Discerning Smoke from Fog

The conflations were sloppy while the assumptions were obvious, and several broad swipes were made without attention to detail but I still think that I was being fair in my contentions. That prominent conservative pundits at NRO started spinning a position in opposition to mine at least gives me the cover to say that there are right wing thinkers who are willing to take ownership of the ‘pro-allowing houses to burn down for not paying the fee’ side of the issue so I am not tilting at strawmen. In this case one can assert this is a theory being played out in practice in microcosm because that’s exactly what it is; the GOP, the Tea Party, and conservatives in general regularly call for exactly these sorts of policies to be enacted. The idea of the fire department as a fee-based service did not emanate from the letter column of Mother Jones.

What happened in Tennessee is an excellent example of why the idea of eliminating tax-supported services in favor of an optional fee is bad policy; inevitably there will be people who cannot pay. For some services this is acceptable, for others it is not. Taxes are mandatory and so therefore are the best way to support public services that are essential to public good; there is certainly debate to be had as to what constitutes ‘essential’, but it is reasonable that emergency services should constitute ‘essential’. I do not believe the free market is the solution for every challenge a modern society faces even as I understand it is the primary engine moving modern society; publicly funded fire brigades date back to Augustus Caesar, who preceded Marx by something like eighteen centuries so we can feel safe advocating for them without worrying about accidentally subscribing to socialist dogma.

Mr. Glenn Beck has gotten in on the act, and has taken his predictably tactful position, which brings me to the invocation of Religion  by myself and others that was so strenuously objected to by one of my more astute readers. Mr Beck has shot his mouth off about religious matters for a long time and recently has anointed himself as some kind of spiritual leader to America; he is as quick to shout ‘hallelujah’ as he is to wrap himself up in the flag and he does that trick right quick. So, I actually do find it quite relevant to ask you to ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do?’ What would Dr King do? Try to imagine Abe Lincoln standing with a hose in hand, refusing to put out the fire because the fee had not been paid properly. For some time now the folks who have been praising Jesus and cursing Allah have been doing the work of Mammon all along; they are poisoning our discourse with their foul theology. Intelligent people should contemplate and discuss the spiritual perspective of everything because we need a theology for this age that is based on unblinking compassion and creative collaboration rather than prejudiced ignorance and blind adherence to petty laws.


8 Responses to “Discerning Smoke from Fog”

  1. “we need a theology for this age that is based on unblinking compassion and creative collaboration rather than prejudiced ignorance and blind adherence to petty laws”

    So long as man falsely stand upon a doctrine of love preaching a hidden message of hatred we will never have this. But do we attack the doctrine or the men who have corrupted it? In the former post it appeared to be an attack on the religion itself, not the ones who use it as a tool for ulterior motives.

  2. Huck, am I misunderstanding you? You seem to equate theology and religion. They are distinct things.

    Winston, I would argue that we already have a “theology for this age that is based on unblinking compassion and creative collaboration.” Matthew 5 1-11 is a good place to start. Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Bonhoeffer, James Cone, Howard Thurman are good advanced study on “unblinking compassion.” We already have the theology, it is our Religion (or a more precise term – “Religiosity”) that is the problem.

    We Christians spend way too much time worrying about what happens to folks after they die and not not nearly enough trying to make things on earth better.

    • To achieve a modest level of understanding of our ‘theology’ (I always called it religion, i wasn’t taught big werds in school) requires alot of soul searching, introspection and experimentation. I wasn’t taught about any of these in Sunday school, or at any sermon I’ve ever sat through for that matter. It’s a mighty paradox (the world is full of them right?) that one of the most personally approached aspects of our humanity is also one of the most populous institutions that we have.

      Like you said Kenny in your last sentence, the carrot on a stick approach isn’t going to work in the 21st century, for obvious reasons. We have far greater control over environment today. The solution is simple enough, but paradoxical as well. You can’t teach people to think for themselves.

      • Sorry to pull out the Seminary snobbishness. I hope I didn’t offend you. I was trying to understand your point. Sometimes I am a bit over concerned about the precise use of words…

        Anyway, we are getting a bit far afield of Winston’s point, but yes, Churches and religious institutions are facing a crisis. The rules have changed and if institutions don’t change, they will become irrelevant. The paradox here is that religious institutions are supposed to guide opinion, not simply respond to them and tell people what they want to hear.

        Churches must be a voice in the wilderness teaching love and compassion. But in order to do this, they must have congregations to listen to them.

  3. I was sad to hear about the house burning issue in Tennessee. Truly a tragedy. However, I am a tax collector by trade so I do understand some, not all, of the thought process. We will prohibit someone from getting tags for the vehicle for unpaid property tax, we will seize your IRS refund if you owe the state money. But before you pass judgement, the fees/debts have been open for months,often times years before that action is taken. Notices ,bills have been sent and no response- until we lien a paycheck or bank account-then! BAM! all of suddend it becomes an issue. Please do not whine about the poor and down trodden. I have repossessed cars from people who where receiving public assistance, yet driving a $40,000 loaded Explorer. If you can afford the car, house, etc. you can afford the fees associated with said item.

  4. Sarah, I don’t think anyone is complaining about debts being collected. Watching a man’s house burn when you have a hose in your hand is another story entirely…

  5. True very true….. Jesus would NOT have stood by and watched. In this case, the rules needed to be broken.

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