Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jesus never had to beg the question...

Phil Haslanger has this to say:

Jesus never said anything about collective bargaining.

He never called for the continuation of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers.

He never addressed giving tax breaks to corporations.

Sure didn't.

There’s been quite a push from the faith community this year, you may have noticed.

Yeah, I guess.

That demonstration spilled over into the Capitol hallways as the Joint Finance Committee moved toward concluding its work on the budget even as protesters periodically disrupted the proceedings.

Unlike Jesus, who did nothing of the sort.

In a society where people hold differing religious beliefs or none at all, it’s not like a religious argument ought to be used as a trump card in public policy debates.
But let's do it anyway.

The standard pushback is that when Jesus said people should care for the poor, he was talking about individual acts of charity and not about governmental programs that take everyone’s tax dollars whether they want to help the poor or not.
No. The standard pushback is that your ideas do not help the poor. Also, Jesus would not use the term "pushback".

That overlooks another theme that runs alongside of charity in the Bible — it’s a call to justice.

The standard pushback, either Haslanger's or mine, does no such thing.

When a Jewish man named Zacchaeus was collecting taxes for the Romans and taking a nice cut for himself, he encountered Jesus and was so moved that he promised to pay back four times all he had defrauded and give half of his wealth to the poor. Another story of justice.

The poor don't pay any taxes in this country, so...

Consider this line from Isaiah, the prophet of old, speaking in God’s voice to the leaders of that era: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?”

Now that I have considered the admonition not to grind the face of the poor, I am now persuaded that public sector employees, who make over $50k per year on average, plus sterling benefits, must have the right to bargain collectively. Good point.

This goes beyond simply donating to a food pantry. It means paying attention to the way society is structured. In Jesus’ day, when the Romans occupied the land, the only route to help the poor was to create alternative structures.

Of course, the Roman Empire built itself.

They start with a recognition of the inherent dignity of each person that emerges from the Bible,

Except for the unborn. F@#$ them. Not Jesusy enough, fetuses.

That’s why there has been so much more action by Christians and people of other faith traditions in the past few months around the proposals of Gov. Scott Walker.
Jesus must be dragged into this, because he agrees with everyone, no matter what they believe.*

Those proposals tilt the balance away from that vision of a just society toward one that caters to the wealthy and enshrines private gain over the common good.
Can we coin a phrase for when Christians simply assert Christ is on their side to paper over intellectual gaps in their ideology?

Ralph: So, at some point, we need to consider whether we can sustain our entitlements without fundamentally altering our economy.
James: Isaiah warned us about grinding the face of the poor.
Ralph: Excuse me?
James: Jesus would overturn your table and whip you.
Ralph: The hell? I'm trying to have an adult conv...
James: Love wins, bitch!
Ralph: You've changed, man.

It’s exactly the kind of thing that provoked the ire of Hebrew prophets and that man from Nazareth named Jesus.

Told you so. Let's construct a syllogism:

1) Christ never said anything about collective bargaining.
2) Christ cared about people.
3) Therefore, Christ supports collective bargaining for public sector employees.

Let me play:

1) Christ never said anything about ninjas.
2) Christ loved children.
3) Therefore, Christ compels ninjas to wear green.

Also, what is the point of referring to Christ as "that man from Nazareth named Jesus"? It's not like Haslanger established that as a rhetorical device. Like, it would have made sense if this were a piece about the humanity of Jesus, and how he came from somewhere. But, mostly, it looks like Haslanger realized he hadn't argued anything, and so was left without any material for a concluding paragraph.

* - Unless you are a conservative. F!@# conservatives. Not Jesusy enough.


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