Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hopeface McScrooge

Recently, Obama made a shrewd political move. This stands to reason, as one could argue that Barack Obama is, himself, a shrewd political move. Obama's campaign released he and Michelle's tax returns, and almost immediately called on the other candidates to do the same, as though they were suddenly evasive for not having done so in accordance with Obama's timeline.

This clever rouse diverted attention from the most glaring feature of Obama's tax returns. Between the years of 2000-2004, the Obamas gave less than one percent of their dual six-figure incomes to charity. Now, what Obama gives to charity is his business. There is no legal requirement to give to the poor.

But shouldn't someone who spent a considerable portion of his insipid book yammering about the importance of God, the Bible and his church have, I dunno... Obeyed God and the Bible by giving to his church? Shouldn't someone who touts Christ's vision for restoring justice to the poor put his money where his mouth is, especially before asking the same of the American people?

Let's this in perspective. In spite of the fact that we were victims of a mortgage scam, a lawsuit, knee surgery and job loss, my wife and I managed to give more last year than the Obamas gave in four years combined. And I assure you we don't make $250k per year. A number of my friends have made comparable financial sacrifices.

This again would be completely fine if Barack Obama were not proposing to engage in fireside chats to address the need for "social justice" (a bastardized term if ever there was one). It might not be noteworthy were it not part of a larger trend. In both real dollars and in proportion to income, Conservatives give substantially more then liberals.

Naturally, liberals are dismissive of this fact, and charity in general. Religious Democrat party consultant Jim Wallis decries participation in food shelves as canned compassion, while lauding attempts to create social justice in the voting booth. Other's dismiss conservative charity as simply offerings in the church basket. Obama, on the other hand, gives to the Congressional Black Caucus. Altruism at it's finest. Save the whales, good. Save the soul, bad.

But there remains an inherent hypocrisy in leveraging compassion to advance a political agenda when one does not otherwise exhibit that same compassion. If one believes that government ought to provide for the poor by redistributing income from the wealthy, and he or she happens to be wealthy yourself, there is no tenable reason to withhold charity.

Before I come off as a pompous ass (too late?), I should note that a number of my friends have made similar financial sacrifices. You know what we don't do? Slap preachy bumper stickers on our cars and hold contrived race conversations over lemon-herb chicken. As is the case with many conservatives, we give out of obedience to the God Barack Obama pretends to worship.

Canned compassion indeed.

19 Comments:

Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

Books and Culture had a great article about this subject. Religious people give far more than secularists, and from the Wallis/Obama coalition it seems they are religious people who think like secularists. Strange, but not surprising.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Is Obama religious? The UCC is a convenient church for political Democrats is has the word Christ in it, but also basically thumbs its nose at the reality of the Bible.
Wallis' movement is convenient in that it will fawn over Dem candidates whenever they utter the word Jesus. In his latest book, Wallis praises Democrats for finally "getting it" when it comes to God. Good grief, what a sycophant.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which reality of the Bible were you referring to... the part about not throwing the first stone, the part about selling your daughter into slavery, or the part about not touching the skin of a pig?

6:46 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

A proper rebuttal of what I call the shellfish fallacy would take considerable time. That said, my broader point here still stands.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

In fairness, if he had given more to his Church, people would be complaining about how much money he gave to Wright. It's lose lose for Obama on this one.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's pretty lame, you have to admit. Are you saying that every word of the Bible is true and must be followed or not?

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Rypick said...

It's not lame, you're changing the subject.
That being said, I would love to hear Kevin's rebuttal.
(Sorry, Kevin)

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Thom,

Hypocrites and lose-lose situations are well matched. Had he not been playing Christian for political reasons, he wouldn't be facing criticism.

The shellfish fallacy, based on the common criticism that, if we are to observe any biblical tenet, we must obey all Levitical codes (e.g. refraining from shellfish consumption).

But Christ, in fulfilling the law, speaks to a number of the laws and codes. Paul clearly states that codes applied to food do not necessarily apply, depending on one's own conscience.

Further, one ought not confuse sin and God's law with custom. We are not required to sell our daughters into slavery, but it certainly happened.

As far as Christ's admonition about stones, there are a number of responses. The easy answer would simply be to say I agree with him, but that is a cheat.

Another answer suggests that, were the men upholding the law, they would be free to stone away. We can glean from the context that this was not the case (how else did they entrap the adultress?) In this paradigm, Christ is not forbidding the stoning of individuals, and country's may opt to enact the penalty.

