Bill O'Reilly has a piece up at Townhall that is as good a distillation as you'll find of how confused many Christian conservatives are about the message of the Gospels. Titled "Keep Christ in Unemployment," here's the key excerpt:
America remains the land of opportunity, but you have to work for it. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 5 percent. For high-school dropouts, it is 16 percent. Personal responsibility is usually the driving force behind success. But there are millions of Americans who are not responsible, and the cold truth is that the rest of us cannot afford to support them.
Every fair-minded person should support government safety nets for people who need assistance through no fault of their own. But guys like McDermott don't make distinctions like that. For them, the baby Jesus wants us to "provide" no matter what the circumstance. But being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive.
The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?
No, actually. The radicalism of Jesus' message is precisely in his endorsement of giving - regardless of the worth of the recipient. I wonder how Bill O'Reilly missed the Sermon on the Mount in Sunday School:
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away."
Notice any conditions in there about being a responsible citizen if you want charity? And that's the point of Christianity, and a pretty central one at that. God's mercy is unconditional; so should the mercy and generosity of Christians. Remember - Christians are required to love not just our neighbors or our friends or our families - but our enemies. We are asked to love Osama bin Laden. The Prodigal Son gets more than the loyal one, remember? The rich young man - who was also devout and worthy - was told that he had to give away everything he owned to enter the kingdom of heaven. He was not told to whom. Jesus himself urged us not to worry about material possessions; and he lived as a vagrant, with no source of income. The early Christians were told to seek the mercy and generosity of others in their peregrinations; they were to take as much care of themselves as the lilies in the field. Give us this day our daily bread. Not enough even for tomorrow.
This does not equal an endorsement of the welfare state. It's an entirely different argument how one tries to govern a fallen world. But it does equal a very clear and unsettling attack on the kind of fairness O'Reilly supports. There's a point to O'Reilly's argument. But it isn't a Christian point. The point of Christianity is, in many ways, its irresponsibility - and its injustice by any actual Fox News standards.
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