Mar 18 2010

False connections

Category: church,justice,left,media,politics,religion,right,societyharmonicminer @ 8:22 am

Article and picture from CNN: Evangelical leader takes on Beck for assailing social justice churches

An evangelical leader is calling for a boycott of Glenn Beck’s television show and challenging the Fox News personality to a public debate after Beck vilified churches that preach economic and social justice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a network of progressive Christians, says Beck perverted Jesus’ message when he urged Christians last week to leave churches that preach social and economic justice.

Now here’s what’s sad/funny about this article.

First, the United Church of Christ, as a denomination, is “pro-choice.”  So they’re for “social justice” for everyone but the most innocent among us, who apparently do not deserve legal protections of any kind.  And as a member in good standing of the National Council of Churches, they never saw a South or Central American socialist/communist dictator they didn’t like.  Which means, of course, that they weren’t for “social justice” for the people in political prisons (or dead) in those places.  I mean, how bad can a communist dictator be if he has national health care in his country?

Second, when they show a United Church of Christ sign, and quote “evangelical” minister Jim Wallis, they create by association the notions that the United Church of Christ is evangelical, and that evangelicals as a whole have any serious disagreement with Mr. Beck.  Both are false.

Third, “social justice” is a euphemism for statist solutions to “social problems.”  Otherwise, churches that use the term would be talking about Christian charity, love, mission and service, which are wonderful, old and uncontroversial ideas, not “social justice.”  And, of course, the origin of the term “social justice” had nothing to do with any church, being an artifact of Marxist thought and its intellectual descendants.  (And isn’t Mr. Beck taking heat for pointing that out.)

It’s interesting that by pointing that out, Mr. Beck has become the subject, instead of the perversion of the concepts of Christian charity, love, mission and service into “social justice” that is preached by the “Christian Left.”

Fourth, the United Church of Christ is shrinking, fast.  It is simply dying out.  Along with most of the rest of the “mainline protestant” groups.  That’s what happens to Christian groups that abandon their central teachings and moral values to appeal to the world.  So in a few years or decades, it’s likely that no local congregation will be around to maintain the sign above.

Some churches are converted to skating rinks when they’re sold due to lack of interest, or lack of surviving members, if the building is big enough.

That sign looks big enough to list prices and hours of operation.

28 Responses to “False connections”

  1. tonedeaf says:

    Under the caption of Wallis’ picture – “The Rev. Jim Wallis is the president of Sojourners, a network of Christians.” Interesting.

    “…Wallis…says the Bible isn’t just concerned with feeding the poor — it’s concerned about the conditions that create the poor.” Wallis is a socialist through and through. The only social system that has ever done anything to bring the poor up the economic ladder is free enterprise and the rule of law. I believe socialism is a type of cult in that believers cannot become confused with facts. For them it’s not whether people are actually helped by socialism but that he hopes they will be. Jim Wallis’ gospel does not include repentance from sin and being born-again. Go to sojourners website. That the term ‘evangelical’ could be applied to this man is laughable. I’ve never seen or heard Glenn Beck, but Glenn is right.

  2. stwright says:

    Tonedeaf, count yourself lucky that you’ve never seen or heard Glenn Beck. He’s a fear-mongering maniac who hosts a show that could hardly be called anything close to “news”.

    Anyway, Shack, the term “social justice” as used in a religious context was coined largely by Jesuit scholar Luigi Taparelli in Italy in the 1840′s. Obviously the Jesuits and Marxists have some history, particularly in South America post-Vatican II, and Latin American Liberation Theology was born in that climate. Let’s not equate the US Protestant church’s “social justice movement” today to the ideals of liberation theology, however. That whole ordeal was pretty much a Catholic thing, leading to Pope John Paul II laying down the law, reconciliation theology, etc. An amazing read related to this subject is William Cavanaugh’s “Torture and Eucharist,” the story of the Church’s reaction in Chile to the torture inflicted by the Pinochet regime. Ultimately, the solution was anything but “statist.” I’d call it “churchist,” if I had to name it.

    This is where I think you go wrong, as Beck does, in classifying talk of social justice in the American church today as actually being communist or socialist in disguise. Looking at the New Monasticism movement, for example, shows little call to socialize the government. They dare to think, in line with Stanley Hauerwas, that when the Church embodies Christ in the world, it’s capable of living out justice in all spheres of life, the social included. I don’t know anything about the UCC, but there are churches that imagine the Church as an alternative to America, rather than a force to either support America’s status quo or change its policies toward socialism.

  3. stwright says:

    I also think the notion that “Christian charity, love, mission and service…are wonderful, old and uncontroversial ideas” is pretty presumptuous. My generation has some pretty serious qualms with the way the Church practices some of these ideas – “charity” is a big one for me. You also suppose that churches that talk about social justice automatically then don’t talk about Christian love, mission, and service, which is most certainly wrong. Again, I’m sure you could find a church that talks about nothing but social justice to prove your point, but that isn’t the model that most Christians (in my generation, in my sphere) aspire to by any means.

