Jesus: the original Occupy Wall Street protester, but violent

I’ve long been persuaded that Jesus was the first revolutionary mass movement organizer. (See The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ and Other Essays by Jay Haley.)

Jesus: the original Occupy Wall Street protestor Common Sense Jesus
With the growing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, I’m seeing more discussion about whether or not Jesus would have been one to lead/participate in the movement.

This article in the Guardian by Terry Eaglton has persuaded me that he would have: Occupy London are true followers of Jesus, even if they despise religion . "Jesus’s fury with the money changers was born of anger with the system itself. Yet unlike the campers, his protest was violent."

Rather than squat down with a placard outside the Jerusalem temple, he staged his protest within its walls, and it was a violent rather than peaceful one. The fracas Jesus created in this holiest of places, driving out the money changers and overturning their tables, was probably enough to get him executed. To strike at the temple was to strike at the heart of Judaism. This itinerant upstart with a country-bumpkin background was issuing a direct challenge to the authority of the high priests. Even some of his comrades would probably have seen this astonishing act of defiance as nothing short of sacrilegious.

Jesus was not an anti-capitalist, any more than Dante was a Darwinist. But he was ready to risk death in order to defend what he saw as an authentic form of giving against a system that impoverished it. As such, he would probably have understood what those currently shivering outside St Paul’s are up to. They have certainly managed to throw the ruling caste of a holy place into an unholy panic, just as he did. And to that extent they are his followers, however much some of them may now understandably despise religion.

128 comments to  (Including 25 Discussion Threads) Jesus: the original Occupy Wall Street protester, but violent

  • 1
    Griff Wigley says:

    Letter to the editor in the Nfld News: Occupy Northfield to hold general assembly

    A hundred years ago, Northfield earned its place in history by stopping a bank robbery. Now there’s another bank robbery underway – but this time, it’s the banks doing the robbing. Occupy Northfield will hold its weekly General Assembly meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday in Carleton’s Skinner Chapel to discuss the Occupy protests taking place around the country and make decisions as to how Northfield can play its part in the movement

  • 2
    David Ludescher says:

    Griff,

    I could not disagree more.

    As a Christian, I see the question not so much as, “Would Jesus have led or participated in this movement?” but rather as, “Is Jesus leading or participating in this movement?”. Or, to put the point another way, “Is the movement being led by the Holy Spirit?”

    Eagleton displays poor Biblical exegesis when he declares that “Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render onto God what is God’s” justifies a merging of political and religious issues. Jesus had almost no interest in the political issues of the day. In fact, modern exegesis suggests the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus because Jesus refused to take up social causes of the day.

    Frankly, I cannot tell what Occupy’s social cause is, or why Jesus would care about it.

    • 2.1
      Raymond Daniels says:

      The Occupy movement is all about getting something for free and not earning it. They don’t want to work it, they expect others to work for them. As for the Occupy group in downtown mpls, I never asked you to spend the night outside, I never asked you to protest for me, therefore do not ask me for blankets, jackets, or tents. If you are cold, GO HOME!!!

      Back to the subject at hand. I don’t think Jesus would be part of this movement. Jesus was not concerned with materail things like money or wealth. Jesus was concerned with Souls.

    • 2.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      David, as a Catholic, what do you make of the Vatican’s announcement two weeks ago?

      Vatican calls for global authority on economy, raps “idolatry of the market”

      Asked at a news conference if the document could become a manifesto for the movement of the “indignant ones”, who have criticised global economic policies, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department, said: “The people on Wall Street need to sit down and go through a process of discernment and see whether their role managing the finances of the world is actually serving the interests of humanity and the common good. “We are calling for all these bodies and organisations to sit down and do a little bit of re-thinking.”

      And more here:

      The Vatican called on Monday for sweeping reforms of the world economy and the creation of a ethical, global authority to regulate financial markets as demonstrations against corporate greed continued to spring up in major cities across the globe.

      An 18-page document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department said the financial downturn had revealed behaviours like “selfishness, collective greed and hoarding of goods on a great scale,” adding that world economics needed an “ethic of solidarity” among rich and poor nations.

      Urging Wall Street powerbrokers to examine the impact of their decisions on humanity, the Vatican called on those who wanted to change economic structures to “not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilise pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest.”

    • 2.3
      Griff Wigley says:

      From Saturday’s NY Times: Nuns Who Won’t Stop Nudging

      Long before Occupy Wall Street, the Sisters of St. Francis were quietly staging an occupation of their own. In recent years, this Roman Catholic order of 540 or so nuns has become one of the most surprising groups of corporate activists around.

      The nuns have gone toe-to-toe with Kroger, the grocery store chain, over farm worker rights; with McDonald’s, over childhood obesity; and with Wells Fargo, over lending practices. They have tried, with mixed success, to exert some moral suasion over Fortune 500 executives, a group not always known for its piety.

      ”We want social returns, as well as financial ones,” Sister Nora said, strolling through the garden behind Our Lady of Angels, the convent here where she has worked for more than half a century. She paused in front of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. “When you look at the major financial institutions, you have to realize there is greed involved.”

    • 2.4
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff,

      The Vatican’s document appears to be consistent with prior Catholic social teaching (which is politically left of the political left).

      However, it would be a mistake to suggest that the Vatican is speaking in solidarity with Occupy forces. The “politically liberal” agenda espoused by the Vatican is a demand of the faith which arises as a consequence of a belief in God and his commandments. Its origins are theist and spiritual in nature.

      Fundamentally, the Occupy movement is materialistic in nature, i.e., the 1% need to share their material goods with the other 99%. For the most part, its methods of change revolve around taking from those who have much, whereas the Catholic method suggests giving to those who have little. In that sense, the Occupy movement is more about “hate the rich” while the Catholic movement is more about “love the poor”.

  • 3
    Bruce Wiskus says:

    I can see where an argument could be made the Jesus would be at the forefront of a social movement however I am not so sure that this is it.

    First I am still trying to find a coherent message from these occupy groups. Outside of vague concepts like the “rich people” are evil mantra and the desire to bring down the stock market what does this group stand for?

    As a member of the so called 99% I can not support the idea of bringing down the stock market. Like a lot of Americans I have invested for years through my 401k in the stock market. Trust me bringing down the stock market and whipping out the 401k accounts is going to hurt the 99% much more then the rich.

    Secondly I don’t think Jesus would be particularly a fan of the rampant crime and lawlessness in
    these camps. There have been shootings, stabbings, reports of sexual assault, and drug usage at these camps. Not something that I think fits into Christian values.

    In short I agree with David I don’t think Jesus would be leading these protest, because if he did they would not look like the protest we see now.

    • 3.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Bruce, yeah, I’d agree that many of the current Occupy Wall Street protesters/camps are problematic in a multitude of ways.

      But would you argue that Jesus would have had no concerns whatsoever with systemic financial abuses, that he wouldn’t have spoken out or stages an angry reaction?

  • 4
    Nancy Amerman says:

    Griff, I thought Jesus overturned the tables because “His zeal for His Father’s house consumed him”. It was the not the transaction of business that was offensive, but that it was done in a place set apart for worshipping God.

    And if that is so, I suggest that when you meet in Skinner Chapel to discuss politics and business, put the tables away and keep your heads low!

    • 4.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Nancy, if beggars and cripples had set up shop in the temple to panhandle/’transact business’ (and not to pray/worship), do you think that Jesus would have had the same angry reaction as he did with the moneychangers? I’m guessing not.

  • 5
    john george says:

    Sheesh, Griff! I leave town for a couple days, and you stir up trouble again! ;-) I agree with David L. and Nancy. To extend the thought a little further, Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple because, since He is God the Son on Earth, He had authority to do so. He never did anything out of rebellion, either against a social/economic system or otherwise. Remember 1 Sam. 15:23?

    “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.

    When He exhorted those listening to give to Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s and to God that which is God’s, He used the coin as an object lesson to get at a root problem with the Pharisees which still exists. Each of us has the image of God upon us. How are we each responding to that image? Do we give it back in surrender to God or do we hide it away?

  • 6
    Paul Zorn says:

    David L,

    You make some interesting points in 2.4, now a ways above. For instance, you write:

    The Vatican’s document appears to be consistent with prior Catholic social teaching (which is politically left of the political left).

    Could you explain the parenthetical phrase, or was something perhaps omitted?

    Then you write:

    … it would be a mistake to suggest that the Vatican is speaking in solidarity with Occupy forces. The “politically liberal” agenda espoused by the Vatican is a demand of the faith … Its origins are theist and spiritual in nature. … Fundamentally, the Occupy movement is materialistic in nature, i.e., the 1% need to share their material goods with the other 99%.

    I have no idea what the Vatican thinks about Occupy … , and don’t doubt that the two groups reason very, very differently. But aren’t their practical goals — however differently conceived — really quite similar? Doesn’t the bottom line for both groups involve more equal sharing of resources? Isn’t this somehow related to a “preferential option for the poor”?

    And then:

    For the most part, [Occupy's] methods of change revolve around taking from those who have much, whereas the Catholic method suggests giving to those who have little. In that sense, the Occupy movement is more about “hate the rich” while the Catholic movement is more about “love the poor”.

    Why put it so argumentatively?

    Almost all Americans — including me and (I’m guessing) you — prefer a system of taxation that is to some degree progressive. Must this belief really be founded on “hatred” for the rich? Wouldn’t some reasonable sense of “fair share” suffice? And do you really know that Occupy-ers harbor less “love the poor” sentiments than do Catholics?

    • 6.1
      john george says:

      Paul Z.- You bring up an interesting point about “attitude,” which I think is well described in Luke 3:11-13

      11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “[a]Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” (imphasis mine)

      As I recall the history of this era, tax collectors would collect what the Roman law required, and also a “little extra” for themselves. It would appear from this verse and these verses- Matt. 9:10&11, 11:19, Mark 2:15&16 and Luke 5:27-29- that Jesus didn’t take an anti-tax position in His teachings, but rather an anti-greed position. He also evidently did not exclude tax collectors from His followers, as Matthew himself was a tax collector before he was called to be a disciple (the Luke 5 reference). In reference to the contemporary rich, I have no problem with them having money. What I would like to see for all of them is that they would have a heart to share their riches. I think this is what David L. is alluding to in his comment above. Whether it is right to force them to do so through taxation is up for debate. I prefer a change of heart through a work of the Holy Spirit.

      • 6.1.1
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        You remark that it’s debatable whether it’s right “to force [the rich] to [share their riches] through taxation”.

        Agreed, there’s always plenty to debate about appropriate tax rates, how much money governments legitimately need, etc. And of course it would be nice if everyone had a good change of heart, whatever its origin. World peace and universal good health would be nice, too.

        But here’s a direct question, sparked by your reference to “force”:

        Do you see all taxation as accomplished by “force” in some bad or blameworthy sense? Or can the government legitimately “force” compliance with tax (and other) laws?

      • 6.1.2
        john george says:

        Paul Z.- The government has authority to tax its citizenry. This is “forced” when taxpayers refuse to pay the tax. It can even advance to the level of confiscating and reselling real property. The question in Griff’s original post is whether Jesus would participate in the Occupy movement. I and David contend that he would not. The history I have read about the Temple incident is that the money changers were exacting a fee above the monetary exchange that would be considered usury. That is why He called them thieves. I think there are some Messianic scriptures refering to the Messiah cleansing the Temple. I will try to find those tonight and get them posted for you.

