How To Put Right-Wing Christians On The
Defensive With The "Equivalent Alternative Solution" Challenge
Partially hyperlinked to sources.
For all sources, see the data
Your sources today include: the New
York Times, several papal encyclicals and other official Catholic Church
documents, taxpolicycenter.org, the website of Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting, and the National Taxpayers Union.
Where I want to get to today, is the
place where you can confidently assert to any right-wing Christian, "How
can you say Merry Christmas, when every time you open your mouth and speak, you
spit in Jesus' face?"
Pretty harsh, yes.
But true. Just follow me
Let's start off with a clip of Bill
audio: Bill O'Reilly
It's hard to say that Jesus wouldn't want everyone
to get health care. On a
humanitarian basis, you don't argue with it.
On a fiscal basis, you have to argue with it. You
can't pay for the health care of the entire world, and we have 10 million
illegal aliens here, who shouldn't be here.
Who should be back in their own country.
I'm just giving you the theoretical argument that
they're here illegally. They should
be back in their own country. America's
going bankrupt; we owe 12 trillion dollars.
And now you want to pay for the health care, or part of it, of 10 million
people. Yeah, humanitarian-wise,
that's right. But the country's
going to go broke. Those are the two
On a purely policy, secular level,
wouldn't you say O'Reilly is being just a bit disingenuous here?
We're bankrupt because of policies
O'Reilly advocates, like far lower taxes on the wealthy than there should be.
O'Reilly is fanatical about this. Lately
he's been repeating this gem:
audio: Bill O'Reilly
Already Nancy Pelosi and her far-left crew want to
raise the top Federal tax rate to 45 percent.
That's not capitalism—that's Fidel Castro stuff!
Confiscating wages that people honestly earn.
How stupid is that!
If 45% is Castro stuff, what is 91%,
where the tax was under that noted Communist Dwight David Eisenhower?
Or 70-75% which was the highest marginal tax rate during the presidency
of the fellow traveler Richard Nixon? All
Presidents from FDR to Reagan presided
over tax rates in
excess of 45%.
Besides too low taxes, we have the
bloated defense budget to blame for our deficit.
O'Reilly is a big supporter of high defense spending.
But let's get beyond O'Reilly's
historical ignorance, and other pure policy concerns, and now add in the
theological realm, where we need to be today.
I want to give you a logical framework to effectively challenge
right-wing Christians here and in every other area of social or economic policy.
We need to put right-wing Christians
on the defensive.
They're just about the largest and
most organized right-wing group there is.
First off, let's set the stage by
reviewing what you heard in podcast 157,
my 8 point distillation of Catholic social doctrine.
This alone enormously enhances your ability to engage right-wing
Christians in debate.
All you're about to hear is taken
from official Catholic church doctrine. If
you want, you can check out my Church
Teachings compilation, which contains extensive quotations from the actual
Church documents from whence I derive these points.
What causes such fundamental human
needs to remain unsatisfied?
Is it becoming clear to you?
This is all the exact opposite of what you'll hear from those phony
Christians I call right-wing pseudo-Christians.
Continuing on, if structures of sin
cause poverty, that leads to the next principle of Catholic social doctrine:
poor character, it's injustice and oppression that cause poverty.
far from demonizing the poor, as right-wingers always do,
principle 5 states:
must we do, just hope and fervently pray that the poor are helped, that alms are
duty to promote justice leads naturally to principle 7, a truly critical one:
Individual acts of charity are
not enough --
social, political and economic policies must be addressed.
Repeat: individual acts of charity are
not enough -- social, political and economic policies must be
Finally, there is principle 8:
8- This social
justice mandate and the preferential option for the poor, apply
internationally as well,
and therefore fundamental changes in global economic structures and practices
So… these are the eight principles.
Now I'm going to bump it up a level
-- maybe more accurately, make a quantum leap -- take you back to the ultimate
source material and give you a hard-core debating tool that'll set your
right-wing Christian conversational partner back on their heels, if not knock
them flat on their keister.
25:31-46, you have the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
This passage describes Judgment Day.
Jesus will gather the nations, and separate the sheep on one side, and
the goats on the other. He will tell
the sheep they are the righteous, and are going to Heaven, because -- and this
is Jesus speaking:
I was hungry and you gave
me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed
me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in
prison and you came to me.
