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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 4, 2016

Just to point out a trend that has been growing on the Conservative blogs I've been visiting. There is a tendency among religiously conservative Christian blogs to block more comments than they have before. There are also several religiously conservative blogs that apply no blocks at all. 

 April 27

To Bruce Ashford and his blogpost about a Jewish Intellectual who predicted the Social Collapse of America. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition.

Whenever I read articles like the one above, I try to figure out what kind of society have we collapsed from. We tend to glorify the past because of the degree of influence Christianity had on it, but much of what we see today is the result of people waking up and rejecting the injustices of yesteryear.

No doubt, many of my fellow religiously conservative Christians believe that our society has collapsed because of its changing sexual mores. But what kind of society can claim to be superior to others because of its sexual mores while conducting ethnic cleansing against one race and subjugating yet another? And all of that was on our own continent. We then ventured of to dominating other peoples and races from other continents and we did that to benefit ourselves.

The differences that exist between the societal high life of yesteryear and today's "social collapse" depends on the contexts in which one speaks. Suppose the context is economics. Then, when more of America could be seen as being more like the Capitol, the Capitol from the movie The Hunger Games that is, our society was viewed as having risen or in the process of rising. But when more of America is living like those in the districts in that movie did, then we say we were collapsing. Or when sexual mores are the context for measuring the quality of a society, then when those whose orientation was different from most people were marginalized, then society was described as being better than it is today. 

When we consider America's past, when did America really center itself on God? After all, loving God is not just measured by our own claims of devotion to God themselves, but by our deeds too. And according to the history of our deeds and how we have treated those who were different, it seems that we never really made faith and the Christian religion the center of American life and thus our society had little height, if any at all, to collapse from.


April 28

To George Stanciu and his blogpost on New England and how democracy has fallen there and elsewhere. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

There are several parts of this article which I like. Such as when Stannic writes:

New England democracy, as observed by Tocqueville in the early 1830s, could not remained unchanged, for Modernity rests upon three connected legs—democracy, capitalism, and science and technology; the latter two legs changed the former.

it reminded me of something Martin Luther King said when speaking against the Vietnam War:

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.

To combine what is said, we need a combination of values and proper structure to be self-governing. And that no structure is immune to all sets of values a society could adopt--though the popular notion of freedom denies this. But after that, I have problems with some of what is written.

The first of Stanciu's main concerns is the degree of  reliance on centralized power, and we should expect as much from an anarchist. The problem, especially as he looks at our democracy through the eyes of de Tocqueville, is that society is tremendously complex and interdependent. And the more interdependence that exists because of the population of individual communities, the number of communities that exist in towns and cities, the number of towns and cities that exist in states, the number of states that exist in the union, and the kind of economy that fosters increasing degrees of coupling, 'coupling is a computer science term that measures how dependent different parts of computer code are on each other, the more power federal government needs to be to protect Democracy. Here I should add is that what wasn't apparent to me is whether Stanciu sees Democracy as a state of being for society where all groups share a common society as equals. That kind of Democracy requires that both government and the people themselves be more involved in what goes on in the nation including in communities. That is because in an inderpendent society, what one part of the nation does affects another. 

Another of Stanciu's objections is that the more intrusive government is on our personal lives, the less mature we become. And the less mature we become the more dependent we become. And the more dependent we become, the less we act to maintain our democracy. The problem here is what was stated in the previous paragraph of this comment. The more interdependent life becomes in our society, the more our decisions affect others. And the more our decisions affect others, the greater call exists for government, whetever the level, to intervene. And that includes seatbelt laws.

Rather than looking at the centralization of government power or the intrusiveness of government decisions as being the reason why we have lost a large part of our democracy here, I would add a different factor to what was stated above about  Capitalism and technology, or what King called a thing-oriented society, as being the reason why we have lost a large part of our democracy. That other factor is tribalism. 

Tribalism isn't the mere belonging to a group. Rather, it deals with the degree of loyalty one has for any group one belongs to. The greater degree of loyalty one has for one's group, the less commitment one shows to principles and morals. Thus, what is right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom.

So why would group loyalty be a problem for Democracy? Because above all, Democracy is a state of being for a society where all groups share society as equals. Thus, Democracy is a commitment to the principle of equality for others as well as oneself.

But how would what has been said here apply to the lack of participation Stanciu notes in New England. Certainly, in a thing-oriented society, people are to occupied with affluence or the quest for it to care about being self-governed. So they vote for those leaders who will make decisions that will maintain or give them more opportunity to acquire more things. As for tribalism, we can look at that as form of group authoritarianism. And as with all authoritarianism, those who live under it either volunteer or are forced to depend on strong leaders. And here we should note how divided American society is and what can of Presidential candidates are being produced by those divisions.

