To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost message to the Millennial Christians and their concerns with Social Justice and how that compared to the concerned baby boomers had during the 60s. This appeared in Heidelblog.
Half thoughts are really presented here in order to push Clark's opinion. We should note that not all on the left believed in utopia. Some believed in just trying to improve what was there. But one of those who did believe in working toward a utopia was Martin Luther King Jr. So how much of his thinking should we discard because of his utopian beliefs?
Another half though is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a social gospel. What should be implied from that statement? Should the Church make no statements or efforts to bring about social justice because the Gospel is not a social gospel? The statement and the question show what has been overlooked about what the Gospel says about social justice. For certainly the Gospel cannot be reduced to bringing social justice. But it is just as much of a mistake to think that the Gospel has nothing to do with social justice either.
For what is the Gospel? It tells us that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive a new life by believing in Jesus. To do that, the Gospel must preach against sins. Certainly, no conservative worth their weight in theology would neglect to tell those who are engaged in sexual sin to repent of such sin. And yet, when it comes to our active participation or silent complicity in societal and state sins, how many conservatives worth their weight in theology would preach that we must repent of supporting such sins?
One difference in the two kinds of sins here is that while personal sins like sexual sins affect just a small group of people, societal and state sins hurt far more people. And those who are involved in such sins need to hear a message saying to stop and change and ask for forgiveness as much as we need to hear the same message regarding our personal sins.
We should also note that when we fail to preach against societal and state sins, we align the Church behind those with wealth. The Church has done that before during the pre revolutionary times in France, Russia, and Spain and has brought dishonor to the Gospel when having done so. Here we should ask whether those with positions of influence in the Church today who suppress people's efforts to preach against wealth and power are acting from the same motivation as Baby Boomers do when they demand a quiet life in the suburbs.
BTW, we should note something about Reagan's stimulation of the economy. That he did it partially through attacking unions. And one only needs to look at wealth disparity in the US to see if it increased or decreased during and after his presidency. We should also look at his foreign policies in particular his support of people like Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and right-wing armies, paramilitaries, and terrorists who committed gross crimes in Central America. For it seems that what Clark accuses Millennials of doing when they mix social concerns with the Gospel is what some Christian leaders do when they back conservative politics so strongly.
To Joe Carter and his blogpost stating that the transgender issue is a public battle for reality where losing brings dire consequences. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.
Certainly reality is an issue in the transgender debate, but it isn't the only issue. Another issue that comes into play is how will we religiously conservative Christians share society with those who have different views of reality than we have? And that question has come into play way before elementary school teachers would have thought about contradicting the idea that sex can occur outside of a monogamous heterosexual relationship. BTW, Carter's claim about what elementary school teachers would not being willing to contradict 50 years ago is just noise. Why? First, because such teachers would not be discussing sex in class 50 years ago. And second, if we are speaking about what teachers believe and would say outside the classroom and school, there is no way to prove this claim.
We could go back to the debate on evolution to see that there are people who view reality differently than we do. Segregation was another such issue that divided people according to how they saw reality. And so the other question comes into play: How will we share society with people who view reality differently than we do? Coexisting as equals is one such option. Certainly we could share society with those who believe in evolution as equals. We could give a voice to both sides in society and school.
But the live and let live approach does not always work and the belief/nonbelief in segregation shows why. To allow those who believe in segregation to have their way, one must impose on the rights of those who don't believe. That is because to allow segregation to hold sway, we must violate the rights of those who don't.
Certainly some Christians feel that their rights and, perhaps, safety are infringed on when they must share a bathroom with those who identify with the other gender than the one they are born with. At the same time, transgender students feel like their rights are violated when they can't use the facilities of the gender they identify with. Yes, we Christians can point to a physical reality. But should we let that physical reality drown out the voices and feelings of those who identify with the other gender? Since we don't really know what is going on in their minds of transgender students, perhaps a much more nuanced approach than the one recommended above or the one insisted on by transgender students should be searched for. After all, taking a more nuanced approach respects the positions of both sides without having to agree with a side. And then we can see whether we have opened the Pandora's box envisioned by the writer of the article.
To Alexander Salter and his blogpost using ethics to support his preference for free trade over protectionism. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.
