Social & Domestic Issues

Obama’s Rev. Jim Wallis Misreads the Bible

Though Barack Obama is not a deeply religious man, he realizes that most Americans are, and thus has enlisted a man of the cloth to sell to the public his plans for national redistribution of wealth.  The President calls the Reverend Jim Wallis his “advisor” on these matters and chose him precisely because Wallis comes to most political matters with a well-known, decidedly leftist outlook regarding the economy, healthcare and the environment, and with the anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Western tilt voguish in leftist circles, especially religious leftist circles.

Wallis has appeared lately on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” on postings in the Huffington Post, as well as in his own magazine, "Sojourners".  He states that “redistribution of wealth is what the Gospels are all about. Absolutely.”  He is also urging an “economic leveling of society.” The Rev. Wallis shares some of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s views, just toned down.

Wallis cites the extreme poverty in many parts of the world as a need for us to redistribute our wealth not only domestically but also across the globe, as a way to achieve what he calls “biblical justice”.  But if Wallis wishes to alleviate poverty, why would he choose the very redistributionist plans that have caused poverty in those areas and, worse, wish to institute them here, on us?  Instead of depleting ourselves of wealth, why not teach others how to achieve their own prosperity?

I suspect Wallis knows all this, but, like so many on the left, is bothered by the fact that some live better than others and that constitutes “inequality.”  Rather than lift others, it seems “fairer,” to the left, to bring us down.  It is easier, quicker and provides the redistributionist with a sense of moral superiority.  Besides, there’s much more glitter in indicting the successful of one’s own country. Like many in the left-wing clergy, Christian and Jewish, Wallis arrived at the seminary with a leftist view of the world which subsequently colored his reading of Scripture. 

Though a Democrat, Wallis says, “God is not a Democrat or Republican.”  That is true, but neither is He a left-wing ideologue, and it would seem that a loving God would desire prosperity for as many of His children as possible and not wish to penalize those who live by the virtues of hard work, sacrifice, discipline and responsibility that He has bequeathed to us.  It only makes sense that God favors a system that provides his children with the greatest opportunities and avenues for economic prosperity and its concomitant condition of human dignity, uniquely sponsored in the Judeo-Christian outlook upon which America’s economic system is fashioned. 

The social justice that God expects of us is handled not through statist redistribution of wealth but through acts of charity.  In the Old Testament, there are constant calls for giving charity but none for statist redistribution of wealth, nor calls for an economic leveling of society or for a lack of distinctiveness and differences among individuals.  Doing so runs contrary to the notion of the individual as a unique and distinctive being, which is the meaning behind “human created in the image of God”, i.e., singular beings.

The Bible calls for acts of charity from the individual, for in being direct and personal, charity has the ability to elevate and ennoble the giver and provider.  The direct act of giving changes the person and involves and partners him with God.  Unlike Marxism, the Bible emphasizes the individual, not the state, the personal and not the “masses.” 

Those who receive charity are taught the virtue of gratitude.  When given everything by the state, however, through redistribution of wealth, recipients are taught not gratitude but a sense of entitlement.  Imbibing a sense of entitlement negates and corrupts the virtue of work that God himself announces as something good for man:  “Six Days Shall Ye Work”. But the leftist egalitarian is unwilling to accept a notion that there are benefactors and recipients, since it seems so “unequal.”

That the Bible never called for redistribution of wealth is obvious when considering that it required from its citizens only a tithing, a 10% giving.  It mandated another 5% or so toward functionaries in the temple as a compensation for work they did in behalf of the citizenry, like civil servants. And while government certainly has a safety-net role, the state should eschew policies that enlarge dependency and certainly not manufacture conditions, as is the Obama Administration, that make redistribution of wealth inevitable. 

The equality that God seeks is not in a manufactured across-the-board parity but in “Equality before the Law.”  In matters of law and redress before the court, all are equal, be they rich or poor.  A virtuous and Godly society is not one that redistributes wealth but distributes law and justice across its population.

The Rev. Wallis is correct that Wall Street exhibits “greed,” yet finds nothing wrong with the work-rules and “Cadillac provisions” of unions that are rooted in greed.  Nor does he castigate the greediness of millions who, out of a sense of entitlement, do not work or pay but demand to be subsidized from the take-home pay of other people’s labors.  Evidently, it is not greed but achievement born of capitalism that bothers Wallis.

A society that is leveled is a society in which all become equally disadvantaged.  Yet, many liberals prefer an equality of mediocrity and lack of wealth over one of achievement and prosperity if, in the end, prosperity means some have more than others, even though the poor directly benefit and live better because of the success of others.  This is not social justice but socialism, which is a political category, not a moral category. 

The greater the ability to create wealth, the more money is available for charity and good works.  It is America’s men and women of wealth, imbued with religious and civic responsibility, who have served as the greatest patrons of the civic infrastructure, be it hospitals, libraries, museums, the arts, or the charitable United Way.  England once had those patrons, but they went away as redistribution of wealth came in. 

The primary theme of the Bible is individual responsibility, not entitlement and dependency.  God wants the individual to be robust. The Rev. Wallis and others like him see the Bible as endorsing pacifism, be it pacifism in national defense and security matters or pacifism in economic matters.  The religious left doesn’t see man solving problems through robust free-market activity but calls for, as they do regarding environmental challenges, retreat. They lack a belief in man’s ability, in man himself.

It is ironic that men of the cloth endorse the views of Karl Marx who despised the Bible.  Marx propounded his message and political outlook almost two millennia after the Bible was written.  His outlook is not of the Bible.  To him, religion was the opiate of the masses.  Marx offered a new opiate for the people: redistribution of wealth and the welfare state.  Clergy should think twice before endorsing the views of Karl Marx.

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  • http://twitter.com/richb01 richb01

    Rabbi,

    With all due respect, I think you are one of those “all or nothing” conservatives who think that the “liberals” are for a total redistribution of wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Let’s compare the results (not philosophies, I look directly to results) of 2 recent leaders: Bill Clinton and GW Bush. Clinton was elected during a recession. He implemented policies that gave underprivileged folks hand-up – through education and opportunity. He implemented welfare reform – to get people off the government dole. The result? Strong job creation and the strongest period of economic growth in the history of our country.

    Next, enter GW Bush. Bush killed many of Clinton’s programs. He implemented a tax cut that strongly favors the wealthy, he started 2 wars without planning an endgame. The result? Over 2 million jobs were *lost* following the top weighted tax cuts. Over 4000 brave men were sent to die for highly questionable circumstances. For the first time since the Great Depression, investors in the stock marker lost wealth over a 10 year period. The then the coup de grace – millions of jobs lost in Bush’s Great Recession.

    America took the country back from the JKRs (job killing republicans) and we are now back on track for strong economic growth. Just today, BLS announced over 200,000 jobs were created last month.

    Economists are modeling what the conservatives proposals are for the state and federal budgets. They see that if conservatives get their way, that 700,000 jobs will be lost! And the republicans are fine with that.

    See, Rabbi, liberals know that God wants us to prosper. But He doesn’t want the rich and powerful to stomp on those that are trying to work their way up the ladder. God doesn’t want want that – but Republicans do.

    Sorry, Rabbi – history has proven time and time again – conservative economics do not work. And I’ll grant you that far left economics do not work either. Middle-of-the-road economics, like the Democrats implement, do work. And history proves it.