A reminder to look for the circle above the line

Right now, I’m thinking about food. And people.

As I post this column, I’ve just ended the Five-Day Food and Water Challenge. Some of my fellow congregants at Veritas Church are participants; the annual event started at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.

The rules are simple: Try to eat no more than does the average person in the world’s bottom economic half. It’s not the diet of the very poorest, but it’s still a shock to the average American’s system: Just three (cooked) cups of rice or beans each day. Only a handful of alternatives are allowed — plain oatmeal or a tortilla, very little fruit or vegetables, no more than a chicken nugget’s worth of meat per day. And no drinks besides tap water.

Let me confess first that I haven’t been perfect. I’ve allowed myself one cup of coffee a day; a years-long habit is hard to drop immediately. On the third night I caved in and ate a supplemental bagel — OK, a bagel and a half — but I still went to bed quite hungry. Otherwise, I was pretty much faithful to the exercise.

But if the point is less to feel hunger pangs than to feel others’ pain, the challenge was a success.

I’ll claim no great new insight into the lives and minds of the impoverished, no more so than when I’ve seen kids swimming in the filthy waters of Bangkok’s canals or running shoeless in rural Tanzania. No more so than when I’ve seen gypsy women holding (allegedly drugged) babies as they begged in Brussels, or the same long-haired man wearing the same clothes standing in the same spot of downtown Atlanta whispering the same plea for spare change from passers-by.

Five days of experiencing a bit of their reality hardly equals their lifetimes of want. But my pastor, David Slagle, described well what it means to me:

“I’ve just gotta be shaken loose from my comfort zone, on a fairly regular basis. And this [challenge] does that for me. It’s easy for me to put these people out of my mind — distressingly easy. After an exercise like this, I can’t walk to the sink now and turn the water on without thinking, ‘Wow, this is a privilege.’”

On these pages, we debate what to do about problems like hunger. Every now and then, all of us, regardless of our perspective, “gotta be shaken loose” to remember why, and on whose behalf, we have these arguments in the first place.

In his book “A New Kind of Christian,” emerging-church thinker Brian McLaren argues the futility of pinning down moral authority on a philosophical spectrum, through the fictional character Neil Oliver:

“‘Now, almost all debate in the church takes place on this line. The issue is where the right point on the line is. So people pick and defend their points. Each person’s point becomes the point in his or her mind. Here’s what I’m suggesting: What if the point-defending approach is, pardon the pun, pointless? In other words, what if the position God wants us to take isn’t on that line at all but somewhere up here?’ He was moving his hand in a small circle, palm down, about a foot above the line he had drawn in the dust.”

I don’t agree with everything McLaren writes, and I don’t think “point-defending” is pointless; some solutions help more people than others.

I do, however, see a circle above the line. For me, it’s the compassion we all start from in trying to solve problems. And if it takes five days of meager meals to return to that place, it’s a small price to pay.

54 comments Add your comment

Legend of Len Barker

April 16th, 2010
10:08 pm

I know one of your biggest gripes has been the cost of the healthcare bill. Are you able to make any correlations between the world’s poor and the quality of food they get and the quality of healthcare poor Americans get?

Is it not worth the cost to raise our standard of living?

Others will say that it’s entitlements. They only see the people who take advantage of the system. They don’t see the folks who bust their rear ends, live responsibility, and still can’t get over the financial hump.

Is it not worth the cost to help those people out who through no fault of their own are unable to afford medications, doctor visits, or preventative care?

TGT

April 16th, 2010
11:35 pm

Legend: It’s not just about the cost, although that is certainly huge. Once the government gets itself established in an additional part of our lives, another piece of our liberty goes out the window—perhaps never to return. This is the real danger with Obamacare. “That government is best which governs least,” said Thomas Paine. In this succinct, but profound proverb, lies the heart of the solution to the healthcare debate.

Congratulations Kyle on the “fast.” The Veritas Church sounds much like a Vineyard church (which we attend).