The righteous ask Jesus, when did
they see him hungry and give him food, thirsty and give him drink, and so on.
Truly, I say to you, as
you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
Where does that leave the goats, whom
Jesus calls the cursed? Jesus sends
them to Hell, because
I was hungry and you gave
me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did
not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did
not visit me.
The cursed ask,
'Lord, when did we see
thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not
minister to thee?' Then he will
answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of
these, you did it not to me.'
Bottom line: how you treat the
hungry, the thirsty, the sick the stranger, how you treat these and all the
other "least of these," is how you treat Jesus himself.
I must tell you, I consider this the
most powerful passage in all of theology, at least as far as setting forth what
is required of us in interactions with our brother and sister human beings.
I ask you: Can someone be considered
a true Christian if the focus of their life is thwarting others and the society
itself from implementing such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew
It's fine to oppose government
programs to help the Matthew 25 "least of these," as right-wing
pseudo-Christians usually do. But to
avoid violating the Matthew 25 injunction, right-wing Christians must then
propose Equivalent Alternative Solutions. This
analytical and debating tool is my creation.
Equivalent Alternative Solutions are
--help at least the same number of
those people who legitimately need help
--provide at least the same amount of
effective assistance to those people
--get the help to them at least as
--are at least as certain to
accomplish these goals
Equivalent Alternative Solutions can
certainly be completely non-governmental, as long as they meet these criteria.
But right-wing Christians
consistently both oppose the plans of others to help the "least of
these," and fail to offer Equivalent Alternative Solutions.
Right-wing Christians should be
asked: "What about Matthew 25? If
you oppose my plan to help some of the "least of these,"
what do you propose instead? How
does what you're espousing here fulfill what Jesus commanded in Matthew 25?
In fact, isn't what you're doing exactly what Jesus condemned in Matthew
Ok, in a moment, some examples of
Equivalent Alternative Solution challenges, and then we'll address some of the
major right-wing pseudo-Christian obfuscations, objections and excuses you're
likely to run into.
By the way, you may notice I'm a bit
hoarse today. Since it's been
lingering a while, I thought it wise to just go ahead and record the podcast,
lest I wait until it gets worse.
Ok, here's one Equivalent Alternative
You tell a right-wing Christian the
government should guarantee health care to all children.
Any true right-winger will oppose such a government program, because,
it's a government program.
You then ask, what's their Equivalent Alternative Solution, that will
help the same number of children, the same amount, as soon and as certainly.
They won't have one.
They may babble on about private
charity. But that's not a plan, it's
a vague hope. And there's clearly
not enough private charity to take care of 8 million uninsured children.
And now at this point you challenge
the right-wing Christian, are they not doing exactly what Jesus condemned, not
helping the least of these?
And even worse, preventing others
from helping the least of these?
Right-wing pseudo-Christians are
those who allow their anti-government fanaticism to trump their Matthew 25 moral
Here's another Equivalent Alternative
Jesus condemned as cursed goats,
those nations which did not welcome the stranger.
Stranger is the Biblical term for immigrant.
The Bible enjoins us over and over again to love
the immigrant as we love ourselves, to not oppress
immigrants, to have the same
as for the native-born.
So how can right-wingers talk about deporting
immigrants and ripping apart families, and denying immigrants health care?
Far from having an Equivalent
Alternative Solution for the suffering of immigrants, or even just not having
one and merely opposing progressive measures to implement Matthew-25 compliant
immigration solutions, right-wing Christians actively head in the exact opposite
direction, to actually harm the stranger, the immigrant, even more.
What special rung of hell is reserved for that?!
How about you and I go over some
right-wing pseudo-Christian counterarguments you're likely to hear?
One of the most common replies you'll
get if you do the Equivalent Alternative Solution challenge, is that Matthew 25
applies only to individual acts of charity.
The response is, Matthew 25 doesn't
say or imply any such thing. If
anything, the contrary: Jesus gathers the "nations," who speak to him
collectively as "we."
