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August 29, 2006

Comments

You describe only one flavor of communism...there are many and some may exclude atheism. Denial of God has been communism's greatest failing, but it need not be so. If we were to compare a Godless communist to a Godless capitalist, we find little difference, for they both need God in their life and both are sinners in need of a savior. To be compelled to do what is good for the unprivelaged is hardly outside of God's will and well within the agenda of those who call themselves communist. This is also the agenda that rabbid capitalists are first to shoot down in their own country in favor of competition against those least able to defend themselves. Is it not after all the responsibility of a Christian to defend the weakest of our society...just as in the case of abortion and ESCR?

"If we were to compare a Godless communist to a Godless capitalist, we find little difference"

I don't recall reading about any Godless capitalists killing 6 million Jews or 30 million Soviets.

Bill, you won't either. Neglect of the poor is a means of execution they don't write about in the papers and it doesn't sell novels and since it takes longer to get the same numbers as you quote it is ignored. What is more sinister than to make it look, not like an accident or intentional execution, but caused by natural causes? It is much easier to deceive yourself into thinking you are not responsible if someone dies of cancer because they couldn't afford proper early detection and treatment...while you live high-on-the-hog in Orange County California and can afford all those things trice over. After all, it was natural causes and all people die sometime(nice cop-out). But does that make you any less your brother's keeper? I was under the impression that we are in this world to become better people and I don't see how emassing vast sums of material wealth while ignoring the needs of the poor makes us better people. How does that make us into people that are eager at every opportunity to do God's will to help those who need it and in the process gain more than we ever give...even if it isn't in luxurious living? I shouldn't need to mention that it aught to be done for the glory of God who gives us gifts and things for a reason greater than to live in a lap of luxury. As Christians, shouldn't we always be looking toward the greater good?
Perhaps it is too much to expect someone who was raised in a privilaged society to apprecate how hardships cement people together and make them better people because of those hardships. We, after all, need to be reminded frequently that we are also needy and a society that does that is hardly going against God's will in pointing it out.
The socialist state I lived in was very good at teaching this lesson...and one that is quickly forgotten in a wealth afflicted country like United States.

Sorry if I ask too much.

Hey Louis, THough you came across a little harsh, the message of that is harsh by nature. Of course it sounded a little like a personal attack. I am not sure you meant it as such.

Can we be people of a socialist heart, and a democratic governement, sharing what we have with those who have little?

I would hope that is where we can go.

In many ways, I agree with Louis. If it weren't for the regulations put on so many industries, godless Capitalism would have a high death toll. Look at the Industrial Revolution and the working conditions put there. The conditions in factories were horrible. Teddy Roosevelt had to fight with Getty, Morgan, Melon and others for fairness in the marketplace and proper working conditions. Not as bloody as Hitler and Stalin, but offensive practices in the eyes of God none-the-less.

No, it is not Hitler, but that is a bit of a red herring since Hitler wasn't a communist. He was a Nazi. Economically, I would venture to guess he favored a form of capitalism since he allowed for government contracts with businesses rather than government run businesses. Actually, now that I am thinking about it, he would be a godless capitalist.

We would do well to remember the words of Amos:
"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, 'Bring us some drinks!'" If this world were to practice the economic principles laid out in the bible, the idea of true forgiveness of debt and fresh starts as Jubilee entails, we would see a higher standard of living over the entire planet.

As a citizen of Finland I can tell you that it is possible to have a genuine democracy and a good economy, where it is practically impossible to find oneself without a home, and all basic needs satisfied. (Though there are some that manage it by drinking the ridiculously large sum of money that the state gives every month.) There is nothing inherently atheistic about this.

But the real question is: Is it moral to vote for money to be forcibly taken from those, that didn't vote for this? On the other side of the coin is, that this is practically the only way to get rid of involuntary poverty and homelessness. Which is more important? The answer is not at all obvious to me.

