Fingers Nimble, Facts Gathered, Passion Re-Ignited, Laptop Booted Up — Prevailing Winds Are Blowing Again!

After being out of town on my third trip to Western Washington since April 1, and then suffering the fatigue-and-pain consequences in the days since my return, I’m finally on top of things — depending on how you define “on top of” — and ready to write.

And what better subject to tackle than the example of lousy hermeneutics, bad character, and stupid public policy featured below?
Congressman’s Misuse Of Bible Verse Belies Bad Theology And Ideology On Food Stamps

Because I live in the Northwest home of the Young Reformed/Hyper-Calvinist movement that’s lamentably experiencing a resurgence in the Church,  I’m accustomed to earnest young classical scholars, nurtured on a steady diet of dubious theology and others-be-damned Calvinist preferentialism, explaining their perspective on poverty — which always goes something like, “Well, Jesus SAID the poor would always be with us, so he obviously didn’t think it was such a big deal.” 

Nothing I could say in response will undo years of conditioning — an upbringing of Calvinist theology that suggests that God actively hates some people, who are never “their people,” and the reaped benefits of generations of privilege.  Still, every such error is worth correcting, because it reveals the kind of ignorance and indifference that too often propels Christian men into politics, where their ignorance and indifference is reinforced, lauded, and rewarded by colleagues and constituents.

The critics’ observation is correct: Paul’s admonishment that the one who doesn’t work shall not eat is in the context of abandoning one’s responsibilities in the belief that Christ’s imminent return requires diligence that disallows work and providing for one’s family.  It’s heartbreaking that any Christian who’s a public figure would say something so irredeemably stupid.  It’s even more devastating that such an idiotic understanding of Christian concern for the poor would be met with such minimal reaction from the GOP-seduced Religious Right — although, thankfully, more reasoned Christians have been quick to point out the error. 

The ultimate devastation, though, is that men like Rep. Fincher are in a position to effect social change and public policy in the first place.  Undoubtedly elected on a platform that emphasized his Christian faith and strong moral character, he assumed a degree of credibility as a “Christian Congressman” that makes his every pronouncement — whether invoking Scripture in defense of a political stand or not — a Gospel message.  He may not realize the importance of the things he says as a self-styled ambassador for the Church; indeed, the thoughtlessness of his comment indicates a worldview so thoroughly entrenched that its seepage appears almost un-self-conscious, like the fish so used to the waters of bad public policy and worse theology that he doesn’t even understand that he’s all wet.

It’s not likely he’ll ever learn.  The self-congratulating, fawning embrace of his GOP colleagues, ever eager to embrace someone who disdains the poor, will ensure that Fincher continues his Congressional career shielded from any Christian influence that doesn’t come from the GOP-approved amen corner.  If his pastor, family, colleagues, and constituents are followers of that Jesus so foreign to the Scriptures but so carefully crafted by the Religious Right, one who values individual liberty and initiative over care for one’s neighbor and a humility-based approached to economics, Fincher’s unlikely to ever be taught a better way.  There’s no incentive for him to; the convicting, instructive voice of the Holy Spirit is easily lost in the din of circled wagons.

If the Church really were led by the Spirit and conformed to the Person and message of Jesus Christ, it would be inconceivable that a prominent Christian would use the Bible to defend a $1.4 billion cut in services to the poor — either because that Christian would be seen as sadly out of step with Scripture and would never be in a position of influence, or because no Christ-follower would dare attach His Word to an argument that actively harms poor people. But the American Church, conformed as it is to the image of the GOP and led more often than not by the Bael of power, has instead followed men like Fincher, men for whom a roster of conservative beliefs cloaked in religious language is sufficient testimony to become a Christian statesman. 

The Canon of GOP conservatism has become the plumb line of practice and belief for too much of the Church.  By that standard, Fincher has done well.  But by the standard of the Word of God and the teaching of Jesus Christ, he has revealed himself to be a lost and misguided soul desperately in need of the reforming, correcting, guiding voice of the Spirit of God.  Time will tell if he listens to that voice or the cacophany that is the spirit of the GOP.

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