December 13, 2005
What would Jesus legislate?

Via Texas Ed Equity comes this remarkable op-ed by former State Sen. and Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, taken from a recent speech he gave.

As opposed to the suggestion that we have too much religious influence on public policy, we actually have too little. Up to now, the application of religious principles in political debate has been mainly applied to abortion rights, same-sex marriage, intelligent design versus evolution and similar social issues.

But all too often, those Christians who take strong stands on such issues based on moral or biblical teachings do not then apply such teachings to other issues.

For instance, when considering how many poor children in Texas will be removed from the Children's Health Insurance Program in order to hold down costs to the state, they choose not to consider Christ's admonishment to "suffer the little children to come unto me."

When considering how much to reduce funding for indigent health care, Medicaid for nursing homes, child abuse protective services or special education for handicapped children, there seems to be little recognition of Christ's teaching that, "in as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me also."

All too often, these Christian admonishments are qualified to read, "Suffer the little children to come unto me - unless, of course, their needs require a vote to raise additional revenue." Or to read, "In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me also - but you are absolved if your compassion would require you to vote for a tax bill."

There are, of course, many members of the Legislature who recognize this disconnect. They truly worry that they are not living up to the Christian principles which they espouse. However, they are caught in the dilemma of having pledged not to increase taxes, and they realize that, in order to truly apply Christian compassion in these areas, it will take additional state funding.

Once again, perhaps we need more religion rather than less. It was Christ who said, "Much is required from those to whom much is given." We even have the teaching of Christ's parable, where he tells the rich man that if he wishes to enter the kingdom of heaven, he must "go, sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me." Talk about a high tax rate!

How does a devoted Christian cut funding for needy children based on a "no new taxes" pledge while reading this passage of the Bible?

What makes this remarkable to me is that I so rarely see this theme, and those particular Bible quotes, used by someone other than a progressive Democrat, usually in the context of calling out the other side. I've long wondered why the likes of Pat Robertson and James Dobson seem to get a free pass on this, but what's more important than the political angle is that this argument can and should work for advancing a truly compassionate social agenda. If the words of Christ are your motivation, then you've got to come to terms with this. I can't say it any better than Ratliff has.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2005 to Show Business for Ugly People | TrackBack

I have often wondered the same thing. The disconnect seems to be at the higher levels of politics, though. At the grass roots, most of the christian activists that I know may abhor abortion and gay marriage, but they consistently donate food, clothing and time to the less fortunate. Great speech by Raitliff...he is missed in the Texas Senate, especially with school funding right around the corner.

Posted by: Chito on December 13, 2005 12:45 PM

Can this guy run for Gov.? An honest Republican who would call out the leadership? Awesome speech, I love it.

Posted by: Red Dog on December 13, 2005 2:46 PM

Kuff, I appreciate this entry more than I can tell you. Jesus' statement that "Much is required from those to whom much has been given" used to, in the past, animate political discourse in this country - from Republicans and from Democrats. (I remember it, it can't be so long ago it is an unretrievable idea.) I am going to shamelessly whore a blog entry from Larry Stallings' campaign blog addressing that very idea.

BTW, be watching for more preachin' from "The Morality Corner".

Posted by: dksbook on December 13, 2005 3:29 PM

Actually the argument could be made that Jesus would be more of a libertarian than anything, choosing to rely on the charity of man rather than forced donation through Gov't intervention.

The fact is BOTH sides are attempting to gain a monopoly on the Scriptures without actually reading the things in context.

You see, God's not a Republican, he's not a Democrat either.

The problems exist when we try to shoehorn an infinite being into a finite set of beliefs.

Doesn't fit.


Posted by: Sedosi on December 13, 2005 4:18 PM

Well, there is the whole "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" thing, which isn't exactly Randian. I'm just saying.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2005 5:35 PM

Charles Kuffner quotes some very important principles for Christians however he mixes individual responsibility with the role of government. Christian charities can set some accountability standards but government cannot. The best record for helping people in need in Houston that I have seen are programs like the Salvation Army and Gracewood. Kuffner is correct when he measures Christian living by what we do - not by what we say. Some government progfras discourage Christian activities.

Bill Osborne

Posted by: Bill Osborne on December 14, 2005 8:30 AM

You have to take that quote in context Kuff, Christ was being set up by the Church leader's at the time to answer a question with no right answer.

Except he found one. Notice I didn't say Jesus was all for shirking one's responsibilities to Gov't etc.

Remember that the one Governmental system that God set up (in the Old Testament) was a system of Judges that didn't have taxable powers. Only after the Jewish people demanded a King did he relent, after warning them of the consequences of an organized Gov't.

Gov't was designed by man, not by God and to throw God into the mix as taking a "side" is not a fair tactic on the part of either party.


Posted by: Sedosi on December 14, 2005 10:10 AM

Can Ratliff run? Yes. Will he? No way. He got out because he hated the way it was going (which is way worse now). He saw the writing on the wall and split. One of the last great statesmen. I am proud to say he is from our neck of the woods.

Posted by: sabestian on December 14, 2005 10:13 AM

If more Republicans were like Bill Ratliff, I might actually consider myself a Republican.

Nice to see someone calling the Religious Right on the WWJD angle. Jesus Christ would NOT do many of the things these folks advocate.

Posted by: Tim on December 14, 2005 10:50 AM

Ratliff ought to reflect on his own shortcomings. Jesus wouldn't be a Lobbyist like Ratliff and Jesus wouldn't let his brother and son get rich as Lobbyists while he was Lt. Governor.

Jesus wasn't a hypocrite, Bill Ratliff is.

Posted by: Tom on December 14, 2005 11:34 AM

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Bible: I Corinthians

So better than faith or hope is charity.

And there is the golden rule--do onto others as you would have them do unto you.

And there is the responsibility of Good Stewartship. Since 80% self describe as Good Stewarts and Environmentalists, global warming should already be addressed by this overwhelming group (especially given the short time frame we may have) even if leadership denies it.

These directives should indicate that the faithful have not become right wing republicans, but rather that right wing republicans (for their own controling purposes) have muscled their way to lead people of faith.

Posted by: Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on December 14, 2005 9:40 PM

Ratliff is off-base if he wants to call Christians on the carpet for not wanting to funnel their money first through the government -- to then be doled out by polititians.

Posted by: T-Flip on December 16, 2005 11:01 AM