Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sin vs. human need

I used to participate in a Christian bulletin board that was populated mostly by fairly right wing folk who tended to be close to libertarian about the cold sins and very authoritarian regarding hot ones. They thought the government should not be involved in educating children or restricting business activities and certainly shouldn't be taking taxes from them but it was the governments business to restrict with whom or how you had sex. Sin was a big word for them but it only had to do with individual behavior, never corporate or systemic issues.

Whenever the discussion of entitlement programs came up, invariably someone would argue that the government should not be forcing them to help others... that indeed, were it not for the onerous tax system, they would take care of those in need. Now, these are folk who have more than a healthy respect for the fallen nature of humanity but they seem to forget their own theology when helping those in need comes up. Suddenly the better nature of human beings comes into play and we can count on good Christian people to do what is necessary to take care of those in need, providing food, shelter, education, etc.

Sin is not as important a word in my theological vocabulary as it is for them. Indeed, I rarely use the term. In this instance I would be more likely to use the terms selfishness, greed, and lack of a sense of community responsibility. I have no expectation that good Christian folk either could or would meet the needs of those in their communities if suddenly the government programs disappeared. For those of us who live in our comfortable suburban settings, it is all too easy to ignore the needs of those across the tracks. For those of us serving the needy, we know the needs are overwhelming. For those of us struggling to keep our heads above water, our children fed, the heat on... our needs are too immediate to have resources to help others.

Yes, I have seen and experienced the sacrificial love of many good Christian (and non-Christian) folk. As government funding for programs for the needy has shrunk, I have seen many good people work and give to pick up the slack. I do not believe that generosity is strong enough to overcome human greed or selfishness. I do not believe that enough good folk are open to the needs more than a few blocks away in a sustained way to meet those needs. I do not believe that without government intervention that there would be adequate resources to make a difference. The power of human sin is just too great. And I am always surprised that my brothers (they are all men) on that forum think otherwise.

4 comments:

bitbutter said...

According to Christianity, is it not a sin to threaten a peaceful person with violence? (even if you mean to do something good with the money extorted).

roy said...

again, bitbutter, I disagree with your basic premise. I would say that a transaction has taken place and the one receiving the benefits is obligated to pay for them. Indeed, if they do not pay their share, they are guilty of theft.

now you argue that the person didn't ask for the benefits. as long as they stay in the culture they are receiving them. If they don't want to partake in the transaction, they should leave. Think of a person sitting in a movie theater saying, I don't want to watch the movie so I shouldn't have to pay for a ticket. Fine... but ts is a movie theater. if you don't want to watch the movie, leave.
You don't want the benefits of living in a civilized culture that provides an atmosphere and an infrastructure conducive to business, happiness, education, safe food, etc. etc. you don't need to receive them. Go somewhere else.

bitbutter said...

"now you argue that the person didn't ask for the benefits. as long as they stay in the culture they are receiving them. If they don't want to partake in the transaction, they should leave."

Imagine a situation in which the citizens of a town are protected by the local mafia against rival gangs. The citizens are free to leave the town if they want to.

A protection racket of this kind is not a legitimate 'transaction', and that those who manage to avoid payment are not theives, I hope you agree.

Can you explain why you believe that the fee demanded by the state (under threat of force) for services that were not asked for, is legitimate, while the fee demanded by the mafia (under threat of force) for protection that was not asked for, is not legitimate?

Anonymous said...

Very easy to read and shown true emotions

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