At Least Three Apostles

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A parishioner sent me a link to this NYT op-ed because it was floating around social media, and she wanted to know if I had a quick take on it. I do, actually. If you don’t want to read the piece, knowing that you will never get those minutes back again, the set-up is a series of exchanges between Jesus and “Paul of Ryan,” with Ryan playing the dense disciple who simply cannot understand that Jesus came here to “help people.” In other words, the compassionate Jesus v. the hard-hearted conservative. The world in which NYT writers live must be a bubbling and seething cauldron of staggering creativity. I don’t know how they come up with these exotic scenarios.

So look. The central idea in this is really lame. How lame is it? Well, if this conceit, this idea, were a first century Jerusalem beggar, it would take at least three apostles to get him up and going.

Nicholas Kristof—for he was the offending writer—just quietly assumes that “we” were standing around listening to Jesus, with a bunch of money in our pockets that “we” already had, somehow. It didn’t come from anywhere. We just had it. When the curtain rose, the need was before us, Jesus was all set to address it, and Paul of Ryan objected because if Jesus started being generous with what He had, that might set a series of events in motion that could result in us having to be generous with what we had. And then what would the harvest be? And the little parable works because he quietly smuggled in the assumption that “we” are a single individual, kind of like Zacchaeus, and all we have before us is the basic moral choice that a wealthy man has when confronted with a genuine need.

But where did “we” get this money that poor old Paul of Ryan is being exhorted (by example) to spend on the poor? Well, we confiscated it from everybody. The government has money because they use men with guns to coerce people into surrendering it. So you have a bunch of average joes out there, trying to make a living, in a welding shop, say, and then men from the government—let us call them “pirates”—come to their house or business with guns and big block letters on their windbreakers, and they seize the stuff. Having seized that stuff they head on back to Washington to stuff the stuff into their swollen coffers. This largess is then distributed to others in the same way Viking chieftains used to do it as ring-givers—as a vote-buying technique.

And then, when someone in Washington with a residual conscience says something like, “I am really not sure that we ought to continue pillaging the serfs this way,” a cutesy writer from the NYT comes up with a parable for him. A sanctimonious parable. A self-righteous parable. An economically illiterate parable. A smug parable. A parable as told by the Pharisee who had been at the Temple to pray, thereby discovering how much better than other men he was. He told it to himself as he walked home unjustified.

If we wanted to tell a parable, someone should come up with one that shows how thievery is not justified retroactively by subsequent vote-buying. That could be a good one.

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"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago

For the entitled affluent,
the money is “just there”.
It “came” to them before birth.

The thought that it’s the same for everyone, is, well…..
“Affluent effluent.” ????

Bike bubba
4 years ago

Looks like Kristoff has Jesus confused with Caesar Augustus, to put it mildly.

jigawatt
jigawatt
4 years ago

Unless Big Government is your solution, you don’t care about the problem.

Andy
Andy
4 years ago
Reply to  jigawatt

Sounds similar to something Arthur Brooks explained: Political Motive Asymmetry – “the phenomenon of assuming that your ideology is based in love but your opponents’ ideology is based on hate…a majority of Republicans & Democrats suffer from (this).”

jrenee817
jrenee817
4 years ago
Reply to  Andy

Actually, Democrats suffer from this, and Republicans suffer from the phenomenon of assuming that their ideology is based on intelligence and their opponents’ is based on idiocy…

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  jrenee817

Almost every Dem I know (and living in Los Angeles, I know only about five people who aren’t Dems) assumes that Republican ideology is based on contempt for the poor, loathing for gays, detestation of non-white races, a belief that only the strong should survive, and a desire to ruin the environment as quickly as possible. Pre-born children are looked on with love, but once born, they are as expendable as every other poor person. The Dems I know believe they love everyone, except for the enemies of poor, etc. When Republicans assume that Dem ideology is based on idiocy… Read more »

andrewlohr
andrewlohr
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

Jesusgave his life–personally VERY generous–but the takers were evil, tho they had public goods in mind (no riots please). NOT like the Internal Righteousness Service redistributed righteousness from Him to us. So Christians should be radically small-government, and very generous. Giving away others’ stuff is awfully bogus ‘generosity’ anyway.

jrenee817
jrenee817
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

Sorry for the delayed response. I think Republicans view Democrats as foolish because they make decisions based on emotion: what seems most loving to the poor people, what will save the whales, etc. But their policies end up being ineffective and harmful even to those they are supposedly trying to help. Republicans (at least the best of them) view their own policies as being for the general welfare, which will benefit all members of society. I am not saying that either side is completely right. I think both sides have a point about how they characterize the other side, but… Read more »

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  jrenee817

Yes!

