Say what?

As most of you know, I’m pretty good at giving people the benefit of the doubt whenever that’s possible. It’s an essential part of approaching others with charity and humility, in addition to being an obvious implication of the Golden Rule. But sometimes, well, there just isn’t enough room to do anything other than describe a massive problem.

Yes, I’m talking about yesterday’s daily White House press conference wherein Jay Carney now infamously claimed the Bible says, “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” which it doesn’t. But Jay Carney isn’t the story. The fact that one staffer, even such a prominent one, would attribute an aphorism from Ben Franklin to Scripture is purely uninteresting, precisely the sort of blunder we are in fact called to overlook or forgive. Besides, it’s probably the most common erroneous attribution people make to the Bible, so the fact that Jay did so doesn’t bother me a bit.

What flabbergasted me was the fact that the entire White House press corps didn’t catch the error. It took Politico several hours later to notice that the White House transcript issued for the event had noted the error. That means that there wasn’t a single reporter in that room yesterday with enough exposure to Christian teaching to recognize Carney’s mistake on the spot and call him on it.

See, Evangelicals pretty regularly complain that the media or the leaders of culture don’t really get us. Sometimes that’s a fair complaint and sometimes not. But in this particular instance, I know I could go to any Evangelical church in the country and expect at least half of the attendees to correctly know this particular piece of religious urban legendry. So what I’m guessing half of all Evangelicals know, not a single major news reporter in a room of a hundred knows. And for a group of people who generally will pounce like piranha on even the most minor gaffe, their silence symbolizes a tremendous disconnect.

The good news, such as it is, is that the White House itself made the correction. They may have been prodded by outside sources, but a self-effacing government is always better than the alternative. But the White House hinting at its own errors is still quite some distance from a coalition of major news sources first admitting and then rectifying their vast ignorance of mainstream American religion.

What is mine?

Due to the blessings of ridiculously generous relatives, our boys are regularly showered with gifts and money for Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Presidents Day, Valentine’s Day, and “Third Tuesday Fest” which I don’t even think is a real thing. Ever the diligent family accountant, my wife keeps close track of each boy’s individual bank balance whenever they go out shopping for toys. Well, an interesting problem has started cropping up.

Whereas Spencer and Ethan (7 and 5, respectively) always have consumer appetites which exceed their savings, Sage (3) has the reverse problem. As the beneficiary of two older brothers’ toys (and a dubiously grown-up father with some lingering childhood artifacts), Sage luxuriates in a continuous toy surplus. Having no real needs, the result is that Dani never has anything to buy for him with his money. Since the others will always be older and passing their former toys down to him, this problem seems likely never to fade. But it raises an interesting philosophical-economic question.

If the flow of toys is all Sage’s way but the dispersal of money is equal to all three, why shouldn’t some of that money go to benefit the undersubsidized desires of Spencer and Ethan? To put the matter more politically, Sage is the undeserving beneficiary of our family’s societal infrastructure the creation of which was not due to any merit on his part. So, even though the gift money is his, it seems only fair to spread it back up the inheritance chain a bit.

Now, I understand that a country is not the same thing as a family, and I understand that confusion over this distinction is near the heart of most of the mistakes of modern liberalism. That being said, isn’t there something here to support the idea that maybe some factions of our current political landscape are slightly excessive in their demand that citizens of a long-established society unequivocally deserve to keep every last scrap of anything that comes to them?