Why I’m NOT a Christian Democrat.

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.

6 Responses to Why I’m NOT a Christian Democrat.

  1. Tom Jackson says:

    Good essay, although I kind of wish, with less than two weeks before the election, the words “Gary Johnson” had popped up somewhere.

  2. jeffreyquick says:

    I understand that. But i wasn’t dealing with specific candidates here, but with political philosophies. Personally, if I’m going to vote for a Republican, I’d rather vote for the one with the chance of winning. I am sympathetic to the argument that a vote for Romney is ALSO a vote for intrinsic evil. Unfortunately, that argument would also disqualify Johnson.

  3. Tom Jackson says:

    “If I’m going to vote for a Republican … ” I can’t follow your premise. I’m voting for a Libertarian, so I’m voting for Gary Johnson, who is the nominee of the Libertarian Party, and who by any reasonable measure is a Libertarian in fact as well as name — he supports a foreign policy of leaving other countries alone, he supports legalizing pot, he wants to balance the budget by cutting government spending, etc. Romney supports none of those things. Yes, Johnson ran in the Republican primary, but so did Ron Paul.

    No candidate is perfect, but Johnson is the most credible candidate the party has nominated since nominations began in 1972. He was a two-term governor, for heaven’s sake.

  4. jeffrey smith says:

    Leaving abortion alone (except to note that it’s not mentioned in the Nicene Creed, so it can’t be used to define who is and is not a Christian, if the Nicene Creed is the standard)–you’re running up against the entirety of the Old Testament.
    1) Everything you have is what God gives you. (I’m speaking generally here, not just about J. Quick and J. Smith) God gives it to you for God’s purposes, not yours or anyone else’s; and God has stated in the Bible more than a few times that God’s purpose is that we work for the benefit of our fellow men. Use of our property is allowed us merely to help us fulfill that greater purpose. Stewardship is merely trying to figure out the best way to achieve that purpose.
    2)God outlines a plan of a just society God intended the Israelites to implement. Even if you say it was merely a temporary arrangement, now superseded by the events of 33 CE, you would have to agree that no detail of that plan represents something that is not morally good. If it was not morally good, would God have included it? And that plan is full of obligations and communally imposed duties, and coercive taxation. (Tithe paying was mandated, and was a minimum, and other features were included which would render it “progressive”; and if threatening divine punishment up to and including eternal damnation for not paying tithes is not coercion, what is?). And supporting a person at the level at which they are accustomed to is the standard. If a rich man goes broke, the community is obliged to support him in something like a rich man’s style; they can’t get by with just a cot and three hot meals a day. But the Bible counts that coerced giving as charity.
    3) Justice is a moral issue in the Bible, not a legal one. Remember that the Hebrew word tzedek means both righteous and just. And from that root is formed a noun, tzedekah, which means righteousness, justice….and charity.

  5. Jeffrey Quick says:

    I wasn’t using abortion as a definition of a Christian. A Christian who actively participates in an abortion is a Christian who has committed a mortal sin; no more, no less. Is it active participation to vote for the funding of abortions? I believe so.

    1.) I was actually going to include that point, but I could only work on this for so long. God gives us constructive control of more or less of his stuff depending on our birth or abilities. The advantage of this is that there is a limit to how much any particular depraved human may use His stuff. When you move more stuff into fewer hands, the opportunities for misuse multiply. And the incentives for becoming a “public servant” don’t exactly select for holiness.

    2. My OT isn’t as strong as it should be. I’m particularly interested in those “progressive” features, as they would directly invalidate one of my points. Cite please?

    3. I was discussing English rather than Hebrew, and neither “justice” nor “fairness” quite encompasses “tzedekah”. But that’s the word that the Church used in the beginning, so it is most certainly relevant. Justice and fairness as we understand them are both attributes of moral actors; this the nonsense of “social justice”, because “society” as an abstract noun is not a moral actor. And the actor has an object ; one is just or fair TO somebody. It doesn’t seem that tzedekah implies an object.

    A further consideration if we’re using Judaism as an argument for the welfare state: it was a state religion, until the Jews no longer had a state. To what extent can we or do we impose Christian values on a people who are increasingly non-Christian? Or are we just doing a payoff so folks won’t riot? If we have state charity because it’s the Christian thing to do, why don’t we also have a state-imposed Sabbath? (and we discriminate against some group depending on the day we choose). Why does the Christian state lay a snare for the poor and innumerate in the form of a lottery?

  6. jeffrey smith says:

    Read through what might be called the “legislative” sections of the Pentateuch, from the giving of the Ten Commandments on to Moses’s final oration. It’s a whole scheme, and best seen as operating as a whole, and not just by pointing to individual features (like the first and second tithes, which are only part of a set up that includes a requirement to consume a set percentage in Jerusalem during the Pilgrimage Festivals, and the jubilee laws which returned land to the original family after no more than fifty years).

    I was referring to the Old Testament because it shows that God approves of government interference and communal infringement of liberty (if God didn’t approve, there would have been different laws, obviously).

    “Society” is not an abstract noun–it’s a collective noun, the set of all people in our community (defined as however large you want that community to be). Justice is an abstract noun. Social justice means a society in which the members of the society act to produce results that are just to all members.

    And if you can have just wars, why not just society? And at any rate, God seems to put a high value on how just a community is, and the standard of judgment is not how little one interferes with the right to keep personal property but how the poor and the weak are treated. Judged by that standard, a party which, like the GOP, advocates leaving people’s access to health care as a function of the money they have available, and therefore condemns the poor to sickness and death because they would not have good health care, fails rather drastically. Qualifies as intrinsically evil, in fact, even if you disregard the propensity of the GOP to select military means and the threat thereof as the primary method of conducting foreign affairs

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