Ayn Rand vs. Jesus

This from Morgan Guyton:

As Paul Krugman has observed, there really are two entirely different moral visions operating in America right now. I disagree with Krugman about where the fault-lines come down. The deepest debate is not over whether the state or private charity should provide a safety net for the poor. Within that conversation (which is still a Christian one), there is still a common underlying presumption that society should provide for its poor, and the debate is over how this can be done most effectively. The irreconcilable disagreement is between: 1) those who think that if you profit from doing business within society using material God created, then you thus owe something to God and society and 2) those who feel that people should be free to do what they like with their money provided they earned every penny of it and they stay within the law.

The latter perspective is the libertarianism of Rand and her disciples. Since Rand was as an atheist who believed that nature was the product of randomness, there was no reason for her to see all material objects as the gifts of our Creator. If you don’t believe that everything you have is a gift from God, then you have no basis for thinking you ought to share what God has given you with others; sharing is something extra you do when it benefits your self-interest by improving your public image, creating a social debt, earning fans, etc.

Christians, on the other hand, believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps 24:1). Thus, “private property” really isn’t private at all since it belongs to God who gives it to us as stewards to use for His purposes. Giving to others in need is not a bonus activity we engage in to get our name on a plaque after we’ve spent all the money we’re going to spend on ourselves. We are supposed to prayerfully plan out how we spend every penny of what God has given us, some on ourselves, most on people who really need what we have, and maybe a little on the church’s building campaign.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Adam

    Why does there have to be only 2 sides? Giving has been proven to be a psychologically beneficial activity. http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/10/why-spending-money-on-others-promotes-your-happiness.php

    And the christian perspective is not one of giving out of profits or excess but giving out of what you have. I’m thinking of the widow’s mite here.

    This seems to be setting up a false dichotomy in which both options are wrong.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    I have to agree with Adam (re: only two options), noting that there is no such thing as “Government Charity” – it’s not “charity” if the funds are coerced from one individual at gunpoint and redistributed by the coercer. Charity is freely-given, and worked quite fine in America prior to the government getting involved with “charity via gunpoint”.

    See “The Tragedy of American Compassion” by Marvin Olasky…

  • dopderbeck

    He is right that Ayn Rand’s libertarianism is inimical to any Christian notion of charity and stewardship.

  • Robin

    I’m not sure what the point is supposed to be here.

    Is it (1) Ayn Rand had a different ethical system than Jesus? or (2) Libertarians, some of whom may have been influenced by Ayn Rand, have a different ethical system than Jesus or is it (3) It is impossible to be a libertarian and a Christian, because it is impossible to hold parts of libertarianism while maintaining a Christian ethic.

    Ayn Rand is influential with libertarians, but only in a limited fashion. It would be much better to look at guys like Hayek, Mises, or Friedman.

    I don’t, when discussing the matter with liberal friends, point out that it is impossible to have socialistic impulses because of what Mao, and Lenin, and Joe Stalin did. I don’t imply that it is impossible to have redistribution without having the bloodshed envisioned by Marx and Weber.

    I will point out that redistribution with bloodshed is much more common than libertarianism without a safety net, but back to the matter at hand.

    It is possible to be a libertarian without getting Rand’s name tattoed on your back. And it is possible to be a libertarian and believe in social safety nets at the same time. That is the kind of wonderful world we live in, where real people don’t have to live at the poles inhabited by strawmen.

  • Robin

    But if the point was merely that Ayn Rand didn’t embrace traditional Christian ethics. Guilty as charged.

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    I think a lot of the debate is based on the presumption that charity is optional. In God’s perspective, charity is not optional. In fact one of the things that will cause people to not inherit the kingdom of God, even though they preached, healed and did other religious acts. So if want goverment to enforce other moral laws like abortion, marriage, stealing etc, why not charity?
    I find option 2 to be prevalent even within the church, which makes it the deception that need to be uncovered.
    Being given only two options can be limiting. So to all those who claim a false dichotomy, it would be good if you mentioned what are the other options.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    “I think a lot of the debate is based on the presumption that charity is optional.” [...] “So if want goverment to enforce other moral laws like abortion, marriage, stealing etc, why not charity?”

    Part of your problem is that you are mixing moral/religious law and civil/criminal law. The same way that the church should not be trying to force the government to enact blue laws (on the right), it should also not be trying to force wealth redistribution (on the left).

    For non-believers, it should be completely optional. For believers, it should be freely given, not coerced at gunpoint. Anything else is not charity, it’s simply having the amoral government pick the winners and losers – whether it be despots in a banana republic or welfare queens in Queens.

  • Kyle J

    I agree there’s a fundamental divide. I’d frame it a little differently:

    1) Those who believe that capitalism, in addition to being an efficient economic system, almost always results in individual economic outcomes that are entirely equitable.

    2) Those who believe that capitalism, while clearly the most efficient economic system available to us, requires a safety net for those that fall through the cracks or are temporarily in a bad position due to the nature of the system.

    The largest government social programs don’t directly replace charity; they provide a safety net that spreads risk among the larger community. Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance.

    That said, there’s clearly a hostility to programs for the poor on the right at this moment. The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid much more severely than Medicare–while exempting many of the wealthy almost entirely from taxation (by eliminating the capital gains tax). I have a hard time squaring that with the theme throughout the Bible of giving the poor the benefit of the doubt.

  • Jared

    What Guyton says isn’t that there a only two options. He makes it clear that within the construct of Christian faith there can be multiple understandings of how a society cares for the poor. He’s saying there is a fault line, a division that must be made between faithfulness to Christ and Ayn Rand philosophy of self-interest as the driving force of the individual’s contribution to society. I don’t know Ayn Rand well enough to know that Guyton is able to boil her philosophy down to its essence correctly, but if he is, then trying to defend Rand’s philosophy and finding it compatible with Christ’s teaching is impossible. If the calling of the disciple of Jesus is to

  • Jared

    (Oops. I-pad typing mistake)
    …die to one’s self, take up your cross, and follow Jesus, then self-interest is not an option. Again, this does not mean that Conservative or Liberal ideologies are not compatible with Christian teaching, but that any ideology rooted in thinking, “I earned it. I get to do with it what I think is best for me.” is not.

  • T

    With dopderbeck, I think this article touches on important ideas. But I don’t think it quite hits the nail on the head. The problem that I see is that libertarianism is getting substantial traction within conservative Christian circles, as if this theory of rights and of “justice” is ordained by God himself. As just one example, I’m hearing way too many Christians refer to taxes as “stealing” or something similar. Even the language that Chris L used above to describe welfare programs as “charity via gunpoint” has no basis in the scriptures. Just because christian charity should be given freely and without compulsion does not imply–at all–that there should not also be governmental/legal systems that are designed to alleviate poverty.

    The fact is, in the part of the scriptures that actually give an example of God shaping a society’s laws, he mandated all kinds of charitable limits on property rights, and grounded it on his grace to rich and poor alike. He put all kinds of legal limits on how much one person could accumulate vis a vis another. He put systems in place that regularly redistributed capital. Now, I’m not saying that we should just copy Israel’s laws as our own–at all. But I do think we need to let the fact sink in that God could have set up a libertarian society, but didn’t. Property rights were to be generally respected, but within various limits to help the poor. And the various limits that helped the poor weren’t optional, they were law. Now, if we believe that there is any wisdom to God’s designs here, or if there are in these laws an idea of economic “justice” that God favored, then we need to quit this nonsense that libertarianism is somehow God-ordained. It isn’t. If anything, we have strong arguments that multiple limits on private property rights that are designed to help the poor should be a part of a society that God would consider “just.”

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Kyle wrote:

    “The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid much more severely than Medicare–while exempting many of the wealthy almost entirely from taxation (by eliminating the capital gains tax).”

    This isn’t actually true, though – because the Ryan budget also would eliminate a number of loopholes, primarily accessed by the wealthy, including elimination of pass-throughs (which currently prevent double-taxation of corporate profits realized by business owners), since they will no longer be needed if capital gains taxes are eliminated.

    There was a time in America – a little more than a century ago – when the church and parachurch organizations had charity covered and locally managed, helping the poor out of poverty (if they were willing to work) and allowing the ones who were not willing to work to “hit bottom” so that they *would* be willing to work. It was only when the government stepped in and claimed responsibility for the “safety net” that individuals and the church stopped stepping up to fill the need. (Again, see: http://www.amazon.com/Tragedy-American-Compassion-Marvin-Olasky/dp/0891078630 )

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @Chris comment #7
    You are right i am mixing the two. Give me a good reason why they should be seperate? I am hoping for an answer from a Biblical perspective.

  • T

    Chris L,

    There are both secular and religious arguments against libertarianism and in favor of more moderate or leftish views. Which ones are appropriate would depend on one’s audience. Most here are going to be addressing the Christians among us with the arguments that Christians may find persuasive.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Even the language that Chris L used above to describe welfare programs as “charity via gunpoint” has no basis in the scriptures.

    Actually, it does. The instructions not to reap the corners of your field (Leviticus 23:22) were specifically for the care of the poor. This was not observed as a compulsory law with a civil punishment attached to it. Rather, you could see how generous or stingy someone was by how much they left of the corners of their field. The Roman system of taxation (“coerced giving to the state”) was part of what the Jews of Jesus’ day were rebelling against. And, while Jesus said that we should “give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s”, this was not his instruction on how to care for the poor – that was part of the mission of the church, not something for the church to farm out to government.

    He put all kinds of legal limits on how much one person could accumulate vis a vis another. He put systems in place that regularly redistributed capital.

    Chapter and verse? While there are examples within small ecclesia (“they shared all things in common”), this was not a societal instruction. This was also not the system of Jubilee (which dealt with forgiving debts and returning land back to its original owning family).

    Tithes and offering were ‘required’ (with the enforcement being societal shame, not the sharp end of a sword) of all, in equal measure, not disproportionately to result in equal outcomes.

    And the various limits that helped the poor weren’t optional, they were law.

    Actually, they were optional – and (again) it was societal shame (or pride) that drove compliance, not the implied violence of forced “charity” (which is no charity, at all). If the entire society ignored the poor, that society might be judged (and harshly), but that was done by God, not the state.

    Now, if we believe that there is any wisdom to God’s designs here, or if there are in these laws an idea of economic “justice” that God favored, then we need to quit this nonsense that libertarianism is somehow God-ordained.

    Libertarianism is no more “God-ordained” than the nonsense you just wrote. Even so, the free will given by God if far more modeled in Libertarian thinking than in the statist views many gullible left-leaning Christians have bought into today…

  • dopderbeck

    T (#11) — exactly! And many evangelicals are jumping on the Tea Party bandwagon. And Paul Ryan is the darling of the Tea Party. And Paul Ryan is a devotee of Ayn Rand.

    There is no denying that the heart of the Tea Party has been deeply influenced by Ayn Rand (as well as, as Robin notes, Mises, Hayek, Friedman, etc.).

    By virtue of the transitive principle it follows that evangelicalism today is being deeply influenced in its social and political outlook by Ayn Rand.

    Ok, I’m saying this a bit cheekily — but I think it’s fundamentally true, and a big problem.

  • dopderbeck

    Chris L. (#15) said: “the free will given by God if far more modeled in Libertarian thinking than in the statist views many gullible left-leaning Christians have bought into today…”

    I respond: well, not so fast. In Biblical and Christian theology, “freedom” never means libertarian freedom of the sort you’re alluding to here. Genuine “freedom” is conformity to the will and character and love of God, in fellowship with God, humanity and creation. We are least “free” when we demand to be left alone to do whatever we want. This is at the core of the meaning of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

    So, I would suggest that in Biblical and Christian theological terms, modern political Libertarianism ironically (and tragically) is in fact an ancient recipe for bondage to the disordered self.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Sam:

    You are right i am mixing the two. Give me a good reason why they should be seperate? I am hoping for an answer from a Biblical perspective.

    I would point back to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Irenaeus, for example, who recognized the differences in Biblical laws, with their being moral, judicial and ceremonial law. I would also note the Old Testament parallels, in these, between Natural law and religious law. Natural law, seen as early as the Code of Hammaurabi, is required of even non-Christian societies, under Noaic law. This includes civil authority to prevent murder and enforce property contracts (which includes prevention of theft), and the expectation of physical protection of the people from outside enemies.

