I saw the following on Facebook that was attributed to former president Jimmy Carter. It was juicy, but did he say it?:
“If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying that you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t!”
The cited remark is part of a much longer screed by comedian John Fugelsang and his “Fake Christian of the Week” segment was part of Current TV’s Viewpoint program. The segment aired on May 29, 2013 and targeted Tennessee congressman Stephen Fincher.
“Congressman Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Tennessee, just took the Bible so far out of context he had to apply for a visa.
“Fincher is a fierce opponent of food aid for poor Americans. You know, like Jesus. He recently fought to cut $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If you only watch Fox, that means ‘food stamps.’ And thanks to the fine work of Fincher and his colleagues, 2 million working American families, children and seniors have already been cut off from food assistance.
“So during a recent House agricultural committee debate, he decided to show how Christian it is to turn your back on unemployed suffering Americans by quoting one of the favorite Bible passages of revoltingly fake right-wing Christians — 2 Thessalonians 3:10 — ‘anyone unwilling to work should not eat.’
“But Fincher and the GOP … [c]ut services for the poor and taxes for the rich. And it’s a free country. They’re allowed. But if you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t. And that’s why Representative Fincher is our ‘revoltingly fake Christian of the week’!”
Once again we find a liberal who selectively quotes the Bible in defense of a pet liberal project.
Fugelsang argues that the passage “anyone unwilling to work should not eat” was given in Paul’s day because “many apocalyptic Christians believed Jesus was coming back really soon and the world was going to end anyway, so why work? These early rapture-heads were hurting the local economy and threatening the functioning society of Thessalonica.”
The early Christians didn’t believe any such thing. They had been told that the temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed within a generation (Matt. 24:34). That was the next eschatological event on their plate, and it happened just like Jesus said it would.
The context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 does not support Fugelsang’s rapture-head claim. Like in all the churches Paul dealt with, there were people who were acting in an undisciplined way and they needed correction.
Paul was most likely referring to the Old Testament gleaning laws where even the poorest members of society had to work (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:20-22). “Jesus and his disciples practiced a form of gleaning as they walked through grain fields breaking off heads of wheat to eat” (Mark 2:23). Gleaning was hard work, and it was not a government program
Moreover, Fugelsang’s interpretation does not fit with what Paul writes later in his first epistle to the Thessalonians:
“But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thess. 4:10-12).
In other places, we see how Christians voluntarily sold property to help those in need (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-37). Then there are numerous descriptions of Christians helping fellow Christians in special times of need. Not once is there an appeal to the government for assistance. Consider the following:
“Paul and Barnabas made an initial famine-relief visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 46 and delivered a monetary gift from the church at Antioch (Acts 11:29-30). At that time the Jerusalem church expressed the hope that the believers associated with Paul would continue to remember the Judean believers, which Paul was more than eager to do (Gal 2:10).
“The collection effort was successfully completed in A.D. 57, and the funds were delivered by Paul and a group of delegates chosen by the contributing Gentile churches. In Romans 15:26 Paul states that the churches of Macedonia and Achaia ‘were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, but the actual list of contributing churches is much longer. Luke’s list includes delegates from Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe and Asia.”
Furthermore, even Fugelsang’s distorted interpretation doesn’t help him since the Bible never gives confiscatory authority and power to civil government for wealth redistribution.
Fugelsang should take a look at the Manna One Food Truck that brought relief to victims of Hurricane Irene in 2011. It was featured on the popular History Channel show “Modern Marvels.” It’s called “Manna One”: