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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Search For Maintaining A True Conservatism

Russell Ronald "R.R." Reno (click here for a bio) has just written an article for the conservative Cathlolic website, First Things (click here for the website) that is both a warning and a plea regarding the need for Conservatives to update the way they see the world (click here for the article). Why is such an update needed? It is because, according to Reno, there has been a disturbance in the liberal force. Liberalism has changed and thus poses a new threat. It poses a new threat because unlike the liberalism of the past, it is now using big government to compel us to accept 'plenary liberation and economic growth.'

It's not that liberals have never used big government before. After all, Reno complains about how big government was used to address racism, sexism, and poverty when he was younger. But now big government consists of the expanded use of the judicial system to change the world. In addition, unlike past liberalism that seemed to have unintentionally followed some of Pope Leo XIII's directives on keeping what is necessary to maintain an healthy society, today's liberalism is looking to move society to accept beliefs and practices that totally lie outside of Pope Leo XIII's instructions. What did Pope Leo XIII say that was necessary for a healthy society? He wrote about how the family and domestic part of life, the religious part of life, and Civic life for our political needs were all essential  for a good society. And when these three areas of life are in balance, the political life open as to how to be constructed so that the common good is advanced. And, of course, Reno believes that the Church, that is the Roman Church, has the answers to what best advances the common good.


However now, both family part of life and the religious part of life are under attack by big government forcing some to accept, what is for them, the unacceptable while others seem to be willing to swallow the new values of the 21st Century hook, line, and sinker. Thus because of the Sexual Revolution, the family part of life seems to be slowly dying from the American scene. And because of that, fewer Americans see getting married and having children as being important or even necessary. What follows then is that fewer Americans consider the consequences in the future when it comes to values and beliefs. And that is another part of the disturbance in the liberal force for this represents a change in liberalism and its causes. In addition, the religious part of our nation's life is faltering.

Certainly there is more to the current disturbance in the liberal force than what is being mentioned here. Reno also mentions identity politics along with the over emphasis on the economics through economic globalism. In addition, there is the blaming of government for the corruption of Capitalism.

One of Reno's primary concerns in the article is the survival of the West. And thus he finds what students learn about the West in school to be disconcerting. For too many students have come to associate homophobia, racism, and imperialism with the West. This has, in Reno's view caused a kind of guilt that might make people think that the West is not worth preserving. This guilt, according to Reno, is due to Secularism's overreach that collective guilt now exists for past and present failures.

Now Reno talks about other things such as his pragmatic based support for Trump,  but what has been described above is enough to chew on. We should note that being a religiously conservative Christian, Reno is prone to embracing authoritarianism. That is because conservative Christianity relies heavily on authority structures in teaching people how to relate to others. And his view of the centrality of the Church in society is evidence that he clings to it. For he writes:

I was finishing graduate school when Richard John Neuhaus launched First Things. His outlook seemed right. Again, I wasn’t thinking in Leo XIII’s terms in those days. But I can now see that Neuhaus recognized that our society needed the renewal of the moral authority of traditional institutions, especially marriage and Church, in order to restore the Leonine balance.

We should note that Neuhaus was responding to the exclusion of religious thought in public discussions. However, the mention of the 'moral authority' of the Church implies more than just having a seat at the table of issues.

We should also include what he writes about Secularism:
Secularism takes things out of God’s hands—and puts them in ours.
 
Or we could add Reno's claim that only the Church can help one to adequately respond to guilt. Secularism might heap guilt on to people, but that it often does that falsely and it offers no remedy for that guilt. This makes society utterly dependent on the Church and independent of Secularism. Of course, this claim is made without reciting the many historical failures of the Church in justly ruling over people in society.

But what most indicates Reno's embracing of authoritarianism is the essential part to a healthy society he believes the Church plays. For such a belief concludes that there has never been a healthy society without the Church playing a key role. And the problem such a view presents is in the area where Christians ask themselves how they will share society with others. Will they share society as equals? Or will we share society feeling entitled to enjoying a privileged position where we can at least partially control society through, of all things, government? 

Those who feel entitled to enjoying to such a privileged position often act as the proverbial bull in a china shop when it comes to recognizing their own faults. Evidence for this kind of acting can be seen in Reno's analysis of the French Revolution. For before the Revolution, the Church sided with wealth and power as the state transferred more and more burdens on the peasant class while enriching and empowering the nobles and the clergy. But Reno doesn't mention any of that. Reno's calloused reactions to the protests of the 60s as well as his defensive reactions to the accusations that the racism, homophobia, and imperialism were key parts of the West provides another example of this bull in a china shop attitude.

What Reno fails to mention is that the 21st Century's challenges to conservatism are due to the legitimate concerns found in Post Modernism. Though while Post Modernism falsely conclude that the metanarratives of Pre Modernism or Modernism are not true, that it made that judgment is largely the fault of institutions like the conservative Church in the West for it failures to acknowledge the injustices it visited or caused others to visit on those from different races, religions, nations, and sexual orientation. For all of the injustices were, and sometimes still are, real and could be quite severe. But feeling entitled to have a privileged place over others somehow robs one of self-awareness and makes one resist feeling guilty for how their use of privilege has hurt others because they are so focused on the 'good' they have done.