  4. tonedeaf says:

    stwright,
    A couple of weeks ago a guest pastor at my church announced that we should not listen to Hannity, Limbaugh, or Beck and held up to us as an example of true spirituality a girl from Azusa Pacific University (who he failed to name). This wonderful female said, “I’m sick of hearing about abortion, I’m sick of hearing about homosexuality, I’m sick of hearing about Obama. That anti-abortion crowd doesn’t care about the mother or the baby once it’s born anyway!” He went on to tell us that she was leaving water in the desert for illegal immigrants. – Social justice in all its glory.

  5. Mr. Music Lover says:

    stwright, you speak for your whole generation? That must be quite a heavy burden. “Christian charity, love, mission and service…are wonderful, old and uncontroversial ideas” is a correct statement. Some might consider one speaking for a whole generation a bit presumptuous. By the way Glenn Beck is a very knowledgeable person. As for “He’s a fear-mongering maniac who hosts a show that could hardly be called anything close to ‘news’”, I must disagree, but then I only speak for myself. And BTW, his show has never been touted as a “news” program. Please enjoy the Koolaide and keep on watching MSNBC.

  6. tonedeaf says:

    This was on a Sunday when we were celebrating or ‘Mentor Moms’ program which helps single mothers get on their feet after not aborting their baby. Sorry, but the Church that your generation so despises has done far more for “charity” than you know or are willing to give them credit for. The real issue is that this generation is extrememly good at finding the speck in their parent’s eye while ignoring the log in their own. There’s no question that many in the evangelical (BROAD TERM) church have become wealthy and selfish. For some reason the young generation now thinks that this, coupled with their own professed caring for the poor, justifies their own sins; i.e. sex before marriage, homosexuality, abortion, etc. I’m curious, stwright, what do most Christians in your generation aspire to?

  7. stwright says:

    Ah, let me clarify: by my generation, I’m referring to young American Protestants. There are trends, books that Christian young people today all read…so yes, I feel comfortable making some generalizations about it. Just as you make generalizations about us being “leftist,” etc. More to come after dinner.

  8. harmonicminer says:

    Stwright, It isn’t who “coined the term” social justice as much as the ideological commitments of those who immediately took it up, its fellow travelers, if you will, that I find interesting.

    If you doubt my connection of the NCC churches with communist/socialist dictators, just review their previous positions on Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Veneuela, Peru, even Mexico, et. al. Please understand: I am not saying that so called “right wing” dictators are always preferable to communist/socialist inspired dictators. I am saying the NCC churches have a history of being relatively unconcerned about the latter, compared to their rhetoric about the former. Fundamentally, it’s dishonest.

    You seem to deny the connection of “social justice” with leftist (meaning statist) politics, at least by implication. But I think you aren’t letting yourself see the obvious, which is that those who hold “social justice” as a higher value than many other things, and who see in it something distinct in emphasis from the traditional “Christian charity, love, mission and service”, are very much more likely to VOTE left, meaning for statist candidates, who will use the power of government to carry out leftwing programs, including “social justice” ones. You have only to look at the 2008 elections, who voted how, and see what’s happening now. But that’s far from the only example.

    You’ll have to clarify what you meant by this:

    My generation has some pretty serious qualms with the way the Church practices some of these ideas – “charity” is a big one for me.

    I don’t know what you mean here. But I suspect you may be ignorant of just how much conservative Christians (NOT the “social justice” types) give to charity, including giving by POOR conservative Christians, and volunteer and do various kinds of ministry. Do you truly not know? If not, I suppose conservative Christians should brag about it more, wear t-shirts proclaiming it,etc. Most simply do it.

    Read this. http://tinyurl.com/ykcd22p If you suspect it because of the title, there are plenty of other sources of the same stats about who gives more and who gives less.

    Is there something about the word “charity” that bothers you? Please explain.

    You said:

    There are trends, books that Christian young people today all read

    Please list. But, if it’s true there are books they all read, I suspect I know of many they don’t, or haven’t… to their detriment. Want to swap lists?

  9. stwright says:

    By Christian young people, I guess I was referring especially to the “social justice” aware types that you describe. Anyway, Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” and Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution” both became widely popular. I wouldn’t say these books are scholarly and definitive texts on social justice; I was simply responding to Mr. Music Lover’s doubt in my ability to make a statement for a large group of people by explaining some of the factors that unite us.

