Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2 Thessalonian Politics, aka The Church of Koch

“They're real life demonstrations of the biblical adage 'If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach the man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime.'” - David Koch
 American religion and politics has confused me.  I'm baffled--stumped really--why so many self-professed Christians are using their religion to help support contradictory politics.  Personally, I don't believe any political platform represents the embodiment of any particular religion.  Lately though, I've been seeing more gun-toting, Jesus-loving, enthusiasts shouting from the mountain tops of Facebook that God hates various groups of people: poor people, gay people, and democratic people chief among them.

That's Not the Jesus I Know

I've been around the block and have dabbled about in religion.  I would even consider myself a Christian.  Despite reading through the Bible (King James Version) six times, I just can't recall the level of hate these people are generating.  Old Testament aside, the Bible seems very loving and caring to every person.  I think most people would agree with me.  We see the modern church feed the poor and help the needy, but something else seems missing.

My life has dropped me in a number of rolls:

  • Church Secretary: my job was to count the money and help send it where it belonged.  The church had a majority of tithe payers that would faithfully give 10% of their pre-tax income.  On top of tithe, they would give in regular pledges and offerings.  The church had no debt and was financially stable.  During my three years in this position, nothing was given to anyone needing assistance.
  • Christian non-profit EA: my job was supporting the Senior Vice President of a large Christian organization.  No one was allowed to work there unless they professed the Christian faith.  Lots of money was given by donors and several worthwhile programs were in place for people around the world.  However, no money or programs were offered to transitional families within the United States.
  • Unemployed: probably the lowest point of my life.  The only money we had to feed our children came from state agencies and federal programs.  Despite previous involvement in churches and having a Christian belief, no money was given to us from any church or Christian-based program.
Which Jesus do you remember from Sunday School?

One Verse Religion

There's a large variety of churches out there, many of which I'm familiar with.  The most dangerous ones are those that seemed hinged on one or two Bible verses.  One group thumps around with Mark 16:18 and then drops dead from poisonous snake bites.  Another group touts Acts 2:38 as the only way into heaven, but unless you're speaking tongues after being dunked in water, you'd best be ready for hell.  Oh, and that same group doesn't believe in that whole Trinity thing either--you know, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

There's a new group on the rise, which I refer to as The Church of Koch.  I started out this blog with one of the Koch brother's quotes.  The Bible verse this group seems to cling to is 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."  As for the Bible verse David Koch is referring to above, it's not actually in the Bible, it's a Chinese proverb.

The Church of Koch, which tends to be very libertarian in thought, seems to completely ignore these other scriptures (all New Testament):
  • Acts 2 & 4, where everyone had everything in common and there wasn't any needy among them.
  • Matthew 19, where Jesus tells followers to be perfect, sell what they have and give to the poor.
  • 2 Corinthians 8, where the same writer of Thessalonians says fairness is giving out of their abundance so that no one would be in need.
  • 1 John 3, asks how the love of God can abide in someone who ignores a brother in need.
  • Ephesians 4, talks about doing honest work so that they can have something to share with someone else in need.
  • Galatians 6, commands us to fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another's burdens.
  • Matthew 25, where Jesus talks about feeding and clothing Him every time they feed or clothed another needy person.
  • Luke 3, shows Jesus commanding us to share our clothing if someone else has none and then to do the same with our food.
Current one-verse religions

What's Koch Got to Do With It?

The Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to try and stop social welfare programs.  Of the $600 million in noteworthy donations given, none of them support the homeless or those indebted by medical bills.  Contrarily, the organization that is heavily funded by the Koch brothers, the Cato Institute, has published a handbook for congress, asking to abolish ALL federal funding of welfare.  God bless 'em.

This last weekend, the oil billionaire, David Koch invited the Morman presidential candidate over for a quaint, $50,000-per-head dinner. (Having Christians rally behind a cult member for President will have to be another topic of mine.)  Political fundraisers have become a sad and necessary evil on both sides of the fence; they also serve to show us allegiances.  

