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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

So How then Can Government Help?

President Abraham Lincoln declared: “The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.  But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere.”  In America and Europe, organizations such as the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Salvation Army were Christian initiatives established to, as Gonzalez has said, “reach the impoverished and unchurched masses.”  Ordinary people saw a need and responded.  The United Way and the American Red Cross were also developed to aid those in need.  Voluntary contributions have allowed them to successfully aid millions. 

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said concerning a tax for the maintenance of the poor: 

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.

 The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of  all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.

Knowing this, Christians should encourage personal and voluntary charity as the Bible has prescribed instead of deferring the responsibility of attending to social ills to the state.  More government is not the solution.  Should the government redistribute societal wealth so that none are rich, who would help the poor?  Besides, what reasonable person would continue attaining prosperity if it would all be taken from him and given away?  What good is working hard if hard work is in vain?  If government remains the sole entity with all wealth, power, and control, if they control the marketplace, production, who eats, and who drinks, then freedom is surely lost. 

 The best way government can promote the greater good of society is by giving the poor the tools to help them become self-sufficient.  Government intent should be to lend a hand-up, not a hand-out.  American President Dwight D. Eisenhower has rightly advised, “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human.  In all those things which deal with people’s money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative.”  Unfortunately, some regimes have found it difficult to be conservative with other people’s money. 

 McDurmon called to mind that “People, once the beneficiaries of government extortion, will never relinquish their ‘benefits’ voluntarily, even if it means others must bear the burden of being stolen from.  This is the basis on which most people will vote: the candidate that promises them the most money.  This is salvation politics.”  In the United States, many domestic benefactors of government aid refuse to or are ill equipped to become self-reliant.  Socialist policies have created perpetual dependents who have not and will not provide for themselves or their families.  These dependents refuse to perceive the aid as a temporary help, denying the taxpayers relief from the burden of supporting them; and they reject work in exchange for taxpayer funded public assistance.  Scripture says those who refuse to provide for their families have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).  

Church, Rise Up

Were the Church to lead by example and champion the cause of the sick and downtrodden, the needy would not seek the help of the government; but seek Christ to fulfill their needs. When people are in Christ, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live righteously, according to God’s Word.  They are taught how to live responsibly and selflessly.  They are taught personal responsibility.  They are taught to love their neighbor.  The people would not be so deceived as to elect governments to do the work that the Church was intended to do.  Secular governments would have immense disapproval when they erect themselves in opposition to the Church.  Nearly every socialist government has always led to the suppression of Christianity.  Were the Church to proclaim the Word of the Lord all over the earth, people would not be overly consumed with temporal matters but instead heed the words of Christ: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).  Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always” (Matt. 26:11); men will have many opportunities to be charitable.  This suggests that there is no permanent solution to poverty in the here and now.  Biblically speaking, at a man’s best he is poor and dying outside of fellowship with Jesus Christ.  

 Despite the best human efforts, the biggest obstacle to the fairness in which socialism supposedly seeks is human sinfulness. Scripture, for example, has demonstrated that some able-bodied men refuse to work and contribute to their own livelihood. These men relish in laziness and delight in blaming others for their failures. Who should bear the burden for these slackers? The Apostle Paul said that these men who choose not to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).  Therefore, although socialist governments attempt to rectify disparities within their lands, socialism falls short. It exacerbates the inequities instead of alleviates them. It fails. These governments are only successful in making its citizens substantially deprived slaves of a godless state.  

 Christ never condoned or advocated for such a system. Christ entrusted the moral responsibility to care for the less fortunate to His church, not the government. The rampant spread of socialism throughout the earth should cause a sleeping Church to wake up, rise and reclaim its rightful place. Preach Christ everywhere, give to those in need, and defend the faith knowing that heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will live on forever (Lk. 21:33).

Suggested Readings:

The Bible

God Versus Socialism, A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel by Joel McDurmon

Money, Greed, and God:  Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay W. Richards

The Story of Christianity, The Early Church to the Present Day by Justo L. Gonzalez

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 2

by Providence Crowder

Wealth is Not Evil

The Bible indicated that certain believers had been entrusted with riches (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, etc.) and others had lived in poverty.  Although Christ encouraged the idea of community and admonished believers to care for the poor, He never guaranteed any man an income, poor or otherwise, nor did He rectify inequalities in material wealth (see the parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30).  In the book of Luke, a man from the crowd asked Christ to make his brother share his wealth with him.  The man demanded, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’  And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Lk. 12:13-14). 