      • 6.1.3
        Paul Zorn says:

        John G,

        You said in 6.1 that it’s “debatable” whether it’s right to force [the rich] to [share their riches] through taxation.

        In 6.1.2 you acknowledge that the government “has authority to tax its citizenry”, so it seems to me you’ve settled the earlier “debate”: Yes, it’s OK to force the rich to share through taxation.

        A fair implication?

      • 6.1.4
        john george says:

        Paul- Sorry, but I don’t agree with you here. Just because it is legal does not make it “right.” Just as it is legal for credit card companies to charge exhorbitant interest rates on unpaid balances, that does not make the practice “right.” Legality in law and acceptability in moral issues are two different things, IMO.

        Back to the Temple incident, the verse that Jesus quoted in refering to the robbers is in Jer. 7:10&11.

      • 6.1.5
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        I’m aware of the distinction between what’s legal and what’s “right” in the moral sense. I’m trying to understand whether, in your view, taxation by government, enforceable by law, is morally acceptable. Or should a “moral” government just ask people to contribute and hope their better angels will do the right thing?

      • 6.1.6
        john george says:

        Paul- If I’m understanding your questions correctly, you are asking me if I agree that the government should supplant the work of God in a person’s life to coerce (force) him into “sharing” his wealth. No, I do not. The whole idea that authority comes from man and not God is an extension of the lie in Gen. 3:5

        For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

        The verse in Luke 3:11 about sharing what we have is a tenet of Christianity. I do not believe I have a right, or an obligation, for that matter, to force this lifestyle upon anyone, whether through force of arms or legal caveate. To use this verse to justify the legislation of a course of coercive action targeting a narrow cross section of people is a perversion of the whole teaching Jesus was giving, IMO.

      • 6.1.7
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        I don’t recognize my question at all in your paraphrase. I said nothing about God, coercion, or forcing of lifestyles on anyone.

        My questions seem to me quite simple and clear. We agree, I assume, that governments have some legitimate and necessary functions. (We probably disagree on what those functions are, but that’s OK for present purposes.) We agree, too, that governments need somehow to pay for their activities. So …

        (i) Can government ever morally require (rather than just ask or exhort) citizens to pay taxes to support the things government does? Or is taxation simply theft?

        (ii) Can government ever morally expect (i.e., require) richer citizens to contribute more than poorer citizens toward these expenses? Or are progressive tax regimes always immoral?

      • 6.1.8
        john george says:

        Paul Z.- (i) I don’t regard taxation as a moral issue. Fairness and moraliy are different, just as legality and morality are different.
        (ii) Again, progressive tax structures have no moral overtones for me. The motives driving them may or may not have moral overtones, as I consider motives individual rather than corporate. There may be corporate consensus to justify a particular tax code, but the individual motives behind this could vary widely. One person may feel that anyone making more than them has somehow done so underhandedly (envy- moral implications), while others may see the greater income as a source for betterment of the society as a whole (altruism). Does this better answer your questions?

    • 6.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Paul,

      I responded in the context of Griff’s question regarding the Vatican’s document.

      First, I think it is important to point out that the Catholic Church has a politically left position on social justice issues. This position is actually an illiberal position as it suggests significant government oversight over individual freedoms to work, make money, and sell goods. The focus of the social teaching is ensuring that the lesser advantaged have equal dignity and opportunity.

      From what I can tell, Occupy-ers want to take money from the richest 1% and spread it to (American) society as a whole. Thus, the Occupy-ers are only really concerned about the 1%.

      The Vatican document notes that the Occupy-ers emotions are expressions of frustrations of a capitalist system that rewards the accumulation of capital in disproportion the the efforts involved, sometimes at the expense of the poor.

      In the Catholic model of social justice, there is no sense of “fair share” in which the poor have a right to demand that the rich (and the middle class) share with them. There are no material entitlements. Rather, Catholic doctrine demands charity be given, and that it be given primarily out of Love of God, which expresses itself most concretely as Love of Man.

      • 6.2.1
        Paul Zorn says:

        David L,

        Thanks for the interesting information on Catholic social teaching. I like and respect the straightforward admonitions that the more fortunate should share with the less fortunate, and that “charity” is better motivated by love than by compulsion.

        Does Catholic teaching dictate or imply anything, either way, about the okay-ness of a governmental tax system — which in some sense always involves compulsion? Would a progressive tax system be extra good or extra bad?

      • 6.2.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        You should refer to the Vatican document for a detailed explanation.

        My thought is that Catholic social teaching requires that Catholics obey governments as they carry out their duty to provide systems of justice which respects the dignity of man, especially the poor and the oppressed.

        While I have not read any Catholic teachings on government tax systems, I have no doubt that the Church would approve of progressive tax systems. Early Church communities were communal in nature with everyone expected to contribute according to their ability and use according to their need. That is still a basic tenet of social obligation.

        Pope Benedict’s first encyclical -- God is Love -- has an excellent expose on the proper roles of state and religion in ordering the temporal affairs of men.

  • 7
    David Henson says:

    Paul Z, most of the super rich are the result of increased taxing authority, the more you tax the more super rich you create. BTW- The main complaint I hear from occupiers is they were duped into student loans and cannot get jobs to repay. Apparently there is a trillion dollars in potentially bad student debt -- still more being sold on it as good investment

    • 7.1
      Paul Zorn says:

      David H,

      You say:

      The more you tax the more super rich you create.

      Do you mean that high taxes increase wealth? Sounds too good to be true.

      Or do you mean that high taxes increase inequality? Do world economic data bear this out?

      Please explain.

      Or perhaps you mean that higher taxation increases inequ

  • 8
    kiffi summa says:

    In the context of this discussion, can anyone explain the “prosperity gospel” or “marketplace ministry” theories/practices of some faiths?

    • 8.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi,

      I think the attempted connection between the Occupy-ers and Jesus is tenuous.

      • 8.1.1
        john george says:

        David-
        I think you are being quite charitable with the word “tenuous.” I don’t think Griff’s connection fits at all, since most of the rhetoric I have heard from the Occupy-ers seems rooted more in jealousy and envy rather than any logical or legally based argument. Jesus’ actions were not motivated by any of these arguments.

      • 8.1.2
        kiffi summa says:

        Don’t understand your reply at all, David…

        This discussion seems to be evolving towards the morality of wealth, which has relevancy to the ideologies I mentioned in #8… ideologies which seem to be in conflict with a ‘moral’ position about wealth… or the obligation to the pursuit of the ‘common good’… and which, as I have heard them expressed, say only those who are accepted ideologically should or will benefit monetarily.

        But my understanding may be wrong, and therefore I asked for an explanation.

      • 8.1.3
        kiffi summa says:

        I actually think Griff made a very relevant connection between OWS and religion IF most still believe that religion helps to determine a ‘moral’ path’..

        I also think saying that the protest is about “jealousy and envy” is quite simplistic, if you will forgive my saying so.

        At the end of 2008, this country fell into an economic pit that many feel was caused by what could easily, and has been, be termed as “systemic corruption by the financial services industry”.

        I think the word “services’ needs to come out of that label of the financial industry because as the major firms in that sector currently and recently function, they are serving only themselves. The moral improprieties of the ‘products’ developed by the financial industry to sell to a public who admittedly was not paying enough attention, were IMO, worse than biblical usury.

        There is no better explanation of a financial “services” industry gone awry than the 2010 Best Documentary film by Charles Ferguson, entitled “Inside Job”.

        (and the bitter irony of that film title, one that is usually applied to a crime, is devastating)

      • 8.1.4
        john george says:

        Kiffi- I would never profess to fully understand the OWS movement, but it appears that there is a common bond amongst them in simply being “against” the Wall Street investment businesses. As far as that whole industry goes, I agree that it appears some industry personel’s motivation is personal greed rather than anything resembling altruism. I don’t think I can make a sweeping generalization about it, though. The thing that has intrigued me is how some hedge fund investors could make a billion (!!) dollar commission. That seems absurd in light of the economic condition of the country in general. Of course, I have yet to hear an understandable (for me) explanation of what a “derivitive” is.

        I do know from scripture that God’s heart is toward the afflicted, and these people certainly fit that category. Whether this uprising will actually accomplish anything, Christian or non-Christian, is yet to be seen. Also, I can’t claim that I know God is not in the whole thing. When Jesus came a couple thousand years ago, He took pretty much everyone by surprise simply because they were looking for something different. Even though Jesus was not motivated by envy or jealousy for material things, He does use some surprising people to accomplish His will. Take for instance Nebuchadnezer. I just want to be sensitive to His direction.

      • 8.1.5
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        Sorry. I didn’t understand what you were attempting to ask.

        “Prosperity gospel” is a pejorative term used to describe a theology that believes that God rewards faithfulness by increased material possessions. “Marketplace ministry” describes a process of bringing the Gospel to the secular world. I don’t think either theology or practice has a secular connection with the “morality” of wealth.

        Your comment does touch upon the apparent confusion surrounding the Occupy movement. I’m not sure if the Occupy-ers are (or think they are) protesting the illegality, the injustice, or the immorality of being rich. As John notes in 8.1.1, the Occupy-ers seem to be focused upon what the rich have, not how the wealth was acquired. The real problem for a “rich” Christian is that they may be lowering their prospects of getting into heaven. (It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a [the] needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven.)

  • 9
    David Henson says:

    Paul Z, taking an area you feel is short of government funds, Health Care, look at the compensation:
    John Hammergren of McKesson, the largest distributor of both pharmaceuticals and health care I.T. systems -compensation of $131 million this year
    George Paz , who runs prescription drug distributor ExpressScripts, compensation of $51.5 million this year
    Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group $48.8 million

    The answer to your question is that I think decentralized decision making in both politics and the economy generate both societal wealth and fairness. And if we rank “freedom” as a component of wealth the the US is becoming bankrupt -- I was patted down including groin area on my flight home last week. Really this is beyond sad, our nation is being ruined by everyone fighting for a piece of the tax based feed trough rather than interacting with each other to create wealth.

  • 10
    Paul Zorn says:

    John,

    You’ve observed that governments have the legal power to enforce essentially any tax code, good or bad, fair or unfair. You’ve also observed that legal might doesn’t necessarily make moral right, that morality and fairness aren’t identical, and that people hold their views for differing reasons.

    Agreed.

    But I’m still unclear on whether you think a tax system that’s progressive (the rich pay more) and enforced by law — the federal income tax system, for example — is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, moral or immoral, wise or foolish … take your pick.

    I ask because you said in 6.1 that it’s “debatable” whether it’s right (my bold) to force [the rich] to [share their riches] through taxation. I’m trying to understand what you mean by this, and where you come down in the “debate” to which you allude.

    My position in this “debate” is that (i) the federal income tax does indeed “force” the richer to share with the poorer (don’t pay and you’ll languish in the clink); and (ii) I’m fine with that.

    What’s yours?

