The whole Sojourners ethos has chapped my ass since college. But I have to give Jim Wallis credit for responding to hateful NYC Subway ads with ads full of Christian love.
In the story, Wallis correctly points out that during the first presidential debate on Wednesday night neither candidate really talked about the poor. So he introduces his documentary about the poor:
On the eve of the first Presidential debate, Sojourners premiered The Line — a film about the new faces of poverty in America. In this powerful documentary from award-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett, those popular judgmental assumptions against poor people clearly and convincingly are debunked.
The Line, which I am asking everyone who reads this column to watch, deftly dismantles many stereotypes about poverty and shows why a growing number of Americans find themselves falling into it. The film does so by telling the personal stories of people who have fallen beneath “the line.”
Oh Wallis, you’re so right. Telling real, emotionally compelling stories is the most effective way to to bring awareness and attention to any problem, whether poverty or marginal tax rates.
But then he gives his recommendations.
Clearly, it is the mission of the church to tell and to show the millions of people who have fallen below the poverty line that they are not alone. Jesus clearly says in the Matthew 25 that how we treat them is how we treat him.
I think we also want to live in a society that makes sure that people who are struggling with poverty are not left alone.
That is the responsibility of all of us, and it is also part of the role of government.
It’s not the proper role of government to steal from me in order to make sure people who are struggling with poverty are not left alone.
I believe that it’s my personal responsibility to help people who need it, both because I want to live in that kind of society and because Christ commands his followers to help others.
But my desire to help others in no way, shape or form justifies my stealing from my neighbor, even in order to give what I’ve stolen to another neighbor. Make no mistake, the forced redistribution of wealth, aka welfare, food stamps, and every other government needy-assistance program requires taking from one person at gunpoint (taxation) and giving to another. You are using the force of government to achieve your ends.
Jim, your goals are amazing. Yes, many, many people are in need, and many through no fault of their own, and they absolutely deserve help. And I too want to live in world where people who are struggling with poverty are not left alone.
But that’s why I give to charity and volunteer.
To pretend there’s a moral difference between pointing a gun at my friend’s head and demanding money from him so I can give it to a needier friend, and advocating for more government aid, is dishonest.
And to justify that theft at gunpoint using Jesus? I don’t remember Jesus pointing guns at heads. Or advocating anyone else doing it. What I remember from Sunday School was Jesus advocating for individual believers to voluntarily give of their own clothes, food and shelter.
But maybe I missed that passage.