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Monday, June 28, 2010
I loved Doug Wilson's response to Jim Wallis' vitriolic vacuity. Seriously, I'm not sure if Wallis could get any more intellectually dishonest or imbecilic. Read Wilson's piece in its entirety here.
Jim Wallis recently offered the opening salvo of an invitation to discuss exactly how "Christian" the Tea Party movement is.
His five points are these:
1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not a Christian virtue;
2. An anti-government ideology is not biblical;
3. Supreme confidence in the power of markets is not biblical;
4. Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is not biblical;
5. The Tea Party is just too white.
Later in his discussion, Wallis cites Jeremiah 22:16 and Amos 5:15 authoritatively, which is fine by me, but the Old Testament has a lot of other verses too (Ex. 22:18). If you are going to reason this way, you are going to have to give an accounting of the political ramifications of all Scripture. You can't just treat troublesome verses like a cluster of distant trees on the bank which you float by on the river of benevolent niceness, in the rowboat of exegetical detachment.
That said, let us consider his points in turn."The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue. Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition."But he misstates the question. The question is not "shall we have individual rights or shall we have the common good? Which shall it be?" The debate is over which form of social organization is most conducive to the common good."Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds individual rights as its supreme value and considers government the major obstacle."For Christian libertarians, individual rights are not the supreme value, and to assert that they are is idolatry, pure and simple. The glory of God, and the gospel of His Christ, are the supreme political values. But once we have faithfully answered the first question in the Shorter Catechism, we still have to figure out our social and political arrangements. In the process of doing that, it is simply a misrepresentation to say that those who want to protect individual rights in the first instance are disinterested in the fate of the common good. Overweening government is not just the major obstacle to an enjoyment of individual rights, it is the major obstacle to the common good.
Because Wallis does not understand economics, or logic, he cites Bible verses into the air."Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, 'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well' (Jeremiah 22:16). Amos instructs the courts (the government) to 'Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts' (Amos 5:15). The prophets hold kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and mercy.They most certainly do, and I am an unabashed theocrat on these issues. Kings are responsible to God to protect and defend justice, and He will judge them at the last day for any failure to do so. Kings are responsible to defend and protect the poor from the predatory rich. But it will not do for Wallis to cite a Bible verse with the word justice in it, and then import an alien definition of justice, and reason from there. When employers rip off their employees, the righteous prince will be right there, and will enforce the demands of justice (Jas. 5:4). But when an economic illiterate demands that we destroy an inner city with minimum wage laws and rent control, what charge shall we bring against him? For my part, I would charge him with not hating evil, with not loving good, and with not maintaining justice in the courts.
Christian liberals need to get it into their heads that the prophet Amos never said, "And thou shalt be sure to maintain your charitable niceness pure and undefiled with the pixie dust of good intentions.""An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical."Sure. Great. Amen. Governments are established by God, and we should all acknowledge it. Anarchism is out. But . . . it is interesting to me that folks like Wallis haul out the Romans 13 lecture to hector attendees of Tea Party rallies, where American flags and Uncle Sam hats abound, and they go deathly quiet when actual anarchists riot in Toronto.
Anti-government ideology is unbiblical, but being anti-tyranny isn't. The problem is that advocates of hubristic governments think that any opposition to that hubris is opposition to the original point of constitutional government. Which it isn't. Wallis acknowledges this in the abstract -- "a power-hungry government is clearly an aberration and violation of the proper role of government in protecting its citizens and upholding the demands of fairness and justice." So what do we do when that happens? And will we be able to do it in a peaceful and orderly way without men like Wallis lecturing us, as though we didn't know already, that responsible government is a good thing?
..."The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin."Just one quick point here. Markets are formed when men agree to not behave coercively toward one another in their economic transactions. Governments are formed when men agree together on what the structure of their collective coercions shall be. Markets are not coercive, by definition. Governments are coercive, by definition. The person who needs to have his unbiblical views of the nature of sin adjusted is the person who thinks that government presents less of a temptation to sinners than markets do.
My political philosophy can be summed up this way -- keep coercion to a minimum. This exhibits naivete about the reality of sin? Hardly."The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian . . . To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion."First, this objection is wrong simply as a matter of fact. The underlying premise, driven by envy and ressentiment, is simply wrong. Is it true that the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer? Is it true on a basic factual level?
But secondly, let us translate what Wallis is actually saying on the theological level. He is arguing that compassion cannot survive apart from coercion. Compassion comes out of the barrel of a gun. The demands of compassion require that we threaten a lot of people with hard time in chokey if they don't fork it over now. Wallis is a theocrat, as am I. But his vision of theocracy has a lot more guns, jails, and fines in it than mine does. How many guns and jails do we need? I don't know -- how far did we fall short on the compassion index this year? Anybody who thinks that someone with Wallis' political philosophy is ever going to say at some point, "that's enough, we have finally fed the poor" . . . probably doesn't have a biblical understanding of sin. But I am repeating myself."Finally, I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not."Ah, the race card. This objection, which is doubling as a violation of the ninth commandment to boot, is amazing. I confess myself poleaxed and flummoxed. Look at what he is actually saying here. It is not "likely," but obviously still possible, that "every member" of the Tea Party is racist. He says this on the basis of who shows up at open-invitation events? Compare this to the line-up of an invitation only operation . . . here. Heh.