    • 10.1
      john george says:

      Paul-
      I am just leery of giving too much power to any central government department. I suppose it comes out of my leaning toward small central government rather than large. As I look at history, I do not see a good reason to support a large central government. There have been too many dictatorships arise out of addressing seemingly innocent “needs” of society on a national level rather than a local level. Corruption can erupt on any level, but I think there is a suppression of it when a local leader can be publicly confronted and dealt with. Centralized power seems to allow impersonal accountability just because of the distance involved to reach someone, modern communications not withstanding. When we allow a segment of society to be unequally yoked, then where is the safeguard that sanctions will not be imposed upon a less, in this case monitarily endowed, segment of society because of some deemed need of a minority? In other words, I do not trust human nature without limits to their power.

    • 10.2
      Paul Zorn says:

      John,

      There’s a discussion to be had about the proper size of government, propensity to dictatorship, danger of corruption, pervasiveness of modern communications, etc.

      But the question (based on your question) I keep asking is different. One more try: Can progressive taxation by government be “right” (your word) or is it always wrong?

      I still don’t see any clear answer in 10.1. Unless, perhaps, your warning against “unequal yoking” implies that government should require the same tax payments of everyone, rich or poor, healthy or ill, fortunate or unfortunate. Do I read you right?

      • 10.2.1
        john george says:

        Paul- Not the same payments, but the same percentages. 10% of a $20,000 income is $2,000. 10% of a $2,000,000 income is $200,000. This is equal taxation. The arguments I hear against this type of flat tax and in favor of a progressive tax have nothing to do with the amount of tax paid, but rather, how much is left over for the wage earner to spend. $1,800,000 is a lot more desireable to live on than $18,000. The arguments I have heard regarding this is that the person with $20,000 should not only be free of tax liability, but he should also recieve additional money from the other’s remaining $1,800,000. This should be paid to him without requiring anything in return from him. It is this thinking, which I call entitlement mentality, with which I have a problem.

        The way I understand Jesus’ teaching is that the one with the $2,000,000 should contribute to the welfare of the one with $20,000 out of a converted heart. Unfortunately, this is not the conviction of many rich people. Perhaps it has been a failure of the Church to to effectively teach Kingdom principles of finances to its member. I can only speculate on this. I have not heard these principles being taught and instilled through public education, either, because of the separation of church and state. That leaves the government to “enforce” this distribution of wealth. I see it as an unfortunate, and inneficient, answer, being a coerced distribution of wealth, rather than an actual change of character for the “rich” person.

        This is where Marketplace Ministry comes in, seeking a blessing upon business owners and a change in their hearts to follow Luke 3:11. I prefer to exert my energies in that way rather than push for some taxation method that will somehow squeeze more money out of the rich.

      • 10.2.2
        kiffi summa says:

        John: in 10.1 you say: “I do not trust human nature without limits to their power”, but you seemingly want to urge the ‘wealthy’ to provide for those less fortunate simply by the “marketplace ministry”, rather than any obligation to the ‘common good’ of society.

        and by the way, I can assure you that the ‘common good ‘ of society IS taught in many places in our society: in homes , in schools, in social institutions, and to some extent in our governments by the social services thereby structured.
        If this principle of “the common good” only came to you through your religious experience, then I find your reliance on that area of your life so much more understandable.

      • 10.2.3
        john george says:

        Kiffi-
        You and I come from entirely diferent places on this issue, but I will try to respond the best way I know. My conviction is that the best limitation on human nature is the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life to produce a new nature in that person. How well a person responds to this new nature will determine how well he is able to release his finances. The goal is in Luke 3:11. I feel I have not achieved this goal, but I am still pressing on toward that standard.

        As far as the teaching of providing for the “common good,” in a secular setting, this can only really be produced by some positive thinking and governmental coercion, such as tax laws. In Christianity, there is a different foundation- the conversion experience. The active work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life can bring change that positive thinking cannot, since it is not limited to the power of the person doing the thinking. I have yet to see someone lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Jer. 13:23 is just one scripture that touches on this:

        Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.

      • 10.2.4
        john george says:

        Here’s an additional thought to 10.2.3. One of the goals of market place ministry is to use our everyday contacts to affect change in the lives of those around us who desire that change. Our goal is to bring our own experience of being changed into our everyday activities in a way that God is able to use our changed life to draw others into His kingdom.

  • 11
    kiffi summa says:

    see… right here is my problem with that philosophy, John: in 10.2.4 you say: “One of the goals in the marketplace ministry is to use our everyday contacts to affect change in the lives of those around us who desire that change.”

    Don’t you agree that creates an ‘exclusivity’ to only favor those who have the same values?

    • 11.1
      john george says:

      Kiffi- How is that any different from the way you sort out people? Don’t you choose to associate with prople who share like values with you? Is your group any more or less “exclusive?” In fact, I think I have some associations with some people quite outside my group, but with whom I can still have a civil discourse. I do not belittle them for their beliefs, but I feel free to challenge those beliefs just as they have freedom to challenge mine. For instance, Griff, Patrick Enders, Paul Zorn, et al.? I am not out to, nor do I even believe I can, “force” my beliefs on anyone.

  • 12
    kiffi summa says:

    But John, I am not speaking of that ‘civil’ discourse of which you are speaking… I am speaking of money, dollars, business, retail, banking,etc.

    If one chooses to only , or most preferably, ‘do business’ with only those who share the same religious belief system, then they are showing an inappropriate discrimination, IMO,i.e. how it is implied in 10.2.4… (maybe you just weren’t being very clear; it is easy to mistake the intent of language in this kind of communication.)
    Anyway,that’s why I don’t like the idea of tying religious values and commerce together, as you have described in your explanation of “marketplace ministry”.

    But as far as “forcing” beliefs, you have referred to government as “coercive”… should not the rule of law apply to all? Would it not be anarchy to allow everyone to do as they please, regardless of laws in place?

    Isn’t the ‘law of the commons’ better for the largest number of people than any one ideology?

    • 12.1
      john george says:

      Kiffi- I’m not suggesting that people only do business with those who share their beliefs. In fact, I think there is greater opportunity for us as believers to share our lives when we do business with those who believe differently than we, and that is what we in marketplace ministry are urged to do. I also belive in these two verses in Acts 2:44 & 45-

      44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

      This has been a way of life for my family for the past 35+ years, and I see my children carrying on this way of life. I also get reports back from the various college students who have been a part of our home, caught the vision, and are continuing in it.

      Also, I wanted to respond to your question in #8 about the “prosperty gospel.” I believe the Bible makes a pretty clear statement about this in I Tim 6: 5-10

      …who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
      6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love (my emphasis)of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

      • 12.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        John : there is nowhere to ‘draw the line’ if you actually think that everyone
        should just be ‘good’ and if they are not yet convinced, should not be forced by a “coercive” government, but converted.

        That’s why I asked you about the ‘law of the commons’ in the end of 12; that supposes that ‘all’ will have concern for ‘all’, but does not tie that value to a religious belief. That precept has survived history from the survival of a band ( sociologically less than thirty people) to today’s oft used statement: “A rising tide elevates all boats”…
        so the idea that all will benefit when things are going well is sociologically, anthropologically proven; we could list examples over all of history… and they have nothing to do with any one set of religious beliefs.

        Any belief system which encourages behavior which is beneficial to the general society is ‘good'; one is not ‘better’ than another.
        So why worry that government is “coercive” when it makes all pay taxes according to the law? Only a large central gov’t, which supersedes the states, can impose a system on everyone according to what has been determined to be fair.
        (I would agree that our tax law needs revision… major revision… both at federal ,state, and local levels, but that’s not really what this whole thread started out to be)

        You see, to my mind, there is always an element of judgement in what you say about others, regardless of the focus subject. You always evaluate people and their behavior by your personal standards… and I just do not understand how an open society, with many differing belief systems, can function as you suggest… if based on a faith belief system, that society would then be a theocracy, which thankfully, we do not have.

  • 13
    Paul Zorn says:

    John,

    You say in 10.2.1, about your preferred method of income taxation:

    Not the same payments, but the same percentages. 10% of a $20,000 income is $2,000. 10% of a $2,000,000 income is $200,000. This is equal taxation.

    Such a plan is undeniably simple, and it’s “equal” in one obvious mathematical sense. (Charging everyone the same dollar amount could also be called “equal”, of course.) Whether such a plan is “fair”, “just”, “right”, “moral”, or has any other “value” attributes, good or bad, is another discussion.

    I’m glad to have it some time. But in the meantime I’d note that, to my knowledge, no serious political candidate in either party has ever proposed an income tax that’s “flat” in this sense. What Steve Forbes and others (including an occasional Democrat, by the way) have actually proposed under the “flat tax” moniker would exempt some basic amount from *all* taxation, and then tax the rest at a “flat” percentage. Mr. Forbes, for example, said this (as quoted at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/congress/forbes_flat_tax.html ):

    Not one cent to the IRS on the first $36,000. Anything over that would be taxed at a flat, fair 17%.

    Your putative 20K earner, for instance, would pay nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. So Mr. Forbes’s plan is progressive (but not enough for me!).

    Note, too, that even Mr Forbes set the bar a lot — 70% — higher than the 10% you mentioned. One can argue about what fraction of the economy government should “take”, and about what fraction of that “taking” should be accomplished through the federal income tax (as opposed to payroll taxes, business taxes, state and local income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc.) But the bottom line is that in the US now, all levels of government consume something like 40% of the economy — and this percentage is low in comparison with what happens in other rich countries. This 40% amounts to something like $15K per person per year, or (I’m guessing) around $30K per taxpayer per year. This puts the family with $20K annually in something of a bind.

    And then:

    The arguments I hear against this type of flat tax and in favor of a progressive tax have nothing to do with the amount of tax paid, but rather, how much is left over for the wage earner to spend.

    I don’t understand this. Seems to me what’s above, and essentially all discussion of taxes, touches both on amount paid and, inevitably, what’s left to spend. How can these things be separated?

    • 13.1
      john george says:

      Paul- My 10% example was just that- an example, not a suggested course of action. I can usually figure 10% of something without commiting any glaring mathematical errors. The issue I am trying to contrast here is not whether the “rich” person can or should contribute more of his income to those without, but rather, how is he to be motivated to do that. I’m taking the position of seeing the person’s heart changed so that he is motivated by God’s work in his life. When the government forces him to pay more through taxation, there is not a change of heart. In fact, there is often, as we see, a resentment to being forced in this way. Also, the person will try to find as many ways out of having to pay the tax as he possibly can- hence, tax shelters. Now, according to scriptural example, there are not many rich who find their way into the Kingdom. That doesn’t mean I should just give up on them because of their financial place in society. And, in the mean time, I will continue to both give to those in need and pay my taxes.

    • 13.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Paul,

      One area of the taxation that gets very little attention is the “fairness” of the separate taxing mechanisms.

      For example, non-profits pay no real property taxes even though they are “rich” according to their accumulated wealth. Other “poor” businesses, like most downtown businesses, pay a significant amount of taxes, and pay at a tax rate much higher than residences. Individuals who possess tangible assets, like money, pay no property taxes.

      Would you favor adjusting this method of property taxation that is at least flat, if not progressive?

      • 13.2.1
        Paul Zorn says:

        David L,

        Agreed, there are lots of good questions about what to tax, and at what rates. I’m no tax expert but as a non-expert I’m inclined to prefer lower taxes rates on businesses — even if it raises tax rates on individuals. It’s ultimately people, not businesses, that pay taxes, and it seems fairer to me to tax the people who benefit. The alternative, passing business taxes on to consumers through higher prices, may well be objectively regressive.