That's a bit too theonomistic for me. I look to Christ's "eye of the needle" rhetoric, which to me implies that the law is almost impossible to uphold. Christ came because the nation of Israel was in sin. If these men were without sin, then Christ wouldn't even be there. That would speak to ending the practice of stoning sinners in accordance with the law.

That is an incomplete synopsis of the transposition of OT law into a Christ-centered paradigm, and I am not the expert here. But your trump-card argument pretends that nobody has considered these questions, which is a bit of conceit, yes?

Either way, one can recognize the hypocrisy of a candidate asking Americans to do that which he does not do of his own volition.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

"Which reality of the Bible were you referring to... the part about not throwing the first stone, the part about selling your daughter into slavery, or the part about not touching the skin of a pig"

The point of this objection is a classic tactic of proving everyone is theologically liberal at some point. What it means to be theologically liberal means to take sovereignty over the text of the Bible instead of being under it (as conservatives claim).

This may seem like an interesting question at some times, but for the most part it is banal. Basic hermeneutics that even the novice Bible reader can discern is that the NT interprets the OT. This means that the Kingdom/New Age spoken of in the NT by Jesus/Paul organizes the authority of the Bible around a new covenant that Christians partake in through the sacraments and faith. Christian discipleship becomes the norm though it does not include the mandate of the law. The way of the Spirit becomes normative (see Rom 6-8).

So we learn how to "pick and choose" what to follow from what the Bible "picks and chooses." And if anyone has read the Sermon on the Mount you will know that following its code of ethics is much more stringent than following those in Moses.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So your answer is that the Old Testament, the Jewish book, is flawed and should not be taken literally, but the New Testament is the true word of God?

10:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Nobody said the NT was flawed.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say that either. I said you seem to be implying that the Old Testament is flawed, because it needs the interpretation of the New Testament. One can take the words of Christ as God's word, but not the words of Leviticus. I'm just trying to figure out exactly what you mean by "the reality of the Bible."

12:41 PM  
Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

The OT is not flawed. In fact, it was the Bible Jesus and the early church read. Their "interpretation" of it is the NT--the apostolic preaching that saw promises in the OT fulfilled. One way of thinking of the Bible we have today is to see the OT as "promises made" and the NT as "promises kept."

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would the word of God, spoken directly to Moses and others, need any additional interpretation?

1:11 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Because he willed it so in forgiveness of a people who continually rejected him.

Incidentally, the talking point from the Hopeheads is that Obama probably gave in ways that aren't tax deductible, which actually makes him MORE altruistic.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noticed Obama started giving more after he realized he was running for a higher office .

Which I guess is par for the DC crowd , but when you are making the point of taxing the rich to give to the poor , and you obviously are rich , should you not be showing a better example ?

10:02 PM  
Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

"Why would the word of God, spoken directly to Moses and others, need any additional interpretation?"

Because people misinterpreted and therefore disobeyed it. You could ask the same question of Hosea, Amos, or Michah who basically brought it to the people's attention that they were not living up to their terms of the covenant.

The NT is considered to be progress in revelation in that it embodies the fulfillment of the promised made in the OT.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To say that someone ignores "the reality of the Bible" is to say that there is one reality, one correct interpretation of that book. You cannot make that statement without believing that YOU know the "reality," or proper interpretation, of that language. My point will come as no surprise. Everybody... left, right, liberal, conservative, interprets the Bible to fit their beliefs, and everybody picks and chooses. Think homosexuality is immoral? Look to Leviticus. Think capital punishment is okay? "An eye for an eye" will do. Think you're a victim and want to feel some sense of hope, well, "the meek shall inherit the earth" ought to make you feel better. Don't like war? Find any place where Jesus Christ talks about peace and assume he was talking about Iraq in 2008. But find any passage that doesn't gel with what you believe... well, that's because it's a metaphor, or a mistranslation. Or it's part of the OT, which needed to be reinterpreted... except for anything about homosexuality, which Christ was silent on. So there, Leviticus got it dead right.

"The reality of the Bible" is that, like any book of laws, morals or codes of ethics, people see what they want to see.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Mick Sheldon said...

"The reality of the Bible" is that, like any book of laws, morals or codes of ethics, people see what they want to see.

8:52 AM

I guess so , but if I see a ruler that is different only in mind then the reality of 12 inches , it does make me right . The reality is if I build something with using my wrong measurement , things will be off .

Hence , many people do seek the truth of the Bible , first believing it is the truth , then realizing God makes the rules , not our own perceptions .

Your right , its not easy, hence denominations .

1:07 PM  

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