To Anthony Bradley's and Sean Spurlock's Acton commentary titled, It Is Not Only The Poor Who Need Moral Leadership
Though the title of this article invited hope, the content dashed it. Again, what is displayed is a preoccupation and utter fixation on private social morals while neglecting or relegating social sins and system failures to being derivative. Such simply protects the status quo while giving the appearance of being a moral crusader.
To J Mack Stiles on his blogpost on How To Create A Culture Of Evangelism on The Gospel Coalition Blog
It seems to me that our current culture of consumerism along with the self-absorption it nourishes is at odds with a culture of evangelism. Perhaps we should acknowledge that the Church is not big enough for the both of them.
To Joe Carter's continuing series on sharing the economics of conservative evangelicals with liberal evangelicals. This segment is Part II. Part III will be addressed next week. All three parts are on the Acton Blog
When I read an article like this on Acton, two thoughts come to mind. First, I think of what Lewis Black once complained about when he described Americans who had never been out of the country but proudly bragged that their country was the best in the world. This is what point #5 reminds me of. Meanwhile, point #6 is rather ironic because one of the reasons why I was kicked off this blog was because I said that conservatives blame the poor for their poverty. And what happens in this post? Point 6 declares that in this not perfect but best of all systems, those who are poor are most probably that way because of their own personal choices. So why was there so much anger at me when I said that conservatives blame the poor for their poverty?
As for point #5, I am not sure if it is clear. On the one hand, there is the declaration that our current system is not a 'zero-sum' gain where one person's gain is another's person's loss while the sum total equals 0. Now such a statement could indicate a belief in some infinite source of resources but we live in a finite world. We have no infinite resources. But then comes the assertion that this limitation of our finite world does not apply to the free market. Why? Because if you pay x amount of dollars for the building of the house, and you sell it for greater than x dollars, everybody gains. The buyer gets a house, the supplies and labor needed for building the house are paid for, and the seller gets a profit.
And if this illustration exhaustively explained the whole free market and not just some individual transactions, then there is a point. But where did the buyer get the money to buy the house? Will the buyer have to sacrifice necessities to pay the selling price? And what if there was no buyer for even the costs of building the house, would the supplies and labor be fully paid? And who had to do without in order for the buyer to come up with the money? See, the illustration is too small to show even an adequate explanation of all that is involved with the free market.
But then that point is followed by an interesting statement. This statement attempts to be honest by acknowledging that some competitions provide losers, However, Carter cites Jay W. Richards in saying that this provides more 'win-win encounters' than any other system. This is where Lewis Black's comment comes into play. How many different economic systems has Richards lived so that he can claim that the free-market system is the best of all alternatives?
But suppose that that our current economic system provides the most win-win encounters of all present and past systems, does that still justify the current system. For it is not just the quantity of win-win encounters, it is also the quality. When we experienced all of the win-win encounters in the economy from the beginning our country to the Civil War, wasn't slavery so egregious that it didn't matter how many win-win encounters there were, slavery had to be eliminated? What about today when workers here lose jobs to sweatshop labor abroad or what about the low prices we pay in part because trafficked labor was involved either here or some other place? Shouldn't we consider even trying a new system because the few win-lose encounters are such horrible atrocities?
In point #5, we are asked to accept an unproven statement as the basis for tolerating the abuses of our current system. The one line declaring that our system has the most win-win encounters of all systems tried is nothing more than a thought stopper. That is, once we here how great our system is, regardless of the drawbacks, we need not consider another system because of how it compares with all else.
Point #6 is another matter. Though Carter acknowledges that the current system is not perfect, he asserts that there are not as many injustices that exist today as before. But of course, the existence of injustices varies from location to location. For example, all of us in this country benefit from products made in sweatshop factories whether they be textile or high-tech factories. There appears to be no injustices here while there are sweatshops located in other places. But the fact that our manufacturers can rely more and more on sweatshop labor means that the chickens of unemployment injustices come home to roost in the form of unemployment and/or reduced wages and benefits.
Are personal choices also involved in poverty? Yes. But there are several problems here prior coming to conclusions. First, a positive correlation, which is what we have between wrong personal choices and poverty, does not show cause and effect. Also, do injustices cause people to make bad choices? But people make bad choices in the absence of injustices as well and some, because of their financial status, can do so with impunity. Third, do personal choices put or keep people in poverty? Yes, but again, we should note that those who have fewer resources have a smaller margin for error. We should also note that those social injustices could have played a role in the making of those bad choices.