    Jews followed both Noaic Law (expected of all humanity) and Mosiac Law (expected only of the Jews). The first laws you mention (against murder, etc.) fall under Noaic Law. Care of the poor is a distinction of Mosiac Law, which we as believers carry on to a point, but do not (or at least, should not) expect unbelievers to follow. Whenever the church steps in to try to force society to act like Christians, it loses its effectiveness – whether on the right or the left (see Andy Stanley’s excellent message on this, The Separation of Church and Hate).

    Then I would also point to the Jerusalem Council’s ruling in Acts 15, along with the instructions of Jesus in regards to giving and caring for one another. These are acts Christians should treat as required for other Christians by their allegiance to God, not by their citizenship in a country.

    Note that Paul says that Christians who do not care for their families are “worse than unbelievers”, yet we’re quite comfortable farming out the care of our families to the government, which absolves us of that responsibility.

  • scotmcknight

    Chris L, would you call Mosaic law forced distribution of the wealth of the wealthy toward the poor? I’m not sure where you are getting “optional” when it is divine law in Deuteronomy. Are you saying the absence of a punishment or fine indicates the law was not compulsory?

  • scotmcknight

    dopderbeck, I agree that libertarianism leads to slavery to the disordered self because it makes the self king.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    By virtue of the transitive principle it follows that evangelicalism today is being deeply influenced in its social and political outlook by Ayn Rand.

    No more than liberal Christianity is under the influence of Lenin and Marx. I get on my fundie friends all the time for trying to do the whole A = B, B = C, C = D and therefore A=D crap as part of a “guilty by association” fallacy.

    Same here.

  • Robin

    T,

    I have no problem admitting that social safety nets are God-ordained. The problem, as I see it, is liberals using arguments like the one you are making to IMPLY that the current set of social safety nets is God ordained.

    Why are we even talking about this post after all? Why Ayn Rand, and why today? It is because Paul Ryan likes Ayn Rand, he is the new VP candidate, and he has proposed changes to the law that alter the status quo. That is why the post was written, and I assume one of those factors led Scot to re-post it.

    The big picture it paints is Ayn Rand is an atheist who hates the poor, and look at the terrible things her disciple Paul Ryan is proposing. Jesus loved social safety nets, and the libertarians are trying to take it away.

    The fair debate would be to look at the social safety net Ryan is proposing compare to the status quo, and then tell me why, exactly, defined benefit Medicare plans are biblical, while defined contribution plans that kick in 10 years down the road are the product of atheistic God-haters. But that is too hard. Let’s just label Libertarians as atheists with no sense of ethics and we can discredit whatever plans they come up with without even having to look at the details.

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @Chris comment #15
    You seem to be reading liberterianism back into the Bible. Let me give an example.
    You definiton of compulsory is whether there is a punishment attached to it or not. You also used the adjective “civil” to describe punishment. This is something that Bible does not do. When Israel was first formed there was no governement. God was supposed to be their king. So describing the punitive actions in the law as civil, does not fit the story of Israel.
    The sabbath laws too had no punitive aspect to it. Yet the first time the sabbath law broken, God ordered Moses to stone the offender. One of the big reasons Israel/Judah was sent into exile was because they did not keep the sabbath Jer 17:19-27.
    Also some of the laws like the divorce laws were given because of the hardness of the man’s heart.
    The point i am making is that the distinctions you make with regard to laws that had a punishment attached to it and those which did not do not hold water when you look at the story of Israel as a whole.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Chris L, would you call Mosaic law forced distribution of the wealth of the wealthy toward the poor? I’m not sure where you are getting “optional” when it is divine law in Deuteronomy. Are you saying the absence of a punishment or fine indicates the law was not compulsory?

    Mosaic law did not force human authorities to distribute the wealth to the poor (thus, the absence of humanly meted punishment or fine). As such, it was something that God, Himself, would judge. So – if you fear God, you would want to follow the Mosaic distribution even moreso than you would care about violation of laws with civil penalties.

    The biggest problem with farming out the job of the church to the state is that it takes the service to God out of the equation and (as we are seeing in the current left’s “you didn’t build that…” rhetoric) replaces God with the State as the source of our blessings. Therefore, since we “didn’t build that” without the State, we owe more to the State.

    In God’s economy, we recognize that we “didn’t build that” without Him, and therefore we owe Him more. Therefore, if we cheat Him with what He has given us to steward, we are MORE culpable than if we were simply cuplable to the State.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin….

    I am as surprised at times at how many Democrat Christians think the poor of the Bible are the same as the poor of our day, and that charity for the poor means higher taxes so that the Feds can distribute the funds, etc. And no less surprised when I see an intelligent man like Ryan thinking Ayn Rand’s got good things to say, and he after all gave a speech on her platform, when she approaches everything from an atheistic basis.

    In other words, what surprises me is how ideological driven so many Christians are to find support, biblical at times, for views that are already held.

    I rarely hear intelligent commentary rooted in sound economic theory that is sustainable and job-producing.

  • scotmcknight

    ChrisL,
    I fail to see how a mediator somehow changes the whole formula. This is divine command to redistribute. The issue is mandated distribution, not how it is accomplished. Solomon made the taxation system far more centralized. I don’t think it is the church’s job to care for the whole State, so I don’t think it’s as simple as the church farming out the job to the State. Part of this whole issue is how to be a responsible citizen in which there are safety nets and care for the poor by those who have.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    You seem to be reading liberterianism back into the Bible.

    No more than you are reading your own view back into the Bible.

    Nowhere in the Bible, particularly in the instructions to Christians by Jesus, Paul or the Apostles, are Christians instructed to use force in coercing others to follow the rules and precepts set aside for followers of God. Whether right or left, the church has frequently gotten this wrong when it has tried to farm out matters of the heart to the government to enforce.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    #26 Scot, I don’t see anyone in the political arena suggesting that the safety nets be completely eliminated and the poor cast aside. At the same time, I have seen, first hand, and worked with the poor in this country and seen the devastation done to them by the “compassionate” (quotes intentional) programs set up by our government, which do more to enslave them than care for them.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    I fail to see how a mediator somehow changes the whole formula. This is divine command to redistribute.

    Also, just to play the devil’s advocate, if we want to bring Biblical principles into it, then if a tithe is good enough for God, then a tithe ought to be enough for the State, as well…

    If only…

  • T

    Chris L,

    Just to clarify, the only thing I called “nonsense” was the idea that libertarianism is God-ordained. You seem to agree in your last paragraph that I am right in that assessment, but also think what I wrote is nonsense. I’ll do my best to make better sense.

    Dealing with your first two objections together, here are a few features of Israel’s laws that put limits on private property rights, generally to help the poor:

    - charging interest on loans to fellow citizens was severely limited
    - principal of loans was regularly forgiven (even without seeking discharge)
    - regardless of how one lost or gained lands in Israel, lands would be redistributed among the families of Israel every 50 years.
    - one could only take limited time of service from a fellow Israelite to pay a debt (7 year limit)
    - family members of poor people who lose their land have a right to redeem it

    These are in addition to the gleaning and tithing rules you mentioned. And yes, we can point to the tithe(s) and talk about the differences b/n that and a multi-tiered income tax system (not to mention sales, property, and dozens of other taxes) that tax different kinds and amounts of income and transactions differently (causing some to pay higher rates than others), but to do so would assume my larger point that there is wisdom in these laws that we may want to listen to. In other words, there is no basis to point to the tithe as an ideal flat tax without also acknowledging that there may be wisdom and/or justice in the other economic laws that God instituted for Israel.

    Finally, on the “optional” point. I’ve not read anything in the scriptures that made me think that God considered (or encouraged Israel to consider) these economic laws as optional. The gleaning rule, for example, is followed immediately by commands not to steal or lie. Of course we can point to their disobedience of these laws which the prophets routinely pointed out, but we can do the same for the ten commandments.

    Again, my point is simple. Libertarianism isn’t any kind of God-ordained theory of justice or rights. If anything, the scriptures give us good reason to think that property rights are good, but should be limited in various ways so as to help those who are falling behind economically.

  • http://krusekrinicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    “Christians, on the other hand, believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps 24:1). Thus, “private property” really isn’t private at all since it belongs to God who gives it to us as stewards to use for His purposes.”

    And the other side of this is that if everything is the Lord’s, then it doesn’t belong to the state either. The state needs to respect citizens as the primary stewards to whom resources have been entrusted and then supplement the social order with things like a social safety net.

    If libertarians err on the side of radical individualism, them liberals err on the side of seeing the state as owner/operator/director of society instead of playing a subsidiary and supplementary role.

  • Robin

    I love Michael W. Kruse. Is it OK to have a Christian Economic think man-crush? Would Dr. Dobson be OK with that?

  • Robin

    Just for the record think=thinker

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

    For a non-American all of this is weird. First the word ‘liberal’ would be used for the capitalist-minded ones, and it is more like the opposite of ‘socialist’ over here. Second, I don’t see how libertanianism and Christianity belong together and what they have to do with ‘conservative’. Also, I don’t get how the US can have a susbstantial part ot the PLANETs military spending, and the thing people do not want to pay taxes for is caring for the poor and sick. (Especially not if Americans claim that they have a ‘Christian nation’, whatever that’s supposed to be…)

    I do indeed think that the libertarian idea of free will, and the christian idea of freedom in being reconciled to God, neighbor, self and all of creation (putting love above self) are utterly incompatible anyway. I will close with a quote attributed to augustine, but the Cappadocians and other church fathers wrote very similar things that echo Matthew 24:
    “That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possessions, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you are able to help others, and refuse, so often did you do them wrong.”

  • scotmcknight

    Michael, whether or not you mean to use “them” it was a hoot to read it that way.

    But here’s the issue in our society: John G. Jay said long ago a fundamental principle at work in our constitution and society, namely, that citizens cede some of their rights/property/funds to the government as part of their exchange for a given number of protections and securities. So the issue isn’t an either/or: it’s a mixing of both/and. Yes, it’s ours (and as Christians under God etc) but there’s some we’ve ceded to the State. I assume you agree.

  • T

    Robin,

    Totally agree about labeling. That’s not my intent. Nor do I wish to baptize all current programs as God-ordained. My beef is as stated above. Taxes are not stealing. Legally mandated redistribution of capital is not stealing; it it was, then God ordained stealing for Israel. He made injustice into justice and vice versa. More Christian libertarians, IMO, need to let the design and intent of Israel’s economic laws sink in (or even realize their existence).

    I am glad that you are not opposed to safety nets. That is not what I am getting from most libertarians, Christian or otherwise.

    Gotta run for now!

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    brambonius – in the US, the “conservatives” are actually “classic liberals”, and the “liberals” are actually “socialists” or (they prefer) “progressives”. This comes from the quirk that “conservatives” see to “conserve” the founding principles of the country, which were “classically liberal”.

    As for military spending, it makes up about 17-18% of our budget. Even if we taxed “the rich” (currently arbitrarily defined as those making more than $250K) at a 100% rate, we would still be spending about $300 Billion more per year than we are bringing in in taxes. There just aren’t enough “rich” people to tax for any reasonable length of time to pay for the “compassionate” programs our government wants to hand out. Within the next 10 years, our entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on these debts) will equal 100% of the outlays coming in.

    Of course, in America, you can be classified as “poor” and own big screen TV’s, get satellite TV, have air conditioning and a car of your own. So it’s all relative.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    # 35. LOL. Not intended, but I’ll own it! ;-)

  • http://Paroikos.com Rob

    There is so much more that could be said about Ayn Rand’s ideas vs. Christ’s. This article, I think, is attempting to point out that disparity, but I think misses it when he assumes that taking care of the poor should only be done by the government. Truly, there is PLENTY to be said about Rand’s ideas, and I don’t totally disagree that the government should have a role in taking care of the poor. I just don’t think this quite gets to the real point. I’d like to see a blog post about the sin problem of man and why selfishness is not the answer to our economic problems. Looking at the causes of our current economic woes should be proof enough of that. The idea that if everyone seeks their own good and thus bringing the economy into balance (kind of a Milton Friedman on steroids) is so anti-Christian. If the world (indeed if only the Church) were to live as Jesus taught us to, giving our lives to others over ourselves, this world would indeed be a better place.