        Pros and cons of tax exemption for nonprofits (like colleges and churches) is another good but different question. The idea, I suppose, is that society has an interest in encouraging activities like those of churches and schools, that in some sense duplicate or complement or obviate activities governments would otherwise have to engage in, and pay for. I’m not sure how well this analysis plays out in practice — e.g., does society really get good value for money from such exemptions? But I’m guessing that charitable and religious tax exemptions won’t go away any time soon.

    • 13.3
      john george says:

      Regarding tax exempt status for churches, here is an interesting exchange between Eric Stanley (Pulpit Initiative) and Barry Lynn (Americans United for the Separation of Church and State), published in the LA Times, dated Sept. of 2008.

      http://www.latimes.com/features/religion/la-oew-lynn-stanley23-2008sep23,0,2226105.story

      Both give some good arguments for their positions. It demonstrates to me that there are facts to substantiate both positions, and you will agree with one or the other according to upon what you base your beliefs.

      • 13.3.1
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        If your last sentence means only that people will disagree on this issue, then I agree. But if you mean to suggesting that people’s views on the Pulpit Initiative align closely with religion, then I disagree. Barry Lynn, who opposes the P.I., is an ordained minister, for example.

        IMO the Pulpit Initiative (which argues that tax-exempt preachers should endorse candidates from the pulpit) is pernicious. Tax exemption is a form of public subsidy; using the public purse to influence public policy—including further subsidy from the public purse—seems ingrown, and wrong.

      • 13.3.2
        kiffi summa says:

        “using the public purse to influence public policy—including further subsidy from the public purse—seems ingrown, and wrong.”

        Precisely right , Paul.

      • 13.3.3
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        The fallacy in your argument is that the churches receive no public subsidy -- and are forbidden to receive a public subsidy under the First Amendment. Taxation is a power of government, not a right of government.

      • 13.3.4
        Paul Zorn says:

        David,

        Churches don’t get direct government payments, but they (like other tax-exempt entities) enjoy significant financial advantages as a result of tax-exempt status. (Were it not so the PI pulpiteers would have nothing to rail about.)

        I’ve heard of the First Amendment and the establishment clause. Does it really forbid every form of “public subsidy” to churches? Are property tax abatements for churches unconstitutional?

        Do you, David, favor any tax exemptions or reductions?

      • 13.3.5
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        There are two basic ways to view taxation. The first view, held by our forefathers when they broke the chains of King George is that all income and property is the people’s, and that government power should be strictly limited. The second view, which is gaining popularity, is essentially Marxist. It holds that all income and property is the government’s to be redistributed as the democracy so dictates through its representatives.

        Personally, I subscribe to the first view. I don’t consider it a “public subsidy” when the government doesn’t take from me what I have rightly and legally earned.

      • 13.3.6
        kiffi summa says:

        David: a very lawerly parsing of words…

        A ‘power’ in actuality becomes a ‘right’ if it is enforceable when there is a noncompliance … or maybe better stated: the power and the right get all mixed up into what becomes a law.

        And the law says that a church may lose its nonprofit status if it enters into the public arena too heavily,and especially with $$, to influence the outcome of a public vote.
        For example the Mormon Church in its investment of… what was it, 22 M?, to influence the outcome of CA’s Prop 8….

      • 13.3.7
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        I’m not parsing words. The Declaration of Independence makes it clear people have inalienable rights and that the government derives its just powers from the people. These sentiments are codified in the Constitution.

        The law does not prevent churches from being involved in politics; it prevents churches from supporting political candidates or parties.

      • 13.3.8
        john george says:

        Paul Z.- I mean your first statement- people will observe the same set of “fact”, but disagree on what those facts mean. Your citing of Barry Lynn’s credentials substantiates this.

      • 13.3.9
        Paul Zorn says:

        David L,

        Re 13.3.5:

        With an attorney in my nuclear family I avoid “lawyerly” … rhetorical overkill is by no means limited to those admitted to the bar.

        Still, your description of the two-fold-way of taxation strikes me as, well, Manichean. Is this just vivid writing, or are Democrats, for example, actually totalitarian wanna-bes? Who knew?

        There’s plenty of wide open space between the poles you describe. One might say, for instance, that democratically elected representatives decide what programs and services government should carry out and how, through (compulsory) taxes of various sorts, to pay for the goodies. How Marxist is that?

      • 13.3.10
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        You suggested in 13.1.1 that churches that receive a tax exemption receive a form of “public subsidy”, and consequently churches shouldn’t try to influence public policy.

        I think such an interpretation is grounded in the principle that the government lets churches (and, in the case of the Occupy-ers/Jesus debate, the rich) keep their money by the grace of the government.

        I suppose one could argue that, in a democracy, churches and the rich should be taxed at whatever rate the elected representatives desire so long as they can get reelected. By the same rationale they should be able to spend on whomever they want.

        But, that kind of attitude is what gets us Bridges to Nowhere, and Bike Paths that You Can’t Ride On.

  • 14
    john george says:

    Here’s a link to an interesting contribution in the Strib opinion section today-
    http://www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/134289068.html
    I especially like this observation at the end of the treatise-

    They should rethink who exactly is funding their tame and soulless fight. Ugg boots? Swiss Miss? HP? Scotch tape? Home Depot? Crayola? Nike?

    I think this obsevation points out the difference between what Jesus did in the Temple and what the Occupyers are doing. Jesus was not reacting out of the complaints he had heard from the people of that time about how unfair and inequitable the Temple merchants were conducting their business. He was reacting to the disrespect they were showing toward His Father’s admonition that the Temple was to be a house of prayer. He was quoting Isa. 56:7

    “…For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

    The merchants had turned it into a “robbers’ den”, found in Jer. 7:11, and repeated in the accounts in Matthew, Mark & Luke.

    • 14.1
      David Henson says:

      John, I doubt Jesus would have been upset if the money changers activities were being lauded by the poor. He was a radical and not an apologist. The occupy folks want a piece of the current system, Jesus would tell them as soon as they open their hearts they become the new system … they can die under the law and be reborn in the spirit.

      • 14.1.1
        john george says:

        David- That is interesting theology. Not sure I agree, but I don’t think either has eternal significance.

  • 15
    David Henson says:

    John, do you agree that over and over and over again Jesus confronts the power structure of his day, powerful people and masses of people on behalf of the disenfranchised? In addition to being kind and singing praises, isn’t following Christ’s examples of this kind also part of the Christian life?

    • 15.1
      john george says:

      Davdid- This may not be the best forum to discuss theology, but I’ll give you my interpretation. (Phil Poiner- please accept my appologies for getting into another “frickin'” Bible study.) Jesus is God the Son, sent here to die and rise again to retore us. He only did those things He saw the Father doing. He was not a political activist or a radical in the same sense as, say, Abbie Hoffman (I just dated myself). His radicalness is simply that He brought the Kingdom of God into a fallen world under the rule of the Kingdom of Darkness. From that, though He had compassion on the suffering and associated with sinners and tax collectors, fostering anoyther uprising was not His mission at the time, nor is it our mission today.

    • 15.2
      David Ludescher says:

      David,

      I think John’s interpretation is much closer to reality than Griff’s. When he was on trial before both the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities, Jesus put up almost no defense. That approach is hardly confrontational.

      Classic Christian theology holds that Jesus came to earth to save mankind from sin, not from the ruling authorities.

      • 15.2.1
        David Henson says:

        David, “turning the other cheek” displayed the absolute example of distain for authority.

        Why do think Jesus was on trial?

      • 15.2.2
        john george says:

        David- I’ve been mulling over your comment about “turning the other cheek,” and I just don’t follow it. This comment by Jesus out of Matt 5:39

        But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

        has nothing to do with disdaining authority, and everything to do with not being ruled by your emotions and taking revenge by fighting back. Sorry, but maybe you can clarify your comment further.

  • 16
    Paul Fried says:

    Griff, thanks for the great topic.
    From what I read so far, David L. and John George seem to lean toward assumptions that grossly oversimplify not only the Occupy movement, but also what happened in the temple.

    St. Augustine, in his “City of God,” wrote that a kingdom without justice is just organized robbery.
    -- Consider that the gap between the average worker pay and CEO pay in Japan is 11 to 1, but in the US, it is hovering around 500 to 1.
    -- In the US, there are regulations regarding car and home insurance. I can get only one insurance policy on my car; I can’t take out 10 policies on the car of my neighbor, which I don’t own, simply because I know he’s an alcoholic and very depressed likely due to the death of a family member. Not so with Credit Default Swaps; you can buy more than one, and you don’t have to own the underlying investment you’re “insuring.”
    -- In the US, there are also regulations about insider trading. You can’t abuse insider information on the stock market, or if you do and get caught, you go to jail. Not so with credit default swaps. Some owners of CDS’s probably had insider information on the bundled sub-prime mortgages they bet against with CDS’s.
    -- Republicans like to blame the financial crisis on sub-prime loans and liberal policies meant to make home ownership easier. But the sub-prime industry made a killing and turned around to re-sell the mortgages, which were bundled and sold off to other investors, and given unfairly (unjustly) high investment ratings (there’s that Augustine word, justice). And in 2008, the market for Credit Default Swaps was larger than the entire NY Stock Exchange. Not so with all sub-prime mortgages combined, a much smaller market.
    -- So when we bailed out the banks and AIG, a great deal of the bailout money went to help them pay off their derivatives gambling losses. Repeat: a great deal of the bailout money went to help them pay off their derivatives gambling losses.

    Augustine would call this organized robbery. And to help pay for this casino economy from which a small percent profited very nicely, the world’s economies are being asked to accept “austerity measures.” More organized robbery.

    Many people in the Occupy movement understand this. Augustine would have understood it. Jesus would have understood it.

    I don’t think the people in the Occupy movement want some credit default swap action like the 1%, or that it’s about envy at all.

    Now it may be that the Catholic Church, and many Christians in the Occupy movement, are in it for more than purely materialistic reasons. They may feel a moral and spiritual obligation to work for fairness and justice, motivated by their faith.

    But this doesn’t mean that there are some in the movement whose motives are purely materialistic. Atheists can care about fairness and justice, and values such as those are not material values, but moral and ethical values, and one can’t point to an ethic or moral value as if it’s a material thing.

    Now why should any Christian or person who cares about ethics or morals stand by passively and allow what St. Augustine would call “Organized robbery” to take place unchallenged?

    -- Why is it wrong for them to question the expensive wars based on falsified intelligence? (Colin Powell’s chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, a Republican, accuses Cheney of using torture to force false confessions linking 9-11 and Iraq, and he says he’d testify to that effect in court).

    -- Why is it wrong, when such obscene amounts of wealth are relocated from the middle class and poor to the wealthy through these wars and this financial fraud, for the Occupy members to observe that it would be more moral, more ethical, to give everyone health care, and to address world poverty, and to invest in better schools (as they do in Finland, and Singapore, and many other countries where school reform is outpacing that in the US, and where test scores are higher)?

    Jesus was a rebel. His zeal in the temple was not only about money-changing taking place in a temple. It was also about profit-taking, and about the face of the emperor on the coin, naming him as “son of god,” and about the use of the pilgrimage to the temple as a time to subject the citizens to the coinage of the empire, among other things.

