Tea Partiers: True Patriots, Misguided Zealots, or Just Plain Idiots

Dear reader, as much as I am loathe to pay attention to anything having to do with politics, economics, etc. (i.e. anything that has practical/real implications for life), the media won’t let me ignore this whole “Tea Party” movement, which to this point I have associated with [shudder] Sarah Palin-ites, grumpy old white people, and ignorant loudmouths.

Social suicide is not an American value

But now it’s come to my attention that a Republican primary candidate for California’s 30th State Senate District (which includes La Mirada, where I live) named Warren Willis has attached himself to the Tea Party movement.  This would not make a lot of difference to me if I didn’t know that Willis was running an organization (the California School Project–CSP) which promotes and empowers on-campus Christian evangelism by students.  I know a number of very thoughtful and intelligent people who work for CSP and who think highly of Willis, so I am left to wonder about his association with this group.

I have run across a few articles of late which have reinforced my predisposition to see the flaws of this movement.  I’d be happy to encounter other perspectives if you can send them my way…

Some quotes from the articles I mentioned:

The movement is not yet united on a single platform or agenda…The lack of specifics allows anyone who is just existentially fed up (and who isn’t, on some days?) to feel right at home. No one will demand to know what he or she is fed up with…

The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of The New York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.

First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming…

Some people think that what unites the Tea Party Patriots is simple racism. I doubt that. But the Tea Party movement is not the solution to what ails America. It is an illustration of what ails America. Not because it is right-wing or because it is sometimes susceptible to crazed conspiracy theories, and not because of racism, but because of the movement’s self-indulgent premise that none of our challenges and difficulties are our own fault.

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

Principled libertarianism is an interesting and even tempting idea. If we wanted to, we could radically reduce the scope of government—defend the country, give poor people enough money to live decently, and leave it at that. But this isn’t the TPP vision. The TPP vision is that you can keep your Medicare benefits and balance the budget by ending congressional earmarks, and perhaps the National Endowment for the Arts. (quotes above from an essay in The Atlantic magazine)

Jim Wallis points out 5 contentions between Christianity and the Tea Party/Libertarian movement in a recent Sojourners online post:

  1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue.
  2. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical.
  3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.
  4. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian.
  5. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white.

What are your thoughts on this movement?

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18 responses to “Tea Partiers: True Patriots, Misguided Zealots, or Just Plain Idiots”

  1. Troy Forbis says :

    Good thoughts Greg.

  2. Greg says :

    I am merely the conduit, my friend. It’s wonderful to see your name Troy–you are a true legend…

    I just noticed on the photo I posted that there is a teardrop coming down the eagle’s face. What kind of sick monster would make an American Eagle cry?? Although, there is also something weird about the expression in the eagle’s eye–a potent combination of stern discontent and horny leering (am I the only one who sees this? Or am I reading my own suppressed anger and sexual frustration into this bird’s face?)…

  3. Tim says :

    Regarding Jim Wallis
    1. So what? The socialist enshrinement of statist control is not a preeminent Christian value either. At least the Libertarian approach gives each person freedom to do God’s work without statist interference.
    2. Complete lie and straw-man. Tea party folks are not anti-government. They are limited government folks. Jim ought to know that a straw-man argument is a lie. This is not Christian.
    3. No one has “supreme confidence in the market place. Another straw-man argument. Even libertarians believe in having laws, just less of them.
    4. “Strong over the weak” is pure straw-man again. Another lie.
    5. “Almost all white” may not mean there is anything wrong with the whites. It may mean people of color are suckering in larger percentages for the notion of “forced collection and spending of other peoples money to buy you goodies you did not earn” – which in large part is socialism. When the money runs out, we are all poor, weak, and indentured by statist control nuts. Is that Christian Jim?

    Jim’s thinking is both weak and un-Christian.

    • Greg says :

      Tim,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond here & share your perspective. I’m not sure if you were able to go to the link and read the full article–I was just providing his initial point for each “contention”…with which you may still disagree after reading his full post. I just want to make sure you didn’t think that what I wrote was his full statement.

      Here are some thoughts I have in reaction to your reactions:
      1. At first it seemed like you were saying “so what” as if these systems were equally good/bad. Do you think a “libertarian” view is actually better at providing a context in which “God’s work” can be done? It would be interesting to see you define exactly how you mean God’s work and how libertarianism accomplishes this.

      I think that you simply have an exchange of sins in the different systems: in socialism maybe you have sloth, irresponsibility and lack of dependence upon God; in capitalism, you have dehumanizing levels of greed and exploitation, self-sufficiency, and neglect of the poor (obviously generalizations).

