Religious people can’t seem to agree on poverty—they agree that it exists, of course, but they don’t know what the government should do about it. This debate was put on display during Wednesday’s House Budget Committee hearing with Rep. Paul Ryan and Sister Simone Campbell—both Catholic—addressing the issue from very different perspectives.
Ryan believes that cutting government programs will help the poor, while Campbell, the face of Nuns on the Bus, supports the Faithful Budget campaign, an interfaith coalition working “to protect social safety net programs that serve people living in poverty.”
So what does God want us to do? Redistribute our nation’s wealth? Or let private donations handle it?
Thank goodness for Cincinnati pastor and Beliefnet blogger Chad Hovind who knows exactly how to help the poor—and even to end the Great Recession. Turns out we don’t need any fancy economists or earthly expertise of any kind. All the answers are in the Bible. Or so Hovind claims in his new book, Godonomics: How to Save Our Country—and Protect Your Wallet—Through Biblical Principles of Finance, published by Multnomah Books, “the evangelical division of Penguin Random House.”
And what are the biblical principles of finance? Although he doesn’t use the term, apparently Hovind (sorry, God) prefers supply-side economics. The idea is that production is the engine of economic growth; i.e. if you make stuff, people will buy it. And like most supply-siders, he (or He) argues for minimal taxes and a tiny government, and against the Federal Reserve’s ability to fiddle with the money supply. Also we should return to the gold standard.
In other words, if Jesus walked the earth today, he would support the Tea Party.
Hovind, of course, has proof texts for this stuff. And it does seem reasonable to stress that the Lord smiles upon the industrious, like “the wife of noble character” in Proverbs 31. But when he applies the Bible directly to politics and economics, the results are unconvincing.
Much is made of 1 Samuel 8, when the Israelites demand a king, instead of trusting in God. Thus the Lord sends Samuel, who doesn’t turn out to be such a bargain. The passage is really about Israel’s recurring faithlessness; and yes, there is arguably a lesson about the dangers of temporal authority. But Hovind sees this passage as a quite literal message about low taxes and small government.
You won’t find any mention of camels and needles in Godonomics, nor any substantive reference to Jesus’s love for the despised and the downtrodden. Hovind, in fact, takes a dim view of the poor. Although he acknowledges that “poverty is caused by a myriad of external and internal factors,” “laziness” comes first on his list of causes.
“The United States is so prosperous that even our poor are rich compared to people in most of the world,” Hovind writes. “The poor in America usually have air conditioning, a car, a television, and a telephone.” These (alleged) facts must be a great comfort to the Americans struggling with joblessness and poverty.
There is some decent advice about budgeting in Godonomics, but it’s undermined by all the howlers. Hovind believes, for example, that the Federal Reserve is a “privately owned bank,” that the term “social justice” has been hijacked by secret “Marxists” like Jim Wallis, and that humanism can be “traced to a philosophy called Modernism” (there’s a whiff of David Barton, who happens to have blurbed his book, in that one).
Godonomics refers to Big Thinkers like Adam Smith and John Maynard, though Hovind displays so little understanding of their ideas that it’s clear he hasn’t read their books—the aforementioned “Modernists,” according to Hovind, are Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx.
It is easy to mock Godonomics, if not the fear that gives rise to such nonsense. The coming years do not bode well for the middle class, and we’re still trying to get our heads around what happened to the economy. Most Americans don’t have the energy or inclination to, say, read a couple of books by Keynes or about Keyensian economics. We prefer narratives.
In Godonomics, the narrative is simple: If you’re poor it’s probably your own fault; just trust in the Lord and “produce” something (Hovind recommends selling your extra stuff on the Internet) and you’ll be fine.
Apparently Hovind has the courage of his convictions. On his website, you can buy the Godonomics Platinum Package (“The Ultimate Godonomics Experience”), which includes the book, DVDs, a Leader’s Guide and a Participant’s Guide, for the low price of $75.51. You may wonder how he arrived at the figure, but rest assured there’s probably a scriptural reason behind it. Personally, I’m wondering how much of the money that Hovind earns from Godonomics will make its way to the poor and the hungry.