  • http://www.eric-michael.com EricMichaelSay

    I am constantly perplexed by the notion that ‘safety-nets’ enslave the poor. It’s as if accepting government assistance is the start of a life of enslavement by virtue of the program alone.

    I am confused by this because some of the hardest working friends I have either grew on government assistance (and vow never to return), or have taken government assistance in the last couple of years and worked back to independence.

    If these programs enslave the poor, why isn’t the church working to help educate these people to the psychological effects?

    The truth is, the church at large in America has very little to offer the poor. These arguments back and forth about ‘forced charity’ fail for me because someone in our society needs to help these people, and churches cannot be expected to do much good in that regard giving between 1-15% of their income to the poor. That’s a non-profit I wouldn’t give to.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    “I am constantly perplexed by the notion that ‘safety-nets’ enslave the poor. It’s as if accepting government assistance is the start of a life of enslavement by virtue of the program alone.”

    Eric – If you are up to it, I’d take you to work with me on one of the Native American reservations, where we can discuss with some of the church leaders and/or tribal elders how so many of their people on the Rez have been trapped by a system that rewards them for doing nothing and punishes them for trying to escape. The church has tried, and is trying, to work with these people.

    Or, I could take you to some of the inner-city missions here in Indianapolis, where the incentive between having another child out of wedlock or getting a part time job is economically tilted far to the former than the latter. Government assistance that cannot be tailored and administered (or withheld) locally, based upon the willingness of the individual to no longer be a pauper, is just throwing money at a problem and making it worse.

    The churches used to do this ALL THE TIME. Read the book I linked to above. It wasn’t until the Progressive Era of America that the church abdicated to the government in this arena, and the safety net became a slaver’s net. What is needed is not the church’s money, but the church’s time and non-monetary resources. It was once there, but once the government stepped in to “help”, there was no longer an incentive (and lots of disincentives) for the church to stick around in that capacity.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    #35 Scot

    And, yes, I absolutely agree that the state has a claim on resources. There are aspects of human society that simply that can’t be addressed, or addressed well, apart from state action. When it comes to the state, I want to know what dynamics necessitate state intervention. I want to know why private solutions by people and institutions closest to the problem are unworkable. For me, the burden of proof is on why the state should be involved. Seeing a problem is not sufficient justification for a state solution. The false dichotomy that either the state has virtually no role or that the state is the default solution to problems isn’t helpful.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    #32 Robin

    LOL. Thanks brother!

  • T

    Let me add this: I’m thrilled to hear that folks here in favor of libertarianism have no objections to social safety nets per se. But when I was in college and law school defending the virtues of libertarianism, we were talking about libertarianism as distinct from typical conservative or liberal american policies. By definition, any libertarianism worth the name tolerated very little, if any, redistribution or safety net of any kind and was also opposed to making drugs and prostitution illegal. “Moderate” libertarianism was something of a misnomer.

  • Glenn

    Sure, there are churches who do not provide proper resources to the poor. But I can think of countles others who have done such an effective job, the government valued what was done. Where I am the largest mental health provider was at one time a non-profit founded by a protestant church and so effective at what it did per dollar, the county decided to direct eceryone who needed long term assistance to this non-profit. In another district, the top provider of homeless and drug rehab servies is a non-profit supported by multiple evangelical churches. Again, the local city government gave this charity a huge annual tax break based on the amount of money it saves the city. The problem for me with a government social safety net is the most cost effective programs seem to be non-governmental. I would love to see the government give tax breaks to individuals who donate to groups who provide such service versus across the board taxes that were at one time directed to social services but are redirected to other resources due to deficits. In my own county the tax rate was raised for social services, the social services have now been cut by a large amount due to the economy and yet the tax rate stayed the same.

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @Chris comment#18 & #27
    I am not sure from where you get the idea that observance of Noaic law is expected of all humanity. According to Romans 5:12-14, sin is not imputed to people where there is no (mosaic) law. You are making a distinction between what we can expect out of non-believers and believers. Our posture to the world is that they need to repent (Acts 17:30), with that repentance we also include what the repentance is to look like. The prayers of our heart is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
    You are right we should not expect the government to force Christianity on others. Neither should we expect that the government needs to follow the rules of Ayn Rand. As for me being a Christian, i will always be calling the government (who are people and not some entity) and the people who vote for the government, to repentance. In the end, i expect everyone to follow Christ.
    You also seem to equate what we expect out of non-believers as something that needs to be punishable by law. I do not live according that view, but this does not stop me from calling people to repentance. (Comment #27).
    What i do take exception to is that you have a strong definition of what government should be and should not be and anything apart from that is sin. For example you equate taxation with coercion. This not a Biblical view.

  • MattR

    The history of Christian ethics tells us that followers of the Way of Jesus have usually said there is such a thing as the “common good.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-david-p-gushee/tea-party-libertarianism_b_660532.html Basing policy primarily on individual self-interest is more recent phenomenon.

    And until about 30 years there seemed to be a fairly big Christian consensus that we should work towards the common good, including ‘government’ programs for better pay and conditions for workers, the health and safety of society, a social safety net, etc. (for example, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/activists/shaftesbury.html)

    This was true even among ‘evangelicals,’ like John Stott.

    The fact that these are now controversial statements seems sad to me. Of course, there is legitimate debate over the ‘how’ and the limits of government involvement… but debate over whether the government should be involved at all?!

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    “What i do take exception to is that you have a strong definition of what government should be and should not be and anything apart from that is sin.”

    Maybe I can’t find it, but I don’t see that I tossed the word “sin” out there, anywhere.

    If you go by the overarching narrative of Scripture, the purpose of a government (however imperfect it may be) is a) to protect its people; and b) to maintain civil order.

    In God’s original plan, there would be no king, only the need for judges to maintain civil order. The people wanted a king, though, so they – albeit reluctantly – got one. The founders of America sought some middle ground, where there would be no king, and the purpose of government would be to protect the ‘rights’ given to all men by God. However imperfect they were, it was a step in the right direction, I would say.

    The church, when it has tried to wield political power (whether through an enforced moral code or via redistributionist schemes) has stepped beyond its mission and done the Kingdom a disservice, in the process. Its intentions were quite often good, but its zeal to legislate the change in the hearts of men (through outcomes or actions) ultimately failed, as such efforts should have.

    For example you equate taxation with coercion.

    And I call my English Mastiff a dog. So?

    Coercion: (noun)
    1. the use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.
    2. the force or the power to use force in gaining compliance, as by a government or police force.

    If I don’t pay the government taxes, they will use force and intimidation to obtain my compliance.

    A dog is a dog.

    Just because the church is behind the government’s use of violence for a perceived “moral good” does not mean that the action of the government in doing so is “good”.

    This not a Biblical view.

    Well, if you’re arguing that the collection of gross taxes was God’s penalty for wanting an earthly king (see I Sam 8:10-18), and that we’re just paying that penalty, then you’re correct.

    However, to argue that this is God’s ideal plan is lunacy.

    Jesus said “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

    It seems to me that what is Caesar’s is something different than what is God’s, so I don’t think you can use that bit either.

    So yes, the idea that “taxes = coercion” passes both a definitional and a Biblical test as valid.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Of course, there is legitimate debate over the ‘how’ and the limits of government involvement… but debate over whether the government should be involved at all?!

    Again, see Olasky’s Tragedy of American Compassion (and, as a follow-up, read “When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself”) – poverty is best addressed locally and personally, not by throwing money and government programs at it.

    Granted, you won’t learn that from the Huffington Post, or (per the OP) Enron Adviser Paul Krugman.
    For the first 125 years of its existence, the poor in America were best served with almost zero assistance from the federal government. It was all addressed locally, and mostly by families, the communities and the church. The progressive ideas around government taking care of the poor are the new idea, not the idea that the church should be responsible for them.

  • Albion

    As Krugman says in his op ed piece, the real divide in american politics is about the proper role of government. He lays out the different positions well. And while M. Kruse at #42 admirably takes a middle ground, placing the burden on the state to make the argument for why it should it have a hand in the affairs of the citizens it exists to serve, that position is no longer welcome in the Republican party. That is the problem Krugman identifies. There’s no middle ground or common good to discuss when one side doesn’t believe the government has a legitimate interest in anything much beyond national security.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    There’s no middle ground or common good to discuss when one side doesn’t believe the government has a legitimate interest in anything much beyond national security.

    Actually, I suspect that most folks on the right and in the libertarian circle would just be happy if the government actually froze spending (or even slightly decreased it – which I would note, Ryan’s plan doesn’t do), and ran a balanced budget with no debt. (You know, acted with a Biblical fiscal policy).

    But I would say that Enron Adviser Krugman, as usual, over-generalizes and paints one side as good and pure (even though its vision of the “well off” somehow paying for all of the free handouts, overregulation and crap the government does is financially 100% impossible to fund or sustain) and the other is evil and Darwinistic. If anything, he’s a perfect example of the problem, since he views the freezing or contraction of government at all to be draconian, by definition. I see no reason not to negotiate from zero, since there is no real Biblical purpose for government, outside of defense and civil order.

    Anything else is just Biblically irresponsible stewardship, and slow suicide.

  • http://www.theinfluenceproject.com Mel Lawrenz

    Great discussion. This is a topic where our visceral instincts need to be ordered by careful philosophy and theology. Just a word about Paul Ryan, whom I know. He says the Ayn Rand line about him is urban legend (though he did read her years ago). Paul is a devout Catholic and I’ve seen some of his reflections on Catholic moral teaching and social reform. The U.S. bishops disagree with his conclusions, but by and large his argument is that the numbers clearly show a system heading for a breakdown (no rhetoric there–hard numbers), and that there is no mercy for anybody in letting the system crash ten years down the road. Stay tuned. There is going to be a lot of discussion about Christian social philosophy in all this. But it won’t be, and shouldn’t be, as crude as “for or against Ayn Rand.”

  • Chad H

    I happen to be one of “those who feel that people should be free to do what they like with their money provided they earned every penny of it and they stay within the law.” There, I said it.
    As a Christ follower, what do I want to do with my money? One thing I want to do is to help the poor. I want to help the poor (among other reasons) because God commands it and I want to obey God’s commands.
    Do I expect/want the government to force non-Christians to behave like Christians? Very much not. Instead, I expect the church to care for the poor and to evangelize the lost so that they will join us in knowing God, obeying God, and caring for the poor.
    Libertarianism (at least the way I see it) allows people to do what they want. Many will choose to be selfish (Ms. Rand), others will choose to be careless, others will choose to be Christ-like to the selfish and careless. I favor an approach that allows us to choose to follow God’s commands, or not.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    FYI – (per Mel’s comment) from four months ago: Paul Ryan not a Ayn Rand devotee

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org/ Steve Wilkinson

    Actually, I think the real issue is over whether the government should TAKE some percentage to help the poor, or whether the principal of FREELY GIVING should dictate the core way we provide for the poor. (And, I think within that argument, most would promote some kind of safety net at minimum, the question is more over where to draw the line on what a safety net is.)

    That said, I completely agree that libertarianism is not compatible with Christianity and that there is a awful lot of libertarianism currently flowing through the Republican party and their following. As much as I don’t like that, though, there are bigger fish to fry… such as fundamental human rights (like abortion) and crucial attacks on the well-being of society (redefinition of marriage). While the economy is important (as is caring for the poor), it won’t much matter if society collapses overall.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Well said, Chad…

  • scotmcknight

    Mel, I’m not so sure the ‘urban legend’ dismissal will stick, and see this from the CNN.com piece (http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/14/opinion/weiss-ryan-rand/index.html), as it looks to me more than urban legend:

    But that’s not the way he was talking in 2005, when he gave a speech to the Atlas Society, a group dedicated to promoting Rand’s beliefs.
    In that speech, Ryan said, “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”
    He went on to say that “the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @chris comment #48
    It is true you did not use the word sin. So i assume then you do not think that government taking care of the poor is sinful. So it is not something that needs to be vehemently opposed. Also I will go with your/dictionary maning of coercion. This would mean every law the government makes is coercion. So we can agree that some form of coercion is good. The question then why do you single out taxes?
    Also nowhere in the Bible is there a notion of unfair taxes, except when it is on the poor. Instead we are told to pay our taxes Romans 13:6-7. When we don’t pay pur taxes we are punished for it, just like for other laws.
    I disagree that the overaching theme of scirpture it to protects its people and maintain civil order. If anything according to scripture history is heading in the direction of God’s kingdom coming and that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Acoording to Psalm 72, the perfect king will take care of the poor.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @MichaelKruse: “There are aspects of human society that simply that can’t be addressed, or addressed well, apart from state action. When it comes to the state, I want to know what dynamics necessitate state intervention. I want to know why private solutions by people and institutions closest to the problem are unworkable. For me, the burden of proof is on why the state should be involved. Seeing a problem is not sufficient justification for a state solution. The false dichotomy that either the state has virtually no role or that the state is the default solution to problems isn’t helpful.”

