I was perusing through Facebook when I stumbled upon a post from someone I work with. I’ll leave the name out to protect the innocent. The trouble was that he didn’t even write this himself. He took it from someone else and simply reposted it. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to use this space to voice my own opinions. I don’t need to borrow someone else’s material.
Essentially, it was a diatribe that we commonly hear from many of our friends and relatives. The combination of things said perfectly emcompass what I like to call the Old Testament view of God and religion. It will become obvious as I break it down plank by plank.
“I‘m tired of being told I have to spread the wealth. to people who do not have my work ethic. People who have sacrificed nothing and feel entitled to recieve everything.”
So, in the preamble this person talked a lot about how they help people. So essentially, they are saying here, “I got mine. Go get yours.” I used to think this way actually. This is how powerful the Old Testament view of God and religion is. There will be more statements we will look at like above, but it all boils down to a basic tenet that can be seen in the Old Testament.
If I am successful then it is because I worked hard and because I am a righteous and good person. That by itself doesn’t sound bad. It’s when we follow the thought process to its logical conclusion. If I am not successful then it is because I did not work hard and I was not a good person.
This thought process is dangerous for a few reasons. First, it attaches virtue or lack of virtue to success and failure. Secondly, it defines success in terms related almost exclusively to finances. So, when we see someone who is struggling we are led to assume that they haven’t tried as hard as me. That’s of course unless we know their situation beforehand.
Admittedly, I have not memorized the Bible, but I don’t seem to remember any passages where Jesus tells us to only help those that will help themselves. He doesn’t tell us it’s okay to forget about the poor because they are responsible for their own plight. It’s their fault after all.
“And for those afraid of Covid 19 killing you, understand God has a date for you to meet him regardless of any disease that could affect you.”
Oh my, where do I begin here? This is a difficult subject admittedly. I certainly believe that God has a plan for us, but this assumes that God is all powerful, all knowing, and that we do not have free will. Over 150,000 have died in the pandemic. Was this all part of God’s plan? Did each person die on their prescribed date? So, when someone is reckless is that also part of God’s plan? This is admittedly a slippery slope and I usually detest those kinds of arguments.
Shortly after Katrina, one of the local churches put on their marguee, “why Katrina hit New Orleans.” Unless they were giving a meterology sermon, that kind of theology is grotesque and repugnant. It is also very Old Testament. The idea is that if a place is sinful enough, God will send a plaque upon them as punishment for their sinful nature. Therefore, New Orleans was more sinful than other area cities and that is why the hurricane struck there.
My earlier statement could be interpreted as claiming that God is not all powerful or all knowing. The point is that we couldn’t have all three. When God gave us free will he/she also surrendered some level of control. Saying God will protect us doesn’t mean we have carte blanche to do anything we want. There is some expectation of reasonable behavior.
“I’m upset that I’m labeled as a racist because I am proud of my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior.”
This ladies and gentlemen is what we call a straw man. We set up an enemy so grotiesque and so ridiculous that we can’t help but defeat it. The problem is that it doesn’t exist. No one is claiming you are racist because you are a Christian. It’s a false choice. No one has asked me to denounce my faith or wear the scarlet R on my forehead.
A charge of racism sticks for one of two reasons. Either you have made statements or done things that other people have interpreted as racist or you support someone that has made racist statements and done things others interpet as racist. It really doesn’t matter how many black friends you may have either. It doesn’t matter how many black people you work with. It really is as simple as seen above.
Granted, I have been called a racist myself. It’s no fun and I had to defend myself against the charge. I also had to reflect about what had happened and why those that accused me thought that. It was an opportunity to grow even if the accusation was incorrect and damaging to my reputation.
These three quotes demonstrate a few things. First, if I am going to be Christ -like then I cannot attach qualifiers to the people I offer help to. As a human, I will never be able to help everyone that needs it or those that I should, but my help can’t be qualified by a litmus test on whether they deserve it. How hard does someone have to work? How do I decide who is deserving?
The poster also included some anti-government rhetoric in terms of help. No hand outs. It is certainly fair to question how we can best help people. It’s certainly fair to wonder whether a certain program best addresses a need. However, the sentiment went beyond that. It said “I help people that deserve my help.” That’s not the attitude that Jesus taught us.
Secondly, God does not provide us with an invisible shied to the virus. There have been numerous examples of outbreaks at churches and other gatherings. Being for God doesn’t mean being against science. It doesn’t mean we can ignore common sense practices that would help curtail the spread of the virus.
The final part on racism is tough. There are ties certainly between racism and evangelical and even Catholic churches. We can go into that at another time. Those that deny white privaledge and systemic racism assert what that writer asserted. Nothing was given to me. I had to work hard for what I got. I earned it. There is certainly a lot of truth to that. I did work hard. I mostly did the right thing. I also was lucky in many respects. There is no shame in admitting that. Some of that was specific to my upbringing, but part of it is a byproduct of who I am and what I look like. It doesn’t mean it was overtly because I am white, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
The flip side is that others have disadvantages they have to overcome. It may not be 100 percent based on what they look like, but it is there. Accepting the existence of it doesn’t mean that we accept it or condone it. However, we need to check our assumptions. If we see someone struggling do we assume it is because they don’t work hard or want things handed to them? This is usually when we ask what Jesus would do. Was his help conditioned? Did he deny help because someone didn’t deserve it.