"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Anger, Charity, Politics, and Sin.

A friend of mine posed the question on Facebook, why are Americans so angry at the poor? He was responding to a very well written piece found here.

I like the article, particularly the first part, because the writer articulates well the human sin behind the anger that the middle class is expressing toward the poor right now. We're angry because we guard our wealthy, basically, those treasures where moth and rust consume and thieves (and governments) break in and steal.

What the article fails to articulate is that most people are not angry at the poor directly but at the government who is taking their hard won possessions and distributing them without their consent. The poor are, more precisely, caught in the crossfire.

I remarked to my friend that: Before "entitlement" spending and welfare initiatives, the poor had faces and charity demanded love and relationship. We've taken a lot of those opportunities away with government control of welfare.

And here is where the crux of it lies. Its not in defending one's own wealth, we're supposed to give it away. What the welfare state has truly taken from the "rich" is the opportunity to give freely. When giving is forced, it becomes a begrudged burden. When giving is forced and then given to someone whose need is never truly seen by the giver, it becomes faceless and sterile. And love is lost. And relationship is lost.

Jesus said anyone can give good gifts to his friends. He's right. It is much harder to give to our enemies, strangers, the sterile, faceless need. But when we don't even have an opportunity for relationship to enter into giving, the fallen world becomes resentful and downright angry, not only at the government that takes and mandates but at the one who, often innocently, receives.

My political bias is libertarian. But I also understand that in a fallen world, libertarian becomes libertine and eventually anarchy. I know that we can't maintain a true libertarian utopia. We're too broken, and outside of the liberty of Christ's Kingdom, which comes from true unity and submission, it will never work. And so pragmatically I figure that governments will do what they will do, and rather fatalistically and cynically I figure there's not much point in political rhetoric.

But I do see a real unhealth in taking the responsibility for charity from the hands of the people. Charity should be the result of libertarian sort of giving. Taxation giving isn't giving at all, and both the modern democrats and republicans would rather take what is not their and use it for their own agendas, rather than consider how to return financial management (including giving) to the hands of the people.

Have we grown that lazy and irresponsible towards our brothers and our resources that a giant impersonal government thinks it can step in and take that responsibility from us entirely?

2 comments:

  1. This horrible nasty, thieving government stepped in to mess up the lives of the rich and prevent them from having generous hearts and giving freely to the poor because when the Carnegies, Fricks, Forbes, Rockefellers, Fords, and others too numerous to mention had the chance to help real, honest-to-god needy human beings, they chose instead to erect buildings to honor their munificent charity. I realize that offends the sensitivities of those who believe that government is the only evil that lurks in the hearts of men and women, but history demonstrates over and over that the few generous rich are the exceptions proving the rule that given the opportunity, the rich strive only to enhance their wealth at the expense of the poor. As for shedding tears for the burden of taxation of the rich, one must ask what burden when those making less than $60000 yearly pay proportionately more of their wealth to make ends meet than the rich. Ah, but why burden the debate with facts? The poor are poor because they are undeserving of charity, the disabled are disabled because of their own sins or the sins of their parents, and the disadvantaged are deservedly so because they were too stupid to manage their assets wisely.

    BTW, I note that some of the most prominent philanthropists in contemporary society spend considerable amounts of money on "population control" much like some of their prosperous forebears. The poor we will always have with us, but the fewer the better.

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  2. Dan, I'm not disagreeing with you, but it seems we have done a far worse disservice to the poor in taking the responsibility, forceably from the people. I'm not talking about the rich, the philanthropist. I'm talking about the neighbor, the average Joe. Philanthopy has done as much damage as good, as you point out, and it churns my stomach to think of the social control that comes out of self-serving philanthropy including in our era the Gates Foundation. Anyway, you initially asked the question "why the anger" and I answered with what I see as the why. The poor are, being poor and all, easy targets, but the anger isn't about them. Worse, the poor are being badly served by the government's philanthropy. Do I have an answer, no. Its a fallen messed up world. The only Christian answer seems to be to opt out, passively accept that our taxes are going to be forced for us for philanthropy which disenfranches the giver and often provides the same sort of "population control" we both agree is repugnant... and still understand that what is forced from us does not reduce our burden to care for the poor.

    I'm not a Tea Party supporter. There's way too much "mine, mine" hysteria and the venom of the angry white men media machine. But I can understand why they feel put upon.

    But I also see ministries that give the poor a face and a story and a chance at relationship have a far greater impact, not merely on the immediate sitution of the poor, but on the hearts of the middle class and wealthy giver. Compassoin International and World Vision are an odd duck, really, by being charities that by visiting their site people go out and look for (to use a crass but oddly fitting term, to shop for) someone to be a neighbor too, in relationship with. The Kiva loans work much the same way. How strange that while the shopaholic me-me-me demographic is out trying to cling to what is theirs, they are also the same demographic that is encouraged to shop around for someone to be a neighbor in need. Strange, indeed.

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