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July 23, 2005

On the Origins of Supply Side Jesus

By Nick Beaudrot

This is completely unrelated to current events, but it's something that's certainly worth exploring. One of the great sources of liberal confusion is the cognitive dissonance of deeply religious Christians prioritizing discrimination against gays, and to a lesser extent abortion, over peace and poverty reduction; or as I like to put it, "why does Jesus Christ believe in trickle down economics"?

[Warning: huge oversimplifications to follow]

Supply-side Jesus, as Al Franken calls him, is best seen in different responses to the poll question "Do you think that poor people can get ahead in this world through hard work and responsibility?" low- and and middle-income Republicans will say "yes", while low-, middle-, and upper-income Democrats will say "no". In the conservative world view, those who are wealthy in this world are entitled to their good fortune because they have earned it, while poverty is almost a sign of moral failing. This lack of emphasis on social welfare spending among conservatives stems from the Calvinist (and later Baptist) tradition that success in this world is a sign of grace. Also, unlike the Catholic and mainline protestant tradition, faith need not be accompanied by good works to achieve salvation. So there is no need to look out for your fellow man or woman who isn't getting by; after all, as long as you believe in Jesus Christ, you'll be saved, so why not just concentrate on converting their souls to God rather than giving them access to health care? The Baptist's rich tradition of condemnation of other religious sects pushes this sense of piety and an "us versus them" view of the world; originally, this was a "Baptists versus other Christians" mentality, but that's been sublimated by the broader "Christians versus the rest of the world" view. As a church-goin' Democrat, I have no such aim, but I can see where the chip on their shoulder comes from.

So, the next time you want to push conservative Christians to emphasize poverty reduction over stopping gay rights, or point out the immorality of the free market, don't -- to the Christian conservative worldview, it's not immoral, and you'll find it nigh impossible to convince them otherwise. Instead, talk about universal health care as something you earn, bring out the old standby that welfare is a second chance rather than a way of life, and talk about how regulation makes the free market work for everyone rather than putting the clamps on businesses.

Since it's book day, today, here's some recommended reading:

  • Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity. This is mostly an academic read, but surveys the spread of various denominations in the post-Revolutionary Era.
  • Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas. Sure, he's picking out all the wackos he can find, but it's instructive to look at how conservatives talk; speaking their language a bit more effectively might help from a political standpoint.
  • George Lakoff, Moral Politics. Taking Lakoff's advice on using framing is a good idea; taking Lakoff's advice on what frames to use is a bad one. His survey histories and anthropologies are informative.
  • Michael Lind, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. The best look at the West Texas environment that produces Bushism.

July 23, 2005 in Religion | Permalink

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One of the great sources of liberal confusion is the cognitive dissonance of deeply religious Christians prioritizing discrimination against gays, and to a lesser extent abortion, over peace and poverty reduction...

According to a new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- believe homosexuality is a sin. Fifty-nine percent oppose gay marriage -- that's up from 53 percent in July. And Americans with the highest levels of religious commitment reject gay marriage by a margin of six to one. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week712/perspectives.html)

How doare those Americans choose their own path! The nerve!
As with the gun control issue, it will be a losing proposition for the hard left in this country if they try to push this issue.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 23, 2005 8:44:34 PM

ah, Robert, your cackling is being transmitted. It is not flattering.

The real question is what would Jesus say about discrimination against gays, then or now. Not Paul (well after Jesus' death), but Jesus himself. I think you know that answer given his teachings on other religiously and socially disfavored actions and groups. Quite probably, Jesus would welcome their association with him, if his record has been faithfully transmitted to us in the books written generations later that record his words and deeds.

Historically, it is understandable that the protestant sects of Christianity in Europe rebelled against 'good works', since the Roman Catholic church was rife with corruption associated with 'gifts' to church authorities to obtain favors and achieve grace through good works (donation of money). The abandonment of faith through good works, rather than it's reform, has opened some western protestant Christian churchs to a different sort of abuse of the message of the Bible.

Even ardent current believers in Christianity can admit that the church and its adherents are very prone to the sort of hypocrisy and victimization that both Jews and Christians can and should condemn.

As a baptized protestant Christian - earlier in my life, and now disavowed by me due to the contemporary failure of the churches to consistently uphold authentic Christian values - I often wondered if Jesus would have agreed that faith alone without good works was acceptable under his teachings. In my opinion now, he would not.

The huge period of historical time that the Bible comments upon, New and Old Testaments together, and the volume of words included therein allows readers and interpreters to pretty much find what they want to find in this corpus. Some terrible acts of mankind have been and are now committed in the name of selective and often over-literal readings of these words.