Finally, quite often the interest in preserving the West, which is a concern of Reno, indicates, not implies, some racial overtones. Why? That's because the West that was predominant and branched out into empires all over the world, including America, was a White European West. And since many who see the low birthrate in Europe as a sign of doom, what they are saying is that not enough White people are being born. In addition, there are a sufficient number of prominent Christian leaders who have spoken  at meetings of organizations that seem to promote White Supremacy. Sometimes, the appearance of a Christian leader at such a group's event is unrelated to the group's racism. But that other such leaders do have some leanings into White Supremacy is unmistakable. And though I've seen no indication in the Reno writings with which I am familiar that say that Reno leans that way, the concern for the preservation of the West or Western Civilization raise red flags that there could be some racist leanings by the person with such a concern.






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 24, 2017

May 17

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on inclusiveness and exclusiveness for the Church. He talks about people being included in and excluded from the Church. But he also mentions the Church being put on the margins by culture. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Certainly there is a necessary exclusion when it comes to the Church. John tells us in his first epistle that only those who believe in Jesus as who He is and has been defined by God's Word and who love those who believe are Christians. And Jesus told us that the summation of the 2nd table of the law is to love one's neighbor as oneself. He also provided the parable of the Good Samaritan as example of how one is to be a neighbor to someone. If we are followers of Jesus, regardless of being imperfect, we will pursue His commandments.

But there is a missing dimension here as well. That dimension regards how inclusive/exclusive we are when sharing society with others. And this is perhaps where we receive the bulk of our criticisms and thus the primary reason why we begin to find ourselves being marginalized in society. We have been too exclusive in terms of how we share society with others. In the past, our exclusion of others has revolved around religious faith, denominational beliefs and identity, and race. Today, the key factors that determines whether many of us religiously conservative Christians wish to exclude others from being equal members of society are sexual orientation and identification. In short, it is disingenuous to cry martyr because we are shunned for trying to marginalize the LGBT community in society.  Some of us have also been trying to exclude people based on religious faith and/or national identity when it comes to responding to immigrants and refugees.

So why are some crying martyr over such actions? Perhaps it is because some Christian leaders, in order to cement their position in and control over the flock, have created a religious persecution industry here in America. For it isn't real persecution when we are marginalized for trying to marginalize others in society. It is real persecution when we are marginalized when trying to promote equality while preaching God's Word. And while God's Word requires that we preach against the sexual orientation and identity embraced by the LGBT community, there is nothing there that tells us to persecute that community by trying to marginalize them in society. And certainly God's Word opposes the idea of excluding the vulnerable such as immigrants and refugees from society.


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May 21

To  R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote of Ben Sasse who described John Dewey's design for education of displacing parents because of their "petty" concern for the welfare of their students. This appeared in Heidelblog.

The comment shows an ignorance to the reality that schools face with their children as well as the purpose of schools. According to the quote, the purpose of schools is to make sure nothing changes from generation to generation--kids have to be literate and traditions have to be passed down. But what should schools do for those whose handed down traditions need challenging? After all, some kids are neglected or raised in unstable homes or raised by ignorant or bigoted parents? How should schools then prepare children for the future? And isn't the purpose of education there to challenge what has been accepted to further critical thinking skills?

The above is not there for schools to usurp a child's parents' authority. Nor are schools there to overthrow all tradition.  But schools should not be totally submissive to the parents. There are too many other significant stakeholders in the education process for that to be acceptable. Teachers, for example, have specialized training that parents do not have. And so  shouldn't teachers have a say in what is taught? And doesn't society have a say in what is taught since society is the recipient of the children it educates?

Schools are not there to aid in the production of Stepford Children. In addition, the producing of such children sabotages the Sasse's goal of the article from which his quote is taken: That goal is to produce adults, Their goal isn't to produce adult children who cannot be intellectually independent.

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May 23

To Joe Carter and his blogpost video that provides a simplistic model in trying to argue against tariffs and protectionism. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The value of any model is how well it simulates the reality it tries to portray. Now one doesn't have to understand everything about the model to realize its problems. First of all, what is called wasted resources is based on a limited set of considerations. For example, if the long range benefits of a tariff outweigh the present costs involved, then should we call the difference between domestic costs and world costs wasted? But let's forget the long range benefits assuming we are too impatient to wait for them. Are there benefits not mentioned in the video to the state of Florida to house domestic producers of sugar? For example, what about the workers who work at those domestic plants? Do they, and the communities and the state of Florida, benefit from the domestic production of sugar in Florida? IN addition, not all factors are being discussed here. For example, what if the supply of goods from other nations has reduced costs because of gov't subsidies for the production of those goods? Then doesn't free trade prohibit the nation consuming a particular set of goods from having its domestic producers being able to compete with the world producers? Such limits, if not destroys, the ability of domestic producers from growing and learning how to reduce its production costs. And that limits a particular nation's ability to diversify its economy.