    Because, simply, the entirety of modern economic structures and edifices are totally dependent upon the state. Electricity, water, food supply, defense, courts and justice, peacekeeping, communications infrastructure including this here intraweb used to log these comments…

    …yes, commercial sectors are more efficient in many aspects — turning technological advances into cheap consumer doodads, entertainment and elective consumer goods, etc.… But without “the state”, there are no “solutions” to offer as the structures and edifices would be no more existent.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Chris L wrote: “The churches used to do this ALL THE TIME. Read the book I linked to above. It wasn’t until the Progressive Era of America that the church abdicated to the government in this arena, and the safety net became a slaver’s net. What is needed is not the church’s money, but the church’s time and non-monetary resources. It was once there, but once the government stepped in to “help”, there was no longer an incentive (and lots of disincentives) for the church to stick around in that capacity.”

    Until Progressive Era, and then later with New Deal advances, there was not in existence a ubiquitous middle class such as exists today (and if those safety nets are removed, we shall witness a return to Gilded Age conditions). Economic structure was pyramid shaped, not the diamond shape it became post WWII with Social Security, GI Bill, educational loans and grants, food stamps, etc.…

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @Chad comment 53
    I too do not expect the government to impose on people christian ways. But if they do it, i am not going to oppoe them but rather support them in doing it. For example, the government policies is for a man to have only wife. This is uniquely christan. Jews, Muslims and Mormons all believe that they can have more than one wife. I have no intentions of oppsing those laws or repealing them, in fact i will continue to support them.
    Helping the poor and the needy is part of the christian way of life. Government does some of it. There is no Biblical reason i can find for opposing it. I would rather support it and if they want to make new laws to help more poor and needy, i would support it and not oppose it.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Chris L wrote: “For the first 125 years of its existence, the poor in America were best served with almost zero assistance from the federal government. It was all addressed locally, and mostly by families, the communities and the church. The progressive ideas around government taking care of the poor are the new idea, not the idea that the church should be responsible for them.”

    Untrue. Before social security, the elderly withered and died in the streets if family (or if they had no family) could not support. Speak to somebody ~80+ who remembers well…

  • Chad H

    @Sam #61
    I have a deep reason for opposing government coercion of Christian values, morals and ways on non-Christians. When we snuggle up to the gov’t in that way, we lose our distinction as the church and inadvertently recognize the government as the true power at play and give them more power. For me, it is a short (but meaningful) walk from Hauerwasian theology of the church to libertarian preferences for government. A libertarian-leaning government will not look or act very Christian (why would I expect the empire to do so?), which will allow the church to very much be the body of Christ.
    FYI, I recently wrote a piece for Out of UR in which I expounded on this idea in relation to the legalization of gay marriage: http://www.outofur.com/archives/2012/05/why_legalizing.html

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    Naum #59

    I think you are touching on the reality that markets and government are not oppositional. They are mutually dependent. I have no beef with that.

    The theologian/economist Paul Heyne used an analogy of an air traffic control system versus an urban transportation network. No one takes off, lands or moves without explicit direction from a controller in the air traffic control environment. Flight plans must be filed and adhered to. Everything is scripted and tightly managed leaving little room for human discretion and preference.

    In an urban network, the government has built roads and bridges. Traffic signals have been placed and roads have been marked. Basic rules have been set in place and officers are appointed to enforce them. Informal rules also emerge about appropriate traffic behavior. And yet each citizen decides at any given moment to travel to the market without consulting any official or weighing the needs of neighbors who may also wish to take a trip at any given moment. They take note of time of day, construction issues, weather, and any other variables, weigh the benefits of the trip, and decide whether or not to go based on their priorities.

    Both air traffic control and an urban transportation networks require government. Transportation would be chaos without them. What I’m suggesting is that government’s function with regard to most human affairs is more analogous to an urban transportation network than air traffic control system (though a few things can only be done by something resembling the latter model). And yes, many solutions to emerging problems will require governmental elements, but the involvement is to promote the efficacy of the network … to make room for good things to run wild based on the innovation and preferences of participants …, not to convert it into an air traffic control model. There are matters that are certainly in between these metaphors, or not captured by them at all.

    To switch metaphors, government is the indispensable skeleton that permits the body to take form and function. But government is not, and should not be, the brain directing the body’s every move. Government exists in a supportive role to personal liberty and the social institutions people develop to manage their daily existence. People and institutions are not in a subsidiary relationship to the state. I worry that your last paragraph seems to imply that.

  • http://citygatestheology.org Sam

    @Chad #63
    I think in the end you may find that you and i are not far apart. I say this after reading your article on homosexuality. While we may come to the same conclsuions how we get there is slightly different. I have a different view of justice/righteousness. I am more along the lines of NT Wright.
    I understand your view of not supporting but not opposing either. The question, then is, do you oppose the government helping the poor, if so why?
    You also seem to equate where we live to living within an empire. One big is we have a say in the government. I believe our message to the government should be to repent and follow Christ. If the government chose to do something that is in lines with the Bible, i would encourage them not discourage them. I should clarify that when i say encourage or discourage i do not mean go out and demonstrate or take part in boycotts or eat only chicken etc.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Why is it that when Christians talk about “the poor,” they seem to talk about them as objects of private charity or government largesse, not as people who have been created in God’s image — and, as a result, have the God-given ability to think, to plan and, ultimately, to work? I’m not saying that “all poor people are lazy.” But if you read the Book of Proverbs, you *will* find the author saying that laziness often results in poverty.

    Frankly, I think a lot of these kinds of conversations are narcisistic. They focus on the the assumed undercurrent of “guilt” among those framing the debate, not the poor’s God-given image, let alone their legitimate needs.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Besides, quite often, “the poor” aren’t just those who are materially poor. There are the poor in spirit, who have lost loves ones or who have been emotionally and spiritually beaten down. Why aren’t they mentioned in the same discussion? Because it’s more fashionable to discuss the “rich man’s burden” of caring for the materially poor instead of confronting the needs of the poor in spirit.

    If the poor in spirit see God, to paraphrase the Sermon on the Mount, do they remain poor in spirit?

  • Chad H

    @Sam #65
    Do I oppose the gov’t helping the poor?
    Honestly, I don’t think there is such a thing as the gov’t helping the poor because the gov’t has no money. The question has to be “Do I support the gov’t helping the poor by redistributing wealth?” I don’t.
    I do support the church helping the poor by redistributing the wealth of Christians. I think that’s a really biblical idea.
    If we support the gov’t helping the poor by redistributing wealth, then we support the most powerful empire becoming more powerful and we look to Caesar to make things as they ought to be (a role reserved for the body of Jesus empowered by the Spirit).

    In a democracy, we do have a say in the gov’t, and I think we’d be wise to refuse the ring of power and resist wielding the sword of the state for what we think are good/biblical causes.

  • Kyle J

    @Chris L

    If liberals in this country are “socialists,” they’re not very good ones. Since President Obama took office, the total number of public employees in this country has declined and the stock market is up 50%.

    Hard to argue with a man who flings around that kind of terminology regarding his opponents while insisting his own preferred policies have a utopian outcome in which no need goes unmet.

  • Phil Miller

    The question, then is, do you oppose the government helping the poor, if so why?

    This is a fair question, but I think perhaps I would retort “why should I trust the government’s motive for helping the poor?”. And I’m not saying that as someone who thinks that we need to really see the government as evil or always bad. But I do think that when governments come proclaiming “peace and safety” Christians should exercise a healthy skepticism.

    The ancient Romans knew that if they provided the citizenry with enough bread and circuses, that the status quo would remain as it was. So my question has to with whether or not we’re propping up an inherently corrupt system simply because said system fills a material need for some of its citizens.

  • http://www.psalms4thesinner.blogspot.com lawrence
  • Phil Miller

    Yeah, cartoons about straw men are pretty funny! :-)

  • http://www.theinfluenceproject.com Mel Lawrenz

    Yes, Scot, Ryan is surely regretting the comment to the Atlas Society. Here’s how he characterized his views in National Review, also reported in The New Yorker:

    “I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

  • T

    Chad H,

    I have a problem with the idea that making things as they ought to be is a role reserved exclusively for the church. In the OT, God used both Israel and foreign kings and people to do his will. Further, the prophets were sent not only to Israel but to foreign nations and kings, calling them to serve God in various ways. But further still, we can’t get away from legislating morality and values. If we elevate property rights above all, then that is a value, a morality, that we then enforce, with force. Putting private property rights above all doesn’t eliminate the use of force, or imposing values on all. Rather, the libertarian value system merely enforces a particular value structure, namely one that elevates private property rights to nearly unmatched superiority. We then “justify” the use of force in service of that value structure. This is of course convenient for those who currently have a great deal of property, whether by war, or injustice, merit or grace, or some mix of them all. I see no reason, from within or outside of a Christian POV, to enforce the libertarian theory of “justice” instead of others. I see many reasons (both Christian and secular) to pursue a society with an idea of justice in which general property rights are valued, but with limits which are designed to do the kinds of things we see in Israel’s legal limits on property rights and freedom of contract.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    #69 In explaining America’s political parties in European terms, our Democrats are most similar to European socialists, in modern parlance. If we were to use classic definitions and the current trends in progressivism, it would be more accurate to describe the American left as social fascists, but fascism brings to mind Nazism (which is unhelpful in conversation), rather than the classic view of fascism, as practiced in early 20th century Italy and admired by American Progressives of the time.

    I was not seeking to name call, but to try and translate our politics for someone from another culture (one I work in occasionally).

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    In actuality, Chad H’s comment #68 probably best models New Testament Christianity. Jesus’ teaching was that His kingdom was not of this “world” (kosmos), where kosmos is indicative of the systems of the world (politics, money and power), rather than geographic location. The church has had its most wide-ranging influence in society when it has exerted the least amount of worldly power.

    It overthrew the Roman Empire from within, but then stagnated into division and corruption when it was declared the official religion of the Empire and gained the political power to exert its will. The American religious political right has sought to gain political power to bend the behavior of citizens via the law, and the American religious political left, from Father Coughlin to Jim Wallis, has sought to gain political power to have the state do the work of the church. Neither is “of the Kingdom”, and both are doomed to fail (as the current economic situation should demonstrate for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear).

  • Rick B

    So I’ve just been reading Genesis and Joseph, presumably under God’s guidance and with Pharoh’s blessing took 20% of the crops, from everyone, I’d presume, during the good years and redistributed them during the lean years.

  • Kyle J

    @Chris L

    Socialism strongly implies state control of the means of production, which no one is proposing. “Social democracy” would be closer to the mark–and even that exaggerates the policies that the current Democratic administration has implemented or proposed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

  • J

    I haven’t seen anyone here mention free will. Without free will involved giving means nothing. Paying taxes to the government and having them decide where your money goes is not giving, it is just paying taxes. I’m guessing Jesus would side with Ayn Rand on this one (He loves atheists too!) because free will is the fundamental basis for our service to Him. Jesus said to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. The idea of charity, giving by God’s Law, is separate from taxes, giving by man’s law. Without free will our giving to God means nothing.

