I was asked to expand a comment I made into a diary here: http://www.dailykos.com/... so here goes.
I am no theologian but I am sometimes amused and frustrated by fundamentalists who waste their time railing against abortion, women's reproductive rights, thinking the rich "deserve" more, working rights, and the like because their hypocrisy intentionally overlooks pretty much everything their religion teaches. Worse, they overlook the most central and important issue within their teachings; the issue of poverty and more broadly the social injustices they should be called to defend.
More over the squirrelly thing ...
I am saying it here loud and clear. Unlike being gay, a person of color, or born poor, there is no question that being rich IS a "choice". As a person of faith, I could not ever support a hate group, but I confess, it is a constant battle to contain my disgust. At the very most I can muster, I try to love the rich but all I can manage is the same kind of pity as they have while smugly looking down on gays, people of color, and the poor. Because I know from MY faith that being rich is one of the grossest sins against humanity that exists. It is simply wrong to claim you are a person of faith and then to choose to have more than you need because being rich causes more anguish, starvation, homelessness, murder, rape, thievery, wars, and poverty than any other sin.
In other words, sitting on WAY more than you need while those around you starve is a sin. Period.
I want to explain something that is important from my faith. Here is my interpretation of Matthew 19 20-26:
The Rabbi Jesus was asked about having to pay taxes to the Roman emperor that these occupied people hated so much; should they or should they not pay those taxes? So the Rabbi asked for a coin that was given to him. It bore the head of Caesar. He pointed out who was on the coin and then he said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God, that which belongs to God..."
Many Christians today think this was Jesus telling them to pay those taxes that were enriching a bloody dictator. These idiots actually believe he was telling his people to pay hard earned money to a man whose main goal was to kill Jews for not worshiping this corrupt king as if he were a god. This was not what Jesus was saying. Jesus was not telling them to pay those horrible taxes, indeed he agreed with his people and was saying the opposite. Still this answer enraged the religious and wealthy who had come to test Jesus with this question and here is why:
Note Jesus also said, "...and render unto God that which belongs to God..." So the REAL issue pointed out to these learned and powerful men was, to Whom does this universe belong ~ does it belong to God or does everything in the universe belong to Caesar? As religious leaders, they knew that of course the universe belongs to God, it does not belong to Caesar ~ nor to anyone else (such as the rich). But this also pointed out the hypocrisy that ANY pooled money that was only going to a few and not benefiting the entire community was not being used properly, and especially if that misspent money came from the Temple (thus from God). There really was no question that paying money to Caesar was wrong (since not paying it meant death so, the "choice" was not really a choice), it is about managing that money, which was God's money in a way that all benefited. THAT is what enraged the questioners because they knew in their hearts what that answer told about them.
From the Christian perspective, which is the one that I know, and from observing many of these fundies pretending they follow the teachings of Jesus, one of the key issues in their Bible is around the issue of poverty and sharing with those who have the least. There are over 1,700 references to poverty in the Bible but not one reference about abortions. Jesus was asked if taxes should be paid, which was a complicated question because paying those taxes was an affront to Jews whose "choice" was to give it up or die. In their own culture these payments were a good thing because they could go to the temple and pay fines with sacrifices and money ~ and thus know that God has forgiven them for breaking sacred laws.
However with the poor, being forgiven this way is another expense they could barely pay. Not only for this reason were the poor as maligned as the poor are today, but they were and are considered dirty, they were/are ugly, they were/are sick, they reek of disease, they were/are "lazy". The story of the "widow's mite" (Mark 12:40) meant far more than giving the last she had to God out of the deep love in her heart with the hope for forgiveness. It took a great deal of courage to walk through that long hall, the walls lined with sitting men, all those scribes and accountants looking at her with disapproving eyes while she handed over that pittance. Everyone including the widow knew where it would go. Let's just say the giver of this mite was not only disdained for the little amount she gave which was all she had, but she was the last person on the list who would get any favors back for giving it, unlike the religious leaders who gladly took it from her. Not only do today's religious leaders gladly take from the poor while disdaining them, they outright guilt trip the poor into giving even more of what little they have by passing around their offering baskets over and over and over while convincing them that giving like that widow is a way to heaven ~ when actually it is so that these leaders can ride around in their private limousines and live in their gaudy mansions.
Yes, very little is different today with the Christian mega-church or with all the government taxes, fees and fines the poor pay. People in poverty pay taxes and fees at the highest rate in every state. Look it up here: http://www.itepnet.org/... and you will see the poor pay the highest taxes. They make a far greater sacrifice for their country than any other class, 3-10 times more than the rich who pay the smallest rate of rates. Yet because of the same hatred that so many in the upper classes possess for the poor as it was 2000 years ago, these taxpayers are constantly told that they pay nothing and they contribute nothing. Indeed it is popular to consider the poor as "burdens" when in fact this whole society depend upon the poor to maintain their own class positions.
Every time the Feds cut their budget, what the freaking hell do people think states will do when they do not get those funds? We should know full well what will be done. States will (and do) RAISE their (mostly) regressive taxes and fees and the poor will pay even MORE out of their meager incomes while the rich will pay even less. This is "trickle down" economics at its finest. This kind of taxing camouflages the very people who pay the highest rates, who the government and our society calls "lazy". Meanwhile there is a constant push to get them into McJobs that do not even pay the rent while refusing to assist in any way.
They even shove these low income taxpayers into actual FREE slave labor for corporations (I am not making this up. Look into welfare-to-work that came from Welfare DEFormed, the 1996 bill that the Heritage Foundation wrote and your beloved President Clinton signed into law, passed by another bunch of hypocritical legislative religious fundies). They are forcing these people to work for nothing in for profit-making corporations, displacing PAID work in the process.
What slippery slope do YOU see coming out of this unholy alliance? Welfare-to-work = Right to Work, the newest addition to 24 state's legislation schedule... What will come next is that ALL workers be expected to work for free as the poorest are already doing. Indeed as the largest employer in the world, Walmart gets away with locking their workers in their stores after hours to work for free. They run locked shops in third world countries because they work these people so hard, they have to bar the windows so these workers do not jump to their death in despair ~ who are then burned to death when they cannot escape in a fire. All this in order that the so-called "Christian" Walton family can hoard even more $Billions for themselves. And adding to this is about the government acquiescing to this hatred of the poor by hiking taxes and then hiding tax payers who lose on the average of 15% of their meager incomes. Then the recipients of these taxes pretend "those lazy poor" do not pay taxes or contribute a thing to their communities. Now that's the Trickle Down Tax Ticket!
But hey, the rich today will continue to benefit by giving their $Millions in non-donations into large non-profits who are in reality non-taxed corporations that will hide those riches in order to avoid taxes. While small non-profits get little or nothing when they are doing the REAL work that these mega-nons will never do, these mega-nons LOVE that "gubmint money" and gobble it up by the $Millions. Take a look sometime at the average amount these mega-nons bring in versus what they give in services at Guidestar online. You can do the math for kicks and giggles as I did and then get ready to throw up. Services given to their clients cost mega-nons on the average of less than $2500. Yet they get on the average of $57,000-$64,000 a year PER CLIENT.
Where oh where do you suppose that other $52,500-$62,500 per client goes other than to the ones who need help the most? Sometime I can speak to that but suffice it to know, a heueuege amount goes back to the richest donors in addition to those wonderful tax breaks ~ and their spouses and relatives and the upper classes get paid to be the gatekeepers and decide who does and who do not "deserve" this government money. Indeed "faith-based" recipients of this money get to exclude anyone who is not up to par in their book while their hands are out for more of those $Millions. Ever notice that whenever you hear a pundit talk about tax breaks that 2nd on the list is almost ALWAYS "charitable giving"? Trust me, they are not talking about Granny giving a $25.00 check to her church fund raiser here, poverty is "Big Bidness" for the rich.
