Good news for the rich: New GOP budget vs. Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus announces his ministry as “Good News for the Poor” (Luke 4:18). House Republicans have released their budget and one … Continued

Jesus announces his ministry as “Good News for the Poor” (Luke 4:18). House Republicans have released their budget and one thing is clear: this budget is “good news for the rich” and bad news for the poor and middle class.

Prominent religious leaders immediately issued a statement, “denouncing” the GOP budget for “its immoral cuts and irresponsible tax breaks for millionaires and corporate special interests.”

Melina Mara

THE WASHINGTON POST

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils his 2013 budget plan at a press conference surrounded onstage by republican committee members, with budgets in hand, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

These religious leaders are exactly right to condemn this budget as “immoral.” This year’s GOP budget, like last year’s, is far more revealing of the ‘Gospel According to Ayn Rand’ than of the values held by Jesus of Nazareth. The new budget keeps the Bush tax cuts in place, and reduces tax rates to only 2, 10 and 25 percent, though who exactly pays what rate is not revealed. Medicare ends in its current form, corporate tax rates are also cut, Health Care Reform is gone, and student loans are reduced to 2008 levels. What kind of choice does that present to Americans?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is on the stump for this new GOP budget in campaign style. There is a déjà vu feeling to this, as many of the so-called solutions are the same, the favor the rich and balance the budget on the poor and middle class ideas that were revealed last year. Ryan claims this will create jobs, but will it?

“I don’t care” about the unemployment rate, said Rick Santorum, currently the GOP presidential candidate of choice of conservative evangelical voters. It’s probably the case that Santorum is saying what he thinks, that he does not care about unemployment, yet Christian evangelicals flock to Santorum.

The choice between the biblical values of “good news for the poor” as announced by Jesus, and the “good news for the rich” of GOP fiscal proposals should be an easy one for Christians across the spectrum from liberal to conservative. But it’s not, as is clear from many polls. Why not?

The support of conservative Christian evangelicals for Santorum, and for GOP fiscal policies in general, rises despite such statements about not caring about unemployment. That’s because, more than any other shift in recent decades, the strong redefinition of the core of the Gospel message away from Jesus’ explicit announcement that his ministry was about “good news for the poor” toward merging biblical values with so-called “family values” defined as anti-gay, anti-abortion, and now, even anti-contraception, is the key to explaining this support. Conservatives have managed to merge conservative fiscal ideas with ‘support for the family.’ Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says evangelicals are interested in both social and fiscal issues. Jobs and the ability of putting food on the table, he says, are all connected to the well-being of the family.

Actually, that’s true. The well-being of the American family does depend on our economic prosperity. It’s just that conservative fiscal policies are actually in conflict with the well-being of the average family. The new GOP budget does not favor the majority of Americans, it favors the rich by giving them huge tax breaks. These giant tax breaks will blow “ a hole in the federal budget, [and] the GOP will have to make up lost revenue by raising taxes on the poor and middle class (or by ending tax breaks that primarily benefit them)” or by gutting the programs that benefit women, infants and children the most.

Again, that’s not “good news for the poor,” as Jesus taught. That’s “good news for the rich” and bad news for everybody else, especially the American family.

It is long past time to call out these conservatives on what Jesus of Nazareth actually taught about money and the economy. Conservative political and economic values are completely contradicted by the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and there’s no doubt about that. None.

An On Faith panelist and former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), Thistlethwaite is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • holyspiritdenier

    I think Lawrence Krauss has the right idea: We should forget Jesus. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should remember and heed Ayn Rand, who shows a lot of nuttiness and confusions of her own. But Rand did have one basically good idea: That society’s highest-earning people in the modern world don’t have to put up with this “giving back” nonsense from abusive governments when they can shop around for other governments which offer to treat them better, like shopping around for competing hotels. Progressives who profess shock at the fact that rich people would organize resistance to their agenda of defamation, confiscation and violence aimed at them should have known better.

  • lchand51

    Unfortunately, the better viewpoint NOT addressed is how is the best way to help the poor. The religious leaders you cite come from the sappy 60′s mentality that also brought the LBJ’s Great Society and informed Jimmy Carter’s policies. While I do not doubt the sincerity of their desires, if one look’s at statisitics and the record, a vibrant economy will raise more peoples standard of living in a more wholesome and complete way than all the handouts that have been given over the past 45 years. The policies these religious leaders and the Democratic Party have promoted, albeit in the name of justice and with noble aspirations, have created many of the economic problems we have today. Not all, but many.

  • bthis

    Another false and misleading analysis by the radical pro-gay/lesbian feminist Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, promoting her own political ideology at the expense of facts and in contravention of reality.

  • bthis

    Exactly, lchand51, the legacy of the Great Society was to move generations of Americans into subservience to the Federal Government, teaching millions how to game the Federal welfare system, refuse work, pretend infirmity, and create millions of single-parent families in order to maintain the flow of Federal welfare. Such a crushing of human spirits resulted from this aberration of humanity!

    Yet this is the philosophy Ms. Thistlethwaite would follow to enslave millions more in this degrading, depraving path. All the while claiming a noble purpose, and failing to see the ignoble lie that is the foundation of their philosophy.

