Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Would the REAL Big Homie Do?

I don't discuss my faith too much on this blog because there are other excellent places to read an intelligent perspective on Christianity like my homie Deacon Blue's wonderful website.

But, today, I've got to talk about something.

During the last debate, when Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain were taking turns professing their undying love for Joe the Plumber, McCain seized on a comment by Obama that he wanted to "spread the wealth." That comment was part of Obama's response to Joe's complaints about paying higher taxes, and viewed within the proper context it makes sense.

Well, it makes sense if you're not a Republican.

Republicans hate wealth redistribution the way fat people hate airline seats. In their simple minds, they believe it's totally unfair that they have to pay more taxes when they earn more money. To them, that's basically punishing them for their success, while rewarding lazy, (black) people.

Most of them are too afraid to say the word black, but that's typically what they mean.

Of course, this mindset ignores the basic truth that taxes don't just go to lazy people as direct handouts. See, taxes help pay for the critical infrastructure and military power that make America the world's biggest badass. Not only that, most Americans have jobs that have some sort of connection to government, whether they realize it or not. So, the idea that taxes are really giveaways to welfare queens is not based in reality.

But, that's not my real problem.

My problem is the way so many conservatives claim a connection between their movement and Christianity, yet cannot seem to grasp a basic Christian tenet like loving your neighbor as you love yourself. How can they claim to love the Lord, but forget that early Christians sold all their possessions so the flock could survive?

I understand that evangelicals have some of the highest volunteer rates of any group in the country. I live in New Orleans and I've seen firsthand the kind of good deeds Christians can do when motivated and mobilized. Yet, I've also seen this irrational fear that any form of new taxes is a harbinger of the Apocalypse.

Nobody likes paying taxes. All of us had that "WTF" moment when we got our very first paycheck and realized that we had an invisible pimp named FICA. Giving money away that you have earned is not a good feeling.

But, I quickly understood two lessons about life: some people need that little extra help that my money provides and the government can't spend money it doesn't have.

Taxes are the government's way of helping those people the rest of us appear committed to ignoring. Head Start, free lunch, public schooling, these are all programs that benefit from federal funding. Growing up in a city as poor as New Orleans, I've seen firsthand exactly what kind of difference a lack of money can make in the lives of people who depend on these programs.

It would be wonderful if every government program ran smoothly without waste or fraud, but they don't. It also would be wonderful if human beings treated each other with dignity, respect and kindness, but we don't.

So, I cut the government some slack on its failures because I want God to cut me some slack on my own. I know that if it needy people in this world were dependent on my largess to survive, they would probably die. Consequently, I don't mind that the government has taken over the role of helping the needy, as well as providing services that I actually use. It's makes sense to me.

As a child of God, I often take the mindset that God promised to take care of my needs, and he's never failed me. I try not to worry too much about not having everything my neighbors or friends have because I don't understand what they had to sacrifice to get those things. More importantly, I try to remember that Jesus never rewarded anyone who was stingy or greedy. My savior often sacrificed so others might have, and that's honestly the way I view taxes.

So, I'm a little disappointed that our country's economic policy has become yet another example of religious hypocrisy. It's true that the government should be better stewards over our wealth, and those individuals who are able to work should be working. But, I think all of us need to take a more Christ-like approach to taxes and "spreading the wealth."

What would the ultimate Big Homie do?


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11 comments:

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

WWJD? The right thing, of course. What would most Americans prefer to do? Keep getting stuff free or cheap. When our infrastructure degrades to a critical point, maybe then we'll figure out the error in this.

BTW, since you brought up Joe The Plumber, have you been by my blog to read my funny but serious political satire piece: What About Jamal The Plumber? If not, swing by, haven't seen you in awhile.

Macon D said...

Thanks for spelling this out so clearly. Your post demonstrates why people with good hearts and open eyes and relatively intelligent minds are mostly on the left side of the political spectrum.

Imhotep said...

Big Man, True to form, conscientious as always.

White folks don't mind paying taxes to maintain a large military. Which is really a tool for killing and maintaining white supremacy. But ask them to pay taxes to help those hovering around the poverty line, and they pitch a conniption fit, while reciting some racist sterotype bs.

Interesting company you keep Big Man, I read KIT's "What about Jamal the plumber" on Macon D's site.

blackgirlinmaine said...

Bravo. I grapple with many of the issues you raised, as a Christian one of the first things Jesus told us was to love... yet from what I see too many "Christians" seem very lacking in the love department.

I suspect if the Big Homie was walking the earth with us he would be telling a lot of his so-called followers that they missed Matt 7:21-27 where Jesus himself says a lot of folks will tell him what they did in his name and he will tell him nope, no ya didn't.

