Monday, October 29, 2012
Jesus Fed The Masses
So here's the meme I've seen going around Facebook the past couple days. The message is clear: Jesus fed a ton of people, so therefore Jesus was definitely in favor of social programs that feed people and if you are a Christian not in favor of such programs you're a total hypocrite.
Let's examine this, shall we? Please remember this is Part-Vulcan-Melissa talking, so my logic will dispel any hearts and flowers goopy feeling kind of stuff. I am looking at this from the point of sheer logic. I get that these go-arounds are meant to invoke emotion and indignation "See? That's what I'm talking about. Those Christians don't even believe what their own Bible teaches them...they are complete buttholes..." Alright, I'll concede on the whole anus analogy, because I do feel a lot of professing Christians spew bullshiz, but it's a huge stretch to say that the Bible teaches us to be in favor of EBT cards. K? Let's go.
Jesus fed the masses. There were all these people. They had come a long way to hear the good Man preach and teach for a really long time. In that time, they got hungry. Jesus performed a miracle that allowed all the rumbly tummies to partake of a good meal before they left for their long journey home. This is like scrounging around the kitchen trying to come up with a huge pot of something when more people are in your house then you made plans for. This isn't about welfare or food stamps or social programs that ensure every American is fed. He didn't feed the whole country. He fed those people that had come to hear him speak. Big difference number one. If we want to turn this into an applicable lesson, the message really is more about hospitality than it is about government charity. Nothing to do with social welfare programs at all.
Secondly, *HE* fed the masses. He didn't turn over part of his paycheck to a government entity to divy up to those THEY determined were in need. He didn't ask questions about any of his dinner guests about their income, number of people in the house, or ask them to list their assets in order to determine they were worthy of recieving food from his hands. He just gave it. HE gave it. One person to another, without qualification (Jesus is pretty good like that...) And he gave them ONE meal, for ONE day. Are you beginning to see my point here?
The third point that people like to draw a paralell with is that the Bible teaches us to care for the fatherless and the widows, and those in need. People will say "Well Jesus told you to give, so you should be totally in favor of welfare. If you aren't, you are SUCH A HYPOCRITE....wah, wah, wah, WAHHH." And aside from the fact that people are getting Jesus and Paul mixed up (I'll let that one slide since Paul was obviously in good with Jesus, even if he did go around killing people like it was the wild west at first. He and Jesus worked it out...) This is a big one. This is where people get really offended because our own Bible teaches us to give and give without reservation and to live a benevolent life. Dude, I get it. It totally does teach us to do that. But....
Most people that are up in arms about the denial of social welfare would fight to the death over the legislation of morality. They scream that the government should not be allowed to make decisions regarding what is or is not a moral lifestyle (I do it to, I totally agree) and yet, they are also demanding that we do enforce a certain brand of morality. They are demanding that people should be FORCED to participate in the highly moral act of giving, ESPECIALLY since the Bible teaches it. So the government should stay out of all decisions regarding how one chooses to live one's life, but on this one sticky issue, we should totally give way to the dictation of the powers that be and let them tell us how to give of ourselves to those less fortunate. Because "The Bible Tells Me So?" Still a slippery slope people. You can't have it both ways. You can't ask us to leave the Bible out on all those other big issues, saying it's entirely unfair to develop laws based on our faith, and then whip it out all sneaky like when it comes to issues where you like what the Bible says. Doesn't work that way.
The other broad assumption is that Christians are very, very selfish and we do not want to give to anyone at all because anyone in need is obviously a lazy slacker and deserves whatever poverty throws their way. I can't speak for all of those who participate in my faith, but I can give you a bird's eye view of how *I* feel about the whole kit and kaboodle of welfare. It's a gut wrenching issue and one that I struggle a lot with.
First I will say that I absolutely do view it as my duty, as a believer, to give of myself every second of every day, in any way that presents itself. My body as a living sacrfice and all that good stuff. This means that day in and day out I ask God to use me and all that I am to bless everyone I come in contact with. But I'm a realist. I know that my opening the door for someone struggling isn't going to put food on their table and keep them warm and you know, not naked. They kind of need food and clothes for that , which translates into needing money. The bottom line is that I do believe I am required (and dude, I totally love it as well) to put money into the hands of people who need it. No argument there (from me...) However, when I *choose* to give to someone else, I know where it's going. I see a need and fill it. I don't take myself out of the equation by handing it to someone else to find another someone else who needs it. That's lazy.
I already hear the outcry. "But people won't voluntarily do the right thing. So we have to force them to give by taking the money from their earnings and redistributing it. Otherwise they wouldn't give at all." Let's marinate in that a moment, shall we? This is the thought process by which all laws enforcing morality are born. The slope getting a bit slippier eh?
I am absolutely not against money from my pocket being placed into a person's hand. I am not anti-giving, not in the least. But I will say that my strong preference is that when meeting a need, I'd like to see the face or know the name that has that need. They don't need to know mine, but I'd really like to know who am I helping exactly.
When a family member sucuumbed to the grips of drug addiction, giving her money only fed the habit, not her children. Another family member skirted that problem by bringing actual, physical food to her children and actual physical clothes. This person also recieved food assistance from the government but found a way to sell those benefits for cash in which to support her habit (not her children). That's really scary and more commonplace than most of us like to admit. And yet, I am being forced to give up part of my income in order for her to recieve that assistance (in the grand scheme of things) and it's molests my morality to *purchase* drugs for someone to use. Yet, that's exactly what I did. And I had no control or say so in the matter.
This is a dire example, but one worth examining. It offends my conscience that money my family earns can be distributed in such a way that I have no say so. I am not involved in the process at all. I am forced, against my will, to give to those I may not choose to give to otherwise. I find this unjust and suffocating of my free will. My faith does not dictate for me to give blindly to a third-party. It dictates that I give. I can't even practice good stewardship in the process because my hands are totally tied. I can't use wise shopping skills to purchase a large quantity of food to give to a person in need. I have to give an amount that is filtered through so many hands by the time it gets to the person in need, that only a small percentage of what was given is recieved. And yes,...I am against this. Very much so. It has nothing to do with a selfish perception on my part that the person in need isn't deserving. It's rooted in the fact that the government as an entity has stripped away my ability to give as I WANT to give, as I am LED to give and CHOOSE to give.
It's a double-edged sword, this whole concept of forced benevolence. First it reduces what you have available to give to those needs that present themselves, and secondly, it creates this broad sense of entitlement, in both the giver and givee. Just knowing there is "some program" out there to help Ms. X reduces our awareness of Ms. X's need. I mean why even bother finding out if you know there is some program designed to help her out? They can deal with it while I bury my head in the sand. Ms. X never has the chance to interact with real people who actually CARE about her needs. She's all tied up, filling out paperwork to give a small percentage of what she could have recieved person to person. Great system eh?
So yes, Jesus fed the masses. He did a great miracle that fed the people hanging out in his 'hood. (Well, not his, but he was the featurued speaker at the town meeting that day) But if we are expecting some great translation of his miracle to the advocacy of social programs, we've kind of missed the boat.
Jesus performed a miracle, the government should do the same? Talk about wishing in one hand and you-know-whating in the other....