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Andy

That is dazzlingly true.

RonTakeOne
RonTakeOne
4 years ago

Paul Ryan doesn’t want stolen loot given to poor people in the US because he likes sending it to the poor of other countries in the form of bullets and bombs.

Frank_in_Spokane
Frank_in_Spokane
4 years ago
Reply to  RonTakeOne

The better to spread the gospel of Americanism …

ME
ME
4 years ago

WAIT! Let us add to the true offense here and mention that the pharistical pirates who come to confiscate the fruits of the welder’s labors, have now deprived his wife and children of new shoes, and also the pecans they want for their cookies. The pecan deprivation is an unforgivable sin, but I digress. To add insult to injury, they now also demand the family pay a huge insurance premium for medical care that actually covers absolutely nothing. When the now barefoot family cannot afford said premiums, the pharisee simply fine them thousands of dollars for being so ungrateful. Then… Read more »

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago
Reply to  ME

“Pharisitical”
Or
“Parasitical”?

Oh wait, is there a difference?
????

ME
ME
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

Exactly! They prey and they profit. :)

OKRickety
OKRickety
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

I think “pharisaical” is what was intended.

But “parasitical” does seem to fit.

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Hey Rick, glad to see you back!
By the by, I think you commented on Memi’s post about Lundy Bancroft. It may not be any of my business, but it sounds like you,
same as me, had a bad “Bancroft Addled church” experience.

OKRickety
OKRickety
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

“A” dad, my knowledge of Lundy Bancroft is, thankfully, entirely impersonal. If I remember correctly, I learned of his teachings while looking into the topic of emotional abuse in marriage, and found his teachings on the blog Crying Out for Justice. I just posted a comment on ME’s blog post Being Thankful for Lundy Bancroft noting that they had removed that article. That provides me with additional insight into their behavior. Overall, I consider everyone associated with that blog (e.g. Barbara Roberts, Lundy Bancroft, Jeff Crippen, and Sam Powell) to be dangerous to Christians and especially to their marriages. Any… Read more »

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Yep.
Add “Hagar’s Sisters”, Grace Chapel, and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary to that same list! ???? ????

OKRickety
OKRickety
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

Are you familiar with the Duluth Model? It is also called the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, although there is very little, if any, recognition that women are frequently abusive, too. A common theme among the vast majority of the material I have found on abuse is the belief that men are usually abusers (much like the trope “all men are rapists”). Another common thread is that the most vocal advocates against abuse are usually women who have been extremely abused. While it is understandable that these victims want to help those currently being abused and prevent others from potential abuse,… Read more »

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Since the Term “abuse”, has been abused by these people, the terms “relational aggression”, and “physical aggression” are now less contaminated by comparison. Many of these groups are “relational aggression fantasy camps”, and treat any verbal counterpoint as physical aggression. The Duluth model is not statistically legitimate. Most of these groups are run by no, or low credential people, because actual Doctors operate with a high level of discipline that does not allow unverified information. This does create an opportunity for charlatans and dunces to say anything they feel, to anyone who feels the same.???? The horrifying thing is how… Read more »

John Warren
John Warren
4 years ago

You’re right. I won’t get those minutes back again. Oy!

BPG
BPG
4 years ago
Reply to  John Warren

My thoughts exactly. I read the first few lines, scanned the rest, rolled my eyes and went on with my day. Even with only spending those mere moments on reading it I regret their waste. Oy, indeed!

jigawatt
jigawatt
4 years ago

Whenever a progresive makes fun of “God’s Not Dead” I’m gonna send them that NYT article.

Larry Geiger
Larry Geiger
4 years ago

“Thou shall not steal.” God set up the universe in such a way that any sin will eventually lead to bad results. No amount of human “explaining”, “temporizing”, or “whining” will alter that. Ever. Someone may ride the wave but eventually the piper comes calling. This is impossible for the pagan to see. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Ken De Vries
Ken De Vries
4 years ago

Excellent!

Giving to the “poor” from that which you have forcefully taken from others is not charity at all. It’s just legalized plunder with a Robin Hood mask.

James
James
4 years ago
Reply to  Ken De Vries

Don’t give Robin Hood a bad name, he stole from the government who was over taxing its people to keep the elite fat. Sound familiar? Robin Hood was thoroughly conservative.