Beyond that, Matthew 25 is not the
type of passage that should be interpreted narrowly so as to avoid
The correct view is that, yes, you
are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one
acts of charity or lack thereof. But
you are also individually held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions
you take influence your society in its collective treatment of the "least
Remember the Catholic social doctrine
principle 7 I set out earlier: individual acts of charity are
not enough -- social, political and economic policies must be
This is so important that it's worth quoting
Pope John Paul II:
It is a question not only of alleviating the most
serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of
uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political
and economic structures more just.... [Ecclesia
You can also tell your right-wing
Christian friend, that the Old Testament itself makes clear that God will hold
responsible for its wrongful acts toward
the poor -- that is to say, for its political acts of omission or commission.
One last angle: while misfortune can
be cured by charity, structural/systemic injustice – the "structures of
sin" -- can
be cured only by structural/systemic solutions.
Charity can provide a sometimes critically necessary tourniquet or
ambulance to allow the victims of structural/systemic injustice to survive in
the short term. But charity alone
cannot provide the cure which will stop the creation of future victims.
a recent guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News TV show:
You know what, it's not just a Catholic thing.
Let me say it's a Christian thing to take care of your neighbor.
But it does not mean, and Jesus never said this—and therefore it should
be the government who should take care of all our neighbors for us.
We have to
make the distinction between yes, a universal right to access to basic health
care. How should that happen?
It doesn't necessarily mean that the government should do it for us.
Especially if they're not very good at it.
right-wing listener succinctly wrote to me about another social justice realm:
"Jesus didn't say to have a government program to feed the hungry."
such objections, I say, so what? Jesus
never said to use a government program, and he never said not
to use a government program. Similarly,
Jesus never said to use private
charity, and he never said not to use private charity.
Matthew 25 doesn't say how
or how not to help Jesus
in the guise of the suffering, it just says you must help them.
critical to note: Jesus didn't live during a time when there were democracies
where the people decided themselves how to spend their tax money. If Jesus knew
about democracy, he'd be the first to say that there is a Christian duty in a
democracy to advocate that the entire society make sure that the least of these
are taken care of.
programs are a legitimate structural/systemic means to use for solving problems
that are society-wide and systemic, or are otherwise beyond the ability of
private charity to handle.
right-wing pseudo-Christians think Jesus would say, "OK, just donate as
much as you want as individuals, and if the problem is too big for individuals
to handle, don't pressure your government to help, because after all, even more
important than feeding the hungry and helping all the least of these, is making
sure we have small government."
really what Jesus would say, Mr. or Ms. Right-Wing Pseudo-Christian?
course, you have Catholic social doctrine, which as I mentioned before, calls
for political action to help the least of these.
So my interpretation is also that of Pope John Paul II.
bottom-line reply to the right-wing pseudo-Christian is, if you oppose a
government program, what's your Equivalent Alternative Solution that will help
the same number of people, the same amount, as soon and as certainly?
Keep pressing away and demand an answer.
next, more objections refuted, and then we'll wrap things up.
another objection of the right-wing pseudo-Christian, cursed goat variety.
This is how such a person who wrote in to me put it:
25 was not meant to call upon the government to force people to give.
democracy, you're "forced to give" to countless numbers of government
programs – such as defense, highways, and medical research – all the time.
democracy, if the people decide collectively to help "the least of
these," that's not "forcing people to give," it's allocating the
resources of the society in a democratic way.
"the least of these" is a perfectly legitimate function of government.
Given individuals may object to given uses of their tax money, and if so,
it's their job to get the legislation changed.
make it clear if it wasn't already so, I'm not saying you must use the
government to accomplish Matthew 25.
Do it without the government, but the operative words are "Do
it" not just vaguely express hopes for it.
right-wing pseudo-Christian has to do is implement an Equivalent Alternative
which will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and
as certainly. But anything less, and
he or she is violating Matthew 25.
they almost always do. Yet another
frequent right-wing pseudo-Christian response you may get thrown back at you, is
that they do have plans to help the poor, and that satisfies the injunction in
The response: their "plans"
are inadequate to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate.
Right-wing Christians consistently advocate courses of action which by
design do not help all those legitimately in need, or will help them
inadequately, or will help them for too short a time, or are much less certain
to take effect.
