Sunday, April 01, 2007

Moralism and Hypocrisy

Beware the language of moralism from political and religious leaders when their words are grounded in a syrupy and abstract doctrine of love. Be particualrly alamred when their "love" will be financed with other people's money and directed at strangers rather than imbued by personal charity and financed by their own resources.

In a recent interview on the Belief.net website, presidential wannabe and former North Carolina senator John Edwards was asked, "What parts of American life do you think would most outrage Jesus?"

Edwards, who has amassed a small fortune by making his country a more litigious place, I mean looking out for the little guy who's standing against institutional corporate oppression, responded, "Our selfishness." "Our resort to war when it's not necessary. I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually," said Edwards.

I want to be charitable for a moment and forget that Edwards voted for the Iraq war and concede that he is right about the morality of American interventionism. (Unfortunately, he has also proven very hawkish on Iran.) Let me also hasten to add to that I'm not the least bit concerned that Edwards has hit it big. God has indeed been gracious to him, and I certainly offer up no ill will based on his good fortune. Good for him.

But this is the same John Edwards who recently purchased a 28,000-square-foot estate on 102 acres while running a presidential campaign driven by class envy rooted in covetousness. The Edwards compound has 5 bedrooms and 6.5 baths, which is connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, a number of trees have been sacrificed to build a private soccer field.

Meanwhile, I recently watched Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." I confess to being a scientific ignoramus and largely found Gore's presentation to be convincing. The movie was also a grand example of propaganda at its best in that it succeeded at the impossible--it humanized Al Gore, who seemed a more interesting man at the end of the movie than prior to pushing the "Play" button.

Gore makes a moral argument largely grounded in what Reformed theologians call the Cultural Mandate. Man, as God's vice-regent, has an obligation to be a steward of His creation. Clearly, this is a corporate obligation, but it also begins with individual action. Gore himself calls on Americans to become carbon neutral, in particular by decreasing energy consumption at home.

The problem is that he isn't taking his own scolding to heart. It was reported recently that last August the Gore family home burned 22,169 kWh, more than twice the electricity in one month that a typical family uses in an entire year.

Finally we have Richard Land. Joined at a press conference by Hispanic evangelical leaders and a bible-quoting Ted Kennedy, Land called for "comprehensive immigration reform," by which he means he amnesty for 12 to 20 million law-breakers.

Land said Christians must look beyond how illegals entered the country. "We also have a Biblical mandate to act compassionately for those that are in need, Matthew 25," Land said. "To love our neighbors as ourselves. Matthew 22. And to do onto others as we would have them do onto us, Matthew chapter 7, verse 12."

But how does one love? By fulfilling the law. The apostle Paul said, "He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Continuing, God's great apostle said, "The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal," 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10). In other words, what we owe to our neighbors is the love and justice summed up perfectly in God's law.

Love and law are inextricably linked, and failure to enforce the law is not love, but fundamentally an attack on a holy God. And Scripture is clear that aliens may plunder a disobedient people as punishment for their failure to obey God's Law. "The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower...You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God" (Deut. 28:43, 62).

Moreover, by following Dr. Land's prescriptions Americans would be asked to subsidize outsiders at the expense of their own countrymen, children, and posterity. Studies estimate that two thirds of illegal immigrants lack a high school degree and Robert Rector of the Heritage foundation found that "the average immigrant without a high school degree will impose a net cost of nearly $100,000 on U.S. taxpayers over the course of his or her life."

Rector continues: "This means that the six million immigrants lacking a high school diploma and legally residing in the U.S. today will cost taxpayers more than a half trillion dollars over their lifetimes. Moreover, if the five million illegal immigrants who lack a high school education are granted amnesty and citizenship, as proposed by the Bush Administration and legislated in a Senate-passed immigration bill (S. 2611), overall costs would rise considerably; the overall net cost to government of immigrants without a high school diploma could reach one trillion dollars or more. If the cost of educating immigrants’ children is included, the figure could reach two trillion dollars."

Edwards, Gore, and Land all make moral arguments couched in scriptural half-truths. All three wind up being statists, seeking to redistribute wealth and resources to further one "moral" cause or another, never concerned that the ends they use are unbiblical. Beware the churchman and politico preaching doctrines of love and grace disconnected from the realities of sin and the necessity of repentance and restitution.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post sounds like an unbelievable cop out. Rather than dealing with solutions to the tragedy of poverty you seem to want to criticize someone who sees the issues differently than you. There are plenty of wealthy conservative Christians packing the pews of megachurches all across the posh suburbs of this nation who don't think twice about the injustices that have been perpetuated that allowed their privileged lives. John Edwards may be wealthy but what he is trying to do is shed light on the societal forces that cause poverty. Is he not allowed to do that? Maybe there are a few books that you should read that may help you break out of this cult of the free market (Try American Apartheid or When Work Disappears). Capitalism is not God and in fact has contributed greatly to many of the social ills we see today. The rate of poverty in America's inner cities is directly attributable to the decades of discrimination in housing markets which has confined African-Americans to inner city neighborhoods far from jobs and allowed whites generous loans and tax breaks to move to suburbs where they could avoid paying for programs needed to lift up the poor blacks that were pouring into American cities from the South. Racism in the free market, along with government's helping hand produced poor, predominantly black inner cities and affluent, predominantly white suburbs. The effect of this is still seen today. A book called American Metropolitics by Myron Orfield could enlighten you on the sad reality today of discrimination in the past. John Edwards, like Orfield, as well as many compassionate evangelical Christians such as Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Tim Keller, and John Perkins, are quite aware of these sad facts and are simply trying to do anything they can to follow the commands in the Bible that "justice roll down like a river." God consistently called on governments and societies to promote justice for the poor and to fight oppression in all its forms. You, as well as many conservatives, unfortunately are so blinded by the free market and the money it produces that you fail to realize how it promotes selfishness, greed, materialism, consumerism, self-indulgence, sexual immorality, and deceit. Take the entertainment industry for example. The pop culture trash of today is a complete mockery of God's kingdom and is also a direct result of capitalist ideology gone wild. Market economies are certainly effective and preferable to communism, but left unchecked are just as damaging to the moral and spiritual fiber of a nation. I'm afraid in the case of America, conservatives are unwittingly promoting hedonistic values they claim to detest. In their love for all the money they make, conservatives have made capitalism a religion and any threat to it, such as from people like John Edwards, must be shot down by projecting their own insecurities about their wealth onto others.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

There is not "cult" of the free-market here at Dow Blog. Unrestrained hedonism under the guise of "capitalism" is Godless, rootless, and revolutionary. I have criticized the idolatry of free-trade elsewhere (http://dowblog.blogspot.com/2005/05/on-cafta-and-free-trade-idolatry.html).

You speak of Christians whose wealth is built on the backs of others. What are you talking about? This is the malady dissected by David Chilton in his uproarious book "Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators." You should take a look.

You speak of housing discrimination and racism. In fact, blaks as a whole made tremendous progress between 1946 and 1964, and as a whole have made less progress since the intervention of the state into every nook and cranny of life during the Great Society.

Moreover, it was the state via the National Highway System that destroyed cities--including white ethnic enclaves in every major city in the north. See E. Michael Jones' "Slaughter of the Cities" for the details.

Moreover, the housing discrimination you cite was created by the FHA, not the free market. In other words, it was a product of the state. If you are interested in learning more about how the state has helped to harm blacks, I would commend the work of Thomas Sowell, "The State Against Blacks," by Walter Williams, and "Poor Policy" by Eric Schansberg.

8:45 PM  

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