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Reader Question of the Week: Poor Jesus

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, asks: I still don't understand why supposed evangelical "Christians" like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who harp on things like the solar eclipse, Jewish space lasers, and culture wars nonsense, can vote for huge tax cuts for the rich and oppose government help to the poor with a straight face. There are so many instances in the New Testament that they claim to hold dear where Jesus rebukes people for clinging to money (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25), is all about paying taxes (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25), and sounds like an outright socialist (Matthew 25:15). Note these examples are not at all difficult to find; we're talking the first three Gospels, not 2 Corinthians here...

So, why do so many evangelical politicians still vote for large tax cuts for rich people and against social services? Couldn't they advocate for both culture wars and wealth redistribution?

And here some of the many, many answers we got in response:

S.H. in Sutherlin, OR: Easy answer: GREED

J.R.A. in St. Petersburg, FL: It seems obvious to me that the reason why "evangelical" politicians vote in favor of cutting taxes and against helping the poor is because they're liars. They aren't at all religious, it's just a convenient excuse to get elected.

What I don't understand is why the people who elect them on a regular basis can't see this.

It is, I guess, as (V) & (Z) regularly point out, just partisan blindness: They vote for that letter after the name, not their actual policies.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY: My personal theory is that Satan has taken over large swaths of evangelical Christianity. The clearest examples are the mega churches and their pastors (Joel Osteen is a really clear example) but really anyone preaching the "prosperity gospel." And I'm not even sure I believe in Satan!

J.S. in Columbia, MO: Why do people who are "pro-life" oppose all abortions but are heavily in favor of the death penalty? Possibly because there is a "purity" factor? If yes, then evangelicals can apply that purity factor to wealthy business people who they believe to be behaviorably-pure, have worked hard for their money and deserve to keep it (or most of it) while those who need government assistance are behaviorably-impure (belief they will spend the money on drugs, etc.), terrible custodians of God's resources (the earth and the fulness thereof) and giving them money would be throwing "pearls before swine."

A.H. in Newberg, OR: Betty Bowers seems to have all of the answers for people wishing to understand the Megaidiots' mind set. She has numerous short YouTube videos to explain to the peasants the reality of Christo-fascist thought, like this one.

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ: I, like E.W. in Skaneateles, used to struggle with understanding how a lot of Evangelicals could support legislation benefiting rich guys and not pursue ideas to help regular folks. Then, when my Catholic upbringing was thoroughly deconstructed in my late teens as a result of being exposed to many other world views, I came to the understanding there are basically two types of believers in this part of the evangelical fold.

The first type is the person who truly believes in the "prosperity gospel." People are rich because God likes them. Just as there are "low information voters," there are also these "low information Christians" who do not really read the Bible, but base their beliefs on the scriptural cherry-picking of the greedy preachers they follow. Sometimes, when these folks are exposed to more of the true message of the Gospels, they can either become better Christians or may abandon the faith altogether.

The second type of evangelical is the person who is simply using the power of the Christian church in their community to gain power; who is just parroting some of the same prosperity gospel ideas because to do otherwise would label them as one of The Others all good Christians should fear. These folks are true dirtbags who emphasize the danger of going to Hell over the concepts of humility and love.

I am lucky to be an atheist who does not have to struggle with the mixed messages and unresolvable contradictions coming out of the Abrahamic belief systems.

A.G. in Scranton, PA: Because they are liars who lie about what they need to lie about on any given day to obtain control.

I know this because I grew up in the evangelical "Christian" church, one that told me I couldn't vote for a draft dodging, womanizing, pig of a human because that would be bad for America and against the teachings of the church and who now tells my mother, my father, and my brother specifically TO vote for a draft dodging, womanizing, pig of human (one who uses the name of their Christ in vain with regularity) because he will climb down from his cross, save America from Demoncrats and abortionists who murder children well into their eighth year of life and who will allow them to force raped children to carry their rapist's rape baby to term because that is what Christ would have wanted.

R.T. in Arlington, TX: This question could not be easier to answer. Evangelicals are a political sect masquerading as a religious sect. Not sure I would identify Marjorie Taylor Greene as evangelical, just clinically obnoxious.

