Good Ecumenism, Bad Economics

A group of protestant bishops and other leaders, mostly from the mainline, recently wrote a letter to congress urging them not to make serious tax cuts because of its potential to impact the poor both at home and abroad.

A noble sentiment, to be sure, but is it good economics?  It includes this line:

Discretionary programs that serve the poor and vulnerable are a very small percentage of the budget, and they are not the drivers of the deficits. Unchecked increases in military spending combined with vast tax cuts helped create our country’s financial difficulties and restoring financial soundness requires addressing these root imbalances.

There is no mention of the housing crisis; of the poor stewardship and worship of the almighty dollar and the American dream that led many to purchase homes they couldn’t afford.  Instead, the blame is laid at the doorstep of two things that the left does not like: the military and tax cuts.  Nevermind that the military is a major distributor of aid and assistance to foreign countries (think of the Marines following the Tsunami) and in domestic crises ( the Coast Guard following Katrina, or the National Guard after, well, everything).  And nevermind that tax cuts free up capital to be used for job creation – which is precisely the medicine needed to treat poverty.

The nanny state is untenable.  I think I could make a case that it is un-Christian, too. In his “Choruses from The Rock” T.S. Eliot wrote,

They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.

The transfer of moral agency away from the individual to the state is a serious problem in modernity.  By and large, the Church has bought into this notion that the state can do our morality for us.  There was a time when it was the duty of the churches to build hospitals, care for the outcast, and feed the hungry.  After Marx, we are apt to worship the state and look to it to do all our ministry for us.

More and more I think that we get the politics we deserve by not doing our job in the social sphere.  If Britain is any example, the state is evolving into a beast too hungry to satiate, and we want to keep feeding it.  All the social welfare programs in the world will not best the original program of social justice: Christ working the world through his Church.

Let us lament that the state still has anyone left to help.  If Christians in America were doing our jobs, the state would have much less room to step in.

Still that increasing a few taxes and cutting military spending will solve things?  Check this out:

P.S. I only found out about this letter because I am on the mailing list of the IRD.  I don’t like the IRD; I think they are as obviously in the pocket of the right wing as this letter indicates our church leaders are in the pocket of the left wing.  But I stay on their mailing list because it’s the only way I find out about crazy things like this that my church does.  A necessary evil, I suppose.

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4 thoughts on “Good Ecumenism, Bad Economics”

  1. I almost stopped reading your post when you confused military and humanitarian mandates, but I pushed on. I finally quit listening when the guy in the embedded video spent an inordinate amount of time making fun of Michael Moore’s weight. This is important to this discussion why?

    1. I am aware that the mandates are different, but I hope you are aware that the US Military is regularly involved in humanitarian causes…

      As for the video, yes, it is sarcastic, maybe even crass. But it does have a point. I thought the statistics were rather staggering, myself.

  2. Pastor Mack, sorry I couldn’t find an email to contact you – please do not let those nutters at “RORATE CÆLI” give a bad impression of the Catholic religion

    they are “radical traditionalists” and represent a fanatical and obscure faction of “thought” that is not orthodox Catholicism, I know for one because after I converted to Catholicism from atheism I dabbled in radical traditionalism – only online couldn’t find any in real life – for a couple of months, and it wasn’t pretty. Luckily I saw their true colors quickly, besides notables like excommunicated holocaust denying Bishop Williamson, Timothy McVeigh was also among their numbers.

    If you want to know what the Catholic Church’s true view of non-Catholic Christians, what we call separated brethren, I encourage you to research and read what Blessed John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI have to say.

    In this age of unhealthy secularization and a culture of death I think Catholics and Protestants should focus on what we have in common which is much more I think than what separates us.

    God Bless,
    Alexander

    1. Alexander,
      Thanks for stopping by. I have a great deal of respect for Catholicism, and consider myself a big fan of Benedict’s writings. My last semester in seminary I actually took a whole course on his theology, and it was wonderful. From reading some of his work and bits and pieces of Vatican II, I know that official Catholic teaching isn’t nearly as harsh as that particular blogger made it out to be; it was simply unsettling to see someone basically bragging about the fact that, in his view, the Anglican Church was not a true church. That does not seem to be a charitable reaction to the problem of Christian disunity.

      Again, though, thank you for your kind words. I, too, believe we have much in common, and I pray for a reunion of Christ’s broken body.

      Peace,
      Mack

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