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Friday, October 7, 2016

Who Are Socialists Scared Of?

In an effort to discredit Obamacare as well as any further attempt to nationalize healthcare, Franklin Graham (click here for a bio) quoted conservative Catholic leader who said:
socialists and atheists are scared to death of the church

Graham also added the following:
I'm not a Catholic, but as the Democratic Party embraces socialism...
They don't want anyone except the government responsible for caring for the poor...
Here in this country, the poor were cared for by churches for over 200 years, the Catholics, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists all had great hospitals to care for the sick
The article that reported these remarks were quoted in a CNS News article (click here for the article). Graham also predicted that if the "Democratic Socialists" get the healthcare program they want, the quality of healthcare will go down while its costs will become prohibitive to the poor.

In short, Graham's remarks seem to be a combination of a spiritual machismo along with both a historical and political ignorance. And this is sad simply because that combination of traits, while not affecting Graham's choir, inadvertently discredits and thus dishonors the Gospel that Graham serves before others.

Graham's seems to equate Socialism with big government and government intervention. And it seems that in Graham's statement, there is the implicit claim that anything Socialism can do, the Church can do better. And thus, he accuses, and possibly projects onto, Socialists of being afraid of competition. Competition for Socialists in this case, according to Graham, would be the Church.

To get to why Graham is doing the Gospel more harm good, one should note the following:
  • Big government is not the same as Socialism
  • The Democratic Party neither pursues nor follows Socialism
  • Some Graham's claims about the Church providing healthcare for the poor are false 
  • Socialists are a diverse group. And thus Graham's claim about all socialists are demonstrably false since some Christians are also socialists.
 Regarding the first point, just because a government is big or intrusive, doesn't mean that it is practicing socialism. This is especially true from the Marxist tradition. Here we should note that a socialist government, according to the Marxist tradition, would be one where those without wealth would have at least an equal power in determining laws as those who have wealth. In fact, Marx believed that the transition from the economic and political systems he observed at his time to the classless paradise he envisioned would by performed by a proletariat dictatorship. Seeing that Marx was opposed to the rule of the bourgeoisie, any big or intrusive government that was controlled by wealth could never be called Marxist. Thus, it appears that Graham is, to say the least, confused as to what constitutes socialism.
 

Now whether we have Republicans or Democrats controlling the three branches of government or whether there is a mixed control by both parties, it is evident that those with wealth do control our government (click here for some documentation). Thus, any big government program that is the result of control over government by either major political party is not a demonstration of socialism. Obamacare, itself, was the result of legislation that was crafted by and written for the benefit of the health insurance industry (click here and there). And Obamacare definitely has problems. So while Graham's observation about the future perils of our healthcare system might have some merit, he is wrong to attribute that to socialism. He can rightfully blame one or both of our major political parties, but he can't blame socialism.

In addition, his claim about the Church in America providing hospital care for 200 years doesn't account for the fact that churches did not provide hospitals until the mid 1800s. And even if we ignore that fact, we need to understand that just prior to Obamacare, healthcare costs were the first cause for personal bankruptcies. In addition, the costs of healthcare, prior to Obamacare, made getting treated prohibitive for many people. Thus, the transition from our past system into Obamacare was not an exodus from any kind of healthcare utopia. Rather, for all of its flaws, Obamacare did try to at least partially address the shortcomings of our then healthcare system.

Finally, considering that some socialists were proponents of Liberation Theology, and considering that some Marxists, like Rosa Luxemburg for example, coveted support from the Church in helping people, it is difficult to make the case that Socialism is afraid of or opposed to the Church. Even if you want to call Democrats who support Obamacare 'socialists,' we should note that some Democrats are confessing Christians. Thus Graham's bipolar view that we have Christians in one corner and socialists, both real and pseudo ones, in the other paints a false picture of reality. 

What Graham is really asserting is that his politically conservative ideology is the only one that both provides for people in need and is aligned with Christianity. In other words, Graham is making an ideological tribal claim on God. And because his claim is a false one, he is misrepresenting the Gospel. And in misrepresenting the Gospel, by associating the Gospel with inaccuracies and distortions, he causes some to dishonor the Gospel as they respond to that association.  

Like others who conflate religiously conservative Christianity with conservative politics and ideology, Graham seems to believe in an American mythological past. And when changes occur that challenge that past, Graham, in this case, lashes out and does so while spouting the errors that come with American mythology as well as his lack of understanding of the diversity that exists in Socialism. But not only that, his response is ideologically tribal--something we are all at risk for doing. And when we do respond tribally, we are likely to sound more like the self-righteous Pharisee from Jesus's parable of the two men than like preachers from the New Testament or the prophets from the Old Testament.





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