Christianity STILL Needs a Brand Manager
Well, there’s two icons I kind of hate to put together. I really dislike mixing religion and politics. It’s a lot like mixing your Legos and your Tinker Toys (back when we had good old wooden Tinker-toys). They obviously don’t go together naturally, they don’t look like they should fit together, and that’s only the beginning of the problems. Sure, you can force the wooden posts of the Tinker-toys into the little plastic circles on the underside of the Legos, but you’re GOING to break the little plastic circle and ruin that particular Lego, not to mention potentially breaking off the end of the wooden post in there, also ruining the Tinker Toy. Yes, that comes from many years of personal experience, and I think I just dated myself with the whole “Wooden Tinker Toy” thing.
One thing that I dislike more than mixing religion and politics, though, is when other people do it, and do it badly. Hence, blog post.
I have noticed a trend in politics; it should come as a surprise to no one, it isn’t a hard trend to notice. Some people might suggest that this trend has, rather than just appearing to be noticed, beat people over the head with it’s offensive obviosity. That trend is a tendency to reduce or remove programs designed to assist the poor.
Welfare is a tricky subject. I get that. There are people who can (and do) take advantage of the existing welfare system to avoid employment or other contribution to society and live off the well-intentioned and heavily-taxed earnings of their fellow citizens. There are also a great many more people who would gladly engage in employment (or other contribution to society) if the opportunity existed, but in the meantime they require shelter and nutrition for their families and themselves. This country has a number of social programs designed to help the latter, which does have safeguards against the former. Still, you can’t have one without the other, unfortunately.
Then there’s the question of whether the taxpayers of the U.S.A. should be helping the disadvantaged at all… the “why should I pay good money in taxes to pay for someone else’s family to have food?” argument. Discussions of the issue suggest a wide number of scenarios, from “anyone who isn’t making enough money to eat is choosing not to work and shouldn’t be assisted” to “children are starving, are we just going to let that happen?” It’s hard to have the discussion about this issue without things becoming impassioned and emotional.
Where do I fall in this discussion? My views on the matter (as will be seen further down) aren’t particularly germane, but I’ll share them anyway. I would rather see a hundred cheats get cash through the system than see one child go hungry. I know people who have had the job of determining eligibility for assistance; I can’t say I envy them the experience they’ve had. Between that, and the research done on the matter, I’m pretty sure that the issue of “welfare cheats” is a lot smaller issue than many people would like to believe it is. I also think that putting the time and effort into policing the system would better serve the country and its communities than saying “if anyone cheats, no one eats.”
My views on the matter aren’t what I really wanted to discuss. Like many politicians, I wanted to see what Jesus had to say about it. Unlike many politicians, I want to see what he ACTUALLY said about it. Along with the trend of cutting social programs comes an even less fortunate trend; using the name and personage of Christ to defend the practice of cutting social programs, because that’s what Jesus would have done.
I wish to GOD that I was making this up. I’ve put a lot of time into imagining and designing a dystopian near-future, and I could NOT have imagined the breadth and scope of this… this….
…well, let’s call it what it is, shall we? The practice of declaring that Christ would agree with and implement cuts to programs designed to aid the poor is nothing short of blasphemy, pure and simple.
In America, we do not have a centralized Blasphemy Police, and thank God for that. They’d have locked my @$$ up a dozen times by now. However, for matters of public import like this, maybe we DO need something like Blasphemy Police… or, as I have suggested before, a Brand Manager for Christianity. If you’re going to step into a public forum, particularly a political public forum, and attempt to drive home your point by using the name of Christ, you really ought to be held accountable if what you are actually saying is contrary to the teachings of Christ.
“Surely you exaggerate, Scott,” I can hear. “People wouldn’t do that.”
(When I hear things like that, it’s usually Evil Scott trying to shoot down my ideas. I can’t complain though, ’cause it only drives me to a higher standard).
Yes, it happens. It’ll happen again; people seeking such cuts apparently feel the need to convince their primarily Christian constituency that their cuts of social programs are neither immoral nor contrary to the central teachings of Christianity.
“But Scott,” I can hear. “Those sources are all from leftist, progressive sources. Surely they are exaggerating the problem.”
Well, I respond, the names are all there, the voting records are there, and the public statements are a matter of record. Don’t take my word for it, nor the word of these sources if you find them insufficient. Particularly if you see a representative of yours amongst those who stand accused; become informed. In the meantime, I’ll let the facts stand as stated… it’ll make my blog post more interesting.