    As far as charity, I’m perfectly aware of the large amount of money and time that conservative Christians donate, I would just challenge the assumption that the practice of such charity is wholly uncontroversial. Charities do a lot of great things, no doubt. At the large (4,000ish people) Baptist church that I grew up in, we ran a food pantry. Those with extra put some food in a big wooden container, and once a month those with not enough could come and essentially do free grocery shopping. Beautiful…redistribution (COMMUNISM! ;) doing its thing, feeding people, like the New Testament talks about. To me, and to many, I believe, however, making that the ideal is pretty far from the mark. The fact that there were people who drove Hummers to church while others came and accepted free cans of soup to feed their families sounds nothing like the model of Church laid out in the New Testament. Writing a check is easy, especially in a culture in which we’ve deified money. “Here, you have needs? Have a little money, I’ve got way more than enough for me, my vacation home, and my 401k anyway.”

    Do I want America to come in and force those with Hummers to sell them and drive Civics and give the rest of the money to the poor? No, not really. Do some “Leftist Christians” think that would be a good thing? Absolutely. I just think you mischaracterized the social justice phenomenon as a whole.

  10. stwright says:

    “I’m curious, stwright, what do most Christians in your generation aspire to?” – tonedeaf

    I couldn’t really tell you.

    Also, leaving water in the desert for illegal immigrants doesn’t bother me so much. Sorry. They’re thirsty.

    The fact that the issues of homosexuality and abortion have come to define Christian political discourse is certainly something that bothers me and many Christians I know. Does that mean we abandon seeking holiness and biblical perspective/practice on these issues in favor of social justice? I don’t really think so. The Barna Research Group did research on the most common perceptions about Christians among non-Christians. Number 1 perception? Anti-homosexual. To throw out a cliche among young social justice-y Christians, we’d prefer to be a Church known more for what we stand for than what we stand against.

  11. Saxman says:

    When I look up Social Justice – it says the following:

    Main Entry: social justice
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society

    To me, and perhaps I am mistaken – if this is forced by the government – it is socialism. If it is done as charity – it is a gift. I would expect the church (the people of the church) to be a good portion of the givers.

    I see a huge distinction between forced “equalization” and charitable “equalization”. When the ability to give is taken from us and forced – we can no longer choose others above ourselves and lose the internal charactor change that this gift can create in the giver (as C.S. Lewis said – putting on the face of Jesus eventually forms our face to his).

  12. harmonicminer says:

    Stwright, “not voting” is, I suppose, an option. In some sense, the withdrawal of the Amish from mainstream society is really an expression of the same impulse.

    When you don’t vote, however, you still make a choice. That choice (assuming you believe yourself to be “not voting because you have a higher perspective”) is to allow people with lower perspectives than yours to make your choices for you.

    There is a good reason abortion is front and center for evangelical Christians. It is the clearest of clear-cut issues.

    Perspectives may vary among Christians on foreign policy, for example, and what seems like “aggressive foreign” policy to someone may in the long run cause less human suffering than one that is more “diplomatic” on the surface, but which tolerates greater evil. Surely any cursory reading of history will confirm this.

    Perspectives on economic system and policy may vary among Christians. Some may stress legally forced redistribution, while others observe that the poor of India (for example) have benefited far more from an increase in capitalism in the last generation than from all the charitable giving or service ever done.

    I’m sorry, Stwright, that you seem to sneer at the obvious good practiced by your church, and by those who have more and choose to give to those who have less. That sounds exactly like the biblical model to me, in both OT and NT, in which I see relatively little in the history of the Israelites or the early church that suggests that exact economic equality is the major goal. The alleviation of unjust suffering is the goal, not equal distribution of automobiles and homes. And you must be very, very careful not to equate “the poor” of Biblical times with “the poor” of the USA, or most modern developed nations. The same goes for “the rich.”

    It is not clear to me what you wanted the “rich” people in your church to do, besides donate. What would you have them do? You seem to despise what you think of as “the rich.” Be of good cheer, though. I am not one of them. I don’t own a vacation home. I drive a Prius (which puts more crud than a Hummer into the environment in its lifetime, due to manufacturing toxics). I just make it financially each month. The recent economic downturn really, really hammered me. At this point, it is not clear to me that I will ever be able to “retire,” despite my belief of three years back that I had an adequate plan in place. But I still give. So see, I’m not one of those evil Hummer owning, vacationing, leisure class selfish people. I work for a living.

    In contrast, abortion, except to save the mother’s life, is never anything but the purest of injustice. There is no wiggle room, no ambiguity, no nuance. The most innocent are being killed. Period. And out of distilled essence of selfishness, at that, nearly always, though the Left always goes for the incredibly unrepresentative sob story to defend the “pro-choice” position.

    So failure to make a choice politically, that has a chance to redress the single greatest evil done to the most innocent among us, is what you want to defend? Do you not see that you ARE making a choice, namely to leave things as they are, and allow great and unambiguous evil to be done legally? I note you did not respond to my comparison of your view of murder to your view of abortion. I am curious as to why not.