But we might also argue from history. America used tariffs, against the standing economic advice of the day, to build up different sectors of its domestic economy. This allowed domestic producers to expand and even lower their production costs. This made our economy stronger.

The model presented in the video is meant to prohibit change within the economies of weaker nations. It prevents them from using the protectionist tools to grow and diversify their economies which nations like the U.S. used when it was a developing nation. Thus, this argument for free trade and against protectionism is an argument that is designed to keep the status quo regardless of the harm the status quo might be doing to the economies and people of a given developing nation. And that argument also defends the place of those nations that already benefited the most from protectionism and currently maintains today's status quo for those same nations. Basically, and this is not my terminology, enforcing free trade and prohibiting protectionism from being practiced by developing nations has been called 'kicking away the ladder.'


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To Rev. Ben Johnson’s blogpost that claims that liberty and collectivism, or Christianity and Marxism, are opposing political systems and theologies. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The trouble with the article above is that it does not give the complete, or even accurate, picture of the competing systems. Collectivism as represented by Marxism, which is not a monolith in the first place, isn't competing with Christianity unless Christianity fully supports bourgeoisie control of society. In addition, liberty itself is not a monolith. For we have at least two kinds of liberty to talk about: individual liberty and corporate liberty. We call the latter kind of liberty 'democracy' for it is in a fully functioning democracy that corporate liberty is fully expressed. And so what is at odds with the notion of liberty described above is not just the Marxism, which is inadequately described above, but democracy. In addition, Christianity does not support individual liberty if that liberty is used to neglect or exploit the vulnerable. And if Christianity doesn't support that kind of liberty, then collectivism is not opposed to Christianity. Instead,  collectivism is oppose to what is today called 'conservative libertarianism. While those who do support that misuse of liberty are the privileged who support bourgeoisie control of society.

We should also note that in his book Anti-Capitalism, Ezquiel Adamovsky rejects the notion that Marx presented his ideas has being scientific. Rather, it was Engels who made that claim about Marx's ideas.

Finally, there is a religious perspective that both Marxism and its real chief rival, Capitalism, share. That religious perspective is that both are promising a materialistic utopia. Now Marx, and I say this as a person who leans toward Marxism, wrongfully believed that an absolute utopia could be established not through what was described above, but through a proletariat dictatorship. That is because such a dictatorship, which was actually a partial democracy, would so distribute goods and services that people would find true freedom. Capitalism also promises a utopia based on the distribution of goods. Only its utopia is relative when it claims to provide the very best distribution of goods possible. The problem here is that both systems are based in materialism. And materialism is, according to Christianity, nothing more than idolatry. We should note that neither system is a monolith and thus both systems have multiple variations that try to address these problems. But in the end, Marxism and Capitalism are two sides of the same coin.

Why I lean toward Marxism is not because of its materialism, I reject that. It is because I see in Marxism a greater potential for bringing people together to cooperate and collaborate in deciding how they will live. And its strength won't be found in the efficiency and effectiveness of the decisions made; its strength is found in the process of cooperating and collaborating.







Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Where We Are Now

Several people have written about what causes the death of a republic in general, and our republic specifically. More than a few years ago, historian Chalmers Johnson associated the pursuit of empire with the death of a republic. He noted how with Roman Empire, the pursuit and maintenance of its empire costed Rome its Republic. He then pointed out the Great Britain decided to forego the keeping of its empire in order to hold on to its Republic. He then brought up the question of what America will choose seeing that it too has an empire.

Chris Hedges just wrote an article about the death of a republic (click here for the article). He was referring to the U.S. and he listed the signs that indicate our republic's demise. He attributes that death to ambitious men who stealthily seize power by using democratic process and provide the illusion that those processes still work. While politicians work to provide the facade of a republic, Hedges sees corporations that have bought control of the government as the main culprit.

Paul Krugman also just wrote an article on how republics die (click here for the article). Krugman sees career politicians as being the ones who are attacking our republic. Unlike Hedges, he does not believe that our republic is dead. However, he does not think that, our republic is getting better and thus is ready to go for a walk.

Who is right about the identity of those who are destroying the Republic? My guess is that all three are partially correct. The mistake for each of them is that the did not consider that other parties are also guilty with the ones they've identified.


But perhaps there is one more conspirator who is working to end our republic. That conspirator is us, the American people. How can the rest of us be guilty too? Think about it. We don't vote on issues that determine the health of our republic; we vote on financial issues.  We vote for those who will provide jobs and promise new prosperity. We vote for those who promise not to interfere with our pursuit of happiness especially when that pursuit includes accumulating as much wealth as possible.