The basics of the arguments made here are that Christ meant for the Church and private citizens to help the poor, but that the government does not have such a Christ-given responsibility. In fact, taking money from the American Taxpayer and using it for Food Stamps is tantamount to theft, which Christ would definitely oppose. Why, giving money and food to poor people isn’t even really helping them. Denying them money and food will teach them to “man up” and get over their poverty.
Seriously. These are the arguments. It has even been suggested that the parents of children going hungry because they can’t afford a school lunch will learn an important lesson, as hunger is educational.
There are a lot of different views on these issues, as I’ve pointed out. The problem of welfare is complex and nuanced, and there likely just isn’t a simple solution. For every complicated problem, there is a simple, easy to understand, wrong answer.
Using the name and teachings of Christ to suggest that anything other than aid and assistance should be given to the poor, however, is a concrete, stainless-steel, and adamantine line in the sand. That is wrong; demonstrably wrong. There is something that these people either do not understand, or would like everyone else to forget.
Christ never taught any stance on the poor and hungry other than that helping them was the right thing to do.
There. Plain, pure, and simple. Not hard to understand.
In His words…
Matthew 25: 31 – 46 (New International Version)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Thank you, Biblegateway.com!)
It really does leave very little gray area. There is no room for “except if you’re in politics” or “but governments don’t have to do this.” There isn’t even a verse that says “For I was poor, and you did dick and nothing for me so that I would figure it out for myself.”
Oh, oh, how about this one?
Matthew 19: 16 – 22 (New International Version)
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
(Thanks again, Biblegateway.com!)
No. Gray. Area. No wiggle room. There is no teaching of “Christ wants you to keep your money instead of helping the poor.” There is no teaching of “sometimes, there are times and reasons that you don’t help the poor.” There is no gospel of letting the poor starve so that they learn not to be poor. None.
[blas-fuh-mee] noun, plural blas·phe·mies.
If you try to teach that God is saying one thing while, in fact, He said something entirely different, that constitutes an impious utterance AND assuming the right to do so. It isn’t legally actionable, but it DOES constitute a reason to completely disregard the theological utterances of anyone who does it. In short…
…if you’ve tried to convince me that Christ taught anything other than giving aid and assistance to the poor, it is proper and correct to scream “BULLSH*T” in your face any time you invoke the name or personage of Christ.
(Oh, man, could that be my job? Just to hang out on the floor of Congress and/or the Senate with a megaphone, waiting for someone to drop a Blasphemy-bomb? Then I could jump up, put the end of the megaphone around their nose and scream “BULLSH*T!” at the top of my lungs? If that gets to be a thing, I’m putting my hat in the ring right now).
Failing the creation of the job of “House Bullsh*t Screamer,” or the establishment of a “no blasphemy” clause in Robert’s Rules of Order, the only other solution I can think of is , again, a brand manager for Christianity. Aside from all of the other things that they’d have to do, they’d have the responsibility to monitor political discourse towards the end of making some phone calls and issuing Cease and Desist letters.
“Hello? Hi, this is the brand manager for Christianity and Jesus Christ, a registered trademark of Jehovah. I’m calling in reference to your statement as of the second day of last month when you claimed that Christ would favor cutting social programs. You are the person who made this statement? You are? Good. Our brand is closely associated with the very concept of charity itself, and has a trademark on infinite generosity, love, and the abundance of good. Your statements are a direct contradiction of a number of our trademarks, and our lawyers have assured us that your public statements are actionable. We’re going to have to ask you not only to retract your statements about our brand’s stance on poverty, but to cease using our brand for your personal and political gain in the future. If you do not comply with this request, we will have no choice but to drop a fleet of corporate lawyers on top of you until you either comply or enter a state of poverty yourself. We await your response with great anticipation.”
Now, the argument may still (and still will be) made that the Christian teachings of charity do not extend to the responsibility of the government. There is absolutely nothing in scripture to support this whatsoever, but people will still make the argument. At best, at the VERY best, the issue of whether the government has the same responsibility of charity that individuals have is Adiaphora… “that which is neither permitted nor denied.” Theological gray area.
If we have, as many claim we do, a Christian nation and a Christian government, then it must also follow Christian values. There is no room in a set of Christian values for any view on the treatment of the poor other than that they should be given all possible aid and assistance. If one is going to use the name of Christ to forward an agenda within the government, it can not be rightly used unless it endorses charity and aid for the poor. To do otherwise is simply blasphemy.
I would not want the job as Christianity’s brand manager… I think Pope Francis is actually about as close as we’re going to get for a while, and he’s doing a pretty swell job of it (in my very humble opinion). I continue to believe that a dedicated brand manager with full corporate and legal backing is a necessity if the teachings of Christ and scriptural Christianity is going to have any meaning in the long run.
I’m going to buy a megaphone, though.