 Jesus observed men’s attitudes towards money and possessions, and He addressed the very condition of their heart, which Scripture taught was deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9).   Christ rebuked men, both rich and poor; those who would make money their idol, those who suffered greed, those who coveted, and those who would seek after riches instead of seeking the kingdom.  Over and over again Jesus redirected mankind away from being consumed with material possessions and the accumulation of them, because serving God and serving possessions were incompatible.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). 

 Community not Communism

Certainly some modern Christian communities have taken to modeling after the first century church in Jerusalem, where the believers were said to have given all of their possessions and they held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35).  This idea of a communal church in which no property was privately owned and all things were shared equally has had some appeal for modern believers.  Yet, in the context of the early church, which suffered great persecution at the hands of the Roman government, community was all they had.  Until the rule of fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was outlawed and Christians did not share in the wealth that is common for some Christians today.  Christians held no positions of authority, they had no political power, and they did not live peacefully among other Roman citizens, and they could in no way look to their government for any type of assistance or help. 

 Because persecution was so severe in the land, these citizens voluntarily gave all they had for their common good, so that all of their brethren may both worship God AND eat.  Consistent with the teachings in the Bible, they did what they wished with their own property.  As in Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner proclaimed, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things?  Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15) These early Christians did not cling to material wealth or possessions but lived each moment not knowing if it would be their last. 

 The early church’s communal experience in Jerusalem ended as early as the first century with the scattering of the saints to other regions due to persecution (Acts 8:1).  And despite persecution, Christians preached the gospel everywhere.  They, like their Messiah, cared for the poor in spirit above all and in addressing the physical needs of a man, that man became more receptive to God’s message of salvation and redemption.  Christians were generous in giving and they served the underprivileged while sharing God’s message of love and hope to the unsaved masses.   Secular governments, on the other hand have robbed and oppressed in the name of righteousness, tyrants have abused their citizens in the name of goodwill; all under the guise of equality.

The Need for Evangelism

Many societies have felt the social and moral obligation to help those working poor who struggle to make ends meet and to provide for those who are unable to care for themselves; and rightfully so.  Still, with more people on the welfare rolls than ever before and billions of dollars being pumped into impoverished communities all over the world, poverty remains.  Resultantly, many Christian proponents of socialism have become, as Justo Gonzalez has asserted, “preoccupied with the existing social conditions” instead of focusing on Christian evangelism and discipleship.  Were the needy to know the true and living God, they would recognize that their existing social conditions are temporal and that their happiness doesn’t persist in material wealth.  Were the more fortunate to rightly know Him, their hearts and desires would be turned from self toward others, generosity would be instinctive, and they would take to the business of blessing other people.  Were people to know God through His Son Jesus, serving one another would be an inherent virtue.  However, because of the perpetual selfishness and wickedness of the ungodly, and because many in the church often fail to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) in their clamor to erect buildings instead of building people, greed, vanity, and covetousness reign above charity.

Government “Charity”

In any nation, governments do not produce wealth but merely collect and redistribute it.  In a constitutional republic such as America, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; and under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to collect taxes so that the government may properly function in its governing.  As the Apostle Paul said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Rom. 13:1, 6).  Taxes do serve their purpose and through paying them, taxpayers receive some product, good, or service from their government in exchange for their money; as well, the citizens who pay no taxes directly benefit from the public services that are provided at taxpayer expense.  Yet concerning taxpayer subsidies to the poor, no such exchange exists.  Giving in exchange for nothing in return is charity.  Christian charity is voluntary; government charity is extortion.  The term government charity is an oxymoron because the term implies choice. Outside of our biblical responsibility to those in our family and of our household, no person should be forced to pay for another person’s education, health care, or housing. 

