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Friday, December 30, 2016

Are We Christians Trying Too Hard To Fit A Stereotype? Part I

There are two statements that today's Church should use to measure whether its interactions with the outside world reflects a faithful following of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one statement is a declaration of purpose recorded in a report called The Crisis Of Democracy (click here). The report was written for a liberal organization called the Trilateral Commission and it talked about the 1960s and the problems that those in authority, including those from both the private and public sectors, were experiencing in not receiving the respect and obedience they deserved. The identified cause for that lack of respect and obedience was an 'excess of democracy' that existed during that time period. The report stated that this lack of respect for and obedience to the proper authority figures was due to the failure of certain institutions of indoctrination to effectively train people to learn how to maintain the status quo. The statement in question says the following (click here for the source):
In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely. The stress has been increasingly on individuals and their rights, interests, and needs, and not on the community and its rights, interests, and needs.

We should note that the status quo back then consisted of Jim Crow segregation, an immoral war in Vietnam that ignored the democratic solution previously proposed by the Geneva Accords, the 2nd class status given to women, and the rampant materialism of the establishment.

The second statement comes from Vladimir Lenin as he was discussing the topic of religion and Socialism. Unlike some other Socialists, Vlad, as some of the kids from my Sunday School class have come to "affectionately" refer to him as, said some pretty negative things about religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular. And taken as a doctrinal statement in any ideology, we would have to disagree with what he said. But if he was merely describing what he observed about religion and how it was interacting in his part of the world, then we would be hard pressed to contradict him since we weren't there. And my guess is that Lenin's observation is pretty much correct. For Lenin said the following (click here for the source):
Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze,   in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

BTW, just a disclaimer here. My quoting of Lenin in no way implies that I support the kind of rule he instituted the October, 1917 Revolution in Russia. I don't. But his observations of religion back then have importance for today.

Now, why, when we are told that it is only what Jesus said that should be used as a standard for the Church, should we use these statements to judge its actions and direction? The answer is rather simple. The answer is how can we allow the Church to be used as one of several institutions of indoctrination to automatically maintain to a system that is maintaining itself by commiting serious sins? In addition, how could our educational institutions and the army possibly have the same goals for indoctrination as the Church? In addition, if they cannot, then why do we allow the Church to work for the same end results as our educational institutions and the army? And why are we relying on indoctrination in the first place?

Thus, the review below will eventually get around to comparing what is said in the article being reviewed with the above cited statements. 

This week this blogpost is reviewing an article by R. C. Sproul Jr on whether Christians can support Socialism (click here for the article). R. C. Sproul Jr. (click here for a bio) is the son of the famous Reformed theologian, R.C. Sproul Sr. A couple of spoiler alerts are called for here. First R.C. Sproul Jr. has a bit of a checkered present. There is no need to pile on by listing what is documented. Nor is there a need to shame him for he is struggling with temptations many of  us struggle with and don't always succeed in controlling. We should hope and pray for the best for him while we take seriously what he has written in the article we are reviewing.

Another spoiler alert is that R.C. Sproul Jr. clearly states that Socialism is contrary to God's Word. And his reasons for saying so are shared by many religiously conservative Christians who oppose Socialism. This is why we are examining what he wrote in the article being reviewed.

How does R.C. Sproul Jr. define Socialism? He defines in such a way that makes it easy for his readers to confuse Socialism with political liberalism and the Democratic Party. For he defines it as when any big government steals from those who have to give to those who don't have. So his objections to Socialism seem to consist of opposing big government as well as theft via taxes used to help others. For this is what R.C. Sproul Jr. says:

Socialism operates under the premise that the state not only has the authority to take what rightfully belongs to one man to give it to another, but has a duty to do so. Whether it is socialized education, or socialized health care, or socialized medication, or socialized retirement, or simply the taking of cash from one man to give to another, it is of a piece. That we might be in favor of education or medicine or retirement, that we might want to see others receive these blessings, however, should not lead us to support programs that take the wealth God has entrusted to the care of one man to give to another. When one man takes from another by force we rightly call this stealing, something forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments. When ten men or ten million men elect civil leaders to take the wealth of others by force, this too is something forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments. It no more makes a difference if this stealing benefits us or those we would like to see benefited.