      2. I wonder if Wallis was saying anti-THIS government, rather than anti-ALL governments (perhaps this is using charity toward his view that he does not seem to offer to the TP’s?). It seems like in the post, he was pointing to a passage from Romans that commends Christians to submit to the government (which also outlines ideas of honor & respect). It seems that, from my exposure, many tea-party “folks” don’t speak very highly of our government and are having a difficult time submitting to the current president–Christians among this group, like the man I pointed out, would do well to remember Peter’s directive to honor the rulers of our land. But I’d be happy to be wrong here & would agree that it would be a straw man to equate TP’s with anarchists…

      3. You say this is not true, but I feel like I’ve been exposed to a number of people who hold to this view in some degree. Perhaps Jim & I know different libertarians than you do…

      4. In polemical arguments, sometimes rhetoric is used which pushes examples to the extremes, but I don’t know if I would call it a “lie” as such. If so, there are A LOT OF LIARS in this discussion.

      5. It is interesting to me to see the racial/ethnic dimension of this conversation at work, even in your comment. Wallis’ comment touches on something that is deep & unsettling & toxic. I do understand & agree with some criticisms of the multiculturalism agenda, but I also agree that there is a latent racism rearing its head in the TP movement.

      And honestly, MANY of us benefit from things we ourselves have not earned (public roads. schools, libaries, defense). It really troubles me (and I do not say you, Tim, are an example of this) to see how people can become so enraged about the cost of Obamacare, but not blink an eyelash at the billions we are spending in the multiple wars we the people are funding.

      You are welcome to continue the conversation if you’d like to help articulate some of your thoughts in greater detail (or perhaps you should go to the Sojourners site and see if you can engage Wallis himself–call him out on all his lies to his face), but your response has done nothing to convince me to see the TP movement in a more positive light.

      PS I’m not a huge fan of Wallis, but his voice is a much needed perpsective in the madness of evangelical folk religion of our age.

      Sincerely,
      Greg

  4. Tim says :

    1. Right up front Wallis makes it clear he thinks the progressive political mind set is the way of Jesus. Their basic argument completely ignores every severe flaw in this mindset and every historical holocaust connected with it, takes one tiny element of free enterprise and mocks it as if it is the only foundational element and concludes socialism is the way of Jesus. This is truly weak and dishonest.

    Is there any where in the world where socialism has enhanced the building of God’s kingdom? I cannot think of any. In China God’s kingdom is expanding rapidly but totally in spite of socialisms harassment and persecution of God’s people. Free enterprise funds billions of $ in charity and sending saints around the world to bring good news. Even pagans in our free enterprise system are far more charitable than those outside it. As one who is opposed to the institutionalized forms of church, I am one to see that there are many flaws that allow God’s people to squander large percentages of their “giving” so that it is really pooling instead. Socialism does not resolve this flaw.

    2. The anti-government accusation, regardless of what he means by it is pure hypocrisy. He would give complete permission to any anti-free enterprise person to protest, cause destruction and speak with full malice. He would only cluck his tongue at Tea Party protestors who object and demand they submit to everything Obama imagines as hope and change. He is like Peloci, who in one speech praises the civil disobedience of progressive protestors as true patriots but slams the peaceful protests of conservatives and calls them Nazi’s and racists, etc. It’s all so typical of the progressive “leader”.

    3. I’m sure there are many who believe strongly that free enterprise is a far better system for social and spiritual development than anything socialist. A simple view of history and what is currently before us shows this to be true. Do you know of any socialist countries that are promoting strong spiritual values? They are almost all primarily anti-faith and pro-secular. Any official state church is severely weak, controlled, and corrupt in doctrine. Does this mean I have “supreme confidence in the market place”? Not even close. If comparing the two, I would give the market place a 5 and government a 1 in a scale of 10 to 1 with 10 being highest. The corrupt human flesh can be powerful in both, but with the market place you can have options. The government loves to narrow options down to only one, which is no options.

    4. I didn’t understand anything significant from your reply on this point. I don’t know of any socialist environment where the poor have any more power than what the poor have in our country. The poor in our country are some of the wealthiest “poor” in the world. What is clear to me is that progressives only care for the poor to the extent where they can control their vote to maintain power. The same is true with their view of women’s rights and how they treat conservative women leaders. It’s all so deceitful.

    5. You did not respond to my point here. Our constitution provides specifically for defense to be done with our taxes. Other things need to be done with care. I do not buy at all the argument that if you do not have health insurance you do not have access to health care. This is also a lie. A friend of mine is an illegal. He brought his mother across the border. In 3 days she was receiving full blood dialysis treatment. Am I against this? Some elements yes. The things we benefit we have earned with our tax paying. Free enterprise medicine is better for all than if it is socialized Obama style.

    Should I be angry against my tax dollars going to hunt down murderers (justice) and seek to provide freedom for those in bondage (justice)? Do we seek to fight every enemy? No, there is are limits. Could we do a better job of winning if progressive politicians and media were not such deceivers? Yes. Are conservatives always truth tellers? No. I see much more honesty on the right and a lot more pure intentional lying and deceiving going on with the left. Is everything right versus left? No, not all but much is.

