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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Misrepresenting JC

I finally figured out what was odd about this cartoon, aside from displaying the prejudices of its cartoonist.  To make it applicable, the quote from Jesus ought to be:
"Take all that other people have and give it to the poor, while keeping a percentage to pay for your offices and perks."  
But it just doesn't have the same ring.  Especially since the bulk of the money thus collected never gets near the poor.  (If it did, you could take poverty spending, divide it by the number of poor people, and learn that there can't possibly be any poor people left.)

When it comes to giving of one's own money, perhaps a study of the relative giving unto charity of various groups might be instructive. 
 
Perhaps the cartoonist doesn't know how bureaucracy works. 

He may also be unclear on the Chinese aphorism about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish. The former is superficially charitable, but ultimately makes people dependent on the Fish-giver.  This may be the purpose of it all. 

None of this is intended to display enthusiasm for Caesar in any of his sundry guises. 
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Meanwhile, in other news, two teenagers held at gunpoint a houseguest of our next door neighbor, right out in front of their house.  A third kept watch for police up at the corner.  They fled when the neighbor came out and started screaming at them.  Their neighbors on the other side -- Sean, Pat, if you're reading this, you know who I mean -- caught some of this on their security cameras.  There hasn't been an incident like this since the old projects were torn down.  But the new public housing is in place now. 

17 comments:

  1. That cartoon reminds me of the following quote (admittedly a little long) from G.K. Chesterton which explicitly addresses that Scriptural passage(from a notebook from the late 1890's). It was written when he was in his early 20's and before he was himself undeniably a Christian. No doubt in later years he would have expressed himself differently in parts. But nevertheless the essence of it is very applicable

    Now, for my own part, I cannot in the least agree with those who see no difference between Christian and modern Socialism, nor do I for a moment join in some Christian Socialists' denunciations of those worthy middle-class people who cannot see the connection. For I cannot help thinking that in a way these latter people are right. No reasonable man can read the Sermon on the Mount and think that its tone is not very different from that of most collectivist speculation of the present day, and the Philistines feel this, though they cannot distinctly express it. There is a difference between Christ's Socialist program and that of our own time, a difference deep, genuine and all important, and it is this which I wish to point out.

    Let us take two types side by side, or rather the same type in the two different atmospheres. Let us take the "rich young man" of the Gospels and place beside him the rich young man of the present day, on the threshold of Socialism. If we were to follow the difficulties, theories, doubts, resolves, and conclusions of each of these characters, we should find two very distinct threads of self-examination running through the two lives. And the essence of the difference was this: the modern Socialist is saying, "What will society do?" while his prototype, as we read, said, "What shall I do?" Properly considered, this latter sentence contains the whole essence of the older Communism. The modern Socialist regards his theory of regeneration as a duty which society owes to him, the early Christian regarded it as a duty which he owed to society; the modern Socialist is busy framing schemes for its fulfilment, the early Christian was busy considering whether he would himself fulfil it there and then; the ideal of modern Socialism is an elaborate Utopia to which he hopes the world may be tending, the ideal of the early Christian was an actual nucleus "living the new life" to whom he might join himself if he liked. Hence the constant note running through the whole gospel, of the importance, difficulty and excitement of the "call," the individual and practical request made by Christ to every rich man, "sell all thou hast and give to the poor."

    To us Socialism comes speculatively as a noble and optimistic theory of what may [be] the crown of progress, to Peter and James and John it came practically as a crisis of their own Daily life, a stirring question of conduct and renunciation.

    We do not therefore in the least agree with those who hold that modern Socialism is an exact counterpart or fulfilment of the socialism of Christianity. We find the difference important and profound, despite the common ground of anti-selfish collectivism. The modern Socialist regards Communism as a distant panacea for society, the early Christian regarded it as an immediate and difficult regeneration of himself: the modern Socialist reviles, or at any rate reproaches, society for not adopting it, the early Christian concentrated his thoughts on the problem of his own fitness and unfitness to adopt it: to the modern Socialist it is a theory, to the early Christian it was a call; modern Socialism says, "Elaborate a broad, noble and workable system and submit it to the progressive intellect of society." Early Christianity said, "Sell all thou hast and give to the poor."

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  2. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is a politician to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is a bureaucrat to enter the kingdom of God."

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    1. You are doing exactly what the cartoonist is doing - misappropriating Scripture. Jesus was speaking about a rich person. Period.

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    2. Fabio, you may be right that there is somewhere a poor politician. But Dr. Briggs is clearly speaking in parody.

