The Rev. Rangel's Sermon on Welfare Morality

Who would Jesus steal from?

Infamously corrupt congressman Rep. Charlie Rangel made a surprisingly religious appeal during our recent deficit-reduction negotiations:

Veteran Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel made an impassioned plea to religious leaders Friday, calling on them to lobby members of Congress and the Obama administration to remember the "lesser of my brothers and sisters" during this weekend's debt negotiations. "What would Jesus do this weekend? Or Moses. Or Allah. Or anyone else," the New York congressman said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I don't want this book (debt negotiations) closed without the clergy having an opportunity to forcefully express themselves as well as I know they can do." ...

Rangel said he was stumped as to why Washington wouldn't be "besieged by spiritual leaders saying 'do what you have to do - but not to the homeless, the jobless and the helpless. Not to the sick. And certainly not to the aging that are sick or those depending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.'"

"I have not heard from those people who have been called by God to protect the poor. I haven't heard them," he said. "The issues that are going to be discussed this weekend involve spiritual, moral issues."

And Rangel's plea to the poor and helpless? Call your religious leaders and ask, "what is Medicare all about? What is Medicaid all about? Why do we have taxes?'[emphasis added]

It would be easy to dismiss this as the rantings of a clownish thief, but it turns out that Rep. Rangel's pontificating reflects the feelings of a great many Americans for whom the concept of ethics is not a joke.  As the congressman implies, plenty of religious leaders do believe that helping the poor is a moral obligation.  Indeed, they believe that a large portion of our taxes should be used to help the poor.

The argument is that people with money have a moral obligation to give much of it to people with less money.  If they don't want to, the government has a moral obligation to take money from them by force for that purpose.

This is not the same thing as noting that wealth distribution is helpful for the economy, as Barack Obama tried to argue to Joe the Plumber:

My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody[emphasis added]

Obama actually has a point here: by definition, an economy occurs when wealth moves around.  If all you have is one really rich guy who owns everything and a whole bunch of peons, you have no economy.  That's obviously no good for anybody save the one absolute ruler.

The problem, of course, is that there's a difference between the wealth spreading around by individual free choices and wealth being spread around by government fiat.  Decades of redistributive schemes from the Great Depression on down have conclusively proven that government simply cannot create wealth or help the economy by taking Peter's money and giving it to Paul.

What's worse, giving government money to Paul without his having to work for it destroys Paul as a human being.  At least Mr. Obama's stated goal of making everybody better off was valid even if his way of accomplishing that goal is categorically flawed.

Not so with Rangel's argument.  In his view, it doesn't matter whether the entire economy is growing or whether the poor are being helped to help themselves.  The only relevant moral facts is that there are poor and there are people who are not poor.  That's unacceptable to him.

Who Would Jesus Tax?

If a conservative politician tried to invoke Biblical commands in any other context - abortion, say, or capital punishment - he'd be hooted off the stage.  It's obvious that Rangel cares nothing for the Bible any more than he cares about tax laws or Congressional ethics rules; he thinks he can get away with a bogus appeal to morality in a purely partisan political context.  But let's take him at his word for just a moment.

Jesus did, indeed, command us to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," and paid His taxes due.  It's notable that of the amount He remitted, not a bit went to the relief of the poor - the Roman occupying government was not in the business of providing for the needy.  Whatever Jesus paid to Caesar went straight into Caesar's pocket, not Little Orphan Annie's.

Christ and His disciples certainly cared about relieving the poor.  The crucial point is that they used their own money, which wasn't much, and not even all of that.

On one occasion, a woman anointed Jesus with a fantastically expensive perfume, and Judas complained at the waste - the valuable commodity should have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Christ's response?  "For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."

Jesus didn't have any problem enjoying life's little luxuries so long as they were justly obtained; He would not have sided with drunk liberal professor Susan Feinberg, who assaulted Congressman Paul Ryan for spending his own money on a bottle of fine wine while negotiating cuts to Medicare.

Did Jesus, then, not command that rich people had an obligation to help the poor?  Sure He did, if they were related: He lambasted the Pharisees for not taking care of their elderly parents on the excuse that their money was dedicated to the service of God.  The Apostle Paul made a similar point:

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

 - 1 Timothy 5:8

Rep. Rangel's parents are deceased, though he's certainly making every effort to provide for his son - using your tax dollars of course.  He's a big fan of making donations to charity - as long as it's his charity, The Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City University of New York, and someone else gives the money.  Somehow we don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.

No, there's another Biblical passage that applies here, one that should be engraved over the doors of Congress and most particularly over the meeting room of Rep. Rangel's erstwhile Congressional committee, Ways and Means:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

 - Exodus 20:17

If the clergy really thought Rangel gave a hoot about Scripture, that's what they ought to tell him.  If there's one word that applies to forced charity via taxes, it's covetousness - for someone else's money by the recipients, and for power by the politicians.  Nothing Christian, or even moral, about that.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

"It's notable that of the amount He remitted, not a bit went to the relief of the poor - the Roman occupying government was not in the business of providing for the needy. Whatever Jesus paid to Caesar went straight into Caesar's pocket, not Little Orphan Annie's."