M.A.H, in Akron, PA: Greene is a Christian like Lauren Bobert is a Christian. I imagine that they grew up in an area where many people went to church every Sunday and it felt like everyone shared cultural touch points.

I spent my childhood in small-town Indiana and rural Arkansas in a relatively fundamentalist household (before going to school in the completely different New Orleans) and I'm about the same age as MTG. As a result I feel comfortable with my assessment of "why" a Christian would act the way she does, because the things she says do not seem as incongruous to me as they do to other observers.

In my background, the verses and messages that E.W. in Skaneateles gives were talked about, but they were balanced with stories from the Old Testament where God's chosen people were persecuted by Egyptians and King David fought to defeat the Philistines.

Add to that the things like the satanic panic of the 80s, Jack Chick tracts, the prosperity gospel, and the culture that made New York Times bestsellers of the Left Behind series. Living in that environment, it is not at all surprising that you end up with a not-quite-50-year-old woman who sees conspiracies, signs, and threatening changes in what is culturally acceptable while fighting against the philistines in government who want to tax away the money that good, honest, hard-working Christians would use for whatever righteous cause they see fit.

In the meantime, those who were born later or in more urbane, secularized areas, see a weird evangelical "Christian" who has an obsession with strange conspiracies and culture wars while seeming to ignore Jesus' call to be humble, serve the poor, and love your enemy as yourself.

D.S. in Winnetka, CA: What most people who ask why evangelical Christians support Trump in spite of his in Christian lifestyle don't understand is that they've been praying for their version of "the end of the world" for 2,000 years and they are tired of waiting. None of these so-called Earthly problems concern them. They're impatient for their antichrist to kick off the events of revelations and Trump is the closest thing they've got right now.

C.S. in St. Paul, MN: Why do some pseudo-evangelicals whore themselves out? Power. They want it or want to keep it, and prostituting themselves is a small price to pay. Duh. And they are to evangelicals what Velveeta is to cheese. Recommended reading: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta. If you want to read this, first get permission from your cardiologist.

EGG-C, Syracuse, NY: I think most of the answers can be found in Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

J.K. in Portland, OR: The inherent hypocrisy of supposed evangelical Christian capitalists is not a modern phenomenon. Perhaps the best takedown I know of them is Mark Twain's posthumously published short book Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings. The book was so controversial that it was not published because of his daughter's objections until 50 years after Twain's death. Even today, it is a delightful read.

A.N. in Tempe, AZ: I believe the right-wing evangelical politicians think the government needs to be minimized, as it does more harm than good, especially when trying to manage social services. They think charity should come from individuals and private organizations and not from the government. I suspect this attitude is consistent with their blindness to the needs for help of the non-evangelical "vermin," since individuals and churches can limit who they help and who gets the most help, while government is supposed to help without regards to religion. No, this is not consistent with their holy book.

Their attitude concerning taxes is the fewer the better, as strangulation is the best way to minimize government spending. There is also a sense of fairness on the right that is fundamentally different than fairness as viewed on the left. The right sees a flat tax as most fair and a progressive tax system as unfair to the rich. The left sees fairness more a matter of ability to pay and also justifies as fair the redistribution of wealth. The evangelical is more consistent with their holy book on taxes as it does not command progressive tax rates.

T.K. in Warsaw, IN: The answer to the question is, sadly, pretty simple. I claim to be qualified to answer it because I live surrounded by many, many evangelical Republicans and have for most of my life.

Evangelical politicians don't give a damn about most of the Bible, especially any lessons within it about helping the poor or paying taxes. Many don't actually believe in God/aren't actually religious, but are very good at acting like they are, in order to please their evangelical voters. They don't think there is any actual spiritual benefit to helping the poor or ensuring taxes are paid fairly, but they do know, with hard, proven data, that there is immense benefit to serving wealthy people and businesses by keeping their taxes low, as they will in turn receive tithes/bribes/donations, etc.

In short: it's about money, not God. Helping the poor and making corporations pay their fair share doesn't rake in the cash, but keeping taxes low for the wealthy does. That is why they spend their time demonizing LAtino immigrants or LGBTQ children; those persons don't have lots of money.