CJ

April 16th, 2010
11:58 pm

Very nice post tonight Kyle. I really enjoyed it.

At the risk of ruining the love fest, however, I feel that I must second the sentiments of the Len Barker fan above. My liberalism, for example, is partially defined by the sort of compassion you describe — “the compassion we all start from in trying to solve problems.” So, I too am confused about what seems like a disconnect between the compassion described in this post and the positions taken in your politics. As a liberal, “taxed enough already?” is the among my concerns, but far below making sure that we establish and maintain the physical, economic, and human infrastructure necessary to pull families out of poverty — with all the suffering, sadness, and indignities therein — into the middle class, while simultaneously working to provided economic security for those of us who are already there.

TGT

April 17th, 2010
12:22 am

Speaking of “compassion” (CJ and Legend), much that was begun in the name of “compassion” ended as the work of the devil. Acts of “compassion” are easy for institutions with the power of the police, military, judiciary, treasury, etc. behind it. (Perhaps this is why so many are duped into surrendering their liberties to a government. After all, it can “get things done.”)

In other words, once the government has control of our healthcare (etc.), what happens when those in charge no longer have our best interests at heart? Reform? Not likely–See Social Security, Medicare, etc.

True compassion must be married to liberty (among other things). As I have noted on AJC blogs before: In 1887, after vetoing a bill that appropriated $10,000 to buy grain for several drought-stricken Texas counties, President Grover Cleveland (a Democrat) stated, “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

SAH

April 17th, 2010
12:41 am

@ TGT: Yeah, I’ve seen those “bonds of common brotherhood” on display on the reprehensible signs carried at T.E.A party rallies. Give me a break!! This sudden angst and nostalgia for the days of yore when America was greater than it is today is nothing but a thin veil to hide fear and anxiety. It is fear fueled by xenophobia and anxiety caused by change. You need not be afraid. We come in peace. You need not be anxious, for the world has already changed around you. You just need to catch up.

Sad

April 17th, 2010
12:43 am

Sounds like a great exercise in being empathetic, a trait which many Americans do not care to have. It’s a “me” society (my needs matter most; my family comes first…) and by golly no one wants “THEIR” money going to help somebody else (aka “freeloaders” or “losers” or whatever the term of the day is). Yes, I am sick of the taxes I pay which are nearly half (or more sometimes) of my income. I believe our government is so inefficient and wasteful that all of our social programs have been victimized financially by it. All of the greatness that we once had a result of our hard-working, caring people has been lost to ineffective “leaders” who only care about getting re-elected and then being able to live the rest of their lives on the lecture and book circuit. I’m not trashing Obama, or George Bush or anybody specifically – they are all politicians, and being a politician has come to represent the worst of our society. It’s a person representing only THEIR district with no eye toward the greater good of the nation – give me this pork or that, and I don’t care if we have to cut these things from our senior citizens becaue we don’t have too many in our district and I need to get re-elected. Ours has historically been a nation of great leaders, and now we have a dearth of leaders in politics and in business. We are a society of greed. I am not a socialist; I believe in a free market society. It’s not “free market” when you run a corporation through the wringer to eke out your Golden Parachute, causing thousands of other people to lose their life savings and their jobs. It’s not just the high profile cases – it’s everywhere. Our corporate world has been just as corrupted as our political one. So what is the root cause of this? How can people be so self-centered and care so little about others? At the risk of sounding like a “Bible thumper” (as my husband likes to say), I propose it is because we have wandered away from our core values as a country. The constitution may not say “God” in it, but our founders were very much men of faith. If people centered their lives around God, then they would realize that their happiness is not found in material objects, big houses, lots of money, but in the peace of knowing that you are loved and forgiven without having done anything to earn it. People who have lives centered around God realize that it’s not their money, it’s God’s money. They did not create themselves nor their abilities, they were created for a purpose. They care about others; they help the poor not to feel good, but because it must be done. I’m sure I will be attacked by the atheists and those who feel God has no place in our society, but I believe we soon won’t have a society if God and the values that are represented by a person’s faith in God don’t re-enter our nation. If you think the United States can’t fail, think again. The greatest empires in the world have failed, and nearly all failed because of a lack of leadership, greed by the wealthy (or those who want to be wealthy), and a lack of concern for the lesser of us. All I can do is pray for us, and hope for a miracle. Otherwise, maybe we can see if we like Communism (when China owns us) more than we liked a perceived “socialism” (which is what we call it whenever somebody tries to redistribute wealth). The irony is that our wealth has always been redistributed so what’s changed? The change is in the attitude: It’s mine and you can’t have it. We’re a nation of three year olds.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
7:48 am

