John Warner, a teacher and minister, wrote an article titled “How can true Christians support Bush’s policies?” He made a case that Christ would not give the wealthy tax cuts, give the military unlimited billions and cut every program that helps the children, the aged, the sick and the poor. Anyone who reads the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Christ could come to no other conclusion, except Jeff Spenser, a right-wing conservative that apparently worships Jehovah rather than Christ’s Father. In a Readers’ Forum piece, he begins with an attack on the person rather than an attack on the argument, a beginning that manifests Spencer’s irritation at the cogency of Warner’s essay. He deduces that Warner’s article “shows that some churches are biblically illiterate—they’ll ordain anyone.” It’s true; but Warner is not just anyone.

Then Spencer warms up with this assertion: “Warner assumes that it’s the state’s function to meet the needs of the people not God’s.” It’s clear from that deduction that Spencer believes that it is God’s function to meet the needs of the people, not the State’s. God meets the needs of the people in mysterious ways, the proof of which is the latest gift of God to meet the needs of the people, namely, the tsunami that washed away incalculable homes, children, and people of Indonesia, India and other countries in that area. But it’s true that He brings the sun and the rain to the rich and the poor without preference. The state is society. Government is society’s instrument. It is through that instrument that it evidences its empathy and sympathy by policies and agencies that help those who are poor, sick, young and victims of God’s tsunamis and other disasters.

Ever warmer, Spencer declares: “He [Warner] assumes that all people are entitled to a certain level of comfortable living, even if it means stealing from others—which clearly opposes God, who says, ’You reap what you sow’ and elsewhere ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat.’”

In this sentence there appear the politics of Reagan and Bush as practiced by them, the theology of Jehovah as found in Leviticus, and the sarcasm and meanness as found in most of Spencer’s fuming. Neither John Warner or any other liberal ever assumed that all people are entitled to a “comfortable” living or ever proposed stealing from others to provide one for them. Spencer equates using taxes for the poor with stealing from the rich. And he goes even further to imply that God would find such a transfer of wealth an abomination. This sort of thinking is apparently inherent genetically among right-wing capitalists and, believe it or not, evangelical Christians.

Spencer presumes there is a God and presumes that God said “one reaps what he sows” and “if one doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat.” There is no conclusive evidence that there is a God much less that God ever made such statements. Spencer’s premise is faith-based. He was taught as a child that the Bible is God’s word and he never questioned it. I suspect that a wise man, sitting around a fire in a cave, figured out that, what one does often results in good or bad depending on what he does, long before there was a Bible or long before the Hebrews conceived their God. And the don’t-work-don’t-eat admonishment is purely Levitical; that is, a concept that is primal and part of the culture of the stone-age. A man on the street without a hoe for cultivating or an acre to cultivate or a job cannot work or eat. At a corner with hat out in supplication is often the only job available. Such destitution is an abomination in a nation that is fat with wealth. And Christ would agree.

Further, there are many people in this world who do not work, but play full time and yet eat well, very well indeed, and are entitled to a really comfortable living. This nice situation wasn’t the result of stealing but was the result of a system whereby thousands of workers were paid less than the worth of the value they created. The difference accrued to someone who put the difference in trust for his scion to receive all the days of his workless existence. The system is called capitalism. Where on God’s earth is a capitalist that would venture capital provided that his return from it would be confined to the actual value of his labor in the employment of it?

The God of the Gospels through His son had a different approach: The prodigal Son did not reap what he sowed. Instead, his father welcomed him home, forgave him and killed the fatted calf for the feast of thanksgiving for his return. And Christ advised: “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

More Spencer: “Biblical law [read Leviticus] protects the person and his property from all forms of theft and coercion. When the state claims ownership over man’s property and wealth, it is assuming Messiahship, thus socialism is idolatry.” What a stretch! Public schools and the military are forms of idolatry. And social security is undoubtedly Satan worship in Spencer’s judgment.

Again Spencer: “In response to Warner’s steal-from-the-rich (tax) mantra, biblical law requires every male 20 and older to pay a flat-tax. That motivates people to work harder and earn more. Warner would rather steal from these folks who create wealth and use their God-given talents to build and create things which make our lives more comfortable and pleasant.” Poppycock! Taxing is not stealing, nor is expropriating labor’s surplus value stealing, since the statutes duly enacted by the people and a constitution duly ratified by them, so say—the Bible to the contrary notwithstanding. Without labor, capital is an habitué of the mattress. And so it would molder until some anonymous creature with callused hands and strong back agrees to work for a pittance to advance the dreams or schemes of someone whose mattress was the depository of more than he needed to meet his needs. If FDR, hallowed be his name, heard the mantra flat tax, he would forthwith petition God to chastise the preachers thereof. And God, if He is in the image of Christ, would forthwith chastise them with His son’s admonishment to the rich that they had the same chance of entering the Kingdom as one who could thread a needle with a camel.

If one reads Warner he notes that his delineations are accordant with Christ and the Gospels. If one reads Spencer he notes that his are accordant with Jehovah and Leviticus. Liberals quote Jesus. Conservatives quote Jehovah, even though they claim to be Christians. It is the God of the same book but it is a God of very different delineations. How can one reconcile the Pharisees’ stoning to death for adultery and Christ’s merciful probation: “Go and sin no more?”

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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