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Christianity,capitalism and choices: Is the religious right too far off center

Self serving or serving the needs of others?
Self serving or serving the needs of others?

My religion is Christianity, more specifically Protestantism, more specifically Presbyterian, though the downslide of the Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA) into worldly beliefs not supported by Christian teachings or the Torah, is causing me to search for spiritual fulfillment elsewhere these days.

Still, I strongly believe in the principles of the Bible and the teachings of Christ, so find it difficult to understand why today’s Christian right wing has enveloped the teachings of capitalism over the teachings of Christ and indeed have allowed capitalism to supersede Christ in matters of concern for the poor and needy.

Mind you, I have seen the opposite of Christianity and capitalism in teachings in universal/all inclusive feel good churches, as well as in some eastern religions and felt both failed to recognize the consequences of ones choices when we stray from Christ’s teachings and turn to our own meager wisdom which often mimics that of the child thinking that if they flush the rubber ducky down the toilet, it will flow free into the river, sprout wings and take flight to live a long and happy life, rather than clog up the toilet and send excrement in bucket loads all over the bathroom floor (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Still, it is confusing to understand how people can read the Bible, more specifically the teachings of Christ and then act entirely the opposite of how we are commanded to act:

Let’s take a look at the following:

Matthew 25:35 ESV
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

James 2:14-18 ESV
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Luke 3:11 ESV
And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Proverbs 14:31 ESV
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

1 John 3:17-18 ESV
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Galatians 6:2 ESV
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Deuteronomy 15:7 ESV
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.

There are hundreds more verses on this subject in both the old and new testaments, so why do right wing republican Christians think that helping someone in need is socialistic and unfair to hard working citizens?

Christ endorsed a socialistic or communal style of living where all Christians worked together, selling property and sharing goods with the idea that everyone would do their part to help everyone else, yet few Christians of today are willing to sell everything they own or live in communes and share clothing and food with their neighbors. Instead they tend to focus on the “everyone doing their share” part of the lesson and ask “why should I work hard to provide food and shelter for someone who does not work hard. That is not fair, right?”

Well, dear Christians, the Bible addresses this as well in the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20: 1-16) and in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32). Both indicate that God gives equally to all whom he chooses or to all who choose to follow him.

Mind you there are many verses dealing with the wisdom of hard work and preparedness, (Proverbs 6: 6-9 and Matthew 25: 1-13), but rarely if ever are we told not to help someone in need, no matter what their circumstances unless they have been wickedly evil and hurt others, and even then, if they repented, they were given a reprieve.

Just think about Paul’s life before his conversion and how many people who believed in Christ were put to death or tortured because of Paul’s actions toward them. Yet, Paul was forgiven and worked tirelessly to spread the word of Christ because of the love that was shown toward him.

In the past week I have heard so much talk about people not having good things in their lives because they made bad choices and why should we reward them for making bad choices? The gist is that we, as Christians, have followed God and done what was expected of us and we deserve a reward, but they did not follow Christ and so were punished and do not deserve rewards.

There is some truth to this. If you make bad choices in your life, then you will suffer the consequences. If you smoke, you run the risk of lung cancer. If you drink too much you may die of liver disease. If you don’t work hard in school, you may find yourself working back breaking jobs with little pay, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

We say that people choose to be unhappy, choose to be unhealthy, choose their sinful lifestyles, that fat people are fat because they eat too much and poor people are poor because they are too lazy to work and want us to take care of them, so we turn to capitalism, not Christ to support our theory, but why?

First off, we associate capitalism with individual freedoms and rights – we have a right to educate our children the way we see fit, not the way the government tells us. We have a right to have our own home and privacy within it. We have the right to free speech and religious worship and all these things are seen as good and as Christian, because in communist countries, the government controls what people can do and say and does not allow these freedoms.
Over the years we have associated freedom of choice with capitalism and Christianity, yet we are progressively moving away from the original Christianity (the words and deeds of Christ and his followers) and moving every quickly toward Capitalism Christianity which is a misnomer at best and an oxymoron to put all morons to shame.

Is it wrong to reward everyone equally when they did not put in an equal amount of work… the ten workers in the vineyard story found in Luke addresses this issue and asks what concern is it of ours as long as we got what was promised to us.

Every issue we have with giving money to help the poor is addressed in the Bible. Every issue we have with storing up treasure for ourselves on earth is addressed in the Bible, yet we choose to ignore those teachings and turn to capitalism instead of Christ… why?

