Saturday, January 21, 2012

Raising concerns about the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest is not “class warfare.” It’s Biblical.

Those who think the uber-wealthy should pay a fair tax are accused of “class warfare.” Please! When someone like Mitt Romney accuses President Obama of engaging in “class warfare” it’s like the Japanese Emperor accusing FDR of starting the World War II.

Reasonable people have suggested Romney should answer for why the company he owned, Bain Capital, looted some companies, took excessive dividends and management fees and left the companies for dead, its employees without jobs. Seems like a reasonable question.

But some politicians say any criticism of this conduct amounts to “class warfare” and an attack on capitalism itself. Really?  Romney made billions sitting in his office, clothed in a coat and tie, not producing anything. He bought and sold companies, helping some succeed while looting others. Is that what capitalism has become? Is that an approach to competition and productivity you want to embrace?

Henry Ward Beecher was a 19th century abolitionist best remembered for his fire and brimstone sermons on the evils of slavery. He is less remembered for his views of working people. Rev. Beecher didn’t understand there isn’t that much separating the slavery from which Moses freed God’s people and the conditions imposed on the working poor yet today.

Beecher's activism on behalf of slaves didn’t extend to the "working class.” During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 he preached against the strikers whose wages had been cut. His notorious "bread and water" sermon included lines like, "Man cannot live by bread alone but the man who cannot live on bread and water is not fit to live.”

It was the nature of the times that made that kind of preaching acceptable but those ideas don’t square with scripture. Later it became unacceptable. The trustbusters revealed the excesses of corporate greed. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt believed Wall Street and the greedy titans were guilty of abusing their political and financial clout to get richer at the expense of the middle class. The result was the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the prosecution of greedy corporate offenders. His cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed and said, “Capitalism cannot survive without a conscience.”
Yet in 2012 those who speak like the Roosevelts once did are denounced for engaging in “class warfare.” Come on. Class warfare isn’t new. It’s just that those who have money and can hire the best lobbyists know how to wage the war. To the winners have gone the right to name it. They call themselves “capitalists” and us they call “class warriors.”
If you use your Bible for something other than thumping, you know the original class warrior was the Mother of Jesus. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Before Mary there was Isaiah, “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth.”
So where do those so-called “values voters” learn their values if not from Isaiah and Mary? When did preaching or politicking for economic justice become objectionable? When did it become offensive to ask greedy rich folks to share and to suggest capitalism should have a conscience? And when did we confuse Biblical teaching with partisan politics and trickle down economics?
Raising concerns about the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest is not “class warfare.” It’s Biblical.


  1. Rev. McDaniel,

    I was a bit dissatisfied with this column. Obviously, the love of money and the 'things' it can attain is sinful (1 Tim. 6:10). I freely admit I've valued money and things way more than the Lord at several points in my life. I personally believe that most of humanity has done the same at some point of our existence. Using Mary's speech in Luke 1 is a bit over the top. As we know, God loves everyone and wants everyone to confess their sins, repent from their sins, and believe in their hearts that Jesus is Lord. However, to solely attack is the rich is becoming tiresome. While on Earth, Jesus associated with the poor and the rich, the peons and the powerful. He called fishermen and tax collectors to join His Body. Again, He loved everyone.

    In a modern-day context, we do indeed see several individuals/families who are poor and/or lacking physical needs and basic comforts. We do indeed have, through no fault of their own, physically and mentally disabled persons, single moms/dads, seniors with incredibly fixed spending capabilities, the unemployed/underemployed. And yes, we have to figure out the best approach to work together to provide for their physical needs. However, I'm tired of you solely blaming the GOP for this. Democrats are responsible too. For example, the Bidens gave an average of $369 back in the 2008 tax season. Granted, V.P./Sen. Biden didn't run a private equity firm, but that's a paltry sum too for someone whom boldly speaks about helping the less fortunate. Also, why not attack the liberal Hollywood and music industries? With the exception of the country music industry, most of these people overwhelmingly support Pres. Obama and the Democrats. They make big-time bucks and go unscathed?

    Ultimately, God loves us all. He wants us to be charitable just as He is charitable. I agree with helping the downtrodden. However, I vehemently disagree with snipping from the Bible to promote liberal or conservative talking points. The same goes when at the pulpit.


    P.S. I'm one of those 'Bible-thumpers' and 'values voters'. I find using such language to be condescending.

  2. Thanks for taking time to comment. I do agree with you on Biden. That is outrageous...especially from a social liberal. But I see scripture and the teachings of Jesus differently. Yes, Jesus does love everyone and did associate with rich as well as poor but there is no confusion about his preference for the poor and those on the margin. His message provided a consistent judgement against those who refused to share. From the story of the rich young ruler to the loaves and fishes to the parable about the eye of the camel, Jesus taught that those who have must share "with the least of these." I do not "attack the rich." Neither does scripture. BUT it and I do attack those who become rich on the backs of the poor and the middle class and use their connections in the government to protect themselves from sharing their treasure. It is they who write the tax laws and assure they get wealthier while others cannot. I do not believe it is "over the top" to quote Mary. Her speech provides us with the best sense of what God had in mind when God sent Jesus through Mary's womb. Her revelation was that the Son of God had something to do with social and economic equality. Thanks for your comments and your honest critique. Rodger

  3. The Rich are both Neo-liberal Dems (worse due to their insidious nature) and Neo-con Repugs. They Own the entire System, it's Legislators, Processes, Regulations, and the system is rigged to benefit only the Rich.
    Capitalism Exploits to the Max everything for Profit; Anything less would be immoral/wrong . Religion goes along for the ride as long as the 1% don't tax churches. They more often than not cannot go from the Specific to the General...they're usually stuck in Limbo (ha) with some issue like condeming the Gay or Vouchers or something as trite; or Supporting the likes of Zionist Gingrich, and other blathering god hyperbole candidates.
    Although i'm an Atheist ~ i'm familiar with Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple. Today it's just us, the Occupiers.
    Both parties are equally to blame for illegal WARS(run off the books), torture, illegal foreclosures, Safety nets ripped away, ETC...but you won't find the Religious in any strong numbers mad as hell unless they are aligned with the low info T-klaners/ voters.