Monday, May 28, 2012

Tightening the Bible Belt

A new guy just started at work, and we were chatting while I showed him some things. Conversation flowed well until he got to something he didn't want to say and stopped. Being me, I dragged his deep, dark secret out of him: He's a Christian.

Folks at the last place he lived and worked were free with snide remarks and funny looks at any hint of a religious life, so he learned to keep all of that to himself. Where did he come from? Georgia.

I know I'm deeply blessed to live in the Bible belt. As I told him, in Texas even people who don't go to church assume you do.

But I would have thought the same about Georgia. I'm sure it used to be the case, but things change. Alas.

This weekend we're remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We must not forget that this protection is not just past tense. It has been necessary, and it will be again. The world keeps changing, and freedoms can quickly go from safe and secure to endangered.

So today give thanks to God for the freedom we have and those who defended them. And commit yourself now to that defense whenever it may be necessary.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1% Charity

Election season always supplies lots of noise about taxes. This year expect debate over whether the rich should "pay their fair share" or whether taxing the rich more would amount to "job destroying tax increases."

Conservatives, Christian or not, tend toward the latter, and that's ok as long as we don't forget something important.

First, though, we must ask: What share is "fair?" That question is hard, but critical, to answer. People only talk about the rich (whether it's the 1%, 5%, or 50%) paying more in taxes because tax receipts are not covering everything the government does. Is the fair share whatever it takes to cover the government's expenses?

Asking for "whatever it takes" presents a big danger. If you could tax the rich enough to cover everything the government wants to do (you can't, they don't have enough money, but if you could), government would simply increase what it wants to do. Eventually (like, Tuesday) the rich would not be able to supply enough tax money, so the definition of "rich" would creep downward while "enough" would creep upward. Just like the alternative minimum tax, this would slowly encompass more and more people.

To prevent that creep, we need to decide how much is the most the government can ask of someone. Tax raisers need to commit to a number. That provides a ceiling not only for the tax rate but, ideally, spending.

Not only is "enough" dangerous, it's simply wrong. People who work hard and earn their pay have a right to it. It doesn't matter how they earn it as long as it's honestly earned.

However, as conservatives — again, Christian or not — defend the basic right of people to keep what they earn, they must not forget another important truth: People have a responsibility for their neighbors.

Loving your neighbor as yourself frequently has dollar signs attached to it. From one end of the Bible to the other, God commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and tend to the sick. That's not free.

That doesn't mean it has to be done through government — especially the federal government. I've written before that federal "charity" is neither constitutional nor healthy (for anyone involved).

But however it's done, it has to be done.

So defend the right of the 1% to reap the reward of their labor, but don't let them forget their obligation to their neighbor.

Helping the Poor Biblically
Why Keep Taxes Low?
Conservatives and the Least of These

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not Just No

The Bible shows us a few cases of people not getting what they want from God. They want good things. They ask nicely. They ask passionately. They ask in faith.

And God says no. But he doesn't just say no.

To Habakkuk, God said:
"Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told."
To Paul, God said:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
To Jesus, God didn't say anything. He simply raised him from the dead.

God's "no" is not simply no. It's "I have a better idea."