Wonder what God thinks about people manipulating and misusing His word for political purposes?
Yesterday, NPR’s “Morning Edition” ran a story about the practice, especially among conservatives, to use Biblical passages as justification for their right-wing economic agenda;
What would Jesus do with the U.S. economy? That’s a matter of fierce debate among Christians — with conservatives promoting a small-government Jesus and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate for the poor. After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus’ command to care for the poor. Not so, says Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. He told Christian Broadcasting Network last week that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor.
Peter Montgomery at People for the American Way says conservative evangelicals have been arguing for years that the Bible favors a free-market system. But since President Obama was elected, he says, they have shifted into high gear. “They are finding biblical justification for opposition to progressive taxation, opposition to unions and collective bargaining, opposition to the minimum wage, opposition even to social welfare spending and Social Security,” he says.
Richard Land at the Southern Baptist Convention says of course Jesus paid his taxes and advised followers to do the same. But, he says, “the Bible tells us that socialism and neosocialism never worked. Confiscatory tax rates never work.” The Bible never mentions socialism, obviously, but Land says the whole of Scripture says that people are sinful and selfish and, therefore, “people aren’t going to work very hard and very productively unless they get to keep a substantial portion of that which they make for them and for their families.”
For other religious conservatives, the Bible is a blueprint for robust capitalism. Recently, on his radio program WallBuilders, David Barton and a guest discussed Jesus’ parable of the vineyard owner. In it, the owner pays the worker he hires at the end of the day the same wage as he pays the one who begins work in the morning. Many theologians have long interpreted this as God’s grace being available right up to the last minute, but Barton sees the parable as a bar to collective bargaining. (Christians Debate: Was Jesus For Small Government?)
This is something we have been writing about for a while and our colleague Peter Montgomery was even quoted in the NPR piece, so it was pretty interesting to see Bryan Fischer suddenly join the movement today on his radio program when he declared that the “secret of capitalism” came right out of Mark 10:45, which says that “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In fact, said Fischer, the entire concept of capitalism “is built on the teaching of Jesus himself” and this passage is even the source for the idea that the customer is always right.