Mormans tend to hold very similar beliefs to the libertarian Tea Party: smaller government, fewer services, do less for the needy, do more to protect mortality (anti-gay marriage, etc.), and have less environmental laws.  

And that's why I'm confused--why do so many Christians seem to support this way of thinking?  

Jesus as an all-American bad-ass



  1. Well stated Ryan.

    Being prolife myself, I think it has traditionally been the central issue many believers vote according to. Unfortunately, I think it has devolved to lead to many of the Jesus must be a Republican type thought.

    Many people now are promoting a syncretism regarding faith and government. Patriotism has practically become one of the fruit of the Spirit. People have even tried to claim America has replaced Israel. This is convoluted for a couple reasons:

    a) People claim that God must be pleased with a democratic republic, yet the only government you see in Scripture is monarchy.
    b) Many of our founding fathers, when referring to "God," were not referring to Yahweh of the Bible but to a God of deism.

    As a pastor in a very conservative part of Ohio, I've done my best to avoid talking politics from the pulpit. And it's funny, around here some people are greatly offended that I don't!

    1. Thanks, Danny. I may have to copy your quote about patriotism being a fruit of the Spirit. You're right about the pro-life issue causing people to hinge their vote by: I can't count how many people have told me this is the ONLY this they vote by.

      You sound like a wonderful pastor; maybe next time I'm in Ohio I'll have to swing by for a service (if my pastor dad doesn't pull me to his own service, LOL).

  2. Ryan,

    You made some wonderful points there! I really enjoyed reading your blog (and I wish I had known about your blog sooner!). With the utmost respect to you and your Christian brethren, as an atheist I wanted to comment on the part of your article where you mention that aside from the Old Testament, "the Bible seems very loving and caring to every person."

    I absolutely agree with this and no doubt, the bible offers some very sound moral guidance and wisdom to those who read it. The issue, however, is that the Old Testament covers more than half of the bible! For a person such as myself, it is not so easy to ignore some of (what I find to be) the "less loving" messages in the Old Testament for all the kindness and caring that is in the New Testament. It's not like the proverbial rotten apple in the basket when it comes to the bible and the Old Testament; it's more like there are only a few good good apples to choose from!

    This aside, I think while no doubt religion can influence one's political aspirations, I feel that religious priorities and political priorities should be separate. Our founding fathers believed in the separation of church and state. The beautiful thing about America is that this is (or is supposed to be) the land of the free. A land where you may pursue the religion of your choice and not be harassed for it.

    I think religion and politics are like water and oil and should be kept that way! When you start to mix them, I think churches begin to be operated as a business rather than a charitable organization. Several of the points in your article show this to be true. I can only hope that many of the Christian fellowship will adopt your perspective on religion and politics. Certainly, it would make to help out a great many more people in need of such charity!


    1. Thanks, J. Due to my health and other reasons, I've tempered back my involvement in the video game industry. You may spot the occasional review or piece of news from me, but mostly expect my various meanderings going forward.

      As for the Old Testament, I feel this is where most Christians become easily confused and misguided. I've run into many church groups that use Old Testament (OT) scripture out of place to condemn their constituents to hell--mostly for money or to achieve their own agenda. The OT serves important historical, legal, allegorical, and prophetic purposes that built up the coming of Christ. Paul's writings to the churches in the New Testament is very clear about what happened and how to live considering the Law of the Old Testament: if they willfully want to observe one part, they need to observe it all.

      If anything, the Old Testament was even more strict on how to treat the poor, including: debt forgiveness, charity, and even allowing them to eat off your farm land. It's funny how libertarians will quote Chinese proverbs as Old Testament adages, but avoid blatant testament.

      You're absolutely right about mixing religion and politics. Religion is a system of beliefs that should help guide individual decisions. It shouldn't be used to browbeat others to follow suite: this is how Chris was crucified to begin with. Religion is very personal, so when it gets mixed with politics, people get offended. If we kept religion out of politics, we can feel free to openly discuss intelligent approaches to better lives for everyone involved.

      As for running a church like a business or charitable organization, I don't think they should be either, but that's for another blog...