evangelical economics

President Obama's proposed 2012 budget, via: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

I have to say up front: I do not consider myself an Evangelical. I grew up Presbyterian (PCUSA) and have only gotten more “liberal” theologically from there. Jesus is still alright with me.

My friend Sarah turned my attention to recent polling of Evangelicals on the issue of the federal budget. Apparently, were they in charge of the government’s spending, Evangelicals are more likely than the average American to want to cut funding for: aid to the poor around the world, aid to the unemployed in our own country, and funding used to protect and care for our environment. From the piece: “evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy…Evangelicals were more likely to favor an increase in defense spending (45 percent) compared to non-evangelicals (28 percent).”

From this Jesus-follower’s perspective? Talk about bassackwards. Good gravy.

The defense spending is particularly troubling to me. We’d rather spend money to wage war against the people of the world than to spend money on foreign aid to help them build the sorts of stable economies and governments that make more less likely? And we’re not sure we’re even spending enough money on the military and war in the first place?

It makes me wonder if the translations of the Bible those other folks are reading are just WILDLY different than the TNIV I usually read. My love for Jesus compels me to care for the poor and needy and unemployed, both in my own country and around the world. My love for Jesus compels me to care passionately about God’s creation, desiring to treat it with the respect I’d treat anything I borrowed from a friend, and to preserve it so it can be enjoyed by future generations. My love for Jesus compels me to believe that even my nation’s enemies are my God’s children, and to oppose all violence and war. And if I were to be making my nation’s budget based on what I know about Jesus, I’d be cutting spending on violence and war, and increasing spending to help the most vulnerable among us, particularly during a global recession.

*Edited to add: of course I understand that many Evangelicals make care for the poor a private concern, and think that if the Church did its job, the government wouldn’t need to step in. But, when this polling data so clearly demonstrates support for militarism, I have to wonder if the public/private concern is really the issue here, and not just some really whacked out priorities.

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7 thoughts on “evangelical economics

  1. I agree with you. I can see the idea that the people should care for the poor and the govt should care for…idk, govt things. I just think more often it is people saying, basically, that people don’t deserve those services (ie welfare, WIC, etc) and that they should just try harder and work more. I obviously don’t care to fund people who are abusing the system. And my good friend Megan with her PhD in econ says it is pretty clear from an macro econ standpoint that the democratic method of spending doesn’t really help in the way we want it to. But, I just feel like we (M and I) have been given a lot in terms of our abilities, families, background, and income potential that I don’t mind sharing it with people who don’t have the same advantages. Like, say, people who weren’t raised with the absolute certainty that they had to be MDs.

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  2. Here’s my humble opinion. It has been my observation that evangelicals clearly prefer to keep the helping of the poor and so forth in their own hands rather than the goverments for two reasons:1) They like to tout their own goodness. I have yet to watch an evangelical minister give a sermon without mentioning how much he helps the poor and unfortunate especially the overseas missions. 2) By controlling the handouts, they can tie it to converting people. How many evangelical ministries do you know of that offer help without it being tied to a mission of conversion? By taking help out of governnmental hands, the evangelicals would be better able to control to whom and by what means the help is given.

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  3. A few thoughts.

    The Bible never suggests abdicating care of those in need to the government. The church has gotten bad at the job but that is in part an unintended consequence of government taking on the job.

    I work with the poor in a governmental role and the only time I hate my job is when I see how destructive government policy toward the poor is toward individuals. Children too often aren’t eligible for assistance if the mother and father are married. I listen to mothers who coldly consider their children as little more than an economic unit. I see parents describe their children as awful monsters in the quest for benefits while reading teachers notes about how sweet the child is and how disengaged the parent is.

    I’ve seen government policy on the poor first hand and it is ugly.

    As for unemployment, business owner tell me over and over of how the current system which demands little of participants is making it hard for them to fill positions. Applicants who no longer are able to maintain 40 hours a week because they’ve fallen out of the habit of showing up on time five days a week, applicants seeking cash employment to defraud the system.

    It’s frustrating to everyone.

    We have to reform a lot of things. First among those things is defense spending. It’s the biggest outlay we have and anyone dreaming of a balanced budget better figure out where they cut the defense budget because you can’t do it without cutting defense.

    I don’t consider government spending on defense nor entitlement programs to be issues of faith.

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    • Arkstfan: thanks for the comment!

      1) I totally agree with you. I don’t think we should abdicate care of the poor to the government. I don’t think our tax dollars should ever make us feel like we aren’t called to serve and care for the poor. But I do think the Government has the whole economy of scale thing on its side, and can make big major changes that wouldn’t be possible for me as an individual or even the churches to get together and achieve.

      2) I’ve been on unemployment. It was a pittance. I had to document that I was applying to at least 3 jobs per week, and every week, some sort of glitch made me have to fight to get my benefits. Thankfully, I found employment in only a few months, but I met hardworking people during my time in the unemployment office who weren’t as fortunate in finding employment rapidly.

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  4. Arkstfan, I followed you right up until the last line where you suggested that’s its not an issue of faith that followers of Christ want to spend more money killing people. That was just kind of weird.

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  5. Lela, I’m afraid you have been around some “evangelicals” that gave you a completely wrong view of the Gospel and of our mission as Christians. As someone who is proud to call myself an evangelical Christian, I’ll tell you that our ONLY purpose in serving the poor and the needy is to fulfill the calling of Jesus. It is not and never has been to glorify ourselves, and I personally, have never sat under a pastor who gave that impression of himself (I’m not saying there aren’t any, but it’s certainly not the case for everyone!). And also, I agree that yes, we as Christians do hope to turn people to Jesus through our service. If we only help their current needs without their eternal needs, we’re not doing them much good. And if we called ourselves Christians without trying to lead them to the REAL solution for their pain, then we would be hypocrites.

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  6. Maybe if all evangelicals actually tithed, the church’s caring for the world’s poor would be a much more realistic possibility. That doesn’t happen, and the percentage of folks who give 10% is crazy low. Apparently they don’t want to give their money to Uncle Sam or Jesus.

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