    In another gospel passage, Jesus visits with a demoniac whose demon, according to the gospel writer, just happened to have the same name as the occupying Roman army (Legion), a Latinate word in an otherwise Greek text. This is how oppressed people express their political opposition to an oppressive, occupying army: Very carefully, in veiled references like this. If anyone tells you Jesus was not a rebel, they’re not paying attention.

    And the rich have a harder time getting to heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle? Don’t forget that one.

    • 16.1
      john george says:

      Paul F.- Good to hear from you again. Seems it’s been a long time. Just a note on your reference to “Legion”, this is what Webster has to say-

      1: the principal unit of the Roman army comprising 3000 to 6000 foot soldiers with cavalry
      2: a large military force; especially: army 1a
      3: a very large number : multitude

      As you know, Biblical writers used common terms to get their ideas across. Since Israel was not allowed to have a standing army under the Roman rule, the Roman Legion was the best description of the vast number of demons affecting the Gadarene demoniac. In both Mark 5:15 and Luke 8:35, this was the reaction-

      They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “ legion”; and they became frightened.

      As you can probably tell, I am not a follower of Liberation Theology.

  • 17
    Paul Fried says:

    John, I’m aware. But the biblical writers could have used a different word (and in other places, did use a different word) translated as “hosts” (hosts of angels, armies, etc.). The gospel writer didn’t have the demoniac say “hosts.” He had him say, “Legion.”

    Jesus criticized those among his disciples who wanted to put themselves first. He said the greatest was the servant of all. Are you saying the Roman Empire was exempt from Jesus’ teaching on this point, so that we can view Jesus as spiritual and apolitical?

    Consider also the line in the gospel where Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The Romanized church claimed this was Jesus supporting the idea of paying taxes, but it’s no such thing. The gospel explicitly says they were trying to trap Jesus, and he answers their question with a question: What is Caesar’s?

    The first time Jesus reads from the scrolls in the synagogue, he reads the Isaiah passage traditionally associated with the Jubilee year, when debts are forgiven and slaves set free. The Jewish law had this remarkable mechanism that realized it’s not good for people to be enslaved forever, or in debt forever, so at regular intervals, this was relief. They believed that the land belonged to the people, and debt should not divide the people from their rights to the land. The taxes of the Roman Empire drove many from their land, some into slavery, and many to cities to look for work. To declare a Jubilee Year, Jesus was acting like a high priest, and he was also performing an act that challenged the economic stranglehold the Roman Empire had on his people.

  • 18
    Paul Fried says:

    Jesus also supported the basic assumptions that underlies progressive income taxes:
    “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.” If you didn’t like that, you went to hell:
    “…harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”

    It’s strange to me that Republicans who are often supportive of wars based on lies that cost hundreds of billions (and will continue to cost us in human suffering and expensive medical care) want to make this an issue of Jesus supporting only free-will offerings, and that we should not force anyone to pay taxes to help the poor.

    Then by that logic, we should not be forced to pay for these wars, or for Wall Street bailouts. Take up a free will collection. Maybe the makeover Libertarian Jesus would like that.

  • 19
    Paul Fried says:

    John, a more central point was Augustine’s: Government without justice is just organized robbery.

    Do you agree?

    Would the Jesus who spoke the beatitudes — including the hunger and thirst for justice, or righteousness-- would he approve of governments that lack justice?

    Would he scorn those who seek reform and accuse them all of envy?

    Or would he remind those who are so quick to judge that they’ll be judged by the same measure they use to judge others so harshly?

    • 19.1
      john george says:

      Paul F.- As far as Augustine, see Prov. 14:34 and Ps. 33:12.

      On the Beatutudes, where do you seek righteousness, or what is the source? In God or government?

      For those seeking reform, see Heb. 9:8-12. Reform comes from the heart, not from laws.

      As far as judgement, see James 1:23-25 and 1 Cor. 6:2.

      Please note, this is not an exhaustive desertation.

      • 19.1.1
        Paul Fried says:

        John, your theology here seems to be what some Christians would call heretical for not being incarnate (both human and divine), but rather, being merely other-worldly.

        You say, “Reform comes from the heart, not from laws.” But you miss the point.

        Are you setting yourself up as a judge of the Occupy movement, claiming they do not have in their hearts something you and certain fellow Christians have exclusive claim to? Did not the laws of the Old and New Testaments express values some grasped by heart, and which they wanted to convey and pass on?

        It seems that we might assume that when you resort to so many citations of scripture chapter-and-verse, that you’re skirting the question--?

  • 20
    David Ludescher says:

    Paul F.,

    It is hard for me to discern what the the Occupy-ers are protesting. Consequently, it is difficult for me to draw the supposed connection Griff is trying to make. First and foremost, Jesus was a theist. To put Jesus in the middle of a political cause without “Abba” or the Father is intellectually myopic. To me, the Occupy-ers are decidedly secular. I can’t discern much holy spirit in the protests.

    For that reason, the Catholic Church has firmly rejected the idea that Jesus was a social reformer i.e. “liberation theology”. No doubt Jesus would be concerned about many of the social inequities that exist in today’s America. But, I think that his tactics to modify the inequities would be no different today than it was 2000 years ago.

    • 20.1
      kiffi summa says:

      The OWS movement is protesting the obscene distortion of the financial industry, personified by Wall Street… the distortion and greed that threw this country into economic chaos.

      • 20.1.1
        Raymond Daniels says:

        If it is the distortion of the financial industry that they are protesting then why are they trying to occupy wal-mart, traget, k-mart, or any other retailer? With the economy as fragile as it is, the last thing you want to do is to hamper the retailers that are trying to employee people during the holiday season. I would love for them to justify their actions if/when they cause people to be laid off.

        I’m sorry, but in opinion the OWS movement is nothing more than a bunch people that want something for nothing and I will never respect them. I wonder how many of the OWS crowd has a cell phone? iPhone? Apple was started by an IPO on WALL STREET. I wonder how many of the college kids that are protesting are going to school on their parents dime? I find it funny that Carlton has a chapter of OWS. This is one of the expensive private colleges in the nation. I sure they their parents are footing the bill for most of them.

    • 20.2
      Paul Fried says:

      David, I understand your point about Jesus being a theist, but he was a particular kind of theist whose criteria for judgment was humanistic and not theistic. Jesus says that those who feed and clothe “the least of these” do so to him. Jesus says the one who cries “Lord, Lord” is not justified, but the one who “does the will of the father” is.

      Jesus also tells the parable of the two sons, one (who by analogy represents the religious person, the person of faith) says he’ll do what the father asks. Another refuses at first (like atheists, agnostics and humanists), but they end up doing the will of the father.

      THEREFORE, Jesus has EVERYTHING to do with the Occupy movement.

      Is the Occupy movement working for justice in a system where HUGE injustices have taken place?
      -- Yes. So it’s doing the will of the father in that way.

      Is it standing up to obscene payments and bonuses that go to CEO’s and hedge fund managers, while many are “food insecure,” unemployed, losing their homes to foreclosure, and living below the poverty level?
      -- Yes. So it’s doing the will of the father in that way.

      Is it a secular body that in some ways (like the church) builds community and educates its members about shared values and opportunities to be “leaven” in the “dough” of the world, as the church also does when it’s doing it’s job?
      -- Yes. So it’s doing the will of the father in that way.

      Is the Occupy movement aware that both corporations and the government are corrupt and that today, “bi-partisan” often means that both parties receive so much in corporate donations and lobbyist influence that our entire political system — and both major parties — are corrupt, to the point where corporate lobbyists often (even usually) write most of the legislation by which they are supposed to be regulated?
      -- Does it point out that this system is in crisis, and threatens not only humanity, but the future of the planet, and is badly in need of reform or replacement?
      -- Does it have hope that some other, better system is possible (“see, I make all things new,” as Jesus hopefully said)?
      -- Yes. So it’s doing the will of the father in that way.

      Etc.

      • 20.2.1
        john george says:

        Paul- I think you miss the whole point of David L.’s and my references. The question is not whether Jesus is for the Occupy(ers), but rather, are the Occupy(ers) for Jesus? The threat to the planet is not bad government, but it is Sin in the world. This is handled on an individual basis through a relationship with the Father through Jesus the Son. It is not accomplished through political machinations. Where do you stand with Jesus? Do you know His voice? Do you hear Him when He calls your name?

  • 21
    William Siemers says:

    The OWS is unfocused and undefined. The movement needs a goal and leaders to articulate that goal. “Wall Street” was, as Paul F. points out quite well, a central cause of the stock/housing market collapse. But what do the protesters want from wall street now? Wall street, just like super rich pro athletes and pop stars, can’t change the tax code. If they want to reduce income inequity, they should ‘occupy’ congress to repeal all the Bush era tax cuts.

    • 21.1
      Paul Fried says:

      William, OWS is, by choice, still somewhat undefined, but less so than many complain.
      -- But I’d bet most of them would be happy to see the tax code change.
      -- Most would probably be happy to repeal Bush era tax cuts.
      -- Most would be happy to see us spend far less on wars based on lies and treasonous use of torture to produce false evidence, as Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Republican former chief of staff to Powell) contends of Cheney.
      -- Most would be happy to see derivatives regulated and taxed, at the very least, or mostly ended, so that investments need to bet on businesses succeeding instead of having as many ways to profit from a loss as from a gain.
      -- Many would be happy to see small businesses taxes less, where owners have a direct stake and real investment in their work, and capital gains taxed more.
      -- Many would be happy to see us return to the tax rates for the rich that were supported by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower (somewhere between 75% and 90% on the richest).
      -- Many would be happy to see many of the Wall Street goons who profited most from the derivatives-related fraud do some serious jail time instead of their firms getting a slap in the wrist and paying a few million in fines.

      But consider that the Civil Rights movement took many years after its early stirrings right after WWII, when the armed forces were integrated. OWS only started this last September. They’re right not to want to be nailed down to a short list of goals that could be achieved, or compromised, and then dismissed. They don’t just want a list of a few things. They want the system to be more just, more humane, and not so corrupt and destructive.

  • 22
    kiffi summa says:

    OWS issued a “Declaration of the Occupation”.
    In part it states: ” We write so that all peoples who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies … No true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power”.
    “Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face; and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”

    There are a lot of different ‘grievances’ represented in the OWS movement, and that should be the point; there are a lot of things that are not ‘working’ for people … economics, healthcare, employment, lack of opportunity in both jobs and health for returning vets, unequal education opportunities for young kids and high schoolers… and all to say nothing of the loss of homes by people who were exploited by “products” developed for investment/ sales by the banking industry…

    Protest groups do a good job of focussing the argument and bringing the issue to the general public, i.e. the Continental Congress, the Suffragettes, the Freedom Riders, SDS, MLK and all his friends and cohorts, the millions of Vietnam protesters…

    Most of the ‘revolutionaries’ who built this country were wealthy and educated… so quit knocking the college kids … maybe everyone else is just busy trying to get through the day and survive.
    Someone always needs to deliver the message…

    • 22.1
      William Siemers says:

      Kiffi…I’m not knocking their protest. In fact it would be welcome for the movement to coalesce around a protest of economic power determining election results. But the ‘movement’ needs to remember that ‘corporate forces’ are hand in glove with both parties, and non-corporate big money, and in kind donations, also influence elections and public policy.

