A Jubilee since 1940? Social Security and Medicare

Has Social Security been a modern version of the biblical Jubilee since 1940?  Senator Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio), just re-elected, just helped me make this connection.

Sen. Brown appeared on Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and said this:  “Government has never been late on a social security check in 75 years since its first payment in 1940.”

Watch the whole interview here:

Sen. Brown explains that conservative Republicans want to destroy Social Security and Medicare precisely because they are successful government programs and the success of these “undercuts their view that government can’t do anything right.”

But why not want  programs to be successful that are so essential for keeping seniors healthy and out of poverty? It puts their ideology ahead of the well-being of America’s seniors.

Is this the future for more and more seniors in America?

What is even more astonishing to me, as I have been doing a lot of interviews on #OccupytheBible, is that this anti-government ideology is so central among religious, not just political conservatives.

The religious conservatives who interview me cannot deny what Jesus says about “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), but argue that Christians should just do individual charity.  They don’t even try to hide their anti-government bias, giving it a pious spin.

Being anti-government is now a strongly held religious conservative position, even though it requires that a conservative Christian contradict what Jesus actually says. For example, in his first sermon,  Jesus plainly announces the “good news” is the “Year of the Lord’s Favor,” that is, the biblical Jubilee. The Jubilee was, in the time of ancient Israel, a “government program” (as religion and government were essentially the same) not just individual acts of charity.  Debts were forgiven, land re-distributed and slaves released society-wide.  A plain reading of the Bible supports this.

I am coming to believe this blindness on what Jesus really taught by conservative Christians is because religious conservatives have bought into political conservatism and its anti-government ideology. This is not biblical.

Social Security and Medicare are high on the list of government programs the far-right tries over and over to cut and eventually gut, but Social Security has been a kind of biblical “Jubilee” since 1940, and the Medicare Social Security amendment since 1965.

And you can be sure I will make that argument in my next interview!

About Susan Thistlethwaite

I am President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary; I write for the public here and in local papers. I am interested in what I call "public theology," or how deeper meaning is made and contested in the public square.
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1 Response to A Jubilee since 1940? Social Security and Medicare

  1. Charity is an act of love, Yet many Christians give not out of love, but out of duty, for them its an act of faith.Yes Christians should do individual acts of true charity.for that is the greater act.but to pretend doing your duty to those in need any different than performing your duty under the old covenant. when those duties were enacted through government and laws. Taxes are how you Help the government fulfil its godly duty role to help others/. as Romans 13 6 points out.

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