I don’t agree with everything McLaren writes, and I don’t think “point-defending” is pointless; some solutions help more people than others.

In fact, some solutions do more harm to people who need help. Solutions like the people who contrive them can be so heavenly minded that they serve no earthly good.

TGT

April 17th, 2010
8:03 am

SAH: Who said anything about longing for the days of yesteryear? America can be just a “great” in these times as She ever was (but not with this administration). The Cleveland reference was just an example of a leader (a Democrat even) who understood the role of government.

Also, speaking of “compassion” again: Like CJ above, many liberals are “confused” when it comes to the seeming disconnect between conservative Christians faith and our politics. (Certainly not all conservatives are Christians, but most would, at least, claim to be, and certainly conservative Christians, and our “social politics” are a significant force in the movement.)

Of course, for Christians our ultimate example of how we are to treat others comes from Jesus Christ. Liberals love to refernce many of Christ’s acts of compassion (which was, no doubt, a significant part of His ministry) as an example of how conservatives should conduct themselves. Many outside of Christianity, and many who feign to be a part of it, have an especially distorted view about what it means to be a follower of Christ. They seem eager to embrace His message of love, forgiveness, and compassion, as well they should, but they easily forget His message of repentance and salvation. Also, they fail to notice that He was and is, of all things, a very controversial and divisive figure.

Christ’s miracles were done not only to help others in need; they were also meant to validate His claim as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. He not only performed miracles, but He also forgave sin and directly claimed to be the Son of God. (This is what got Him crucified.) As C.S. Lewis put it, this either makes Him Lord, liar, or lunatic, not simply some great moral teacher who did good deeds that we need to emulate.

The greatest miracle recorded in Scripture that Christ performed was raising someone from the dead. (There are three recorded instances of this occurring.) This was not done merely out of “compassion,” only to save the lives of those who had died. They would, after all (with apologies to James Bond), “die another day.” His ultimate goal was to give them “everlasting life.”

This could be said of every miracle Christ performed. It is true that He healed, fed, and cast out demons because of His great love and compassion for those in need. However, these acts alone did not save anyone. Those healed of one disease or sickness would someday die of another. Those fed would someday be hungry again. Christ’s ultimate goal was to bring people into His Kingdom. In other words, God became man not simply to improve us or help us, but to make us into new creatures.

Niceness, good deeds, and compassion are excellent things, but they are not our highest end. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where we all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeed in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.”

lulu

April 17th, 2010
8:11 am

Kyle, I certainly commend your taking part in this empathy exercise. Aren’t you so amazing lucky you were able to have that coffee and bagel?? Most people don’t have that. The big question is, now that you have learned, what are you going to DO?

It’s sad to me that so many people require these exercises to even begin to have compassion for others … and then go right back to eating their burgers and fries and going to their big fancy churches and ranting about people who have less. Will that be you – lesson learned, blog written, move onto the next cool thing? Or will you put your newfound knowledge to use? I guess I’ve always been a fan of good works over good faith (which scares most Christians I know, for some reason), but unless you translate your knowledge into action, it’s nothing more than an insult to the vast numbers of people who live under those circumstances – because while you may have been a little hungry for a few days, you truly have NO idea.

Aquagirl

April 17th, 2010
8:22 am

I think I’d cut “christians” in the public sphere a lot more slack if they spent more time like Kyle—increasing their empathy and doing things the hard way. Alas, Christianity and politics seems to be more about bullying others.