  • Lisa

    I would hate to have to depend upon Christians to help me in a time of need. I’ve taught extremely poor children for almost 30 years. I have had dinner at their homes, celebrated birthdays, and mourned at funerals. You Christians who want the right to decide who the “deserving” poor are, make me sick. Besides there is no way that churches would be able to handle the costs of health care, food, and housing for the needy. I guess you want to model our country after India, where the poor live and die on the street.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    #77 – A few observations – 1) Unless you’re claiming divine guidance in dreams, that doesn’t really set an ongoing precedent; 2) Per the Pharoah’s dreams, everyone experienced 7 years of plenty, and then their surplus was redistributed to them in the 7 lean years. You might be able to argue that Social Security is supposed to be like this. That is, unless you noticed, as well, that the Social Security funds are then turned around and burned in other government schemes, leaving worthless IOU’s in their place.; 3) Flip ahead a few more chapters in your Bible, and you’ll see how well the Egyptian relationship worked out for the Israelites.

    #78 – The Social Democrats don’t take into account the fascist policies and regulatory regimens of Crony Capitalism and Nanny Statism inherent in the modern American left. The government doesn’t need to own the businesses (other than GM) to micromanage them, and then blame capitalism for their failure when central planning inevitably fails.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    Besides there is no way that churches would be able to handle the costs of health care, food, and housing for the needy.

    I guess if you want to ignore the first 125 years of America, then you can believe such fairy tail fatalism. Desipte the confiscatory tax rates in America, Americans (in general) and American Christians (specifically) give more in real dollars and percentages than any other country in the world. And that pales in comparison to the time and money given (adjusted for inflation) by private individuals and churches in 19th Century America.

  • Ryan

    I find it interesting that after reading the bulk of the comments, and the post itself, no one bothered to define the word “poor.” It is why these debates and conversation never seem to go anywhere in such a complex society as ours with 300 million people.

    The “poor” in our country are not monolithic at all. There are millions of Americans that have fallen on hard times and are really in need and wanting to work hard to improve their lives. There are millions of Americans who exploit the system and are poor because they will not work. And there are millions of Americans who some would consider poor who are just fine earning less money and it is they lifestyle they want to have.

    The problem is that every political party and ideology only wants to talk about one of these groups usually. These conversations are doomed to failure at this point because we have no system to discern who is truly in need, who is not. Our leaders are left to evaluate the problem in terms of an income point, rather than motivation of the individual.

    Personally I see no way to solve the problem on the scale of 300 million people.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    Personally I see no way to solve the problem on the scale of 300 million people.

    I guess I thought I alluded to your comments about what truly constitutes “poor” in America. In terms of actual life-threatening poverty, its prevalence is rather low in America, and primarily constrained to parts of the inner city, Appalachia and Native American reservations (all three of which I have seen, firsthand, in a missions capacity).

    I do see a way to “solve the problem” on the scale of 300 million people, but the solution requires a reliance on God, not Washington, to act, through His people. I can point to a church in Georgia that provides monthly dental services to 4,000 poor families, a church here in central Indiana that cares for local widows and single moms with daily needs (like oil changes and lawn care) and ongoing needs, helping them to find work and shared child care. I can point to hundreds of examples of where God can, and does, step in to act. I have no doubt that He would provide, through His people, for the poor in this land if the government cut off all funding tomorrow. He has done it before, and He can do it again.

  • Chad H

    @T #74,
    You mentioned hat you have a problem with the idea “that making things as they ought to be is a role reserved exclusively for the church.”
    I would suggest this is the very message of Jesus Christ. The world cannot make itself right, be that effort from whichever angle of the political spectrum (including libertarian).

    For those who think the church cannot care for 300 million people (or 8 billion people), I’d suggest you are failing to understand the wondrous God of the Bible and that you are severely overestimating the ability, goodness, and character of the state.

  • Mike M

    As a Libertarian & a charismatic Christian, I could say a lot about this (and about the misinformation and accusations) but won’t because I hate typing on tiny keyboards. For now, yes it is true Rand was an atheist of Jewish descent but no, not every Libertarian agrees with all she believed in. In fact, there are probably as many ideolgical differences amongst the Libertarians as there are amongst evangelical Christians. So yes, there are Libertarian Christians whom I have found to be hard-working and very charitable. Slamming someone for wanting to choose how her money is spent is neither accurate nor nice.
    The Republican party seems to have swept up many of the Libertarian ideas while rejecting about half of them like an end to unconstitutional wars, ending the “wars” on Terror, Drugs, & Immigration, and eliminating the income tax altogether.
    That’s the short story.

  • http://medievalmind.blogspot.com/ Beth Bilynskyj

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says
    ________________________
    This isn’t a disagreement about epistemology. It is a disagreement about metaphysics and ethics. That Mr. Ryan doesn’t know the difference troubles me.

  • Beth Bilynskyj

    This isn’t a disagreement about epistemology. It is a disagreement about metaphysics and ethics. That Mr. Ryan doesn’t know the difference troubles me.

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says
    ________________________

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    This isn’t a disagreement about epistemology. It is a disagreement about metaphysics and ethics. That Mr. Ryan doesn’t know the difference troubles me.

    Because the Unicorn Prince and/or Uncle Joe would do such a better job defining the difference between epistemology and metaphysics…

    To get a better idea of the choices being offered, and the unwillingness of the middle class to embrace the steep tax increases that would be required to fund the socialist paradise being promised by Team Zero… http://www.nationalreview.com/blogs/print/313904

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Michael W. Kruse, agree that markets and government are mutually dependent. But markets, especially with the edifices and structures of 21st century modern civilization, are indeed subsidiary to the state. Markets cannot exist without the state — it is how they came into existence — to fund armies, colossal public works projects, etc.… Too much riffing on homo economicus blinds one this prerequisite, or adherence to fallacious defaults, not borne out by empirical historical record. Otherwise, economic conditions would be replete with Social Darwinism, and a “gangster” style violent power bloodshed.

    But, yes, there are business sectors better served by minimal government. But I believe providing life, liberty, and “pursuit” (a word with much different connotation that the way American founders used it, though their conception was that it applied only to elite, white property owning gentlemen) falls under the rubric of “security” (like police, fire, communications infrastructure/networks, energy, food supply, etc.…). IMV, to lobby otherwise, is hypocrisy — that one takes for granted the luxury, privilege of all the goods/services proffered and procured via the public dime, but to cry “immoral” at efforts to provide from the commonwealth fund pool for those without such blessings. Even, forgoing the moral and/or theological slant, there is an economic imperative, to seed widely and grant all an opportunity to flower, produce fruit, or achieve even modest means that ripple throughout network of family, friends, future generations, etc.…

  • Tom F.

    Okay, so this is something I feel pretty passionately about, and I understand that others feel similarily passionate, but I’m going to take a stab at it.

    First, I think the all the verse-throwing amounts to very little. The Bible includes political structures from across thousands of years. Those structures changed across the scope of scripture. Christians have to fall back on a what amounts to a few verses of sometimes cryptic instruction. (“Give to Caesar what is Caesars- this shouldn’t be taken as a treatise on politics, it’s essentially a riddle to defeat the scribes who asked him the question. Paul on subjection to the government is no better; clearly Paul disobeyed the Roman authorities and got killed for it.) If the relationship between the people, the government, and society could change within the pages of scripture, than it could change in our day too, where we no longer live in an agarian society.

    Paul Ryan writes that he thinks that his policies are in fact what actually helps the poor the most. What if Paul Ryan is right that a non-atheistic libertarianism best helps the poor in a modern economy, and the redistributionist policies found in the Old Testament best help the poor in an ancient economy? The point is, both could be right in their own context and time.

    The flip side, of course, is that progressive policies might also be more appropriate to our own times. Chris L insists that the OT is actually libertarian in its approach to government, which seems wrong to me, but I actually don’t really care, because even if it was, that doesn’t mean that we should base our current political policies towards the poor on what the OT did.

    As Paul Ryan points out, and I affirm, what matters is the end goal, not the means, and that end goal is that the poor are really helped. We simply add more heat than light to an already frantic political conversation when we throw around ideas about our opponents positions being “unbiblical”. Rand is unbiblical because she explictly refutes the Christian ethic towards the poor. Perhaps Ryan was inspired by Rand. On its face, I don’t really care. If anything, three cheers for intellectually engaged Christians who don’t only read Christian authors. He has said that he finds more inspiration from Aquinas.

    Okay, with all that said, when it comes to the actual substance of libertarianism, I think it would be a disaster in practice. I think it would utterly fail in a modern context with a modern economy and modern problems, including the breakdown of most non-governmental institutions and social capital over the past 40 years. I can’t prove this, but appeals to days gone by prove nothing either. Consider that in 1790, 90% of the US population worked in agriculture, in 1840 farmers are 69%, and in 1990, farmers were 2.4% of the US workforce. (http://www.agclassroom.org/gan/timeline/farmers_land.htm) Our economic circumstances are radically different, and so our politics might need to be different too. To me, libertarianism makes the most sense in a sort of Jacksonian America where land is plentiful and cheap and what stood between individuals and food was simply a willingness to tend the land (well, perhaps you also had to get rid of those pesky Native Americans sometimes too.) This isn’t the case later on in the OT; farmable land was at an increasing premium, and so the poor often had to rent and give over huge portions of their crops to their landlords. So no libertarianism there- that would have made things worse, as the poor had almost no economic power. And in fact, the least libertarian parts of the Bible are all clustered later on, whereas Chris L somewhat correctly points out that pre-monarchy Israels is relatively more laissez faire.

    The argument for progressive policies in the modern era is that modern industrialized life carries a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Industrialized life means much more production overall, at the expense of increased volatility in terms of work, and increased strain placed on communities where the boom and bust of the economic cycle take their toll. Since this toll is at the societal, and not at the local level, we need a government to make sure that communities are not ground down by this process. Churches used to take care of local poverty, the point about industrialization is that this sort of poverty (nor the kind of wealth that is its flip-side) simply had not been seen before. Perhaps you disagree with this analysis, and you are more than welcome to, but none of this sort of argument presupposes any sort of socialism, in the sense of collective ownership of all economic enterprises. I am open to argument that shows that this might be wrong; but you must argue on the merits, and show that the best way to deal with industrial poverty is libertarianism.

    America has usually tried to find a middle ground between individual rights and collective concern for each other (yes, collective concern expressed through our corporate political life). You can find this starting with John Winthrop, echoed in Lincoln, Roosevelt, and even Reagan. Small-government conservatives and non-socialist progressives exist at different points on this continuum. But libertarians are just as extreme as Marxists. In Marxism the collective government is everything. But in libertarianism, the individual is everything. Civil society is entirely at the mercy of an individual’s “voluntary associations”.

    In any case, I think the current vogue of libertarianism is just a result of the horrible Bush years, which I think angered many conservatives just as much as it did all progressives. Because Bush made it intellectually impossible to be a conservative (which is sad to me as a moderate, progressivism needs a good conservatism to keep it honest- look at some of the actually productive results of the clash between Gingrich and Clinton- genuine welfare reform!), all the intellectual conservatives drifted towards libertarianism. I predict it will pass; it doesn’t really reflect what most Americans want from government.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    IMV, to lobby otherwise, is hypocrisy — that one takes for granted the luxury, privilege of all the goods/services proffered and procured via the public dime, but to cry “immoral” at efforts to provide from the commonwealth fund pool for those without such blessings.

    Why not just simplify this and be clear: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

    If we’re going to boil Ryan down to Rand, let’s at least be honest that the opposing view is just as morally devoid and Marxist.

  • Adam O

    On the same day, a post goes up beginning a discussion on how many church traditions may have been consistently misinterpreting Paul (Post-New Perspective on Paul review)…another post begins a discussion of whether some folks financial/tax/distribution policies line up with Jesus. 9-1 comment disparity. Not sure if I should draw any conclusions about this disparity (say about our intellectual priorities or societal idols or something), but I do find it interesting. Thanks Scot for always starting a variety of good discussions.

  • Mike M

    I agree Chris L. If boiling down Ryan to Rand is necessary, so is boiling down Obama to Marx. It ain’t happening.