Living in a thing-oriented society many of whose groups ascribe to tribalism seems to be a better explanation for what Stanciu has noticed about the decline in democratic participation in New England and elsewhere than the observations of de Tocqueville who made those observations at a different economic, political, technological time than what exists today.


April 29

To Eric’s April 26 comments to me about his view of Marxism and the Communist Manifesto This was part of the discussion on the article on the future of reading. Previous response to Eric were not recorded by me and were blocked by the Imaginative Conservative website.

This is my second attempt to answer your last note. Your comment that what was seen in Lenin is what happened in all Communist regimes first is not true and second assumes that Communism is the only expression of Marxism.

First, let's look at what is called Communism. It was originally call Bolshevism because it was Bolsheviks who were led by Lenin and who seized control of Russia. There was ample dissent and criticism of Lenin as failing to act as a Marxist. And if that is the case, then one can not lay at the feet of Marx the guilt of Lenin. The same could be said of any revolution that took the Communist label but failed to follow Marx. Thus, one could not blame the Communist Manifesto for the atrocities committed in the name of Marxism. In addition, one would have to read the Communist Manifesto as well as other works of Marx to realize be able to judge whether Lenin and others were actually Marxist in their actions.

Additional support to what was just written comes form the work of Orlando Figes who stated that Lenin's view of what it means to be a strong leader did not come from Marx, but from Russian literature and that that literature was not based on Marx. In addition, we might want to note the cultural influence of that the Tsarist regimes had on Russian and on Lenin. In many cases, revolutions resulted in slightly altered forms of the regimes that were overthrown.

To answer your previous note, my question about whether you read the Communist Manifesto was  not in any way an attempt to dictate terms. It was a simple question. For how can one adequately analyze a document they have not read?


April 30

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost consisting of a video clip of a person defining democratic socialism as a dictatorship of 50.1% of the people. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Being a socialist myself, I find it frustrating to hear fellow American believers trying to explain Socialism because they never go to the original sources and this true of Matt Kibbe who is the person speaking in the video. For though he went back to the original sources to find the term 'proletariat dictatorship,' he didn't go back to the original sources to find its meaning.

Proletariat dictatorship means control by the workers. But the workers making the decisions were elected by their peers to discuss and make decisions using democratic processes. So outside of the word 'dictatorship,' how different such a concept of a 'proletariat dictatorship'  from a representative democracy? After all, don't we elect officials  by majority vote, except for the President who must win a majority of electoral votes as long as that majority exceeds a certain number? And don't those officials make binding decisions for the rest of us based on some kind of majority vote?

Well, there is a difference and that difference has to do with the demographics of the elected governing officials. For though we are we well represented by location with Representatives and Senators, we are not represented by vocation in our gov't. Rather, 3 groups of people make up the vast majority of our Representatives and Senators. They are professional public servants, lawyers, and business people. That means that the vast majority of vocations are not represented in the government. 

Now if Kibbe bothered to read more than just about the term 'proletariat dictatorship' and read more sources than just one or two documents from Marx and Engels, he could have better described what a proletariat dictatorship was. It was, and to its fault, a partial democracy, just like the kinds of democratic systems Socialists were protesting were also partial democracies called bourgeoisie democracies. Should note that the latter kind of democracies were defended by people like James Madison because he believed that power should rest in the hands of those with wealth. For just as Marx favored proletariat rule over a nation using democratic processes, so others support a bourgeoisie rule over a nation using  democratic processes. Others, like Lenin, favored using a bourgeoisie dictatorship. BTW, this was Rosa Luxemburg's assessment of Lenin's ruling style because Lenin was used a bourgeois model of government. This is evident by the fact that  decisions were made by a small group of elite leaders who were picked by Lenin. Btw, should note that Lenin abolished both the soviets and the Russian Constituent Assembly. 

So again, I find that my fellow believers in Christ, either through gross negligence or willful intention, have failed to even attempt to provide a fair definition of Socialism and have instead been opportunistically selective in how they have it defined. I hope you understand the dissonance you cause when you pass on such inept definitions while claiming to be faithful teacher of the Reformed Faith. If only you and Kibbe would have been honest in acknowledging your lack of knowledge about Socialism when trying to define it, then, though your material would be wrong, it would be honest and thus not merit any significant criticism. An example of such honesty can be found in a John Piper blogpost on Socialism (see http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-should-christians-think-about-socialism ).

Finally, we should note that Bernie Sanders is not a socialist. Rather, he is an FDR new dealer. Though we agree with some of his individual proposed ideas and programs, he offers little in terms of actual structural changes to our political structure. But at least he is talking about the corrosive effects that money has on our political and economic systems.


