The other day, a colleague called me a socialist when he found out I plan on voting for a democrat this year. “So you’re okay with your hard-earned money turning into handouts?” he asked incredulously. “You don’t think you have a right to keep what you earn?” Several others in the room piped in, ranting about the evils of universal healthcare and the welfare system.
I was doing some design work for a conservative evangelical organization, and I was surprised by how aggressively this group argued for the moral superiority of Republicanism. (After touting his position on the sanctity of life, one suggested that Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor was a favor from God.)
Something isn’t right here.
I’ve been a democrat for all of four months now, and what has surprised me the most is how passionately conservative evangelicals oppose social reforms that benefit the poor. I understand why Christians have moral objections to abortion, and I know a lot of good Christian people who have very good reasons for voting Republican ….but since when is laissez-faire economics a biblical principle?
Honestly, if you were looking, I think you could find more Bible verses “supporting” communism than capitalism. When you consider the division of land in ancient Israel, God’s instructions concerning the year of jubilee, the sabbatical year, and the laws about gleaning, as well as the description of the early Church in which participants “had everything in common,” you could make the case that the ideal society is one in which wealth is shared.
Of course, such a way of life is impossible to apply literally to a democratic government, but I think these passages reveal what the rest of Scripture most certainly confirms: that God cares deeply for the poor.
There are around 300 verses in the Bible that address the poor and social justice. Many of them warn against wealth, particularly when it is withheld from the needy.
In fact, throughout the Bible we read stories of God’s displeasure with entire nations that do not care for the poor. Amos predicted that the northern kingdom of Israel would be destroyed in the midst of a time of prosperity and economic growth, in part because of its neglect of the poor. He saw that the rich “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (2:7). He criticized the lifestyle of the rich, which was built on the oppression of the poor (6:1-7), and was particularly dismayed that the poor had no hope because the rich bribed the judges (5:10-15).
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had as much to do with neglect of the poor as it did with sexual immorality. In Ezekiel 16 God says, “Behold this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy…”
When it comes time for Jesus to “judge the nations,” the gospels reveal that judgment will be based on treatment of “the least of these”-the hungry, the imprisoned, the thirsty, the naked.
I’ve heard a lot of people express concern that God will destroy the U.S. for its sexual immorality. I’ve never heard anyone warn that He might destroy it for its inequality.
Overall, I think America does a decent job of caring for the poor both here and abroad. I feel strongly that all people should be able to afford basic healthcare, that all children should have access to a good education, and that government subsidized food and housing should be available for those who need it. I know that these systems can be abused and that there will always be need for reform, but I think that they represent Christian ideals.
Now, I’m not suggesting that it is somehow more Christ-like to vote for a candidate who supports universal healthcare and who will increase taxes for the wealthy. Last time I checked, Jesus wasn’t a democrat or a republican. However, I think it’s important for Christians to respect one another’s varying interpretations of how best to apply biblical principals to government. Evangelicals in particular need to be careful of embracing one party’s ideology in its entirety.
It’s frustrating to be called a “socialist” when you’re honestly trying to faithfully follow Christ’s leading. Oh, and I also prefer not be called a “baby-killer.” (As you might have guessed, being a so-called liberal hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be!)
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