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The Daily Dish brought my attention to a column by Bill O’Reilly entitled “Keep Christ in Unemployment.” O’Reilly highlights a comment by Congressman Jim McDermott in which he states: “This is Christmastime. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family. That’s simply wrong.”

Set aside for a moment that any reference to “the little baby Jesus” makes me think of Will Ferrell’s prayer in “Talladega Nights,” this seems like a fairly reasonable statement. Unemployment is awful; my family experienced the pain and stress it causes when I was growing up.

But, completely devoid of compassion, O’Reilly responds to this by saying, “the liberal agenda in America is expanding and now includes demands for guaranteed jobs at good wages for all who want to work.” This sounds like some kind of wonderful Christmas miracle, though not to O’Reilly. He immediately drops some figures regarding our national debt before actually asking an excellent question: “What does a moral society owe to the have-nots?”

Not surprisingly, I have a different answer than O’Reilly, and O’Reilly’s view is so well known that, it seems, he doesn’t even feel the need to offer it. Instead, he launches into a bit of classic conservative fear-mongering, culminating in this gem: “But if our currency collapses under unpaid debts, so will personal assets.” And, “There comes a time when compassion can cause disaster.”

Disaster!

Actually, this could be true, and if O’Reilly is speaking solely as a fiscal conservative, I can’t argue with him if he chooses not to show compassion for fear of disaster. The only thing is, O’Reilly is speaking as a Christian. In fact, he says, “But being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive.”

This is where his argument really crashes and burns.

First of all, and all joking aside, Jesus is most famous for being self-destructive. Remember that bit in Philippians that says, “he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” And lest there be any doubt that this self-destructive principle apply only to Jesus, one time he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” So, sorry Bill, self-destruction comes with the territory.

Back at the Dish, Andrew Sullivan takes O’Reilly to task on the unconditional nature of God’s mercy, proving that though humans may offer charity and compassion to others on certain grounds, God does not.

O’Reilly closes with the old saying, “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” which he passes off as scripture. But—it should be noted—it’s definitely not.

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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