I appreciate the above article. If anything, it goes to prove that, contrary to popular belief, Liberty University is diverse and open to alternative views. My wife graduated from there and I went there for two years but graduated from another college. We loved attending and have some great friends and memories from Liberty.
The author makes some theological claims when comparing Sanders to John the Baptist that are at best specious and at worst, inappropriate. I have heard many arguments like this from the left-wing and take them seriously as the subject of caring for the poor and needy is important to me as a follower of Christ. Judging from the article, however, it sounds like this might have been the first time that the author was exposed to the liberal line of thinking on the topic. Sander’s arguments along with proponents of the political left present a high level of sophistry and appeal. However, contrary the presumptions of the author, there is not much theological gymnastics that one must take to defend conservative values related to serving the poor.
The example of Jesus and words of the Paul are referred to by evangelical/conservative/right wing Christians often and correctly. The question is not, “who cares more for the poor?” but which economic system works better for society and individuals. As much as the left-wing rails on the immorality of greedy capitalists, none of us would be able to care for a wider range of poor throughout the world if it were not for the economic globalization expanded through free-trade and the idea of capitalism. Obviously, I am not defending lawlessness or crony-capitalism.
The U.S. gives more per capita than any European countries even though European countries are much further along in their transition to socialism. Why is this true? I don’t know. I would like to say that it might be because, in the U.S., we don’t expect the State to care for our neighbor. The more control to tax and redistribute that we give to a centralized state the less we feel obligated to reach into our own pockets to assist. I don’t blame Europeans for letting the government give to the poor for them. They probably don’t have too much to give after tax day! Aside from the giving aspect of left vs. right, I believe that almost every left-wing appeal to help the poor is really an attempt to demonize the right and get more voters through the use of pandering. I can’t prove this and I know not all left-leaning voters are for this but this is what I see.
Now to the other point: Jesus’ appeal to help the poor. I just finished a book that spoke to a similar topic and would be remiss if I didn’t include a quote: “There were strains of socialism in the “Christian era,” he admitted, but that was based on the principle “all mine is yours.” …he said the socialism of … a Socialist Member of Parliament, was based on the idea that “all yours is mine”. This quote is from Larry Arnn’s book “Churchill’s Trial” and Arnn is pointing out Winston Churchill’s negative view of socialism. Sander’s socialism can be described as an “all yours is mine” approach while Christ and Paul do not seem to endorse this point of view. As Christians we seem to be free to debate which system is actually better. There is a place for a safety net but conservative Christians would recommend letting communities, counties, and states take care of this before the Fed if possible.
I do not see how voting for candidates who promote individual freedom and limited central government is non-Christian or less Christian in any way. We are to love and give to others but given the inefficiencies of the Fed it makes more sense to shy away from a standardized central mechanism that resembles the historically failed socialistic models. The author of the article presents a straw man argument against conservatives by depicting them as uncaring for the poor where that is just not true.
Many on the left, like dividing people into group like rich vs. poor, powerful vs. non-powerful, white vs. non-white, haves vs. have-nots, men vs. women etc… The author picks up on the division between rich and poor several times. However, John the Baptist and Jesus admonished both the rich and the poor to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. Repent from sin and turn to God. There seems to have been rich and poor Christians in the early church although Christians were advised not to prefer the rich over the poor (See James 2:1-4). It must be mind-boggling to left-leaning Christians to see the terrible injustice of a financially stratified church in the first century. It seems both the privileged and unprivileged had access to Christ’s grace as they worshipped together. This is not to say that this is the ideal, however, it does not seem like the amount of money in one’s bank account will be a measuring stick to see who gets into heaven. Indeed, it is based on whether or not Christ knows us as his children.
Also Paul seems to condemn readers from living off of the system (See 2 Thess 3:10-12) Further, tax collectors were rich and Jesus seems to prefer a humble and repentant tax collector over a proud Pharisee (See Luke 18:9-14). Luke, a trained medical physician was most likely not penniless and he wrote the book of Luke and Acts as a companion of Paul. His prologue to Luke admonishes Christians to search the evidence for the truth. It seems he was writing to an intelligent and educated group not all of whom would be poor. So let’s stop dividing the church and demonizing people based upon income level. We are all sinners in need of a savior.
Conservative values are well integrated in the Bible and certainly do not oppose its teachings. Does that mean that there are not immoral or terrible people who consider themselves conservatives? No. There are certainly those people. There are also those on the left that are just as greedy and corrupt. The question for helping the poor comes down to which political or economic ideas best serve all in the long run. In my opinion, the left-wing’s appeal to Jesus is the very definition of the word specious: “superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleading in appearance, especially misleadingly attractive” (found by searching “specious” on Google)
Christians on the left and on the right disagree on how to implement our giving to the poor. We both agree that the U.S. is not a theocracy and thus we should not expect the Fed to fulfill scriptural teachings per-se. This does not mean that our nation and laws aren’t stemming, in part, from a Judeo-Christian context. However, it does mean that “social-justice” Christians should not expect the “secular” government to make policies based on purely Biblical references. Policy-making in the U.S. should consider the various and competing influences from all sides of the electorate. Laws should be in line with the Constitution and if the Constitution does not speak to a matter, then the states are given priority to make laws. This is the picture of Federalism which our government was based on from the beginning. If left-wing Christians are allowing scripture to direct their policy decisions, then they should not oppose conservatives who use scripture to justify their opposing same-sex marriage as a policy matter. Indeed, we are all given the freedom to debate and persuade others and to hold any number of true and/or false beliefs that we want to. We are also free to vote and live according to our conscience based on those beliefs. I believe scripture should be a huge piece of every Christians voting pattern and that the government should allow people to debate and figure out policy without short-circuiting the process as has been recently seen in the case of an activist court system.