I teach a Saturday morning men's Bible study on Saturday mornings. We're reading Luke now. When I say "teach", I mean this rather loosely. Though I have been known to hold forth on occasion, for the most part this is a conversation rather than a lecture.
And we do venture off-topic once in awhile. A couple of weeks ago, for example, one of the men brought up an article he had read about one of our more well-known (and conservative) congressional representatives. He said he learned the term "cognitive dissonance" for the first time, discussing the term and the congresswoman with his son. I believe that the issue at hand was that she was against funding for programs from which her family benefitted, as they were parents to several foster children.
Basically, the writer of the article did not understand the Congresswoman, something our table discussed. One of the men ventured this opinion as to why not, "Liberals think that all charity should come from the government."
Now this statement was jarring at first for several reasons: first of all, I was sitting right there, and I consider myself rather liberal, although not in such a way as to insinuate that those not of my political persuasian could not possibly by Christians. And I'm pretty sure that I don't think that "all charity should come from the government." So I wondered why this gentleman should think this way. I do disagree with this gentleman's politics, although I consider him to be (of course) a brother in Christ. I'm sure he does not get this opinion from his conversations with me. I can think of plenty of private charities I endorse and even contribute to.
So, my first thought was, it must be all those conservative authors, the ones with names I won't even mention (why give them any more P.R.?) If he talked to me, he might find out what I really think, which has less to do with ideology (I thought) and more to do with a program's effectiveness. Some people think that a private charity is always more effective; others think that a public/government program is always more effective and appropriate.
Why is it that he might be more interested in his opinions about liberals from conservative authors rather than a real liberal?
Why is it that I might be more interested in getting my opinions about conservatives from entertaining liberal authors rather than a real conservative?
Those were my first thoughts.
Then I went a little further, and considered the word "charity". I also considered, if we really had a deep and respectful conversation with one another, that he and I had different ideas about the line between "charity" and "justice." For example, I think some government help for the poor is really a justice issue, not about charity, because I think that there are many cases where the playing field is not level, and some people start out with a disadvantage, and there are others who definitely start with a big advantage, who benefit from the system the way it is. He might be absolutely certain that anytime there is help for anyone, it is charity, not justice, because justice means that those who work hard get to reap the benefit.
I'm not sure that this is ever a divide that can be fully bridged.
However, the Bible's idea of justice might be a place to start. I suspect this justice (and this mercy) might challenge both of us.
"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God."