Put another way, they're fucking charlatans. Emphasis on the "bad word," used on purpose for impact.

M.M. in San Diego, CA: Taxing the rich (redistribution of wealth) and providing social services to the poor or disadvantaged are clearly socialist or communist policies, and we all know socialists and communists are godless atheists; therefore, making rich people pay taxes to help provide social services for poorer people is socialism and/or communism, which is antithetical to Christianity (despite what that Jesus guy said).

B.C. in Walpole, ME: Post-WWII evangelicalism was conceived as a middle way between mainline liberal Protestantism and fundamentalism. Somewhere between 1970 and 1980 or so, evangelicalism collapsed into fundamentalism. Among other things, that means that there is no gray, only black and white; there is no middle ground. Something is either absolutely true in all cases or it is absolutely false. Abortion is absolutely wrong in all cases. There can be no compromise.

Evangelical fundamentalism cannot embrace positive government policy to ameliorate socioeconomic problems. It is antithetical to their mindset, which tends to be anti-government to begin with. Government should outlaw that which is morally wrong—abortion, homosexuality. But taxing the rich is in violation of the commandment "Thou shalt not steal," which enshrines and sanctifies all forms of private property. Taxation takes away the private property of citizens, so it's wrong. A flat tax would be acceptable, I guess.

There are, to choose a rough approximation, some 2,000 different versions of Christianity. American evangelicalism, which views itself as Christianity itself, is a particular flavor. It is never pacifist, never embraces radical social teaching, deemphasizes the teaching of Jesus, sees racism as an act of a particular individual in a particular moment (and therefore cannot grasp what the rest of the culture means by "racism"), favors libertarianism except with regard to its own particular interests (homosexuality, Israel), is anti-government except where it is directly controlled by [our brand of] Christians (at which point it is pro-government), is anti-intellectual (despite movements in some evangelical circles in the 1960s and 1970s).

Even more than other versions of Christianity, American evangelicalism conflates religion and nationalism. Other versions have a broader social perspective and a more global international perspective. Although evangelicalism has always emphasized foreign missions, they do not effectively distinguish between sharing the Gospel of Jesus and teaching foreigners to live like Americans. (This was also true for British evangelicals in the 19th century.)

One more: Evangelicalism sees the Bible as the Word of God. Every word of the Bible is true. Therefore, any single verse of the Bible, is absolutely true, even if taken out of context. So you will hear them quote Jesus, "The poor you always have with you," removing the context so as to entirely miss his point. They do not have to have a comprehensive account of everything between the covers of the book: If they find one proof-text that supports their viewpoint, the case is closed. (Ask me about my grandfather's absolute conviction that racial segregation is Biblical policy.)

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX: There are many, many Christians who try to live (and vote) based on the values taught and exhibited by Jesus in the first three gospels. But, in my experience, a vast majority think that being a Christian is all about the fourth gospel, specifically John 3:16. In evangelical churches this will certainly be the theme Sunday after Sunday. Conveniently, this does not require you to live in any particular way, just believe and you are golden. Oh, some churches make you go through the motions every Sunday, but in my denomination one "Yes" when I was 12 and I was good to go for my entire life and afterlife.

This is complemented nicely by the "every verse in the Bible is an equally inspired Word of God" mind trick. So I can quote a verse from the supposed "only begotten Son of God" and you can quote a contradictory verse picked to suit your argument and they are considered equal. Here is a fun example: A friend of mine posted "Nine reasons that I vote Republican because I am a Christian." They were all passages from the Old Testament. I commented: "Interesting that you didn't mention Jesus even once." They went ballistic defending their choices.

K.F.W. in El Dorado Hills, CA: Hypocrisy

Here is the question for next week:

D.C. in Portland, OR, asks: Your mention of the Donald Trump aide with the wireless printer made me think of Brave Sir Robin of Holy Grail infamy whose daring—and not so daring—exploits are sung to him real-time by a page, as they gallop-hop their way through the forest.

So: If Trump had a theme song or tune that followed him around, what would it be?

Submit your answers to, preferably with subject line "Donald's Song"!

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