Jesus spent no time in politics, and explicitly rejected any temporal power. Plenty of his so-called followers think they’re here to set up his earthly kingdom. Modern day Pharisees are way too common.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
8:46 am

Faith without works is dead said James, lulu.

True compassion must be married to liberty?

Let’s explore this thought of liberty for a moment as it applies to Government and Christianity per se in what is called helping the poor, the needy, the proverbial “under privileged” and the “less fortunate”.

The mission of Christianity beyond its’ modus operandi of aiding in leading lost souls to the saving grace of Jesus Christ is to restore the fallen and down trodden (the poor, the needy, the proverbial “under privileged” and the “less fortunate”).

The mission of Government is not one of standing in for the absence of God or a god. No real constitutional bases exist to authorize Government, beyond promoting the general welfare of the country, which is not one and the same as promoting the restoration of the individual’s welfare or generally providing welfare to the individual, in taking on the role of a ministry – precluding relief in cases of massive disasters that threaten life and liberty.

So, why is Government assistance even allowed, when empirically it has produced an unhealthy dependency in many cases much like what is seen in the addiction to a drug that robs an individual of their liberty?

As regrettable as it is to say, churches have failed to serve their mission and government has taken on the forbidden role of an established “secular religion”.

neo-Carlinist

April 17th, 2010
9:00 am

interesting screed amigo, but be careful what you ask for. not only would said “diet” actually improve the overall health of those who employ it (how’s that for socialized medicine?), which would hit the Big Med, Big Pharm, and Big Insurance HARD. it would also hit Big Ag and Big Junk Food HARD, too, well, with healthcare being “36% of our economy”, it seems to me we would not have a “deflation” so much as a complete recalibration of our economy (which could be tied to a recalibration of our values). and therein lies the rub, scribe; do we want this? compassion is a weakness in the capitalist game. consuming less, for the greater good (spiritually, or not) is, dare I say; “socialist”. the problem is, Americans are voracious consumers of everything from electronics, to junkfood (to real estate before 2008). we’re gluttonous, short-sighted, fools. and too make matters worse, we have become addicted to this model (see: stock market, GNP, trade deficits, etc.). we wage wars to ensure our fix remains available. so yeah, this is a nice Saturday AM musing, but do you really want to put Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Merck, Kaiser-Permanente, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Aetna, et al out of business and (re)turn lifesylte choices and responsibility for health and fitness to the unwashed masses?

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
9:14 am

neo-Carlinist

April 17th, 2010
9:18 am

Micheal H. Smith, interesting take re: the true nature of government, vis-a-vis Christianity. is it me, or does not the Constitution we all venerate and revere (and I use those words because of their religious connotations), a de facto Ponzi scheme when it comes to “liberty”? that is to say, the government/state says; “buy into this form of government. invest (freedom) in this Constitution by voting your shares for me”, but once you are a share holder, the “Board of Directors” uses the power of your vote for it’s own benefit/gain, as opposed to being a responsible steward of liberty (yours and that of other shareholders). as you point out, its primary interest is its own “freedom” to make its own self-serving choices. I could draw the same picture of most (centrally) organized religious organizations, which at their core are no different than any social unit. as I have argued MANY times, if we view a nation or a religion as a herd, the herd operates or exists because it believes there is “security” in numbers (and the protection of the deity, rancher, alpha male, or stud bull, or whomever “leads” the herd). but in reality, the weak and sick “protect” the herd because they are the first to perish or fall victim to those who prey on the herd (disease, predators, etc.).

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
9:28 am

If it is you neo-Carlinist, then be aware that you are not standing alone in what is becoming an evermore increasingly larger crowd.

Morrus

April 17th, 2010
9:31 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

jconservative

April 17th, 2010
9:42 am

Michael H. Smith April 17th, 2010 8:46 am

“…churches have failed to serve their mission and government has taken on the forbidden role of an established “secular religion”.”

Mr. Smith has this 100% correct.