To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost on how theologians need to learn about economics. This appeared in the Acton blog.

I agree that theologians should learn economics. But the question becomes from whom should they learn because not all higher degrees will provide an adequate education in economics. 

As I was talking to someone who was protesting our May Day celebration, we talked about workplace democracy, something we both agreed on but was something he was not aware that such was tied to Socialism. His comment was that though workplace democracy is good, workers need to learn from those having MBAs because they have a lot to teach. I responded by asking about what they know. Their education might have helped learn how to tweak the system, but did it teach them to be able to criticize the system from the outside?

This is the problem with certain degrees. People learn to become technicians, but they remain uninformed about how the system they have expertise in interacts with the rest of the world. The result is that people start to believe that the world must be formed around the system they understand rather than that one must be able to see how the system they understand might possibly have to change because of other concerns that exist in the world.


To Joe Carter and his blogpost listing 5 reasons why Millennials should prefer Capitalism. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

A valid point that Carter makes here is to say that there are different forms of Capitalism. But he fails to mention that there are also several kinds of Socialism and not all Socialists would agree with each kind,

Mais, c'est la vie, it is time to examine his reasons. We will not respond to reasons #2 and #3 because they are insignificant. Reason #1, Capitalism makes the world cleaner and less violent. That might be true if we don't include the increasing number of dead zones in the ocean, the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the destruction of Appalachia from the use of Mountain Top Removal, or China's environmental problems and that is just to name a few problems. 

Does Capitalism make the world less violent with fewer wars? His claim that there are fewer wars is actually based on the number of deaths from battles (see http://blog.acton.org/archives/78866-is-capitalism-killing-war.html ) . And though there are fewers deaths from battles, when we look at the details as to why, rather than to assume that Capitalism is the reason, we find the statement to be very misleading. Here we should note that the development of WMDs and the lessons learned from the two World Wars and how tens of millions of people were killed in each war was not even considered as factors in reducing the number of deaths from battle. Before our weapons became as powerful as they are now, there was less reluctance to start wars. In addition, comparing deaths today when Mutually Assured Destruction kept the two main antagonists from declaring war on each other with WW II where the use of no weapons were barred makes the two time periods is faulty. 

In addition, let's count how the number of nations where we have attacked with any kind of forces including drones since the year 2000. We have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. We have sponsored the coup in Libya and possibly in Honduras. We conduct or have conducted drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen. And we have been bombing Syria. And all of that is what is happening in the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.

The magazine The Nation reported in 2015 that we carried out 647 military operations in Africa during the previous year (see http://www.thenation.com/article/us-carried-out-674-military-operations-africa-last-year-did-you-hear-about-any-them/ ). And in 2014, the same magazine reported that we are conduct military operations in 134 countries. And perhaps the reason why this isn't real to us and that the number of casualties from battles is not comparable to the past is because of the great disparity between our forces and the forces of the countries we are attacking. It isn't that we have fewer wars or conflicts, it is that the number of deaths for each conflict is much lower than what was seen during WW II and that lower number of deaths has nothing to do with Capitalism.

Skipping reasons #2 and #3 because they are insignificant, we come to Reason #4. There, Carter claims that Capitalism is the most moral system. But what kind of Capitalism is he talking about and what systems did he compare Capitalism to? He never says in that part of his article. However, we should note that despite claims that Capitalism is reducing extreme poverty, the greatest alleviation of poverty is occurring in China which is participating in the Global Economy but could hardly be called a Capitalist country. Certainly it has been affected by Capitalism because of the Global Economy, but, again, it is hardly a Capitalist country.

But we should also note that Capitalism is overseeing an ever increasing wealth disparity throughout much of the world, especially in the US. We should note that along with the alleviation of extreme poverty has come the prevalence of sweatshop, trafficked, and even slave labor along with present environmental problems and an ominous environmental future. We should also note that trade agreements cause democratic nations to lose national sovereignty to foreign investors.

But finally, we should note that the freedom emphasized by Capitalism starts to become at odds with the self-rule freedom that comes with democracies. For the less power a government has to monitor and control businesses, the less control a democratic government has in doing the same. In addition, the new Global Economy that is based on free trade and markets is putting nations, especially less developed ones into an economic class system as Free Trade prevents nations from using protectionism to develop the industries and economic sectors of their choice.

Finally, for reason #5 on how Millennials would prefer Capitalism anyway, ask college graduates about their feelings toward the loans they can't repay because there are not enough well paying jobs available after graduation. In fact, ask Millennials about how they feel about pollution that seeps into our food, air, and water or fraudulently foreclosed on homes or used the global economy to lower the pay, benefits and labor rights of workers in the US or the other complaints listed in The Declaration Of The Occupation Of New York City as prepared by Occupy Wall Street (see http://www.nationofchange.org/declaration-occupation-new-york-city-1317784408 ). All of those grievances were the product of American Capitalism. Is that what Millennials want?

