Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Do Many Evangelical Christians Favor Anti-Christian Spending Policies?

This is the third post of my mini-series on budget priorities as Congress tries to prevent the government from shutting down in a few days.

I will be the first to admit that I do not understand the moral framework of many evangelical Christians. I grew up and am Presbyterian, one of the mainstream Christian branches that has a big enough tent to encompass everyone from conservative, traditionalist Presbyterian Christians to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Presbyterian Christians, as well as everyone in between.

However, many evangelical Christians tend to be much less inclusive and much narrower in their religious beliefs and practices, and many are biblical literalists - i.e. they proclaim that the Bible is the unerring, literal word of God. Personally, I don't see how they keep their heads from exploding, if they believe this, given the hundreds of inconsistencies in the Bible (warning: the list I link to is decidedly irreverent, but rather comprehensive), and that the Bible sanctions such things as slavery, selling your daughter, and killing your neighbors for a variety of religious and moral shortcomings, including such sins as wearing cotton-poly blend clothing.

When it comes to financial priorities, however, Jesus (and the New Testament) is hard to misinterpret. From Luke 6:20-26:
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
   “Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
   for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
   when they exclude you and insult you
   and reject your name as evil,
      because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward       in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
   for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
   for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
   for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
   for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Granted, Jesus doesn't give a blueprint for what government budgets should look like, but given Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19 - not incidentally, Jesus lists this as the second most important commandment, after the commandment to love God [Mark 12:31]), his admonition to a rich person to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor (Matthew 19:21), and his reminder that good or evil deeds done to "the least of these my brothers" are good or evil deeds done to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-46), I think it's quite clear where Jesus would spend the government's money, if he were dictator.

(Side note: I think that there is a strong argument that Jesus was/is a communist - note that I mean a communist with a little "c," not a Marxist or Leninist, obviously.)

So, I find this poll quite puzzling, which shows that many evangelical Christians are in favor cutting aid to the poor (both abroad and in the U.S.), cutting aid to the unemployed, and cutting health care, while they favor increases in funding for the national security apparatus (as well as public schools):

One of the few popular evangelical Christians whose spending priorities I am able to understand is Jim Wallis, who has this to say about the Republicans' (and apparently many other evangelical Christians') budget cuts:
[T]he moral test of any society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And that is exactly what the Bible says, over and over again.... Taking the cutting knife to programs that benefit low-income people, while refusing to scrutinize the much larger blank checks we keep giving to defense contractors and corporate executives, is hypocritical and cruel. I’ll go even further and say that such a twisted moral calculus for the nation’s fiscal policy is simply not fair, and not right. It is not only bad economics, but also bad religion.
So, I ask, how can such self-avowedly Christian people, like many evangelical Christians, favor such anti-Christian spending policies?

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