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Mr. Parker uses straw man, but is he serious about Christ?

[Two weeks ago] Timothy Parker quoted our Lord and Savior with great awe and (some might think) contrived reverence in an attempt to cower Christians into accepting his argument (the gospel according to Parker?) about helping the poor.

Cal Beverly already responded to Mr. Parker’s point about the difference between the kind of personal, voluntary charity that Jesus truly advocated and the kind of coerced wealth transfer that Mr. Parker and his ilk believe is necessary to fulfill Jesus’ mandate.

I’d like to address two other aspects of the letter. First, Mr. Parker took the quote out of context. As good interpreters of the Bible will say, “A quote taken out of context is a pretext.”

Jesus’ admonition to the young man “to sell everything and give to the poor” came after the young man earnestly asked what he needed to do to become “perfect.”

Jesus initially responded by telling him to keep the commandments. Only when the young man asserted that he was already doing so did Jesus tell him to sell everything.

It wasn’t a general command for everyone to do so, nor was it primarily about helping the poor as it was about achieving detachment from material things as a condition of spiritual perfection.

To be sure, Jesus and the Bible in its totality often and with gravity admonish followers of God to take care of the poor. And the Christians I know, unlike the straw-man Christians that Mr. Parker and his fellow travelers seem to know, do just that, either through tithing to their church, specific charities, or giving their time to directly helping the poor.

This particular episode is, once again, more about the strict demands of a life completely devoted to holiness and has provided the model for mendicant orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans and, indeed, for all clergy who profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The other point I’d like to make is really a question to Mr. Parker: are you a serious Christian?

I hope the answer is yes, because I believe serious Christians can debate the gospel call to charity and how it should be translated into modern socio-political structures.

I hate how the other side tends to browbeat conservatives with this issue and call into question our faith simply because we don’t wholeheartedly embrace governmental forms of assistance to the poor, but oh well.

Back to Mr. Parker: the reason I ask is because you burn a lot of calories going after Christians to the point where I have to conclude that you aren’t one.

It’s one thing to disagree, as stated above, but to so demonize Christians the way you do is very, well, un-Christian.

If you aren’t Christian, fine. We live in a free country. But if you’re just using Christianity as a kind of rhetorical tool to threaten your opponents into agreeing or else, then you’ve reached a level of hypocrisy and cynicism that’s truly lamentable.

Again, if you sincerely believe what you argue about the meaning of Christ’s words, more power to you, although I’d recommend being more accurate and checking out other parts of the Gospels where Jesus talks about patience, forgiveness, and the importance of looking after your own faults rather than those of others.

But if you’re just using Jesus’ words as a cynical means to a rhetorical end, then I think you do discredit both to your arguments and yourself.

Trey Hoffman

Peachtree City, Ga.

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