  • RickWatcher

    I wonder which prominent religious leaders she is speaking of. I believe they are probably very liberal and not very familiar with or ignore much of the New Testament.
    Jesus said, “The poor will always be here.” They have forgotten the parable of the talents where in the one talent was taken from one person and given to he who had ten. They have also forgotten Matthew 20, versus 1 through 16. In it the business owner says, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business?” He was responding to those greedy workers who were complaining because the owner paid the same amount to all workers.
    Now this is not to say ignore the poor or treat them badly. No the Lord’s word is clear that we are to help the poor as individuals and groups like the church, not government. For an example of this look at Matthew 25:32-45 where he divides the sheep and the goats. The only time the Lord addresses the ruling class government, scribes and Pharisees, He calls them hypocrites, snakes and vipers. The only time Jesus spoke of taking money from one group or person and giving it to another was to call it stealing and He was clear, “Thou shall not steal,” even it’s made a law called tax.
    So years ago a socialist President managed to get a socialist idea, entitlements, passed and took what should be a church and individual responsibility, feeding, housing, clothing the poor and needy and made a people dependent upon a government, rather than God, and now people think the world owes them a living.
    Jesus’ main message was, “I was not sent to condemn the world but that the world through Me might be saved.” His main focus was the soul and not the body while ministering to both.
    Better learn the real truth before it’s too late.

  • Gemimms

    Susan, you hit the nail on the head. Rand’s (GOP) ethics of selfishness is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ message of altruism. Jesus taught in Matthew 25, we are to help ALL the poor, sick and needy or face HEll as a consequence. It’s pathetic how some “Christian” want to distort Jesus’ message. It’s quite clear, Jesus was a champion of the poor. Period.

  • Gemimms

    Your data is wrong my friend. The 1% have 80% of the wealth. Lower income groups don’t pay income taxes (they do pay payroll taxes) because their wages are too low.

  • DavidJ9

    Apparently you never read what the gospels claim Jesus taught. It is clear to those who have bothered to read the gospels that those who support the Republican platform are not followers of Jesus.

  • SODDI

    Jesus has been dead a long time. All that are left are the Christians, who don’t mind making other people poor so longas they get rich.

  • SODDI

    The top 1% also don’t serve and die in the military.

  • jsmith4

    Amen DavidJ9. But that assumes reading ability.

  • jsmith4

    in the Class Warfare between the Rich and the Poor, there is no doubt which side Jesus would be on.

    Have any of you noticed that the rich are winning the war in America? 30% gain in their “share” of national income since Reagan.

    Which side are YOU on?

  • ccnl1

    Data are plural and substantiated by a reliable source. Please enter your reliable sources.

    Last time I looked, there is no military draft in the USA. And last time I checked, it is still an honor to serve in the US military.

  • SODDI

    And Mitt Romney and his 5 sons and his father, despite being vocal hawks, have all eschewed that honor.

    Rich chickenhawks.

  • ccnl1

    So has our current president as did Billy Boy Clinton!!!

  • ljcb3

    It must be fascinating to earth-observers that Ryan and others put forward a “path to prosperity” which replicates the policies that led to the Great Recession.

    There is a quasi-evangelical “blind faith” in the market (call it “marketolatry”) that asserts a kind of market infallibility to ensure economic justice. At the same time, true believers balk at the word “justice” or call it a “socialist” concern. They assert that low taxes ensure the “supply side” prosperity will “trickle down” to the rest of us (call it the “peon effect”)–ignoring nearly forty years of contrary evidence.

    Enough of these ideologues. Bring in the pragmatists.

  • mischanova

    It never ceases to amaze that Evangelical “Christians” prefer the Old Testament to the Gospels for their guidance. I had a Baptist preacher, who is now in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Church in our state, tell me the “red words (meaning the quotations of Jesus) do not carry more weight than the other words,” in a Bible class. I asked how one could say with a straight face he followed Christ, and therefor a Christian, if the very teachings of Christ were not the primary basis of their belief? He had no answer. We left that church not long after.

    Too many “Christian” politicians follow the teachings of the atheist Ayn Rand than of the man whom they supposedly follow, mostly because it is too difficult and inconvenient to follow the latter and too easy and human to follow the former.

  • SODDI

    None of those words mean any more thany any other words in any other book.

  • JustMyOpinionToo

    I’m one of the 99% and know that JESUS loves me! Just saying, if the 1% continue on their path of riches, where will they be during the end of days….heaven is not an option

  • JustMyOpinionToo

    Wow, could you have thrown in some more anti-Gay statements….this coming from someone who supports everything wrong with America…the GOP are bible thumping hypocrites as they will scream scripture until they have to actual practice it

  • jmounadi

    Ms. Thistlewaite. Jesus certainly would NOT support the democratic party and their take from one to give to another (with no accountability) policy.

  • SeritaTheresa

    Well written and whether you agree or not her argument has merit. I enjoyed it and I’m Agnostic.

  • SeritaTheresa

    Well written and whether you agree or not her argument has merit. I enjoyed it and I’m Agnostic.

  • SeritaTheresa

    Well written and whether you agree or not her argument has merit. I enjoyed it and I’m Agnostic.

  • angie12106

    It took me awhile, but I finally realized I couldn’t be a Republican AND a Christian.

    Oil and water don’t mix.
    lol

  • reagansuckedbigtime

    yeah, most evangelicals are Democrats, right! crazy.

  • eliwhite

    Evangelical doesn’t necessarily equal bible thumper. Santorum is Catholic. Maybe Catholics are bible thumpers?

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