  • 23
    Paul Fried says:

    Paul Z: Thanks for discussing some of those things with John George that led to his claims about taxes as a form of forcing people, etc. This gets to the crux of some usual disagreements between liberals/progressives and conservative/libertarians.

    Many on the far right believe it’s fine for nations and states to have laws against certain things like murder, kidnapping and abortion, and also theft and trespassing, in part to reflect certain basic values about rights to life and property. Many would say these even reflect the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. It’s OK to force people off of someone’s property if they’re trespassing or robbing, and to force people to stop if they’re in the process of committing a murder.

    But perhaps since Ronald Reagan wanted to convince us that government is the problem, or since Grover Norquist wanted to shrink government (and all “safety net” programs with it) until it was small enough to drown in a bathtub, many on the right complain that it’s wrong to tax people and to have any sort of safety net.
    -- For murder, assault, trespassing or robbery, police can use force, but in a nation where CEO’s make 500 times that of the average worker, it’s a violation to have taxation with representation that supports a safety net. It’s stealing, and a violation.

    This, from people who describe themselves as Christian, and who would rather see the poor and homeless starve or freeze than see people have their property and free will “violated” by taxing them to help these, or to fund unemployment benefits, etc.

    Better to let the unemployed lose their homes to the rich who can afford the investment and profit from reselling it, than to have the unemployed temporarily supported by a government program.

    John, it would seem to me that instead of taking the side of Lazarus, libertarians who call themselves Christian seem to prefer to take the side of the rich man; they prefer to have legions of citizens walk by the wounded Samaritan without helping, even if it means the Samaritan will die by the roadside, rather than violate anyone’s free will via representative taxation.

    But you’re entitled to your opinions, and I suppose you might justify it by saying it’s an example of democracy as the oppression of the minority by the majority; a majority may favor such safety nets, but the greedy and (morally/ethically) unconverted minority is having their free will violated, so it’s wrong?

    Or some Christians would prefer to help others directly, and generously, than to be taxes and have the government do so? It would seem that Jesus says not to let the right hand know what the left is doing, and that it’s better to do one’s giving in secret, but doing so through taxes is not enough, because Christians could donate to worthy charities anonymously without having to be taxed to support the poor?

    Even if an end to the taxpayer-supported safety net would result in untold suffering, proud Christians would prefer them to suffer so that no one’s free will is violated?

    No matter how I slice it, John, it still seems unchristian to me.

    • 23.1
      john george says:

      Paul F- As I said in 13.1-

      …I will continue to both give to those in need and pay my taxes.

      • 23.1.1
        Paul Fried says:

        John, you do seem to be saying (in 13.1) that you’re more worried that we should NOT tax a billionaire or risk his or her hardening of heart (for the sake of his or her salvation), even if this means millions of Lazaruses at the door go hungry.

        SO then you arrive at the pearly gates and explain to St. Peter how much you respected and cared for the eternal soul of the billionaire, and St. Peter explains to you, once again, as scripture did, that when you allowed all those hungry and poor to remain hungry, you did it to Jesus.

        He may also ask if you were trying to ingratiate yourself to the billionaire at the expense of the poor.

        Concern for the heart is fine, John, and yes, conversion of heart and sincerity is certainly a worthy goal. But it seems Jesus might prefer for more compassion and concern to be shown toward those who have greater need.

        We don’t see Jesus in scripture leaning over backwards to show compassion toward the rich. He tells the rich man to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and to follow him. The rich man goes away sad, and Jesus then tells about the eye of the needle.

        To some extent, people really have to change their own hearts, or be open to the process. All we can do is witness, John. Your concern that we avoid certain taxation policies for the sake of the rich seems both misplaced and contrary to the example of Jesus.

        Jesus offers the rich man the light yoke of selling his possessions so they don’t own him, and so that he can follow. That’s too hard for him. You want to make tax policy such that the rich man can stay rich until he’s ready to change his heart, and that only keeps him a slave of his possessions.

        But this seems to be the key ministry of some conservative Christians: Minister to the rich by easing their tax burden. Still makes no sense to me, John.

      • 23.1.2
        john george says:

        Paul- In answer to the rich giving, that is one of the purposes of seeing a person come to salvation. My focus, as I said, is to see the Holy Spirit change the person’s heart. That is the goal, not redistribution of wealth against the person’s will. For those who refuse this work in their, taxation is the other recourse. But, taxation does not advance the Kingdom of God. It only redistributes wealth.

  • 24
    Paul Fried says:

    John, you write, “I think you miss the whole point of David L.’s and my references. The question is not whether Jesus is for the Occupy(ers), but rather, are the Occupy(ers) for Jesus?”

    I think you miss the whole point I make in response to your whole point. I’m saying that the criteria Jesus himself lays out is not whether people cry “Lord, Lord,” but whether they do the will of the father. A great deal of what the Occupy protesters speak of and advocate involves values such as justice, fairness, etc.

    You seem to be hair-splitting here. If Jesus would be for these things, then why does it matter whether the whole movement (and not just the Christians among the ranks) are explicitly for Jesus?

    Jesus has already said that what we do to the least, we do to him. So it matters much less whether people go to church or read a bible. That’s the point Jesus himself makes.

    Why twist his intentions in another direction so as to discredit the Occupy movement as — what? Secular?

    What of the many Christians in the movement who feel they are called to express their faith and morals by doing so in a prophetic action that calls attention to some major sins of our age?

    You would risk dismissing even these Christians because some in the ranks are agnostic, or atheist, or pantheist, or pagan, or Buddhist, or Muslim?

    • 24.1
      john george says:

      Paul F.- Sorry, but as I said in 15.1

      …fostering another uprising was not His mission at the time, nor is it our mission today.

      .
      As for clasifying the movement as secular, you miss the other part of Matt. 7:22-24

      Many will say to Me on (B)that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [a]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;(emphasis mine) (C)DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

      You see, it is not what you do so much as Whom it is Who motivates to do it. Your theology is not complete.

      • 24.1.1
        Paul Fried says:

        John, you’re confusing to me with with your use of scripture.

        You and David complain that OWS is not theistic, so I show quotes from the gospels implying that this need not matter.

        Then you say I miss the point classifying it as secular. Well, it is secular. It’s not church-sponsored, although Christians participate.

        Then you quote Jesus regarding those who prophecy in his name. Hmmmm….

        I think I get it. You’re claiming that Jesus never knew the OWS Christians who might feel their participation is motivated by their faith.

        And they may feel that never knew you in this sort of self-righteousness use of scripture.

        SO I guess you’re even. We’ll have to wait and let the Lord sort the lambs from the goats. But we know what criteria he used: “The least of these.”

      • 24.1.2
        john george says:

        Paul F.- I’m confusing you!? You were the one acusing me (I think) of refering to OWS as secular-

        Why twist his intentions in another direction so as to discredit the Occupy movement as — what? Secular?

        In the Matt. 7 reference, Jesus is stating that knowing Him is more important than doing things for Him (without His bidding). See Luke 10:39-42. I have heard this argument from many people that doing things that are mentioned in scripture somehow makes them “Christian.” I think that philosophy is based in deception. I’m sure there are many Christians involved in OWS, but that doesn’t make it a Christian endeavor. I do not condemn them for following what they sense in their heart. They will have to give account just as I will.

        I will plead David’s plea out of 1 Sam 24:15

        The LORD therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.

    • 24.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Paul,

      In the original post, Griff said that he was convinced that Jesus would have led or participated in the Occupy movement. While many Christians may feel called to participate in this movement, many Christians feel compelled to participate in the Tea Party, and understandably want Jesus on their side.

      But, my understanding of Christianity is that Jesus is his own movement, and it is called Christianity.

      • 24.2.1
        Paul Fried says:

        David, of course Jesus had/has his own movement. But unless you’re a total relativist, good judgment and discernment still call us to consider whether the claims of Jesus (such as regarding the most important laws, or “the least of these”) would place him in the TEA/Koch brothers’ party, or more in solidarity with the Occupy movement.

        The only people who would claim uncertainty on this question would be those who have not followed any of the claims by the Occupy movement. And you’ve already stated that you’re in the group that doesn’t understand (or doesn’t want to?).

        So, David, you’re still hanging on to the idea of saving Jesus from the Occupy movement, or saving yourself from having to consider that he’d approve of it far more than of the TEA party? Is that what you’re saying? Or--? (I thought the thread was about Occupy, and not about the Jesus movement--?)

      • 24.2.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        My opinion is that Jesus is more about neither party.

  • 25
    Paul Fried says:

    MSNBC recently noted that lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford (CLG&C) presented a proposal (solicited? or unsolicited?) to one of its clients, the American Bankers Association (ABA), to do some work (for $850,000) to “conduct ‘opposition research'” on the occupy movement so as to smear them.

    How many pieces of “Judas silver” does $850,000 represent?

    Would Jesus be on the side of those working against corruption and in favor of a more just, humane system,
    or on the side of a lobbying firm doing “opposition research” for $850,000 to conduct disruption or smear?
    Hmmm… Is that a hard one?

    If Jesus were to tell a parable about this (or David, if he is telling a parable about or through this), which side would be more like the rich man, and which more like the poor beggar Lazarus?

    • 25.1
      Raymond Daniels says:

      Quoting MSNBC is like quoting Fox News. Please choose a more reliable source.

    • 25.2
      William Siemers says:

      Paul…The ABA should conduct legal opposition research on OWS. Spokespeople for the OWS have urged folks to close accounts at commercial banks, and a flurry of such activity did take place. The banks need to know who wants to damage their businesses. As a stock holder, I would expect ‘my’ bank to no less. In fact, maybe the banks think that they are the ones who have been smeared and just intend to return the favor.

  • 26
    Paul Fried says:

    John, you write, “But, taxation does not advance the Kingdom of God. It only redistributes wealth.” This is a proud claim from a human, especially considering the admonition of God to Job, and of God through the prophet Isaiah, that God’s ways are as high above ours as the heavens above the earth.

    Certainly, with a world military empire, supported by about 50 cents on the federal dollar, including more than 200 military golf courses worldwide, many things that taxes support don’t advance the Kingdom of God. Unless one believes that America is the New Jerusalem, and its military must play a role in restoring the old Israel before the second coming, or some such thing that certain pro-Zionist Christians believe.

    And our social spending is certainly dwarfed by this other spending. “The violent bear it away,” as scripture says. But at least hypothetically, taxing the rich to help the poor might not change the heart of the hard-hearted rich, but it might help in other good work. I won’t judge so quickly that this good work is not a part of, or involved in, that reign.

  • 27
    john george says:

    Paul F.- You might consider this passage in Matt. 25:14-29, about the talents. Consider this verse, 28-

    Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

    Hmmmm. Taking from the poor and giving to the rich? This is the result of the exchange in vv 24-27. Bondage to money is usually more rampant in those who have little, but perhaps it is just because there are many more of those people. Either way, a person needs to be free of the “love of money” (emphasis mine), as stated in 1 Tim. 6:10-

    For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

    • 27.1
      Paul Zorn says:

      John,

      What lesson relevant to this discussion do you take from the parable of the talents? That capitalism pays? That the rich are less in love with money than the poor, and so deserve more of it? That wealthy speculators deserve the assets in poor folks (non-interest-bearing) accounts?

