God and the Rich

          It seems to me that the mainstream biblical interpretation of both fundamentalist and liberal varieties generally either ignore or deliberately misinterpret the Bible on the issue of wealth. In general the tendency is for interpreters is to minimalize and to ignore the fact that Jesus, James, the prophets and the Torah  in general does not seem to like or favour the rich, and their riches. On the contrary the vast part of the Bible seems to be partisan to the poor and to those described as “oppressed.” I can cite a multiple number of scriptures to prove this. But a couple will do. Jesus said “blessed are the poor for they will inherit the kingdom of God.”  He also said “woe until the rich.” Note. these are paraphrased. If one wants some Old Testament examples I can refer them to Psalms 9-10 and Psalms 72.
The partisonship of the God of the bible for the poor and in opposition to the rich I think is fairly clear. The  issue is why is this the case? Those who attempt to explain the fact that the rich do not seem to enjoy favour in the Bible  generally respond by attempting to spiritualize and psychologize these traditions. Thus for norminative Christian Fundamentalism which has as its dominant concern an other worldly concern of salvation from hell and
and the award of  heaven, the issue becomes one of attitude. The status of being rich is not problematic because there is anything objectively problematic about riches in itself. The problem is only that the  wealthy often love their riches more than God. They then go on the explain how the rich young ruler and company obviously put their riches first.
       But the problem is that the Bible does not say anything that suggests that the rich young ruler and other rich persons necessarily put their riches  before God any more than do the poor or  any other people put what they have before God. Yes the Bible certainly states that trust should be in God and not riches or any other things. Most human beings are not totally faithful and put some things before God. And the rich however are no more guilty in this than others. Therefore attempts to psychologize the biblical hostility to the rich and to wealth does not work. 
     I would instead  argue that the answer the question is at least found in how  the Bible generally discribes  the poor. On this issue the Bible is clear.  With the exception of the book of Proverbs the Bible
tends to describe the poor as oppressed, suffering and in fact the victims of injustice. And God is generally seen as the liberator who brings justice to the poor. Again I can cite a multiple of examples to support this contention.
The question now arises – who are the wicked who oppresses
the poor?  Are they just common thieves and robbers in other words criminals? It is perhaps possible to interpret some of the references to the wicked in the Bible this way. But I think that in general  the rich, powerful and wicked are all placed by the Bible in pretty much in the same camp. After all again why does Jesus say “woe to the rich in pretty much the same breath as he says “blessed are the poor.”  Why did Mary say (Luke 1.52-53) that he “fills the hungry with good things but the rich he sends away empty.”
I will have more about this issue in future posts.
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Obama and Warren

During the last view days I have been working on developing
my first two blogs. Now I am ready follow the conversation here
more closely. Obama? First I really do not have a lot of interest
in what “spiritual leaders” say about him. Their expertize seems
to be more about heaven or alternate states of consciousness
than about politics.

However I do believe that Obama may become a great president
as exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt. Why? First what impresses me
about Obama is both his brilliant and flexible political intelligence
and his knowledge. I think that both his cabinet selections and
his prior political history give evidence of this. I am impressed that
he seems to take Abraham
Lincoln, America’s greatest president, as his role model. What
that means is that Obama will attempt to govern from the center.
From that center he will work hard to bring in more elements such
as the more moderate wing of the evangelical Christian movement.
By developing this center alliance a President Obama will be able
to make the major reforms on energy policy, environment, health care
and the economy needed by this nation.

This is the reason that he has picked Rick Warren to give the
opening prayer at his presidential inaugural. Yes Warren is not friendly
to gays. by all accounts. I can understand
why the gay community would be very unhappy about Obama’s
choice of Warren for this role.

However there are two ways of judging people politically.
One way is statically. One can look a person or group’s positions at the
present moment of time and determine that because of certain
litmus test differences that they have with oneself they are the
enemy. One
can also choose to look at them in a more dynamic way. This is in fact
what Obama in the precedent of Abraham Lincoln is doing.
Yes on the issue of gay rights Warren position is unacceptable to
the gay community and
to many within the Democratic Party. However in many ways
Rick Warren has been a leader in the push within the evangelical
camp to take on the issues of environment, global warning,
poverty, Darfur, etc. On all of these issues he could be an
invaluable ally to Barak Obama’s cause.

