A Facebook friend posted a link to this essay, which I read because I really don’t understand Christian socialists. Well, I still don’t understand them. I have a feeling for them, maybe, but not an understanding. I understand more than I used to, when I started in the faith ; I’m willing to entertain the notion that government can be the vehicle for the fulfillment of moral imperatives. But I’m still not convinced that that’s the best decision prudentially, and I don’t think it’s the argument that the Left is actually making, since they generally argue against the intersection of morals and politics.
Ms. Dollar’s arguments, such as they are, amount to “I am a Democrat because they support all these good things.” It’s hard to argue against that; I want all those good things too. But as a Christian, I am responsible for my own actions, as are we all, and I will face my Judge to answer for the evils I have committed and supported.And my belief is that to vote Democrat is both to support evil, and not to support good. Let’s deal with the negative first.
The Democrat Party supports intrinsic evils, which we are forbidden to cooperate in. First among these is abortion, which until 1930, Christendom universally condemned as murder. As a self-proclaimed theological conservative, Dollar should be standing with the past. But I note that Dollar’s definition of “conservative” is “believes in the Nicene Creed”. That’s not the definition of a conservative; that’s the definition of a Christian. That’s been the filter between orthodoxy and heresy in Christendom for nearly 17 centuries, and if there are people whom Dollar accepts as Christian who do not believe in those propositions, both she and her church have major problems. (If she were truly theologically conservative, she’s be an orthodox Catholic, since the entire Reformation was an innovation.). She “align[s] myself with the political party that most consistently puts the interests of marginalized Americans on their national agenda.” Yet the unborn are the most marginalized Americans of all, since their very humanity is called into question; they are a “baby” or a “fetus” depending on whether the mother wants them. To say “It’s not really murder” is like saying “It’s not really stealing,” the language of the justification is self-refuting. Even if one doesn’t know what a human is, somehow, the fact that the preborn class of humans are usually called “baby” should lead one to invoke the precautionary principle. Do you really want to appear before King Jesus saying, “I didn’t know” as He gives you perfect recall of your friend’s baby shower? It’s possibly unfair to note here that the Democrat Party was, historically, the party that marginalized Americans, if they were black.
Nor does Dollar get to hide behind the belief that “abortion is a personal matter”, because she accepts the notion that the State is an agent for her moral choices. If her obligation to feed the poor can and should be fulfilled by government, how much more her obligation to defend the defenseless and to act as a Good Samaritan? Even supporters of the most minimal forms of government agree that, if government has any legitimate function at all, it is to prevent or punish murder. There’s a limited exemption for self-defense, but to use that here would be to accept Murray Rothbard’s argument that the fetus is a parasitic invader that needs to be defended against… and hence not human. And if it’s human, then it’s not a moral actor in being where it is; nobody asks to be conceived. Worse is the unholy conjunction of abortion and charity which states that I have to pay for somebody else to kill their child, which means that abortion is no longer a “personal matter”, as there’s no conscience exemption.
This is not the only intrinsic evil supported by the Democrats. (I will gloss over the contraception issue, as most Christians no longer have a problem with it.) Their entire political philosophy and campaign strategy is based on envy, on the violation of the 10th commandment. It’s all about taking from those who have to give to those who have not. And the definition of “need” constantly expands. Our poor live what in much of the developed world would be considered a middle-class lifestyle. At what point are the poor no longer poor; at what point have we helped enough? I think we all agree that having to live under a bridge is unacceptable, but is there a right to fast food or discounted smart phones?
And the whole mechanism of wealth transfer can be morally questioned. Voting to aid the poor is not like pledging to United Way. In that case, one has a choice whether to contribute, and that choice doesn’t commit anyone else to do so. Indeed, one can get out of fulfilling one’s pledge. However, when you vote, that vote is binding on others who themselves chose otherwise. And the State, unlike United Way, has guns; all state action is ultimately supported by armed force. Now, if I point a gun at you and request money, it’s a crime, even if I stick the contents of your wallet into a Salvation Army kettle. If I and a mob do so, it is still a crime; it may indeed be several crimes (inciting a riot, conspiracy). If a majority of the population were to do so, would it still be a crime? Why not? What is the magic whereby the State has a moral right to do this? The Christian might cite Romans 13, but that begs the question of the moral standing of government action. Rom. 13:3-4 assumes we are dealing with just government. If we read 13:1-2 without the light of 13:3-4, we must assume that all governments without exception are ordained of God, including those of Hitler and Pol Pot, and equally to be obeyed, and there is no just-war right to revolution. Now, historically, the Church hasn’t had a moral problem with normal taxation, unless it reaches an oppressive level, so I will freely admit that this argument is ahistorical. Yet it offers a possible counterbalance for the prudential judgement of those who were not taught about solidarity and subsidiarity.
But some of Dollar’s arguments are also ahistorical, particularly the distinction between “fairness” and “justice“. Indeed, by etymology, she has them reversed if there is any real distinction at all, since justice is legal whereas what is fair is a moral issue….probably more of the rotten fruit of Luigi Taparelli (The class-differentiation is built into the words : Latin vs. Germanic.) Quoting Matthew 20 here is a two-edged sword. God is “fair” exactly as the vineyard owner is. His covenant with us is to grant eternal life to those who repent and believe on His name, whether we do so from birth or on our deathbed, and regardless of how long we have labored in the vineyard. Like the early workers, we might be disturbed at God’s insane generosity to the latecomers. But we contracted for the penny because we need the penny, and can’t lose the chance through death.
She goes on to discuss “everyone giving out of what they have so that all have what they need (e.g., the Loaves and Fishes, Matthew 14:13–21).” I’ve dealt with this heresy elsewhere (and it IS a heresy to deny what is clearly described as a physical miracle.). But in the State, not everyone gives what they have. The tithe was not a progressive tax, and the widow’s mite was praised because losing anything was a hardship for her. Clearly the centurions should have gone to a Pharisee’s house, and made him pay for her.
This brings us to the other big problem with government support of the poor: it’s not charity, and like bad money under Gresham’s Law, it tends to drive real charity out of the marketplace. You get no moral brownie points for voting for taxes. You get even fewer for paying them, except for those applicable to obeying the law. You aren’t paying out of the goodness of your heart; you pay them to avoid unpleasantness with the IRS which may well include losing your home or freedom. Paying your tax doesn’t change who you are. Now, we sinners don’t want to come up off the dime, and I am the worst in that regard. Some of us solve that problem by making the government force us to come off the dime. It’s somewhat like the closet gay legislator who wants more anti-gay laws because he doesn’t think he can keep it in his pants otherwise. Others of us solve the problem by just doing it. It’s a form of pump priming; as we give, giving gets easier. And it changes us, making us more like Christ, which for Christians is the name of the game. But there aren’t enough real Christians to maintain the poor? Uh, maybe you should take some of the effort you put into Get Out the Vote and put it into evangelization, as Jesus told you to.
“None of us practice a pure faith. Our faith is always influenced by both the Christian and wider cultures in which we live. ” As a statement of fact, I can’t disagree with that. After all, we don’t only read the Bible in Greek as the Muslims read the Koran in Arabic. As a theological position, though, it runs up against Romans 12:2. I have to wonder whether Dollar’s religion is actually liberalism for which she uses Christianity as a justification, just as she (and I) might well question the extend to which my libertarian leanings might wag the Christian dog. But the goal should be, first, to find the pure faith, and then to prayerfully and objectively apply it to life, including political life.