  • sg

    As one of the poor whose needs and merits have been bandied about with much vigor in the preceding comments, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to those Christian libertarians renouncing Rand and boldly standing for the church’s (no capitol “C” here, for, as a Protestant, as I presume many of you are, I believe that the Church Universal is practically manifested in her various local communities) responsibility to take care of the poor, particularly those among her ranks. Thus, I eagerly await your realistic and practical proposals for how this will work. Primary physical needs include housing, food, transportation and medical care; and, recognizing that we are not simply creatures of meat and bone, other needs such as education, social contact, and those resources necessary for meaningful connection to and information regarding society at large (bad poor people! wasting money on cell phones or televisions or even a computer!) need to be addressed. Please pay specific attention in your comments as to how precisely the church (small “c” again) will support the physically, cognitively and/or mentally disabled and their children and caregivers, as well as the elderly – in short, those populations who will never be able to “pull their weight” financially. Note: one cannot appeal to family members as a relief – those family members who are motivated to help are usually already helping, often at great personal sacrifice. Others simply won’t help for a variety of reasons. Besides, there aren’t as many family members to go around nowadays, particularly with more disabled and elderly folks surviving so much longer, and with such complicated medical needs, too …

    Anyhoo, thanks for your bold stand in regards to your role and the role of the church in taking care of the poor in our country and for taking the lead in showing the government and nation at large what happens when the individual wrests such responsibility from the state. I, and I’m sure many other broken, weary souls eagerly await your answers.

  • T

    Chad H,

    Thankfully neither Jesus nor history tell us that only the church can follow wisdom and enjoy the benefits of it. Thankfully Christians are not, as just one example, the only people who share or are hospitable with others. Think about how insanely worse this world would be if only Christians showed any kindness or followed any wisdom. In the same way, even human governments (just as the Bible gives us examples of) who follow the wisdom of some of Israel’s economic laws to prevent poverty that is either too extreme (gleaning, tithes, etc) or too permanent without access to capital (jubilee, lending rules) also stand to benefit. Our bankruptcy rules are one example of modern translation. We should all thank God that he allows anyone to follow his wisdom or example and enjoy the results.

    Again, that the scriptures demonstrate pagan kings getting the benefit from being God’s instrument or following advisors or prophets from his people is self evident. Wisdom is wisdom. The question is if you hear or see any in Israel’s economic laws that has any use or is worth listening to today.

  • T

    Sorry that should read “(just as the Bible gives us examples of in other ways)”

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    sg – there are a number of books written on that subject, and covering it in a blog comment is virtually impossible. Even so, I would simply make a few points:

    1) There is a reason that in most communities throughout the country, there are schools and hospitals named “St. Vincent”, “St. Elizabeth”, “St. Francis”, “St. Etcetera”, “Mount Sinai” and it’s not that the State was somehow enamored with Jewish and Christian historical names. For a history of how this came to be, and how the poor were cared for prior to the downward spiral begun in the early 1900′s, I would still highly recommend “The Tragedy of American Compassion” by Marvin Olasky.

    2) The goal in providing services to the poor is not to do so – for the same poor – in perpetuity. Within “the poor” are a number of subsets. A few, but not exhaustive, examples – the chronic poor (who are, and will always be, incapable of caring for themselves), the situationally poor (who have simply fallen on hard times), the able poor (who have the ability to work, but choose not to do so), etc.

    By an large, most of the poor in the US are situationally poor or the able poor. The goal in providing for these groups is to do so in a way that is not in excess (lest the incentives to stay poor outweigh the need to become, first, self-sufficient and, eventually, able to help others in need), but not so meager that their basic needs cannot be met.

    The chronic poor, who cannot ever become self-sufficient, are a very small group that gets elevated to “the norm” when social welfare groups try to appeal for broad aid (doing a disservice to all). In this case, the church should still be the front line of defense, though it would not be unreasonable for the “safety net” of local governments to help in their provision.

    Again, I would highly suggest reading “When Helping Hurts”, for concrete principles and examples of how the church ought to go about accomplishing this.

    3) In his financial courses, Dave Ramsey teaches a number of Christian principles. What he says to folks (those physically able to work) – regardless of social class – is that when they are in debt or unable to make ends meet, it’s time to sell everything they own until they are able to become debt-free and self-sufficient. One of the things you’ll frequently hear him tell callers is “sell the car” and “sell the big-screen TV”.

    In truth, most of “the poor” in the US are not at all poor when viewed in a global context. Our poor fall within “the 1%” of the world. The whole class warfare game is simply greed and covetousness writ large – BY ALL CLASSES who play the game. If you are rich, but “leverage” all your wealth by buying stuff and going into debt and not voluntarily giving to the poor, you are greedy and part of the problem. If you are poor, but feel entitled to money you did not earn and covet what you cannot afford, you are greedy and part of the problem.

    If you are poor and able to work, the church and Christian family members should provide what you need to get on your feet and become self-sufficient, but not so much that you do not take the initiative to become so.

    I have two family members who would qualify for a number of government hand-outs, but I keep them under my own roof and provide for them. They both know that if they ever accept public money while they’re living here, I would turn them out for their own good. Each is now working two part-time jobs (with a good chance at some full-time work soon), and each has a plan under which they will not be living here in perpetuity. We talk about those plans and they are working those plans. They know that if they stop working on those plans, I will have to turn them out, again, for their own good.

    It is not a pie-in-the sky dream that the church would, again, become the “safety net” for the poor, but by placing our faith in Washington instead of God to meet the needs of the poor, we do both the poor and God a disservice.

  • Kyle J

    @Chris L

    “The government doesn’t need to own the businesses (other than GM) to micromanage them, and then blame capitalism for their failure when central planning inevitably fails.”

    How does this statement bear any resemblance to reality? Did the economy collapse on the Dems watch? What about in the 1990s when a Democrat was in the White House? You can disagree about policies, but these kind of statements have no grounding in fact.

    Similarly, your belief that charity took care of everything prior to the New Deal is based on a single book written by a right-wing ideologue. What was the average life span in 1900? What medical technologies were available? How much of the economy was controlled by large corporations likely to make big numbers of layoffs in a bad year? When millions of people lose Medicaid coverage under Ryan’s budget, will churches be providing direct health care services? If Americans already give to charity in record amounts, how much more can we expect when the GOP chooses to cut the social safety net?

    Again, this pure version of libertarianism you offer is nothing but utopian fantasy–unfettered wealth accumulation for those at the top, with no downside for those at the bottom. This, as much as anything, is what I object to on Biblical grounds–blind faith in a human economic ideology.

  • Kyle J

    And I just don’t buy the false equivalency that the Dems are pushing an extreme ideology on the other side. Every major policy President Obama has signed into law is something at least a portion of the GOP supported before he took power (Bush initiated TARP, health care plan mirrors Romney’s, etc.). Balance is a pretty Biblical concept, and based on the facts, I think it’s hard to argue the Dems haven’t pursued it, if imperfectly.

  • sg

    Chris … I agree, the many “St.” institutions do indeed point to a great history of Christian service. Christians have often been at the forefront of service to the poor and the broader community. It is interesting that those Christian groups most often historically associated with that tradition, and still involved – like the Catholics and the Salvation Army – do not seem to share your view.

    And I’m glad that you are helping your family members. My hope and prayer is that your firm stance against them receiving assistance is informed by a realistic assessment of both their abilities and circumstances rather than a view through an ideological filter. I have seen (experienced) misguided “help” that has put those on the receiving end in far worse straits than they would have otherwise been, with the “helpers” walking away, shaking their heads at the perceived laziness, stubbornness or the like of those they had thus damaged. Over and over, I have seen people put such faith in their economic and political ideologies that they grossly misinterpret the scope and complexity of the problems of poverty. The left does it, too – but I think it’s especially egregious when those conservatives who claim to be holding to Biblical truth do it, to the extent of not only denying help to those who need it, but falsely judging many of them as well.

    I agree – class warfare is an issue. It seems to me that we should then make doubly sure that we aren’t harboring unfair attitudes toward others. Perhaps accusing the poor of being motivated by envy, unwilling to work and being the beneficiaries of theft might not lead to the most fair and kind attitudes toward them.

    I see nothing in the Bible that puts government assistance in opposition to trusting God. To the contrary, as others have ably pointed out, the Bible seems to actively affirm the responsibility of the greater society toward its most vulnerable members in a way that could easily be seen to have application to our contemporary situation (special props to T – comment #96 hits it on the head). There is a problem when the assistance is unwisely or unethically administered, and we’re blessed to be in a country where we can hold the government to account. With due respect to Olasky, he is not the only voice out there. A brief introduction to a second opinion: http://www.capitalcommentary.org/deficit-reduction/two-half-answers-poverty

    Peace.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    #99 -

    “The government doesn’t need to own the businesses (other than GM) to micromanage them, and then blame capitalism for their failure when central planning inevitably fails.”

    How does this statement bear any resemblance to reality? Did the economy collapse on the Dems watch? What about in the 1990s when a Democrat was in the White House? You can disagree about policies, but these kind of statements have no grounding in fact.

    Actually, the economy collapsed, primarily, because of sub-prime lending encouraged and driven by Fannie and Freddie and “fair lending” practices forced upon private banks by Democratic policies, and it was the Dem takeover of congress in 2006 that created the conditions for the collapse, just as it was the Rep takeover of congress in 1994 that temporarily kept in place the Reagan fiscal policies and forced a centrist Dem president to reform Welfare.

    The inevitable failure of the banking industry at the hands of the Democratic policies and regulations was then blamed on “capitalism”, when free capitalism would have prevented the collapse, because nobody would have been willing to extend credit to people who had no business applying for it. When politicians demand that people receive stuff “free” that they did not earn, collapse is inevitable.

    Similarly, your belief that charity took care of everything prior to the New Deal is based on a single book written by a right-wing ideologue.

    Olasky isn’t a “right-wing ideologue”, and he certainly wasn’t one when he did his research in the Library of Congress, which led to his book. He really didn’t want the book published by a “Christian” publishing house, but because of the conclusions the actual historical record led him to, the secular houses wouldn’t touch it.

    And his isn’t the only book, it’s just one of the best ones.

    And, FYI, the New Deal didn’t come until several decades after the beginning of the Progressive Era, where the underpinnings of caring the poor were dismantled, “requiring” more government intervention in the New Deal.

    How much of the economy was controlled by large corporations likely to make big numbers of layoffs in a bad year?

    Much of the economy is still controlled by small businesses, though the massive regulatory burden and crony capitalism (engaged in by both parties, though mostly now by Dems) tilt the playing field in favor of big corporations, because they’re the only ones equipped to deal with the regulations.

    When millions of people lose Medicaid coverage under Ryan’s budget, will churches be providing direct health care services?

    When the bond market collapses and nobody can get medical coverage, who will be the first to suffer? When the government demands that everybody receive the best coverage available, the best coverage available becomes non-existent.

    Ryan’s budged saves Medicaid by placing as block grants in the hands of the states to manage without the one-size-fits-all demands of the federal government.

    If Americans already give to charity in record amounts, how much more can we expect when the GOP chooses to cut the social safety net?

    Considering that the plan doesn’t “cut the social safety net”, or even come close to doing so, this is a meaningless question. The silly thing is, the Ryan budged probably doesn’t cut nearly as much as it should and only cuts the rate of increase in spending, not the actual total spending. All of the crying in the world about how “unfair” and “draconian” it is doesn’t match the reality that, if it were truly a responsible plan, it would cut far, far more.

    Again, this pure version of libertarianism you offer is nothing but utopian fantasy–unfettered wealth accumulation for those at the top, with no downside for those at the bottom.

    Actually, I don’t support “pure” libertarianism – I do believe that the government has to maintain a minimal safety net, and that there are some “moral” laws that ought to be maintained for the good of society as a whole. The system, as it exists today, is tilted far more to “the wealthy” and big corporations than it would be if actual libertarian policies were put into place.

    This, as much as anything, is what I object to on Biblical grounds–blind faith in a human economic ideology.

    Actually, my faith is in God’s provision through His people, and that He best acts when we don’t try to control the systems of the world because of our lack of faith in Him and His provision.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Perhaps accusing the poor of being motivated by envy, unwilling to work and being the beneficiaries of theft might not lead to the most fair and kind attitudes toward them.

    And, perhaps accusing the rich of being motivated by greed, unwilling to share, and being the beneficiaries of theft ( or simple “luck”) might not lead to the most fair and kind attitudes toward them. The same human impulses (greed, envy, sloth, etc.) guide individuals in both groups, regardless of their circumstance.

