More than 2,000 years ago, when Jesus was born, there was “no room” for his family in Bethlehem. Likewise, as Christmas 2021 approaches, we have no room for hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans who live in tents, cardboard boxes or other kinds of irregular shelters.
In a nation of great wealth with trillions spent over the years on social programs and housing, why is there still “no room” for affordable housing today?
One of the answers is the power of monopolies. Economists such as the Minneapolis Federal Reserve’s James A. “Jim” Schmitz explain how monopolies are “silent spreaders of poverty and economic inequality.”
Attentive Baptist News Global readers already have been introduced to some of the reasons by columnists Ivory Mewborn and Todd Thomason and my response to their columns. Their columns are as relevant now as before because Jesus’ words are our guide: “See to it that no one deceives you.”
American Christians have been deceived about why there is too often “no room” for affordable housing.
Jesus called Satan a liar and “the father of lies.” We know the devilish deceiver also quoted Scripture, but without meaning the same thing as God intended. Thus, to adhere to the timeless wisdom of the Messiah and Christ, we believers must be properly informed.
A critical key to navigating such pitfalls is to be steeped in common sense grounded in God’s eternal truths.
Too many American Christians today have fallen victim to paltering, which is a 16th century word meaning “the active use of selective truthful statements to mislead.”
“Too many American Christians today have fallen victim to paltering, which is a 16th century word meaning ‘the active use of selective truthful statements to mislead.’”
Today’s “fake news” could at times be better described as “paltering news.” What often occurs is that something seems to be accurately said, but other relevant facts are ignored, downplayed, spun or left out.
According to Todd Rogers, a behavioral scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School, paltering is “the active use of truthful statements to convey a misleading impression.”
One of those misleading impressions has led us to believe that unfettered capitalism is the same thing as free enterprise. It is not.
I reject socialism, communism and fascism as well as the Marxist term “capitalist.” Frédéric Bastiat in his classic The Law made it clear that free enterprise needs moral and legal guidelines. This is not an issue of Right versus Left in a political sense. It is an issue of right versus wrong in a moral sense.
John. D. Rockefeller is credited as America’s first billionaire. Rockefeller (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937) is remembered as an American business magnate and philanthropist.
But “capitalist” Rockefeller was a monopolist, a point the U.S. Supreme Court made clear. Rockefeller deftly manipulated the markets and the tax system. He did so, in part, by putting millions into the tax-sheltered Rockefeller nonprofit, which used money to influence health policies and other institutions with policies he embraced.
What of the capitalists of today? When carefully scrutinized, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros and others have manipulated markets to their own advantage while harming others in a manner that followed the Rockefeller pattern of coyly using nonprofits, media and money to advance self-serving interests.
“Are these and other billionaires ‘philanthropists’ in the normal sense? Hardly.”
Are these and other billionaires “philanthropists” in the normal sense? Hardly. “See that no one deceives you,” Jesus seems to say! Tares and wheat look alike, but when carefully examined, they are quite different.
In the award-winning documentary Poverty, Inc is this powerful quote. “If you really want to help poverty, then the poverty industry as we know it has to go.”
Why will the poor always be with us, as said by Jesus in Matthew 26:11? Because as that verse suggests, we do not always have Jesus top-of-mind and near our hearts. Because we have fallen victim to lies and half-truths. Because we have allowed what author Edward Curtin has aptly called “a tapestry of lies” to trap millions into contemporary unbiblical structures of sin. Because we, too, have no room in our hearts for Jesus.
These lies about how free enterprise must work to support capitalist monopolies are, in reality, denying us growth in the economy. Chang Tai Hsieh from the University of Chicago and fellow researcher Enrico Moretti from U.C. Berkley have documented that the lack of affordable housing near where it is needed is costing the U.S. economy some $2 trillion annually. That’s roughly equal to a $6,000 a year income hike for every American. Caring about our neighbor can pragmatically pay.
The sad reality is that believers have been deceived. I count myself in that group. It took the guidance of others to rouse me from a problematic slumber.
What can we do to make sure there’s more room in the inn?
- Routinely spend time reading and understanding the word of God. By learning what is divinely inspired and true, we can become more sensitive to what is untrue, fake or paltering.
- Ask ourselves objectively about every moral issue, “How does this fit with the Ten Commandments?’
- Love our neighbors as ourselves by sifting the wheat from the chaff to see how troubling structures of sin can be addressed lawfully and biblically. Antitrust action against monopolizers and those who manipulate the free enterprise system is one such method.
- Remember the words of Martin Luther King: “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
- Question the conventional wisdom handed down by political parties and others with agendas.
Paltering — harmful and costly half-truths — is exposed and conquered by the light and devoted living of the fullness of truth. This is the message of Emmanuel, “God with us.” Jesus came to a place with “no room” to begin the process of redeeming humanity from sin.
When the “no room” in our minds, hearts and social structures yields to truth and love, miraculous changes occur. Thus, the angelic chorus bid us to give “glory to God in the highest! And peace on earth to people of goodwill!”
L.A “Tony” Kovach is a former youth minister and online evangelist, is an acknowledged expert in manufactured housing, as well as the co-founder and publisher of MHLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com. He has won numerous awards in history, including the Lottinville Award from the University of Oklahoma.
Manufactured homes and just zoning laws can transform working poor | Opinion by Ivory Mewborn
I can’t make sense of how we treat the working poor | Opinion by Ella Wall Prichard
The gift that is missing in our talk about affordable housing | Opinion by Greg Jarrell
The U.S. wealth gap presents both a political challenge and a spiritual problem | Analysis by Todd Thomason
The connection between the wealth gap, monopolies, affordable housing and biblical truths | Opinion by L.A. “Tony” Kovach