Friday, October 06, 2006

Dean Smith doesn't get it

Here is an excerpt from an AP story moving today:

Legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith says in a planned newspaper ad campaign that being a person of faith and voting Democratic can go together.
``I'm a lifelong Baptist and vote for Democrats,'' Smith says in the ad. ``One reason? Democrats are serious about alleviating poverty.''
Smith declined comment about the ad.
The campaign is the product of Devout Democrats, a new Chapel Hill-based political action committee headed by University of North Carolina law student Chip Muller.

I fail to see how stealing other people's money and giving it to the poor is in anyway aligned with the teaching of Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus say: "Take the shirt off your back and give it to the poor and if your neighbor won't voluntarily give his shirt, take it from him yourself." Democrats want to allieviate poverty through coercion and theft. Those are NOT Christian tenets.

Even if the philosophical point wasn't indefensible, there is the practical reality that liberal "poverty reduction" programs have never worked and will never work.

Stick to hoops, coach.


Anonymous said...


Rusty Shackleford
(R) Kings Mountain

Paige said...

If all of us who claim to be followers of Christ did what He said, there would be no reason to involve 'giving to the poor' in politics.

Unfortunately, that simply does not happen in a country where living the "American Dream" is our focus. We insist on moms working to help dad provide a big enough income for us to afford our 2000+ square homes, our 2 or 3 cars per family and all of our hobbies. Who has time to bake an extra meal for a neighbor in need? How many of us have taken the time to really know our neighbors to see if they are in need? I know I am guilty of this type of self-centeredness. We are too busy with our own lives to be inconvenienced by another's need.

Poverty is not an issue of politics - Republican, Democrat or Independant. It is an issue of the heart. Simply put, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

I must admit, in my own life, I find that too often I treasure the things that this world offers, rather than the people God has surrounded me with. May those of us who claim fellowship with the Lamb love as He did (personally), and not as the world.

What would happen in this town, this county, this state, this nation if Christ's church did that?

Anonymous said...

When the rubber of right-wing, allegedly Christian rhetoric hits the road, Republican hypocrites, and the non-committally lazy and self-centered drop the true Christian values of Compassion, Forebearance, and Acceptance like the proverbial hot potato.

Way to show your stinky stripes again Skip!

Barry said...

You are on the money Rusty. I think Dean Smith is a great coach, but his politics are decidedly left-leaning.

Oh- and for anonymous who is opposed to true freedom out there- did you ever think about how much more people (and businesses) would be able to give to the poor were they not being fleeced by govco six ways from sunday?

Anonymous said...

Amen for me, too.

Anonymous said...

I came to the Star site to check the local results and followed the links to your blog, Skip. First time reader. Probably last, too.

I can't figure out which is worse: your understanding of the biblical mandate to care for the poor, or your understanding of democratic policies and politics. Don't get me wrong--I have lots of friends who are Republican and I've voted for candidates from both parties, so I'm not a partisan hack for the Democrats. But the truth is that you've embarrassed yourself with that posting. It's uninformed, Skip, and reminds me of the kind of rhetoric--lots of passion and slogans but no substance--that you'd hear from middle school kids debating political ideas they don't really understand. The fact that you speak from the platform of the major news agency in Cleveland County is, quite frankly, startling.

Think a little more before you write, please, for your sake and for the sake of your readers. Religion and the Bible are already dragged into the political arena way too much--and usually in a way that tries to manipulate the sacred for the profit of the secular--without you adding to the problem with a post like this.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, something I support very strongly whether your opinion happens to agree with mine or not. But it would be nice--not to mention honest--if you would make your opinion without distorting the Bible, Christian ethics, or the commitments of the Democratic party which you so obviously take such great pleasure in ridiculing (I guess mocking and ridiculing count, in your book, as "Christian tenets." Funny how that works, isn't it...).

Skip Foster said...

Perhaps you could take a deep breath from your rant and actually address the facts of my position -- where in the Bible is there justification for coercive "Robin Hood" assistance to the poor? Where in Scripture are there indications that God takes pleasure in property being seized by the government and then transferred to others, regardless of their plight?

When you say that I don't have an understanding of "democratic policies or principles" are you saying that Democrats are NOT more likely to favor big government and higher taxation policies than Republicans and Libertarians?

If my arguments are at a middle school level, it should be very easy for your refute them.

