I’ve seen this video posted several different places and thought I’d share it here as well, along with a few thoughts. Feel free to laugh, but listen closely to what is really being said by all the people in this video, especially toward the end.
First of all, I love Stephen Colbert. Not because I agree with him politically (I don’t) but because I think he’s a brilliant satirist, and I appreciate that. I respect someone who is able to speak persuasively (even when I don’t agree), especially when he can do it without his listeners realizing they are being persuaded. I believe a good political satirist has the potential to be much more influential than guys like Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews, who really only persuade the already convinced.
Now, I’m all for mocking Fox News and people who get all hot & bothered about the term “X-mas”. Conservatives say and do a lot of silly things, and the best way to deal with silliness is to laugh at it. But the fact that I find many facets of right-wing culture to be ridiculous doesn’t mean that my liberal friends get a free pass.
To some extent I agree with those who claim that political conservatives have co-opted Jesus, and selectively quote Him to advance a political ideology. The fact is that many (though not all) conservatives — including many evangelicals — do very little to help the poor. We’re good at coming up with excuses (often blaming the government), yet individual and corporate giving to the poor makes up a very small percentage of our spending. (I won’t labor this point now because I’ve dealt with this extensively in the past, particular in this post and its comments section.)
But are liberals any better? Absolutely not. They, too, attempt to co-opt Jesus. The Scriptures they quote are different from the go-to “Republican” texts, but similarly void of context. Instead of a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps Capitalist Christ, Liberals envision Jesus as a role model whose primary virtue was his benevolence toward the poor. Neither gives a complete nor accurate picture of the Lord. As I pointed out in the post I just linked to, liberals and conservatives quote from different parts of Matthew 25, failing to realize that it’s all part of the same passage.
So back to the video. What I take issue with is the very last thing Colbert says; the point of the entire segment. When he says that Jesus “commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition”, he echoes the liberal’s mischaracterization of Christ. It’s undeniable that God commands His people to care for the poor and needy, but is it accurate to say that this command comes without condition?
Even the passages that seem most blatantly to affirm Colbert’s statement — for instance, Luke 6:30, which reads, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back“ — are given within the context of God’s people living holy (literally “separate”) lives. We are to care for the poor because of (in other words, conditional upon) our love for Christ. We are to serve others in His name, which requires a lot more than simply saying His name (which goes for those on the Right, too).
For every verse like Luke 6:30, though, there is a verse that tells us that we are not to give foolishly, but to exercise wisdom in discerning the character of those who are begging (see for example Matthew 7:6 or 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But perhaps the most politically damning response to liberals who would have us believe that Jesus wants us to give (and specifically, to give by way of government wealth redistribution) without condition is to look at the passage directly following Jesus’ “least of these” diatribe in Matthew 25.
Matthew 26:6-11 tells the story of a woman who anointed him with a very expensive ointment. The disciples thought this was a waste, since the oil could have been sold for money to be given to the poor. Jesus insisted, however, that this gift was not a waste, because it glorified Him. This is the real purpose for our wealth. However we use it (which should include helping the poor), we are to acknowledge that it is God’s gift to us, and our use of it is to bring Him glory.
In John’s account of this same incident, he reveals the reason why Judas was so upset at this “waste”. His concern was not really for the poor, but for himself. He was a thief. He had control of the moneybag, and would keep a portion of what was put into it (John 12:6).
So the real question for liberal political pundits, and especially for liberal politicians like Jim McDermott who have control over our nation’s “moneybag”, is this:
Is your concern truly for the poor, or are you just upset that fewer taxes means less in the moneybag that you can get your hands into for yourself?