I’m not a politician. But I keep up with public policy because policy is all about how we treat each other. For me, theology is the guideline for how we should treat each other. But in modern life, that’s not usually how people make decisions, even if they are religious. Secular life has taught us that the determination for our actions is most often given to us by market factors.
Am I going to make money doing this? Is this going to cost me something that I can’t afford? These are terrible questions for a Christian to ask when making plans to serve God.
Why? Because that’s not what God intended, even though capitalism has been the home of freedom and liberty for the past 200 years. News flash: We aren’t a purely capitalist nation (more on that later). We were founded as a community of laws and shared interests and beliefs. And many of those beliefs and laws were derived from the way God has asked us to treat one another.
Any theologian worth his or her salt is going to point out that money and market make for bad decisions, because for one to make money, most often, someone else has to lose. But this is not the way God intended us to live. In fact, the first American capitalists were very concerned with gathering wealth and profit for the sake of the larger community. Investors and entrepreneurs had the greater good in mind, giving back to the community by supporting civic projects. It was true in the greco-roman culture of the earliest Christians, and it has been true of many philanthropists in the United States.
The Market Economy
But something has changed. Wealth no longer seems to flow back into the community. Libraries and schools are built by taxpayers. And most of the monuments and stadiums built by modern philanthropists and corporate donors seem to have their name plastered across the front.
I find Donald Trump’s brand of politics to be deplorable. “Might makes right.” “Wealth means power.” This was his response to those who pointed out his shortcomings at the Democratic National Convention.
And he doesn’t seem to do well with minorities. Less than 20 out of more than 2000 delegates at the RNC were minorities. And you are already aware of his opinions on Hispanics, women, Muslims, and immigration in general.
Let me be clear: He’s not wrong to have strong opinions about immigration. He is wrong when those opinions are based on racist beliefs that “all” Hispanics or “all” Muslims are bad people.
Democrats fail in other ways, just as significantly to the point at hand. Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wall Street are hard to deny when the Democratic National Convention is being held in the Wells Fargo Center, one of those corporate sponsored stadiums I referred to earlier.
The Israelites along with the Egyptians were indebted to pharaoh because of poverty. They came for grain in the days of Joseph’s power in Egypt. When their money ran out, they paid with all of their livestock. When they ran out of livestock, they gave up their lands. When that was gone, all they had was the strength of their back and the work of their hands. And when the new pharaoh became fearful of these strangers living in Egypt, he enslaved them to prevent their rise.
Stop with the Socialism
One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard is that taking care of each other is going to result in socialism. First, do some research into what the differences between socialism and democratic socialism happen to be.
Our country doesn’t have to become “socialist” in order to see our communities thrive and flourish. We have a long history of democratic socialism that is based on the Biblical notion that those who have the means to improve our way of life should in fact work to do so.
We have Social Security. We have an interstate highway system that is unrivaled in the world. We have a national parks system that guards our nation’s resources and provides us with places to return to the simplicity of creation. Citizens are provided water from municipal sources, funded by taxes and cared for by those who are government employees. As of last fall, the US Government outsized the manufacturing industry in terms of jobs 1.8 to 1. ¹
We don’t have to become fascists like Venezuela or Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia or Communist China. We can make these decisions democratically — just as was done in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s when the above-mentioned amenities were established.
Why? Because God intends for us to have a community that pulls together, not tears itself apart.
A Better Way
I believe God had a better way to live together in mind when God created humanity. I believe God spent a lot of time cheering for the younger brother, the weakest tribe, and the strangers in our midst. Abel, Jacob, Isaac, and Joseph were all the least and the last. Abram was the stranger in the Holy Land. Moses led the enslaved from the clutches of the Pharaoh.
I believe God asks Christians to stand with those who are alone, outcast, weakened, sick, broken, and imprisoned. And I believe that God asks us to stand against the powers of this world, not with violence, but with courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
I believe God showed us sacrifice that leads to life instead of the blood sacrifices demanded by Baal and Shaitan that lead to death. As the prophets who faced Elijah discovered, the spilling of blood in hopes of power is nothing compared to the humble request of a righteous person.
I believe that God asked us to rise above our petty human impulses to embrace love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I believe that God asks us to discern right from wrong, but to withhold judgement and conclusions because everyone deserves a chance to change. That’s called Grace, and it is best seen in the death of Christ upon the cross.
I believe Jesus called out those hypocrites who claimed righteousness, yet consorted with the powerful for the sake of appearances and consorted with the unrighteous for the sake of power. You cannot love God and hate your neighbor, even if your neighbor is your enemy. You cannot claim to serve God if your efforts to enrich yourself come at the cost of impoverishing an entire segment of our society.
I believe that God wants those who have been given much to give much in return. I believe that God’s purpose for the Church is to work to create a just society in which everyone has a chance to work hard to succeed without being denied opportunities because of poverty, race, gender, or creed.
So in this election cycle, as every election cycle, it is not for a pastor to tell you for whom to vote. Vote for whomever you choose.
But let the God of your Bible remind you of the life you are called to live and the life that you are called to sacrifice. Sacrifice for those who have been treated unjustly, who have been marginalized, who have been held captive and ransomed for their labor, and those who have been overwhelmingly disparaged for the simple fact that they are not rich, powerful, white, or male.
This is about more than an election, Church. Let us fall to our knees and speak the truth in love to one another, to our community’s leadership, and to those who would claim to be Christian when their actions suggest almost everything to the contrary.
Author: Joey Reed
Joey is married to his best friend. Together, they have two children and live in Jackson, Tennessee. Joey serves Grace United Methodist Church, the Jackson District, the Memphis Annual Conference, and the world is his parish.