Those sects that read this work literally should have, but often don't, great difficulty in resolving the many contradictions it contains. A less rigid reading of both Old and New Testaments, looking for the essential messages for Jews and Christians can be, but is often not, a message of generous welcoming of all Nature's/God's creations, and acceptance of our diversity but essential oneness.

I hasten to add that not all Christians speak and act in a manner that would surely be condemned by Jesus, but it is an irony that many of his most vocal and committed believers would prefer imposing their will and other acts of degradation of other people, rather than practicing a faith based on a message of peace, acceptance, and regard for the least favored among society.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 23, 2005 9:36:36 PM

Robert:It's a losing proposition...but it's one that must be won. Why? Because it's a symptom of a much greater problem, as Jim points out.

I'll explain it using Homsexuality. Homosexuality as a "moral issue". Great. Who does homosexuality affect. What does two people doing in the privacy in your bedroom affect you. Easy answer. It doesn't. It's not a moral issue because of that. It's outside the moral sphere. It's not hurting anybody.

And that's what this is all about, as Jim mentions. It's the fight between salvation between faith and works. Modern religion, to be honest the seeds have been planted in traditions hundreds of years old, is designed to promote faith over works. Why? It's easy. It's easy to feel as though you're a good person, when in your real life you're razing and pillaging everything you see.

It's the easy way out.

And that's the fight. It's not about politics, it's about culture. A culture of real responsibility, not fake make-me-feel-good stuff as we see most offten.

Posted by: Karmakin | Jul 24, 2005 12:29:43 AM

Wasn't The Man Nobody Knows the first gospel of supply-side Jesus? A book that was written a decade before the New Deal.

Posted by: SamAm | Jul 24, 2005 2:47:06 AM

------"faith need not be accompanied by good works to achieve salvation"

That is the line Kerry kept using during the campaign when he was in the black churches. By the way, Kerry hasn't been seen in a black church in about 8 months.

But I digress.

The left says conservatives are greedy cuz we don't want our taxes raised. But it seems liberals will ONLY give to charity if everybody has to(raising taxes). Conservatives follow the 'teach someone to fish for themselves' model of charity compared to the liberal 'let them sit at home and have babies and answer to NO ONE for their welfare check' model of the 'Great Society'.

The 25 most generous states as far as donating to charity voted for Bush.

The fact is that anybody who works hard in this country can succeed. The left wants to keep alive the notion of the 1960's south were the only option for a black man is to plow the field for 3 cents an acre. Republicans choose not to force people to donate and the return is higher. If you include private donations, gov't aid, foreign aid, domestic welfare, logistical support and military support this is the most generous country in the world. And don't tell me logistical support and military support don't count cuz how would the food and medicine get where it is needed and who would protect it.

You insinuate that churches are more concerned with harrassing queers instead of raising money for charity. Go to a church sometime. Churches are always sponsoring food drives, charity sales, charity auctions, etc. Very rarely does the gay agenda come up. Try going to a church sometime. Everyone is welcome, even gays. No one cares what queers do in the privacy of their bedroom, it is when the behavior leaves the bedroom that is the problem.

Yet you call people who vote to maintain the 2000 year old definition of marriage, bigots.

From my understanding, in CA queers can have a civil union and have all the same rights as a married couple(hospital visitation, medical insurance coverage thru a partner's employer, etc.). Then why the scream for gay MARRIAGE? Why do gays have to have the word marriage? Cuz it will legitamize the gay lifestyle?

Too bad.

I personally believe homosexuality is a perversion. It is like people who like to suck toes, or do the asphyxiation sex.

The left is trying to redefine 'moral values' to fit the left's agenda. The left tried to define gay rights as a civil rights issue in the 2004 election and we saw how well that went. Ask a black civil rights activist if gay rights is a civil rights issue.

'Smoke a Fatty!'

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 24, 2005 11:49:21 AM

Hmm, did you read the new [i]Harper's[/i]? It has an article that analyzed how America, even though it professes to be the most Christian nation, espouses a Christianity that ignores a lot of the gospels.

Posted by: ItAintEazy | Jul 24, 2005 12:15:02 PM

------"espouses a Christianity that ignores a lot of the gospels."

Which gospels and where is the proof?

Like I said before, this is the most generous nation in the world, so it probably is not gospels on loving thy neighbor or charity.

Did you know that even tho the liberals in the US claim to endorse free speech that the liberals actually try to muffle dissenting views(attacking conservative speakers on college campi, no prominant pro-life speakers at the DNC convention, no teaching of creationism only evolution is allowed to be taught in public schools, etc.) especially within their own party?

'Get stoned!'