    My hope and prayer is that your firm stance against them receiving assistance is informed by a realistic assessment of both their abilities and circumstances rather than a view through an ideological filter.

    It is, and they would both agree.

    I see nothing in the Bible that puts government assistance in opposition to trusting God.

    Actually, if you read most of the epistles, they are set against a backdrop of a temple system which provided for the needs of the people.

    If you need bread and fruit, you go to the Temple of Athena, burn incense to her, and receive your daily rations. If your fire has gone out, you go to the Temple of Hestia, burn some incense to her, and receive coals to go light your home fire. If you need medical help, you go to the Temple of Aesculapius and carve a blessing to him after you are healed. If you are afraid for your life in childbirth, you go to the Temple of Artemis and receive her blessing on your womb to carry you safely through. If you want to buy or sell goods, you go to the Agora, burn incense to Caesar, and receive Caesar’s mark on your goods (to sell) or on your body (to buy).

    In this culture, Paul tells Timothy, “women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” – it is not by Artemis, but by God they will be carried through. It is in this culture that John pens Jesus’ letter to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, and in 13:16-17 he warns against falling into this practice.

    In this culture, a group of people, called Nicolaitans, some scholars believe, followed the Temple culture, but “crossed their fingers”, telling themselves “these gods aren’t real, but I can participate in their temples to meet my needs”. And it’s in this culture John condemns the practice in rather harsh terms.

    And today, these gods still exist, they just have different names. If you need food, instead of Athena, you go worship at the Dept of Agriculture and receive your food stamps. If you need housing, instead of Hestia, you go to HUD to get a loan. If you need medical care, instead of Aesculapius, you go to HHS.

    “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Washington, the provider of needs on earth. “

  • T

    Chris L,

    Your response to sg regarding the biblical grounds that puts government assistance in opposition to trusting God either proves too much or too little. Parents, husbands, children, money, creation, even self–all of these things can be trusted or depended upon in an idolatrous way, and they can all also be vehicles of God’s provision. Governments, kings and judges can all be the same—vehicles of God’s work, opponents of it, and/or objects of people’s trust and worship. Anything God uses can also be turned into an idol, and such things can also be means of God’s grace and provision. There are examples in scripture of God using judges, kings (even pagan ones), parents, friends, families strangers, etc. as the means of God’s provision. There are also examples of people putting almost anything above God.

    It seems that your argument is:

    (i) some folks in the NT times were using pagan temple in an idolatrous way because they potentially gave some benefits, therefore (ii) governments who give benefits are idols.

    I hope you can see not only how many leaps there are in there, but also how the same logic could be used on any person or group that gives help to people. I think you are better served with your original argument that conceded that libertarianism is not taught by the scriptures, but is arguably good for other reasons.

  • Aaron S.

    Chris L must have helped all the poor people already…he’s been quite busy spouting the Beck/Hannity/Limbaugh party line here for the last 24 hours. Or maybe he turned them all out “for their own good?”

    Reading Ayn Rand was the best thing that ever happened to me. It pulled the curtain back on American “Conservatism” and exposed it for what it really is…unfettered greed and the unabashed idolatry of self. It is delusional (at best) to think that Objectivism and the Jesus Way are anything but diametrically opposing worldviews.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    T – it would be better to state that Scripture, particularly in the NT, never sees Caesar as a solution to the problems in the world. All of the solutions are provided within the Kingdom, which exists apart from the power structures recognized in the world.

    Certainly anything can become an idol, but it seems fairly obvious in Scripture and even more obvious in the practice of the church in the first centuries that the “benefits” provided by believers and the church most accurately point the recipients to the source of those benefits. When the provider is Caesar, though, the danger (and obvious outcome in every society that has gone that route) is that the recipients no longer see God as the source, but the State.

    So, when the church prostitutes itself out and abdicates its mission to the state, it should be no surprise when Christians in a more Libertarian or Conservative mindset, recognize it, and point it out for the whoring that it is.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Aaron, I don’t have time or energy for talk radio (Beck/Hannity/Limbaugh), and I’ve read one chapter of Atlas Shrugged, so I must be spouting “talking points” I’ve received via ESP or directly from the airwaves w/o the need for a receiver.

    I can’t think of any “ism” (aside from baptism ;-) that is purely Scriptural. In practice, the founders of America, and the general American culture, have considered libertarian free will a key differentiator between the corrupt power structures of Europe and the country they sought to found – in order to protect the rights given by God – negative rights, not the happy-sounding but tower-of-babel-ish “positive rights” that sprung up in the Progressive Era.

    I haven’t seen any of the Libertarian Christians here (or Paul Ryan) supporting Rand’s belief in Objectivism, which is just as morally bankrupt as Progressivism. I simply see the application of the Biblical role of government vs. the Baal progressives have made it.

  • T

    Chris L,

    I don’t believe that any state is the best hope for this world. Further, I agree that the reign of God through Christ is the best and only hope. My contention (which the scriptures corroborate) is that everything in the world (individuals, businesses, even governments) are called to cooperate with Christ, who is the King over all kings, Lord over all lords. Both the kingdoms of light and of darkness have worked through (and continue to work through) both prince and pauper alike; both cultures and laws. Believe me, I’m thrilled that the emphasis isn’t on the princes, but neither are they exempted from the call to the King and his reign. I personally avoid most politics and put my own energies into the local church, especially those that are placed among the poor of the inner cities. Based on that experience, like yours, I can totally empathize and agree with your argument that some kinds of governmental help is no help at all in the long run. But all of that doesn’t mean that scripture teaches libertarianism for law and policy–because it doesn’t. On the contrary, it gives wonderful and wise examples of laws that allow for personal property rights and growth, but within fairly aggressive limits for the benefit of all (no interest loans; return of ancestral lands!). I’m fine with people arguing that we should do care/food for children this way not that, or for the diabled this way not that, or for the out of work this way not that. Awesome. But I am increasingly hearing folks act like or say “God says . . .” to justify libertarian policies, and that is simply not true. I personally look at the combined forms of legally mandated limits on property rights in Israel’s law and I am blown away by how expansive they are, how wise, how aware of human need and tendencies. I’m fine with debating whether and to what extent these kinds of provisions can or should be translated into a current society and for the same kinds of ends (which are not particularly religious, but economic), but the idea (repeated by Christians!) that God is opposed to these kinds of laws just needs to stop or at least be much more qualified, mainly because God gave exactly these kinds of laws. Our bankruptcy code is a modern example of translation, and we are better for it. I think there is more we could learn.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com Peggy

    Well, after reading all the comments — grateful for those who attempted to out some perspective on the whole Ryan-Rand spin — I do feel compelled to say this:

    Reading Rand and resonating with some of her thoughts does not make one a “disciple”. Reading “Atlas Shrugged” was a long task, but I have over 16 pages of notes of where she caused me to think seriously about her ideas. This does not make me a “disciple” of Rand, either. I have, however, looked at what formed her thinking — and can see how she came to the conclusions she did. That does not make them right or wrong — it just makes them hers. Some of her thinking can bring points of clarity to the current political debate, if they will be considered in their context.

    I am exhausted with the polarizing talk and the demonizing of those who have a different perspective. I do not fit cleanly into any political or religious box out there. I want to see as Father sees, say what Father says, and do what Father does. I want to dialog honestly with all who are truly seeking the truth on any subject.

    Simplistic thinking is the bane of current life. Real, deep, thinking is the hardest work — because it requires so much from us. It is the saddest thing to me that too many of those who name Jesus as Lord seem content to fall into this way. And in the process, we soil the ones we are commanded to love — God and Other.

  • Aaron S.

    My long reply got lost in transmission, somehow. Something about WordPress and JavaScript and Cookies. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s time for me to lay it down.

  • Andy W.

    I saw a “Who is John Galt?”license plate frame today on a mercedes S500 and it made me think of this blog post and conversation. I don’t think I’d see such a license plate frame on a toyota or subaru or Nissan, etc.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    1) There’s a guy who lives on my street, here in lower-middle suburbia, who’s got a “Who is John Galt?” on his ’01 Ford Pickup. While I’m too cheap to buy one, I’d put one on my 13-year-old Honda (with 180,000 miles on it) if someone gave it to me. While I could never afford to, I would admire the rich in America if they all decided to take a year and not work, living off of what they’ve already earned. A steep and sudden crash, while it would definitely hurt America in the short-term, might just be what is needed to wean it off of its addiction to other people’s money.

    2) Having read a good number of Catholic sites (realizing that the RCC is no more monolithic than the Protestant churches), it seems that they’re, on the whole, not really fully down with with idea that somehow, magically, taxes = charity. Example: http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=34633

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com Peggy

    We could do much, much worse to have communities that function like the one in Galt’s Gulch…just sayin’ 8)

    I am waiting to see Part II in October….

  • Tom F.

    Chris L., I studied Latin and the classics in college and I never heard anything about pagan temples being particularly attentive to the poor. Some shallow searching on the internet turns up very little as well. Can you give a reference, preferably something accessible online, about where you see all this business about pagan temples providing for the poor.

    In fact, Julian the apostate famously remarked about his the pagan temples he was attempting to revive did very little for the poor. “The impious Galileans relieve both their own poor and ours . . . . It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance.” In fact, Julian later goes on to specifically complains that if the pagan poor went to their own temples, they would find nothing to assist them, but if they went to the “Galileans” (Christians), they would. You can read Julian’s comments in this book-

    http://books.google.com/books?id=G-HsOflmYRsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=History+of+the+Christian+church+Julian+the+apostate+on+the+poor&source=bl&ots=N-DEF7mUq5&sig=Qn-kjFgo2VukecEeFjSWRpP8R8Y&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YYksUP-4JI3YyAHahoFY&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=poor&f=false

    I think you are being far too harsh on people who get government assistance. I understand that you are passionate about this topic, but you are basically accusing them of idolatry.

    Stop it. Take a deep breath. God is in control. If you don’t convince everyone of what you think, it will be okay. Maybe not great, and maybe we would be much, much better off if we all agreed with you, but it will be okay in the end if we don’t. You will have a much better shot of convincing more people of the truth of what you are saying if you can leaven what you are saying with some grace. I am guessing we are pretty much diametrically opposed on the substance of this debate, but you are clearly an intelligent, passionate human being. I don’t even know you, but I know you’re better than some of your last set of posts.

    I don’t mean to sound preachy, and saying this definitely opens me up to some sort of snarky response in reply (or even you just completely ignoring this), but please, this debate is too important to bring anything other than our best to it.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    Tom F –

    You asked:

    Chris L., I studied Latin and the classics in college and I never heard anything about pagan temples being particularly attentive to the poor. Some shallow searching on the internet turns up very little as well. Can you give a reference, preferably something accessible online, about where you see all this business about pagan temples providing for the poor.

    A few notes:

    1) Julian the Apostate was Emperor more than three centuries after the coming of Christ. The pagan temple system that was in place during the first and second centuries (at least up through Marcus Aurelius) was very effective at caring for the people. By the time Julian came around, Rome had suffered three to five (depending on who you read) major plagues. These plagues were a major turning point in the church, because they decimated the temple system and exposed it as a fraud – the pagan priests were usually the first to see and recognize the plague, and were also usually among the first to head for the hills, while the Christians stayed behind and cared for the sick and the abandoned (often dying in large numbers, themselves).

    2) Most of my material I received on-site at the archaeological sites of Ephesus, Laodicea and Pergamum, with the principle scholar being Dr. Tim Brown, President of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI ( http://www.westernsem.edu/faculty/brownt/ ), in addition to follow-up discussion and teaching with Ray VanderLaan and Rob Bell. They referenced writings by Galen (from the Library of Pergamum at the Temple of Asclepius), along with other Roman historians from the first and second century. (I don’t have Dr. Brown’s reference list with be, but you might see “The Worship Of Augustus Caesar, Derived From A Study Of Coins, Monuments, Calendars, Aeras, And Astronomical And Astrological Cycles, The Whole … Chronology And Survey Of History And Religion” by Del Mar, along with other sources that discuss the rise of Caesar Worship in the first century.

