded that the Bible is essentially silent on the question of abortion. Jesus never thought it was important enough to go on record (although, admittedly, he never went on record about anything) and, if he did express his thoughts on the subject, none of the Gospel authors thought it was important enough to write down.

Paul, who did go on the record by putting his thoughts in letters, never thought it important enough to mention. Nor did any other New Testament writer. Paul didn’t even list abortion in his long catalogue of sins (where homosexual behavior, adultery and gossip were all catalogued as equally culpable). So clearly Paul thought gossip was worth mentioning, but abortion wasn’t.1

I do know Jesus never forced his morality on anyone. His philosophy was, if they don’t like you, dust off your feet and move on.

I do know Jesus would have held Christians accountable for the children they brought into this world. And I suspect he would say, if we make a mother bring a child to term, we now become that child’s parent—which means we feed, clothe, educate and raise them in the faith.

Here’s what I don’t get about the supposed pro-life position. If a child doesn’t come to term, he or she is off the hook as far as salvation goes. God takes care of the unborn and infant children, welcoming them directly to his bosom.

But if Christians force a mother to give birth, and then fail to adopt the children and raise them into the faith, aren’t they, in essence, putting their very souls at risk? These children, often raised in poverty, also often grow into lives of crime.

Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, suggested a definite correlation between abortion and crime rates. The theory is controversial and he would be the first to say this is not an argument for legalizing abortion. Of course, a lot of people have suggested his study isn’t on the level.2 But if you were to ask anyone if they believed a child, especially a Black or Hispanic child born into poverty, isn’t at risk for gang membership, a life of crime and the chance of being killed in the barrio or hood, they would have to be delusional to say no.

Even worse, if the soon-to-be-born are the children of rich spoiled women too lazy to be mothers (assuming they won’t pay for their own abortions elsewhere), aren’t the children likely to grow up neglected, jaded and ultimately liberals?

In other words, there’s a good chance that this gift of life is also a ticket to damnation, forced into their hands after stealing their free pass to heaven. If God considers the souls we saved in the final accounting, should he not also consider the souls we forced into life and then abandoned on the highway to hell?

So I have to wonder why so many Christians feel it’s their responsibility to bring unwanted children to term, yet are strangely willing to abandon their physical and spiritual needs as living beings. In the parable of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan realized it wasn’t enough to simply rescue the fallen man. He knew he was responsible for nursing him back to health and seeing to his needs.

And you, Rep. Hughes, and all of your like-minded representative buddies, should consider the morality of denying funding for health services to hospitals, denying children (including children forced to term), Christians, Republicans and Texans access to care for policies they have no power to change.


1Actually, Paul’s point was that sin is sin, and gossip is as heinous in the eyes of God as adultery. Or, to be more specific, without God’s grace we’d all be in deep shit, so don’t get on your high horse. Two church ladies clucking over Pastor Ellison’s possible indiscretions sin every bit as much as homosexual drug addicts stealing money from grandmothers to pay for the babies they want to adopt and raise into their flagrant flaming (or battle axe butch) lifestyles. back

2Nor should it be surprising that there are arguments about his methodology. In fact, I can’t recall a single controversial study that have people arguing over methodology from the Laffer Curve and Peltzman’s killer seat belt studies to studies linking tobacco to cancer and heart disease and studies on global warming.back