    The only voices needed are truth tellers. Wallis is not one of them in my opinion. I left institutional church because there is a lot of madness, but it is not because they prefer free enterprise. It is because of the institutionalized system of church is so full of selfishness claimed to be holy with bogus use of the Word to justify it.

    It’s not my job to convince you of anything. It’s only my job to speak what flows from God’s Word. It is the truth. Each one of us will stand before God as individuals and answer to him for what we have done. I prefer to have the freedom to do as God calls, not as government demands. If I need to obey God rather than man, then I will and pay the price. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

    • Elijah says :

      Tim,

      From your comments you seem to paint everything very black and white (socialist vs. libertarian) without any sense of the breadth or generosity of Wallis’ view (like the fact that he is not out-rightly espousing socialism, especially the socialism you ‘straw man’ yourself, like China, which is not an honest assessment of social policy). Like Greg I am not a big fan of Wallis and like you I do not believe that socialism will fix everything.

      But I also don’t believe that ‘freedom’ is solely economic, as is the standard position from every libertarian I’ve spoken to. I’ve used this book in many other comments, but in Alan Wolfe’s ‘Moral Freedom’ he makes a solid case for the inevitable lack of morality and presence of plurality in a ‘freer’ society. In the end it is a competition of ideals. Your views on freedom seem to allow for this competition and even encourage it, but I believe that libertarian ism inevitably leads to marginalisation and only theoretical freedom. It is a freedom afforded to those who have.

      “It’s not my job to convince you of anything. It’s only my job to speak what flows from God’s Word. It is the truth. Each one of us will stand before God as individuals and answer to him for what we have done. I prefer to have the freedom to do as God calls, not as government demands. If I need to obey God rather than man, then I will and pay the price. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

      Tim, what is God’s Word and where does it come from? I certainly believe in God and am an orthodox Christian, but your views seem incredibly slanted toward an individualistic hyper-Protestant position upon which your entire economic ideology hinges. I actually see this as a somewhat bullying position, assuming that in non-libertarian societies the freedom to do what God calls is mutually exclusive with what the government demands. I certainly believe that God stands in opposition to all governments because he is the only Governor, but I do believe firmly that THE GOVERNMENT CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY ONE’S FREEDOM TO DO THE WILL OF GOD. The only thing that the government can do is punish people for ‘doing the will of God’, but the doing is under no one’s control. Also, what part of the will of God does a little bit of socialism inhibit you from doing?

      Frankly, I believe that the Church (empowered by God’s Holy Spirit) should be the leader, provider and protector of all people. The Church should make public welfare/healthcare obsolete. The Church should care for the needs of the world. Unfortunately the rampant marginalisation in American society demonstrates the utter failure of the ‘American Church’ and the need for the government to step in. If over three-quarters of Americans are Christians they should be able to provide for the needs of and encourage all people. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your point that Americans give more money to charities and such than most other countries, but I still don’t think it’s enough. The American Church needs to stop patting itself on the back and realise there is SO MUCH TO BE DONE that demands all of who we as Christians are, not just our chequebooks.

      You write, “Free enterprise medicine is better for all than if it is socialized Obama style.” I believe you’re wrong. Free enterprise medicine is better for SOME (those who have) and leaves some entirely without. Capitalism is not a system that rewards based upon how hard someone works. It is a lottery and it is based upon a particular kind of cleverness.

      Either way, I think we can agree that service to God is very important and the magnitude of God’s grace and love as demonstrated in the Gospel demands that we live entirely for his ideals. Capitalism and socialism will fail because they cannot account for the entirety of one’s being. We are individuals and we are a community. We cannot separate those two things and remain true to our identity. May we continue to search out God’s will in humility and love.

  5. Tim says :

    “you seem to paint everything very black and white (socialist vs. libertarian)”

    There is quite a bit of black and white. I see no need to paint grays to appear broad minded. I don’t consider myself libertarian, but I am doing some defending of the slandering of the Tea folks. I don’t consider Wallis to be generous at all. He is quite narrow in reality, not in word. Socialists always seek to make themselves appear broad and flexible, but it is a veneer over their core of narrowness. I’m not a sucker for their words that don’t match the reality.

    “Libertarian ism inevitably leads to marginalisation and only theoretical freedom. It is a freedom afforded to those who have.”

    As I see our country, I see less forced marginalization than anywhere else in the world. I see socialism as a mask for totalitarianism. Honchos at the top say what’s best for me and you. We have no brain to know. Only they really care about people. Everyone is marginalized except the very top of the pyramid.

    “your views seem incredibly slanted toward an individualistic hyper-Protestant position upon which your entire economic ideology hinges.”

    Hyper-Protestant Hmmm.. I’ve never heard that term before but I think I like it. I’ll wear that. From my view there is much about dominant forms of church that are corrupt and need to be protested. I’ll do that. I’m for perpetual reform. I don’t think any brand of church is any where near perfect. Sadly most of them will brand any protester as “divisive” because unity = uniformity and unquestioning loyalty.

