Dear politically conservative Christians,
I love you dearly. I have been one of you for most of my life and, nominally at least, I remain one of you, though the “R” in my voter registration will soon be switched to an “I.”
Almost all of my family identifies with you as do the bulk of my friends and acquaintances.
Everything I share here is thus out of both love and empathy.
I want to correct some conservative frameworks that are actually contrary to scripture and Christian teaching.
I’ve seen a lot of American conservative Christians who have been scared to death that “culture” or the government or whomever is going to persecute them, so the response of many has been to fight for what they perceive to be “their” rights in a so-called “culture war” against “secularism” dating back to the birth of fundamentalism in the early 20th Century.
The problem with that is, when you became a Christian, you gave up any notion about having any rights – you gave them to Jesus.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV, emphasis added).
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NLT, emphasis added).
You’re supposed to be finding common ground with those whom you disagree with in order to show them love. You aren’t supposed to be demonstrating what is perceived to be hate by trying to impose your morals on them.
You also aren’t supposed to be masochistically looking for persecution, but Jesus is abundantly clear that you will be persecuted, and the New Testament likewise clear that you are blessed and are a blessing through it. Rejoice in it if you ever receive actual persecution, not the American perception of what persecution is.
Regarding your personal finances and your possessions – you don’t have any.
Everything belongs to God, and all things were created by his power (Hebrews 2:10, CEV).
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it (Deuteronomy 10:14, NIV).
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;you founded the world and all that is in it (Psalm 89:11, NIV).
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1, NIV).
Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me (Job 41:11, NIV).
Whatever is “yours” is under your stewardship only – it belongs to God. The whole duty of humanity is as stewards of God’s creation as laid out in the beginning of Genesis; thus we should renounce the idea of personal ownership and care a great deal for the health of the world and the rest of creation.
The question is never about “my money or possessions” but about “God’s money and possessions under my stewardship” – what does He want done with them?
To those ends, when God outlines his desired economy for Israel, he sounds an awful lot like what conservatives today would slur as a socialist:
Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.
If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God.
If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit (Leviticus 25:8-10, 14-17, 25-28, 35-37, NIV).
Likewise do the members of the very first Christian church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47, NIV).
It sounds an awful lot like God is in the business of wanting to ensure the poor are taken care of at a societal level through “wealth redistribution.”
Jesus took that awfully personally, too, claiming it as his own mission statement:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
Lastly, it bears mentioning that God calls us to embrace the outcast and the immigrants on numerous occasions:
Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22:21, NIV).
When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34, NIV)
You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born (Leviticus 24:22, NIV).
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, NIV).
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked (Psalm 146:7-9, NIV).
You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance (Ezekiel 47:21-23, NIV).
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:34-36, 40, NIV).
We often forget in our American affluence that white people are most certainly going to be a minority in heaven – the vast, extensive majority of Christians across the ages (and increasingly so as years continue to go by) are Middle Eastern, African, Asian.
Our Savior Himself remains eternally as a Middle Eastern Jew at the right hand of God the Father.
So, my dear politically conservative Christian friends, please heed the teaching of scripture and the Church.
Release the rights that are no longer yours; serve your brothers and sisters in humility; share extravagantly at a social level of what you’ve been placed in stewardship of; welcome the outcast and immigrant; and prepare your hearts for an eternity that does not look like a mythologized, white-washed version of 1950s America.
It’s far more glorious and beautiful than that in its variety.
In short: love your neighbor as yourself.