But to do so, please be more specific and on point to my positions. I don't think Dean Smith is a "middle schooler" or "embarassing" or "uninformed" or dishonest (whew, can't list all the names you called me in one post). I just think he's wrong and I laid out specifically why I think he's wrong.

Perhaps you ought to try that approach.

Anonymous said...

Skip, that wasn't a rant. Sometimes, as they say, to a man holding a hammer everything looks like a nail. Maybe you don't like being challenged, so any challenge to you is a rant. What I wrote was honest disagreement and criticism. You wrote a shallow, uninformed post, and I said so. That's life in the blogoshpere. Either write more educated posts, or change your topics to things you're more qualified to comment on.

Now, as you requested, I'll be glad to refute what I regard as your two central points. It's not hard to do, since (as I said) they reflect a juvenile understanding both of the Bible's concern for the poor and for the philosophy of Democratic government.

(1) You equate "big government" (the usual criticism of Democrats, even though Clinton-Gore dramatically reduced the size of the federal government) with "property being seized by the government and being transferred to others." I'd be happy to respond to that, but I have no idea what you're talking about or what one has to do with the other. Any government big or small has the capacity to enact policies that could "seize and transfer property." Do "big governments" do it more often. Maybe, but I have no idea what you're referring to so it's impossible to say. Yes, big governments build highways (which I presume you enjoy traveling on), fund social security (which I presume you'll enjoy tapping into someday), and educate children (which I presume you've benefited from). And yes, all of that--and more--requires taxes. But I don't think the cost of a "big Democratic government" could ever come close to the cost for the "big Republican war" in Iraq (8 billion dollars a month, Skip, so I guess small Republican governments are also pretty good at spending vast amounts of Americans' money...only this time the money isn't going to a project as noble as care for the poor, education for our children, or even building highways and bridges in our country. It's going to a war that, in another month, will have lasted longer than America's involvement in World War II). Does any of this really matter to you? Or are you one of these "Republican good, Democrat bad" kind of guys? I don't know you, I never read a word of your thoughts until last night, so I'm asking genuinely. Can you list some things that Democrats are doing well and that Republicans are doing poorly? I always think that's a good test to see if someone is really paying attention or if they're just repeating partisan slogans.

(2) As for your question--where does the Bible justify coercive assistance to the poor?--it's my understanding that COMMANDMENTS are by definition COERCIVE! They're not suggestions or recommendations, Skip. They're commandments. Coercive commandments. Why coercive? Because most of us are too selfish to help the poor unless someone makes us do it or orders us to do it.

So yes, the Bible commands that we help the poor. Do you remember the commands God gave to farmers, that when they harvested their crops there were required to leave the corners of the fields or vineyards untouched (see Leviticus 19, if you think I'm making this stuff up)? I don't recall God giving them an option. It was a command, a coercive command. And the purpose was to meet the needs of the poor. Don't you think those farmers would have rather reaped their entire field or vineyard? Probably, but God coerced them by that command not to do so. That's part of what it means to be a follower of God.

Not satisfied? Have a look at Deuteronomy 15, too. And Isaiah 58. And Jeremiah 22. Or, if you're more of a New Testament guy, Matthew 5:42 ("Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you").

There are more than 300 verses in the Bible that discuss believers' requirements to care for the poor. And they're all coercive, Skip. As they ought to be.

I'll make you a deal. Write a post and tell me 5 good things for our society that Democrats do better than Republicans, and I'll reply with 5 good things for our society that Republicans do better than Democrats. That way, we'll prove to each other that we're both capable of seeing the good and the truth in "the other side." And then we can have a more authentic debate about which political philosophy is right for this country.

And, for what it's worth, I'd recommend you leave the Bible out of the discussion. I don't look to Washington for my biblical models or for my Christian instruction. Let the church interpret the Bible, not either party of American politics. The old Baptist idea of "separation of church and state"--that's not a bad principle to keep in mind.

Skip Foster said...

A much better post -- thanks for elaborating on your views. I think you've missed the mark, though. Partly because you are not familiar with my politics. Those who know me, I'm sure, got a good chuckle out of your insinuation that I am a Republican -- far from it.

My political philosophy is libertarian -- I combine the social liberalism of many Democrats with the fiscal conservatism of many Republicans.