    ” I actually see this as a somewhat bullying position,…”

    I’m not sure how you get bullying from this, but maybe you do. The Obama admin seems to be the most bullying admin lately. Their habits are right off the Chicago (politics) playground.

    I think most people would prefer doing God’s will without persecution from government. I can see reasons why they would like to protect what God has permitted, and may claim is developed with God’s creation work in mind – God given rights rather than government given rights.

    I believe I am a much better steward of the money I earn than the government. They are a huge waster and corrupt dispenser of resources. I mean HUGE. Yes, they should get something, but far less than they want and can demand.

    “Frankly, I believe that the Church (empowered by God’s Holy Spirit) should be the leader, provider and protector of all people….if over three quarters of Americans are Christians…”

    That almost sounds Catholic from the pre-reformation days. The church carryng the sword to protect and the purse to provide for all “needs”. I don’t think so. The three quarters figure may be a survey statistic, but it in no way represents any kind of true Christian reality. I don’t see anywhere in the Word where God’s people are to end poverty. We are to help with it in a very intelligent way, but that is very different than seeking to end it. Poverty does not equal misery and gloom. Many poor people are joyful and at peace with their part in life. Paul said he was content to be poor and knew how to live that way.

    Yes, the American church is very self consuming. I believe in a form of church where 100% of the giving goes beyond the givers to reach all nations with the good news and help the deserving poor. (Those who will not work should not eat.) Institutionalized forms of church consume 75 – 85% of the giving to benefit the “givers” with special buildings and hired staff for crowd oriented gatherings.

    “I believe you’re wrong. Free enterprise medicine is better for SOME (those who have) and leaves some entirely without.”

    I don’t think you can prove that some are “entirely without”. They may have less than they want or less than someone else, but this is no basis for envy of those who have more. Should I be envious of Senator Kennedy who got much better health care than I will get or anyone else under the Obama plan? No. There are many who allow their squandering of money to leave themselves penniless for essentials to cry out envy against those who have stored away. Crickets envious of the ants, like the Disney cartoon. Our country is loaded with stories of penniless people who meet their own needs and the needs of others through intelligent choices.

    Yes we are individuals and community. We must sort out the lies and deceptions from the truth, the lazy from the deserving, the innocent from the criminal.

    • Elijah says :

      Tim,

      You write, “As I see our country, I see less forced marginalization than anywhere else in the world. I see socialism as a mask for totalitarianism. Honchos at the top say what’s best for me and you. We have no brain to know. Only they really care about people. Everyone is marginalized except the very top of the pyramid.”

      Where else in the world have you lived? Could you enlighten us with your experiences? I do not live in America, but I have lived in America. I can tell you that social-mindedness is not a guise for totalitarianism. It can be exploited that way, but in Scotland, for instance, that is not the case. I am actually quite libertarian – I don’t believe in big governments. But I still value equality over freedom and I do not believe equality can only be a reality in totalitarian ways.

      “The church carryng the sword to protect and the purse to provide for all “needs”. I don’t think so.” Why don’t you think so? Why not? God has powerfully demonstrated a SUPREME investment into the well-being of this world through the life, death and Resurrection of Christ as well as the advent of his Church, his Church which extends the gracious and life-giving ministry of Christ ot the rest of the world. Why is this not viable to you?

      “I don’t think you can prove that some are “entirely without”. They may have less than they want or less than someone else, but this is no basis for envy of those who have more. Should I be envious of Senator Kennedy who got much better health care than I will get or anyone else under the Obama plan? No.” Perhaps I can’t say that some are entirely without, but that’s really not my point. What do we do about people who have no health care? Is it always their fault? No, it isn’t always their fault. And like I said, capitalism doesn’t reward according to the amount of work people put into it, so throwing out the Scripture “Those who will not work should not eat” is not fair.

      “Poverty does not equal misery and gloom.” I absolutely agree, but I believe that oftentimes the American libertarians paint EVERYTHING in a economic light. Since Reagan an Thatcher, humans are see as economic units, not whole people. I am not saying that everyone should be wealthy, but there are Americans (and people all over the world) who die needlessly of want and I really believe that God’s loving and gracious Church has a charge to work against that.

      “We must sort out the lies and deceptions from the truth, the lazy from the deserving, the innocent from the criminal.” Perhaps we should be more cautious in taking such moral high ground in order to justify the suffering and marginalisation of millions.

  6. Tim says :

    “Since Reagan and Thatcher, humans are seen as economic units, not whole people.”

    I’m sure some Reagan or Thatcher despiser might make an authoritative claim like that against these two, but I’m not sure it’s really true. That is a horrible thing to say about someone. I would question who said it and what it is based on.

    “I am not saying that everyone should be wealthy, but there are Americans (and people all over the world) who die needlessly of want and I really believe that God’s loving and gracious Church has a charge to work against that.”

