18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
This story is also backed up in Matthew 19:6-30 and Mark 10:17-31
I'm sure Jesus had bills to pay. Traveling is never cheap and that man traveled all over. . . but he never seemed to ask for a cent when he shared his wisdom. In fact, quite the opposite, he lived as a man in poverty would, took generosity from other people and preached to the wealthy that they should get rid of their own money too. Even Paul, the second most importaint Christian figure, made tents to earn his living while his words about God were always free.
2000 years later, give or take, on Easter, along comes Rick Warren, Pastor of the Saddleback Church who currently has celebrity status and a net worth of 20 million dollars. Mr Warren has certainly profited handsomely by giving us his words about God. We are to take him at his word though, because he "tithes" 90% of his money to the non profit organization he is in complete control of. He also has some other "words of wisdom" for us:
WARREN: Well, certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor. There’s over 2,000 versus in the Bible about the poor. And God says that those who care about the poor, God will care about them and God will bless them. But there’s a fundamental question on the meaning of “fairness.” Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation…
In the mind of this multi million dollar church minister, using our collective power outside the church to help the poor is now the same thing as making sure everyone has the same income. It's not something a little more simple like, say, helping everyone eat.
This fallacy aside, lets examine a few things about "Wealth Redistribution" and the Christian industrial complex.
First of all, the church has been one of the largest advocates of wealth redistribution, to itself, for a couple thousand years. This has always been the only way it operates. It has always been customary to ask members to "tithe" (AKA "Pay tax") to the church, sometimes as much as 10% or more of a person's income. Ask the Mormons about this. There is a very strong culture of tithing in this organization. You are not a good member of the church if you aren't. Other churches are satisfied to just pass a plate around every week to collect directly from people sitting in the church. There is truly nothing like a few expecting glances, some peer pressure and a dash of guilt about the great work your church is doing for the needy. . . when you want to redistribute peoples wealth in your direction. The church then does whatever it wants with the money it collects without needing to pay taxes or answer to anyone about it.
Are these churches putting a gun to people's head in order to redistribute their wealth? No. . they're only pointing HELL at their IMMORTAL SOUL if something unfortunate should. . . you know. . . happen to them before they are right with God. It is a great irony that churches and their millionaire preachers use these very same words of Jesus above when collecting their own money. It goes something like this: "Give generously to us and we will help the poor then you will have treasure in heaven." It's a wonderful pitch. . .
Second point: The church is, and has always been, a governmental institution. The Catholic church has this place called "The Vatican" that it calls it's capital. This "Vatican" is also known as "it's own country!!" What runs a country? A knitting group? I believe it is called "a government" so the Catholic church, by definition, is a government body trying to feed the poor, provide schools, and offer health care with money that it is redistributing from it's membership. This is a Christian tradition. We are supposedly a Christian nation. yet. . . this is now a model to cast stones at?
For some periods in history, such as the dark ages, the church was the only real type of centralized institution there was. . The squabbling kings and lords looked to IT for their moral authority. So to pretend that the Catholic church is anything but yet another group of government bureaucrats spending other people's money. . . is to trade in history for fantasy land and unicorns.
Should I also bring up the European "Church Tax" that is taken from people over there in order to help the poor? Nahh. . I doubt anyone pays attention to European churches when listening to, and repeating, stupid libertarian statements by preachers in America.
But lets not pick on the Catholics, lets talk about all those "do good" Protestants like Rick Warren. This group says time and time again that charity work like helping the poor should be done by them personally through their churches, not by "the government" . . . by which they also mean themselves. . . but whatever. . . lets not get stuck on the point that our government is "of the people for the people" unlike governments of, say, Jesus' day. Lets also not get stuck on the idea that fundimentalist protestants like Rick Warren and the American Family Association are constantly heard saying "this is a Christian nation" when THEY THEMSELVES want the government to do something they consider Christian. . . Let's leave ALL THAT fallacy and hypocrisy out for a moment and do what they say always leads to the real truth of the matter: Follow the money.
According to the Journal Gazette in Indiana, a book they highlight which studied Christian incomes says the following:
The book shares 2005 stats, when the United States had more than 226.6 million professing Christians. Protestants had an average household income of more than $47,000 a year, with the amount increasing to more than $50,000 for churchgoing Protestants. That equates to a collective income among Christians of more than $32 trillion. Based on CIA statistics, only eight nations have a gross domestic product higher than $2 trillion, including Christian nations Brazil, Italy and the United States.
So not only do American Protestants have money, they are the richest group of Christians in the world. They make 32 TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR in collective income.
According to the group Feeding America There are 49 million Americans who don't know where their next meal is coming from. They also claim it is possible to feed a hungry family for $540 per year. That seems like a year of awfully lame meals. . but lets accept it, for sake of argument, as the minimum standard of feeding the hungry in America.
Lets do some number crunching:
49 million hungry people isn't 49 million hungry families. The number of families would be smaller. Let's at least pair them off into 24.5 million hungry couples that could be fed for $540 per year. That means it would cost a respectable 13.2 billion dollars to feed them all each year.
A trillion is a million million, or a thousand billion, whichever way is easier to look at it. American Protestants collectively make 32 TRILLION DOLLARS a year. That's 32,000 billion.
1 PERCENT OF 32 TRILLION DOLLARS IS 320 BILLION. If American Protestants gave 1% of their income directly to feeding the hungry every year. . they could feed ALL OF AMERICA'S HUNGRY EVERY YEAR 10 times over!!! . . or maybe 5 times over with better meals. . .
So what really is needed here? More creation of wealth? or have we had enough talk from American Christian multi millonares like Rick Warren about "creating wealth?" If you ask me, American Protestants have clearly created plenty of wealth for themselves. In fact, maybe they need a little LESS talk about creating wealth and MORE talk about sharing some of it. . . to . . . say. . . feed the hungry?
If you ask me, the wealth that American Christians have been so good at creating. . doesn't appear to be distributing itself in very generous Christian ways on it's own. Could it all be getting lost in the middle men that they hide behind?? Or is it even worse. . . maybe THEY REALLY AREN'T GIVING A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT TO THE CHURCHES AND CHARITIES THEY CLAIM SHOULD BE DOING IT ALL??? If they were, a whole lot less people would be hungry by now at very least. . . wouldn't they??
Then again, where would the leverage be to collect money for the poor if everyone had already chipped in and nobody was hungry anymore? Interesting dilemma. If the church really did solve all the problems it collects money for. . it would be irrelevant as a charity. If it was irrelevant as a charity. . how will it keep collecting money? How will it build mega churches, with million dollar sound and staging systems, and massive gospel choirs, so that parishioners can hold their hands in the air and feel blessed to music and lights for being such good Christians? . . .how indeed. . . .
Call me paranoid and over the top if you want. . fine. . I'm dramatic when I am passionate about things. . guilty as charged. . . Maybe I'm even a heretic. . . but with people like Rick Warren and other preachers now sitting on mainstream TV attacking government safety nets as "redistributing wealth". . .and preaching economics off the Republican side of the libertarian playbook. . . I really don't know how far off base I am getting anymore.
Just food for thought. . . I'd hate to say outright that American Christians who talk like this are a bunch of phonies, hiding behind Jesus and Churches so they can hoard more money for themselves. . . you know. . . rich people in a rich country. . who haven't tried squeezing their fat asses through the eye of the needle yet. . . I'd hate to come outright and say that's what we are looking at here. . . . but if the shoe fits. . I'm sure Jesus will make them wear it.