Of course, the easy out for Carter is that he could blame all of the ill-effects we see today on forms of Capitalism he doesn't prefer. But he provides no guidelines for determining which forms of Capitalism are responsible for the benefits he's cited. 

In the end, his article here is an attempt at manipulating people into supporting what he supports.


Bill said...

To block such thoughtful and respectful comments is to suggest that the site exists only to confirm pre-existing biases, rather than to engender discussion.

I enjoyed your comments--even those with which I disagreed.

I too am baffled at the widespread appeal to "make America great again" and the claim that society is disintegrating and declining. Objectively, by any standard, things have never been better than they are today and they're getting better all the time. Over the past few decades we've not only seen extreme poverty reduced by over half (and soon to be a thing of the past entirely) but also amazing advances in health care, childhood mortality, education and literacy, liberation of previously oppressed people groups, dramatic reductions in war, violence and crime, etc. So why do most people believe the world is getting worse, not better? This is a psychological phenomenon sometimes called "declinism" and evidence of it can be found in writings thousands of years old and continuing to the present. It must have some evolutionary origin but it is preventing most of us from appreciating perhaps the most amazing story in the history of humanity, unfolding right in front of our eyes even while we complain about the demise of society.

And as for the notion that America is ceasing to be a "Christian nation," I like this quote from a John Wesley sermon 250 or so ago:

Where does this Christianity now exist Where, I pray, do the Christians live Which is the country, the inhabitants whereof are all thus filled with the Holy Ghost --are all of one heart and of one soul cannot suffer one among them to lack anything, but continually give to every man as he hath need; who, one and all, have the love of God filling their hearts, and constraining them to love their neighbour as themselves; who have all "put on bowels of mercy, humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering" who offend not in any kind, either by word or deed, against justice, mercy, or truth; but in every point do unto all men; as they would these should do unto them With what propriety can we term any a Christian country, which does not answer this description Why then, let us confess we have never yet seen a Christian country upon earth.


Curt Day said...

First, thank you for commenting and your kind words. Let's get to the disagreements though.

When you write:

Objectively, by any standard, things have never been better than they are today and they're getting better all the time. Over the past few decades we've not only seen extreme poverty reduced by over half (and soon to be a thing of the past entirely) but also amazing advances in health care, childhood mortality, education and literacy, liberation of previously oppressed people groups, dramatic reductions in war, violence and crime, etc.

there exists problems. No, there are standards that challenge your statement. Stagnation of income, growing wealth disparity, the shrinking middle class, the declining educational performance by students who received their K-12 grade education here, a reemergence of racism, the changing of our democracy into a oligarchy, gov't's increased prosecution of government whistle-blowers as well as increased surveillance and gov't powers to detain people without due process, and the complaints made in The Declaration Of The Occupation Of New York City composed by OWS challenge your notion that things have never been better.

If you want we can discuss a couple ideas at a time and let me know which of my claims do you want documentation for.

BTW, I fully agree that we are not a Christian nation nor were we ever meant to be.

Bill said...

Sorry, I didn't meant to stir up an argument, and don't intend to have one. Actually, I thought that was a point upon which we agreed (relying on your first comment).

I find your preference for the past surprising.

To what point in our history would you like to return? On what date, for example, were things better for humanity than they are now? And please note that I'm asking about humanity as a whole, not just middle class white American males. I suspect anyone who reflects on those things will realize that we have much for which to be thankful and that for the vast majority of humanity times have never been better than they are now). There are plenty of problems yet to solve, for sure, but no "golden age" to which we should want to return.


Curt Day said...

You didn't stir up any arguments, we just disagree.

Which time is better depends on for whom. Overall, I think the 70s were the best time. Then we were at the tail end of the Post WW I economic windfall that saw all of our economic classes profit equally. We had less partisanship in government and the government was more responsive to citizen activism. The gap between minimum wage and cost living was much smaller and colleges were more affordable. And we were making progress regarding women's rights and civil rights. Besides, most of my favorite musicians were alive back then.

As far as now, we are facing a growing governmental authoritarianism throughout the world including the US. Student deb is skyhigh and job prospects are tougher now than back in the 70s. And we are facing global terrorism problem that is difficult to predict. The environmental news front is grim and would greatly affect our way of life today if we were responding appropriately.

Certainly there is no golden age. But the 70s were a preferable time despite the Cold War and threat of nuclear annihilation. They were a better time because government was more responsive to its people, it was easier to make a living, race relations were improving, and our government officials weren't as partisan.