Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Christian values at the point of a gun

Jerry Stratton, October 23, 2013

Jimmy Carter surprise

A relative on Facebook recently posted a scary photo of Jimmy Carter, and the quote:

If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor—then stop saying that you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.

Now, if this1 were saying that you should support lower taxes and smaller government so that you can instead give your money to the poor and to Christian organizations that help the poor, I might be able to get behind it. But I am not aware of any place in the New Testament where Jesus says, “you shall force your neighbor by the sword to support government welfare programs rather than private assistance.”

If you want to exhibit Christian values, you share of your own resources. You don’t take the resources of your neighbors and hand them out as if they were your own.

The most famous of Jesus’s samaritans, the Good Samaritan himself, helped on his own dime, not by forcing the innkeeper to give the victim free lodging. It was the priest and the Levite who left the victim to the assistance of government.

There is one place in the bible where Jesus comments on forced giving. In John 12:3-6, John records:

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

This is what the bible says forced giving leads to: corruption. Judas, who held the purse, did not want Mary to give to the poor; Judas wanted her to give to him.

Cronyism is rampant in government programs. Just as Judas siphoned from the disciples’ poor box, politicians and bureaucrats siphon from our tax monies to give to those who give back to them.

Jesus talked about this, too. Cronyists have their reward on earth: all of those politicians who rave to us about their programs, and who give to and through those who give back in votes and in campaign funds, are the antithesis of quiet Christian charity. In Matthew 6, Jesus says:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The Good Samaritan (Russian icon)

Samaritan, why are you wasting your time? Let the government handle it. That’s why you pay taxes.

The quietest way for a government to facilitate giving is simply to not take away people’s money in the first place. Here, also, the bible has something to say.

Perhaps the most on-target is Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In context, this is not an exhortation to pass burdens on to the government, but a cry for each individual to maintain the law of Christ in their own person:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Paul was not saying to let the government take over helping the poor. Each man should test their own good works, each should bear their own load. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing, stick with what you are doing.

Jesus recognized that government is flawed because government is of man, and man is flawed. “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)

This notion that wanting to control their own giving by keeping more of the money they earn being greed is something Thomas Sowell talks about in Vision of the Anointed:

Among the many other questions raised by the nebulous concept of “greed” is why it is a term applied almost exclusively to those who want to earn more money or to keep what they have already earned—never to those wanting to take other people’s money in taxes or to those wishing to live on the largesse dispensed from such taxation. No amount of taxation is ever described as “greed” on the part of government or the clientele of government.

Caesar is greed; god is love. Government bureaucrats are not Christian missionaries, nor should they be. But government welfare is the greed of Judas, wanting not to do one’s own good works, but to force the good works of one’s neighbor.

In response to Simple, obvious, and unobstructive: minimize the value-minus of taxes: There is no value-added in taxes, but we can minimize the loss of value.

December 2, 2014: Stephen Colbert’s Christian nation

Dear friends who keep posting Stephen Colbert and other quotes about us being a Christian nation meaning we need higher taxes to force everyone to give charitably to the poor and needy:

Most American Christians will tell you that being a Christian nation means we were founded in Christian values, and that this includes, as part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to choose our own Christian duties, the freedom to choose our own charitable acts. The freedom, that is, to choose wrongly as well as rightly; that virtue is no longer virtue when it is forced upon us by the government.

However, you certainly will be able to find Christians who agree with you, who will support your desire to have the government enforce Christian values at the point of the gun. They will happily join you in your crusade to enforce charity at all costs, to teach Christian beliefs at all levels of our government-run schools, to treat conception as the beginning of human life which must be protected at all costs…

This is what you want, right? This is what you’re asking for when you ask us to become a Christian nation by forcing Christian works?

Because that is not a nation I’m looking forward to.

  1. I’m not going to go into the provenance of the statement. Given how cavalierly most quotes on the Internet are sourced, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carter never said this. I see some people claiming it was said by some comedian or talk show host named John Fugelsang. Further, for all his faults Carter is big on private charity.

  1. <- Hiding tax complexity
  2. Flat vs fair ->