Markku -- thank you for the interesting first-hand experience. I don't think there is anything "inherently atheistic" about that, but as you point out, it is not the place of government to take money from one person and give it to another. God gave us the institution of government to protect people, not to make sure they all have all the worldly possessions they would like. Capitalism, it seems to me, is the more Biblically-based system, wherein each person earns his/her wages. If those people choose to help their fellow human through charity, that is encouraged. We are to be cheerful givers, not givers under compulsion (as in the socialist or communist systems).

Now, Louis said: "It is much easier to deceive yourself into thinking you are not responsible if someone dies of cancer because they couldn't afford proper early detection and treatment...while you live high-on-the-hog in Orange County California and can afford all those things trice over". Louis, I appreciate your compassion and sympathy for those in need, and we certainly need to be taking reasonable steps to help those less fortunate. However, why would you suggest it is the fault of all those in upper-classes that those in lower classes die from disease (to use your example)? If you take your position to its logical conclusion, than every person on the planet is to blame for every malady suffered by anyone lower than them on the financial "pecking order". It might be easy to point to people richer than you and cast blame, but do you accept blame for all the deaths of all the children dying across the world, because you didn't send all your money?

Like I said, I sympathize with your position, and we all could learn to tighten the belt a notch and increase our giving, but I see no jusitification for laying blame for all the world's problems.

>God gave us the institution of
>government to protect people,
>not to make sure they all have
>all the worldly possessions they
>would like.

Well, I was in Canada last weekend, and actually saw and talked to homeless people for the first time in my life, when I and an adventurous friend of mine took the subway to the "Chinatown" area in Toronto. I had never been overseas before.

Although I think the social security is too big in Finland, I wouldn't actually call improving their conditions with taxpayers' money "giving them all the worldly possessions they would like"

I remember that Jesus said somewhere "the poor you will have with you always". I think this is so that we will have the occasion to be challenged to be good neighbors toward those around us. This is a personal kind of obligation that government cannot fulfill. Government is God's minister for good{Rom 13:1-4} to punish the evildoer, and praise those who do good.

Governments appetite for power/control of money will always have to be kept in check, because it's the primary way for men to usurp God on earth. When government says, "depend on me for your sustenance, it is saying "I'll be your God, just look to me for what you need".

There's probably no more evident fact of history than that of the Christian dedication to helping neighbors, as in "love thy neighbor". This can come in many ways, even hard discipline that shows more care for the person than to continue to keep them in a needy state. A Christian communist state? I cant see it even being a possibility because the two are by nature incompatible. But just as incompatible are the Christian saint and no sign of charity to their neighbors in need. This is not to say that there is to be a show of giving, but it's easy to spot compassion in a person even if the help they give is annonomous.

Louis, although I disagree with you on some points, you make a great and obvious point about defending the weak being a responsibility of the Christian, and it ought to be the mark of a nation of Christians.[if you believe the polls, the USA is.] I'm sorry we haven't been more effective as yet, but I am hopeful because of the strength of the arguement for life and it's proponents sucesses while wielding it.

Brad

Louis has a point on health care. The reality is that we in the United States spend more on health care than other industrialized nations and get less for it.

Also basing health care on employment hurts small business and creates a huge amount of waste in insurance programs that duplicate functions.

We have decades of experience in other countries to draw upon regarding national health insurance.

The point made about government taking from one person and giving to another is a red herring. A good society, prosperous and free, depends on a thriving middle class and that requires a solid safety net and a progressive regulatory and tax structure.

It is also important to differentiate between transfer payments. Life is a lottery in a lot of ways and, as a prosperous, stable society is in everyones interest, compulsory insurance isn't a bad idea. Social Security and Medicare help middle class families not have to decide between gramp's operation and Suzie's education.

"This is a personal kind of obligation that government cannot fulfill. Government is God's minister for good{Rom 13:1-4} to punish the evildoer, and praise those who do good."

I've always wondered why conservative (theologically) Christians quote this verse as if this is ALL government is supposed to do. (I consider myself a conservative Christian, so I'm critiqueing from within.) That may be part of it, but I don't think it is all of it.