Ken De Vries
Ken De Vries
4 years ago
Reply to  James

No offense meant to Robin Hood.

Kilgore T. Durden
Kilgore T. Durden
4 years ago
Reply to  James

But he did give it to the poor.

In our efforts at trying to advocate against government largess, we sometimes fall into the habit of forgetting we still have biblical mandates to the poor.

Just because the government is out of line, doesn’t mean we get to abscond our responsibility. And giving them directions to the nearest welfare office doesn’t count.

BPG
BPG
4 years ago

I agree completely. When I have thought about the various things that I believe the government should have no part in (education, medical care, ect.) my thought has been more and more that we Christians need to stop waiting for the government to stop taking our money and spending it on those things before we begin to take them back. Charity, medical care and education should be the responsibility of the church. We should be in the business of stealing the government’s customers, so to speak, without compromise of Truth. Educate the neighbor’s children with our own. Seek to cover… Read more »

Dunsworth
Dunsworth
4 years ago

Actually, he stole from the government that was embezzling the king’s ransom and ensured that it was used for the ransom.

Kilgore T. Durden
Kilgore T. Durden
4 years ago
Reply to  Dunsworth

So I know that there isn’t a true “original” Robin Hood, rather a collection of legends, but my family did this story to death when our kids were young. The tale we usually landed on was this: Robin Hood was a yeomanly figure with a commoner’s background. King Richard the Lionhearted was away fighting during the Crusades, and while he is away those covering for him, usually depicted as his brother John, but not always, become corrupt and begin stealing money from the commoners, either through heavy taxation or just simple thuggery. From there Robin Hood and his band of… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
4 years ago

Yes. I’m quite shocked by the number of people who I bring this up to who then proceed to claim that the government has to get its act together first.

As if the government is the only thing keeping them from having any time or money for the poor, and those steadily increasing home sizes and car sizes and vacation expenses and phone plans and entertainment systems and college savings accounts are just an illusion.

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Jonathan, has your work led you to conclude that some private charitable activities are more useful than others? If someone asked you to suggest one gift of time or money that would do a lot of good, what would you recommend?

Jonathan
Jonathan
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

Gift of time: Getting to know people on their own terms. The most under-emphasized missing resource among those in need is the lack of social capital. Too many people lack real friends, real role models, real listeners, real exemplars of moral behavior (or at least deeply rooted attempts to act morally – we all fall short!). Too many people forget how much a difference it makes in life when you can say, “Well, I have a friend who is a cop….I have a friend who is a pastor….I have a friend who is a doctor….I have a friend who works… Read more »

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thank you, that is helpful.

Billtownphysics
Billtownphysics
4 years ago

I felt my IQ dropped 5 points for every sentence of that Kristof article that I read. I stopped halfway in. I mean he can’t really be that dumb, can he?? Does he really actually think that the good Samaritan represents the gubberment in Jesus parable??

David Koenig
David Koenig
4 years ago

I don’t know where I got it. Probably a comment thread. But someone pointed out that when we say “the government shouldn’t be in the X business”, socialists hear “X shouldn’t happen”.

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago

Bill, it’s not that Nick is dumb, it’s that he is just like his “father”. Jesus had the same issue with the “Nicks” of the second Temple. ; – ) John 8 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,”… Read more »

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago

I’m shocked. People still read the NYT?

jigawatt
jigawatt
4 years ago
Reply to  Ginny Yeager

I’m shocked. People still read the NYT?

It’s kinda like CNN. It’s the newspaper that’s always on at the airport.

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago
Reply to  jigawatt

The NYT is part of the intelligentsia-cool-crowd-tool-kit. But all these 40+ intellectually “with it” parents are going to be shocked and disappointed when their children reject their urbane generation for being slavish to the liberal thought-policing and fact-hiding which the NYT represents.

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Ginny Yeager

It isn’t just that. Some of us oldsters got addicted to the Times for the same reason we got addicted to the Guardian: they don’t offend us daily with horrible sentence structure, grammatical errors, an inability to distinguish between lie and lay, and punctuation that looks as if it had been inserted by a monkey.

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

A twist on Prov 17:1
Better a dangling participle with truth than a house full of smooth prose with Mark Thompson and Carlos Slim.