There is a statement attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan where he stated that he was basically a political Conservative, but as long as the largest Christian nation in the world allowed children to go to bed hungry, he would be a political Liberal to try & solve that problem.

And Mr. Smith is correct. Over the centuries churches have lost their mission.

The government did not “need” to do a lot of things we have now come to expect it to do. The Christian community, of which I am a part, failed to keep up its role in the community. We did not need Social Security, the Christian community could have handled that need. We did not need Head Start, the Christian community could have handled that. We did not need Medicare/Medicaid, the Christian community is a natural for that.

Over the years we Americans have come to expect the government to take care of us from “cradle to grave”. Now there is a movement for government to care for us from “conception to grave”. This is a mission the Christian community can easily handle. But it will not do so, it has already decided to push this mission off on government.

Show me in the Gospel where Jesus went out and raised 250,000 Drachmas and built a 5000 seat church.

If Jesus had 250,000 Drachmas he would have done this: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (New International Version).

TGT

April 17th, 2010
10:21 am

M. Smith and jcoservative: A sad indictment on the church that it’s shortcomings in helping those in need have led so many to turn to governments for such aid. One significant reason for this: A lack of giving of their financial resources on the part of Christians. According to George Barna, as of 2007, among all born again adults, only 9% contributed one-tenth or more of their income. The vast majority of the necessary funding for the work of the church comes from the pockets of those sitting in the pews. If believers don’t give as they should, then the work of the church will be lacking, and people will look elsewhere for help (government, etc.).

Sam Smith

April 17th, 2010
11:19 am

Your new insight (albeit rather modest as you note) reminds me of an article I read in “The Onion” once. Be sure to read the full article so that you’ll appreciate the full extent of what being “shaken loose from your comfort zone” might really mean.

“I am so Starving: Point/Counterpoint”
http://www.theonion.com/articles/i-am-so-starving-vs-i-am-so-starving,11541

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
11:21 am

The indictment as it were and sad as it truly is TGT, has two accused named parties: Organized religion and organized Government unlawfully malfunctioning as a “secular religion”.

Unfortunately, all at present is chaotic. The roles and order of things as so many of us thought we knew them is in disarray or working in a reverse order of serving their intended purpose for existing in our society, if in fact, not in the world entirely.

Is it any wonder that something such as a Tea Party would emerge? If any other such wonderment does exist then I certainty haven’t the ability to name it. What the majority of us do know is the wrong we see and the compulsion that says only WE must change it RIGHT not Obama or the Democrats or the Republicans or the failed institutions upon which trust has been placed.

Gator Joe

April 17th, 2010
11:25 am

Dear Kyle:
I really don’t know much about you, or your place of worship, however, this exercise and what you have taken away from it speaks favorably of both you, and the congregation. Many people today are quick to say that the poor (and homeless) are lazy and don’t want to work, and therefore don’t deserve our attention and help. It is pointless to debate this attitude, but being blessed to live in a country such as ours, we should not tolerate people going hungry here or elsewhere, especially children. “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
11:43 am

Of course, not all is lost to the broad brush that paints a dreary picture.

The Age-old Practice of Gleaning is Finally Finding the Limelight

http://lewisginter.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/the-age-old-practice-of-gleaning-is-finally-finding-the-limelight/

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
11:46 am

And one more, though many other such faith based organizations do exist.

The Society of St. Andrews

http://www.endhunger.org/

Jess

April 17th, 2010
11:55 am

In reading the few comments here it seems that liberals seem to have a hard time grasping the fact that conservatives can be caring and compassionate if they oppose government entitlements. The issue is not whether we help people who are in need, but whether we institutionalize this help in a vast government system which invariably expands and takes on a life of it’s own.

In the mind of many they accept the concept that the only way to fix the problems with health care is a complete reformation with choking government involvment. This is just not the case. The simplest solution to the pre-existing condition problem was to simply pass a law that health insurers could not exempt someone for a pre-existing condition. Insurers would adjust, and premiums would go up for all those currently covered, but this could have been done without a single new government agency. What we got is essentially a government takeover, by the means of regulation, of an entire industry, 158 new agencies, and a layer of taxation on the entire industry which will be passed to the consumers.