"A Christian communist state? I cant see it even being a possibility because the two are by nature incompatible."

I'll be honest, I don't think this is true. You should read through the economic policy that God sets up in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is not blanket capitalism. It calls for serious consideration of respect for the poor, to the point where you cannot charge them interest or have your needs for a loan being repaid compromise their livelyhood. You can't make them leave their homes simply because they can't pay the rent, and the idea of a ghetto is abhorent. Every 50 years, ALL debts are forgiven and if someone has lost the rights to the control of their land, it is given back to them in a redistribution of wealth.

Their are obvious responsibilities for the poor as well. They can't sit on their duff and collect a welfare check, but business is required to not squeeze every ounce of profit possible and be concerned for the welfare of those without jobs.

Now, those principles don't seem to be in line with how I see purely capitalistic systems working. We in the West may look at capitalism as being fair, but I would argue that, like any other system of economics, that has more to do with the morality of the people implementing it than it does with the system itself.

Robert, capitalism requires a level playing field that only government can provide. Regulations protecting consumers, workers and the environment also protect those owners who want to do good. Absent such regulations those who would cut corners would have a competitive advantage.

An interesting discussion of Marx is at:
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/economic_history/index.html

Is anyone familiar with Francis Schaeffer's assertion that Marxism is a Christian heresy?

"When Christ commands you to go and feed the poor, he doesn't give you lessons in cookery." - C.S. Lewis

I've always asserted that it possible to be a Marxist and a Christian, much to the collective gasps of my Southern Baptist collegues. I would have a harder time believing in a communist Christian, merely because that atheism and communism have become so entangled together in modern times.

The Bible is vague, I believe by design, on what a government, according to Christian principles. We are stewards of our society, which means that the day to day details of how to accomplish the commands of Christ, i.e. feeding the poor, spreading the Gospel, are left to us. There is nothing inheritly Christian about capitalism, except in the sense of the value of human freedom.

That being said, it is far too easy to slip into the mindset of "Let the government do it," rather than saying "What can I do to help."

Joe, you are right...it was really not an attack. It was more along the lines of a challenge. I think that it is a good thing for us to be challenged from time to time to reassess your stand on a particular issue and perhaps make changes to our actions as needed. The point you made regarding the attitude of the heart is what it boils down to. In many ways, capitalism is as harsh as communism and as Christians and citizens of heaven, we can ill afford to allow either system of government to rule our hearts. We can not ignore the faults or the positive aspects of either system and it pleases me to see that so many here have dedicated some time to at least think about it along those lines. I don't care if you agree with me or not. In fact, I prefer that we don't agree on every jot. The important thing is that we stimulate open and honest debate and this is exactly what I see going on here.

Robert, I see your point on:
"A Christian communist state? I cant see it even being a possibility because the two are by nature incompatible."

I think what is needed for a Christian communist state to come into being is a kind of reformation. Just as it occurred within Chrisendom. Perhaps there was a time when the idea that indulgences would be done away with was also not viewed as a possibility...yet it took one man with vision and courage to take that step to make a difference. Perhaps that is what is needed to transform a communist state into a state that embraces the concept of freedom of religion and hence allow its members the freedom to worship according to their conscience.

Just to make sure people are reading my writing correctly, I was quoting Brad when I said "A Christian communist state? I cant see it even being a possibility because the two are by nature incompatible." in my post and then responding. I think a couple of people are reading that as if it is my idea.

And Alan, I agree with what you wrote. I think you were expanding on what I had already written, but I am not sure.

I'm wondering if some of the reaction against communism vis a vis Christianity is because of people being (if you'll pardon the expression) "of a certain age." I'm 34, so the Cold War ideas are not really mine. We didn't do bomb drills in our school.

But others see communism and immediately reflect on the Soviet Union, even if they are quoting from another person/ group, as Melinda is doing. That is because they were a part of the CW and did all those "CW things." They were a part of the generation that had Eisenhower add "one nation under God" because of the Chinese & Soviet's Communism and so mark those two as inextricable: that communism means "Godless" as opposed to capitalism which means "free market."