Deacon Blue said...

Well, you got me blushing with the shout-out to me at the start of this post.

But back to the topic, I was scratching my head at a post recently at a pretty conservative Christian blog I tend to check out, and the topic was how Christians should be helping people and the government shouldn't be a charity organization. Some folks were arguing that it was unconstitutional for the federal govt. specifically to be doing anything "charitable."

Wow.

Just, wow.

Christians saying that church should be pulling the load on this even though it's clear that churches aren't typically able (or willing, when they are able) to really fill the role of meeting all the needy people's needs. And arguing that our tax dollars shouldn't be spent on people's needs.

Why don't they just say, "We promote a plan whereby the poor and sick people just freaking die already, OK?"

Makes my head and heart hurt.

aegil said...

FICA helped raise me. My mother, brother, and I lived on survivor's benefits after my father died when I was three. FICA helped send me to college - those survivor's benefits continue until you are 22 if you are in college. We had food stamps for a time. I've eaten government cheese.
I have never forgotten any of this. I try to view my taxes as paying back, as well as helping other folks (and helping myself as well).
My religion, Judaism, also has the concepts of mitzvah (put simply-good deeds) and sedekah (charity). Mitzvahs have levels - the highest being to give what is truly needed without the person needing it having to ask, without any personal or public recognition (no pats on the back for you!), and even if it comes at a personal sacrifice for you.
You said,"Taxes are the government's way of helping those people the rest of us appear committed to ignoring". Taxes can be a mitzvah. FICA can be a mitzvah. I pray that we get a good steward of those funds on November 4th.

Big Man said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. I'll have something new up tomorrow. Something very interesting happened to me at church that I need to write about.

the uppity negro said...

I think its so interesting to see how politcally liberal black folks can be, and then flip and insert conservative reconciliation thought into our theology.

I don't know what Jesus would do. We have a record of what Jesus DID in some instances. But fact of the matter is Jesus and his family weren't all that poor; somehow his family taught him how to read in a society upwards of 95% illiterate. I believe this man called Jesus didn't live a life of riches, not arguing that, but meh, I just think its all interesting how we interpret our religion.

Perhaps Obama should have included black folk in the "religion" piece when he said the rural residents of Penn and W. Virginia "cling to guns and religion."

But yes, one of my favorite verses from the bible is Acts 2:40-45 (or somewhere about there).

The question I always ask is who and what defines Christianity?

Big Man said...

Uppity

I've always felt the Bible gave a pretty clear definition of Christianity. At least the basics of what one must do to be considered a follower of Christ.

As far as Jesus' poverty, that's an interesting bit of information. Clearly, most of Jesus' friends were poor and uneducated. Although, his cousins, James and John, seemed to be doing fairly well. Jesus as probably working class and may have had access to special educationaly opportunities because of his family's belief that he was the Son of God.
I really don't know.
But, I do think you've adapted the standard defintions of liberal and conservative all while chastising others for their own definitions of Christianity. That's pretty curious.

Personally, my beliefs are all over the spectrum. In fact, I would share far more "conservative" viewpoints if I wasn't turned off by the racism that seems to support them..

the uppity negro said...

@Big Man

Well, don't suppose I've adopted any definition one way or the other. At best right now, I'm a follower of Jesus who I believe (at times) to be the Christ.

By no means do I want to be identified with Christianity. Enough self-proclaimed Christians have given Jesus a bad name. I just refuse to go lockstep with traditional views of Christianity be they from white evangelicals or from those mainstays from the institution of the Black Church. It doesn't mean that there aren't some tenets of both that appeal to me, but I believe I'm entitled to pick and choose.

But I'm quite sure that ability to pick and choose doesn't sit well with you. Lol.

Big Man said...

Why would you think that?

It ain't my soul.

I think we all pick and choose just how far we go down the Christian path. That's the nature of free will. We all decided how much of God's word we adhere to everyday.

And, honestly, I don't have a problem with people who follow a non-traditional path as far as religion. My two best friends are an atheist/agnostic and a semi-Christian. I also have very little patience for people who believe blindly in traditional Christianity, even though I would describe myself as a traditional Christian.

My point is that I think we can make some assumptions about who Jesus was and how he behaved if we believe that the Bible was inspired by God. Now, I'll admit that's a big leap for a lot of people, but it's one I've made.

So, using the Bible as my guide, I make decisions about how Jesus would behave in a given situation and then consider how my own actions align with that. I'm not saying that everybody has to do things this way, but I think that everybody who proclaims themselves to be a Christian should. That was the underlying point i was trying to make in this blog.

Raving Black Lunatic