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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Debunking the "Jesus was a Liberal/Socialist" meme

Lately, this meme's been making the social media circuits:

This meme is riddled with liberal tropes.  There's the matter of fact, orwellian "let's be honest" to set the stage that their conclusion is purely honest and rational.  There's the implication that Republicans dislike anyone who wants to help the poor.  And for added bonus, they threw in the tried and true liberal bogeyman, Fox News.  

But, for today, let's overlook those despite how aggravating they can be in that self edifying way that just gets under your skin.  Instead, let's focus on the implication that Jesus would support today's modern socialist agenda.  

Now sure, if you defined the socialist agenda as simply "Helping the poor" (another deceptive tactic used in the meme), then yes, Jesus would have been all for that.  

However, as is the case with many liberal agendas, there's always more to it.  While one of the goals of socialism is indeed helping the poor, it's how they go about accomplishing that goal that actually defines socialism.  Because keep in mind that liberal agenda is not the only ideology that stresses helping the poor.  In fact, the conservative agenda also wants to help the poor and unfortunate.  

Yes, it's true.  Both the liberal and conservative agenda wish to help the poor.  The difference between the two is how they go about accomplishing this.  

The liberal (socialist) agenda uses the vehicle of government to forcefully take wealth from others to give to the poor.  The conservative agenda encourages helping the poor through voluntary giving to charitable organizations and the like.  

To most liberals, they don't see a problem with the how as most tend to believe that the ends justify the means.  Yet, this means is exactly why Jesus would not only not support a socialist agenda, but would no doubt oppose it.  There's a couple reasons for this.  Let's examine the first...

People must have a choice
In every interaction with people in the Bible, Jesus gave them a choice.  He did not condemn or coerce or force.  Each person, including the rich people he admonishes, had a choice in what to do.  For the rich people, they chose to give up their possessions to help others.  Jesus did not make them even though he very well could have.  Also, Jesus did not advocate for the governments of man to force people into giving (as socialism does via taxes).  Instead he appealed to someone with more on a personal level to make the choice to give.

Furthermore, the act of giving was not merely meant to transfer material wealth from one person to another as is the case with socialism.  Part of being generous means having a loving and willing heart, which on top of transferring some material wealth, also enriches the spirit for both people, something that extends His Kingdom.  

You could say that Jesus was actually more interested in the how when giving to the poor than he was about the poor being less poor.

Being wealthy is not a sin
Yes, Jesus does have some negative things to say about rich people.  Yet, it's not because being rich is wrong.  There were many rich people in the Bible whom Jesus and God did not admonish.  It's not being wealthy that's  a sin, it's loving wealth that's the sin.  He also knew that a wealthy person who can provide every material need and want for themselves will have a far tougher time seeing how they need to follow His ways. Being wealthy has more pitfalls to falling from grace.  Just like the parable of the three servants, the more you have, the more is expected of you.  So the more wealth you have, the more you're expected to care for those around you. However, it's easier to live in the excess than to give to someone in need.  

What WOULD Jesus do?
If we follow how Jesus acted in the Bible, this is what I believe Jesus would do if He were walking the Earth today:

He would reach out to people.  And love them, regardless of their sin.  He would have sharp lessons for the haughty and the proud.  He would appeal to people to be generous and help their neighbors.  He would encourage wealthy business owners to not succumb to the allure of greed and instead keep love in their hearts for those they employ and serve.  He'd emphasize the power that comes from serving out of love.  

Would he have harsh words for rich people or businesses? Most likely, but not as a blanket condemnation, but to point out that loving the wealth they cultivate isn't good.  But, what I think would surprise many liberals and conservatives, is some other things he would also speak out against.  He wouldn't condemn or judge those that follow these agendas, but he would definitely indicate which actions he considered wrong.   

This meme seems to only focus on Jesus from an economic lense.  And while him helping others on the surface seems to be economical, it's actual far more spiritual, hence him appealing to people, and not to governments.

What would Republicans do?

Ok, so now we're down to actually responding to the meme itself.  The problem with the meme comes from a very common, and false assumption, about Republicans, conservatives in particular.  There's this idea the difference between liberals and conservatives and that liberals want to help people and that conservatives do not.  I cannot stress how false this is.  

The difference between liberals and conservatives is not who is willing to help, because in fact conservatives want to help others as well.  The difference is how that help is achieved.  Liberals believe a government forcing people to help the poor through taxation is the way to help.  The idea assumes that all wealthy people are greedy and exploit the poor people underneath them, thus should be forced into giving their excess to the government who help the people as they see best.  On the other side, conservatives believe people should help other people willingly.  Conservatives believe in the good nature of neighbors reaching out to help those that needed.  Not only do they believe this helps someone materially, but spiritually as well.  

Both sides have their potential pitfalls.  The liberal way, government assistance is fraught with problems. By looking at decades of history, is so inefficient and bloated that in the end it doesn't really the help the people it claims to be helping.  There's a myriad of ways the money from taxes goes not to those who need, but just to others who line their own pockets.  Ironically, the people that admonish the wealthy people for exploiting the poor people do the same thing by forcefully taking money from others to line their own pockets.  

On the flip side, conservatism relies on the kindness of people to reach out.  And in a country that has become far more cynical, shallow, and self serving (which are not qualities exclusive to wealthy people), it's difficult for people to believe in others helping someone out.

Anyway, here's the bottom line: Republicans stand for people generously helping others through tough times.  Jesus appealed to people to generously help their neighbor.  Call me crazy, but not only does that not sound like Republicans would oppose him, they have, in fact, championed Jesus' cause themselves and would no doubt support him should he be walking the Earth today.  

Remember, liberals want people to believe that conservatives and Republicans are cold hearted folk that don't care about the poor.  That's why simple memes like this exist.  So, to counter this meme, I made up my own: