In a gushing Boston Globe piece, columnist Victoria McGrane detailed how Senator Elizabeth Warren’s “deep and authentic” Christian faith “informs her work as a senator.” It would surely be theological malfeasance (not to mention a grotesque misuse of editorial space) to impugn the privately held faith of a woman I’ve never met, so in charity I will assume that Senator Warren indeed believes that abortion-on-demand and the state-sanctioned corruption of private consciences are “informed” by the Christian tradition and Scripture. It is likewise true that there is no shortage of actors of all political stripes who claim to be animated by their Christianity and take the mantle of faith as a justification for their partisan beliefs. I make no claim about the sincerity of the senator’s faith, a score to be settled by her and her Maker. The article does, however, make one particular claim with questionable merit. Warren, and by extension McGrane, suggest that Christ’s parable of the Last Judgement in Matthew chapter 25 is an ethical mandate for the propagation of federal redistributionist programs. Interpreting the passage, where Jesus separates the saved from the damned based upon charitable actions, from the vantage point of redistribution at the point of federal gun is on its face a leap in theological reasoning that is a demagogic misreading of one of history’s most poignant calls to individual charity.
Consider this quote from the piece that includes the Senator’s profound statement to Bernice King on the Judgement parable, which essentially counts her political opponents among the damned:
“When King asked about the ability of the country to bridge its vast partisan divides, Warren responded with a parable Jesus told of God dividing people into two groups, as a shepherd divides his flock into sheep and goats. The sheep are going to heaven because they fed the hungry, ministered to the sick.”
Taking this corollary to its logical ends, the “goats,” or those whom Christ condemns to “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” are those on the other side of the “partisan divide.” The implication is that, by not further expanding the national tax burden and growing the federal Leviathan, conservatives are the authors of their own damnation via their callous disregard “for the least of these.”
Conservatives often respond to this line of argumentation with one of questionable scriptural validity — that Christ was only referring to the “Christian” marginalized and it is ergo not the State’s role to proctor over the secular masses. The more salient rebuttal is simply that Christ’s judgement is placed on individuals, based upon their own actions and acts of voluntary charity. Never once in the New Testament does Christ dictate the relative size of the redistributionist state, and while there are instances of Jesus calling on individuals to sacrifice some or all of their wealth for the sake of the poor and their own salvation — a call each Christian of good conscience ought to be contemplative of — Christ was not a public policy advocate, and He certainly never indiscriminately condemned all of Elizabeth Warren’s political adversaries to everlasting hellfire.
Moreover, as the non-profit analysis group Philanthropy Roundtable mentions in their most recent study, conservative households out-donate their liberal counterparts by roughly 30 percent. It seems that those who disagree with Elizabeth Warren, who, in her telling, are siphoned away from the sacrosanct redistributionists by the Lord Himself, happen to think charity is the moral obligation of individuals rather than the state at point of gun.
There is a strain of Christian and Catholic thought with loose ideological sympathies to the liberation theology movement of the mid-twentieth century that would disagree with the individuation of this analysis. Liberation theology, a strain of Catholic thought that reads the New Testament in the vein of the class struggle, and sees Christ as a proto-Marxist material liberator of society’s oppressed, has to one degree or another captured the imaginations of those who sanction state-sponsored redistributive policy as mandated by Christ Himself. Advocates of so-called Christian democracy and Christo-European social democracy would take issue with such a line of argumentation as cover for the particular cruelties of American capitalism and backhanded advocacy for the “prosperity gospel.” While the former is a matter of intractable political difference, I can firmly state the latter claim’s proposed intent is wholly false. As a Roman Catholic, a rejection of Osteen-ified “health and wealth” homiletics is spasmodically easy.
Indeed, Christ makes it quite clear that one of the bases of our individual eternal destination is our own treatment of the poor, and, for those who occupy such positions, as individual leaders exercising prudential judgement. It is sensible to believe that this text has ethical ramifications for policy-makers, but reducing its meaning to a conduit for state-mandated redistributive policy cheapens what the guiding thrust of Christ’s message is — that human beings as individuals have a solemn duty to provide for the poor. Elizabeth Warren’s class warfare and unabated social engineering are no rubric for Christian governance.