Monday, August 8, 2011

How Can One Support the Tea Party and Be a Christian?

I had not thought much about the wave of Tea Party members that swept into Congress until the recent debate over the deficit and the debt ceiling. The one thing that became crystal clear is that they share no concern for or feel any obligation to the most vulnerable in our country—the poor and marginalized. 

Jesus, of course, defined his mission and ministry with particular focus on the most vulnerable. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . to bring good news to the poor . . . to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18–19). 

So my question is: How can one support the Tea Party agenda and be a Christian? I have no way of knowing, but I suspect a great many Christians voted to elect them to office. How is that possible? 

My feeling is that many Christians have no real idea what Jesus’ mission and ministry was actually about. Jesus’ focus was on the kingdom of God (God’s new world of peace, equality, and reconciliation) coming into this world (“May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”). The agenda of many Christians is focused on the afterlife, correct doctrinal beliefs, and personal success. 

For Christians whose faith is oriented around a heaven-and-hell framework, Christian faith is all about believing the right things or doing the right things in order to go to heaven. This is often (though not always) connected to a very rigid set of doctrinal propositions that one has to believe, such as biblical inerrancy, substitutionary atonement, or the deity of Christ. 

And then there are other Christians who equate the values of American democracy or American capitalism (it all gets thrown into the mix) with being a Christian, so that allegiance to God means allegiance to country (and vice-versa). 

Similar to the above approach are those who endorse an American gospel of success, personal fulfillment, and prosperity. In this system the poor are not only neglected, they are pronounced as cursed for their lack of faith or capacity to make money. Jesus’ way of the cross is either ignored or convoluted somehow into the way of personal advancement and riches. 

In a recent meeting, messengers (delegates) from the largest Christian denomination in the country (the Southern Baptist Convention), made it a point to affirm their belief in an eternal hell where unbelievers will dwell in conscious torment forever. They see their mission as one of rescuing people from hell by getting them to believe their version of Christian faith. 

It seems to me that a far more beneficial and transformational mission would be to get Christians to actually take seriously Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and vindication by becoming his disciples. 

I, myself, am a struggling disciple of Jesus. I fall short of embodying his life and living out his teachings in many ways. I know that I am complicit in the huge disparity between the rich and the poor that Jesus firmly judges. I often fail to love unconditionally, to give sacrificially, to serve compassionately, and to minister to others without any thought of personal reward. 

But this I do know: The Gospels that proclaim the life, teachings, and mission of Jesus make clear what the life of discipleship to Jesus entails. I know the kind of person Jesus calls me to be, even though I often fail to be that kind of person. 

The major problem with American Christianity today is that many Christians do not know what kind of persons and communities the living Christ expects them to be.

6 comments:

  1. Jesus never said that a nation was to put itself in a position that caused it to collapse. I do not recall any notions to that effect. Sometimes we struggle between our political national beliefs and the beliefs we have as Christians. This is normal for all of us who believe. It does not mean that the government was suppose to help the poor. That should be the Church's responsibility. The tea party appears to be saying be responsible with the money that you are using which belongs to those of the country. Debt is not good and common sense tells us that our house should be put in order. Have you ever considered the two kingdom theology? You could read from luther and others.

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  2. God set up the tithe as a governmental system to help the poor. There is nothing in the Bible that says that government is inherently evil or inefficient. Our debt is due primarily to out of control military spending. Clinton balanced the budget by cutting it drastically. The tea party has it horribly wrong.

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  3. God did establish a system for helping the poor according to the Old Testament. I believe it was about 30 percent. If you begin to apply one Old Testament regulation when do you draw the line on all the others. You cannot pick and choose because you might like one thing over another. We need to remember that the Israelites had a unique form of government that was for them and them alone. This does not mean we can't use the principles found from the various laws, but we should be careful. Yes, helping the poor is important, but does this apply to the government the same way.
    Our problem is not the military. The military members are carrying out the orders they have been given. If you cut the military budget, then you put them in a difficult situation. They do not have the authority to leave, that comes from the president. So they have to have the money that is required. It costs to carry out the mission that the military has been given. The military has made many cuts to keep up with their obligations that you might not be aware if you are not in the military.
    The whole political climate is strange to me. One group wants to increase taxes so they can continue to spend more, while the rest of the country has to cut back. That does not make much sense. Another group wants cuts across the board. I find it sensible to make cuts. These are my thoughts politically, but I do not have all the facts and the politicians do not want to give them.

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  4. We all benefit from a representative government elected by the people. We have given it authority to do things that we could not or would not do efficiently on our own. We pay taxes to ensure that these programs are carried out. If the government did not have programs in place to help the poor and disadvantaged, frankly, they would be in far worse shape, because given the state of American Christianity, there would not be the will or means to help them. So it is inconceivable to me, given Jesus' mission and ministry to the poor and marginalized, that we who are followers of Jesus would not support a governmental system that can adequately respond to this great need. This means that all of us must pay our fair share of taxes, and especially those who can afford to. As it stands, the wealthy pay a lower percertage in taxes. And the hugh corporations even less, with all sorts of loopholes. Such is the way the world works, but for a disciple of Christ to support such a system is inexcusable.

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    1. Absolutely, Chuck. I don't believe any decent, civilized society, let alone a "Christian" one would tolerate the economic/political situation we now have in our country. It is disgraceful. But the question is, what is to be done about it? It seems that our representative government isn't.

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  5. Thank you for posting this.
    This is very well written, clearly laid out and you took the words right from my mouth. (but said it better!)

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