Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," called out conservatives this morning for allegedly missing Jesus' central message about helping the poor. Despite waving "their bibles around the most," Scarborough charged that "many on the right" simply don't get what Jesus commands of them in regards to helping those in need.
While interviewing Tavis Smiley and Cornell West about the Occupy Wall Street movement, among other subjects, Scarborough decided to weigh in on partisan politics and poverty. He said:
I don’t usually do this but I am going to do it now because it seems that Christianity is constantly being thrown into primary debates. It happened again this past weekend. How fascinating that, despite the fact that many on the right have brought religion up over the past 30, 40 years, they somehow missed the core of Jesus’ message?
Jesus was asked by his disciples, who is getting to heaven? How do we sit on the right hand of the father? This is what Jesus Christ said. By the way, Pastor Jeffress, if you open your Bible to Matthew, it is in red letters. That means Jesus said it. Then, the King will say to those on the right, come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.
And that was not Jesus talking about some side issue, some side board to his ministry. That was Jesus talking about, when asked, what His ministry was about. It was about taking care of the poor. We don’t see that from the very people who wave their bibles around the most.
Below, watch his comments (around 8:50):
What is most curious about this commentary is that is lacks a proper framework and setting. While Scarborough is certainly correct that Jesus commanded his followers to care for the poor, the debate that is happening right now in this country centers upon the government's role in paying for various services (of course there's also a newfound focus upon "corporate greed" as well).
But despite Scarborough's anti-conservative slam, research has consistently shown that those on the right tend to donate more to charity than their liberal counterparts. Independently-registered researcher and author Arthur Brooks has tackled the issue of political ideology as it pertains to giving. According to a 2006 ABC News piece by John Stossel and Kristina Kendall, Brooks’ research showed that conservatives donate about 30 percent more than do liberals. Interestingly, on average, conservatives also earn less than liberals.
In 2008, George Will covered some of Brooks’ other findings. As it turns out, in 2004, George W. Bush carried 24 out of 25 of the states in which charitable giving exceeded the national average -- simply an interesting tidbit to add intrigue to the debate.
The point here is not to slam conservatives or liberals for their giving patterns. However, the research does seem to call into question Scarborough's claims. It's not that conservatives disagree with helping the poor; many on the right simply believe that this help should come more from organizations and individuals than from the government.