    3) For lay resources, I would suggest Ray VanderLaan’s “Faith Lessons” series, and in particular “Faith Lessons in the Early Church” ( http://followtherabbi.com/guide/detail/early-church ), along with most Preterist and Partial Preterist discussions on Revelation (which touch more on Caesar Worship in the Agora, which was a part of the temple system). RVL’s site also discusses it, for example, here: http://followtherabbi.com/world/encyclopedia/article/the-cult-of-asclepius

    I think you are being far too harsh on people who get government assistance. I understand that you are passionate about this topic, but you are basically accusing them of idolatry.

    If God does not receive the glory for the provision, then the shoe fits, so they might as well wear it – as should the Libertarian who believes the dollars he/she received from the business they built came from themselves, and not God.

    I will try to tone down my passion on the topic, though, per your reply.

  • T

    Chris L,

    “If God does not receive the glory for the provision, then the shoe fits, so they might as well wear it – as should the Libertarian who believes the dollars he/she received from the business they built came from themselves, and not God.”

    Yes! So self-employment, or working for a boss, or charity from a friend, or a scholarship from a school, or aid from a gov’t program–all of these can be idolatrous if the recipient “believes the dollars he/she received from the ___________ came from [the vehicle] and not God.” I know many self-employed people who think as you warn against, but that doesn’t mean that self-employment is the problem. On that note, the Bible as a whole, and the NT in particular, warns the rich about idolatry of money–which they presumably earned honestly!–much more than it warns the poor about idolizing the source of any help they receive. I would have much, much stronger scriptural arguments to call all the rich idolaters than I would to call all who receive public assistance, but neither would be appropriate. Again, I think arguing for libertarianism is fine; but the scriptures simply don’t give the push for it, whether in its discussions about idolatry or money or economic laws.

  • Chris L

    Most of my friends who are small business owners do not feel the sense of entitlement that is inherent with receiving impersonal (ex. Gov’t) handouts. Like small farmers, the linkage between hard work and financial reward are not automatic, or entitlements, but much more easily linked to God’s provision.

    No such linkage is inherent with government handouts, and there is no such thing as overnment “charity” – it’s other people’s money, by definition. Anyone who assumes a payment from the government is theirs by entitlement is an idolater, plain and simple. Any Christian who sees the poor as entitled to government money is a temple prostitute,just as well..

  • T

    Chris L,

    I’m sorry that you think that any Christian who sees the poor as entitled to government funds is a temple prostitute. I guess you see this idea as clearly taught by the scriptures, and not merely a disputable matter that Christians might disagree upon. That’s unfortunate. God bless you in your work.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    I’m sorry that you think that any Christian who sees the poor as entitled to government funds is a temple prostitute.

    1) Nobody is “entitled” to anything. Everything is a gift from God.

    2) If I hold you up at gunpoint and take your money and give it to a guy downtown under the bridge, NOTHING I have done is good. The money citizens give to the government, under threat of punishment, can never be considered charitably given to anyone.

    3) When the church abdicates its role to a godless entity, it effectively steals glory from God and gives the glory from that provision to whatever godless entity it has passed it on to. The church is no longer a slave to God, but nothing more than a whore in service to the state, since they’ve handed God’s role for the church to the state.

    4) When individuals believe they are “entitled” to something and become enslaved to it (which many of the poor in the US are, today), they have become idolaters, enslaved to their sugar daddy idol. When Christians see this system as “good’, they should feel the weight of a millstone hanging around their necks.

    5) When we see the problem of the poor as something too big, or too complex, or too hard for God to address via His Church, then our god is worthless and not worth ever serving. The fact that we look to Washington to solve this problem is a perfect demonstration of our moral poverty and faithlessness.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Chris L.,

    Although I have not fully read the comments, I think I get the gist of what you are saying and it makes me feel compelled to share my view. Certainly you can respond, but please don’t take it as an insult if I don’t converse, I am just short on time these days.

    I am a small business owner, and work in corp america, and have family members that get money from the government.

    One year I surpassed $200k in taxes that I paid to our government and did more than half of that much on quite a few occassions. I feel thankful that the people of America have been big hearted enough to put the structure in place that my money can go toward my family members that are less fortunate. I never once brought it up to them that I pay in and they take out, it is my pleasure to do that given what I have been fortunate enough to have.

    Do they feel entitled to the “system”. Well, that is a very difficult question to ask when you are raised in a country that does indeed take care of its poor. I would say they expect it, and for good reason, they have been promised that benefit by being a part of our country. I was unemployed for the past 6 months and never applied for unemployed benefits though I would have received them. I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to have healthy good children and a career that makes my family feel secure and gives them what they need. I am sure that most would think that they are blessed by god for such a life, but I only view it as an embarassment because I take so much from the joint effort made by everyone in our country, the infrastructue, the inequality in outcomes, the hard work of others and then add something that comes quite naturally to me to the mix and then I get what I consider to be their share. I am more than happy to pay what I do.

    The government is not a “they” to me. It is a we. We the people have put into place a system that does some for the poor, and those that have come into hard times. I don’t feel the government does enough for those who need it.

    You need to realize that handicaps come in all shapes and sizes. I am handicapped by my lack of effort. It limits me. I have never lived up to my potential and have not done enough. For others the handicap is in their biology. They are not lucky enough to have their body keep up with their will. For others it is their inhereted social situation, combine that with nearly any other lack of motivation, or typical male egotism, or lack of intelligence and we have something that people have a difficult time in overcoming.

    The wonder is not that people succomb to the problems, the wonder is that some can make it out.

    Now I have requests for you. I ask that you realize that more than half of bankruptces are due to a severe illness. I ask that you consider that folks who are immersed, in every sense of that word, in a culture of hopelessness and glass ceilings are not abnormal, but are the norm. No one, no one, wants to be in that position. No one wants to be dependent. I ask you to consider that the feelings that those less fortunate and less articulate have are often rooted in a feeling of wanting to exert some kind of control over their environment. It is human nature and it comes out in ways that not always obvious on the surface. They have an inate desire to control their destiny and often, given their condition, it can come out as entitlment.

    I ask that you look at it as taking care of those who how have been overwhelmed by their condition.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Chris L.

    I also want to address your point about the church being the desired vehicle for caring for these people. I agree.

    I also have been around the block enough to realize that this issue is one that we are going to have to take a very long time to resolve. We need to build the church infrastructure to make that a reality because it is not there right now. We will need more than 100 years to fix that problem and actually show that people can take care of the poor in the country.

    We are our government. It is us. We put it in place to help people so that they have security in their lives. We put it in place to provide for that. If the founding fathers had thought that the religious institutions were up to the task and they were carrying the load then we would be living quite differently. They are not up to the task.

    So, in this quite lucky country we put into place systems that will take care of our unfortunate. We put into place mechanisms that will help us overcome the faults in the religious institutions to help share the benefits that come from us all.

    Some day we can hope that god’s people will take this over from our shared vision, and that will require a shared vision among the churches. We need to work on developing that shared vision and infrastructure so the infrastructure we have in place will become obsolete.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I offer to Chris L the idea of a Social Contract, that, it seems, is no longer taught.

    The fundamental basis for government and law in this system is the concept of the social contract, according to which human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature, and create a society by establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively.

    The social contract is very simple. It has only two basic terms: (1) mutual defense of rights; and (2) mutual decision by deliberative assembly. There are no agents, no officials, that persist from one deliberative assembly to another. The duties of the social contract are militia. There may be customs that persist from assembly to assembly, such as customs for due notice, parliamentary procedure, judicial due process, and enforcement of court orders by militia. This second term could be called the constitution of society, but it precedes a constitution of government and should not be confused with it.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    DRT -

    I would offer you the opinion of our first President:

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” -George Washington

    You wrote:

    We are our government. It is us.

    The Bible, particularly the OT, never treats human government as a force for good. It is, though, often a tool, or instrument, of God’s judgment. As we’ve discussed above, the only reason God capitulated from the design he gave the Israelites was because they were begging to have something like all the other nations around them.

    Later, when Jesus described his Kingdom, earthly government had absolutely no role in it. His kingdom was (and is) not part of our kosmos. Zero role. It may be a necessary evil, but we should not lose sight that it is, inherently, evil – not the Kingdom.

    We put it in place to help people so that they have security in their lives. We put it in place to provide for that. If the founding fathers had thought that the religious institutions were up to the task and they were carrying the load then we would be living quite differently. They are not up to the task.

    Then you worship a different god (little-g intentional) than I do.

    Actually, what the founding fathers put in place, with the limits on the scope of federal power, allowed the religious institutions to care for the poor – as they were intended to do. It was only the Progressive era at the turn of the Twentieth Century that, with the complicity of the church, abandoned the institution God intended to care for the poor and put us on the downward spiral we’ve been on this past century.

    Should Zero with this fall’s election, I will pray fervently, as I have the past four years, for our country to fail fast and fail spectacularly in such a way that the government fails to even have the ability to be our savior, and that the Church will live up to its mission. Our entire country, rich and poor, is fat and lazy and ‘entitled’. The church’s laziness and whorishness partially led to the mess, and the final nail in the coffin will likely have been the left’s cry of “every other major country has universal healthcare, but the so-called ‘Christian’ nation does not”. (“We don’t care”, they said to Samuel, “give us a king!”)

    Should that happen, I hope we fail and fail hard (and fast). At that point, all solutions will have to become local, and the church will have the chance to help wean us off the teats of government. Certainly, people will be hurt in the process, as we’ve seen in history, but the Babylonian Captivity, among other things, did leave in place a remnant that no longer had problems with idolatry.

    I offer to Chris L the idea of a Social Contract, that, it seems, is no longer taught.

    I offer to you The Kingdom of God, that, it seems, is no longer taught in the churches.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Chris L.

    I can largely support your end game, that god and his church are the ones that should care for everyone and bring the kingdom to a full reality here on earth. But I don’t see any method in your ideas, Chris L. Your methods have become….unsound.

    I hope that you have a great weekend.

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    A sterling example of how the State gets in the way of the Church’s mission:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-lunch-lady-20120817,0,5201567.story

  • Mike M

    Pretty much, Chris L, most governments get in the way of the church’s mission.
    So y’all know, Paul Ryan is not a Libertarian. He is a NeoCon Republican who has integrated Tea Party (also not Libertarian) issues into his political persona to gain more votes. Against Libertarian PRIME principles, he voted for the Patriot Act and the National Defense Appropiations Act. He voted to ban online poker (no Libertarian cares about you spend your own money}.

  • David Feldman

    >If you don’t believe that everything you have is a gift from God, then you have no basis for thinking you ought to share what God has given you with others; sharing is something extra you do when it benefits your self-interest by improving your public image, creating a social debt, earning fans, etc.

    Wrong. An atheist can still have faith simply in altruism itself. Or game theory can provide a mathematical basis for the strategic virtues of cooperation. Of one can find a basis for altruism in uncorrupted human nature – a product of Darwin selective pressure. Nature pressured the bees even more and I don’t hear them grounding their loyalty to the hive in God.

  • CDL

    I think this is a very fair and useful framing of the conversation. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tom Moore

    Our founders were much closer to Ayn Rand’s philosophy than we are at today and they were also very religious.

    When the government taxes us, they are taking away a part of our earned income and therefore they are what Ayn Rand would call “a looter”. Same as someone stealing a loaf of bread from a bakery. They are taking something that was produced by someone else.

    When you take something from someone and give it to someone else, you are committing the greatest crime imaginable by taking away a small piece of that person’s individuality and liberty to do what they want with that money.

    I think Jesus today would say that Government should be separate from this. They should not be involved. The individual can help another individual as part of Jesus philosophy to help our neighbors, but to do this individually. Jesus would realize that with big money, governments get corrupted as this is part of human nature. Look at every large government program and how it is unsustainable or on its way to bankruptcy. This is because politicians and big government always ends up in corruption. John Locke once wrote “All men are inherently evil”, knowing that laws and the importance of limited government. Thomas Jefferson cleverly changed this to “All men are created equal.”

    Ron Paul is the best example of someone who believes in Jesus, yet also believes in protecting the individual and freedom as the most successful way for man to thrive and to do this by limiting government’s ability to impact an individual’s life.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X