      [Confession: This parable has never made sense to me in any context.]

      • 27.1.1
        john george says:

        Well, Paul Z., if the parable doesn’t make any sense to you, then I have little hope of furthering your understanding according to any wisdom I might have. I will, though, try to answer your questions the best I know how.
        Relevance to discussion- I don’t think we can judge a person’s intentions or motivations according to how much money he has, and I don’t think Jesus is impressed with the movement just because the protestors are against the rich.
        Does capitalism pay?- No. Obedience pays, and fear of taking a risk does not pay. The servants who invested their master’s money did so wisely, but still had a risk of circumstances out of their control which may have not paid off.
        The rich are less in love with money? No. The amount of money a person has is not proportional in any way to how much he is in love with money.
        Wealthy speculators deserve additional assets? No. The servants recognized that the money belonged to the master, not them, and he could do with it whatever he wanted. This last attitude is something foundational to a relationship with God through Christ. Ps. 24:1 & 1 Cor. 10:26 say this-

        The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains

        We also have this admonition out of Phil 2: 3-8

        Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
        5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

        6 Who, being in very nature God,
        did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
        7 rather, he made himself nothing
        by taking the very nature of a servant,
        being made in human likeness.
        8 And being found in appearance as a man,
        he humbled himself
        by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

        We believers are heirs of God through Christ, and being so, we will inherit the earth (Ps. 2:8 & Matt 5:5). That being said, we must emulate Him and not use it “as an advantage” for our own passions.

      • 27.1.2
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        Thanks for your analysis of the “talents” parable. I’ll leave it to others more Biblically knowledgeable than I to comment on the theology front. I still wonder, however, why the “master”, who presumably represents God, chooses, apparently capriciously, to reward the richest servant with the poor guy’s talent. Sure, the master can do what he likes with his own money, but, as you often remark, might doesn’t make right.

        About this:

        … we [can't] judge a person’s intentions or motivations according to how much money he has, and I don’t think Jesus is impressed with the movement just because the protestors are against the rich.

        The first clause is certainly true, and the second is above my pay grade. But neither seems to me to have much to do with the Occupy movement, which is more about behavior than about intentions or motivation.

      • 27.1.3
        john george says:

        Paul Z.- This is just my two cents worth about the “master.” Earlier in the thread, there was a reference to Jesus being asked about the Temple tax. His answer was to give to Ceasar that which has his image, and to give to God that which has His image. We Christians who believe in the creation story believe that all men carry God’s image. That being said, then it seems there requires a response to His bidding. Those who hide that image and deny God are like the servant who hid the gold and didn’t even collect any interest. The other servants who invested according to their ability and reaped an increase are like those who serve God and increase (magnify) His image to the world and increase His Kingdom. You say the master in the story acted capriciously. Do you believe that when God asks something of us that He has already given us that He is being capricious? Just wondering. Again, this is just my two cents worth accoeding to the limited revelation that I have.

      • 27.1.4
        Paul Zorn says:

        John,

        You ask:

        Do you believe that when God asks something of us that He has already given us that He is being capricious?

        Of course not. To ask the return of something earlier given is not capricious.

        What seems capricious in the talents parable is that the “master” gives the hapless servant’s portion to the richest servant, rather than to the middling one, or (better) in charity to the poor. Not my idea of a virtuous master.

      • 27.1.5
        john george says:

        Paul Z.- I guess that leaves us both in the same fix- God’s ways are higher than our ways. One thing about all the servants is that they all knew their master’s character. The “hapless” servant seems to have resented that and cast back upon the master the responsibility he was to have taken. Reminds me of Adam’s reply to God in Gen. 3:12

        The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

        I’m adding between the lines, here, but it seems the servant was saying that if the master was not so hard, he wouldn’t have been afraid and would have done better. Just as Adam seemed to say, “God, if You (emphasis mine) hadn’t given that woman to me, I wouldn’t have disobeyed.” We all like to think we can judge God, which is the original lie in Gen. 3:5.

        For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

      • 27.1.6
        David Ludescher says:

        Paul,

        My understanding is that the talent was taken away from the hapless servant because he was so afraid of using his talent that he hid it in the ground. He didn’t perform any service, and was, therefore useless to the master. The servant who received the most talents got more because he knew how to make the master’s talents grow.

        So it is with the Kingdom of Heaven. Regardless of how much we have been given, we are expected to make our talents multiply. If we hide our talents in the ground, we will also be cast out to wail and gnash our teeth.

        I am not sure that this parable holds much validity with the modern secular master (the government). Often it seems that this master takes from those who are most productive and gives it to those who are the least productive.

      • 27.1.7
        Phil Poyner says:

        Yeah, my understanding of this parable was that it wasn’t about the money; it was about the effort. That’s why the second servant was praised as highly as the first, even though he produced fewer talents for the master.

  • 28
    Paul Fried says:

    Interesting questions about the parable of the talents. Paul Z, yes, it’s good you wonder at this one because it seems to have been used as a justification of capitalism: Asking those who have little and earn little to shoulder “austerity measures” seems cruel today, but to some, feels just like scripture. John G makes good points about the master.

    Here’s how I think many biblical scholars might approach this parable: Is this an analogy for something in Jesus’ historical moment? Jesus often criticized the religious authorities of his own time for expecting the people to shoulder heavy burdens related to the law, but he seems to have believed they were hypocrites.

    What if you apply the parable of the talents to the religious authorities of Jesus’ time as one (among many) possible applications?
    -- They were meant to be stewards of their people’s spiritual lives and religious heritage.
    -- Yet in spite of this, their example was hypocritical, and their teachings (supposedly, in contrast to the opinion of the Gospel writers regarding Christianity’s merits) were not especially inspiring or enlightening.
    -- They made no spiritual “profit,” they did not increase the religious-cultural heritage of the people, and so Jesus, perhaps (among various other possibilities) compares them to the man who buries the talents in the ground.
    -- Perhaps those who make some profit with the original investment are like the Christians (in the self-understanding of the gospel writer) who take the “talents” of the Jewish religious heritage, and do new, good things with it, leading to new insights and new progress in building communities (the church) that lives something reflecting the will of the master.
    -- In the end, the talents (and the authority to do something with the religious heritage) are taken away from the inauthentic Jewish religious leaders who have become pawns for the Roman occupation, and (at least in the mind of early Christians who were sometimes competing with their Jewish brothers and sisters) are given to the Christians, to continue to “profit” from spiritually, and to produce some kind of spiritual “increase.”

    I think this was at least one of the intended meanings of the parable, and that it really has nothing to do with Capitalism or austerity measures and regressive sales taxes to stick it to the poor.

    Of course, the Jewish and Christian religions have a long history of milking readings for every possible application. The meaning doesn’t have to be limited to this. The spiritual pilgrim will apply it to questions of whether they are really working to increase and share the gifts they have been given, to put their lamp on a lampstand instead of under a bushel basket. Those personal spiritual applications of the parable are all helpful and fine, and certainly within the range of how the parable can be usefully applied as well.

    But I think that to neglect the historical meaning I outlined above would be to miss what was probably one of the main intended possibilities of the gospel writer.

  • 29
    David Henson says:

    Paul F, you seem to see the occupy movement as a traditional ‘left wing tax the rich to build a bigger government.’ And the Tea Party as anti government pro business. I see them both as highly frustrated with a corrupted system and nearly willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. Can you envision a “fair system” without centralized governmental control of citizens lives? Can you see a parallel over the long haul (say past 100 years) of government getting bigger and the rich getting more powerful? The system we have is broken in my eyes and I believe in the eyes of Tea Party and Occupy leaders … how is your idea of a high tax going to fix the system? Do you see the need to decentralize decision making? Or do you think an academic elite should decide “fairness” and distribute wealth accordingly? I am curious if you can answer these questions as skillfully as you analyzed talents passage … my concern is that most your political rants are just the old arguments of the left side of our broken system.

  • 30
    Paul Fried says:

    I don’t see a need for bigger government. We could shrink the military budget by 70% and still have the largest military budget in the world. Half of every federal dollar goes in some way to pay for military spending, or past military spending, or the portion of the national debt and interest on that, related to military spending. This includes spending on maintenance of nuclear weapons through the department of energy, not DoD. It also includes more than 200 military golf courses throughout the world, and more than 730 military bases OUTSIDE the US.

    We could have a smaller government and still spend more to put people back to work. Giving tax breaks to oil corporations does not create jobs. Giving tax breaks to speculators and gamblers (capital gains tax breaks) makes much less sense than tax breaks to small business. But no businesses will hire much without increased demand. To increase demand, you need fuller employment.

    While cutting military jobs, you could certainly stand to hire more regulators for Wall Street and for the new derivatives in the casino economy.

    After 9-11, homeland security was such a (misplaced) spending priority that the FBI who used to investigate white-collar crime were reassigned to focus on terrorism, so all sorts of BIG criminals went unnoticed. It’s wrong.

    The government is ALWAYS acting as a customer, stimulating demand: Highways have to be resurfaced, bridges replaced, schools and government buildings re-roofed, or needing upgrades to insulation, windows, etc. It only makes sense, during an economic downturn caused by a CORRUPT financial sector and casino economy, to regulate and tax the derivatives of the casino economy, and to have BIG stimulus spending to put people back to work. When they’re back to work — and if we build wind farms, and do other good, needed things — businesses would have to hire to meet increased demand. When that takes place, some of the stimulus spending could be cut back, because it would have jump-started the economy.

    Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and an obscenely large military budget, are not efficient ways to get the economy back on track.

    So let’s go for smaller government, more equitable and progressive tax rates, and WISER, more EFFECTIVE spending that puts people back to work instead of maintaining 200 military golf courses and 730+ foreign military bases.

  • 31
    Paul Fried says:

    David: You write, “Or do you think an academic elite should decide ‘fairness’ and distribute wealth accordingly?”

    Why do you say, “academic elite”? Because OWS includes college students and some professors? Because I teach at a university? I’m certainly not asking for the job to redistribute wealth. But what the heck was all that deregulation about, and then a 7.7 trillion dollar bailout, followed by “austerity measures” in just about every developed nation? That was redistribution on a scale so large we can’t even wrap our minds around it. They originally said TARP was about 700 billion and we all gasped or froze like deer in headlights. We recently learn from Bloomberg and other sources that it was 7.7 trillion. The ENTIRE sub-prime market was nowhere near that. Bundled sub-prime mortgages were only the blasting cap, and unregulated (previously illegal) derivatives like Credit Default Swaps that speculated on those bundled mortgages were the real dynamite that blew up the economy.

    Don’t talk to me about redistribution of wealth, as if there’s something wrong with government stimulus spending to put people back to work and build up demand so businesses can hire and profit again. Businesses thrived very nicely with the tax rates Ike left in place after Truman, and with his investments in the interstate freeway system.

    That sort of stimulus spending is VASTLY overshadowed by the 7.7 TRILLION dollar bailout that we are expected to pay for through austerity measures, and that our children and many more generations will have to pay for unless we radically reform or replace the current, corrupt system. That was REAL redistribution of wealth on an obscene scale.