 Joel McDurmon has noted that although, “God does require that we not let our poor neighbors languish,” the question remains, “Does He authorize the State to use force toward this end?” That answer is no.  Government should not exercise force upon its citizens unless, as Charles G. Finney has warned, “It is demanded to promote the highest public good; it is the duty of government to inflict penalties when their infliction is demanded by the public interest.” But what if a man is poor and starving?  Should the government then force its citizens to feed the poor?  The biblical answer is no.  The Bible proclaims, “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.  Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Prov. 6:30-31).  And though most can empathize, stealing is wrong even in the worst instances of poverty.  Like Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. proclaimed, “It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”  Government is not justified in stealing from one family to feed another. 

Jay W. Richards said: 

The government functions stem from our inalienable rights.  We have a right to protect ourselves, for instance, so we can delegate that right to government.  We don’t have the right to take the property of one person and give it to another.  Therefore, we can’t rightfully delegate that function to the state.  Delegated theft is still theft . . . Using the state to redistribute wealth from one citizen to another is different from general taxation for legitimate governmental functions, such as those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than promoting the general welfare, redistribution schemes involve a group of citizens voting to have the government take property from others and give it to them.  Rather than celebrating such schemes, Christians should be holding them to the light of moral scrutiny.

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 3, “So How then Can Government Help?”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 1

by Providence Crowder

Was Jesus a Socialist?

Many people question whether or not Jesus of Nazareth promoted and supported the ideas of a socialist government.  That question can be emphatically answered no.   Socialism can be defined as “an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state.  It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels” (World English Dictionary).  By this definition, Jesus can be said to espouse some socialist views, but he does so only within the confines of His Church, not secular government.  Out of love for God and fellow man, Christ taught His followers to voluntarily and charitably give of their possessions to care for and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in society; the sick, elderly, poor, widow, and orphan.

The visible church, the people of God, was to be a conduit for healing and deliverance through proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ saves; a message of hope to a lost and dying world.  All who acknowledged and turned from their sin, received Him and placed their trust in His name (whether rich in this world or poor) would be awarded eternal life (Jn. 1:12).  Through Christ’s example, His disciples were taught that preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, the worship of God Almighty, and righteous living were to be primary focuses in this life, not accumulation of wealth or material goods.  The poor were warned not to covet (Lk. 12:13-21) or be anxious about temporal hardships (Phil. 4:6), and the rich were cautioned not to trust in uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17) and admonished to give generously.  Because of sin, the poor and the rich alike were both spiritually depraved and in need of salvation.  The Church was tasked to share the gospel, while showing the same concern for the needs of all people as Christ did.

The Problem with Socialism

The concept of socialism in government (government sanctioned equality of outcome) is not biblical.  Joel McDurmon said it best when he affirmed that the Bible has “never spoke a single verse in support of government involvement in charity, health, education, or business . . . Where is universal health care in the Bible?  Where is government-guaranteed minimum wage in the Bible?  Jesus accepted wages to be negotiated between workers and employers, not guaranteed by government decree.”  Jesus never proposed that any secular king or government should take on the role of provider or savior.  Government was established by God to punish evil and promote good (Rom. 13:1-5), and administer justice (1 Pt. 2:13-15).  Its function was not to make victims of its citizens by robbing and forcing charitable acts upon the most productive in society to subsidize government prioritized charity; where its citizens were forced to succumb to that government’s definition of equity and fairness concerning one’s fortune, health, and personal sustenance; where acquiring wealth was considered criminal and immoral; where a man’s worth was measured merely by earthly standards; where Christ was nowhere preached. 

Besides increasing poverty through minimizing economic growth and opportunity, socialism creates a vast social and financial imbalance by placing most societal resources in the hands of a few bureaucratic bandits and politicians who relegate individual freedoms.  These bandits, as McDurmon has noted, “redistribute wealth evenly despite an individuals’ productivity.”  Thus, socialism reduces incentive and motivation, and discourages hard work.  Scripture taught just the opposite.  Individual responsibility, owning private property, inheritance of wealth, hard work in exchange of personal reward or profit, and wise stewardship were encouraged throughout Scripture.  Laziness, idleness, and gratuitously remaining a monetary burden to others were rebuked.  All able-bodied men, poor or otherwise, were required to work (Ex. 23:11, Lev. 19:9).  The poor were encouraged to help themselves; the disciples taught that every able-bodied individual was to work and contribute toward their own livelihood.  The Apostle Paul commanded this, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:6-10).  Other biblical passages support the same. Socialism remains unbiblical even, like McDurmon said, when you use the poor to try and justify it.