Now to address some of your points in reverse order:

1) You wrote: "I'd recommend you leave the Bible out of the discussion. I don't look to Washington for my biblical models or for my Christian instruction. Let the church interpret the Bible, not either party of American politics."

Skip responds: Well, I chuckled at this -- basically because you did a fine job of supporting my original post. It was Democrat Dean Smith whose statement drew my ire (``I'm a lifelong Baptist and vote for Democrats,'' Smith says in the ad. ``One reason? Democrats are serious about alleviating poverty.'' )

Regarding "separation of church and state" -- I completely support that idea. (Please see my blog item from Sept. 'O5

2) You wrote: As for your question--where does the Bible justify coercive assistance to the poor?--it's my understanding that COMMANDMENTS by definition COERCIVE!

Skip responds: I'm not sure I agree that Commandment are coercive, but I'll set aside that theological argument and say this: even if they are coercive, what's your point. How do you connect the dots between God "ordering" that we do certain works and that "coerciveness" somehow become transferable? That is, just because God exercises the authority to force us to do things, why does it necessarily follow that this means we are empowered to force others to do things?

I would say most clearly that it does not. There is no Scriptural basis (or moral basis if you'd like to leave religion out of it) for forcing others to do good things.

You wrote: There are more than 300 verses in the Bible that discuss believers' requirements to care for the poor.

Skip responds: Yes, but they don't discuss believers' requirements to use coercive means to FORCE OTHERS to care for the poor -- that distinction is HUGE.

You wrote: (paraphrased) what about the war? What do Democrats do well or Republicans do poorly

Skip responds: We have been tireless editorial page advocates for reducing our role in the Mideast -- we did not jump on the "invade Iraq" bandwagon months back and we most certainly consider war to be a very last resort.

Lately, I make no distinction between the policies of Democrats and Republicans -- Bush has spent money at a pace that would have made even Democratic presidents such as Kennedy and Truman blush.

The two major parties exist to exist - it's about power not ideology, for the most part, and that's too bad.

You wrote: "shallow, uninformed, juvenile understanding."

I'm happy to help educate you on some of these issues, but since I have not called you names or referred to your ideas in a derogatory way, I'd appreciate it if you'd try to raise the bar on your level of discourse. This sort of thing is fun to me, unless people can't resist the petty namecalling, characterizations, etc.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could apologize for some of the terms that I used to characterize you and your presentation of the issues in your original post. But everything you've written subsequently only reaffirms that the words I chose were accurate.

The first line of your last response seems to represent your condescension and hubris in a nutshell: "A much better post..." Really? Is that your role in cyberspace, to pass judgment on whose posts are good or bad, better or worse? Do you manage to keep a straight face when you write stuff like that? Do you take yourself that seriously? Are you that delusional?

Or this gem a little later in your post, "I'm happy to help educate you on some of these issues..." Oh, why thank you so much. How generous of you! The only problem is, you haven't said anything yet that makes me believe in the slightest that you know enough to educate ANYONE about the subjects on which you pontificate. If you're so keen on education, I'd recommend you start with yourself.

And I guess you're not willing to "educate" me on 5 good things in our society that Democrats do better than Republicans. Yes, I know you're so broad-minded. Yes, I'm sure you're the very epitome of the libertarian spirit. And clearly, you're a genius in your own mind. You just can't find 5 things to say that Democrats do better than Republicans.

We're all very impressed, Skip. Just keep firing away, from your high perch above all the uninformed masses whom you and your newspaper serve so humbly. We will never dare challenge you. We will never dare dissent from your omniscience. Just tell us what all the news means--how we should understand it, what we should think and believe--and we'll march in lock-step because you are such an enlightened guide.

Skip Foster said...

I chose not to participate in your "five better things" exercise because I am not a Republican apologist, as I already pointed out.

I'm sorry you missed that point.

Again, you offer no substantive, factual arguments, just more namecalling.

It's a pity -- you're obviously very well educated (probably much more so than me) and I would enjoy the chance to engage in a debate.

But, alas, responding to namecalling isn't a debate, it's just an exercise in futility. So, I'll be signing off from this exchange.

If you see something in my blog that gets your goat again, maybe we could break it down, rather than have you simply declare it to be (fill in the namecalling blank) without actually delving into the specifics of my views.

Perhaps you don't need educating on the issues, only how to discuss them.

Good luck to you and have a great remainder of 2006.