July 21, 2011 11:33 AM

Here's another that Mr. Rangel and his Pharisaical brethren should consider:

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." - 2 Corinthians 9:7

Perhaps the clergy are not lobbying Washington for additional plunder because they have actually read the Bible, and the Bible does not support Mr. Rangel's plundering ways. Charlie is just looking for some religious figures to provide him with excuses for his thievery.

July 21, 2011 12:10 PM

The wrong Reverend Jeremiah Wright might side with Rangel.
Does anyone think we can wrangle some honesty from Rangel?
This is the first time that I have heard of anyone preaching to the preachers to ask the government to come with their guns to help with the passing of the collection plate.
I might not go to church if that is going to happen.
Thank you,
Robert Walker

July 21, 2011 12:58 PM

"Yet there is no - absolutely no words uttered about the huge War Machine and the staggering price of it."

This is true, and a big disappointment of mine about the GOP. I am a big supporter of the US military - the soldiers I know are the salt of the earth. But we have a vastly oversized/overfinanced military operation in a time when it's needed less and less.

Donald Rumsfield is one of the most maligned politicians in recent history, but his vision for the US military was spot on. We should be doing a lot more with automation and robotics and far less with humans.

The entire Marine Corp could be eliminated tomorrow with no negative impact on the miliary whatsoever. When my dad was in intelligence, this was a pet peeve to him. The modern day Marine Corp is obsolete by purpose. It's original purpose - charging up beaches - is no longer a modern concept in warfare. In all recent wars and battles - including Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq - the Army has been the first boots on the ground, not the Marine Corp. The only thing they do now is integrate with Army and Airforce directives which the Rangers, Seals and other special forces could do perfectly fine.

The only thing the Marine Corp does that some other branch of the military would have to cover is the policing of foreign embassies. The Army could easily take that over. As dad used to say, the Marine Corp's main job nowadays is looking good in uniform and marching in parades. He wasn't being cynical - he had lots of Marine friends at Quantico. It's simply a matter of looking at the military budget and watching who goes where.

The Marine Corp knows how obsolete they are which is why they've spent a lot of money on developing new programs in their division. The Osprey program was originally eliminated by the Pentagon because it costs billions, killed a bunch of soldiers and ended up failing. The Marines jumped on it and it became "their thing" because they needed something to do.

Then, we'd eliminate a number of aircraft projects that are either redundant, inefficient or obsolete. Why are we paying Boeing and Lockheed billions per year to build new versions of old aircraft while at the same time financing new concepts?

Why was the YF-23, F22 and JSF (all three versions of it) being worked on at the same time? Billions wasted.

If you ask Senators why these programs need to be financed, they like to say "people will lose their job if we stop". Hardly a rational reason.

Energy is key in the interventionist/isolationist debate. The documentary "The Third Jihad" covers this well. If we didn't depend on the Middle East for energy, it would be nothing more than a dirty two-bit outpost with no wealth, technology or connections within a thousand miles. Their fanaticism would be completely toothless. Every dollar you spend at the gas pump is funding their fanaticism.

I am probably "big military" in any objective sense of the term - I think there's value in having a bigger stick than the other guy. The problem is that right now we are far bigger than "big military". We are "astronomically enormous military".

Sorry for the rant. A nerve was tickled.

July 21, 2011 1:40 PM

Listening to Rangel would evoke pity, if not for the reality that he, and many like him, actually have attentive audiences in the voting public. The rise of liberalism and the corresponding decline of integrity has created a very significant victim class; and, a significant number of confused and sympathetic who follow shallow concepts in order to convince themselves that their own situation is much better.

When you venture of the beaten path, you should expect to find strange things in the bushes. And, when an entire nation ventures off, strange things become normal and soon the bushes seem like home.

July 21, 2011 1:51 PM

"I am a big supporter of the US military - the soldiers I know are the salt of the earth."~lfon

Hmmm, the soldiers I have known are brainwashed automatons.
Well in fact most Amerikans I know are brainwashed automatons.

And it is that tickling nerve...yes, the one that whispers as if a conscience yet survives all the banter and seductions of the choirs of a pathological society_this is the tone, the rhyme I seek in you.

"astronomically enormous military"...YES Ifon, you have stated the crux of the matter.

