Politics – The Sheep and the Goats

I’ve mentioned that the above parable is one of my foundational beliefs, for politics, religion, and life. For me, here’s what that means.

If you don’t know the passage, it’s in Matthew 25:31-46. To paraphrase it, Jesus tells His disciples that, when He is on His throne of glory, He will gather the people and divide them based on how they have treated Him. He gives six conditions: hunger, thirst, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison. And when the people say, “We never did these things,” He tells them that as they have done to the least of His brothers, so they have done to Him. (Note: since every translation I have read of this uses “brothers” for both genders, I am doing so as well.)

In discussing this as political actions that a Christian should take, there are two basic arguments that people have used to state that this doesn’t apply to political actions, just personal ones.

The first argument is the one that I consider the more defensible one: Jesus is talking personal action, not government action. This is true. However, I vote as a Christian, and I believe in voting for policies that I believe are better for all of us, which means voting for policies that support the “least of our brothers”. The Jewish people of the time, the ones that Jesus was preaching to, had a long history that supporting those less fortunate than themselves was a moral and social good. The Romans, the people in charge of the government of the time, the government that we are supposed to read in the Bible as somewhere between callous and evil, on the other hand, viewed helping those less fortunate as generally a bad idea. To me, it makes more sense to those of us trying to follow Jesus’ teachings to support those less fortunate. In addition to being a more Christian thing to do, studies have shown that it costs less to give support up front than to have to deal with the consequences later on.

The second argument is one that I have a great deal of trouble with: that “of my brothers” doesn’t include all of humanity, which is my reading. They limit that group to their fellow Christians, or their fellow countrymen, or those who are part of some group that they belong to. I disagree. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that we are all in this together, that “neighbor” is to be defined broadly, and that He speaks to everyone. To me, that means that we are to view everyone as our brothers, and to care for all of humanity. Anything else seems wrong to me.

As I stated earlier, in the passage, Jesus identifies six conditions in which He was in need that those who He considered His sheep provided for, and I intend on discussing them in later blog posts.

Politics – At the Core

Political discussion in this country has become a minefield.  People who used to be friends are finding themselves separated by chasms that seem insurmountable.  Our two political parties seem unable to find compromises on anything.  And the daily news, especially right now, with the children at the border, continues to get worse.  Like everyone else, I have opinions.  Mine are grounded in what I believe are good morals, ethics, facts and law.  I express them as truth and I make no apologies for that.  But.

First and foremost, we are all human.  We disagree, but underneath, we are still one.  Although I disagree, vehemently in some cases, with the opposing viewpoint, with a few exceptions, I know that the other side isn’t evil.  Even those we now view as evil rarely see themselves as such.

As humans, we frequently view an issue as having two sides.  For better or worse, we then divide ourselves into two camps, but the problem is that there are many issues and few cases in which the people in one group agree on everything.

Looking at the various political issues that we generally view as “important” when it comes to political discussions and voting, the two general principles that people use to determine what their beliefs are on a specific issue.  Please note:  what follows is MASSIVE generalization; people’s consideration is much more complex than this.

The first is that people tend to divide up the world into “Us” and “Them”.  In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing; sometimes, a situation does have two different sides.  The issue is in how large the “Us” group is and how large the “Them” group is.  The larger the “Us” group is, the more an individual believes in the positives of diversity, of identity politics, in seeing the citizens of other nations in a positive light.  The larger the “Them” group is, the more an individual doesn’t see discrimination, the more they are angered by identity politics, by being asked to understand those who are different from them, the more they see those of other nations in a negative light.  To me, we are best off in keeping the “Us” group large, comprising the entire human race.  We are best keeping the “Them” group small, and only applying it at all to specific situations.  First and foremost, we are all human.

The second principle is that of predestination, although it is usually known as the “Protestant Work Ethic”.  Basically, it means that many people believe that what happens to other people was brought upon themselves.  One common way in which this manifests itself is when people argue against welfare because they believe that most of those receiving it are lazy and are just scamming the system.  If shown an individual case, especially of someone they know, and they’ll agree that it was just bad luck and that they need the help, but they don’t generalize it to most of those in need.  In addition, they express the belief that it is better that no one be given assistance that doesn’t need it, even if that means that some who do need it won’t get it.

I don’t believe in predestination, I do believe that most people want to be independent, and I think that a safety net for those who need it is essential.  I think that “Us” means all of humanity and that “Them” is an occasionally useful, temporary description.  Over all, in no particular order, I’m a liberal, a Democrat, a Christian, a middle-aged wife and mother, full-time employed, an American … and a member of the human race.  Come join me.

My Political Beliefs

I have been a registered Democrat since I was eighteen, even when the country around me was making “liberal” a dirty word.  (It’s not.)  I started out pretty close to the center, but as the country has drifted right, and I’ve experienced the world around me, I’ve drifted farther and farther left.

My political beliefs have been largely shaped by my religious beliefs, with life experience added on top.  The first thing I think whenever politics, especially finances, comes up is a passage from the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and the goats.  I will admit that I always hear it in Keith Green’s voice.  If the name doesn’t sound familiar, he was a Christian singer who died in a plane crash in 1982, and he did a powerful reading of the passage that I first heard in college sometime between 1982 and 1985.  I have never been able, or wanted, to shake the power of that reading and it has influenced my politics ever since.

In addition, there are multiple passages in the prophets of the Old Testament (Amos sticks especially in my mind) in which they rail against Israel because of how they (mis)treat the poor, the widows, the orphans, and how they are unjust.  I can’t remember exact passages, but I do remember the idea continuing like a drum beat.  Between these passages and the one from Matthew, I have believed that being a good person means taking care of those less fortunate than you.

I have been blessed with good fortune in my life.  I have also been sheltered from much of the poverty and dangers of this world.  I’m also timid and shy, so I’ve never ventured out to help those in need personally.  But I do believe that we are supposed to do so, and the economy of scale means that I will vote for those politicians who agree that we, as a wealthy nation, should do so as a nation.

However, that doesn’t mean that I believe that the government should force anyone to have, or pretend to have, the same religious beliefs that I do.  My political beliefs may have been formed by my religious beliefs, but I still believe that a person’s religion is between them and their God/dess.  (Those same prophets who influenced my political beliefs would have a few things to say about Her!)

To put it simply and bluntly, I am a Democratic Socialist who believes in diversity, civility and, otherwise, to let people live freely according to the laws of our country.  These ideals don’t always play nicely with each other, but I believe it is the best way to try live up to our potential as a nation.