Martin Luther King Jr. described today's society perfectly when speaking out against the Vietnam War in 1967. That is right; in 1967, he described the American society of 2017. How is that possible? Could he look into the future to see what we would become? No he didn't. Rather, we have not changed from how he described American society in 1967. How did he describe us? He said the following (click here for source):

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

King's comment cuts across the Marxist-Capitalist divide--and I say that as a person who leans toward Marxism. For both systems promise some sort of utopia based on materialism. And for as long as we pursue a materialistic utopia, we will condemn ourselves to suffer the evils that King warned against. For as long as we count gadgets, profits, and property rights as being more important than people, we will suffer from racism, materialism, and militarism. Why? Because for as long as things are more important than people, we will compete for the obtaining and securing of these things in groups. And our group participation in that competition lends itself to tribalism. And tribalism blinds us from valuing others and seeing the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. We might also add what the Scriptures say about the love of money (click here for the reference).

The election of Trump and how people voted showed that too many of us put a higher priority on things than people. That is most evident in the case of Trump voters as he promised to bring back American prosperity to those who lost their portion of it. Those Trump supporters did not question Trump's promises or care to ask about the costs of Trump's proposals. For such questions could wake them up from their daydreaming about the future. So they focused solely on the return of some glorious past. And though Hillary offered more fringe benefits to a wider audience than Trump, she and many of her fellow Democrats had been working to ensure that people with wealth would be the primary beneficiaries of their policies. After all, that what Obamacare was all about.


In essence, Chalmers, Hedges, and Krugman are all correct regarding the identity of the ones who is killing our republic. They are all correct but not exclusively so. Those who pursue empires, those who have significant wealth but never have enough, and career politicians are all seeking to finish off our republic. And while we are more concerned with things than with people, then we have joined them as being enemies of any republic because we have shown ourselves to be no different than those who continually pursue more wealth and power. For as long as we vote for those who care more about prosperity than about those who are less fortunate, we show ourselves to be thing-oriented. And for as long as we vote for those who for those who care more about generating more wealth than about how we can share and work with each other, we plead guilty to being thing-oriented. And for as long as we are thing-oriented, not only will we suffer the fate described by King, we will be handing over the keys of our republic to those who promise prosperity for us but deliver wealth and power for only chosen few.



Monday, May 22, 2017

ONIM For May 22, 2017

If you are not sure about the validity of a news story linked to below, you can use  mediabiasfactcheck.com to check out the credibility of the source of most of the stories linked to here.


Christian News

World News

Protest News

Trump News

Pick(s) Of The Litter

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Fair Conservative Christian Look At Socialism

If you look at any modern, religiously conservative Christian critique of Socialism, what you will get is a politically skewed interpretation. In addition, most religiously conservative reviews of Socialism I've read treat Socialism as a monolith and prefer to use "Leftist" political failures from the past as warnings to any inclination to try Socialism in the future. One only needs to read the appeals against following Bernie Sanders' socialist claims to see evidence for this.

But a fair, though not perfect, assessment of Socialism from a Fundamentalist point of view is available if you are willing to go old school. Charles R. Erdman (click here for a bio) wrote an essay called The Church And Socialism for the multi volume set called The Fundamentals (click here for info). The Fundamentals contains a collection of essays written from 1910 to 1915. We should note that Erdman's essay was written prior to the Russian Revolution of October, 1917 (click here for Erdman's essay).

Yes, Erdman's essay contained some erroneous notions  of Socialism. And considering that because Socialism has gone through some changes since the 1910s, Erdman's essay needs updating, Still Erdman provides an excellent example of how to write a fair assessment of an ideology with which one disagrees.

How does Erdman show integrity in his evaluation of Socialism? Quite simply, Erdman both makes distinctions between the various kinds of Leftist thought known to him at the time and he clearly presented the legitimate concerns that Socialism addresses. If only modern conservative Christian leaders would write such honorable critiques of different faiths and ideologies that compete with their own faith, conservative Christianity would be held in higher esteem than it is now. For it seems that one of the most common complaints about today's religiously conservative Christians is that we lack objectivity and a sense of fairness when evaluating different perspectives.

When reading Erdman's essay, we easily observe how he distinguished Socialism from Anarchism, Communism, and Popular Socialism. It might be that he had Bolshevism in mind when discussing Popular Socialism's hostility to religion. For it was Lenin, a Bolshevist, who strongly denounced religion by calling it the 'opium of the people.' Lenin said that because the religion of his day, the Orthodox branch of the Christian Church to be specific, told workers to suffer through being exploited while it told business owners that individual acts of charity could make up for exploiting one's employees (click here for source). Because we Christians embrace a spiritual ideology (a.k.a., theology), we might assume that Lenin said those things from an ideological perspective. I believe that Lenin's analysis of religion (a.k.a.,  a form of conservative Christianity) came from observation. Such presents the Church with serious indictments.


Erdman's notes Socialism's concern with righting wrongs when he writes:
because the strength of Socialism consists largely in its protest against existing social wrongs

and 
Socialism is, however, something else than a scientific economic theory, or a popular materialistic philosophy, it is a serious protest against the social wrongs and cruelties of the age, against the defects of the present economic system, against special privilege and entrenched injustice, against prevalent poverty, and hunger, and despair. It is not always an intelligent protest. 