Capitalism is seen as a liberating force of freedom, but it is tied to economic wealth, not moral wealth. It is tied to the good life here on earth, not the good life waiting for us in heaven. We see capitalism as protecting our rights to freedom both politically and economically. There is no tyrant forcing us to serve him as if he is god and there you have the key.
We view socialism and communism as anti-God or anti-Christ. If we limit the control that government has over us, we have more freedom to pursue religious freedom. We can worship Christ or God without being punished or silenced. We can freely share the love of Christ with all and do a greater service to God by showing the love of Christ to all humans everywhere on the planet.

Christ told his disciples to go and spread the good news throughout the world and capitalism allows us to do that much more readily than other forms of government, but we need to remember it is not capitalism that we worship, it is Christ and we need to focus on the words of Christ and his teachings, not on the teachings of capitalism.
Sure, every human being should give something back. The more God has given you, the more you are expected to give back in return (Luke 12:48) and you should give gladly not with complaining, though sometimes that is difficult to do!
Yes, some people make bad choices. They would rather be given a handout than to work hard for something, but this applies as much to the rich as it does to the poor. If you can earn a $2 million tax break for your corporation simply by claiming an exemption the government offers anyone that wants it, would you turn it down thinking you did not deserve it, or would you take it?

Living in public housing, living off food stamps, having to take the bus when everyone else has cars, is not how most people want to live, but it is better than living on the streets.

There are many people who got into their situations, not because of bad choices they made, but because of life’s circumstances beyond their control. Even those with a good education and good job have found themselves homeless and destitute when the economy folded or spouses desserted them with huge bills.
If given a choice, most of us would prefer our tax dollars go to help people who really deserved to be helped, rather than to pay the disability of a guy with a bad back who fell off a ladder at work while drinking on the job, but we all know “good” Christians who argue that it is wrong to feed the children of a woman who has had six different baby daddies, none of whom she married and is still popping out kids with no concerns, while we struggle to feed our own children on a limited income.

It doesn’t seem right or fair. It seems to fly in the face of capitalism where those who work the hardest achieve the most rewards and those who work least diligently have to suffer the consequences of their own actions, but Christ called us to love everyone and to give the shirts off our backs even to our enemies because by doing so, we would be blessed and our enemies, just might stop and think and contemplate that maybe those who followed Christ had something more valuable than they could ever obtain by their own power.

Sure, it is hard not to think bad thoughts about people who get themselves into bad predicaments by not following Christ and then expect others to bail them out. No one likes to be used and abused or guilted into giving help to a possible scam artist who claims to need food for the baby, when in reality she lives in an upscale neighborhood. Such people are not much better than thieves who take what does not belong to them, but Christ tells us that such people will not get into heaven (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11), though if they repent, even at the last moment, they will be saved (Ezekiel 18: 27-28) just as the thief on the cross was saved when he recognized the true nature of Christ.

Since we are not saved by our own good deeds and accomplishments, but by the grace and mercy of God, we are not to judge others for how they got into their current predicaments, we are simply called to provide them with the basic means of surviving and to welcome them into the Christian fold so that we can nurture them and provide them with a better way of living, yet few of us are willing to go this far. We are more concerned with looking after our own selves and our immediate family.

If you want to break out of this last line of reasoning, I encourage you to give of your time, talents and, yes, money and help people in need. You may be surprised just who is helped by your tax dollars and may find that more of your hard earned money is going to support your congressmen in Washington than the homeless vet living under a bridge who can afford to buy booze and cigarettes, but not a proper jacket or meal.

Certainly there are people who choose not to succeed in life, but none of us know why they make those choices or what kind of mental and physical anguish they are going through. Their lives are definitely not “better” than our lives just because the government gives them a smart phone and a bus card, while we have to ride the bike to work and can barely pay the home phone bill and live off beans and rice one week out of the month because our hours were cut at work again.

The joy you receive out of life is not always based on how much you possess or how much money you earn. There are many unhappy rich people and many happy poor people, but both have longings for something more, not necessarily money or goods, but that deep desire for being loved and accepted and being able to give back something more than they take out of life.

You can find great joy in helping others and not complaining that they have more than they deserve, because let’s be honest, none of us deserve to go to heaven and yet we have been promised we will get there if we trust in Christ and follow his will.

Heaven is more than most of us deserve. Judging others and acting like we are gods is something most of us do on a regular basis, but we are not God and we are not judges of our fellow man. We should instead encourage them, look into ways to help them (i.e. requiring they dig ditches and scrub toilets to receive food stamps is NOT helping) and try our best to be good representatives of Christ on earth… a job few of us do nearly as well as we should and yet God still loves us and takes care of us hoping one day our eyes will be opened and we will see the truth and worship Christ, not capitalism.

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