What Would Jesus Cut (from the Budget)?

A day or two ago, a more liberally-minded friend sent me a message on Facebook. He pointed me to an article on HuffPo, which asked the question (prompted by liberal theologian / “social justice” activist Jim Wallis), “What Would Jesus Cut?” Of course, it refers to the federal budget and is a challenge to let Jesus’s words be a guide. Much of the challenge by Wallis and others boils down to “How can a ‘good Christian’ support raising the military budget (when Jesus promoted only love & peace) while cutting domestic & foreign aid programs that help the poor and sick (when Jesus was all about helping such people)?”

Jesus healing a blind man

Jesus healing a blind man

At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I didn’t really want to get into a lot of political and theological explanation/discussion, especially not on FB. Plus, I didn’t want to take days to respond. But, after giving it some thought and jotting down some ideas, I decided maybe it was good enough for a blog post. So,… it ain’t perfect, or comprehensive, but here it is:

Honestly, I haven’t been keeping real close watch on the budget debate (I know, I should), so I don’t have a whole lot to say. Since you brought it up, though, here are a few general thoughts.

1) I was never a big fan of the WWJD stuff. For one, we can only speculate, based (hopefully) on careful and responsible hermeneutic (i.e., interpretation) of Jesus’ personal teaching and that of His disciples, as recorded in the Bible. Second, to make it close to being fair, we have to put Jesus in our present circumstances but with the limited knowledge & power He had while on earth.

2) Many of the Bible passages used to justify anti-war and pro-“social justice” positions are taken out of context and/or misapplied. Jesus primarily spoke to and about individual behavior & responsibility (though often as groups). Nations have different duties and (sometimes) different rules than individuals. A nation is to protect its citizens, reward those who do good and punish evildoers. There is no biblical justification for taking *some* citizens’ money/property — at threat of fines and/or imprisonment — and redistributing it to other citizens (let alone to non-citizens). True charity, on the other hand, comes voluntarily from individuals, churches, and non-government organizations. Freedom!

3) Much foreign aid is known to wind up in the pockets of corrupt officials and in government coffers. Plus, many studies have revealed that such programs are very ineffective when it comes to producing sustainable development, which is the best way to reduce poverty in less-developed nations. That’s not to say Americans shouldn’t help others. I’m all for donating food, mosquito netting, medical services & supplies, etc. But, I don’t trust the big, government-run programs.

9/11 fireball & smoke at Twin Towers4) I think that many liberals/progressives grossly underestimate the threats that Russia, China, North Korea, other “rogue” nations, and terrorist organizations truly represent — some more immediate than others — to the U.S. and other nations around the world. While not every war, foreign policy, etc., is a wise or practical one, the U.S. is in a unique position to help counter the evil out there and protect people. We can’t do it all, but going soft on military spending is a big mistake.

“The purpose of our military is simple and straightforward: We want to prevent war by deterring others from the aggression that causes war. If our efforts are successful, we will have peace and never be forced into battle.”  — Ronald Reagan

5) In an alternate reality, where most nations played nice, we might be able to redirect a lot of funds from military to other programs to help people. (Of course, in that world, a LOT less people would need help.) But, in the real world, sometimes violence is necessary to keep or put bullies in their place, and we need to be well-armed and in a position of strength for those times.

6) Generally speaking, there is a LOT of waste in government spending — from illegitimate entitlement programs to unnecessary farm subsidies to $400 hammers. I think EVERY federal office, agency, & department eventually needs to be re-evaluated. Those that survive should learn to do more with current (or less) funds. For example, a lot of people want to throw a bunch more money into Education, thinking that that’s what it’ll take for our students to do better. Fail! (Pardon the pun.) Many school systems (including here in FL) make improvements and have better-performing students than many others that spend a lot more per student. The key is to work/spend smarter, not more. (This includes getting rid of those bleepin’ unions!)

7) Plus, as a proponent of limited government and state sovereignty, I think the federal government is involved in a lot of stuff that it shouldn’t and/or doesn’t need to be. Weed out that stuff and save a lot of federal funds right there! (Of course, in some cases, that means states have to come up with replacement funds, but at least the responsibility and authority would be where it belongs.)

What would Jesus cut from our national budget? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got a better understanding than President Obama… or Jim Wallis.

OK, I’m done… I think…. ;->

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