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On August 28, Al Gore appealed to the Bible at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s annual Jackson Day dinner in support of national healthcare. “[P]laying off the focus of the Kennedy funeral on the Gospel of Matthew’s parable of Jesus taking care of ‘the least of us,’ [he] thundered that the country has ‘a moral duty to pass health care reform. This year.’” Where in Matthew’s Gospel does Jesus call on the State to care for the “least of us”? And what about all that opposition when conservatives were talking about morality when they applied “the least of these” to the victims of abortion? How many times did liberals argue that “you can’t impose your morality on other people”? Civil government does have duty to prohibit murder, but there is no provision either in the Bible or the Constitution to call for government sanctioned healthcare.

Where are the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State on this one? Aren’t the Democrats mixing religion and politics? If the bill passes, will these two legal protectionist groups object because the Bible was used to defend and ultimately pass it? Harvey Cox, a less than conservative advocate, described secular humanism as “a dangerous ideological system because it ‘seeks to impose its ideology through the organs of the State.’” According to Cox, “secular humanism has no tolerance and is opposed to other religions, it actively rejects, excludes and attempts to eliminate traditional theism from meaningful participation in the American culture.”[1]

If you want to say that we as individuals have a moral duty to help the poor, then I would agree with you. But calling on civil government to extract money from one segment of society, create a huge bureaucracy to administer an impersonal healthcare system, and redistribute confiscated money to another segment of society is not what Jesus had in mind. Using the legacy of Ted Kennedy to ram-rod this bureaucratic monstrosity through is appalling, not only because of the later senator’s flawed character, but for the fact that he was a multi-millionaire who could have used his family fortune to ease the burden on the sick and poor. He could have used his family name and the memory of his two assassinated brothers to persuade other wealthy people to do the same. Using his multi-million dollar trust fund instead of the money confiscated from hard working tax payers to help those in need would have gone a long way to atone for what he did to Mary Jo Kopechne. Instead, he used the power of government to saddle tax payers with tax-and-spend programs that Americans will be financing for a long time.

Many Christians support elements of welfare to be managed by the State because they believe the Bible supports it. Tony Campolo, following Jim Wallis of Sojouners, declares in Red Letter Christians “that there are more than 2,000 verses of Scripture that call us to express love and justice for those who are poor and oppressed” (24). What Campolo needs to find in these 2,000 verses is one word that gives authority to civil government to redistribute wealth. Campolo takes verses that are directed at individuals and turns them on their head to give them a political twist. Here’s a representative example:

Most important, when we reflect on all Jesus had to say about caring for the poor and oppressed, committing ourselves to His red-letter message just might drive us to see what we can do politically to help those he called, “the least of these” (see Matt. 25:31–46) [22].

Gore is simply parroting Campolo’s improper use of “the least of these” in the support of government welfare programs. Gleaning in the Old Testament was not an operation of government (Lev. 19:9; 23:22; Deut. 24:19–21; Ruth 2:2–23). It was hard work for those who picked the remainder of the harvest. How easy it would have been for God to give a law that empowered the State to tax the people so a crew of people could be hired to pick the leftovers and deliver them to the needy.

Gore and Campolo see a political solution in Matthew 25 when Jesus is addressing what individuals have or have not done. Civil governments are the biggest obstacles in helping the poor, and it’s not because they don’t tax enough and redistribute wealth. High taxes and control of the money supply (inflation/deflation) enable civil governments to control people and their property. A ten percent tax is a sign of tyranny (1 Sam. 8:15). That’s also in the Bible, a passage that I have not seen either Gore or Campolo citing. It was a taxing policy by Rome that forced Mary and Joseph to leave their stable home environment, Joseph’s job, and spend money they probably did not have in order to register for a government taxing program (Luke 2:1–7). Wealth redistribution policies, with all their good intentions, have the effect of making the poor dependent on the State. Campolo is advocating what Jesus condemns the Pharisees for in Mark 7: nullifying the Word of God for the sake of a political tradition that is neither biblical nor effective.


[1] Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York: Macmillan, 1965). Quoted in Franky Schaeffer, A Time for Anger: The Myth of Neutrality (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 24. This was before Frank Schaeffer turned on evangelicals and his own parents in his book Crazy for God. For a review of Crazy for God, go here.