“But the Bible justifies the abundance of poverty and the “money shower” the government pushes from the poor onto the rich is immoral.”
This was the ‘question’ my unidentified Facebook friend posed.
In Part 1, and in my recent writing I have been trying to explain the concept of religion and politics working hand in hand in an Australian, or indeed an American context.
Pentecostals were some of Donald Trump’s earliest religious supporters and now view his election as the fulfilment of God’s will.
George W. Bush was also embraced by politically conservative Christians because he had a much-documented mid-life experience of being born again, and spoke about God and Jesus as though it was second nature to him.
This was all very acceptable in a country that places belief in God before any appreciation of science.
One should not, however, fall into the trap of thinking they were as one in their faith. Bush saw it as his religion. Trump liked it because it embraced the prosperity gospel, which Americans sometimes refer to as a “health and wealth” theology.
They believe that God rewards faith with good health and financial success.
Now in Australia, we are confronted with a Pentecostal born again Prime Minister in Scott Morrison who the flock sees as God’s answer to much fervent prayer. No less, a miracle.
That he would have genuine asylum seekers incarcerated on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere indefinitely, never having committed a crime, bothers his fellow Christians, not in the slightest.
That he would pray on the same platform with a pastor who is guilty of protecting another who was guilty of committing acts of pedophilia matters not.
These are born again Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians who believe God still speaks to people through tongues, visions, prayer, prophecies and is still actively involved in the lives of people and arranging the world’s affairs.
The picture of Scott Morrison praying with 21,000 worshippers at a Hillsong convention, when he promised to govern for all made me feel decidedly uncomfortable.
There are many things wrong with the image of a PM trying to preach politics to his constituents from a pulpit when we are a secular country. Particularly when Hillsong is attached to the Pentecostalism prosperity movement. Its senior Pastor Brian Houston who wrote, “You need more money” (1999), urges readers to discover God’s “amazing financial plan” for their lives.
Most of these churches originate from the Assemblies of God Church. In my experience, they preach to a youth market who tend to drop away as they get older.
Again in my experience, they are not only taught a prosperity doctrine but also a power of positive thinking theology with an emphasis on abundant and prosperous living within Pentecostalism.
I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
Until the arrival of the second-rate actor Ronald Reagan, Evangelical churches had taken little interest in politics. He invoked their support and upon victory rewarded them with educational and charitable programs and the money to complete them.
Since then, the born again churches have been significantly involved in politics and elections and for the very first time, conservatives found themselves very much married to the Evangelicals.
Now it is happening in Australia with the Liberal Party recruiting members from Evangelical churches.
When America gets the flu we at least catch a cold, so the saying goes.
But the Bible justifies the abundance of poverty and the “money shower” the government pushes from the poor onto the rich is immoral.
Today, 39.2 per cent of Australians had no religion in the last census – outscoring all other groups.
Well except for the fictional Jedi faith (not recognised as an official religion) had 48,000 dedicated followers. So based on these figures we are not a Christian Country.
Now allow me to address the third part of the question posed by my unknown observer.
I believe that a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems.
Yet again let me put on my “in my experience” hat on.
Pentecostal churches don’t see their mission in life as looking after the poor. Their mission is saving souls for Christ. Jesus said he would not come again until the Gospel is preached to all the peoples of the world.
Along the way, they preach a gospel of wealth and make megabucks from tithes books, CD, videos other promotional material. And it’s all tax-free, costing our coffers $500 million annually.
Looking after the poor is the mission of the Salvos, Uniting Church, World Vision, Compassion Australia, Australian Red Cross and the Anglican Church. Four of the top five churches in Australia are mainstream church-based. What wonderful work they do. Pentecostals take no part.
So my answer to the writer’s question is that the Bible does not in any way justify the abundance of poverty in the world today.
To the contrary, there are literally dozens of scriptures obligating us to attend to the sick, the poor, and those in need of our help.
There are other scriptures that speak of wealth and to those who have obtained it, that they have a duty of care to those in the community who need help.
You may ask why a benevolent God doesn’t do more to help, but that is a question for another day.
Yes, Jesus was the world’s first socialist.
How is it possible for the inherited rich and privileged to understand poverty?
Pentecostals and others of the same ilk invented the gospel of wealth in order to make money, believing the more money they had the more souls they would reach. In doing so they have made millions but at the same time have brought their faith into disrepute.
Morrison’s 3rd round of tax cuts is but one illustration of supporting the privileges of those who have had a go and succeeded. But has he considered if those not on the list had an equal opportunity?
We pay taxes to form a society. If we pay more the better society we get.
And of course, there are those on the threadbare Newstart allowance who must be punished for their tardiness in not getting a job. I wonder if our PM has looked at how many wanted the same job. Last time I looked it was 19.
So on the last point, I cannot find any scripture justifying the “money shower” the government pushes from the poor onto the rich.
Author’s note: If the person who posed the questions to me could identify himself I would be most grateful.
My thought for the day
When asked as to my belief or otherwise in God, or indeed my atheist contemplations, I can only say that I am in a perpetual state of observation. Just looking. I prefer not to be labelled as anything, really.
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