So what is Obama to do? To not make overtures until
Warren changes on the gay issue? This would please the
gay community and the
Democratic Party base. However it could
also impede Obama’s attempt to create the alliance he needs
to deal with issues of major reform. Or should he in
a sense “forgive” Rick Warren and others holding similar positions
on the issues centered around gays and offer him some symbolic
honor be granting him the privilege of offering the invocation
at his inaugural. Of course Rev. Warren also has some problems here.
To many in the Christian Right Obama is little better than an
Anti- Christ.
Warren himself will be attacked for giving Obama his symbolic
support at the presidential inaugural.

To finish this up. I certainly could understand the idea that
Obama would have betrayed the gay community if he in fact
for the sake of political expediency has decided to support a political
program that leads to a denial of the rights of gay people.
However all that Obama is doing is offering a hand of friendship
to people whose help in the long run he may need. If this succeeds
the interests of all Americans including that of gays will be promoted.

As I stated in my first post this blog is in many ways an extension of
the ideas and activities which I have supported in the “God’s justice
and kingdom” an e-group of which I am moderator. This is actually the twin
post to my second post on this site “Homosexuality – Why the Passion?”
This post was written first and was a response to both some
discussion of some “spiritual leaders” views on President Elect
Obama and to the anger of many members of both the Democratic Base and
 of the homosexual community


Homosexuality – Why the passion?

Patrick, clearly the use of the word homophobe to describe those who hate or disapprove of homosexuals is literally inaccurate. While certainly there may be some fear in involved in some cases a better word would be “homothropy.” However who ever coined the word in the first place decided to use “phobe” instead of “throp.” In spite of the problems about the root meaning of the word, the Merriam Webter dictionary defines homophobia as being “the irrational fear of. aversion to, or discrimination of homosexuals.” So in spite of what is might have been meant originally by “homophobia” the word now more commonly means the dislike or hatred of homosexuals. Thus there is in fact little that is wrong with how the homosexual community uses the word.

That said I think it is a mistake to even get into an argument on how words are used. The issue is about how society should respond to homosexuality. Clearly Christian traditionalism believes that homosexuality is biblically wrong. The homosexual community believes other wise. Part of Christian traditionalism’s argument is that homosexuality is only a behavior or sin such as hatred, great, adultery, etc. Homosexuals however argue that it is more than that. That their sexual orientation is hardwired into their very being. If that is the case they can not change that orientation. I believe that they have the best of that argument.

Of course even if homosexuality is the manifestation of a genetic predisposition it is still possible for fundimentalist Christians to argue that it is still a sin and should be opposed. However, I really have to wonder why homosexuality is the sin that members of the Christian Right commonly love to hate. Because it is a threat to the family? But look there are many threats that are more dangerous to the family than is homosexuality, which to me hardly seems like a threat at all. What about adultery and the weak divorce laws. Why is not a strong national campaign raised against the evils of divorce and adultery. No it is always to homosexuals who are hit.

I will end this on the subject of the Bible. The Bible recognizes slavery and the domination of woman by their husbands. Yet most modern Christians understand that all forms of slavery are wrong and most if not all believe in the equality of men and women. They believe this in part because what ever the biblical practice the ultimate principles of love and compassion manifested in the bible seemed to ultimately in principle to oppose both slavery and female subordination as social institutions.

I would argue the same in the case of homosexuality. Actually the Bible
says little about homosexuality. Jesus does not even mention it. So why the rage over it? Well there are obviously other non biblical reasons. All that being the case it seems to me that certainly a biblical case can be made that love and compassion should be shown homosexuals rather than the dislike and hatred that the Christian right manifests. At a minimum American society should have laws to protect the rights of homosexuals to civil union and all of the economic and political benefits of society.


The Theme?

So what is the theme here? In general most people certainly most persons who are not members of the Christian Right separate religion and politics into two separate airtight categories. To allow one’s theological thinking or basic religious world view to effect one’s political thinking and action is viewed as an intolerable imposition on the mandate of modernity.

My posts in this place will be based on the opposite assumption that political and theological thought go together as two sides of the same coin. Thus Jesus’ statements that he came to liberate the poor and that in some sense they are blessed have political consequences or meaning. This meaning, the interconnections between biblical and post biblical theological thought and political thought and action, etc is what will be discussed here. Certainly ideas such as the kingdom of God, justice, and other ideas from the political economic realm such as democracy, socialism, and ongoing issues of good old fashioned American politics will
be discussed here. Perhaps some may find this of interest.