    You are quoting, I presume, the book “Unchristian” when you discuss the Barna Research Group. Yes, American young people have distorted ideas about the church and Christianity. But has the Barna Group succeeded in separating out which of those ideas American young people got by being aware of the actual teaching and action of churches, and how much American young people got those ideas from the media, movies, tv, MTV, rap, you name it? If you believe they have…. well, you don’t just believe in the Easter Bunny.

    Are you aware that the Chinese have a similar opinion of “Christians”? Do you think they got it from close association with, say, Southern Baptists? They do see a lot of American movies, though.

    I would argue with where the Barna Group drew their lines in determining who was “Christian” and who was not, so that they could characterize “Christians” as they did. We can discuss that sometime, if you wish… but it strikes me as typical of social research with an agenda, namely, first you pick the conclusion you want, then figure out how to collect the data and analyze it to produce the result you’ve chosen. Your mileage may vary. But they are not the definitive last word on what is Christian, what attitudes of Christians really are, or how attitudes towards Christians have been formed in our society.

  13. tonedeaf says:

    stwright, you said,

    …but that isn’t the model that most Christians (in my generation, in my sphere) aspire to by any means.

    I asked,

    I’m curious, stwright, what do most Christians in your generation aspire to?

    You answered,

    I couldn’t really tell you.

    I sounds as if you want to use the thoughts of a group of people to give your thoughts credibility but you don’t know what the thoughts of your groups actually are. Does this make any sense?

  14. stwright says:

    Tonedeaf – Not really. I feel like I’ve already clarified what I meant.

    Saxman – The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, in which this couple sells a piece of land and dishonestly keeps some of the money for themselves rather than giving it all to be distributed. They both dropped dead (literally) when Peter called out their lie. That kind of redefines church leadership, eh? It isn’t the government doing it, by any means, but if you watched them drop dead, you’d hardly be choosing to give all your money to the church purely out of the goodness of your heart anymore, would you? I don’t see that as a big stretch from what you call “forced equalization.”

    Also, we’re talking about “social justice” as understood by what harmonicminer calls “Leftist Christians,” which I argue is much more complex than the dictionary definition you listed.

    harmonicminer – I do love me some Amish. Anyway, I don’t despise “the rich,” as surely the privilege I come from would make me a big hypocrite. What I have come to despise, however, is “the riches.” What would I have those people do? Abandon the riches’ control over their life. Learn how much they have when they give their stuff away. Setting the dinner table and inviting some homeless folks over for some conversation and food. Not “create identical economic situations for themselves and everyone around them,” of course not.

    As far as abortion, a lot of Christian social justice types are into the idea of a “consistent ethic of life,” by which they mean opposing abortion, capital punishment, and war. I don’t think that means they’re out to make getting abortions easier or to help more women abort their babies. The amount of abortions in this country (since I don’t know anything about abortions outside the US), though, is surely a symptom of a bigger problem, a problem even bigger than “getting an abortion is legal.”

  15. tonedeaf says:

    Tonedeaf – Not really. I feel like I’ve already clarified what I meant.

    Indeed you have.

  16. Saxman says:

    Stwright – Do you really believe that what the Bible is saying about Ananias and Sapphira is that because they didn’t give all their money to the church – they were killed? I believe that it was because he lied to the Holy Spirit. The money belonged to God before and after both transactions. If you believe that it was because he didn’t give all the money to the church – I think you miss the whole point.

    The reason I placed a definition was that I wanted to make sure I was understanding what was being discussed. I could see the definition splitting as peoples points were being forwarded. I always go back to the definition of words to make sure the discussion from both sides are on the same topic! Since the dictionaries term is one you believe inadequate – can you pen what you do mean by social justice?

  17. Saxman says:

    Tonedeaf – you are exactly correct. In order for a legitimate debate or even discussion to occur – definitions need to be understood and agreed first. Otherwise, you are not communicating – your just both talking.

  18. harmonicminer says:

    Stwright, you said

    As far as abortion, a lot of Christian social justice types are into the idea of a “consistent ethic of life,” by which they mean opposing abortion, capital punishment, and war. I don’t think that means they’re out to make getting abortions easier or to help more women abort their babies. The amount of abortions in this country (since I don’t know anything about abortions outside the US), though, is surely a symptom of a bigger problem, a problem even bigger than “getting an abortion is legal.”

    I think the “consistent ethic of life” perspective fails because it does not discriminate between virtually ALWAYS unjust taking of human life (abortion) and virtually always just taking of human life (capital punishment), and merely necessary taking of human life (which is usually a mixture of “just” and “unjust”, but difficult or impossible to avoid) in war, self-defense, etc.