Early in his essay, Erdman describes socialism as consisting of big government, collective ownership, and an abolition of private capital rather than private property. Erdman notes that Socialism's keeping of private property distinguishes it from Communism. But here, we need to distinguish between Socialism and Socialism in the Marxist tradition. For in the Marxist tradition, who was leading the government is more important than the size of government. Thus, without the 'proletariat dictatorship,' we have no socialism. This is a point that Erdman missed. In addition, for Marx, the abolition of say religion or private capital exists when these entities do not control the laws passed by government. So though both religion and private capital can exist, if common men can pass laws that govern them, then they have been abolished in a real sense. This also points to Marx's concern with who is in control of government.

Now Erdman is correct in how he both criticizes Popular Socialism for its hatred of those with wealth and in mentioning that many Socialists do not follow the lead of Popular Socialism in that regard. Erdman's criticism of Popular Socialism on this point could be, though I am not sure it was, grounded in the parable of the two men praying where the one who proclaims himself to be righteous looks down at the publican who was counted as being the worst sinner in society during Jesus's time. 

However, Erdman overstates his case when he criticizes Popular Socialism and Socialism when it relies on the elevation of society as a way of improving people. Erdman clearly states that the Christian approach here is that the only way to improve society is by regenerating its individuals first. But there is no theological justification for saying that. It would be one thing to say that regeneration is required to bring people into the Kingdom of God. It is quite another to say what Erdman said. For we are, in part, a product of our surroundings. This is why conscientious parents work hard to provide the kind surroundings that will help their children to become decent people. What Erdman says about the necessity of regenerating indviduals to improve society is nothing more than claiming that Christianity has a monopoly on improving people.

Erdman is correct in criticizing Christian Socialism as being neither Christian nor Socialism. And here we need to heed his warning because a temptation for Christians who are Socialists is to let their ideology at least partially define their Christianity. However, The Church, while not backing any particular political party or ideology, should speak prophetically to the injustices that result from the policies of any political party or ideology. For it is one thing for the Church to observe and speak out against injustices carried out by governments and in the name of ideologies, it is quite another to say this is the political ideology that the Scriptures tell us to pursue.

Overall, Erdman sees Socialism and Christianity as operating on two different spheres. He is strongly opposed to Popular Socialism but he is not necessarily against the idea of Christians being Socialists provided that they don't mix them together too much. Erdman was not a Socialist. And again, he opposes the idea of a Christian Socialism even though he notes that both Christians and Socialist can share some concerns.

Erdman says many other things on Christianity and Socialism which are well worth reading. But what we should note most of all is what was pointed to at the beginning. That is Erdman is fairn when dealing with the subject of Socialism. His fairness does not imply that he was always correct in his statements about it. But his fairness does provide an excellent example for the rest of us Christians to follow when we are evaluating the ideologies of different believers as well as unbelievers.



 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 17, 2017

April 10

To Joe Carter and his blogpost about how last century’s fundamentalism can teach us about people falling away from the faith. Part of that discussion included how socialism was a side issue that should be included in the discussion. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

The strength of Christian Fundamentalism as originally defined is that it focuses our attention on essentials of the faith: the supernatural characteristics of Jesus and what that implies in his vicarious death for our sins and the inerrancy of the original autographs of the Scriptures. The weakness of Christian Fundamentalism as it started is that it lacked a self-awareness of how the other beliefs, especially social political ideologies, could have been more inspired by men than the Scriptures. For while the distinction between Christian Fundamentalism and theological liberalism revolved around the acceptance of the supernatural vs reducing all of reality to the physical, one side was clearly championing what was taught in the Scriptures. But  when the difference between them rested on secondary issues, such as the political ideologies adopted by the followers of each movement or on the social gospel, then being able to distinguish who was rightfully interpreting the Scriptures and who wasn't became complicated. What modern religiously conservative American Christians often do is to see Socialism, and the social gospel too, as having nothing to teach and everything to learn. Thus, when discussing the fundamentalists vs modernist/liberal theology divide, every political-economic ideology or practice that could possibly be associated with the secondary issues of political ideologies and the social gospel was seen as an affront to the Gospel

There is something that we need to note about Socialism back in the days of the first Christian Fundamentalists. Because it was often associated with the Soviet Union's Communism, it was sometimes thought of as being synonymous with that and thus thought of as being monolithic. Fortunately, the link to Erdman's article on Socialism does not make that mistake. Erdman is careful in distinguishing anti-capitalist movements like Socialism, Popular Socialism (that is the popular version of his day), Communism, and Anarchism. However, he fails to point out that Marxism is more about the redistribution of power than the redistribution of wealth. Therefore, Erdman's view of the three isms mistakenly revolves around  the redistribution of wealth. For when ordinary men could make laws that controlled the behavior of the wealthy, Marx saw that as the abolition of property. On the other hand, Erdman correctly sees the elevation in morality of workers over the wealthy as being wrong and unbiblical.

