Monday, October 27, 2008

Reacting to Political Rhetoric, Part 2a

So, having addressed one piece of political jargon, let me address another. This one is difficult enough that it requires both theological and political/economic consideration.

The phrase in question is "your money," as in, "It’s not the government’s money: it’s your money." We’ve heard it a lot, and in these last days before the election we’ll hear it a lot more. It’s a commonplace among those for whom taxes are by definition bad, an imposition, without discussion about how taxes might be spent.

Now, in addressing this, the theological discussion is the easy part. Indeed, at this time of year I usually have a lot of help making the point, even if most folks so pigeonhole their worship as to avoid any connection with politics. That help comes in the form of the hundreds of thousands of stewardship sermons taking place in Christian churches at this season; and while I can’t say with certainty, I’d be surprised if synagogues and mosques didn’t have leaders discussing in one way or another how to support next year’s budget.

All of those sermons will refer to Psalms: "The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it." (Psalm 24:1) They may note that this reflects what Moses told the Pharaoh in Exodus 9, or that it’s repeated by Paul in I Corinthians 10. The sermons might refer to our call as tenants in a vineyard that we do not own; or recall to us that, while some portion of our life might belong to Caesar, all of our life and labor belongs to God. They might note from the Acts of the Apostles that the model of the first Christian Community looked a lot like, "from each according to ability to each according to need." How, then, shall we speak of "your" or "our money?"

The theme has been taken up even by new leaders among evangelical Christians. They have broadened the recent political perspectives among Evangelicals, realizing a concern for the unborn and for the poor, for morality in the media and for quality in the environment. They have recognized that Christ's concern for the poor must have both missional and political expressions. They are not speaking strictly of "your" or "our money."

Now, we might assume that somehow American separation of church and state might be pertinent. Still, this would seem a significant expression of the values of Christians and of others of faith. Yet, many of those who talk about "your money," also declare themselves people of faith. Somehow, there's a disconnect: for if it is all God's, how shall they (or we) talk about that money as "yours" or "ours?" Or, if they (or we) do, what does that say about the faith proclaimed? No, at least for us as people of faith (including those in politics so quick to proclaim their values as based in faith), this discussion of "your money" seems out of place.

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