The institutionalization of entitlements, with no strings attached has, and will continue to create an entire welfare class which really has little incentive to break free. The same goes for the worldwide redistribution programs which the UN pushes and Obama favors as part of his new world order. We will create a welfare class of nations who will never have a real reason to change.

CJ

April 17th, 2010
12:48 pm

The issue is not whether we help people who are in need, but whether we institutionalize this help in a vast government system which invariably expands and takes on a life of it’s own.

The government isn’t an outside entity that takes on a life of it’s own since, in a representative democracy, we’re the government’s board of directors. We do the hiring, and we do the firing.

For example, the government didn’t expand access to health care for others because it took on a life of its own. Millions of us elected Dems to do exactly that. To the extent that the plan is unpopular by more than a majority, there’s a significant percentage who didn’t like the plan because it wasn’t liberal enough.

Assertions about the government taking a life of its own in the current climate generally come from those who lost an election and don’t respect the rights of those who won to have the legislation that won their votes implemented. You can disagree with such legislation, but your fellow citizens deliberately put the wheels in motion. Nothing took on a life of its own.

Jess

April 17th, 2010
12:57 pm

CJ,

You missed the point. The problems of health care could have been solved without reforming the entire system. You must recall 70% of us liked our plan. As far as taking on a life of it’s own, Let’s just see how many of the 158 new agencies are eliminated in the years to come. My bet is that they will multiply and expand and they will all get their budjet increases each year since they will now be crucial to the well being of the American people.

This is taking on a life of their own where I come from.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
1:19 pm

We are not a representative democracy, CJ.

Stick around, the wheels are about to fall off your wagon and after the second Tuesday in November your cartage will change, as me and my follow citizens elect new Representatives to lead this “Republic” in a totally different and unacceptable direction of your respectful choosing.

lulu

April 17th, 2010
2:58 pm

I’m with you on this, CJ.

I think I understand the point that the government should not be involved in social programs as it’s the role of the church, but apparently most churches – and most Christians – don’t agree with you on the role of the church. I have no doubt that conservatives CAN have compassion; it’s just been my experience that most of them DON’T.

This is the United States – I don’t find it acceptable for children to be going hungry here. If Christians actually cared about this, then they could attempt to solve it. However, since they don’t, are we as a country prepared to stand by and say, “Well, the Christians would rather have a new rec hall than help out, so I guess the starving kids can die.”? Call me a bleeding heart, but I’m not prepared to say that.

Legend of Len Barker

April 17th, 2010
3:16 pm

We’re back to the “entitlements” thing. That’s the excuse.

There are definitely people who take advantage of the system. That’s always the case when you have any kind of system. I can understand the worries. And when you have it fixed in your mind that most poor people are lazy and sorry, it’s easy to accept that they somehow deserve their fate.

You don’t see the working stiffs who put in their nine hours per day for barely above minimum wage. You don’t see mother working two jobs to support two children because her husband isn’t there anymore. You don’t see the family that’s always done its best to keep its head above water find out that one of their children has cancer. You don’t see the people who have to make the choice between electricity, food, or paying for medications they need.

All you choose to see are the ones who work the system.

As a teacher once pointed out, it’s easier for a newspaper to run a picture of a starving child in Africa or Asia than it is to run one of a starving American. We prefer to keep our disconnect as we have this thought that we’re somehow better than these places, that no Americans go to bed at night hungry or live in such squalor.

It’s easy to give your 10% and think that it fixes all the country’s problems. After all, no one runs pictures of starving American children on the front page. It’s easy to drop your dollar in at Christmas when the Salvation Army rep is ringing the bell. It’s not easy when you have to see true poverty in person. .

neo-Carlinist

April 17th, 2010
3:52 pm

CJ, we’re not the board of directors (the board is the politicians). we’re the shareholders. we “invest” (taxes) only to have fund misused and misappropriated by the board.

