Asked About Helping The Poor At Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally, Pastor Bemoans ‘Excessively Heavy’ Taxation

ThinkProgress filed this report from The Response prayer rally in Houston, Texas.

The Bible is nothing if not clear about caring for the neediest and those forgotten by society. Proverbs 14:31 reads, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Matthew 25:40 says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The Old Testament is no exception; Deuteronomy 15:11 instructs, “I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

On Saturday, ThinkProgress attended Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) prayer rally in Houston, Texas and spoke with one prominent pastor, Jim Garlow, about Jesus’ teachings on the poor. (Garlow is best known for comparing orphans of the Sept. 11 attacks to children raised in same-sex households and once saying that African Americans saved the country from the “enslavement of gay marriage.”)

In light of the Bible’s instruction to care for the sick and needy, we asked Garlow what Jesus would think about austerity and whether the government was doing enough to follow his teachings on the poor. To our surprise, rather than advocating for the destitute, Garlow instead pointed to the real culprit: high taxes. He noted that “one of the principles that’s so clear is ‘thou shalt not steal,’” and later went on to decry what he saw as “taxation [that] has become so excessively heavy.”

FANG: I think the question that some critics have raised is, “what would Jesus cut?” As we look at where do we need to tear down the size of government.

GARLOW: Government is best when it’s closest. It can meet the needs of people best when it’s closest to them. […] The Bible has a lot to say about that kind of thing as it relates to how Washington DC has lead us recently. One of the principles that’s so clear is “thou shalt not steal.” But the majority of Congress for so many years now has spent us close to oblivion and stolen from future generations. […]

KEYES: What would you say to people who might argue that the government hasn’t been doing enough to follow Jesus’ teaching to look out for the sick and the poor?

GARLOW: The command for the sick and the poor goes way beyond governmental aspects. It goes on us as individuals, what you can do as an individual or I can do, what the church of Jesus Christ can do. My sense is the taxation has become so excessively heavy. with tremendous cost overrides that literally people who otherwise would be able to assist[…cut off.]

Still, many other Christian leaders are working tirelessly to advocate for the needy. Late last month, a major coalition of religious leaders from the Episcopal Church to the National Association of Evangelicals to the United Church of Christ met with President Obama to deliver a single message: the government needs to do more to help the poor. “Poor people don’t have an office on K Street,” noted Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals. Pastor Jim Wallis, president of the Christian group Sojourners, asked simply, “What would Jesus cut?