Some proponents of socialism claim the advice such as the Apostle Paul gave to the Church at Corinth in His second epistle to them prove equality of outcome is a biblical principle that should be held by all.  The Apostle stated,

 “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.   And in this I give advice . . .  by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:9-13).

 Essentially, Paul knew that all wealth belonged to the Lord, and men were mere stewards.  His advice and challenge for believers was to emulate Christ’s selflessness in giving.  People with material wealth, because of their abundance, were in a position to help the poor.  If everyone followed Christ’s example, then men’s basic needs would be met.  Jesus showed mercy to all people and He especially cared for the poor; He loved them, He rebuked them, He corrected them, He taught them, He fed them.  Believers should do the same. 

 Generosity was a principle strongly promoted throughout the Bible and the concept of giving was valued, not only so that none should lack anything, but so that money would not become their taskmaster.  Those who gave charitably were considered good stewards (1 Pet. 4:9-10).  Christian giving was always voluntary and “as each has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7) unlike in socialist governments in which giving is coerced and involuntary.  Biblical charity involved choice.  God commanded men that when they gave, they were to give generously and do so without a grudging heart” (Deut. 15:10). 

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 2, “Wealth is Not Evil.”

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

Suggestions, Solutions, Reflections

If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!  They would end the practice of deficit spending for programs and entitlements that do more harm than help and pass a balanced budget amendment requiring the federal government to exercise responsibility and restraint concerning its outrageous spending.  All Americans are expected to live within their means; therefore, so should the government we elect. 

Seemingly, our current President, Barack Obama, has a vision for America different than the vision of the founders of the great American experiment.  They envisioned a nation of free peoples whom—unlike all the nations before her— would govern themselves and share in ruling.  American colonists became disenfranchised and disillusioned by monarchial British rule; therefore, personal liberty and limited government were central themes to the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  Many nations have since emulated the American model and have tried to duplicate America’s ingenuity and success. 

Yet President Obama envisions big government and limited liberty because he has no confidence that Americans are capable enough to make responsible choices with their money and with their lives.  He believes in a ruling class, the government.  He promotes class distinctions by demonizing the rich and demoralizing the poor.  His ideology is reminiscent of German revolutionary and socialist Karl Marx.  Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is quoted as stating this of Marxism;

Marxism taught me what society was.  I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t even know where the north or south is.  If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything.[14]

 But the grand communist experiment was just a secularized attempt to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, but without the God of heaven.  Richards notes that:

Marx’s story has the main elements of the Christian story: primeval paradise, fall, redemption, eternal paradise.  It’s just stripped of reverences to God, sin, Jesus, and the afterlife.”[15]  Christ established his Church, and we are expected to be salt and light—reflecting God’s kingdom though sin and death are among us.  Yet our good works will never bring about God’s kingdom.[16]  It’s a delusion to believe that we can build a utopia if we try hard enough.[17]  This vision doesn’t take in account human sinfulness and God’s mercy.  Jesus Christ will establish his Kingdom and if we try, we will not only fail, but “do more harm than good.[18] 

I believe Marx, Castro, and Obama genuinely want a world in which the ordering of society is more fair and just.  But when we speak of building a just society, we must ask ourselves, “just compared with what?  It does no good to tear down a society that is ‘unjust’ compared with the Kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.”[19]  Compared to God’s Kingdom, every society gets failing grades.[20] Therefore, to hate capitalism and prefer socialism or communism is not more just.  Socialism has proven to bring greater poverty and injustice among the people and “never has there been a greater gap between ideas and outcomes than in communism.”[21]  Jay Richards notes that socialists, “talk a good talk, denouncing inequality and defending the poor, and despite the nasty outcome of their experiments, they can still get a pass from those who sympathize with their ideals.”[22]  

The current administration, under the lead of President Obama, should end its love affair with socialism and end his policies of taxing and spending.  The more that the government does for its people, the more dependent the people become and less likely they are to provide for themselves.  Without the safety net of big government, out-of-wedlock pregnancies look less attractive, hard work becomes necessary to eat, saving for hard times becomes a priority, community becomes important again to care for the least in society, and the government can focus on governing and protecting our freedoms.  America is still a great nation, and with the right leadership, the ideas upon which she was founded upon will again be respected.