What we should note is that today's Socialism is not the Socialism Erdman saw. Today's Socialism is more diverse. For example, there are many Socialists who reject the notion that Socialism can lead mankind into some utopian state. Instead, they promote Socialism as being an improvement over Capitalism.

 
Finally, we should note that like Marxism, Capitalism is extremely materialistic and utopian and thus represents two sides of the same coin. For where Marx believed in an absolute utopia, many Capitalists imply a belief in a relative utopia by  boasting that their system is the best system and cannot be significantly improved on by any other system. And because both Marxism and Capitalism focus on materialism by determining the distribution of goods, it matters not which side turns up after a coin flip. That is because emphasizing materialism cannot create any kind of absolute or relative utopia let alone improve society. Being thing-oriented, as Martin Luther King Jr. would put it, puts different groups at odds against each other over the competition for material goods. That is why King declared that for as long as society is thing-oriented, which is when society counts gadgets, profits, and property rights as being more important than people, we will always have racism, materialism/economic exploitation, and war/militarism. Perhaps that is because for as long as groups are at odds with each other over the accumulation of things for their own, tribalism reigns. And tribalism basically says what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom. In addition, tribalism robs us of objectivity when assessing the faults of our own group and the merit of other groups. Instead, for Socialism to contribute to society, it must work as a facilitator  that brings all groups of people together to work on how to make society more just and sufficiently prosperous.


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May 13

To Albert Mohler and his blogpost talk on when should we stand with or stand apart from others. This talk is mostly about when Christians should align themselves with or turn their back to those who claim to be believers. But there are two small segments that address how and when we should position ourselves with unbelievers.This  appeared in the Gospel Coalition Website.

While most of Mohler's talk was about when to stand with or apart from others who claim to be believers, two parts of his talk dealt with when to do the same with unbelievers in society.
What Mohler said almost at the 37 minute mark was that Christianity had lost the battle in its control of culture. That tells us much about how Mohler sees the relationship between Christians and their society. It says that Christians should have privileged place over others in society so that they can exercise a measure of control over cultural values. That rules out Christians from sharing society with others as equals.

At the end, Mohler states that we can work with unbelievers provided that it involves no compromising of values and faith. But in warning us about the continued sexual revolution as exhibited through the LGBT Equal Rights Movement, he leaves some ambiguity though a betting man would know where to place his wager. Yes, we must preach what the Bible says about sexuality. But can a Bible believing Christian support equal rights, including Same-Sex Marriage, in society just like we would support freedom of religion even for those faiths that we see as being antithetical, and thus heretical, to our own?
Mohler doesn't say much about how we participate in causes with unbelievers. One could interpret that as suggesting that he advises us to be minimally involved in joint causes with unbelievers. Such might indicate, again, a view that says that Christians should not share society with others as equals. Rather, they should semi-shun them and stick with their own kind. And while Mohler rightfully complains about Christians succumbing to the continuation of the Sexual Revolution, what he misses is this: For as long as we religiously conservative Christians do not work to share society with others as equals, we put fellow believers, especially those who are young adults and younger, who have been deeply influenced by Post Modernism into a position of choosing between a false dichotomy between opposing both inequality and oppression and believing what God's Word has to say. As this choice applies to the LGBT community, Mohler's position has asked Millennial Christians to choose between marginalizing the LGBT community by opposing their equality in society and Biblical sexual standards.
Though Mohler gave an interesting historical perspective of how different Christian denominations arose and joined forces. The most pressing issue for today is how religiously conservative American Christians should relate to unbelievers in society.

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May 14

To Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg and his blogpost condemning those who participated in the March for Science. The basis for the condemnation was that these protesters had embrace an ideology of materialistic reductionism. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

If any article exhibits what is the greatest threat to our nation, it is this article. Why? It is because the greatest threat to our nation is that we have divided ourselves into groups that no longer listen to each other. And because we no longer listen to each other, we are even more inclined than before to take control and rule over others rather than to discuss with each other in order to collaborate with them.

While there are a multitude of charges made against all who marched for the sciences as if all who marched form a monolith, there is no evidence provided to support any of the charges. Rather, these charge are deductively arrived at after demonizing another group. In addition, the charges are vague and/or are inconsistent.

Take the first set of accusations against those who marched for science. They include the charge that the marchers are both ideologically enslaved and are data-driven rather than bing principle-driven. The first problem with these charges is that to be principle-driven, one becomes ideological. But if one is ideologically enslaved, then one is principle-driven rather than data driven. Thus, there is a contradiction if being data-driven and principle-driven are opposites.

We might also note that because one supports the sciences, it does not mean that one embraces materialistic reductionism. That would be the case if one believes that science is the only source of knowledge. We might also add that Capitalism is also materialistic. But that doesn't mean that its followers are necessarily materialistic. That would be the case only if one reduced reality to what is learned in business.

Now we might ask how Rummelsburg arrived at his conclusions regarding the participants of the march. Did he use research to identify all of the beliefs of the participants or is such data unnecessary for him to make such a sweeping generalization because he is principle-driven? And if he doesn't use data, how can he verify his conclusions or does he think he needs to?