If that's the
case, Mr. or Ms. Right-Wing Christian, you’re not Matthew 25 compliant.
You’ve done exactly what the cursed are condemned for in Matthew 25 –
giving the hungry no food, the thirsty no water, the naked no clothes, the sick
no medical care.
To take some
recent examples, George W. Bush's health care plan would have helped
1 out of 10 uninsured Americans. Many
plans would help
all uninsured Americans. Which plan
would Jesus favor?
current GOP health care reform legislation, according to the non-partisan
Congressional Budget Office, would leave
the same percentage of Americans uninsured
in ten years, as are uninsured now.
doesn't seem what Jesus had in mind, you think?
Finally, a favorite right-wing
pseudo-Christian catch-all response to your equivalent Alternatives Solution
Challenge, is that "the free market" or "competition" will
solve the problem at hand.
Sorry, a legitimate Matthew 25 effort
can't consist merely of vague words and hopes; rather, it has to be a concrete
and specific plan. Merely spouting
an ideological platitude as a one-size-fits-all solution is transparently a
means to avoid actually trying to solve the problem.
Remember, Jesus said he was fed, he
was clothed, etc. Concrete acts.
Accomplished. As I told you,
Catholic social doctrine explicitly states:
Christ's words "as
you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt
25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish…[Centesimus
The motivating concern for
the poor--who are, in the very meaningful term, "the Lord's
poor"…--must be translated at all levels into concrete actions, until it
decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. [Solicitudo
people working full-time for less-than-starvation-level wages are not
served by a "free market." The
legitimate, critical needs of multitudes around the globe are not met by the
Again, a part of Catholic social
doctrine, one of the principles I mentioned before.
You've just heard the main
counter-arguments you'll get from right-wing pseudo-Christians.
I've run into a bunch of
miscellaneous others, which I unfortunately don't have time to get into right
now. Maybe in a follow up segment.
Ok, so remember Bill O'Reilly and his
concern about the deficit you heard at the beginning of the show?
I'd like to ask Bill, who says he's a
Catholic, where he finds the "Sorry, we have a deficit" exemption in
Matthew 25? Especially if he helped
create the deficit!
You've heard me repeatedly call
right-wing Christians pseudo-Christians.
A real Christian – someone imbued
with the spirit of Christ – advocates more
help for the suffering, not less.
And less is what the right-wing pseudo-Christians advocate.
This is the essence of the
"pseudo" designation: you can't be a true Christian if the focus of
your life is thwarting others and the society itself from fully implementing
such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew 25.
You can oppose government programs, but then you must propose Equivalent
Alternative Solutions. And
right-wing Christians virtually never do.
I swear to you, a third category
needs to be added to Matthew 25's sheep and goats, to separate out the merely
negligent or personally stingy, from major league sinners like right-wing
pseudo-Christians who actively seek to thwart those trying to help the
"least of these."
A word to the right-wing Christian
who may be listening: do you now understand, that offering an endless string of
excuses not to help those in need, is to not follow Matthew 25?
Would you give these excuses to Jesus?
If Jesus Christ came back today and
was sitting across from you, and he said that you must help feed all the hungry
in the world right now, would you tell Jesus what you've just told me?
Would you give Jesus Christ such lame excuses?
Well then don't give them to me, because Jesus Christ is now right across
from you, in the words of the Bible I've pointed out to you.
To close, let me say, that I think
you can now confidently issue the following challenge to your friendly local
right-wing pseudo-Christian: How can
you say Merry Christmas, when every time you open your mouth and speak, you spit
in Jesus' face?
Even more aggressive would be
utilizing the framework of my long essay
on this subject, which is entitled "What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus Would Send All These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight To
Of course, telling someone that
according to their own theology, Jesus is going to send them to hell, is
probably not a good tactic to employ with someone you want to have a continuing
So you can certainly take a much less
confrontational approach, suitable for your friendly local right-wing
pseudo-Christian who could not only be just your co-worker or neighbor, but
maybe even a close relative…even your significant other.
Such an approach might be:
I don't understand…let's go through
this step by step…
Whichever way you choose that is most
suitable for you, the important thing is that you do speak up, loudly and
clearly, and that you never ever, ever stop speaking up, for those who have no