About a year ago, Israel opened a new hiking and biking pilgrimage trail that became known as the Jesus Trail. The trail approximates travels by Jesus during his ministry. It actually traces two routes, the return route passing different sites. It joins with other paths in a kind of unified tour. It takes about four days to go through the first trail. So it takes a little more than a week to complete the entire journey.
It winds from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, through Capernaum where he journeyed to begin his ministry. At several points it touches upon the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a large place, and there is no precision in the travels along the Jesus Trail. The body of water is aptly named. It is like a sea. There are no exact places. Still I understand the reverence that attaches. It is the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on the water, where he enlisted the first disciples from fishing boats, near where he preached the Beatitudes.
It is also where Republican Congressional representatives drank and partied into the night, finally skinny-dipping in the waters where Jesus walked. Only one representative says he was naked. Nobody could see him, he said, and he was without clothing only for a short time. So, he dove in, but he didn't inhale.
Others, joining in the general atmosphere of jovial festivity, jumped off the enclosed deck into the waters, some fully clothed, others not so fully. A little too much drinking can do that.
Like many fellow believers, I hold a certain emotional reverence for the paths that Jesus may have traveled, the places he may have preached, the locales of the miracles he performed. I know that the message and the Messiah are transcendent. Time and distance do not dilute either. The places themselves are no more holy or magical than the mysterious artifacts fraudulently invented and sold since medieval times.
What startled me, I suppose, was that the drinking, partying, and skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee was within a couple of weeks of the artificial budget crisis that nearly sank the U.S. economy.
Many Americans thought that raising the debt ceiling was the same as raising the debt, or that it was some sort of maximum debt level that would allow the debt to be raised at some future point. It wasn't. A misleading name can ... well ... mislead.
"Raising the debt ceiling" simply gave permission to the United States Treasury to pay existing bills. Like payroll, like bullets for the rifles held by Marines in combat, like the salaries of prison guards, like Social Security checks and Medicare benefits.
Republicans, led by many who drank, then partied in the Sea of Galilee, held the nation hostage, demanding their agenda be strictly adhered to before America's obligations could be met.
There is some irony that the incident happened in the place many of us regard as holy - - holy because of the messenger, holy because of the message: That we must love God, that we must love our neighbor every bit as much as we love ourselves, that we must care for those in need, that we must always take care of our own, that all God's children are our own, that all who are part of humanity are children of God.
The irony is the militancy and rejoicing some take in slashing help for those whom Jesus embraces, cutting lose those who need a hand up, denigrating those who have fallen at the side of the road. The Good Samaritan might have been welcomed at that wild celebration. The victim he took in might not have been. No bootstraps.
To me the incident is iconic. We who follow the Prince of Peace walk the Jesus Trail, uncertain of how close we might travel to the path our Savior walks. And sometimes, we defile the waters of our spiritual baptism. In this, we are all, at one point or another, freshman Republicans partying in the Sea of Galilee.
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As followers of Christ we are indeed called to care for our own and to do what we are able to care for the "least of these". And so we absolutely should. We should not abrogate that responsibility to a leviathan, inefficient, cold and often ineffective federal government to care for people in need. We should be doing that ourselves through our families, communities, churches, charities and perhaps local governments. It is my contention that through these channels, we can better help those people rather than just pay more in taxes and assume that the federal government will take care of "those folks" for us, so that we don’t have to worry about our obligation of "loving our neighbor" is met.
Although I object to the philosophy, I specifically refer to the active hostility toward those less fortunate expressed by some conservative audiences, shared explicitly by some members of Congress.
The denial of services is often more than the reluctant application of principle. It is accompanied by enthusiastic jeering.
You do see the distinction, right?
I would like to second Mr. Paine’s accolades. Like Mr. Paine, I especially agree with this:
“What startled me, I suppose, was that the drinking, partying, and skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee was within a couple of weeks of the artificial budget crisis that nearly sank the U.S. economy.”
“Republicans, led by many who drank, then partied in the Sea of Galilee, held the nation hostage, demanding their agenda be strictly adhered to before America's obligations could be met.”
What the GOP did was unforgivable. I and T. Paine will not soon forget.
I agree to some extent. One generally does best by helping his own community first. However...
1.) Whether one pays taxes to the government or donates to a church or charity, he is usually just giving up some of his money so that someone else can do the work that reflects concern for his neighbor. There is not much difference in this sense.
2.) The benefit of using taxes to help others is that we are forced to pay them. While it would be nice for people to help others willingly, it is more important that those in need be helped than that the helpers willingly do so. This is a case of idealism vs. pragmatism. Rather than abandon the approach entirely, why not work to improve it?
3.) We are not limited to one form of charity. We can pay taxes, advocate for better government programs, and help out within our community all at once. Yes, Charity Barbie can do it all.
Often times it goes back to that whole teach-a-man-to-fish-rather-than-give-him-a-fish idea. I know the intentions of most all of our progressive brothers and sisters is good, but simply feeding a man for a day only ensures that you will see him back at your doorstep tomorrow with a hungry belly. While that doesn’t mean we should slam our proverbial doors in his face, it does suggest the need for a better solution to the problem. Perhaps something that can help the person be self-sufficient and have a sense of dignity would be in order.
As for Mr. Myste’s comments, he obviously knows that I do not agree with the implied politics of his retort. That said, I will let him have this one small victory since they are few and far between when I must admit error in debate with him, if not defeat, on my part.
As for Sir Ryan and his first enumerated point, the difference is that the federal government collects our taxes and often distributes them in block grants to various NGO’s etc, some of which are not in as great of need as others, and some of which (like Planned Parenthood) are actually working in contrast to the beliefs of some of these charitably-inclined tax payers. If one is allowed to retain that portion of his tax money, he can see where needs are greatest in his own family or community. Perhaps a poorer school needs help with acquiring books; perhaps the homeless shelter needs help getting a jobs program off the ground and running; perhaps a local family lost their home in a fire. While you are correct, Ryan, that this sometime amounts to the same thing of giving money for others to do the work, such is not always the case. Further, local knowledge of what the needs are for the community tends to ensure that money and efforts are more likely to be dedicated to where the needs are greatest. This is often not so with our federal government’s efforts.
As for your second item, I would contend that many people don’t bother with donating their time or money because they assume, rightly or not, that the government will take care of those in need. If the government refrained from doing anything but what it was constitutionally mandated to do, I am certain that charities, churches, and communities would take up the slack just like before all of these myriads (more than three) entitlement programs were created.
Finally, I find myself in agreement with your third point, Ryan. Albeit I think the emphasis needs to be more on the community aspects rather than on the federally tax-payer supported ones.
LOL. I love you Mr. Paine.
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