What Does Jesus Have to Do With Trump’s Budget?

To look at my newsfeed, he has quite a lot to do with it. It comes mostly in the form of memes designed to slam the Christian hypocrites, like the example posted with this essay. The target of derision includes those who declare their born-again devotion to Jesus Christ while ignoring his teachings on feeding the hungry.

Image 3-18-17 at 4.20 PMThe theology of this meme is not well developed, to say the least. It is not created from a forward-thinking theology of social programming, but it is conjured from the Theology of Gotcha, hurled with glee in the face of hypocrites.

Might the Son of God have an opinion about Meals on Wheels? That possibility could be unpacked with some good textual or historical-grammatical exegesis. But Jesus is not seriously invoked here. Instead, he is touted conveniently in a shouted spray of bad populist theology.

I would rather see Jesus invoked seriously as a support for more generous government social programming than to be used to shame hypocrites. I cannot be sure (so who am I to judge?) but my hunch is that the authors of these memes are not prepared to discuss any theology beyond the simple shaming of hypocrites that it provides for them.

The bothersome thing here is the wide presumption that evangelical Christians are all hypocritical, the whole lot of them. The creators of the meme might balk at that, and simply say that not all evangelicals are meant here, only “if the shoe fits, wear it.” But readers of the memes get that the whole of conservative evangelicalism is implicated. Usually this is illustrated well in the dark dungeon of comments under the post.

The narrative goes something like this: “Aren’t you following the guy who fed the hungry? And now you all are supporting a budget that cuts food to the hungry? Some Christian you are!” This cheap shot is undiscerning of the evangelicals who do not support Trump or his budget. It also ignores the thoughtful theological distinction, held by many, that Jesus directed his words toward our generosity of heart, and many thoughtful conservatives would rather do this (and they do) with unforced charitable giving. Tax revenues collected under the coercive power of the magistrate may not be in view when Jesus commands us to be charitable.

That is to say, Jesus was talking to my heart and my wallet, not to my 1040. And if you are of the other view, tell us why Jesus’ words really do apply to the distribution of government revenues.

This meme closes the discussion by slapping a final “you’re all hypocrites!” on the argument, tinting every prudent budget cut as presumably demonic. No discussion, you are the devil. That is silly, disrespectful, and bigoted toward a whole people group.

Can we have a discussion about where to put our budget dollars without calling all your opponents the anti-Christ?

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3 thoughts on “What Does Jesus Have to Do With Trump’s Budget?

  1. Cal, thanks for your thoughtful post; unfortunately, as we both know, if you use more than 140 characters, very few people will bother reading it. We live in an age that does not encourage actual debate, discussion, and even less, dialogue. Here is a link to an article that addresses the question from the view that the Bible does lay responsibility for helping the poor at the feet of government (or whatever governing system is in place). https://sojo.net/articles/caring-poor-governments-biblical-role

    • And that’s where we have a theological discussion that matters. I know Sojourners’ bent, and have read the theological supports for government responsibility for social programming. What’s unfortunate, and the subject of this post, is that with a broad sweep of the hand any suggestion of fiscal prudence is dismissed as anti-Christian, and the debate ends. Even if we decide to align with Sojourners’ theological take on Jesus’ words, the reality is that resources are not unlimited. And anyone who then dares to apply some budgetary reason is hit in the crossfire of charges that their prudence is demonic. The memes such as those from Republican Jesus poisons the chance for reasonable debate on the issues.

  2. I like the part of the Bible, where Jesus wants to “help people” so he runs for office, raises taxes on those just making it on their own, and demonstrates his virtue by giving away other people’s money. I’m not so keen on the part where he rides around in a government-provided chariot calling those who don’t acknowledge all he’s done for them “haters” and “deplorables”.

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