Confusing Government With God

Following is an abridged version of an email I received from Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries. I think he’s gotten to the crux of the OWS protests. He expects the protesters to return next year, in greater vigor. We should prepare …

We should pay attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests. Their demands are all over the map, and few people are taking them seriously. That is a mistake. 

A broad demographic but relatively small base of our population is in the streets chanting in favor of placing government in control of matters that have historically been dealt with in the realm of personal responsibility based upon a strong adherence to Judeo Christian values. The reasons given for the protests boil down to three general complaints.

First, they are bothered by greed. According to the demands of the protestors, greedy corporations and individuals (the “1 per centers”) need to give more of their wealth in taxes to fund government programs for the benefit of everybody else (the “99 per centers”). In nations where this financial fairness doctrine has been fully implemented, it has led to slavery and untold suffering. How could anyone in our country embrace something so disastrous, you might ask? The answer is, they’re confusing government with God. 

Logically, you can accuse a corporation of being mismanaged, but not of being greedy. Greed is a problem within the heart of a human. It cannot be legislated away. The protesters’ solution is twisted and based on another sin—envy. They should abandon their desire for communism and espouse one of God’s key financial principles, that we should avoid greed and love people more than we love money or possessions.

Abstaining from envy or covetousness is one of the most overlooked of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17). Though not in the Ten Commandments, the Bible declares greed to be a sin: “The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25 NIV). The protestors are missing that a change of heart is the only way to effectively deal with the problems of selfishness and exploitation. 

The next thing on the protesters’ agenda is closing the wealth gap. Caring for others less fortunate than us is one of God’s principles—that we should give to the poor. Doing so gives our life meaning and significance. 

The protesters, again, put their faith in government to carry out the need for a generous spirit in our culture. They would force the redistribution of wealth through taxes. Wealthy and poor alike would lose their desire to be productive. When the culture of a meritocracy is eliminated, history shows that it leads to fewer benefits for everyone, not more. 

And finally, there is this business of the 99%, the idea that the “little people” have no voice and no one caring for them. Well, it’s another of God’s principles that He will provide for us, that He will hear our prayer. In God’s kingdom, there are no little people … or big people, either. 

The protesters want folks to become more dependent on government. They are advancing an ideology that if adopted, will be the downfall of the freedoms that made America the greatest nation in history. If the Occupy Wall Street protesters sincerely want to see greed decrease, the wealth gap closed, and have the voice of the “99%” heard, they need the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel leads to freedom, while a misplaced dependency upon government leads to slavery. The protesters and America need God, not more government. 


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Risking change/changing the risk and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Confusing Government With God

  1. Stan Baldwin says:

    Thanks, Sam, for not taking offense at my posts, since we obviously differ on some important issues. I’m glad we can say so and remain friends. Just one last point, if I may. You wrote: “Yes, I think we may be headed for mass poverty, but not for the reasons you imply. It would more likely be due to the strangulation of capitalism and free enterprise, taxed out of existence by an exploding bureaucracy.” The facts do not support this statement. Taxes to date have NOT in any way impinged on the ability of tycoons to amass unprecedented fortunes. They just get richer while the massses get poorer. One can make all kinds of claims and arguments, but facts are stubborn things and they speak for themselves. Hence the groundswell represented by the Occupy movement..

    • samuelehall says:

      Interesting points, Stan, however I believe you’re overlooking a significant point. You’re correct in that the tycoons can, and do, avoid taxes. I’ll address that in my next posting. The critical issue is that taxes and regulations are killing the small businesses. We’re not talking about tycoons; we’re talking about the economic viability of the thousands of small and large businesses who keep America’s economic engines running–they are the ones who struggle to pay their employees and keep the lights on.
      In Gov. Kulongoski’s last term as Oregon’s governor, his party controlled both the state senate and house. They rammed through Measures 66/67 “to save teachers’ jobs, etc.” That nearly 3/4-billion-dollar tax may have saved some jobs but through most of the state, hundreds of teachers still lost their jobs. Worse, that measure drove scores of small to medium business out of Oregon, further depleting the tax base. I believe this is closer to the stubborn truth you’re looking for.
      What we need is a closer approximation to the whole truth. Small to medium large businesses. These are the ones strangled by the exploding bureaucracy.
      The Occupy movement (a charitable term) fails to recognize the value of our capitalist system. If they did, they wouldn’t be trying to bite the hand that feeds them. One credible source I recently saw noted that the lowest five percent (5%) of America’s economic class were doing better than seventy percent (70%) of the world’s population.