    And yes: if you fail to vote for politicians who will pursue policies, laws and judges who will eventually reduce or end legal abortion, then it really doesn’t matter if you’re “out to make getting abortions easier or to help more women abort their babies,” because that will still be the effect of your decisions. Willful blindness to that fact, practiced by many on the left who congratulate themselves on their “consistent ethic of life,” has led to a paralysis of the ability of Christians to undo the Shoah of legal abortion, which they could have done had they merely voted together. There aren’t many policy goals that are less ambiguous, and about which Christians should be in less doubt, than that. After Roe v. Wade, abortion rates went up by a factor of TEN. Roe v. Wade is the original non-just law, the single biggest “social injustice” in American life today.

    And I always wonder at the inability of some Christians to recognize that simple fact.

  19. harmonicminer says:

    Stwright, I don’t quite understand your comment about abandoning “the riches’” control over “their life.” Do you mean you despise the wealth itself? The rich themselves? It isn’t clear to me.

    In either case, your stance is not biblical, I’m afraid. I think you cannot find a passage that supports either. In any case, purely pragmatically speaking, those who have little economically are going to be of very little use in providing relief for those in need. As I read the Bible, I don’t see God hating “the rich” because of their wealth, but rather chastising those who abuse their power, something “the rich” could do in Biblical times that “the rich” in American cannot do to anything approximating the same degree, because our society is governed less by persons than by laws (though not perfectly, of course).

    In Biblical parlance, “the rich” doesn’t mean people with a few extra goats, it means people who have direct, unambiguous political power to do unto their “lessers” as they wish. In Biblical times, if you were rich, and managed to hang onto it, it was because you were well-connected politically, period, and had a likely monopoly on the violent imposition of your will on most others in your life.

    I don’t know if they have taught you this in your classes…. I’m afraid I see a lot of conflation of the ancient rich and modern rich in the interpretation of biblical texts, something possible only for those ignorant of some proportion of history, economics, law and/or scripture.

    As far as I can see, when God was about to bless someone in the Old Testament, he generally promised to make them rich, among other things. And N.T. injunctions aimed at “the rich” are about them abusing their direct physical power over others, not eating a nice lunch in the shade and owning an extra donkey. Of course, we should all give… but that applies to the poor, too, as the NT makes abundantly clear.

  20. innermore says:

    Of course “rich” and “poor” are just examples of deeper issues. According to Moses, somebody wanting what the TV says that someone else has is covetousness, pure and simple. The reason why it’s hard for a rich guy to get into heaven is because even that isn’t enough. In an industrialized society, to be economically rich or poor is a relative term, or at least scalable. So it all must be due to an underlying condition; Gotta Get More Syndrome: materialism addiction stemming from perpetual discontentment. When a rich guy donates to “the poor”, it’s only sustaining the material/personal/spiritual discontentment of both parties, or at least helping each other forget about it for a few minutes. I also think this rampant materialism-worship-sharing is a recent phenomenon as society settles, becomes less invasion-prone, has figured out how to survive, is more affluent, has more free time to sit around and get bored with all the marvelous innovations etc. After awhile there’s nothing else to do but keep amassing more toys, more needs, more rent-a-storage space, more guilt. Meanwhile, any potential spiritual cure is less and less appealing to a more and more materialistically discontent soul.

    Currently, the world has not come up with a solution to this eternally expanding material prosperity futility. It’s probably too big now for religion to fight it much, so I guess we’ll just deny it, and let it play out. Besides, you can’t take it with you when you die. Just store it in your daughter-in-law’s garage.

  21. harmonicminer says:

    Hmm… actually, I think “covetousness” is the emotion/desire of wanting to take away that which someone else possesses, and have it for yourself, not merely the desire to have “another one like it,” which is what TV ads promote.

    Just curious, innermore… but aren’t you promoting some kind of material/spiritual dualism here? Some kind of “spiritual good but material bad” approach? Maybe I’m misunderstanding your intent.

    But idol worship is hardly new. It is the belief that material acquisition is the main point of life, or that the chief way to fulfillment and “happiness” is to satisfy material desires, that is the problem, not the possessions/affluence themselves. Material prosperity is not “futile” as long as it is not understood as being the essential point of life, and, in fact, it can be a means to enable success at more important things.

    It’s hard to be missional when you’re starving yourself, or too busy dodging bullets to contribute to the care of those around you. The essence of the capitalist/free market model, even when you are a rich person buying luxuries for yourself (fancy cars, boats, multiple homes, lots of clothes, pedicures, manicures, beauty treatments, you name it…..) is that all of those purchases benefit all kinds of people who worked in the economic chain that brought those things to you.

    Being rich, and acting rich, and even conspicuously consuming the goods/services of society, is not by definition bad… because it does not harm anyone else, it provides a lot of jobs along the way, and it creates economic capacity to do more things for more people in the society.