    • 31.1
      William Siemers says:

      Paul… The 7.7 trillion was not TARP, it was Fed lending at below market rates,(1.2 trillion on one day alone). This 7.7 trillion is not money that we will be expected to ‘pay for through austerity measures’. The money has been repaid. Of course the repayment didn’t include the estimated 15 billion the banks made with the money, and it could be argued that amount was lost by the fed and so, also taxpayers. Still…no need to mislead about the taxpayers being on the hook for 7.7 trillion. It’s bad enough that this kind of lending can go on unreported to congress, although it’s hard to say that they would have objected, since members of both parties are on the hook to the ‘too big to fail’ banks.

      • 31.1.1
        Phil Poyner says:

        William, good explanation. The number I saw for profit was 13 billion, but I’ll bet that any number will be an estimate “forever and ever”! Here’s the relevant article…http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-28/secret-fed-loans-undisclosed-to-congress-gave-banks-13-billion-in-income.html

      • 31.1.2
        Paul Fried says:

        William: Thanks for the clarification. And of course, if they can lend at below market rates to the financial institutions, one might ask why they can’t to those losing their homes, including some serving in the military, etc.

      • 31.1.3
        Paul Fried says:

        William, where does the Fed get 7.7 trillion to suddenly lead out in an emergency? Do they print it? Do they create a bunch of federal bonds to sell to an Angel of God with a big coin purse? Our total tax receipts are under 3 trillion per year. So the Fed suddenly finds 7.7 trillion to loan at low interest? Do you understand how this is accomplished?

        IT would seem that however this is done, it allows the financial institutions that needed bailing out to pay off their casino economy debts, keep paying millions in bonuses, and keep up the status quo--which is severely dysfunctional. I can’t imagine how such loans help create jobs or help the average person on the street better than, say, taking the failed financial institutions into federal receivership, as is done when smaller banks fail.

        The fed loaned this, and then next thing we heard, banks were being conservative with their loans, and small businesses were unable to have the liquidity they needed, further stalling the recovery. Was 7.7 trillion just a bit too much to a limited number of large companies, and not enough to the rest of the economy?

        It makes little sense from start to finish.

      • 31.1.4
        William Siemers says:

        Paul…You and I would be a lot richer if we had ignored our parents’ advice and learned early on that money, in fact, does grow on trees. Then we could easily get our heads around 7.7 trillion made available by key strokes.

        The most worrisome part of this situation is how hard the fed worked to keep the loans secret. If it was done for the good of the country why wouldn’t they be out front about it?

  • 32
    Paul Fried says:

    BTW David H., I don’t see OWS as left-wing. There are too many Libertarian Ron Paul fans in it to call it left-wing.

  • 33
    Paul Fried says:

    If auto insurance policies were unregulated (like Credit Default Swaps), I could buy more than one policy on my car. I could buy 100. I could even buy them on the car of an elderly alcoholic with cataracts, and collect multiple times after an accident. That would be redistribution of wealth. That’s what Credit Default Swap speculation was, on a huge scale.

    Taxing the wealthiest, and taxing capital gains speculation, to PUT PEOPLE BACK TO WORK is not in the same league.

    The first is the casino economy, and really a form of legalized theft, legal but immoral and unethical.

    The second is merely the golden rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. A job for an unemployed person is not at all like collecting on 10 car insurance polices, or on unregulated Credit Default Swaps. Let’s call things by their real names when we say “redistribution of wealth,” shall we?

  • 34
    David Henson says:

    Downward Wisconsin
    We used to make things here in Wisconsin .

    We made machine tools in Milwaukee , cars in Kenosha and ships in Sheboygan . We mined iron in the north and lead in the south. We made cheese, we made brats, we made beer, and we even made napkins to clean up what we spilled. And we made money.

    The original war on poverty was a private, mercenary affair. Men like Harnishfeger, Allis, Chalmers, Kohler, Kearney, Trecker, Modine, Case, Mead, Falk, Allen, Bradley, Cutler, Hammer, Bucyrus, Harley, Davidson, Pabst, and Miller lifted millions up from subsistence living to middle class comfort. They did it -- not “Fighting Bob” La Follette or any of the politicians who came along later to take the credit and rake a piece of the action through the steepest progressive scheme in the nation.

    Those old geezers with the beards cured poverty by putting people to work. Generations of Wisconsinites learned trades and mastered them in the factories, breweries, mills, foundries, and shipyards those capitalists built with their hands. Thousands of small businesses supplied these industrial giants, and tens of thousands of proprietors and professionals provided all of the services that all those other families needed to live well. The wealth got spread around plenty.

    The profits generated by our great industrialists funded charities, the arts, education, libraries, museums, parks, and community development associations. Taxes on their profits, property, and payrolls built our schools, roads, bridges, and the safety net that Wisconsin ’s progressives are still taking credit for, as if the money came from their council meetings. The offering plates in churches of every denomination were filled with money left over from company paychecks that were made possible because a few bold young men risked it all and got rich. Don’t thank God for them; thank them that you learned about God.

    Their wealth pales in comparison to the wealth they created for millions and millions of other Wisconsin families. Those with an appreciation for the immeasurable contributions of Wisconsin’s industrial icons of 1910 will find the list of Wisconsin’s top ten employers of 2010 appalling:

    Walmart, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Milwaukee Public Schools, U.S. Postal Service, Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Menards, Marshfield Clinic, Aurora Health Care, City of Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

    This is what a century of progressivism will get you. Wisconsin is the birthplace of the progressive movement, the home of the Socialist Party, the first state to allow public sector unions, the cradle of environmental activism, a liberal fortress walled off against common sense for decades. Their motto, Forward Wisconsin , should be changed to Downward Wisconsin if truth in advertising applies to slogans.

    There is no shortage of activists, advocates, and agitators in this State. If government were the answer to our problems, we would have no problems. The very same people – or people just like them – who picketed, struck, sued, taxed, and regulated our great companies out of this state are now complaining about the unemployment and poverty that they have brought upon themselves. They got rid of those old rich white guys and replaced them with…nothing.

    Wisconsin ranks 47th in the rate of new business formation. We are one of the worst states for native college graduate exodus; our brightest and most ambitions graduates leave to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Why shouldn’t they? Our tax rates are among the worst in the nation and our business climate, perpetually in the bottom of the rankings, has only recently moved up thanks to a Governor who now faces a recall for his trouble.

    In 1970, the new environmental movement joined unions and socialists in a coordinated effort to demonize industry. When I was in college, the ranting against “polluting profiteers” was like white noise – always there. They won, and here is the price of their victory: in 1970, manufacturers paid 18.2% of Wisconsin ’s property taxes – the major source of school funding -- and in 2010 those who remained paid 3.7%.

    So who is it that caused the funding crisis in our schools and the skyrocketing tax rates on our homes? It is the same ignoramuses who are sitting on bridges, pooping on things, and passing around recall petitions. The unemployed 26-year old in the hemp hat looking for sympathy might look instead for some inspiration from Jerome I. Case, who started his agricultural equipment business at the age of 21, miraculously without an iPhone 4s.

    Mr. Case got rich by asking people what they want and making it for them. He did not get rich by telling people what he wanted and waiting for them to do something about it. If you want to declare war on your own poverty, memorize that.

    In the last decade alone we have lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs in this state – over 25%. And it’s not just jobs that have been lost; the companies that provided them are gone. Those jobs are not coming back, no matter how long we extend unemployment benefits pretending they are. The 450,000 people who still work in manufacturing in Wisconsin are damn good it at, but we are now outnumbered by people who work for government. A significant number of the latter are tasked with taxing, regulating, and generally harassing the former. While it is true that many manufacturers chased low-wage opportunities on their own, many more were driven out of the state by the increasing cost of doing business here.

    It is a myth that unions improve wages. If you consider only the 1,000 jobs in a closed shop, you might think an average union wage is, say, $30/hr. But if you add in the zero wages of the 10,000 jobs lost in companies chased out by union harassment, the average of all 11,000 union workers is reduced to $2.72/hr. Do you know the average wage of union iron miners in this state? Zero. And the left is fighting hard to keep it that way in Northern Wisconsin -- looking out for the working man, they call it.

    It is also a myth that free trade causes job losses. Over the past three years, U.S. manufacturers sold $70 billion more goods to our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners than we bought from them. Conversely, we suffered a $1.3 trillion trade deficit with countries where no FTA’s exist. I doubt that kids are going to learn that in our government-union monopoly schools – it doesn’t fit the narrative.

    No one wants to see another person suffer in poverty, and liberty is the best economic policy there is. The great industrialists of Wisconsin took less than a generation to lift millions up to a life of dignity, pride, prosperity and good will. When enterprise was free and government was limited, we all prospered.

    Those great men of industry were not anointed at birth to be rich; they rose from nothing to great wealth through their own hard work and the value they added to their employees and their customers through choice, competition, and voluntary exchange. That is the only sure path to real prosperity; the debt economy is a temporary illusion.

    Look again at the list of our famous industrialists and the list of our current employers. Who would you wish your child or grandchild to grow up to be? Who do you think will do more good on this earth – Jerome I Case and his tractors, or the Coordinator of Supplier Diversity at MPS.

    If you chose MPS, then apply now – that job is open, and it pays up to $72,000 plus benefits and early retirement. Go in peace and save the world. Me, I’m going with the tractor guy.

    Moment Of Clarity” is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website http://www.timnerenz.com to find your moment

  • 35
    Paul Fried says:

    David H.: Quite a piece of mythmaking.

    Clinton, Bush and Obama have been dismantling many regulations with the claim that they don’t want to hinder the “free market” (or the “den of thieves”).

    But if Clinton and the Republicans in congress had not repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, the economic disintegration caused by Credit Default Swap speculation would not have happened, or not in the US (it may have occurred in other countries, and that may have affected the US, but it would not have been as bad).

    You want to make it seem as if government regulation is responsible for lost jobs in Wisconsin. In fact, corporations find they don’t have to worry about trashing rivers and groundwater in other countries, so they do like to move them overseas to increase profits. But eventually, Shell got sued after drilling for oil in So. America, and instead of following general procedures they would have followed in any industrialized “first-world” country, they took all the water that gets pumped up as a by-product of the drilling, and they just dumped it on the ground, where it sickened the indigenous people and led to cancers and birth defects.

    You want more of that in Wisconsin, which is “Open for Business”?

    The same has happened in many places in China near manufacturing plants, where there are now dead rivers and lakes.

    You want more of that in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

    Corporations have those hard choices to make that most human beings who learned the Golden Rule or went to church would have an easy time deciding: Make smaller profits, but show respect and compassion for the well-being of other human beings? Or go for the money, and the hell with compassion and well-being?

    Corporations that cared only for maximizing profits do sometimes flee the US to get the work done, and yes, that does hurt Wisconsin in the long run.

    So you want to blame a country’s government that has made more progress on regulations for health, good stewardship of the environment, and public safety?

    Rather than blaming corporate greed?

    You have quite a worldview to protect, and quite a task to defend it. Good luck.

    • 35.1
      David Henson says:

      Paul, Shell was never in Wisc so I fail to see the connection this is why you, like many on the left, seem to rant without a positivist view of how things might work and how freedom and decentralization fit the scheme.

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