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Friday, July 5, 2013

Charles Stanley's Fourth Of July Phantom Menaces

Charles Stanley certainly needs no introduction in America. In his July 4, 2010 semon entiled, Turning The Tide, with a huge American flag standing behind him Stanley lists a few dragons that have travelled too close to America for his comfort. These enemies are our ever growing national debt, the prospect of increased taxation to pay the debt, America's journey to "Socialism," and the possibility of America turning its back on Israel. It isn't difficult to agree with Stanley about our national debt being a real threat to our future. And one could argue that Stanley is correct about taxes being a threat but for different reasons and in a different direction.

But what about socialism? According to Stanley, socialism is

a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production and distribution.

Stanley went on to say that socialism robs people of the motivation to work hard and do well. The implied motivation here is what people can get do and get for themselves and thus it follows that doing for others or the group is not a meaningful enough incentive.

Would that Stanley learn that socialism is not a monolith. As Stanley pointed to the former U.S.S.R. and Red China as the definition of Socialism, little did he realize that many socialists also reject that model of politics and economics. These Socialists believe first in extended democracy as an essential part of the implementation of socialism. That is that instead our present form of democracy where we vote every x number of years for representatives who are only interested in representing those who financed their campaigns, these socialists believe that all institutions that govern shared resources should be run democratically and this includes places of employment. Today in America, we have worker co-ops that are democratically run--we should note that some co-ops are managed instead. Worker run co-ops serve as examples of socialism and one has to wonder if Stanley had these in mind when he said that socialism is threatening America's future.

But something else must be said here. Stanley seems to view the government as a monolith as well. The government, according to Stanley, has its own interests and those interests revolve around its own power and how to become a separate actor from and over the people. However, history tells us that we have this three-partner dance between the people, those with authority (the government), and those with wealth. And in most cases, there are a variety of ways in which those with authority and those with wealth wrestle against each other for power. One of the ways this struggle comes the way of the people is that both the government and the rich compete in persuading the people regarding which group represents them.

Of course, there is another way government can act with regards to those with wealth and the people. The government can both act in the best interests of and try to represent all of the people so that those with wealth have an equal standing with the rest of the people. Such an implementation of government does not come about through citizen apathy where the citizens' only participation in democracy is voting every x number of years.

According to Sheldon Wolin, our government currently follows the dictates of the moneyed-interests. In other words, those with wealth currently have the power in American politics and there is more than ample evidence to support his assertion according to his book Democracy IncorporatedStanley neither sees all of the different ways government interacts with society nor does he see any power threat from the private sector especially its elite centers. And we should realize the time context of his warnings here. This is after the financials crisis of 2008 where a housing bubble built on fraud and speculation broke and severely wounded our economy. By only pointing to government and the threat of a coming "socialism," Stanley either denies corruption that exists in the many of the elite centers of the private sector or views the corruption as being insignificant.

We should also point out that the roles Stanley assigns to government, which is to protect us and ensure the success of the economy, indicate a tribalistic view of the nation. That is our concern as citizens is the welfare of own own country which possibly includes the welfare of some its friends. The implication here is that we should not worry about the government enabled  wrongdoings of our private sector against those outside of our borders. We hear confirmation of Stanley's tribalism as he praises America as a Christian nation, God's nation. Even further evidence that Stanley embraces tribalism is that his views seem to be parochial and represent a Southern Republicanism for his comments target Obama and the Democrats more than any ideology such as socialism.

Stanley also sternly warns us not to turn our back on Israel. Such is another directive pointing us toward tribalism. For here Stanley uses a false dichotomy of a nation that either fully supports Israel or wants its destruction. he makes no allowance for those who want Israel to succeed as a righteous nation in how it treats others. This is something Israel can never do so long as it continues to harshly oppress the Palestinians and and continues to steal land from both them and the Bedhouins. And with how Obama has materially supported Israel's policies, Stanley's concerns here are unfounded.

Aside from his comments on Israel, Stanley is sincerely afraid that "Socialism" is coming to our country in the guise of a government that tries to take care of people in need. So Stanley asserts that the government's job is not to take care of us, because that would cause it to steal from others, but to protect us. But questions must be asked here. First, why does Stanley give such a stereotyped, monolithic definition of socialism? Second, how does Stanley's view of government's duty to the poor compare with that of the Old Testament? After all, in the Old Testament, people were commanded to give to those in need both as individuals and corporately. Helping those in need was an issue of justice back then (see When Poverty Calls, Justice is Listening). Third, why does Stanley go beyond saying that we have a Christian heritage into saying that we are a Christian nation? Finally, why is Stanley ignoring the sins of the elite centers of the private sector?

With regard to the last question, we should note here that church ministries like Stanley's ofter rely heavily on the contributions from or systems established by the moneyed-interests of our country. Here, Stanley's message seems to serve as just another proof that the conservative church in America does what the Orthodox Church does in Russia. For it seems that both serve as institutions of indoctrination for the maintenance of the status quo and the benefit of wealth and power.



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