@@

April 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

Geez, Kyle, there’s no way I’da let the leftists know where I attend church. They’re likely to track you down….believe me, I know of what I speak.

Having said that, and not to make light of the undernourished in the world, but I probably take in less calories in a day than those to whom your church leaders point. Suffice it to say, my church sponsors a food pantry that is well-stocked…open to anyone who asks…no explanation required or preaching involved. Clothes closet too.

Generous donations every quarter to Heifer International, my personal favorite.

Heifer is a gift that keeps on giving. Love multiplies….literally.

Puddin Tain

April 17th, 2010
4:17 pm

Len Barker is correct. I have yet to understand why right wingers think it is just fine to spend a trillion dollars on 2 wars that have killed and maimed thousands of Americans, yet cannot see that health care reform will help millions of their own countrymen. Sadly, this country has devolved into “what’s in it for me?” mentality. Most Americans don’t want a handout. They just want to be able to support their families. And get decent health care without going bankrupt.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
4:41 pm

Most Americans don’t want their government serving as a church or having government choose for them by using their tax dollars which charities will receive their donations.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
6:10 pm

This is the United States – I don’t find it acceptable for children to be going hungry here. If Christians actually cared about this, then they could attempt to solve it. However, since they don’t, are we as a country prepared to stand by and say, “Well, the Christians would rather have a new rec hall than help out, so I guess the starving kids can die.”? Call me a bleeding heart, but I’m not prepared to say that.

What are you prepared to do, lulu, as a bleeding heart? Would you advocate that government require any religion that claims a tax exemption to show proof of spending say at least 50%, 60% or even 70% of its revenues received in supporting or providing any of the following: health care for the sick, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless or the needs of the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans within their communities?

I would, as an inappropriately called hard hearted conservative without the leftwinger softness of head.

Sam Smith

April 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

Which section of the paper is this? I thought Wingfield’s column was supposed to be “political commentary from a 30-something conservative.” Did I stumble upon the Faith & Values section instead? Apparently it’s impossible for some folks to keep politics and religion apart. Instead of providing substantive material for a proper discourse, Wingfield is using this column as an opportunity to witness and testify on behalf of his religion/church. Give me a break!

I don’t need to hear about his pastor’s views or read about how it’s taken him until some vague point in his 30s to finally pause and realize that real life topics such as empathy, morality, and responsibility aren’t easy or simple to grasp. His sense of satisfaction from such a shallow epiphany is proof that he still doesn’t “get it” and that he can’t experience reality without the limiting view of his own religious filter. Please, give us a true, thinking columnist and not some hack poser who equates being politically conservative with being an Americanized Christian.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
6:46 pm

Comrade Cynthia Tucker has also on occasions spoken of her church and faith, did she equate being politically liberal with being an Americanized Christian?

Proper discourse is being discussed in every regard of the first amendment. Americanized Christians have every right to equally bring their influence to bear upon the politics of our day as any Americanized Humanist or Atheist or Politico.

However, the bigotry of religious intolerance is never proper discourse to publish in any column appearing in any newspaper of this country.

@@

April 17th, 2010
6:53 pm

Would you advocate that government require any religion that claims a tax exemption to show proof of spending say at least 50%, 60% or even 70% of its revenues received in supporting or providing any of the following: health care for the sick, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless or the needs of the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans within their communities?

Michael, would that apply to ALL churches or just the megas? What if it’s a small community church with a dwindling membership…one that maintains a healthy benevolent fund for members of the community, supplements with material goods rather than financial. My church isn’t that big but I’m thinking more about a teeny tiny black church in our community. It’s membership is less than 20. They keep on keepin’ on tho. It’s not uncommon for us to pool our efforts with theirs.

Jest wund’rin’.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
7:05 pm

It would have to @@ though material goods do have dollar values and the IRS is pretty good at assessing and assigning received revenues based on material goods for those who have evaded paying their taxes, if you know why I’m chuckling while saying this.