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 24, 2005 1:07:48 PM

It is amazing that I posted the results of a well recognized pollster and made no moral judgement about it in my post and yet the vitriol and hate just poured in. Facts is facts. Americans do not accept homosexuality or homosexual marriage.

As usual, Captain, your well reasoned posts tell the story the liberal posters would like to ignore. Thanks.
I, as do the majority of Americans of all faiths, believe also believe it is a pervesion. One of the liberal arguments is that this anomaly occurs in nature among animals, but so does schizophrenia, tourette and cancer...so what? And you are correct in that it matters not what these people do in their bedrooms. It is a free country and they can do as they please. The reason they whine about marriage is they want your approval, plain and simple. Queers wish you to overlook their problem and to consider them as 'normal'. Freedom they have.....acceptance is not their choice but the choice of others.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 1:30:25 PM

Something I wrote a while ago on basically the same thing. I try to make the point that sex, drugs and rock 'n roll are excusable in the Calvinist mindset for basically the same reasons that Donald Trump and Paris Hilton are excusable:

Protestant Calvinist theology completely rejects the ostensible conservative view that individuals can control their fate through virtue and effort. In the Calvinist cosmology, G-d created and controls all, and man is helpless to effect change. There either is acceptance of the divine will or rebellion against G-d’s natural order. On the subject of wealth dispersion, the Republican Calvinist is basically agnostic. He’d say that it’s just divine will that some have more then others. He might repeat the line that they earned it (which is in fact impossible in their cosmology). But press him with an example of a good Christian who failed in business and there is no way that he’d hold up the hypothesis that the Christian businessman failed because of his intrinsic worthlessness and others succeed due to their intrinsic worthiness.

The evangelical Calvinist alliance with the Libertarians is completely superficial. While they dismiss socio-economic disparities by externalizing their harm to G-d’s mysterious will, they formed an alliance with the Libertarians because of mutual fear of Communism. Now all they have left is the mutual distrust of Commie coddling Hippies. There could easily be a reversal in which “social decadence” (id est recreational sex) is excused as G-d’s will in order to form an alliance with liberals and improve work-family balance.


Posted by: TheJew | Jul 24, 2005 2:22:31 PM

...G-d created and controls all, and man is helpless to effect change.

The simple fact that you find it abhorrent to type the word "GOD" in your post tells everyone where you stand. Why not just say "God sucks" and be done with it?

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 3:19:06 PM

Note:
Yeah, yeah, I know the tradition of some Jews of not using the term.....my point is if you don't wish to use it then DON'T USE IT. Simply replacing the "o" with a hyphen doesn't really cut it. You, me, and everyone knows what you mean. So if you write God's name in this fashion, you are still using God's name.

It's a crock....and so are you.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 3:26:25 PM

Robert,

I don't know if this applies to "The Jew" but I think devout jews aren't allowed to say the lord's name, or I assume write it. I thought the same thing too. I am not sure if that applies to him.

I see a lot of people spell God with a lower case 'g', I see that as an insult, especially from people here who are supposed to be sensitive to other cultures. Then again, to many here, Christians deserve no respect.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 24, 2005 3:29:20 PM

OK, Zimmerman, polls (or actual votes) would have sustained state laws that outlawed mixed racial marriages before they were ruled by the SCOTUS as unconstitutional. Would you say that laws against mixed racial marriages were proper in the US because they were popular?

Would you support or allow state referenda against Jews or Moslems that prohibited them to marry (or those with Jewish or Moslem names) because they were unbelievers in Christ?

Perhaps a majority of Americans would support torture (including the form used in the Catholic Inquisition where if you survived that demonstrated that you were possessed by the devil) or public beheading of terrorists in the US. Would you then say it was proper, moral and constitutional?

How about a law that taxed only those who were not white Christians? It would be very popular in many states.

The US is a republic, not a full democracy, by intent of the founders. I am pleased that a majority is not able to impose their will on the minority without observing our constitution protections. Apparently you think that anything is fine that the majority wants. That view might turn out to be dangerous to you if it prevails. Surprising things can happen to make a majority that you are not a part of.

And, your attack on a commenter's personal use of a form of address for God is assinine, and disrespectfull. I'd bet you would think that the use of the word Allah should be forbidden because a majority doesn't like God to include Allah.

What an ass you are...

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 24, 2005 3:57:21 PM

Christians deserve respect. "christians" deserve scorn and contempt. "christians" like falwell, dobsen and, it looks like captain toke, deserve to burn in the hell they like to think others deserve.

Posted by: gus | Jul 24, 2005 3:59:44 PM

Christians deserve respect. "christians" deserve scorn and contempt. "christians" like falwell, dobsen and, it looks like captain toke, deserve to burn in the hell they like to think others deserve.

