Rise of the Religious Left: Socialism in Religious Garb

The Pope is said to come out defending homosexuality. Supposedly, in a private conversion with Juan Carlos Cruz, the Pope told the main whistleblower in Chile’s clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandal, “Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,” Cruz told The Associated Press.

The Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the Pope said this.

The Roman Catholic Church has numerous doctrinal problems given the fact that many of their doctrines are not found in the Bible. Where in the Bible does it say there should be a Pope and priests can’t marry? Peter, who is said by Roman Catholics to be the first Pope, was married (Matt. 8:14-18; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41; 1 Cor. 9:5). Priests in the Old Testament were married (Ex. 6:23). Aaron had children (Lev. 10:1).

By the way, there is no need for priests in the New Testament since Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14).

My point in this short doctrinal excursion is to show that if you’re going to claim the Bible as the authority (or even an authority), you better be able to make a convincing case from the Bible.

This brings me to Rev. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign. The headline of the article I’ve read has him saying, “Jesus set up free healthcare clinics everywhere he went. He healed everybody and never charged a leper a co-pay.” No one’s stopping Rev. Barber from setting up free healthcare clinics. It’s a great idea. I wonder, however, if Rev. Barber gets a salary or lives in a house. Jesus didn’t (Matt. 9:58).

When Rev. Barber, other ministers, and doctors can heal people without medicine, expensive medical equipment, nurses, hospitals, medical training, a government bureaucracy, mandated health coverage for abortions and sex-change operations, birth control pills, then he and they will be on equal footing with Jesus.

A government-mandated healthcare system is not the answer.

The Guardian article reports on Rev. Barber and his efforts:

As one group of faith leaders celebrates the fruits of a decades-long alliance with the Republican party, another is mounting a multi-faith challenge to the dominance of the Christian right, in an attempt to recapture the moral agenda.

“There is no religious left and religious right,” Barber, a pastor and political leader in North Carolina, told the Guardian. “There is only a moral center. And the scripture is very clear about where you have to be to be in the moral center – you have to be on the side of the poor, the working, the sick, the immigrant.”

Frustrated by conservative Christians’ focus on culture wars over issues such as abortion and gay marriage, Barber leads an ascendent grassroots movement that is trying to turn the national conversation to what they believe are the core teachings of the Bible: care for the poor, heal the sick, welcome the stranger.

There is some of what Rev. Barber says that I agree with, although I don’t see how issues like abortion (a procedure that kills unborn babies) and homosexuality (that is specifically singled out for condemnation in the Bible).

Those on the so-called “religious right” have had a lot to say about caring for the poor, working people, the sick, and immigrants. the difference between the those on the Left believe that it’s the government’s job through higher and higher taxation, wealth redistribution, and government mandates that are the solution.

What is Rev. Barber advocating?

The demands of the Poor People’s Campaign are as ambitious as they are progressive. They have called for a repeal of the Republican tax cuts, federal and state minimum wage laws and universal single-payer healthcare. Other proposals also mirror those of politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Jesus certainly didn’t teach that Caesar should be involved in such things. Of all the verses in the Bible dealing with the poor and disenfranchised, there’s not one verse that directs the civil government — the State — to be involved.

The article goes on to report:

Barber, a co-chair of the campaign, says some conservative faith leaders have “cynically” interpreted the Bible’s teachings to demonize homosexuality, abortion, scientific facts and other religions. They are guilty, he says, of “theological malpractice” and “modern-day heresy.”

There’s nothing cynical going on. There is no support for same-sex sexuality or abortion in the Bible. Both of these practices devalue human life and God’s design on the family. To support or ignore them will bring down a civilization in a generation or two. We’re already seeing the negative effects.

I’m not sure what “scientific” facts he has in mind. Probably global warming, evolution, and transgenderism. The Bible is clear on other religions. Opposing other religions does not mean that the people who are trapped in them are demons, but the religions themselves have long-term personal and cultural consequences.

Rev. Barber might want to take a look at Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011) and The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (2011), to name just two sources.

It’s true that many of those identified with the religious Right “say so much about the issues where the Bible says so little” and “speak so little about the issues where the Bible says so much.” This cuts both ways.

There is an ordinate amount of attention focussed on Israel and the last days. Their time frame is shortened to accomplish great things because Jesus is coming soon to “rapture” them to heaven. Why bother with the issues of this time and place when the antichrist is about to destroy everything? Why polish brass on a sinking ship? Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? The world is a sinking Titanic, as one prophecy “expert” claims.

Those of us identified with the Religious Right believe the government is the problem while those identified with the Religious Left believe the government is the solution.

Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act [an act of worship]; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder has rightly interpreted that scene: “The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.”
The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business” [God in the Dock, p. 134]. The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever. That is an evil impulse. The good parent prepares his children for independence, trains them to make responsible decisions, knows that he harms them by not helping them to break loose. The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically to destruction.
When the provision of paternal security replaces the provision of justice as the function of the state, the state stops providing justice. The ersatz [artificial and inferior substitute] parent ceases executing judgment against those who violate the law, and the nation begins losing benefits of justice. Those who are concerned about the chaos into which the criminal justice system has fallen should consider what the state’s function has become. Because the state can only be a bad imitation of a father, as a dancing bear act is of a ballerina, the protection of this Leviathan of a father turns out to be a bear hug.1

Rev. Barber’s policies will only lead to slavery to the State. “Everything from the State, everything for the State.”
  1. Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian faith and American Culture (Westchester, IL: Crossway, [1983] 1990), 183-184. []
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