Furthermore, there is nothing inherently good or bad about being data-driven or principle-driven. Why? Because both are such generic descriptions that by themselves, they carry no implications. Thus, additional information is needed. Thus we need to ask which data  and which principles are being compared. And this is something that Rummelsburg consistently avoids discussing. He avoids talking about the details of why people were marching.

The details include Trump's plans to cut funding for scientific research in climate change, medicine and heathcare. With the former, both the EPA and NASA would have funds dealing with environmental and climate change research cut. In addition, the EPA would lose much of their ability to use regulations to protect the environment. With the latter, the NIH would receive a significant cut in funds and there also exists the possibility of structural changes that could hamper the CDC from operating at its current level. Since the march, we could also include Trump's desire to cut funding that supports the effort to continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. If we read why, we find that all of this is due to a politically conservative ideology that wants to reduce the size of the government. And if we follow the money, we see this reduction in the size of government via these cuts in scientific research makes cutting taxes for the wealthy more plausible. Seeing that there are no moral grounds for opposing the investigation of the climate and the rest of our environment to see if our way of life is causing significant problems for the future, then the reason cutting funds for scientific research quite is quite possibly based in materialism. Only this kind of materialism revolves around a more way of life than a metaphysical view of reality. It is the materialism of wealth.
What can be concluded from Rummelsburg's article is that principle-driven conservatives, like him, have nothing to learn from those who marched for Science. They have nothing to learn about the environment and climate change or what is needed to combat any future diseases and health conditions. They have nothing to learn because their principles have already settled those issues. And because their principles have already settled these issues, they have no need to learn from scientists whose data might not confirm what these conservatives have concluded.

And at this point, we might want to ask how different are those conservative principles from the primitive religions observed in different tribes? And if there are no differences, why shouldn't protesters, like myself who marched for science and are Christians, for example, and thus who do not believe in materialistic reductionism, consider Rummelsburg's set of beliefs to contain nothing more that primitive superstitions? I should except such thinking would cause me to believe that those with my perspective have everything to teach and nothing to learn from those who disagree with my perspective. For there are other areas of life to discover besides what we protesters marched for in the March for Science. And there are other sources of knowledge in addition to Science.


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May 15

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on how protection from religious persecution, especially that of Christians, should serve as the priority in US foreign policies. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition.

Though the above article expresses very legitimate concerns, two problems stand out. What about US foreign policies or allies that promote religious persecution? Why not extend this concern for religious persecution to domestic policies as well?

When we American Christians talk about persecution, we often think of Muslim or state persecution of fellow Christians in specific locals. But we don't talk about Israeli persecution of Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians are facing the same fate as other Palestinians in that their is being stolen by the Israeli government. In addition, a Palestinian Christian personally told me that he faced more threats from Israeli settlers than he faced from Hamas. We should also note that Muslims also face persecution. Muslims in Burma and China have been attacked. And what we should ask in all of those situations is what has the U.S. government done about the suffering of these religious communities.

In America, Muslims face persecution from American citizens that is based on ignorance, fear and hatred. In addition, those Americans whose religious beliefs allow them to participate in same-sex relations have been persecuted by those whose religion prohibit same-sex relations. Is Carter calling for stricter sanctions that would protect those being persecuted here in America?
We should note that some Christian persecution around the world is because Christianity has been strongly associated with specific US policies. In particular, some Christian persecution is due to US support for Israel's brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Christian religious support for Israel has played a significant role in supporting US policies toward Israel. And because of that association, some have wrongfully but understandably perceived that support as Christianity waging war against Muslims. That perception is wrong but understandable because Christians who give carte blanche support for Israel are misrepresenting Christianity. Support for Israel's existence must be distinguished from support for the Occupation against the Palestinians and its ability to bully its neighbors.


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May 16

To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost on the need to revive an ‘associational life’ that existed when de Tocqueville visited America. This appeared in the Acton blog.

I wish that those who quote de Tocqueville like Christians who quote the Bible would note the racism that existed in both his writings and the times he observed. He proclaimed that England had the superior society but England ruled a racist-based empire. America itself was an ethnocracy based on White supremacy rather than functioning as a laboratory for democracy through the associations people made with each other. So that regardless of what de Tocqueville saw, Native Americans, Blacks, and women were excluded from decision making institutions and ventures and their interests were all too often ignored. They were invisible people to the Americans whom de Tocqueville observed as running laboratories in democracy. In a very real sense, Furthermore, we should note that de Tocqueville himself did not describe Native Americans and Blacks as being equal to the Whites who had subjugated them.
Certainly there are problems for which the 'middle layer' is best at addressing. But there are other problems that are beyond its abilities to attend to. And telling the difference between the two sets of problems can be difficult. What is noticeable about how America operates today is that we have a strongly elite-centered rule that is not answerable to any democratic process throughout our nation from the lowest levels of government and business to the highest levels. For there is a great deal of political power in America that is wielded from the private sector due to the influence of money. Structurally speaking, we Americans are represented by location, not vocation. Thus whatever positives de Tocqueville noticed have disappeared. BTW, we should note that the Russian notion of a soviet which existed before Lenin hijacked the Revolution functioned as a laboratory in democracy as well.