We should also note is the other objection R.C. Sproul Jr. has to Socialism. He declares that Socialism doesn't care for the poor because it doesn't help the poor as God has told us to. Here we should note that how society should care for the poor is not specifically spelled out in the New Testament. And using the OT is problematic since we do not live in a theocratic state. However, in the Old Testament, some money and partial control of property was to be surrendered in order to feed the hungry. And Israel was often chastised for not caring for the vulnerable.

Now what seems to be assumed in R.C. Sproul's arguments against Socialism is that what a person has been compensated with by their business either as owner or employee completely belongs to them. That assumption is based on the belief that what legally belongs to someone is what morally belongs to them. And we are saying this seems to be assumed because of his silence regarding the legal but immoral acquiring of wealth by businesses.


Now challenging those two assumptions is the basis for Socialism from the Marxist perspective. And Socialism's concern here from the Marxist perspective can be illustrated by the following question: Did all of James Madison's wealth morally belong to him even though much of it was garnered through owning slaves? If one was to answer that question with a 'yes,' then one is legitimizing slavery Madison's owning of slaves. And though we don't have slavery now, we can ask a similar question by saying: Does all of the wealth that a business owner gains morally belong to them even though they are exploiting their workers such as through paying poverty wages? Again, if one answers that question with a 'yes,' then one is legitimizing the paying of poverty wages even when those wages are being subsidized here through taxpayer funded government assistance programs or by using sweatshop labor either here or abroad.

What we should note here is that R.C. Sproul Jr.'s view of Socialism is more governed by Conservative Libertarianism ideology than by Christianity. And the reason for that is that there are extensive ties between Conservative Libertarianism and the political beliefs of many religiously conservative Christian leaders in this country. 


We should also note that Conservative Libertarianism, believes in cutting as many business's ties to its social responsibilities as possible. And logically speaking, this is done by redefining the traditional business definition of the word 'stakeholder' to that of consisting solely of stockholders or other business owners. The traditional business definition of the term was that stakeholders included all who were impacted by the operations of a given business whether that includes members of the community in which the business resides, its workers,  its vendors, its customers, those who share the same environment, and all others who are impacted by a given business's operation as well as a given business' owners.

Now let's go back and compare R.C. Sproul Jr.'s view of Socialism with how the Church is viewed both by Vlad and the writers of the report, The Crisis Of Democracy. In that report, workers were to submit to the demands of the owners of the businesses they worked for and perhaps doing that without questioning their bosses' authority. And note that what Vlad said was that religion is an accessory to the oppression and exploitation of workers by teaching both employees and employers how to be comfortable with a status quo that relies on the exploitation of labor. Thus, what R.C. Sproul Jr. has written about not stealing the wealth of others while being silent on how that wealth is gained seems to support the notion that he at least somewhat believes that what is legal is moral. In other words, if the law allows for the exploitation of workers by underpaying them, then it is moral for businesses to pay their workers poverty wages and workers should show respect for the authority of business owners by being content and passive. Here we should also add that Conservative Libertarians deny that businesses can underpay workers because they believe that underpaying employees is impossible for they also do not believe in minimum wage.

Thus, what R.C. Sproul Jr. is teaching about Socialism as a Christian makes him, and those who agree with him on the subject both fit the stereotype of Christians provided by both Vlad and follow the declared purpose of the Church by those who wrote The Crisis Of Democracy. And he does this by not questioning the assumption that all the wealth we gain through owning businesses or even being employed belongs to us alone.


 BTW, there is an ironic postscript here. In case you haven't noticed, poverty wages here that require workers to apply for taxpayer funded government assistance programs means that businesses are stealing taxpayers' money to subsidize their payrolls with government assistance progams. It is unfortunate that R.C. Sproul Jr. with his concern for those who are being stolen from did not notice this example of theft.






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