    What’s worse than dying needlessly is dying without Jesus needlessly. This need crosses all economic levels, and often regardless whether they heard the good news or not. The great commission of the church is to deal with this need. The 2nd of the greatest commands deals with physical need. My plan for 100% giving beyond ourselves would help that.

    • Elijah says :

      Tim,

      I’m not really claiming it’s ABOUT the two (Reagan & Thatcher) per se, I’m merely using a point in history when I’ve seen the libertarian cause flourish based upon something that looks exclusively like ‘economic freedom’. I apologise for not being more clear – it was nothing personal.

      If you read all of what I’ve written you’d find that I agree with “My plan for 100% giving beyond ourselves would help that”, but I wouldn’t call it your plan, I’d call it God’s plan.

      “What’s worse than dying needlessly is dying without Jesus needlessly. This need crosses all economic levels, and often regardless whether they heard the good news or not. The great commission of the church is to deal with this need. The 2nd of the greatest commands deals with physical need. My plan for 100% giving beyond ourselves would help that.”

      I think it’s quite un-Christian/orthodox to paint these two things in different light: physical and spiritual needs. While I agree that at the very least people need to be members of God’s kingdom based upon faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel is not merely about the salvation of souls, but of the whole of creation. God did not send Christ to rescue his Church from the world, but to rescue THIS WHOLE WORLD. You say the second greatest command deals with physical need as if that makes it less important – we show our love for God in response via loving our neighbour.

      Please take a look at my recent post (and feel free to disagree/interact), ‘Imaging the Kingdom I: Foundations of the Kingdom of God‘ where I briefly address this dichotomy and the second post in this series which addresses the issue to faith vs. works: ‘Imaging the Kingdom II: Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy‘.

  7. Tim says :

    “I think it’s quite un-Christian/orthodox to paint these two things in different light: physical and spiritual needs. While I agree that at the very least people need to be members of God’s kingdom based upon faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel is not merely about the salvation of souls, but of the whole of creation.”

    Think a little further on this. Dying without Jesus has eternal consequences. Dying without food and shelter has no eternal consequences. God’s ETERNAL plan is to rescue man from sin, not to rescue man from material need. Christ suffered torture for our souls, not for the sake of food and drink. There is a huge difference between the two in importance and significance. We cannot say both are equally necessary or important to God.

    To rephrase Jesus question – What does it profit a man if gains food and shelter but looses his own soul? This question rightly points out the HUGE difference between the importance of the two. There really is no difference in eternity between “gaining the whole world” and gaining mere food and shelter or gaining not enough food and shelter. The only difference in eternity is gaining Jesus.

    All the scripture that talks about the importance of serving the poor and helpless is all true, but it in much lesser significance to the scripture that speaks of redeeming man. All the scripture on serving the poor is not there to say that task is equal to redeeming souls of men. To say there is a hugh difference between the two is not to say there is a dichotomy.

    “Gospel is not merely about the salvation of souls, but of the whole of creation.”

    Yes, God will redeem both in His time. Only the people on the earth will face judgement whether Jesus knows them or not. “Depart from me, I never knew you will never be said to anything on this planet other than people. We are called to make disciples, not to bring world peace through one world government, lead the charge on save the planet from glacial remission, or any other plan of man.

    Not everything God asks us to do is of equal importance.

    God has not asked us to do or accomplish everything that is important to Him.

    • Elijah says :

      Tim,

      I flatly disagree with a lot of what you say only because of how you paint this:

      “All the scripture that talks about the importance of serving the poor and helpless is all true, but it in much lesser significance to the scripture that speaks of redeeming man. All the scripture on serving the poor is not there to say that task is equal to redeeming souls of men. To say there is a hugh difference between the two is not to say there is a dichotomy.”

      You still rest upon a dichotomy between the two (serving the physical needs vs. serving the spiritual needs) whether you admit it or not – I believe they are one in the same issue in the Gospel. St James writes that pure and undefiled religion is to take care of widows and orphans. One cannot separate our service to the visible person from our service to the invisible person. God has created and redeemed both. Christ did not merely suffer a spiritual death, but most certainly a physical one. This is to emphasise the nature of God’s redemption.

      You tell me to “Think a little further on this” – I am somewhat confused as to how I am not looking a little further at this. Look at Christ’s ministry, specifically in Matthew 11. John the Baptist’s disciples come to inquire as to whether or not Jesus is the Christ and Jesus’ response is this: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blnid receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news brought to them.” If you look at Christ’s ministry you do not see him only doing ‘spiritual’ things – he is concerned for both the body and the soul. His death and Resurrection emphasise not only this care for the whole human being, but the renewal of the whole human being. When we share the Gospel we do not merely pass out words – it is God’s Spirit that effectively conveys the full and holistic weight of the Gospel. Once again, I’d encourage you to read and interact with my previous ‘Imaging the Kingdom’ posts if you have not already.