In terms of a national set of ethics or values, there again, as in the political power resting in the private sector, money rules. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in his speech against the Vietnam war the following (see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2564.htm  ):

We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

But how can we shift from being a "thing-oriented" society in an economic system such as ours? For the engine of our economic system is fueled by greed. That question is ominously answered by observation. And current calls to free our corporations from their social responsibilities to all of their stakeholders and the environment are a part of that observation.
Another ethical or values concern can be seen in how we so rigidly divide ourselves. Ideological tribalism runs strong in America today. Here, each ideological group act as if it has everything to teach the other groups while having nothing to learn from them. Such a mentality is a mortal enemy of democracy.

To really address the problems in our nation, we need a significant structural change that equally incorporates all sectors of American society rather than just the wealthy who can buy elections at all layers of society, not just in the middle layer. The above article's call for a more associational life makes some legitimate points. And we need a change in values. The question is do we have the resolve to make the necessary changes? Reality from both history and the present say 'no' while reality from the future tells us that our survival depends on it.




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why Is Charles Barkley The Only One Who Is Attacking America's Most Dangerous Enemy?

Charles Barkley--yes, that former pro basketball player Charles Barkley-- is starring in a docu-series on TNT. It is called American Race (click here for TNT's link to the series). And if we pay attention to the example set by Barkley, we will find a key part to the solution of our nation's problems.

I've seen 3 of the 4 parts in this series. What is key in this series is found in what Charles Barkley does. He finds opposing groups and he goes to listen to them. He also provides some insightful comments on what he has heard. But, again, the key is that he is listening to people. One episode is about the relationship between the police and the Black community in Baltimore. There, Barkley goes to listen to the perspectives provide by those who represent both sides. He doesn't hide his views; but neither does he hide when people yell at him in anger because of the experiences they have had.

In the next episode, Barkley looks at the conflict between Sharia law and a Texas city. The city council voted to ban the enforcement of all foreign laws in response to a mosque that was trying to settle internal disputes using Sharia law. What does Barkley do? He listens to both sides and tries to bring them together. After listening to people from both sides, he provides his own insights. His insights should be listened to.

In the third episode, Barkley examines the racism prevalent in the film and television entertainment industries. He examines the stereotyping that exists in the available roles for actors and actresses and how those roles promote racial stereotypes. He talks to a casting director, consumers of tv shows and movies, actors who are trying to get jobs, and Norman Lear. He talks to all sorts of minorities, that is minorities in America, such as Asians, Muslims,  Latinos and Blacks.

I've not seen the final part, however without even Barkley's insightful comments, his going out of his way to listen people from different sides is really what the doctor should order for our nation. 


Our nation is not  only divided, we all too often seclude ourselves from groups that scare us or make us feel uncomfortable because they are different. So we divide ourselves based on race, religion, economic class, and political ideology. To illustrate the problems this causes, just try to provide an opposing  opinion comment on a website that is strongly affiliated with a group and watch the sparks fly. The hostile responses show that too many of us want to live in gated communities where we can feel safe with our own and keep outsiders away from our door. 

We could attribute our self-seclusion to tribalism and some of the talk on the web is that tribalism is normal. And once that is accepted, then all of this division becomes sanctioned and is thus removed from an ever growing list of our nation's social problems. That is because we must be able to change an unwanted situation before that situation can be considered to be a social problem. 

But if people are going to use tribalism to explain their desire for segregation, then they need to own all that comes with tribalism. Tribalism isn't just about mere group belonging, it is about having a high degree of loyalty to one's group. As that intense loyalty grows, then a person loses their objectivity when assessing their their group's faults and the merits of other groups. Soon, group loyalty trumps commitment to principles and morals so that what is right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom. For Christians, this means that they begin to passionately embrace moral relativity and reject Biblical absolutes.

With this growing sense of group loyalty comes the belief that their own group has nothing to learn from others. What follows that is the inability and/or unwillingness to listen to others. And that is what is destroying this nation. Each group, instead of listening to each other in order to understand each other and collaborate on how to solve problems, competes in order to win and gain control over others. And guess who supports who is in control now. It is always those who believe in the rule of force because their tribalism makes them believe that what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.

In going the extra mile to go out and listen to those, even those who expressed anger at him because they disagreed with them, Charles Barkley provided a path for others to follow. It is a path that leads us to the front doors of those who are different. This path allows us to meet, or collide, with those who oppose us. But most of all, it provides an escape from our self-destructive tribalism by allowing us to come face to face in order to listen to each other. Who would have thought that a retired basketball player would have shown us such an important path to take? Perhaps how our tendency to judge by appearance is so inadequate is the point of Barkley's docu-series. And just perhaps, that shows why we need to listen to others.