"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Economic Stimulus, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Gospel

Jobless claims soared again this month and the federal government's unemployment numbers will be released tomorrow, likely showing an incremental increase in the size of the unemployed population.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress, at the urging of the White House and newly-minted president Barack Obama, are considering an economic bailout which will carry a price tag of at least 800 billion dollars. How a government in debt by about 10 trillion dollars is going to be able to pull off this legislation is frightening. It will require either higher taxing on people and businesses in the middle, (After all, the bankers aren't paying this with their taxes and apparently as we have seen over the last few days neither are the politicians. The lower class is going to get a tax break, so they will not be paying for it either.), or the influx of more cash from the Federal Reserve. It is because of this that 50% of Americans, according to a new Rasmussen poll, oppose the economic stimulus that will likely pass in the next week or so. Only 39% of Americans think that the stimulus will be helpful.

I have my own opinion as to how the stimulus will ultimately work out, but that is not what I want to get at here. The point is that I find it disgusting that the Federal Government thinks it knows what is best for us. What is even worse, there is a sizable percentage of people in this country who feel the same way. But the truth is, this is nothing new. It does not take a president who in his spare time walks on water to claim to have the answer to all of a nation's problems.

From the earliest days of the Roman empire we find Emporers issuing Euangelion(s), (greek for Gospel) essentially edicts indicating their plan to save the world. Benedict XVI in his work Jesus of Nazareth writes the following about the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

"The term (euangellion) has recently been trasnlated as good news. That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world. The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangellium, regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful and pleasant. The idea was that what comes form the emperor is a saving message that it is not just a piece of news, but a change of the world for the better.
When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors , who pretended to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here-a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk, but reality. In the vocabulary of contemporary linguistic theory, we would say that the evangelium, the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech-not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the Gospel of God, the point being that it is not the emperors who can save, but God. And it is here that God's word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world-the living God-who goes into action."

That's a long piece, but it is worth noting again and again that looking to the government for salvation is nothing new, and the result will be nothing new. Men can't save the world, only God can and only God has. So as the stimulus bill works its way toward passage, feel free to comment on what you think its effectiveness for the economy will be, but please do not get trapped in the idea that one man, or one congress, can make this country's problems all better.

Our financial problems as a nation, stem from a devotion to Materialism instead of Morality. No amount of money in the world can fix that problem and in fact, may make it worse. We should look to the Saving Lord who brought and performed the Saving Word, the True Evangellium.

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