      “Not everything God asks us to do is of equal importance…God has not asked us to do or accomplish everything that is important to Him.” The Christian life is not merely responding to what God asks, but responding to God’s character in humble obedience and service. Christ’s words at the end of Matthew 25 is quite explicit regarding the calling of the Church. Please read:

      “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      There are serious consequences to the Christian who does not care for the whole of humans, for this is what it is to truly love your neighbour, however secondary of a calling you seem to believe it is. “Let anyone with ears listen!”

    • Elijah says :

      Also, you misquote Scripture with this: “To rephrase Jesus question – What does it profit a man if gains food and shelter but looses his own soul? This question rightly points out the HUGE difference between the importance of the two. There really is no difference in eternity between “gaining the whole world” and gaining mere food and shelter or gaining not enough food and shelter. The only difference in eternity is gaining Jesus.”

      You seem to have a firm grasp on what you consider ‘eternity’ to be, but did you ever consider that God wants eternal life for his people in THE PRESENT? If you read the Gospel of John, the Evangelist continually emphasises the immanence of the kingdom of God and its place in the present life. So taking ‘gaining the whole world’ and ‘gaining mere food and shelter’ and equating them is both unfaithful to specific context of this misquote (Jesus is specifically talking about following him in discipleship and that the riches in this world pale in comparison to the riches of the kingdom of God) and to the Scripture as a whole. I have never said that being a disciple of Christ is not as important as taking care of people’s physical needs, but I do believe that you can’t separate the two in the fullness of the Gospel. The Gospel is robust and powerful, not limited to mere personal belief, but the whole of the human experience. It is bigger than you and me and it most certainly includes both the ‘body’ and the ‘soul’.

  8. Tim says :

    “You still rest upon a dichotomy between the two (serving the physical needs vs. serving the spiritual needs) whether you admit it or not – I believe they are one in the same issue in the Gospel.”

    If I don’t believe they are one in the same you say this makes a dichotomy. A dichotomy is to separate a whole into two separate, non overlapping parts. I am not doing this. I am saying they are connected but one is significantly more important than the other.

    Both James and Jesus in Matthew 23 are not saying the two are the same. They are both saying it is very determinative for the believer to be involved in serving the poor. By this we can say it is not enough to merely talk about the good news, we must also serve the poor to properly display Christ to the nations. This does not make them equally important. You seem to want to dismiss the huge difference in significance between them. This is not to be dismissed.

    The history of missions has many examples of those who went abroad seeking to do good without proclaiming the gospel. No one in their work was added to the kingdom of God. That is called fruitlessness.

    The history of missions also has many examples of those who went out only proclaiming the good news and made no attempt to help the needy. They have fruit but given a weak example of Christ in discipleship.

    The history of missions has many of have gone out seeking to do both in their proper dynamic. You want conversions to Christ but not “rice-converts”. If you don’t know what I mean by that I can explain more.

    Neither of the first two is good but the first is worse than the second.

    Regarding Matthew 11 and John the Baptist. Jesus reply is not to teach us that he cared equally for the spiritual and physical elements of man. His reply was to help John the Baptist realize He was the Messiah and only the Messiah could do these things. That was the answer to John the Baptists question. John did not ask Jesus “Don’t you care equally about the spiritual and physical needs of man?.

    “One cannot separate our service to the visible person from our service to the invisible person.”

    I’m not separating them. They are both still part of the whole. I am merely saying one is significantly more important than the other. Remember after Jesus fed the 5000, he confronted their intrest in bread more than Him. At that point He spoke regarding their need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Bread is important but Jesus is far more important than bread.

    “There are serious consequences to the Christian who does not care for the whole of humans,”

    How do you get that I don’t care about the whole of humans because I say the eternal soul of man is more significant than his body? What have I said that leads you to think I don’t care about the body at all? You are listening selectively.

    “Christ did not merely suffer a spiritual death, but most certainly a physical one. This is to emphasise the nature of God’s redemption.”

    The point of Christ’s physical suffering is not to teach us the soul and body are equal in importance. Perfect physical blood was required by God to pay for the sins of the world. That is the point. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin..” Did the death of Christ accomplish anything for the physical body of man while on this earth? No, only his soul. It did establish that our physical bodies would be resurrected and transformed into a different kind of body, but no bodily benefits or earth related benefits at all.

    “Also, you misquote Scripture with this…”

    I was not claiming to quote Jesus. I said I was rephrasing what He said.

    “I do believe that you can’t separate the two in the fullness of the Gospel.”

    I have not asked you to separate them, only to see one as more important than the other. This does not reduce the robust nature of the gospel. It gives you a stronger ability give out the gospel.

    With your belief as it is, how is your life directed differently than other believers who may believe in a complete separation?

    Does your belief impact how you allocate your regular giving?

    Does your church allocate their giving to meet equally physical and spiritual needs?

    What percentage of giving that is collected in your church goes beyond the needs of the church itself? (Very Important question)

    “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Follow your money and it will show you where your heart is.