  2. Stan Baldwin says:

    Chuck Bentley loses me completely when he writes in paragraph 3 that “in nations where this financial fairness doctrine has been implemented fully, it has led to slavery and untold suffering.” Source or example, please. Is he talking about the Soviet Union? Or Communist China? The latter has remarkably improved the living standards of its people. But, of course, China doesn’t have “pure communism,” but a lot of capitalism mixed in. So the “weasel words” in Bentley’s piece are “implemented fully.” But what has that to do with the Occupy Protesters? Which of them has demanded pure communism? One can’t condemn them for having no agenda, as many do, and then condemn them for having a radical communist agenda, as Bentley implies.

    In paragraph 4, he slanders the protesters by saying their “solution is twisted and based on another sin—envy. They should abandon their desire for communism and espouse one of God’s key financial principles, that we should avoid greed and love people more than we love money or possessions” I say that seeing injustice is not the same as envy. And to thus condemn the victims and their champions is cruel. Then Mr. Bentley gets really convoluted, preaching to the protesters that they should love people more than money, when the evidence shows the super rich are the ones who show little love for people. (Gates, Buffett, and a few others to the contrary.)

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Stan, for your comments. To determine exactly what Bentley means by the “financial fairness doctrine,” you’d have to ask him. But with the undefined terminology that the protesters are using, the socialistic label would fit. And there are plenty of references where that has been implemented fully; e.g., Stalin eliminated 60 million of his own people and Chinese on the street will tell you that Mao’s Cultural Revolution was horrible (30 million died). Some Chinese acquaintances I met practically wept in telling me about “an entire lost generation.” So the financial fairness statement would apply, unless you’re able to wring a different meaning out that chaos.
      I don’t see Bentley’s “fully implemented” phrase as weasel words. It’s inconvenient for your argument but it is a definition–something lacking from the protests. Socialism seems to be the underlying philosophy of many of the protest banners, signs, interviews, and comments. A socialistic state could be the eventual result of the movement. The elites are waiting in the wings to determine what sort of financial fairness would be “good.” Good in their eyes, of course. You inferred in an earlier posting that change has to start somewhere. The downside is that such a directionless movement could go … anywhere.
      Yes, what China has now is more capitalistic but don’t fool yourself; the communists are still in control. And under Chairman Mao and his view of financial fairness, the people suffered greatly.
      Communism? I have seen limited coverage of the protests but within the breadth of demands I’ve seen, some could easily come under that banner.
      I support your call for ending injustice, Stan. That desire seems built into us and is well documented in scripture. However, even though Habakkuk bewailed injustice (1:4), he had to come to the bottom line: “The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4).

      There is much to criticize in Bentley’s comments but I’d certainly agree with much of what he says, too. There is gross envy represented in the protests; also considerable sacrifice, selfishness, unselfishness, theft, violence, idealism, rape, disrespect, drugs, etc. As far as the super rich being more evil than the hoi polloi, I think not; they’ve just been opportunistic, lucky (if you believe in luck), or whatever.
      Since more of my life has been spent around the latter, I can say with authority that there is too much evil and greed among the little people, as well. Bentley is right in saying that a change of heart is necessary.

      • Stan Baldwin says:

        Sam, you wrote, “Communism? I have seen limited coverage of the protests but within the breadth of demands I’ve seen, some could easily come under that banner.”
        Frankly, Sam, this comment destroys the basic argument you make.
        You say that you have seen “limited coverage.” There s a “breadth of demands.” Some “could” come under that banner (communism). There are so many equivocations here that to then label this movement as an expression of envy, as Bentley did, and as socialist or communist as you both seem to do is simply unsupportable.

        You are right that there is plenty of greed and envy among “the little people” also. True, and they also need to be confronted. (I notice Duin did that in today’s Oregonian, pointing out the greed of some “little” timber companies who diverted federal funds from hiring the workers for whom they were intended.) But the “little people” are not the ones who brought down the whole economy. With great wealth comes great power. And unto whom much is given, from them shall much be required, according to Jesus.

        Last night on the OPB newshour, a profile of Liberia was shown. The country is rich in natural resources, but the people are dirt poor. The new government is trying to make sure that changes by requiring that those who take the rubber and iron (and hopefully oil) to fairly pay the people for it. Would you rather the government stay out of it and let those with economic power exploit the people and natural resources as they please?