Some of this explains why Carter's "North Dakota" test is not all that reliable--his North Dakota Test says move a person to North Dakota with a fresh start to see how they fare. Basically, Carter's test says that if you can't make it there, you can't make it anywhere. And if you can't make it there, it is because of your personal choices because, according to Carter, North Dakota has minimal structural impediments to living above poverty. He makes that assessment of North Dakota because both its poverty rate and unemployment rate falls below national averages and what some are paid for their jobs beats what others are paid elsewhere
Is Carter's North Dakota test valid? No. Why does one have to take a person out of their home to give them a job and clean slate to see if personal choice is the issue? Why not give such a person a non-poverty wage job and clean slate where they live to see if the personal choices determined their current poverty, that is if it is possible to do so? In addition, since tests used on a single group under the same condition establish no worthwhile results, why not move some successful conservatives into a poor neighborhood where there is little to no economic opportunity or hope to see if, over a significant period of time, their personal choices are significantly affected by the unjust structure that surrounds them?
See, as in point #5 where Carter borrows an analogy that is too simplistic to explain the free market, here, Carter uses an overly simplistic to describe the relationship between personal choices and poverty. His test leaves out the current level of social injustices that affect people's personal choices.
Now, though Carter wants to believe that our system's number of injustices are not like they were in the Jim Crow days, perhaps he should read OWS's Declaration Of The Occupation Of New York City (click here) to see how accurate his assessment is. In addition, Carter should consider the current incarceration rate of Blacks and the exploitation of their labor through the gov't and growing private prison systems. In fact, the incarceration rates and abuse of Black prison labor is being called Jim Crow II by some.
Perhaps Carter would do better to first live with those who live in poverty. Perhaps he should learn what obstacles the poor must overcome to survive or even change their lot.
This is what Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef did. His book, From The Outside Looking In: Experiences In 'Barefoot Economics' was a result of him realizing that though he was a trained economist who taught at Cal Berkley, he was ignorant of the language of economics spoken by the poor. So he went to live with them to find their take on life and the economy.
Though Carter does not take a hardline, all-or-nothing approach by saying the system is perfect and all one has to do is to apply themselves, he says it strongly enough so that he seems to blame the majority of the poor for their current economic straights. And in so doing, he is merely speaking to the poor from above and about the poor from the outside. Why? It is because though the system is not perfect, it is, it seems in his opinion, adequate enough to lift the person who makes good choices and really tries to get out of poverty and it is the best system there has even been. And he seems to say all of that from being in the position of a have without having to reflect on the privileges he has enjoyed from his race and the economic class he grew up in.
To R. Scott Clark on his blogpost on the college football player who came out of the closet posted on Heidelblog
BTW, I mistakenly used a double negative in the second paragraph when I start the sentence with, "First, Romans 1"
The issue here is a societal one, not a church or doctrinal one. And the issue isn't whether homosexual behavior and attraction is a choice or is a condition one is born with. The issue is whether we should treat homosexuals as equals in society. We see an extreme case where the answer is no in Russia. And lest Christians are too quick to distance themselves from that, we should note that some countries, under the influence of Christian missionaries, have made homosexuality a capital offense.
Obviously we will go back to the beginning of Romans here because of what is written in the first chapter. But when Romans 1 is read along with the chapters 2 and 3, we see that Paul does not focus on homosexuality to the extent that many Christians do today. For Paul, homosexuality is part of the sinful mix. Some homosexuals are that way because they have traded in what could be known about God for what is not true about parts of creation. But two points should be made here. First, Roman 1 does not say that that is not the only cause of homosexuality. Second, there are other sins, along with homosexuality, that are the result of one making the same trade of knowledge which homosexuals have made. Some of these sins are very serious with regard to how a person functions in society while others are common household sins. Thus, the fact that homosexuality is mentioned in Romans 1 does not imply that there must be societal sanctions against it.
Since homosexuality is a behavior rather than a state of being, such as being of a particular race, we might want to use religion as a basis of comparison with homosexuality rather than race. After all, practicing a religion is a behavior and comes from making a choice. In addition, practicing the wrong religion can be the result of making the same mistaken trade of information about God which homosexuals make. So the question is, why should we allow for the freedom of religion in society if we don't allow equality for gays?
Now if we read Romans 1 consistently, we see a parallelism between Romans 1:21-27 and Romans 1:28-32. So why the focus on homosexuality? And we should note how Romans 1 ends. It ends with the beginning of Romans 2 that tells us not to judge others lest we condemn ourselves. In addition, if we want to talk about what is natural, then we should temper that without minimizing what is said in Romans 1 with the fact that homosexuality is seen in around 1,500 species and that it serves a beneficial service to the animals involved.
So the question becomes, should we treat homosexuals as equals in society or should we become Russia-lite about it? To answer this question we need to ask ourselves how, was sexual sin accommodated in society during New Testament times? And we could then ask what reasons do we have for either following that example or doing things differently?