 [1] Jay W. Richards is an author and theologian.  He has a PhD in philosophy and a Master of Ministry.  He has written dozens of books and articles on the topics of economics, theology, and science.  He has published in academic journals all over the country and he is an editor and contributor to numerous apologetic and theological research publications.

[2] Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009), 94.

[3] Joel McDurmon, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2009), 43.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2010), 273-74.

[5] McDurmon, 43.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Grudem, 274.

[8] 2011 Chart Book, “Federal Spending Chart 7.”  Retrieved from http://blog.heritage.org/2011/08/21/chart-of-the-week-defense-spending-has-declined-while-entitlement-spending-has-increased/ on January 10, 2012.

[9] A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964.  Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer

[10] John Wihbey, “2011 Annual Report by the Social Security Board of Trustees,” Retrieved from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/politics/social-security-report-2011/.

 [11] McDurmon, 47.

[12] Richards 51.

[13] Ibid., 47.

[14] Castro, Fidel; Ramonet, Ignacio (interviewer) (2009). My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. New York: Scribner.

[15] Richards, 30.

[16] Richards, 30.

[17] Richards, 31.

[18] Richards, 30.

[19] Ibid., 31.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 25.

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 2

by Providence Crowder

Ethical Implications

Spending of this sort is immoral; it is sure to hurt the poor and others who are dependent upon the government for their livelihood.  America’s reckless entitlement spending has baited many American’s into dependency and has promised future payments that won’t be worth the paper they are printed on.  Even the social security program—the biggest entitlement program to date—is set to have major problems, and soon!  Started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1930’s New Deal, the idea behind social security was admirable.  The pay-as-you-go structure of the system worked well as long as there were more people paying into the system than receiving benefits, and it has been a lifeline to many retired and disabled Americans.  The program was designed to be self-sustaining, and it was in 1935 when it was first implemented.

However, the program did not take into account factors such as population spikes, rising life expectancy, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and a smaller working-aged population in comparison to a much larger elderly population.  With the retirement of millions of baby boomers[9] on the horizon, the ratio of workers to retirees will soon shift.  Additionally, many of the young and disabled recipients of social security/disability insurance and benefits have never paid into the system, adding to the imbalanced debt to income ratio.  According to the 2011 annual report by the program’s Board of Trustees, within the next 10 years, the interest and income received from payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover expenditures to Social Security beneficiaries.[10]  

Even though working citizens are required by law to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes from their wages, they have no promise or guarantee from the government that in their elderly years, they will receive benefits.  Social Security reform should be at the top of every elected officials list.  Reform is needed to end the government’s policy of taxing the income of working citizens on the premise that they may or may not receive future payments.  It’s like the government is playing the scratch-off lottery tickets with other peoples earned income—and like the lottery, not everyone’s a winner. The federal government should, at a minimum, allow citizens the option of opting out of the current high risk government system with proof that they are allocating a comparable retirement savings elsewhere. 

Contrary to popular belief, America is not too big to fail.  However, on her current path, she is a sinking ship.  Thankfully, it’s not too late for America.  If only she would repent of her sinful monetary squandering and return to God, because only God himself can unsink the Titanic.  If the American government does not curb its appetite for spending and end its experimentations and flirtations with socialism, she will become as all the great empires before her, a celebrated chronicle of a fallen nation.  Our current president, Barack Obama, has expressed a desire to “spread the wealth around” in what I suppose is an effort to minimize the gaps between the rich and the poor, alleviating the effects of poverty.  He has pushed for increased government control over schools, banks, housing, and healthcare—to name a few.  He apparently has not heard of the disastrous results of the first socialism experiment of early European settlers in America—the Pilgrims.  Widespread poverty and starvation resulted and nearby Indians had to bail them out!