    • Elijah says :

      Brother Tim,

      I will try with all of my energy to interact with your latest comment.

      “I am saying they are connected but one is significantly more important than the other…Both James and Jesus in Matthew 23 are not saying the two are the same.”

      I don’t think that I am calling these two things the same – what I am saying is that GOD’S EQUAL CONCERN FOR THESE TWO THINGS are inevitably a necessary part of the Gospel. Could you perhaps interact more explicitly with why you do not think that God is just as concerned for the ‘physical’ as the ‘spiritual’ with regard to this Matthew 25 passage?

      “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      +++++

      “This does not make them equally important. You seem to want to dismiss the huge difference in significance between them. This is not to be dismissed.” I know your ‘rice-converts’ concern, but I still think this is not dealing with what I am presenting before you.

      “Regarding Matthew 11 and John the Baptist. Jesus reply is not to teach us that he cared equally for the spiritual and physical elements of man. His reply was to help John the Baptist realize He was the Messiah and only the Messiah could do these things. That was the answer to John the Baptists question. John did not ask Jesus “Don’t you care equally about the spiritual and physical needs of man?.”

      I agree, and Matthew 11 is actually my favourite chapter of Scripture so I am pretty familiar with the Messianic aspect of it. But I am trying to convey that what Christ is talking about is that he is the Messiah and that the Messiah USHERS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Christ is not just trying to say, ‘Messiah: check!’ He is saying, ‘I AM THE MESSIAH AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS HERE!’

      “Bread is important but Jesus is far more important than bread.”

      I believe you are still missing my point – I agree that Christ is important, but Christ is PHYSICAL and the redemption that Christ brings is UNIVERSAL – this is VISIBLE and INVISIBLE.

      “How do you get that I don’t care about the whole of humans because I say the eternal soul of man is more significant than his body? What have I said that leads you to think I don’t care about the body at all? You are listening selectively.”

      I am not listening selectively, rather I am telling you that I truly believe that your preference for the ‘soul’ over the ‘body’ is non-Christian and unorthodox. You think I am being selective because I don’t see things the way you see them, but I promise I am considering all of your points – I just strongly disagree and for what I believe are good reasons.

      “The point of Christ’s physical suffering is not to teach us the soul and body are equal in importance. Perfect physical blood was required by God to pay for the sins of the world. That is the point. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin..””

      Christ is not merely following the rules for sacrifice – HE CREATED THE RULES. God has established the physical sacrificial system because that’s the world he rules over – a PHYSICAL world. Christ did not live to fit A, B & C so that he proves he’s the Messiah. This world is God’s and he has redeemed it in the manner he sees fit. He wants to teach us through this manner.

      “Did the death of Christ accomplish anything for the physical body of man while on this earth? No, only his soul. It did establish that our physical bodies would be resurrected and transformed into a different kind of body, but no bodily benefits or earth related benefits at all.”

      Tim, I believe your reading of the Scripture (especially the Gospel of John) is most certainly not the only way to read it (and is largely not the way the Church has read it in the past…). The Church is a taste of the presence of the kingdom of God and I believe it’s a shame that you can’t see that it has present universal benefits beyond the mere ‘eternal soul’ of a human.

      “I was not claiming to quote Jesus. I said I was rephrasing what He said.” – You were not rephrasing, you were taking this to mean something entirely different. A rephrasing keeps the original meaning of a quote, which you have not done. So even if you are rephrasing, you are misquoting in that respect.

      “I have not asked you to separate them, only to see one as more important than the other. This does not reduce the robust nature of the gospel. It gives you a stronger ability give out the gospel.” I understand where you’re coming from, but I disagree with your assessment. I do not believe that your sense of the Gospel is a very full one if you see one as more important than the other.

      “With your belief as it is, how is your life directed differently than other believers who may believe in a complete separation?” I believe that we should fight to redeem whole people, not just their souls, but also their bodies and keep that on the forefront of what we do as Christians. Taking care of physical needs is not just an add-on, but it is one of the central facets of living as a Christian.

      “Does your belief impact how you allocate your regular giving? Does your church allocate their giving to meet equally physical and spiritual needs?” It most certainly does – I am a part of a community that sees the Gospel this universal way and is committed to demonstrating the Gospel thoroughly in all of its dimensions, visible and invisible.

      “What percentage of giving that is collected in your church goes beyond the needs of the church itself? (Very Important question)” A significant amount is given to various social charities run locally by our church and nationally by the Church of Scotland. Our church, being ‘Town Kirk’, is a very important part of civic life in the town of St Andrews, so we do keep our building useful for the community as a place of refuge, worship and meeting. Our church has been established for over three-quarters of a millennium and we see a great importance in preserving our visible and invisible heritage for the glory of God.

      ““Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Follow your money and it will show you where your heart is.”

      Your polemic – perhaps trying to pull a ‘gotcha’ move on me or anyone else – feels often like a bullying tactic and perhaps I (and other readers) would be more receptive to what you have to say if the love and grace of Christ characterised your words as they did Greg’s initial response to your initial comment.