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Ginny Yeager

In theory, I agree with you, and I don’t hold writers who are not professionals to high standards. But, beyond a point, I am too distracted by the dangling participles to see the truth a careless writer is trying to communicate. Writers who think conservative and traditional principles are worth conserving shouldn’t be quick to think that traditional correctness of expression is unimportant.

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

Bad writing does get in the way of a good idea. How much more should the converse be true: bad ideas obliterate good writing. If a grammatical error (or poor video editing for that matter) is more jarring to us than ideas which are at war against the Word of God, then our sensitivities are out of whack. I don’t think conservatives, traditionalists or Christians think that good writing isn’t important. Many of us are laboring long and hard to teach both good writing and good ideas to our children. But if something has to give (as it often does),… Read more »

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Ginny Yeager

That is true, and beautiful writing can conceal the wrongness of the ideas. I think those of us who are especially sensitive to literature have to be extra careful not to be lulled. In my youth I was very susceptible to Byronic heroes!

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

You could (and maybe already are) use your linguistic training and sensitivity to teach the next generation of Christians. There is a HUGE need in the homeschool community for teachers of writing and literature.

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  Ginny Yeager

I tutor AP and ESL at my local high school which is huge and 96% Hispanic. There are so many bright kids lost in enormous classes, and my passion is getting them to a place where they can get into college on their own merits.

I would be open to working with home schoolers, but I’m not plugged into that community. I realize that there are Catholic home schoolers, but I have never met any.

Ginny Yeager
Ginny Yeager
4 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

In my digs (100K+), there are several homeschool co-ops. Writing teachers are always in big demand.
Usually, pastors at churches that emphasize the Word of God are either participants in Christian homeschooling co-ops or know about them in their area.
Nancy Wilson has written a book on English grammar that is used by a very large homeschooling program called Classical Conversations. I think it would interest you. Their website has information on whether there would be a group in your area.

Mike Bull
4 years ago

Thanks for writing this.

Urthman
Urthman
4 years ago

Except nobody in Washington is planning to give money back to the the blacksmith or any of the other “serfs” you’re asking us to pity. Ryan, Trump, and their cronies are only planning to give it to the millionaires and billionaires.

Duells Quimby
Duells Quimby
4 years ago

Two thumbs, and two big toes up!

Jon Swerens
4 years ago

So let’s set this up as a one-act play:

Kristof: “Jesus totally would agree with the paternalistic progressive totalistic state!”

Me: “Well, here in the Bible He said…”

Kristof: “SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, WINGNUT THEOCRAT!”

Aaaaaand scene.

Duells Quimby
Duells Quimby
4 years ago
Reply to  Jon Swerens

You win! Should write for cliff notes.

Matt
Matt
4 years ago

No, taxation is not theft. Bad premises lead to bad conclusions, and then you get Donald Trump once even the red staters get tired of this ideological repetition.

Kilgore T. Durden
Kilgore T. Durden
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

No, taxation is not theft.

Ever?

But of course, we must remember that Bad premises lead to bad conclusions

The criticism only works well if doesn’t work against your own case.

Matt
Matt
4 years ago

Actually, if my own premise is defeated by my own criticism, it’s a point in favor of the latter’s general applicability, not against it.

RonTakeOne
RonTakeOne
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Taking one’s property against his will is typically considered theft, unless he somehow owes it to the one taking the property. This being the case, the onus is upon the statist to rationally prove how tax subjects owe money they never agreed to pay for products or services they do not want.

bethyada
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Doug would agree that taxation is legitimate. But I think a good argument can be made for a government abusing taxation, and thus excessive taxation could be reasonably consider thievery.

Matt
Matt
4 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

“legitimate” as in “approved by the three branches of government holding authority” or as in “approved by Doug Wilson”?

ArwenB
ArwenB
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Legitimate as in “Approved by the people who put in place the critters working in the three branches of government ”

Because this is America, and our representatives don’t rule us, they work for us.

Most of them have forgotten this.

They’d better remember it P.D.Q.

Malachi
Malachi
4 years ago
Reply to  ArwenB

Spot on, Arwen.
Also, a grand thought experiment for Matt would be to imagine his happy enthusiasm if the government’s requirement was 100% of his income…in exchange, of course, for gov’t cheese, pork bellies, and an adult-sized tricycle.

ashv
ashv
4 years ago
Reply to  Malachi

There are people for whom that would be a good trade, both for themselves and society in general.

ashv
ashv
4 years ago
Reply to  ArwenB

Because this is America, and our representatives don’t rule us, they work for us.

Someone always rules. If not your representatives, who?

