A response to a Christian reader

I thought this reply was very interesting and relatively reasonable enough to move it up to the front and post a response. I have NOT edited the content, but I did fix a few minor errors because I simply cannot stop myself from being an editor (it drives my wife nuts). So here goes:
“Jeff you still are hell bent to bash Christians. NO ONE IS PERFECT! We all make mistakes, we all wish we could do things differently all the time. Why bash just Christians? Don’t you know almost every person who goes to church calls themselves a christian? Why not then bash every single person who wont take in as many people as they can into their house and support them?
Here’s a idea, because we cannot afford to. I consider myself a Christian but I can barely make ends meet and pay for my own way yet you DEMAND that I have to help others because according to you if I’m not helping others then I’m not a Christian, I’m not loving my neighbor.
Yes there is solutions to this mess, yes corporations should be paying more taxes and shouldn’t be getting tax breaks but that’s because Congress and BOTH GOP AND DEMS ALLOWED it! So if you want to play the blame game blame EVERYONE. We are some 17 trillion dollars in debt in this country and yes we can go after the corporations and the rich to pay off that debt.
But name me one congressmen from either side that is willing or has come up with ANY plan to fix the problems. and then show me how they are FIGHTING to implement that plan and working across the aisle to get that plan passed.
All YOU have done is point the finger at everyone else as to what they are not doing. What have YOU done to help the poor and those who need help? I’m so tired of the blame game and that’s all you’re doing is to blame others, we need to stop the blame game crap and get off your butt and FIX it, come up with a solution on how to CHANGE the problems we have.”
My reply:
1. Christian bashing. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Much like you asked me to hold all politicians’ feet to the fire (we’ll get to that), I’m simply doing the same thing with Christians. It’s one thing not to help, but for conservative Christians to turn around and denigrate the poor or immigrant children in the process cannot go unchallenged.
I thought about those two columns for six months. I talked to the pastor that married my wife and me at length about where I wanted to go with this. Before either of the two columns ran, I read them to the same pastor. Today and tomorrow (7/20/14), those two columns will be the centerpiece of the sermon at Geneva Lutheran Church’s 5:30 p.m and 9 a.m. service.
So please don’t tell me I’m bashing Christians.
The only Christians who feel my efforts are the equivalent of “bashing” are the ones who’ve fallen so far short of the ideal that my challenge makes them very uncomfortable. The bottom line is, I wouldn’t have wasted my time if I didn’t believe Christians could improve.
2. Feed the Poor. I’m not demanding anything. I’m simply pointing out hypocrisy. Jesus demanded that his followers feed the poor. And Jesus didn’t say feed the poor only if you can afford it or if you have the time or if you think they deserve help. He said “Feed the poor” – no exceptions.
But what He didn’t say is how much you have to give or how much time you have to allocate. I have been broke and know exactly what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. But no matter how dire my situation was, I’ve always given something even if it was only five bucks a week.
Again, I didn’t make those rules, but that doesn’t mean, like so many pastors, that I’m just going to let them slide either. Like I said, Christianity is a really tough standard.
3. I’m only bashing Christians. Dear reader, we’re just talking about two columns here. As my other long-time readers will eagerly attest, no one is immune from the foot fire holding – including myself. I regularly excoriate Democrats and liberals for having absolutely no plan and failing to counter this Republican obstructionism.
But if there’s one excuse I’ve heard over and over again throughout my 10-year writing career it’s, “Oh yeah! But they’re worse!” The problem with that is, the fact that someone else is also misbehaving in no way mitigates our responsibility to improve.
So even if I did blame everyone, it really doesn’t change a thing I said.
4. Blaming. I didn’t blame anyone for anything in those two pieces. I simply pointed out that conservatives, who regularly cite their Christian beliefs as a main motivation, aren’t living up to some of the more serious stipulations. Then I added that Christian pastors who let those conservatives slide on that aren’t living up to their calling either.
There’s a vast difference between blaming and holding up a mirror and I will continue to ask Christians to more carefully consider their own reflection.
5. What have I done to help the unfortunate. This makes me really uncomfortable because of the whole pharisee in the temple thing, but given the circumstances, I think it’s only fair to answer the question.
I’ve been sidetracked by other causes, but for years I gave $100 a month to the First Baptist Church of Geneva for prison ministry. I currently give $100 a month to Lutheran World Relief because, though I’m not Lutheran, they get the job done. I also give $50 to $100 a quarter to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
I help support a college student who’s parents divorced and they’re having a really tough time. One of my cleaning ladies was in Poznan during Chernobyl and got cancer 20 years later. I got her free treatment at Del Nor, but she did not survive. She asked me to look after her daughter and I always have.
My co-host Larry and I will promote any charitable event on our radio show at no charge. I look after a number of neighbors who are getting up there or are in a single mother situation. Given that I have a snowblower that could puree a brick, I take care of a number of neighbors each winter.
And the thing is, I really should be doing more. Having done so in the past, I need to get back to volunteering.
6. Solutions. I would encourage you to read my entire body of work. You can find a lot of it here and more on the Net. I talk about solutions all the time. In fact, that’s the only reason I write.
And the solution I’m asking for here is for conservatives to stop bashing the poor, to make a better effort to live up to the Christian ideal, and if they don’t, for their Christian brothers and sisters (and pastors) to call them out on it.

