Transcript #160

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 resources page.



Your sources today include: the New York Times, several papal encyclicals and other official Catholic Church documents,, 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 along here.


Let's start off with a clip of Bill O'Reilly:


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 arguments...

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.


Point 1: The world's resources were meant for all to share equitably, so that each individual and people have a sufficient share.


Will the beloved free market of right-wingerdom achieve this? 




Principle 2:


2.  The market alone can not address all human needs, and its shortcomings need to be addressed.


What causes such fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied?


3. The existence of unjust political and economic mechanisms must be recognized, and they justifiably can be called "structures of sin."


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:


4. Demonization of the poor is wrong.


It's not poor character, it's injustice and oppression that cause poverty.


Indeed, far from demonizing the poor, as right-wingers always do,  principle 5 states:


5. We must exercise a "preferential option for the poor."


What must we do, just hope and fervently pray that the poor are helped, that alms are given?




Principle 6:


6. Concrete actions to help the poor and promote justice, not pious wishes, are required.


That duty to promote justice leads naturally to principle 7, a truly critical one:


7- 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 addressed.


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 are necessary.


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.


In Matthew 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.


Jesus replies:


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 25:31-46?


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 ones which:


--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 quickly, and

--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 25?"


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.


Stick around.






Ok, here's one Equivalent Alternative Solution challenge:


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 obligations.


Here's another Equivalent Alternative Solution challenge.


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 laws for immigrants 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 responsibility.


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 of these." 


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 addressed.


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 in America]

You can also tell your right-wing Christian friend, that the Old Testament itself makes clear that God will hold an entire nation 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.


Ok, just about as common an objection by right-wing pseudo-Christians you'll run into, goes something like this:


This was a recent guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News TV show:


audio: Sean Hannity guest

Guest:  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.

As a 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."


To all 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. 


It's 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.


Government 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.


Do 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."


Is that really what Jesus would say, Mr. or Ms. Right-Wing Pseudo-Christian?


And of 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.


The 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.


Ok, up next, more objections refuted, and then we'll wrap things up.  Stay tuned.






Here's another objection of the right-wing pseudo-Christian, cursed goat variety.  This is how such a person who wrote in to me put it:


Matthew 25 was not meant to call upon the government to force people to give.

My reply:


In a democracy, you're "forced to give" to countless numbers of government programs – such as defense, highways, and medical research – all the time. 


In a 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.


Assisting "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.


And to 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.


All the right-wing pseudo-Christian has to do is implement an Equivalent Alternative Solution 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.


Which 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 Matthew 25.


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 only 1 out of 10 uninsured Americans.  Many progressive plans would help all uninsured Americans.  Which plan would Jesus favor?


And the 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. 


Somehow that 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 Annus]

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 Rei Socialis]

Further:  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 "free market."


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 Hell."


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 relationship with.


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 voice.



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