Arwenb
Arwenb
4 years ago
Reply to  ashv

The people who put those representatives in place, in theory. In practice…? That’s a different matter, and a corruption that must either be excised or destroy out country.

ashv
ashv
4 years ago
Reply to  Arwenb

When did this corruption start, in your opinion?

ArwenB
ArwenB
4 years ago
Reply to  ashv

I’d have to brush up on US history before I answer that question.

Ain’t got time for that.

bethyada
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Doug has made it clear what he thinks the limits of tax should be. We can debate the limits set. But if you give credence to any level so long it is set by government, including up to 100% of your income, then discussion about this is not possible.

Do you not think that the government can demand tax at a level that is immoral?

Matt
Matt
4 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

This post implies that any tax is theft, which is the whole problem with that meme; it’s really all or nothing. I give credence to levels of taxation that are “approved by the three branches of government holding authority” rather than by pastors in Idaho. Though of course Idahoan pastors are free to try to convince the lawmakers that their view is the correct one, and if it means lower taxes for me I won’t complain if they’re successful.

Whether the government can demand tax at an immoral level is a separate question from whether taxation is theft specifically.

bethyada
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Fine. Though reading Wilson I know that he accepts (some) tax. Yet he is responding rhetorically to an article written rhetorically; and that is the nature of that kind of debate.

ArwenB
ArwenB
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

You have money. For the sake argument, we will say that you earned it.

The government says “You owe us this much of the money you earned.”

You say “No.”

The government comes after you and takes the money from you, using the threat of imprisonment as its ultimate persuader.

You have no choice, You will give the government money, or they will use force on you to get it.

You’re right, it’s not theft: it’s robbery.

Indigo
Indigo
4 years ago
Reply to  ArwenB

What do you think of Romans 13:1-7?

RonTakeOne
RonTakeOne
4 years ago
Reply to  Indigo

1 Peter 2:18-20 tells slaves to be good slaves, even when their masters are harsh. Was the abolition of slavery therefore wrong? Verse 21 goes on to explain that in suffering under our earthly masters, we follow the footsteps of Christ who suffered for us. Now read the passage starting in verse 13 to get the full context. The same is clearly said of the State. After all, as Spooner said, the difference between a slave and a citizen is one of degree, not one of kind. Romans 13 does not contain a single imperative to the State to collect… Read more »

Matt
Matt
4 years ago
Reply to  ArwenB

Are you an anarchist?

ArwenB
ArwenB
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Hardly.

But I can be argumentative.

RonTakeOne
RonTakeOne
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt
Frank_in_Spokane
Frank_in_Spokane
4 years ago

“There is nothing quite as sobering as the theologically unwashed presuming to lecture a two thousand year old church.” ~ Thomas Sowell (paraphrased; apocryphal)

mastodon176
mastodon176
4 years ago

I read the article. The bottom line is this: Healing cost Jesus nothing. Zilch. Zip. He is the Son of God. He can do this sort of thing. Kristof is trying to make Jesus into a parallel of nationalized healthcare. So how much does it cost the State (taxpayers) to provide this care? Buttloads and buttloads of cash. Not to mention stacks of paperwork and massive bureaucracy to run the whole thing. The whole article is nonsense because it assumes that the State can heal the masses with the ease of Jesus, requiring no resources, no cost, no other people… Read more »

katecho
katecho
4 years ago

Wilson wrote: But where did “we” get this money that poor old Paul of Ryan is being exhorted (by example) to spend on the poor? Well, we confiscated it from everybody. Not to take anything away from Wilson’s overall point, but hopefully we learned from TARP and QE that government fiat money is not a zero sum entity. It doesn’t necessarily need to be directly confiscated from Joe Everybody in order to be used to purchase the allegiances of fresh eager government dependents. If we haven’t yet done so, we may soon have new opportunities to learn this lesson with… Read more »

Dunsworth
Dunsworth
4 years ago
Reply to  katecho

However, in another very real sense, fiat money is money confiscated from everybody, by means of devaluing the money we have. If we have less than we did before, by some deliberate act of another, that’s close enough to having it confiscated, at least for government work. ;-)

katecho
katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  Dunsworth

I guess my point is that a zero-sum view of confiscation and redistribution is an increasingly less and less accurate model of what is actually happening to us.

The reason this distinction is important is because we are still on course for economic ruin even if the Republicans manage to give the middle class a handsome tax break. The fiat creation continues, and even greater bailouts are coming.