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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Message to a liberal friend

I wrote this message today to someone on a Jim Wallis-oriented online group that I am a part of. The question was asked of the group:
"What passage from the Bible do you find most helpful in defining your political position?"
This person responded:
I think that the passage with the "double whammy" strikes me as a solid endorsement of societal responsibility for the "thirsty" those without safe drinking water), "hungry" (those who suffer from malnutrition), and so on.

I say double whammy because the text says that those who do assist persons lacking these basic necessities will attain salvation, and, it also says that those who do not, will not attain salvation.
Pretty strong words!

Yet, many Christians attach more importance to abortion, right to die, stem cell research, and gays, than to the exhortation to practice "social justice". I don't mean that to be judgmental about those who give short shrift to social justice issues... I think many persons who pay less heed to "social justice" are conscientious persons, but they just don't pick up on the theme.
Here is my response:

Dear ****,

I agree with you completely that Christians are commanded to care for the poor. However, what is not clear from the Bible is how this should be done. This is where someone like myself is probably going to differ from many of you (and that is ok).

I am sure that many of you are very bothered by conservatives that make conservative arguments from the Bible that aren't necessarily valid. In the same way, though, the same mistake is made by pointing out passages from the Bible like this as a way of supporting certain
government policies. I get the sense a bit that Jim Wallis makes this mistake, but I could be wrong.

There is no room for debate as to whether Christians have a responsibility to care for the poor. (I say that and I'm sure that someone will argue with me :)) However, there is plenty of room for reasonable disagreement as to how this is done.

My issue with many government run and mandated programs to help the poor is not only that they rarely work, but that they also tend to have many less than desirable effects.

Of course that that leaves a tremendous responsibility on the Church to address the issues of poverty, homelessness, etc. I think if you look close enough though, you would find many churches, including those that tend to be rather conservative politically, doing this already. Is it enough? No.

Another reason that I am no fan of government programs is that they always ignore the spiritual aspect of poverty.

Should conservative evangelicals focus more on poverty than sex? Yes. No doubt. But do not confuse opposition to various government programs as apathy towards the poor.

Respectfully yours,
Dignan

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