An Old Question

I’d like to entertain comments about the role of the faithful and the stimulus package. I called McCain and Kyle last night on the way home to advocate for the jobs stimulus package, but evidently Rush Limbaugh’s army of listeners in favor of the tax cut stimulus package are way out performing those in favor of public works projects.

Now, with hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month and foreclosures continuing to rise, I certainly think that the economy is the proper topic of the faithful. Indeed, the tax collectors and the wealthy were treated pretty harshly in the Gospel. Much of Jesus’ message was about caring for the poor.

I think the church has to stand for putting the needs of the poor first. But once you start talking about specific programs or initiatives, it starts to get hazy. Perhaps the Church could ask with one voice, “Congress persons, what are you doing for the poor?”

We’ve neglected our roads and bridges, which are crumbling , and our national debt is soaring but some what us to keep our taxes at record lows, and even lower them. Isn’t this something Isaiah might complain about?

[BTW, the irony is not lost on me that in Jesus’ time the tax collectors took money from the poor and gave it to the rich, and in our current system tax collectors take money disproportionately from the rich and use it for the common good, and sometimes actually just give it to the poor.]

48 thoughts on “An Old Question”

  1. in our current system tax collectors take money disproportionately from the rich and use it for the common good, and sometimes actually just give it to the poor

    disproportionately? How do you figure?

  2. The wealthy pay taxes at a higher rate than the poor, or in disproportion to their wealth.

    I am an advocate for an increasingly progressive tax rate, thus making it more disproportionate.

  3. My question would start with—did Jesus say the poor was our highest priority in the church? What did He say was the highest value?

    Who were his closest friends? Wealthy tax collector, Zealot Jihadist, Fishermen, etc. Who followed Him—rich, poor, religious, Jews, Gentiles, sick, well, the easily entertained and the deeply moved.

    Christians must live their lives to advance the Kingdom of God in all areas they are called to; politics, auto mechanics, medicine, insurance, etc. The poor are always a part of our society and we, as Christians, must care for them as best we can. If we own companies we can give money and also jobs and job training? If we work for “the man” how about sharing our clothing both new and used? The idea is sharing and not treating our stuff like it is ours to horde. Generosity.

    The “Church” is sort of like talking about “Congress”. It makes it way too easy to throw rocks at the conglomerate and not enough “aim small/miss small” talk to we who make up the church.

    So—I would say the stimulus package is a political monster—made up by Politicians who, like many pastors or churchmen have lost site of the original plan of care for all people. It will give things to the poor that it shouldn’t and it will give things to the rich that it shouldn’t. It will pad pockets and it will waste money. Some good things will come from it and it will hurt some things. I certainly hope it will help the poor (but remember—poor people don’t pay taxes much—so they aren’t usually the primary target for stimulus). Stimulus is aimed at the job makers and profit sharers of America—so more people have jobs, make money and give to the poor.

    If every Christian gave only 5% of their income to a local homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, kid’s luncheon programs, etc, etc—we would not need a stimulus package to help the poor.

    The research shows that Republicans—rather conservatives give more $$$ to charity work than do Democrats—or liberals. I think, I’m sure, that it is because a conservative truly believes it is HIS or HER responsibility to care for poor people and charitable causes and a liberal wants to pay higher taxes and expects the government to do it. Both are right and both are wrong. I also know that many conservatives I personally know—who are wealthy—don’t look down on the poor as poor blighters. They have compassion and realize that it only takes a few left turns or bad breaks to make a person “poor”. They also know it sometimes only takes ONE break to get back into the game of work and income and a good life.

    What do you think?

    http://www.voiceofjesus.org/onthepoor.html

  4. Yes, the tax rate is higher, but would statistics show that the actual amount paid after deductions is proportionately higher than that paid by the poor (and how poor)? I honestly don’t know those figures.

    For instance, I recently heard that the top 400 incomes in 2006 averaged over $260 million, primarily in real estate, paying capital gains tax of 17%. Half-truth? Truth?

    But your question was actually about whether people of faith should get involved in the ethics of the stimulus package. Absolutely, people of faith should vote, and then make demands of the people they elected, and their demands should be consistent with the values of their faith. But I’m not sure the church “with one voice” can petition the government. It would be powerful, to be sure.

    Jesus didn’t waste any time preaching to Rome. It may be that he directed his energies to the audiences he thought were capable of transformation. Isaiah was prophesying to a tribal people who were responsible through their communities for the care (or lack thereof) of the poor.

  5. Anon, thank you for you comments. I did check out http://www.voiceofjesus.org/onthepoor.html (The format is a little loud, right?)

    In the interest of disclosure I should tell you that we have very different interpretations of the same Scriptures and articles of faith. Perhaps you’ve been reading for a while and know that, but if not, I hope you can stick around a while and we can learn from each other.

    I promise to interpret everything you have to say as a loving expression of your opinion and faith, and assure you the same is true for me.

    I agree that this is important: The research shows that Republicans—rather conservatives give more $$$ to charity work than do Democrats—or liberals. Of course, I can’t resist pointing out that most of that giving is in support of ideology. Giving to churches, which is most of the giving, goes to promoting our beliefs more than supporting the underprivileged. But, supporting our beliefs is important.

    So, liberals, get off your ass. Look at your pay check. Scratch off the last digit. That’s the amount of money many conservatives give to support what they believe in. Even if you rightfully add in support of liberal ideology groups, the conservatives are still showing more commitment.

    (BTW, Anon, you should maybe post a psuedonymn so I don’t confuse you will other Anons.)

  6. Lin, re: our quibble, I don’t much worry about what the top 400 incomes are doing. When I talk about the wealthy I’m talking about people in the top tenth or quarter of earned income. I’m pretty sure that, particularly given the Alternative Minimum Tax, Americans who earn more pay more in taxes. Which is why I support progressive taxes. I think it is important for us to work for the common good, and I think those who are doing well should pay more than those who are not. Which is why this is a quibble (excpet perhaps when I’m a week out of filing out my taxes ;)).

  7. So, liberals, get off your ass. Look at your pay check. Scratch off the last digit. That’s the amount of money many conservatives give to support what they believe in. Even if you rightfully add in support of liberal ideology groups, the conservatives are still showing more commitment.

    Could I quote you on that?

  8. I am not the anon from above (although I do hope he/she continues responding)

    I can only speak for myself. My commitment on giving $$$$ to charity work and the church is not based on ideology, but rather on convictions.

    James: 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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