When the writer introduced the idea of introducing ethical concerns in economics when discussing free trade vs protectionism, I held hope for the article. But the following statement dashed all such hope:
I am a free trader. My reasons have nothing to do with economic efficiency. Instead, I rely on a simple maxim—a heuristic, if you will—for what I believe is sound public policy: It is wrong and harmful to prevent benefits accruing to the general public due to fears about the costs borne by a relatively small subset of the public.
For the ethics put on display for the writer's argument for free trade is nothing more than a bottom-line, ends justify the means argument. But it is more than just that, the actual loss of jobs that actually increases the supply of workers for lower pay jobs is more than just a fear; it is a reality. Let alone, the loss of manufacturing, textile, and now information technology jobs affects more than just a small subset of the people. All of this actually affects a larger percentage of people than the writer either is aware of or willing to admit.
But it is the basic ethic that is unacceptable. What if the general public is benefiting from paying a subset of the population poverty wages, is that ethical? Or what if the general public is benefiting from even slave labor, is that ethical? What we do know is that our general public is benefiting from foreign slave and sweatshop labor? Is such ethical since those people are invisible to us?
In addition, certain assumptions are made about protectionism. For example, Salter declares an absolute truth by begging the question of the statement on which it is made:
There are a host of other reasons to oppose protectionism. Peace between nations is one. A quote attributed to Bastiat goes, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
When the US and UK used protectionism to develop certain industries, did war result from it? What we do know is that conflict can come from forcing free trade on nations where the leaders of those other nations benefit but the people don't.
One thing is for sure, this article shows a shortsightedness in economics as much as it does in ethics. For not only is a bottom-line ethic espoused that makes the free trade economies of the richest nations resemble the backdrop of what existed in the Hunger Games movie series, the only stakeholders of free trade recognized by this writer are some of the stakeholders of one's own nation. In this sense, it seems that Salter is a nation-first, free trader. And here, the issue isn't whether he should favor protectionism over free-trade. The issue is the ethical argument he uses to support his case.
To Joe Carter and his blogpost that opposes increasing the minimum wage. This appeared in the Acton blog.
Carter offers a within the system look at the cost of raising the minimum wage. And it is a limited within the system look at that for it only considers the choices faced by those who employ, not by those who are employed in low wage jobs. And because Carter views the minimum wage issue from within the system, he lacks any ability to view the system from the outside, to view the system from any ethical perspective. That is because to view the system from the inside alone ends up with us equating reality with the system and thus any bucking of the system is a denial of reality. And part of that reality is that the wages that Carter insists should not be raised are poverty wages that make employees dependent on gov't assistance to survive. And that means us taxpayers are subsidizing the payrolls of companies that pay poverty wages.
The real concern that any Christian should have over this issue is what is right for all of the participants. Is it right for the employers and business owners to treat and pay employees from a self-interest perspective alone? Doesn't such a perspective cause an employer or business owner to relegate one's employees to that of being disposable objects? And doesn't relegating people to be disposable objects deny the intrinsic value of those employees? And is it Christian for us to only view the plight of employers and business owners without challenging the notion that the decisions of employers and business owners are to be guided by self-interest alone? Is acting from self interest alone the basic ethical principle we learn from the Scriptures? And we can only face questions like these if we are willing to look at the system from the outside the system, rather than from the inside.
Here, Carter aligns himself with employers and business owners. In other words, Carter aligns himself with wealth and he is not alone. Much of conservative Protestantism aligns itself with wealth. And in doing so, these Christians are simply repeating the mistakes made by the Church. For in the pre revolutionary times of France, Russia, and Spain, the predominant branch of the Church in those countries also aligned themselves with wealth and with power. So that when the revolutions came, revolutionaries could only see the Church as being an enemy and this brought great dishonor the Gospel.
As Christians align themselves with either the domestic side of neoliberalism as seen with President Trump's efforts to cut taxes and regulations or the foreign face of neoliberalism as seen in free trade, they align themselves with wealth as the Church has mistakenly done in the past. And while these Christians rant and rail against the personal sins of people, they discredit the Gospel by turning blind eye to the sins of the economic system they have come to embrace and a deaf ear to the cries of the stakeholders of that system who are exploited. They also live in denial of the fact that when those with wealth are allowed to make decisions based on on self interest alone, society becomes more corrupt and its economic system becomes corrosive.