Enough with the mechanics; America’s problem is more than political, it’s moral.   America is facing a very real ethical dilemma.   I say this because not all of our spending is the result of greed and politics.  Some is the result of good intentions but bad methodology.  Well-intended people have supported policies that have had egregious, unintended consequences for American industry as a whole.  Much of our federal government entitlement and social program spending were efforts to help those in need—the poor, the indigent, the socially rejected and economically depraved.  For example, President FDR’s New Deal government programs were meant to end the Great Depression, but instead deepened and lengthened it.  Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” started in the mid-1960’s cost trillions of dollars to date and has not worked.  It has essentially turned America into a welfare state.[11]  

As a compassionate people who care about the poor, sick, and elderly, America cannot afford not to pursue entitlement reform.  Excessive entitlement spending is intricately related to other issues that adversely affect the poor, such as an unfair tax code, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and rising costs of goods and services due to inflation.  Talks of reducing entitlements sound cruel to some Americans.  Some believe that if the federal government cuts entitlement spending, the poor, disabled, single parents, women, and minority groups in this nation will suffer.  But to date, the welfare state has caused economic and social problems even worse than those it was meant to eradicate.  The unintended consequences of increased government control through massive entitlement programs are: “the breakdown of the family and illegitimacy, especially among poor and urban minorities, and white Appalachians—and creating cycles of dependency that transfer from one generation to the next.”[12]    

Besides that, welfare system abuses have exploded the number of voluntarily unemployed because welfare is generally a disincentive to work.  It has caused anger and class warfare, and a poverty trap that is difficult to escape.  It has caused despair, hopelessness, and envy.   Long-term dependency upon welfare is degrading and has adversely affected poor black and white communities all around the country.  In black American homes, illegitimate children, poverty, and illiteracy rates are greater today than they were in the 1920’s when racism was rampant and blacks faced harsh discrimination and vast societal disparities.[13]   The harsh reality is, though federal spending has skyrocketed over the past few decades as a result of entitlement spending, we have zilch to show for our looming debt except generations of dependent citizens of a welfare state.  We need serious reforms to the welfare system and policies that would promote a strong job market to draw those on welfare into the workforce.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Unsinking the Titanic.  Excerpt: ” If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 2

 by Providence Crowder

The Prosperity Gospel, the Wrong Gospel

Many church leaders in the twenty-first century have aided in the oppression and bondage of the scripturally illiterate masses by promoting material worship through the “prosperity” gospel.  Advances in technology, such as the advent of television and internet, make the preaching of a false gospel more devastating as it is able to quickly reach large audiences.[25]  These false prophets promise prosperity and healing, often in exchange for an offering or a fee.  Prominent twenty-first century televangelist and Pastor Frederick K. Price is quoted as saying on his Ever Increasing Faith television broadcast that “The Bible says that he (Jesus) has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.  That’s why I drive a Rolls Royce.  I’m following Jesus’ steps.”[26] 

Likewise, televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27]  The statements made by these preachers sound characteristic of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the ones he rebuked saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Mt. 23:25). 

Finding Balance Between Social Justice and Evangelism

Christians should continue their plight for social justice.  Dr. Martin Luther King summed up beautifully the Christian response to the social evils that plague this world:

The Kingdom of God as a universal reality is not yet.  Because sin exists on every level of man’s existence, the death of one tyranny is followed by the emergence of another . . . Although man’s moral pilgrimage may never reach a destination point on earth, his never-ceasing strivings may bring him ever closer to the city of righteousness.[28]

In North America, Christian abolitionists—evangelicals—used political means to bring about an end to slavery; Baptist preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well, became politically active in his plight for civil rights for black Americans; and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez urged the Church to use political means to bring about liberation for the peoples in the countries of Latin America, where “the situation of injustice and oppression is characterized as a sinful situation”[29] because the oppression is so great. 