        I ask you, do you want to live in a country where a few are super-rich and the masses live in poverty? That’s the typical third-world society and the direction we are headed.

      • samuelehall says:

        Thanks again, Stan–no equivocation from you, which I appreciate.
        I meant to equivocate re communism but I shouldn’t have picked up that firebrand. That label doesn’t identify the protest movement, any more than Van Jones (since resigned when it came out that he had been a communist) should symbolize the Obama administration. I stand corrected and agree that Bentley shouldn’t have used the term.
        Socialism in the protest movement is another matter. I still believe it’s a visible message and philosophy that will continue to gain traction unless it is stopped. There are too many people in our country who look for government to take over the responsibilities best left to the private sector. Your reference to Liberia provides an apt reference. Most of the 52 African countries opted for socialism (when they threw off the yoke of colonialism), which readily led to authoritarian regimes and the conditions you describe.
        Yes, I think we may be headed for mass poverty, but not for the reasons you imply. It would more likely be due to the strangulation of capitalism and free enterprise, taxed out of existence by an exploding bureaucracy.
        I recall reading a speech by, I believe, Milton Friedman, who said that our government is roughly 40% effective but that he was grateful, for if it reached full effectiveness, the USA would grind to a halt.
        Let me say that I salute the thousands of government employees who serve our country’s citizens with dedication and energy (but with little imagination, as that is not allowed), saddled as they are by political correctness, by masses of constricting and often contradictory regulations, and the inability to rid themselves of inept and/or indolent employees. Of course, we remember Pogo’s comment: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  3. Good summary. I’ve been thinking the same and praying that God sends workers to the harvest of these souls. I’m open to going, but so far, He has not sent me, except to be moved by compassion to pray for those who need to know His abundant love, grace and joy. Nothing else will replace their discontent.

  4. Lanny Sells says:

    I wonder what the Crown Financial people think about Wall Street contributing massive amounts of money to our lawmakers and regulators in both parties ?
    Is that a good investment for our country ?
    For some reason, I think not !
    I believe that we need to get the money out of politics.

    • samuelehall says:

      Lanny, you’re pursuing an admirable objective. But the corruption in politics, with its attendant infusion of cash to both parties, makes it extremely difficult to dislodge. The ethical lawmaker depends on cash contributions; if he’s out-spent by an opponent who takes $$ from anyone, the ethical man or woman will be a one-termer. Then, all we have left are the unethical.
      Very difficult, indeed. I’m reminded of Will Rogers’ comment: “An honest politician is one who, when he’s bought, stays bought.”
      Any ideas–from anyone–on how to get money out of politics?

      • Lanny Sells says:

        The movement to get money out of politics is gaining attention from politicians right now. I just caught a small glimpse of the interview but a Congressman from each party signed up yesterday on national television. We owe it to ourselves and to the future of our country to try and get the amendment passed. Dylan Ratigan, a former financial firm employee is leading the petition drive on MSNBC. It is a non-partisan movement and if enough people have had a belly full of lobbyists owning Washington D.C. then a long, long shot like this one could happen.
        p.s. I am surprised that an objective financial ministry company took an editorial stance on the OWS, unless of course, they have a ” leaning ? “

      • samuelehall says:

        Thanks, Lanny, I didn’t know there was an organization going. I support it.
        Re Crown Financial’s stance: it appears to me that their stance, if you want to call it that, is FOR Jesus and AGAINST Sin. I don’t see it as a partisan position. Maybe you should contact them if you want further clarification.

  5. Tim Gilman says:

    While most of what Mr. Bentley says make sense . . . I suspect that for many they really do not care “who” is taking care of them . . . government, church, or community . . . What they are really protesting is the hard, cold, reality of the quality, or lack there of, of life that a growing portion of American are being confronted with . . . it is the death of their vision, their version of the American dream . . .

    As seems to always be the case . . . just as in war . . . while the “powers” posture and position” it is the people on the streets that pay the highest price . . .

    We indeed should be “listening” because if you listen closely you hear many of the same views and concerns expressed that those in power heard in 1774, 75, and 76 . . .

    That rag-tag group of fringes voice were not heard or taken seriously either . . . and history does seem to repeat itself . . .

    Exciting times to be alive.

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