Religious Left Stews Over Debt Deal

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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The Religious Left lobbyists congratulated themselves for preventing more “devastating” limits on their most sacred federal programs. Echoing her political allies in the liberal churches who attach messianic purpose to the federal social programs, the president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies intoned during the debt ceiling struggle, “The baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people makes the choice between cutting programs for the poor and elderly or raising taxes an easy one.”

Even most left-leaning Episcopalians probably had not realized that their baptism had immersed them in the healing waters of Big Government, forming an eternal bond between catechist and the federal bureaucracy. It’s no wonder that emptying Episcopal churches are disproportionately filled with elderly people too old to hear the actual words of their clergy. If they could hear better, they too might quit, unwilling to sacrifice their souls on the altar of the welfare state.

Typically more conservative religious leaders reserve their activism for social issues and do not speak to federal budget and tax issues. The good news is that a new coalition has emerged called Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) rejecting the Religious Left’s claims to speak uniformly for America’s church goers. And CASE is disputing that Christian compassion mandates endless government expansion, exploding debt, and an ineffectual welfare and entitlement bureaucracy that reduces its beneficiaries to peonage. They warn against higher taxes: “To give more money to Washington is to give the sickness the remedy it requests. The last thing the government needs is more money. It needs to cease its unwise and profligate spending.”

The Religious Left, as articulated by Emergent Brian McLaren, perceives a grim world of diminishing resources and possibilities, hence the strident demands for coerced sacrifice and redistribution. In contrast, CASE more hopefully sees a world of God-ordained possibilities for increased human dignity:

We believe the poor of this generation and generations to come are best served by policies that promote economic freedom and growth, that encourage productivity and creativity in every able person, and that wisely steward our common resources for generations to come.

They added: “When creativity and entrepreneurship are rewarded, the yield is an increase of productivity and generosity.” If you’d like to endorse the CASE declaration, you can do so here.

Americans, especially its religious believers, have always been hopeful people, confident that Providence still has a plan for their nation. For this reason among others, the Religious Left’s appeals to fear, scarcity, and resentment ultimately will fail.  America will overcome debt and economic woes not through greater control by its bureaucrats, but through the creativity of an unleashed free people.

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  • mcrobbins

    I remember a commentator, a member of the religious Left, saying that the Evangelical Right was the stupidest voting block in the United States: they vote against their own economic interests. However, unlike the commentator, not every voter is looking for a government handout. Perhaps they are more interested in government policies that create jobs rather than destroy them.

    • tagalog

      Every rich liberal who votes for a politico who promises to raise the taxes of the rich is voting against his own economic interests. Don't let that phony argument influence you.

      • Barry

        On the contrary, rich liberals know the inside story that increasing taxes on the "rich" is really only increasing taxes on the middle class thus furthering their position as the "elite" while using the little guy to sell the elixer.

  • StephenD

    Thank you Mark for getting this out. I followed the link and read the letter. I am proud to say I signed my name to it. I only wish I could have contributed more to this cause beside a signature.
    I hope all sound thinking Americans get a chance to review the letter. And sign it. Perhaps Congress and the President will see there are clear thinking people yet paying attention. I salute the authors of this and expect it will make history.

  • Marty

    The irreligious left is morally bankrupt. A number of denominations have strong and visible anti-semitic tendencies that are part of their DNA. Their hostility to Israel suggests that they do not care about democracy and human rights. Their cowardly appeasement of islam suggests they cannot deal with reality and are more than prepared to accept dhimmitude. They are a disgrace to all that western civilization upholds.

  • waltjr

    "the president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies intoned during the debt ceiling struggle, “The baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people makes the choice between cutting programs for the poor and elderly or raising taxes an easy one.”"

    Just one of the many reasons I left the Episcopal Church, my baptism was not based on the Politics of the day…

  • aharris

    Government forced social programs are not charity. Charity is when you freely decide to give of yourself to help others less fortunate. Creating a forced welfare state has nothing of God about it and everything of a tyrant.

  • TexExpatriate

    I took a different view of this article. It outlines what happens in any religion when its adherents devote themselves to the exoterica (i.e., dogma, rules,etc) of the religion. All religions, even Islam, contain a few thousand esoteric practitioners who concentrate on knowing God in the present. That is the purpose of all religions, although few adherents are aware of it. Those practitioners who also devote themselves to helping others do not do it by asking governments to extort others to help. The exoteric religious described in this article are no better than criminals.

  • Jim

    I my self am for taxing the banksters to the hilt. Also tax the out sourcers to the hilt and those who us illegal labor. But the I think "Well the Gov. will only squander the money.

    Why not make the right reverends who are so concerned about the poor pay social security.
    That would be a big help. By the way these churches bring in so much excess money they can pay the high priests a tidy sum. Why not classify churches as businesses as for profit entities and make them pay income tax.

    Let them show the way to humane taxation.

    Did Jesus drive a SUV paid for by tax money?

  • Omar

    Religious left is quite the oxymoron. You cannot love abortion, love welfare, love homosexual ACTS, encourage sex with minors, have sex with children, believe that taking others money through taxes and giving it to deadbeats is moral, and have any belief in any god. Liberal/communist/progressive/socialist/nazi/islamic beliefs have nothing to do with love and responsibility.

  • Omar

    Come on. BHO needs the money to giv his billionaire buddies on Wall Street.

  • g_jochnowitz

    President Reagan raised taxes when it was necessary to do so.
    http://www.pensitoreview.com/2010/07/02/reagan-ra

    • Barry

      Semantics. Over all he worked with Tip O'neil and other reasonable Democrats (gone with the dinosaurs) to cut far more than raise thus sparking economic growth that drastically increase revenues through a robust economy rather than tax increases (mostly). Sadly he was unwilling to veto spending bills that later ate up those revenue increases and more due to his efforts to rebuild the post Carter military.

  • ebonystone

    And yet the main-line Protestant sects all wonder why they're losing members.

  • theleastthreat

    From article:"“A zealot faction in our own US Congress threatens to damage our economy in ways that terrorists never could, reinforcing the old adage that ‘we have found the enemy and he is us,’” he bewailed, falling just short of comparing Tea Partiers to al-Qaeda."

    That sounds to me like they believe them to be worse than al-Qaeda.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      That "old adage" is not an old adage. It's a direct quote – from Pogo. Both you and Pogo are right.

  • BS77

    "Religious Left" is oxymoronic…..like "jumbo shrimp" or "instant classic"…..most of the so called "religious left" are socialists, Marxists and far left useful idiots, with an agenda that has little or nothing to do with religion.

  • Fred Dawes

    The Religious Left is that a joke? the fact is the Left is insane most of the left think that the Holocaust was about white people killing hispanics/blacks in germany! but the question must be asked will the Left mass murder whites in the end game.

    Most of what we see today will mean nothing one year from now with the mass collapse and most people will separate into race groups, and this has started back east a gang of some 1000 black guys attacked a county fair of about 10,000 people no one was killed but it is just a matter of time before you see people murdered by one race group or the other.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Socialists banking on the govenment and doing their all to create a weak and dependent_class of illegal immegrants to suck down the tax dollars for a free ride and on the side_make good money in labor. The left has subverted as many Churches as governments._When out charitable giving is no longer tax deductible and we have to pay tax_that money the government will have more control over votes and who gets what._We need a government for a free society and not a society looking to be freed from_government. Leftists equate government with God……………………William

  • Supreme_Galooty

    Fred Dawes, the very concept of religious left is indeed a joke. Their religion is government. If they pretend to engage in some mainstream religion such as Buddhism, Taoism, Presbyterianism, Methodism, Catholicism, or Judaism, they are lying. Islam and leftism are completely compatible.

    The whole concept of "taxing the wealthy" is nothing more than legalized thievery and without a doubt in violation of the Golden Rule – in part – do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

  • http://Longdrycreek.com James A. Glasscock

    I would recommond to readers to find a copy of a marvelous essay "That Strange Thing Called Money, written by Otto A. Piper. The essay is found in Theology Today, XVI, No. 2, July, 1959, 215-231.
    The Left would profit greatly through understanding money other than something to seize from another person or corporation or entity with money. I have observed that the

  • Asher

    Jesus was not a Socialist, he gave man freedom of choice, and believed in Charitable giving from the heart, not Robbing people who work! Standard and Poors has sent this administration a signal…Quit being Irresponsible and Suck it in or else….This administration wants the US to become like Greece, so we can all be part of a One World government European Union!

    • tagalog

      Also, Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world." No socialist or communist, no Marxist, no dialectical materialist would agree with that, in fact, they'd put a person, who said that mankind is going to be rewarded in the afterlife by God for sacrifices made in this life, in a labor camp as a counter-revolutionary.

      To the extent that modern-day Christians talk like the people in the comment, they aren't speaking in accord with what Christ said. It's one thing to treat people in need with compassion, it's quite another to put them at the front of the economic line.

  • g_jochnowitz

    Jesus said that if you don't allow a beggar into your house, even if he has oozing sores, you will go to Hell and suffer eternally Luke 16:10=31).
    Nothing is more merciless than eternal damnation. Nobody–except maybe a Hitler–could deserve to be tortured for ever and ever.

    • Barry

      Jesus didn't say any such thing in the parable of the rich man. The rich man did not suffer punishment for being rich but for not having the faith of Abraham exhibited by showing mercy and Jesus didn't specifically define that mercy as "allowing the beggar into his house."

      You over-estimate your goodness to think only Hitler deserved an eternal hell. Jesus died for you (and me) specifically because you (and I) DO deserve and eternity in hell. If not he died for nothing as we all could just pay our penalty for ourselves through a varying length in hell.

      • g_jochnowitz

        God created the earth and the uiniverse and all living creatures in all their glory. Yet He didn't have the power simply to forgive sin. Punishment has to go someplace. Poor weak God had to take the punishment upon Himself, in the form of His Son.
        That makes no sense. http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/FaithUnjustified