July 21, 2011 1:54 PM

Ifon, The military was created for defense. We have not been attacked by another country since December 7, 1941.
The attack on the WTC was not done by another nation.
To what purpose do we have troops in Japan and Germany? The U. S. Military was not created to defend other nations. Germany never attacked the United States of America. A submarine sank a commercial ship, after they had been given erroneous information. False information provided by the American military that brought about the attack.
We have been invaded, though, by the Mexicans. And no defense has been mounted, and in fact, has been thwarted.
Rumsfeld is a power hungry, money grubbing POS.
I am a strong supporter of a defensive military.
Turn off the television, and in a short time the tear ducts will wash that glaze from your eyes, and you will see.
Peace and Love,
Robert Walker

July 21, 2011 2:03 PM


I there anyone here who knows this term?

July 21, 2011 2:06 PM

"The attack on the WTC was not done by another nation."

Robert, please tell me that you are not a truther. I'd hate to think that someone of your intelligence swings in that direction. If you ARE a truther, there's a 2 hour History Channel documentary that you should watch.

I'm cool with interventionism if it has a clear purpose (ie. Hitler is attacking our friends, Afghanistan is breeding too many terrorists, etc). But we could intervene with a much smaller military.

There's nothing wrong with helping our friends when they get attacked.

As for Germany and Japan, we have men there because of decades-old treaties. We could probably close them down now but then where would all that extra military money go? Gotta spend the budget or you'll lose it.

July 21, 2011 2:09 PM

"..but then where would all that extra military money go?"~Ifon


July 21, 2011 2:20 PM

What exactly is "a truther," Ifon??
Does this History Channel program give the definition of this creature?
Is it a human?

It sounds like - just guessing here - it sounds as if the term is derived from the word "truth" I to take it that this is some sort of rhetorical term?

July 21, 2011 2:24 PM


July 21, 2011 2:28 PM

The History Channel thing I'm referring to is called "9/11 Conspiracies: Fact or Fiction" and it basically reamed the entire truther movement end to end. The InfoWars/PrisonPlanet crowd went nuts, calling it a hit piece, but it was actually extremely objective and fair. The producers spent a good hour or more of the total time talking to the truther side and getting all the "evidence" that they had. Then they interviewed myriad engineers and scientists who systematically took every bit of that "evidence" apart. It was one of the most thorough debunkings I've ever seen.

July 21, 2011 2:32 PM

"It was one of the most thorough debunkings I've ever seen."~Ifon

A TV show. I see.
Thank you,

July 21, 2011 2:53 PM

You're implying that video/audio, via its medium alone, is inherently less able to prove a point than a book?

On the contrary, it's able to demonstrate a lot more through the benefit of imagery.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Video moves at a rate of 30+ pictures per second. 30,000 words per second?

Evidence is evidence. Whether you read the data in a book, or someone explains it with graphs and pictures, it's still evidence. Imagery can certainly be used to distract and exaggerate a story (eg. Michael Moore), but in the case of this particular documentary it was very well done. Just lots of data and explanation.

July 21, 2011 3:02 PM

Anal-eyes and analyze are two intirely different processes.

It would be well to learn such differences.

July 21, 2011 3:05 PM

Sure, everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

Facts have to be crosschecked, events should be verified and authors/speakers should be judged by their credibility.

(All of which goes for books about the Bilderbergs too)


July 21, 2011 3:13 PM

"You're implying that video/audio, via its medium alone, is inherently less able to prove a point than a book?"~Ifon

Did I indeed "imply" such?

You should know by now that TV is not simply "video/audio," TV is a medium controlled by the Ubertubes, anything, any data, can be spun at oblique angles.
As I actually saw this presentation, let me say that the first half was a straw man presentation, a careful selection of cast and opinions, which were then easily disputed. But the 'science' you repute is not so abundantly clear and straightforward as you would have it.

However__this is indeed far off topic, and if you insist on continuing I could be compelled to make another case--inwhich case, this thread is off in a completely new direction.
Do you Ifon, have the authority to make the choice of the path this thread takes? If so be my guest.

July 21, 2011 3:16 PM

"Facts have to be crosschecked, events should be verified and authors/speakers should be judged by their credibility."~Ifon

One of my specialties my dear Ifon.


July 21, 2011 3:18 PM

At some point, perhaps when the other portion of Scragged is put in place that offers a more freewheeling discussion of a variety of issues, we can go into the psycho-technical effects of watching television.
It is a fascinating topic, of which I have schooled myself in for many years.

Televison as used by the corporate regime is an emotional tool, because the medium itself is geared to that portion of human intake.

I will forgo a larger exposition here. But this should always be kept in mind when dealing with such a dangerous technology.

July 21, 2011 3:37 PM

True - to be fair, you said TV which is a much bigger thing than mere "audio/video". TV is a seductive marketing beast for cultural influences and ideas that objective people want nothing to do with. I watch very little, my children watch none.

I've been warned by the PTB not to wonder too far from the article so no I don't want to continue the thread. I too wish Scragged supported a bulletin board of some kind.

July 21, 2011 3:49 PM

Oh, that is so good to hear, that you keep those young minds away from that insidious device. I commend you for that Ifon.

July 21, 2011 4:05 PM
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