Unfortunately, many of the Church’s recent movements for liberation have abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ, the fountain from which her good works should flow.  These Christians have instead allowed gospel killers to inform their theology.  Many Christian social justice proponents have become overly concerned with materialism and balancing material wealth among peoples as a means for providing justice to the poor.  They do little in “balancing the scale” with their own wealth; yet in the name of justice, they use the powerful arm of government to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

They have done the very thing that Christ warned not to do, seek after worldly possessions and covet others wealth.  They fight the sin of oppression but stumble into the sin of materialism.  In doing so, they have inadvertently deepened inequalities and dependency, victimization and suffering.[30]  Again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offers his wisdom by advising his Christian brethren that laws do not change a man’s internal feelings.  Government cannot make a man love his neighbor or give to feed the hungry—religion and education must do that—but government can and should control the external effects of sin; it can control a man’s efforts to lynch and kill, enslave and abuse.  Dr. King suggests that one way Christians in America, who as citizens are afforded a voice in governing, can continue the struggle for justice is through gaining control of the ballot box—by promoting legislation that will restrain the effects of sin.[31] 

Conclusion

The happenings of the nineteenth and twentieth century should inform the twenty-first century Church that she should not discount the great sufferings in the world on account of human sinfulness—such indifference can lead to apathy and skepticism among those in whom the gospel seeks to influence.[32]   Christians should follow the example left by Christ and exhibit care and concern for their neighbors, because “to know God is to do justice.”[33] One aspect of Christian life is charity—feeding the hungry and giving to the poor—charity is a necessary aspect of God’s message of love. 

The Apostle James emphasized further God’s intentions for his people to not only believe him but obey him when he said, “Faith divorced from deeds is barren.”[34] (James 2:20).  Christian’s should not be merely concerned with external worship while ignoring God’s commandment to “love your neighbor.”[35] Social justice has a passion that seems right; yet the Church should be warned—she is no more than a self-righteous social movement if the heart of her aspirations and the object of her adoration are not centered on Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 1

Imageby Providence Crowder

At certain times throughout history, the Church had failed to side with the oppressed, choosing for erroneous reasons to instead to side with oppressive human governments.  They had negated their charge to “dispense justice to the cause of the lowly and poor.”[1]  The Church’s silence on social matters had spoken volumes to those who, like black slaves in America, suffered grave injustices at the hands of ill-willed men.  If theology intended to, as Karl Barth has suggested, “apprehend, understand, and speak of the God of the gospel,”[2] then understandably the theological tendencies of the poor and oppressed would be towards the God who dispensed justice to the cause of the poor; they would cleave to Christ the liberator of the world who sets the captives free.[3] 

The liberating nature of the words of Jesus that expressed his care and concern for the hungry, depraved, widow, and orphan, have given hope to the hopeless.  Liberation theology was birthed out of the aspirations of the oppressed; out of their hopes to change social class structures, instances of poverty, and occurrences of injustice and oppression—all consequences of sin.  Liberation theology had given a voice to the marginalized groups of the world who had, in recent times, became theologians in their own right by emphasizing the socially sensitive aspects of Scripture; “Though you offer countless prayers, I will not listen.  There is blood on your hands . . . Cease to do evil and learn to do right, pursue justice and champion the oppressed; give the orphan his rights, plead the widow’s cause”[4] (Isa. 1:10-17).  The Second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII had propelled liberation theology to its heights by challenging the Church to break with its past practices and side with the poor.[5]  Yet, the challenge for the Church has continually been to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) without minimizing the gospel to a social justice contract.[6] 

Marxism, a Gospel Killer

In their zest for economic liberty and liberation of the poor in the world, Christians have often abandoned the gospel of Christ for “other” gospels—social, prosperity, and liberal gospels.  The Church must avoid submitting to the ideologies of “gospel killers” in her plight to care for the oppressed.  For example, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, various challenges for the church paved the way for philosophies such as Fascism, Socialism, Marxism, and Communism to influence Christian thought[7]—each political system brought about their own perversions of societal justice and economic equality by using governmental power, coercive measures, and oftentimes violence.