It was no different then as it is today with our so-called "Christian" leaders who seem to believe they are better than those "bad" guys with whom Jesus had to deal. Do we not see this same crap going on in the fundie mega-church, mega-nonprofits and our government? What the hell are those people thinking that giving all our money to the rich does a thing? The mega-churches have their religious leaders living the high life. They meddle in other countries, causing unspeakable misery with the aim to enrich themselves while pretending this is for God and "justice". Yeah right ...see the all the energy they have put into killing gays in Africa, or Greg Palast's account of flying to Africa with Pat Robertson to collet his take from gold mines where children are forced to labor and where on this jet there wasn't a single Bible ~ but there sure were a lot of business journals.
Oh. Oh. I see, giving $350,000,000 a year TAX FREE to Billy Graham's son so he can give away Bibles in a shoe box to hungry kids does anything??? Do you want to bet how much Mr. Graham gets of that $350,000,000? He thinks way more about babies when they're IN the womb but who gives a crap about how they and their parents will suffer after they are out of the womb? Not when there are mansions to buy! Jets to acquire! Fancy buildings to build! And of course, a nice fat check to spend on me, me. me...
"Gee thanks Mr. Graham, my mom cries at night because she hurts so bad from all the work she does cleaning your rich friend's mansions, she cannot afford to buy enough food or milk, my coat zipper is broken and too small, and there are holes in my shoes ~ but from you I get a SHOE BOX with no shoes and hey, it contains a bible and some Jesus paraphernalia in it. Yeah, sure, that oughtta do it. I am starving, dying of thirst, cold, and without a home while you spend $Millions to give me an empty shoe box containing stuff I cannot eat, drink or wear. Thanks for telling me about God by wasting $Millions on something that I do not need. While YOU must feel good about how "holy" you are Mr Graham, this must mean that your God could give a flying crap about me and what I really need ..."
Giving all this money to these fake "Christians" will not benefit anyone but them. The rich like Mr Graham and the Waltons are committing the most heinous of sins by sitting on their wealth and allowing "the least among them" to starve. While they are living high on the hog themselves these "Christians" blaspheme the name of God when pressing legislators into imposing austerity on the poor. Many of these fundie Christians think they have SUCH a corner market on God. That somehow Jesus gave some new message when in fact their "Jayzuz" was simply re-emphasizing what was "forgotten" and what is ignored to this day by these hypocritical quacks. Not only has this been an issue for thousands of years, our own Christian history and many of our present activities bear out the opposite. These people did not learn a thing. Who of any intelligence can listen to them because they are dumb as rocks when it comes to God? To this very day as it was then, they think that God somehow loves the rich more, when in fact it is the ghetto, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned and the poor where God walks ~ as Jesus and his faith pointed out many times.
Jesus tried to get across that those claiming to love God should make sure God's resources go to everyone "each according to their need" as the first Christians did (Acts 2:46). So if you call yourself a person of faith you have to know that all you have is not yours, it is God's. If you are not sharing that which belongs to God, you are withholding God's resources from others and this is a sin. Not only Jesus makes this quite clear, so does the whole idea of his Jewish faith, along with Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Christian religion. Therefore by pretending all those other issues fundies claim are so "important", is pure bunk when in fact they ignore their own faith which is almost shouting that poverty is far more important. Therefore the rich are the worst of these sinners if they refuse to share their wealth while their neighbors starve. Hating the poor is merely a veil trying to hide all those lame and weak excuses for keeping more than is needed.
While we think being rich is a desirable thing, in truth it is the path to hell. You cannot be rich and have a conscience connected to God because if you did, you would only keep what you need and give the rest away. Desiriing wealth is asking to become an instant sinner. If the rich keep everything they own, they are causing greater chaos and pain within their own communities than the worse serial killer. Jesus calls those who run after riches "ungodly".
All would agree that God does not want us to starve. While hoarding like the rich do as their neighbor starves is a sin, storing up for the coming winter is wise in order to ensure you and your loved ones have enough ~as is sharing it with those who do not have enough so that ALL will have enough. Whether or not a person is "lazy" should not even be part of the criteria for when, where or with whom you share. Sharing the last of what you have strengthens faith and builds a strong confidence in God's care because as Jesus also taught here, (Matthew 2:25-34):
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the ungodly run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own..."
My 2 cents,
Cat in S]eattle