More than tired, in fact.
And I am downright wearied.
I hardly know where to begin. Mostly at how some politicians freely cite the Bible, applying it in the most haphazard manner to themselves or to matters that do not in the least resemble what those Bible passages are addressed to. And of how gullible professing Christians can be, falling for these politically biased versions of the word of God as though they were handed down still smoking from Mt. Sinai.
I know I am on dangerous ground here when I presume to talk about some candidate who has been adopted as another Moses by certain segments of American voters – right wing fundamentalist Christian voters to be exact. Maybe it is these people I am upset with as much as it is with the candidates themselves. But at the risk of incurring the ire of this vocal element of the populace, here goes.
Dr. Ben Carson is, no doubt, a morally good, intelligent man with good intentions. I may even vote for him if he is the best candidate. Perhaps he would make a good president, but it takes more than a good man with good intentions to be a good chief executive of the United States of America. Without a doubt he was, by all accounts, an outstanding neurosurgeon while he was practicing, but there is a wide world of difference between what goes on in the operating room in a modern hospital and the White House oval office. I just am not persuaded he is the best man for the job.
Does anyone really believe that Carson is a modern day Noah? In an allusion to Genesis 6 and the building of the ark, he sought to sweep away the rightfully grounded fear of his lack of qualifications for the presidency. He said, “It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.” We have to remember that Noah never won any popularity contests in spite of the fact that he was a pretty good ark builder! Are we to infer that God would somehow miraculously enable Carson to serve this country as it’s president, rebuilding the trust of it’s populace, putting it on a sound fiscal footing, wrestle the gargantuan national debt and bring it under control, create enough new jobs to put all the unemployed to work, deal with the rising crises of illegal immigration and international terrorism along with a thousand and one other pressing problems? If he does think that, then he is really, really naïve – or maybe just deluded. So is anyone who believes he or any other single individual can do all that.
Speaking of the national debt, Dr. Carson has proposed that the United States do away with our present problem ridden tax system and adopt a flat tax, one essentially based on the Old Testament system of tithing. A tithe is 10% of one’s income. He says he doesn’t know if his tax would require 10% or 15% or some other amount. The New Republic quoted Carson as saying, “We don’t necessarily have to do 10 percent, but it’s the principle. … You make $10 billion, you put in a billion. You make $10, you put in $1.”
Consider how that was applied in Jesus’ day. What some people seem to not realize is that the Jewish taxation system, which, although divinely instituted, was unfairly applied because it was humanly administered. Let me illustrate that with an example witnessed and attested to by Jesus himself.
Some people mistakenly cite the example of the poor widow in Mark 12 as the ideal of faithful giving when she cast her tithe into the coffers of the temple along with the rich people. The rich gave of their excessive abundance, but the widow out of her deep poverty gave everything she had. When Jesus said she gave more than the rich, he was not commending her for being more faithful than the rich people. Based on a statement he had made to his disciples in the verses just preceding this account he was making an observation of how unfair the Jews application of the tithe had become. How do I know this?
He had just given a scathing denunciation of the scribes who, he said, “like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers.” (Mark 12:38-40). Then, as he was observing these same rich people of whom he had spoken giving in the temple, he points to a poor widow who gave two lepta (thin copper coins). Jesus said she gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had to live on. He wasn’t commending the widow. He was saying to his disciples, “See! This is what I am talking about! You have just seen a widow’s house being devoured!”
Do we really think tithing would be more equitably administered today? Let’s look at Dr. Carson’s proposal in light of what Jesus was talking about and see if it would be fair if literally applied to our day. The man with 10 billion dollars is assessed 1 billion and has 9 billion left to live very well on, buy expensive houses, yachts, airplanes, entertain lavishly and have enough money left over to “burn a wet mule” as the saying goes. The person who makes $10 is taxed one dollar and has 9 dollars left to live on. How is that fair? Obviously the person assessed 10% on $10 bears a greater burden than the rich person who could give 50% or more of his income and not miss it at all.
Carson’s idea of using the Biblical tithe as a model for solving America’s financial problems wouldn’t work. America isn’t ancient Israel. Israel was a theocracy – God was her king. It had no central government and no bloated bureaucracy. It had no constitutional amendment prohibiting the establishment of a religion by the federal government. The tithe the Israelites gave was, in part, intended to support the priestly class, the Levites who had no land on which to earn a living allotted to them. That is something prohibited by the establishment clause of the first amendment of our constitution. Other than that, the tithe was used to relieve the needs of the poor.
Should anyone wish to apply Biblical financial principles to today they need to understand that the tithe was by no means the end of the matter. Every seventh year everyone who had loaned money was to forgive everyone of every debt they owed! Then there were the sabbath years. Other than being required to give a tenth of everything their farms produced each year they were forbidden to plow their fields or plant them to grow crops in those years. They had to save up enough during six years to have enough to eat for the whole sabbath year. And beyond that, every Jubilee year, which came every 50 years, every piece of land that had been sold would revert to the family of the original owner.
How many modern day American bankers do you think would go for a plan that offered blanket debt amnesty every seven years? Wouldn’t Donald Trumps just love that redemption of real estate bit? How would that go over with the conservative, born again, evangelical Christians of today? Like a lead balloon you suppose?
Before any political candidates start quoting scripture they should dig a little deeper into what the Bible actually says. And before we, the public, buy into some half baked idea just because some uninformed professed Christian quotes a verse or two to “prove” his proposition is Biblical, we ought to become better students of the book ourselves.
Wouldn’t I want a Christian to be president? Sure I would. Would I vote for a Christian? Yes. I would like to have someone in office who believes there is a God and that he is accountable to him. Someone who believes there is a standard of morality rooted in the character of God and not a subjective standard based on the ever changing whims and desires of fickle humanity. But I would want a Christian there who is humble enough to do what he can and let God take care of his end of things. In this country in this 21st century that just ain’t gonna happen!