0 thoughts on “A response to a Christian reader

  1. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Christian conservatives frown upon the federal government being the primary agent meeting the needs of the poor b/c the government, by its very nature, cannot be a neighbor. If everyone loved their neighbors as themselves, not only would the needs of the poor be met, but there would be real community and interaction between the haves and the have nots. This is vital, because Jesus associates himself w/ the poor in a unique way (Matthew 25) and therefore the rich need the poor just as much as the poor need the rich. The problem w/ Christian conservates is not that they don’t believe the poor should be helped–its that they have dropped the ball for so long that bigger government needs to pick up the slack. The church in America is large enough that, if it lived up to its calling, there would be little need for social welfare programs.

  2. Chris, your definition of “the poor” needs further definition of who YOU determine are “the poor.”
    The standard of living in the USA , even for many who are mislabeled “the poor” is higher than in
    most of the world. Yes, some are genuinely poor due to illness, lack of education and disability.
    But others are classed by the government as “poor” (or class themselves as “poor”) due to lack of ambition, or just plain lazyness. Yet, they own a car, a cell phone (“Obama Phone”) a color TV set.,
    and other goods and appliances about which others in the rest of the world can only dream, or
    cannot imagine exist.
    I have seen such “poor” people buy prime steaks, roasts and shopping carts full of what could be called “luxury” foods, pay with food stamps, then load their purchases into cars only two years old, which cars were ten to fifteen years newer than what i was driving. By compulsory taxation, we are
    forced to subsidize this fraudulent lifestyle, while we struggle to pay our own expenses.
    Yes, some churches have the money, but it is their choice how to use it. Several years past, a very large and prominently visible church in St. Charles spent a small fortune for a new roof. A good friend of mine, a ‘fundamentalist Christian,” put it best, when he stated:
    “THEIR ‘god’ is the BUILDING!”

    1. Dear Observer,
      I gotta call you out on this. First, the number of “poor” that game the system is infinitesimally small. The vast majority of people on this small planet really want to be productive and make their own way.
      Compare that to the number of corporations that game the system and that cost is infinitely more. And despite making $54 million last year, Bruce Rauner paid far less in income taxes (percentage wise) than regular folks by using accounting tricks.
      I’m still waiting for just ONE conservative to provide some sort of answer for the $100 billion the government pays in corporate welfare every year.
      And I will repeat it again, Jesus said feed the poor. He made no exceptions. if the “poor” abuse our generosity then they will answer to Him – not us!

  3. Observer: In my prior comment I was using a more common definition of the poor as those who are not able to provide for their own needs. Personally, I do not have a problem with the “system” being “gamed” for two reasons. First, I know more people who are benefiting from “the system” than are gaming it. Second, I do whatever I can to take advantage of the tax codes and legally pay as little taxes as possible, and I believe it is hypocritical to esteem the wealthy as prudent for gaming the tax codes in this way while frowning on the poor or anyone else who game whatever welfare programs are available to them.
    However, Jeff, I would like to point out that the fact that we are talking in terms of “system” and “gaming” shows that there is not really much room for love to be expressed through welfare programs. While I don’t have a problem with individuals gaming the system, I do have a problem with the system because the way it meets needs of the poor is void of love. This preserves the gap between poor and rich, between powerful and powerless. With such a gap in place, can there be any real, sustainable solution to the problems that the poor are faced with? I believe it is this question that drives thoughtful, committed followers of Jesus to lean conservative.

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