    I LIKE rich people, mostly. They are the ones who hire me to write music for them. They are the ones who send their kids to college so I have a teaching job. They are the ones who donate large sums to build structures on campus. They are the season ticket holders to concert series that I arrange music for. And so on.

    There is nothing in Judeo-Christian teaching, properly understood, that should lead anyone to think that God has anything against rich people who do not abuse the power they have… i.e., they honor their contracts, they pay fairly for services and goods, etc.

    I don’t see how the richer donating to the poorer “sustains the material/personal/spiritual discontentment of both parties.” It seems to me that it allows one to eat, and helps the other remember what really matters.

  22. innermore says:

    Covetousness is an unhealthy obsession with having. Matter cannot be defined emotionally, it is not alive; therefore not good or bad. Material, like all THINGS, must be given or taken in moderation by emotional life forms. Otherwise, things can distract from the purpose of life. To promote material, to give things a life; material-ism is the idol that is everywhere, but no-one sees. It cannot be worshiped, but is.

    RE: capitalism. I have been a long-time listener and appreciator of Rush Limbaugh (believe it or not) and he’s always said what you’re talking about very well. But I always must question wisdom. I will speak liberal now for just 2 sentences. Is a minor purpose for being rich to help the poor? As the capitalist model accomplishes this certain economic “balance,” is that an adequate excuse for the most common motivation for being rich: unbridled want? Alright that’s enough. The flaw in this model is that the rich (as a group) have great power over their suppliers. They could stop buying all that stuff tomorrow and not even notice. Whereas the poor guy can’t just stop working for the guy that just stopped selling all that stuff. That’ll put him out on the street. So in order to keep the rich buying and the poor off the streets, our media and government must come up with at least 3 new things a year that the rest of us desperately need that we didn’t need the year before. The middle class must keep the rich richer and the poor off the streets by filling up our lives with more and more useless stuff! Don’t you think that’s materialism, gone a little bit insane? There’s only 24 hours in a day; 15 of which is spent earning the money to pay for all this oppression. I’m running out of time to sleep and shower, let alone tend to all this stuff I’m supposed to really really need. Will this growth spiral ever end? Must every generation have more “opportunity” than the generation before it, forever? It’s not even a question about limited resources. The liberals sold that down the river already. For me it is a question about a corrupted morality. Can there be prosperity without covetous materialism: which is covering up and preserving the real problem: supply-side economics?

    True, God has nothing against rich people. Perhaps it is the rich person who “has it all”, and therefore can find nothing from God. Rich or poor, and anything in-between, means nothing if you’re content. Contentment means no longer in want. There’s 2 kinds of rich people I’ve known. The most common is like you say, idol worship. The rarer rich guy is the one whose riches are more of a burden, or distraction to their passion. They have realized that their wealth has given them power over people, and they didn’t want that. In fact, most of them hate it because they must accept their power and tightly control it, or watch it potentially bring suffering to others.

  23. harmonicminer says:

    Innermore, I was responding to your assertion that simply desiring a thing (even a thing you may not “need”) is covetousness according to the Mosaic law. It is not. Covetousness is nursing the desire to take something that belongs to another, whether or not you do so.

    The close cousin of covetousness is greed, but they are not the same thing. Greed is greatly desiring a thing that is not yours to have (whether or not it “belongs” to someone else), desiring a thing so much that you are willing to do immoral things to have it, or putting your desire for it above everything else, even if you aren’t stealing it or doing anything directly immoral to get it.

    I think you are asking the wrong question when you ask, “Is a minor purpose for being rich to help the poor? As the capitalist model accomplishes this certain economic “balance,” is that an adequate excuse for the most common motivation for being rich: unbridled want?”

    Being rich is an effect, in our culture. It is an effect of ability, determination, self-discipline, and a certain amount of luck. But if “unbridled want” was the primary determiner, virtually everyone would be rich, don’t you think? “Unbridled want” is exceedingly common, and has always been.

    In fact, for most people who are “rich,” the dominant commonality is that they have conquered their “unbridled want” so that they can discipline themselves to spend only on essentials as they build their wealth. You can always find someone who inherited their wealth, of course… but mostly it will be wealth that was created by a predecessor with some degree of “ability, determination, self-discipline, and a certain amount of luck.”

    What if Steve Jobs had spent the money on a new car instead of the parts to build a computer in a garage? What if Bill Gates had spent his time (and money) playing pinball, or bowling, or just hanging out with friends, instead of writing code? Those would be the behaviors of people suffering from “unbridled want,” which is most folks without the discipline to save and moderate their consumption. Do you want to see some “unbridled want”? Go down to the local social services office and count the obese people standing in line because their check didn’t come on time. They want, alright, but not because they are particularly in want.