Nice... so much for the party of 'tolerance'.

I would like to know why you single out Christians for your wrath. Why not Muslims? Seen the way they treat women? Know what happens to queers in the world of Islam?
The truth is that the Christians are singled out for this treatment because they stand in the way of the left's radical and dangerous agenda. That's pretty much it.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 6:29:07 PM

What an ass you are...

What a coincidence...I was thinking the exact same thing about you.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 6:36:42 PM

------""christians" like falwell, dobsen and, it looks like captain toke, deserve to burn in the hell they like to think others deserve."

I am a little curious as to what I wrote that I should be condemned to an eternity in hell by Reverend Gus.

He must not like pot smokers.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 24, 2005 7:19:49 PM

Well, Zimmie's on his favourite hobby horse now and rational discussion will be out the door. Too bad. I'm old enough to remember homosexual acts being illegal. The world doesn't necessarily change course 180degress without some holdover of past opinion. And we managed to get religion mixed up with that (O.K. I Know - Biblical). By the way, using the name of God (as if we knew it) borders on idolatry for a devout Jew. I heard "Faith without works is dead". Which is fine and good, but I don't remember the local church getting an automatic placement as exclusive agent of charity.

Posted by: opit | Jul 24, 2005 7:55:42 PM

OK, Zimmerman, polls (or actual votes) would have sustained state laws that outlawed mixed racial marriages before they were ruled by the SCOTUS as unconstitutional


Since the discussion was about homosexuals and homosexual marriage, perhaps Jimmy Boy from Portland could 'enlighten' us all by citing what part of the Constitution or even which ruling by the Supreme Court guaranteed the right of queer marriage.

We are all waiting, Jimmy.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 8:16:43 PM

Protestant Calvinist theology completely rejects the ostensible conservative view that individuals can control their fate through virtue and effort. In the Calvinist cosmology, G-d created and controls all, and man is helpless to effect change. There either is acceptance of the divine will or rebellion against G-d’s natural order. On the subject of wealth dispersion, the Republican Calvinist is basically agnostic. He’d say that it’s just divine will that some have more then others.

I think there's bit of a misreading of Calvinism here.

Calvinism does reject predestination; in the Calvinist worldview, those who are saved have been predetermined. However, one can tell who are the ones who will be saved based on their actions in this world; in otherwords, righteousness in this world is a sign that one is destined for righteousness in the next.

So, it would not say that wealth distribution is agnostic; on the contrary, it would say that the "natural order" of wealth distribution represents the intent of God to show who will be saved and who will not.

Posted by: Nick Beaudrot | Jul 24, 2005 8:34:30 PM

This just in:

Drudge is reporting that the hillary-monster is going to vote to confirm Judge Roberts.

"Unless some unforeseen development occurs around Roberts, Clinton will throw her support behind confirmation, says a top source."

If she does and he votes to overturn Roe, ohhhh boy! The hardcore left is gonna hate her.

It'll be good times.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 24, 2005 9:59:33 PM

Zimmerman: the constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws, for everyone. marriage is defined by law, not by any church.

The discussion, contrary to your assertion, was about Supply-Side Jesus: how a part of Christianity focuses on faith only, and ignores good works, or, why some Christians step over the numerous biblical injunctions to show concern over 'the least among them'.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 24, 2005 10:01:55 PM

Zimmerman: the constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws, for everyone. marriage is defined by law, not by any church.

Well, that's what I thought until Affirmative Action and "hate cromes" legislation proved me wrong.
Bottom line, Jimmy, is that until the 'Supremes' make a decision that homosexual marriage is a protected right....it isn't.
Here's another question for you. If the Marriage Amendment is passed, will you change your tune and honor the law as explicitly written or will you simply wet your pants?

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 10:26:54 PM

Hey, how 'bout "Supply Side Muhammed"?

Yeah, you could discuss another religion that you also don't belong to. You could marvel at how the "religion of peace" seems to be the only one bombing the living shit out of buildings and mass killing innocent civilians regularly on a world wide scale all in the name of Allah.
*OR*
Perhaps you could apologize for them as they beat their women and keep them ignorant....perhaps explaining that it's their own culture when they behead someone in a public square for cheating on their spouse or blashemy. It seems to be OK as long as they're not Christians!

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 24, 2005 10:41:22 PM

Take your anti-psychotic pills, Zimmerman.

All Moslems are no more guilty of something because some Moslems commit atrocities than all Christians are guilty for the torture in US military prisons, or that all US citizens are guilty of taking the US to war based on lies about WMDs in Iraq because some Bush team people (including the President) constructed lies and told them to the US people and to the world.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 24, 2005 11:00:04 PM

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