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Who would Jesus tax?

Add Jesus Christ to the list of President Barack Obama’s economic advisers.

Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, said his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy finds its roots in the teachings of Jesus.

“I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’ ” Obama said.

He added that his push for banking regulations and health care reform is also rooted in Scripture. “I do so (advocate for reform) because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody, but I also do it because I know far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years. And I believe God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ ” Obama said.

Liberals will no doubt cheer, but they shouldn’t. They should instead ask themselves these questions:

How is it good to invoke the commands of the Bible when it comes to raising taxes and passing health care reform, but bad when it comes to prohibiting abortions or gay marriage? If religion shouldn’t be used to make government social policy, why is it suddenly good when it comes to making tax policy?

And if Obama is really going to study the Scriptures for guidance on running his government, he’s going to have a heck of a time getting past Matthew’s gospel: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

That’s turn the other cheek, not send SEAL Team Six to shoot your enemies in the face. 

What politicians never quite grasp when it comes to religion is that the Bible wasn’t intended to be a guidebook for government; it’s a guidebook for individuals on how to live their lives. And Jesus — although often invoked for advice on how to run the country — steadfastly refused to get involved when it came to matters of policy.

Remember Luke’s gospel? Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if only Jesus would worship him. (How many people running for president could turn that one down?) Jesus simply responded, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

Remember when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into either siding with the hated Roman oppressors or fomenting rebellion by asking him if it was lawful to pay taxes?

Instead of choosing sides, Jesus simply responded: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”

Those passages, and others, make it clear why it’s so foolish to consider the Bible to write public policy: It’s not about that.

In fact, read as a whole, the Bible is almost studiously unconcerned with temporal, civil government. Instead, the book encourages Christians to love God, love their neighbor, follow just laws and be about the business of saving souls for eternity.

In the here and now, the most politicians can do is to repeat the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:9. (“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”)

Beyond that, we’re probably better off to realize our problems are created by people, and must be solved by people.

So when our leaders appeal to the Bible to justify their views — whether it’s raising taxes or banning gay marriage — we’re right to be skeptical. Liberals and conservatives should understand the separation of church and state is a capital idea, even and perhaps especially when the church is being invoked to get things they want.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist, and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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