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  3. "He may also be unclear on the Chinese aphorism about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish. The former is superficially charitable, but ultimately makes people dependent on the Fish-giver. This may be the purpose of it all."

    Conservative version: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.

    "Liberal" version: To teach a man to fish is but the job of a day, but give a man a fish (*) and you have a life sinecure!

    (*) paid for by someone else, natch!

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  4. "Their neighbors on the other side -- Sean, Pat, if you're reading this, you know who I mean -- caught some of this on their security cameras."

    They ought to give copies to the police ... if they surrender all record to the bureaucrats, you can just about bet it will drop down the ol' memory-hole.

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  5. I wonder what they think of this one.

    "You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies."

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    1. Goodness! If peope find out that JC said stuff like that, they'll start whinging about how "uncivil" he is.

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  7. I can't count how many times I have had to explain to liberals and progressives that welfare spending for the poor is not morally equivalent to Christian charity. You would think such a thing is pretty simple to understand, but inevitably, you will see progressives try to argue that religious conservatives should support the welfare state because they have some moral duty to do so.

    On some level, this makes sense because the early 20th century Progressive movement was, in part, inspired by the evangelical revivalists of the late 19th century. Modern progressives may now see evangelicals as their mortal enemy, but it was evangelism that created their movement in the first place; no surprise that modern progressives might, from time to time, slip back into old habits (see cartoon above). Except now progressives use the religious message just to taunt evangelicals, rather than it being a genuine part of the movement.

    But, again, the attempt to morally equate the welfare state with Christian charity is foolish. That is all well and good.

    It seems to me, though, that a much better cartoon -- or column, or whatever -- would have noted the conservative tendency to focus so much on welfare for the poor and not enough on welfare for big business (not to mention wanting to increase the military-industrial complex).

    Progressives will frequently argue that welfare for the poor was intended to offset the bad effects of capitalism. But in reality, it seems, welfare for the poor is an attempt to offset the bad effects of welfare for -- and state intervention on behalf of -- big business. But neither party is serious about solving that problem.

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  8. I can't count how many times I have had to explain to liberals and progressives that welfare spending for the poor is not morally equivalent to Christian charity. You would think such a thing is pretty simple to understand, but inevitably, you will see progressives try to argue that religious conservatives should support the welfare state because they have some moral duty to do so.

    On some level, this makes sense because the early 20th century Progressive movement was, in part, inspired by the evangelical revivalists of the late 19th century. Modern progressives may now see evangelicals as their mortal enemy, but it was evangelism that created their movement in the first place; no surprise that modern progressives might, from time to time, slip back into old habits (see cartoon above). Except now progressives use the religious message just to taunt evangelicals, rather than it being a genuine part of the movement.

    But, again, the attempt to morally equate the welfare state with Christian charity is foolish. That is all well and good.

    It seems to me, though, that a much better cartoon -- or column, or whatever -- would have noted the conservative tendency to focus so much on welfare for the poor and not enough on welfare for big business (not to mention wanting to increase the military-industrial complex).

    Progressives will frequently argue that welfare for the poor was intended to offset the bad effects of capitalism. But in reality, it seems, welfare for the poor is an attempt to offset the bad effects of welfare for -- and state intervention on behalf of -- big business. But neither party is serious about solving that problem.

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    1. There is a difference between a Bill that sounds good and one that actually does good.

      And welfare for the rich stinks more than for the poor. There are lines that cut straight across party lines.

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  9. Conservatives are not blameless here. They routinely mislabel Welfare Spending as Charity. The State does not engage in Charity but is justified in Welfare Spending as a form of Justice. This is in full accordance with the Catholic Social Teaching.

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    1. No, that's liberals; and it is not in "full accordance" with Catholic Social Teaching, no matter how often folks yell it is so. It simply doesn't automatically contradict Catholic social teaching.

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    2. Charity is a strength of the giver. Taking other people's money is not the same thing, even if you give it to the right people. And giving it to mid-level bureaucrats and favored NGOs instead of directly to the poor raises additional questions.

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    3. I especially like Bill Buckley's question, on a Firing Line episode as I recall, though I don't remember who his guest was, about the meaning of Pope John Paul II's saying "You must not give only of your abundance, you must give of your substance as well."

      Buckley asked (paraphrased), "Does this not mean that we must share with the poor our understanding of how to get out of poverty, and stay out, rather than just subsidize their perpetual existence in poverty and dependence?"

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  10. I keep wondering when the Church ran out of millstones.

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