      I do not question your sincerity, but I truly believe that the Gospel as you see it is a rather handicapped Gospel. I know that my views are very flawed, but I know at the very least that God is the Lord of all things, not just the souls of humans. Christ’s death and Resurrection are so very potent and effective that they break through forcefully in this world, ‘physically’ and ‘spiritually’.

  9. Greg says :

    Elijah & Tim,
    I hate to have backed out of the discussion here, but I sensed that it was not going to advance the conversation any further than we did in the first two comments (indeed my initial post probably set up the polemical tone).

    I do have to say I’m glad to have read Elijah’s responses, patient & wise as they were, because it helps me to hear the full-blooded gospel re-told in such thoughtful prose and with such careful exposition (i.e. I believe he’s right).

    Tim’s rhetorical technique and claims were not to my dialogical taste, but I understand that my initial post may have provoked the tenor of his response.

    So I find myself in an “agree to disagree” mood & am thankful that we do have the ability, in this free nation, to put our views out there…and to leave one another alone to have different perspectives.

    Peace to you both,
    Greg

  10. Tim says :

    “Could you perhaps interact more explicitly with why you do not think that God is just as concerned for the ‘physical’ as the ‘spiritual’ with regard to this Matthew 25 passage?”

    This passage does not stand alone in it’s immediate context nor the context of everything else Jesus said was important. There are many contexts where Jesus only refers to the spiritual as being important. But than in itself does not mean that only the spiritual is important based on that context alone. I’m thinking specifically of John 3 with spiritual rebirth and Nicodemus. So also in the Matthew 25 passage that seems to only speak of physical things does not demonstrate that physical provisions are equal to or more important than spiritual things Christ requires to enter the Kingdom.
    As I read this passage I don’t see primarily physical things but spiritual. I don’t focus on clothes, cups of water or visits in prison but a spiritual heart that moves with compassion on those in such conditions versus the heart that is oblivious to needs of what might be considered undesirable people – the least. Jesus message is those who are unconcerned about those in need and those in lower status will not enter the kingdom but face eternal fire with the devil.

    Does giving out cups of water, clothing the naked, etc. mean these people are some how redeemed physically?
    When Jesus said these cups of water and clothes were given to him, does he really care about the water and clothes or that the givers were demonstrating the heart of Christ himself?
    These simple physical actions are only possible coming from a spiritual heart. They reflect and demonstrate that a heart is truly redeemed. I say essential, you say equal.

    It suddenly occurs to me we are disagreeing about a very minute difference in words which hardly demonstrates orthodox versus unorthodox. You may think so, but I don’t.

    “…pull a gotcha”…”bullying tactic” “…if the love and grace of Christ”….

    I must be a mean horrible believer falling short of the love and grace of God as you have said. Maybe we’re done. Hope to see you in the kingdom with both of us fully redeemed.

    • Elijah says :

      Tim,

      “Jesus message is those who are unconcerned about those in need and those in lower status will not enter the kingdom but face eternal fire with the devil.” I believe that even this is a PHYSICAL resurrection, so I disagree with your argument flatly.

      “These simple physical actions are only possible coming from a spiritual heart. They reflect and demonstrate that a heart is truly redeemed. I say essential, you say equal.” I agree with you that a ‘spiritual’ heart is necessary, but I guess I’d rather say a ‘whole faithful person’ who understands that God cares for and has redeemed every part of every person, visible and invisible. I still don’t think the gravity of God’s call to care for those in need can be denied in this passage. There are more passages, but it would hardly do any good to systematically look them up – you seem to be well-set in your mode of interpretation that has no room for what I have been pulling for. If you have time I actually explore this issue and I’d love for your perspective on this post: ‘Imaging the Kingdom: Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy‘.

      “It suddenly occurs to me we are disagreeing about a very minute difference in words which hardly demonstrates orthodox versus unorthodox. You may think so, but I don’t.”

      This demonstrates very different beliefs on orthodoxy. I understand that you do not believe it is an issue, but that is probably because you do not value orthodoxy in the same way I do (as evidenced by your early comments: “Hyper-Protestant Hmmm.. I’ve never heard that term before but I think I like it. I’ll wear that…That almost sounds Catholic from the pre-reformation days.”). And what if my comments had been Catholic from pre-Reformation days? Is nothing good except what has come from the Reformation? What about the Scripture? What about the Church that compiled and edited the New Testament? What about the tradition that even the Reformers borrowed from? These are all rhetorical questions, but I think the common propensity to write off these more ancient views is a major weakness of Protestantism.

      “I must be a mean horrible believer falling short of the love and grace of God as you have said.” No one said that. Perhaps you’re being sarcastic, but no need to play the ‘wounded’ card when we’re merely having a conversation and someone believes you might possibly be able to soften your tone. I hope to see you not only in the future kingdom but also in the present one. Peace to you, brother.

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