    People tend to become wealthy in the USA not by explicitly “trying to become rich,” but by doing something they like to do, and being passionate about it, and finding a way to make money doing it. You mentioned Rush, and he’s a perfect example, of someone who was an unknown local broadcaster for quite a while before he become an internationally famous and rich broadcaster, doing the same thing he had been passionately doing all along.

    Most wealthy people in the USA did not inherit it, though they would like to pass it on to their kids.

    The main characteristic of “unbridled want” is that a person can’t avoid spending NOW, for short-term gratification. That is not how “the rich” got that way.

    I’m not quite sure what troubles you that poor people have to keep working. It would be better to celebrate the fact that they have the option to do so, and don’t have to live as subsistence farmers with very short lifespans. You also seem to be concerned about the fact that, for the very first time in human history, it is possible for most people not to be poor. There has never been anything like this before. For just about forever, nearly everyone has been poor nearly always. But it is now possible, if the world adopts the western economic model of relatively free markets, capitalism, and freedom, that in a generation, or two, or three, HUGE numbers of the world now living in poverty could be more or less “middle class.” It really can be. One of the biggest reasons for my utter disdain of the “social justice” blather on the Christian Left is that, if they really cared a bean about the poor, and had bothered to inform themselves of economics and history, they would be the biggest supporters of freedom and free markets, the biggest enemies of socialism, and the biggest activists towards installing western-style free market economies everyplace they could.

    For some reason, the left is deeply concerned with national sovereignty whenever the discussion is whether or not the USA should topple a dictator and install a more democratic, market driven government, but not so concerned with national sovereignty when the issue is illegal aliens flooding the USA.

    Improving the overall economic condition of the human race won’t solve its spiritual problem. But there is nothing to suggest that the poor are any closer to God than the middle-class or “rich.” Nor is there any scriptural basis for the assumption. And there is no evidence, none whatsoever, that the poor are one whit less consumed by greed, covetousness, or “unbridled want” than anyone else.

  24. tonedeaf says:

    harmonic, I would add to you comments here, but you have stated the truth so well, there is nothing left to say. Thanks.

  25. innermore says:

    You speak well, Shack. Hmmmm. Can we both admit that we both paint a classic strawman rich guy and poor guy? The poor will always be with us. That is just how human society is constructed. Perhaps the American poor person is the richest poor person to ever walk the earth, which is encouraging to us. But that doesn’t seem to be encouraging him much, although we keep trying. It is exasperating to see Mr. and Ms. Foodstamp step-family with their grocery carts over-stacked with pop, chips, and frozen pizzas. That frustration is compounded when the government gives away our treasure for votes, and our media insults us with the guilt trip they call social justice. Sure, we’ve tried educating and inspiring them with the whole western capitalism opportunity model encouragement thing, but that doesn’t seem to be enough either.

    I say, it doesn’t matter how we think we should help “them”. The poor will continue to think they are poor, (even if they are rich) as long as society has a reason to encourage his discontentment, and especially his ignorance of it. Perhaps unacted-upon covetousness (in our minds) isn’t the right word. It is “acceptable discontentment” as our society’s cause for defining class, and more importantly, pursuing higher class. It doesn’t matter how rich you get, if you are discontent, preferably unknowingly indoctrinated to be discontent, you are forever poor, trying to be rich; and for “good” reason.

    Maybe spirituality does relate to economics. I guess I go a little further than you by saying: improving the overall economic condition of the human race may make his spiritual problem worse, or at least more distracted. And that’s not to say that economic improvement is a bad (or good) thing. Why do we want to improve economic development in the first place? Maybe if we focused more on that higher priority of spiritualistic improvement, the need for economic improvement will become less and less urgent or valuable. Therefore a bit more possible(?), maybe. Yes, I know the other-hand. Affluence frees up the luxury time to think about spiritual things. But when does our pursuit of happiness take up too much of our spiritual time?

    There’s something to be learned from the old story of the poor kid from the hood whose close (religious) family looked after his spiritual needs first; probably because they could offer nothing else. Then at some point, as the happy child inevitably becomes “successful”, he has the “opportunity” to look around and be surprised at all the “things” he’s been missing. On some level, he was content in his “ignorance of poverty” until he was made to realize he was “poor”. As he judges himself as being poor, his happiness now has a new, unexpected adversary. He has unwittingly been put on the endless path of material discontentment, and now he must spend nearly all of his mental and spiritual energy overcoming it. On the surface, we call this process part of “the American Dream”. I’m sorry to be so cynical, and you’re right, it’s better to feel proud. A dream is the best we’ve come up with so far. I’m just glad you never said it was perfect.

  26. harmonicminer says:

    Innermore, if I understand your points, we both acknowledge that economic security does not automatically bring people closer to God. That’s what I meant when I said, “Improving the overall economic condition of the human race won’t solve its spiritual problem.”