Marxism[8] in particular had a huge impact upon Christian theology in the nineteenth century.[9] The concept of materialism is central to the Marxism doctrine.[10]   Karl Marx claimed that “The way in which human beings respond to their material needs determines everything else.  Ideas, including religious ideas, are responses to material reality.”[11]   He further argued that religion was thus, “the result of a certain set of social and economic conditions. Change those conditions, so that the economic alienation is eliminated, and religion will cease to exist.”[12]   One of his primary arguments was that religion will exist as long as it meets some economic need in the life of the disenfranchised.  Remove the economic need through Communism, a system in which everything is commonly owned and material goods are distributed equally among the people, and religion will cease to exist.[13]

While recognizing that materialism is a very real problem, Christians must guard against the Marxist spirit—killer of the gospel—because it robs the oppressed of true liberation in this world and the next; true liberation is only accomplished in the redemptive work of Christ.[14]  Marxism and materialism are synonymous; they both focus on the corporeal and disregard the eternal.  Therefore, Marxism is antithetical to the gospel’s message of selfless giving, love, and Christian service in response to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Black Liberation Theology, A Gospel Killer

Numerous theological movements surfaced during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each having varying criticisms and interpretations.  Modern trends attributed truth no longer to the God of Scripture, but to nature and humanity.[15]  Indifference to religion became a worldwide phenomenon.[16]  As a result of biblical criticism, a feminist critique of the Bible surfaced in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Women had suffered great oppression and mistreatment at the hands of men.  Many of these men had used the Bible, particularly the writings of the Apostle Paul, to justify their oppression of women.[17]   

As well, black slaves in America were kept under subjection in part by their slave master’s improper exegesis of the Pauline writings.[18]   Once freed, blacks sought to rightly read the Scriptures, refusing to exploit the Scriptures to manipulate people[19] as their slave masters had done.  Unfortunately, much like their oppressors, many of the marginalized during the modern era began to interpret Scripture through the lens of their social and economic experiences and needs.[20]   Some Christians had begun to dwell so much on social issues that they became preoccupied with the existing social conditions and forsook Christian evangelism and discipleship.   

For example, black liberation theology was a fruit of the black man’s experience in America.  “Black liberation theology began with the life experience of oppression and formulated theology respectively . . . It viewed the Christian gospel to that end.”[21]  Black liberation theology sought the dignity and improvement of the physical condition of the black man above all else.[22]  Black liberation theology failed to account that “full humanity is achieved through a union with Christ not through any material means, social class, or institutional structure.[23]   Christianity was reduced to “a means for poor blacks to achieve upward social mobility and economic liberation.”[24]  With liberal theologies such as black liberation, the gospel was no longer Christ centered but man centered.

Stay tuned for Beware of the Gospel Killers Part 2,The Prosperity Gospel, The Wrong Gospel.  Excerpt: “Televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27] 


[1] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1988), 110.

[2] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 5.

[3] Gutierrez, 111.

[4] Ibid., 111

[5] Ibid., xxi

[6] Gutierrez, xxi

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bradley, 87.  “Marxism’s fundamental presupposition is that human beings have no inherent nature.  Marxism views man not as an individual but rather as a species.  Early Marxism regarded man, not as an isolated individual but as ‘man in society,’ as primary.  In this way, Marxism is willing to give up the notion of a “person” in exchange for the community.  Overall, Marxism is centrally concerned with social ethics in such a way that ontological and epistemological categories often go uncategorized.  Marxism radically erases the individuality of the person, even to such an extent that acting in history with the potential to be productive or unproductive, the person must bow his will completely to the community and its objectives.”

[9] McGrath, Historical Theology, 229.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 230.

[12] Ibid., 231.

[13] McGrath, Historical Theology, 231.

[14] Bradley, 27.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology, 214.

[17] Carolyn Osiek, “Reading the Bible as Women,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 181.

 [18] James Earl Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans,’ in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 155.

[19] Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans, 155.

[20] James Earl Massey, “Reading the Bible from Particular Social Locations” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995),  introduction.

[21] Bradley 19.

[22] Ibid., 19.

[23] Ibid., 31.

[24] Ibid., 30.

[25] Dawn, 23.

[26]Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis in the 21st Century (Nashville:  Nelson Publishing, 2009), 198.

[27] Hanegraaff, 209.

[28] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Cleveland, Ohio: Fortress Press, 2010), 83-84.

[29] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, rev. ed. (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1988), 64.

[30] Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (New York, NY:  HaprerCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 12.

[31] Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, Writings & Speeches that Changed the World, 25.

 [32] McGrath, Historical Theology, 238.

[33] Ibid., 110.

[34] Ibid., 113.

[35] Ibid., 111.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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