Archive for Saturday, May 13, 2017

Opinion: ‘Christian’ values not too evident

May 13, 2017


Last week our governor and some members of the Legislature gathered at the Statehouse to experience a day of prayer. Participants prayed that the work of the Legislature would serve the will of the Lord. There were also prayers that the Legislature not enact laws that reinforce a dependency on government.

Earlier in April the often outspoken and frequently quoted Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore posted a comment on the department’s Facebook page that alleged the problems of the poor families her department is mandated to serve were largely due to dependency created by left-wing enthusiasts for assistance payments. She asserted that the department and the Brownback Administration were instead providing support, guidance and training to help these families to find and keep good-paying jobs.

Last week as U.S. House Republicans celebrated passage of their alternative to the Affordable Care Act many members of the body and the new secretary of Health and Human Services, former Georgia Congressman Dr. Tom Price, praised reduction of governmental “interference” in health care. Many conservative members of Congress spoke approvingly of the bill’s intrinsic Social Darwinism meant to reaffirm medical care as a market exercise and thereby reduce socially borne expenses like immigrants having babies that increase Medicaid costs and lead to welfare payments. A few columns ago my colleague Michael Smith wrote about Kansas’ new physician-congressman, Dr. Roger Marshall, who, in March, told the medical trade periodical STAT that poor people and homeless people “just morally, spiritually, socially … don’t want health care.”

I confess that I am no scholar of religion, but these remarks prompted me to think about the intersection of politics and religious belief. That crossroad here in Kansas has been particularly busy. The current struggles over taxation, school finance, public assistance and support of people on the lower end of the socioeconomic distribution, and the general debate over government involvement in health care all publicly display religious overtones. Among our conservative elected officials the most common set of religious values influencing their political arguments and judgments are those of the Calvinist tradition.

Central to the teachings of John Calvin are pre-ordination and the concept of The Elect. The Elect are people pre-determined to join God in the heavenly hereafter and they are known and recognized in this secular life by their material well-being, good health, virtuous lives and charitable inclinations. Since Calvin taught that nothing mortal man can do will alter the fate determined by God, and God would not waste his blessing on the unvirtuous, all those who lived less virtuous, unsuccessful and poorer lives are clearly not The Elect and are doomed to damnation in the afterlife.

It seems to me that the remainder, the “Unelect,” are now living in the unenviable circumstance of being ruled by these folks who believe they are members of The Elect with elections to validate their status. I don’t know if Calvin was right. Like so many prophets before and since, he’s failed to provide us with an update on his circumstances. But I do believe that the effects of this moral certitude are pernicious. We may not all make it to the heavenly hereafter, but in the here and now there is plenty of both scientific and spiritual evidence to suggest that the whole herd benefits in this life from improving the life prospects for the least of us. Using fate and politics to assign personal fault to the few and exonerate our superior selves from a collective responsibility to assist, support and uplift the impoverished and the less able is both inhumane and damned un-Christian.

— Mark Peterson teaches political science at the college level in Topeka.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 1 month ago

And deservedly so. I cringe when I hear someone attempt to verify some government action as supportive of their religion. As some of you might remember I take a distant view of "religion" I do belong to a church but am not a "Bible beater. I recognize that the Holy Bible is a creation of very human men on the Council of Hampton Court in England at the direction of King James in the year 1611. Anything created at the direction of the King of England in 1611 better conform to the beliefs of the King of England or heads will roll.

I am an active supporter of the "Freedom from Religion" movement and their opposition of interference in government by "religion". Religion is matter of belief and not reality and has no place in government. But so many government workers feel that they can influence the voters by their faith and belief, they grandstand and shout about their "prayers" and "beliefs" of some imaginary Supreme Being. And how they can influence their place in the political system by advocating and supporting "religion"

I think Christ would despair at the things than have been represented in His name.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree. There are still a lot of people out there that say they don't have to try to live by the teachings of Jesus, they just have to believe in Jesus. That's kind of like saying I believe in the law, but I am still going going to steal that car. Doesn't make sense. And why would they bother reading the Bible if all they have to do is believe?

That being said, I refuse to generalize. Many Christians do try to live by the teachings. They are moral and trustworthy people. There are probably more of them than the other kind. But the ones who believe they can sin all they want, because they believe in Jesus make more noise and are turning a lot of people off. And they should remember that Jesus may forgive them, but if they break the law, such as molesting children, we don't have to forgive them. We can throw them in jail. Jesus can forgive them after they die.

Justin Hoffman 1 year, 1 month ago

You should know. After all, you've read the bible twice.

Brandon Devlin 1 year, 1 month ago

Ummm. . .huh? Maybe the King James Bible was created at the Council of Hampton Court. . .but I believe the Holy Bible was around for a while before that. Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German almost 100 years before that and the Old Testament roughly 20 years later.

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