    I think there is some truth in your statement that, “Maybe if we focused more on that higher priority of spiritualistic improvement, the need for economic improvement will become less and less urgent or valuable. Therefore a bit more possible(?), maybe.”

    I would not say that, “the need for economic improvement will become less and less urgent or valuable,” if we are working harder at getter our spiritual houses in order, but I would affirm that, if we do, it will become “a bit more possible” for our culture to be economically prosperous.

    Economic improvement isn’t made less necessary by drawing closer to God. In fact, the closer we draw to God, the more we want to be responsible for ourselves and take care of others, starting with our own families. But I do believe that “free markets, the rule of law, and freedom” only work well in a culture where the majority of people are behaving in more or less moral ways, economically. The Founders knew this, and many made comments to the effect that democracy and republicanism are fit systems of government only for a moral people who acknowledge their Creator.

    Unfortunately, the combination of freedom and democracy, in the absence of a moral underpinning supplied by faith in God and His teachings, can result in a majority that votes for itself bread and circuses from the public largesse, meaning, of course, legalized theft in the form of taxation and redistribution, more or less without limit since the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. The way our electorate is functioning now, it seems that certain sectors of society will vote almost exclusively for the politician who promises the most benefits from the public treasury.

    If the class of takers continues to grow, and the class of makers continues to shrink, we will prove that democracy, freedom, free markets, etc., only works for a few generations before the “unbridled want” and covetousness of the masses (NOT the rich) destroys the system.

    So yes, the acknowledgment of our responsibilities to God and (economically) moral living DO undergird economic success for the society as whole, over the long term. And even for individuals, prospects are pretty good for people who finish some kind of education and get a job, don’t make babies out of wedlock, get married and stay married, stay out of jail, don’t get addicted, and don’t succumb to “unbridled want” by spending money they don’t have… yet. There aren’t many “poor” people in our society for whom all the above are true who will STAY “poor” for a generation; and if they succeed in passing these values along to their own kids, that generation will do far better.

    So yes: Godly (which reflects in moral) living does tend to result in material prosperity, though of course there will be many exceptions and qualifiers. Please note, I am not promoting some kind of “prosperity gospel,” nor am I “judging” the poor as individuals or “blaming the victim.” I am making essentially sociological observations about trends in society, and which patterns of belief and behavior seem to correlate with economic success.

    Multi-generational poverty in the modern USA is almost exclusively a spiritual problem.

  27. innermore says:

    Brother, it has been a pleasure kicking stones around along the vast riverbed of your mind. But I’m afraid you have exhausted me on this train of thought.
    2 phrases I’d say to a liberal:
    Compassion without morals is tyranny.
    (soft version for moral liberals)
    You will not make a moral society by making people do good things.
    Of course I must karmically offend a conservative and say: don’t just tell a guy to get a job, give him yours.

    I think what you’re saying is: Godly living does not expect prosperous results. Or perhaps Godly living only expects prosperous results for others. Or even, Godly living will eventually produce prosperity; but usually not the kind of prosperity one would expect. AND hopefully not the kind of prosperity that would distract or overshadow the Godly life.

    Sorry but I think we’re far beyond just “certain sectors of our society” who are obsessed with (almost forcibly) getting something for nothing. Today, if you’re not seeking and getting something for nothing you’d better seek psychological help. Our government/media, nearly down to a local level, is a huge vending machine that takes free tokens. Our monetary system is a joke because of it, to where the only difference between the rich and poor is a few bits of binary floating in space. (Do you know of anyplace that just takes cash anymore?) In fact, I’m being positively oppressed by this State-sponsored “unbridled want”. I’m supposed to have an orgasm 3 times a day, a divorce at least twice by now, addiction to EVERYTHING, and a huge tax refund every year. And if I object to all this prosperity, then I must be a religious nut or an alcoholic. Public treasury? What public treasury? That’s all been spent 20 times over, don’t you know? We make wayyyy more profit selling our debt than we ever could by having a public treasury! I don’t think I’m being overly cynical in saying that we have already been overcome by this immorality disguised as free prosperity. In the old days, tyranny controlled the masses through torture and death. Nowadays it’s through cash and merchandise. We haveconfirmed that “democracy, freedom, free markets, etc., only works for a few generations before the “unbridled want” and covetousness of the masses (NOT the rich) destroys the system.” Who knows what’ll happen next? Maybe a nation in decline is part of its healthy evolution. Maybe the pole shift on 12/11/2012 will fry us all to a crisp anyway.

    But seriously, I don’t see a strong enough solution other than forced dismantlement. At this point, righteousness is rarely popular, and truth is always too elusive to too many. Revolution is very scary and destructive. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and have a real leader come along and drag what’s left of us back from the cliff. I have my doubts. There’s too many things a real leader is not allowed to say.

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