Personal to Charles Allen

Hey, Charles Allen of Las Vegas. Caught your letter to the editor in the Review-Journal today and just wanted to answer a couple of your questions.

As you know, I wrote a column a few days back in which I replied to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia‘s contention that capitalism is aided by Christianity here in America. I pointed out that from what we can tell from the gospels, it doesn’t really appear that Jesus was a capitalist. (After all, telling people that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is pretty strong.)

You begged to differ, saying that “…leftists such as Steve Sebelius pick and choose when they want to use religion (or, in this case, Jesus) to back their agenda.” But I didn’t pick this fight, Charles. Scalia did! I never would have written that column had Mr. Justice Scalia not introduced the subject. If I had my way, people would keep their religion and their politics totally separate.

You go on to say that “Jesus was definitely a capitalist,” that he and Joseph got paid for their carpentry work and that he would be against “dishonest wealth or taking unfair advantage of people,” (as opposed, I assume, to taking advantage of people fairly?). And while I am sure Jesus did get paid for his carpentry, that’s a far cry from saying he endorsed the capitalist system. By all accounts, he was not a fan of expanding wealth for its own sake, and condemned the practice again and again. Capitalism — as I said in my piece — is a tool for expanding wealth, and if that’s your only (or even primary) concern in this life, it’s a very handy tool indeed. Jesus reminds us, however, that there are more important things for which we should live our lives, not least of which is the fate of our souls in the afterlife.

Finally, you write, “I wonder why Mr. Sebelius doesn’t refer to Jesus’ opinions in a column about abortion or same-sex marriage. Actually, I do know why. Jesus’ opinion in those areas would not fit Mr. Sebelius’s agenda.”

Now, we have to acknowledge that the only record we have of Jesus’ opinions are the gospels, and those were written decades after Jesus was crucified. So what we know of his sayings, we glean from the recollections of his followers recalled decades after the fact. But in reviewing those records, it’s possible to learn this: Jesus himself is never quoted as speaking about abortion or same-sex marriage. Other writers elsewhere in the Bible weighed in (the author of Leviticus, or St. Paul, for example) but not Jesus himself. So, you see, it would be impossible for me to refer to Jesus’ opinion on either subject, since no evidence of any exists.

On the other hand, Jesus did say a lot about not judging others (“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged.” — Matthew 7:1-2), about loving people (“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” — John 13:34), forgiveness (“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17:3-4) and taking care of the poor and hungry (“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  – Matthew 25:40). And while I’m just thinking out loud here, it may be more helpful to focus on what Jesus did say than on what you think he might have said, if he’d ever done so.

Hope that answers your questions, and thanks for reading.



One Response to “Personal to Charles Allen”

  1. Steve says:

    Apparently Charles doesn’t read Slash/Politics.

    Wouldn’t it have been nice to reply in this detail on the RJ site?

    Oh well. At least I read your stuff.