Christians cry foul: Did Obama exploit Jesus for political gain?
CHICAGO, IL, February 5, 2012―It is not the first time religion has been invoked for political gain, and it probably will not be the last. At this year’s annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, President Obama tried out a new election year pitch to bolster his argument in favor of taxing the rich: Jesus.
“If I’m willing to give something up, as someone who’s been extraordinarily blessed, give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I think that actually makes economic sense. But as a Christian it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,” said President Obama, referencing the Gospel of Luke.
“I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years. And I believe in God’s command to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know a version of that golden rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs,” he said.
Obama referenced his Christian beliefs to underscore his call to let the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans. He made a similar call in his State of the Union address last week with a populist call for “fairness.”
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” said Obama.
“I felt like it was over the line and not the best use of the forum,” said Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It showed insufficient level of respect for what the office of the president has historically brought to that moment.”
The line having been crossed, the issue remains: Is President Obama correct? Would Jesus have wanted us to further tax the rich?
Absolutely not says Reed. Reed says that the president’s use of Jesus’ teachings to strengthen his tax policy argument is to “is theologically threadbare and straining credulity.”
Ever since Karl Marx advocated a collectivist approach to organizing society, progressives have, through “social justice” propaganda, attempted to convert Jesus’ philosophy of voluntary giving into socialism. Conservative Christians have long argued that Jesus was not a socialist.
They insist he believed in free will, not government-forced “goodness.”
For instance, some point to Matthew 10:8, where Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, the Apostle Paul confirms this point, stating, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Jesus advocated a truly voluntary heart for a reason: because that is what benefits the soul. He wasn’t for government interference. Arguably, he wasn’t for the equalization of wealth.
Jesus addresses the issue of wealth redistribution directly in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-28). In this parable, Jesus speaks of three servants who were each given their master’s talents (money) to manage while he went on a journey. Two of the servants made their talents grow but the third did not. When the master returned and saw that the third servant failed to manage his talent, he commanded that the money be taken from him and given to the other servant. “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents,” said the Master. “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have in abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Jesus advocates aggressive charity but he also advocates – just as aggressively – individual responsibility.
Jesus’ teaching is also consistent with property rights as they are generally defined in the Bible. In Genesis 2:15, the “Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In Exodus 20:15, 17, the Ten Commandments firmly establish laws against theft and coveting (desiring) your neighbor’s goods. Consequently, property has value and there is a demarcation between the goods one possesses and the goods of everyone else.
The issues of taxes are also dealt with directly in the Gospel of Mark (12:17), where Jesus is asked whether it is lawful for Jews to pay taxes to the Roman dictator, Caesar.
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” replies Jesus.
But even biblical scholars disagree about the meaning of the passage. “More generally, the passage is usually taken to mean that civil obligations exert claims on us apart from our religious responsibilities. Keep politics and religion separate,” says David Ball, an adjunct professor of theology at the MethodistTheologicalSchool in Ohio. “That, at least, is how the passage is often interpreted.”
Fortunately, for many politicians, Jesus is not physically present on Planet Earth to clarify his positions; so there is little fear of retribution for abusive spin of Christian teachings.
With the White House hanging in the balance in 2012, everything is fair game.
Sadly, Jesus is no exception.
Conservative satirist and commentator William J. Kelly is also a contributor to Breitbart.com and edits the Tea Party Reports for the Washington Times Communities. He is a native from Chicago’s Southside.
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