@@

April 17th, 2010
7:21 pm

Michael:

…if you know why I’m chuckling while saying this.

Can’t say that I do.

@@

April 17th, 2010
8:18 pm

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/world/middleeast/18iran.html?pagewanted=2

And ^^^ there you have it!

Should’a listened to Cheney.

@@

April 17th, 2010
8:25 pm

Apologies for my 8:18. Wrong blog.

Michael H. Smith

April 17th, 2010
9:14 pm

@@

April 17th, 2010
7:21 pm

Maybe you’ve missed the stories that appear from time to time about some guy who lives in a mansion, drives around in a new Caddy and owns an auto repair shop that never declares any source of income getting caught by the IRS?

The IRS usually just assigns them an income based on material goods they possess and the lifestyle to which they have acquired. I can’t help but laugh thinking about one those cases that took place years ago. Unless you sleep under a bridge and own nothing, you best have an income to report, cause if you don’t the IRS will be only too glad to provide you with one.

Anyhow, government should not serve the mission of organized religion and organized religion should not serve as a social club or just another business falsely operating as a church and get the special treatment under the tax code exempting them if they don’t serve their rightful mission as a religion in ministering to needy bodies as well as spiritually to needy souls.

@@

April 17th, 2010
9:32 pm

Alrighty, Michael…what I hear you saying is that ALL should suffer financial burdens due to the sins/wrongdoings of a few. Sounds very “democratic” to me. The little black church 20+/– members would cease to exist and could no longer go about doing their good works. I suppose they could as individuals, but there’s strength in numbers….even 20 give or take.

@@

April 17th, 2010
9:36 pm

BTW, Michael, I also have a hard time accepting corrupt politicians defining “rightful mission” when they’ve forgotten what theirs is.

[...] April 18, 2010 swinethemad Leave a comment Go to comments Kyle Wingfield wrote recently for his Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog how at his church, he participated in the “Five-Day Food and Water [...]

Michael H. Smith

April 18th, 2010
7:52 am

@@

April 17th, 2010
9:32 pm

It sounds like you are hearing what you want to hear and disregarding the rest, @@.

The little black church, though it could be a big white church, either way would not cease to exist because it used the majority of its funds to do the work which they are charged to do by their faith and if they are not using the majority of the funds they receive or material goods to minister to the needs of their respective community and/or using part of it like manner supporting missionaries in the foreign field, though charity does begin at home, then do tell me @@… what GOOD WORK are they doing?!

Please answer that question, @@.

I agree @@ you are having a hard time accepting, though it is the “rightful mission” that has already been defined in the scriptures you’re rejecting, which far too “corrupt many of us” have forgotten that allows these “corrupt politicians” who create government(secular church) welfare programs using our tax money to buy their votes in getting elected to public office.

Now that my friend, not only sounds very demagogy, it is very Democratic.

Michael H. Smith

April 18th, 2010
8:08 am

BTW, @@, I also denounced and opposed Bush using tax payer money to fund faith based missions for the very reasons stated, April 17th, 2010 4:41 pm

Most Americans don’t want their government serving as a church or having government choose for them by using their tax dollars which charities will receive their donations.

Which does in fact, include most Christians who understand why they should remain separated from government entanglement.

Future Farmer

April 18th, 2010
9:24 am

Don’t despair, liberals. Now that Obama and his band of Merry Bolsheviks are in charge, soon “evil America” will all be subsisting on the diet Kyle described every day. You Lefties must be thrilled will Lord O’s plans to destroy the American economy and turn the country into a Third World slum.

Of course, those of you high enough in the Party hierarchy or members of ‘correct’ activist groups will surely get extra rations.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 18th, 2010
4:51 pm

I am glad I am an atheist, and proud of it. I had prime rib, asparagus, a nice salad, followed by a double shot of Jack for dinner today. No guilt either. Yum yum, grain fed beef.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 18th, 2010
4:52 pm

By the way, it is time the churches started paying their way, tax the churches, the ministers, and all the foreign trips made by the church members.