I read the Communist Manifesto in college and know that Marx mixed in "opiate of the people" with a particular economic theory. But the reaction to communism seems to be ellicit such a visceral reaction from those 45+, that I wonder if they bring extra baggage to their consideration of it as an economic ideal.

(I know this topic has gone away from the original post, but I think that the discussion has been interesting.)

Some aspects of Marxism/communism that do not sit so well with Christianity: materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, utopianism and the general philosophical hostility toward religion on the part of Marx, Engels, Lenin etc.

I believe that the movements that attempted to construct communist states did not end up totalitarian and hostile to religion by accident.

Louis - just got around to reading your comments. I hope they were not directed at me personally. If so, you are a very accurate reverse-barometer. None of your accusations fit with my personal lifestyle. If they are directed at the United States in general, please let me remind you that 99% of Americans don't live in Orange County. The vast majority of US citizens are hard working middle-class men and women that play by the rules and pay their taxes. And what's with the attitude? Last time I checked, while it may not be exactly the same type as yours, the US does have a welfare system, Medicare, and Social Security. Comparing people who are gassed because of their eithnicity or shipped to Siberia for their political views with someone who makes minimum wage and has access to myriad social programs is beyond rediculous. If socialist/communist governments are so Godly, why does less than 1% of the population of Europe attend church regularly? That's not the direction I would like to see the USA go.

Satan's expulsion from heaven; worship of one's self
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=dford3-1155401734.714656.220870%40m73g2000cwd.googlegroups.com

become like famous mass-killer atheists, and have others worship you
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=dford3-1152629227.581932.229990%40s13g2000cwa.googlegroups.com

become like famous mass-killer atheists, and have others worship you
http://tinyurl.com/jylgz

Satan's expulsion from heaven; worship of one's self
http://tinyurl.com/gvbls

Well, now Bill...I lived in a socialist state and we did go to church every Sunday. What country is it that you lived in, in Europe that you are so well versed on the habits of european church attendance? Did you happen to notice that while Castro was ill there was a media blurb that some Cuban people were praying for him during his illness? That kind of thing doesn't get much press around here. Now, as to social security, medicare and welfare system, in a word... misnomers. Social programs that are poorely administered and underfunded and left to the devices of those who would abuse them for their own purposes can hardly meet the needs of the poor in this country. The state of health care for the poor in a country with the kind of means that US has at its disposal borders on obscene. There are people in this country that would get ten times better medical treatment under a socialist state than they are currently receiving in this country...because they aren't gettin any. Are there problems within socialism/communism...of course there are...aplenty and you will be all too eager to point them out. I assure you that I would be the last person to paper them over, but you seem quite content to do the papering over for the capitalist side. I don't quite understand why though. We both know that government in general is not God's best for mankind as illustrated with the Israelites in the old testament.

There is another thing...and that there are a lot of lower class people in this country that do the very same things that the middle class people do, but must do without the perks. Why not show them a little of that Christian charity that God's love compells us to?

William -

"Is anyone familiar with Francis Schaeffer's assertion that Marxism is a Christian heresy?"

How weird - I'm not only familiar with it, but I was *just* reading it in "the God Who is There" yesterday. Actually, Schaeffer specified the Marx-Engels form of communism as being properly regarded as a Christian heresy. He makes such a claim based on the assertion that one of the driving forces - if not *the* driving force and the root of its initial appeal - of this kind of communism was the idealistic interest in Man as individuals, and that this idea is "borrowed" from Christianity. Specifically, the claim is that no other religious system or worldview gives an adequate rational basis for the care for people as individuals, and that this concept, though romanticized (as he put it) out of its context in biblical Christianity, nonetheless came from this worldview in which the western world has been steeped for almost two millenia.

Schaeffer's stuff is great - an incredible analysis of the flow of ideas through the modern mindset and culture. I highly recommend it to everyone out there, Christian or non-Christian. Good call, William.

Hi Robert, the Romans reference is pretty specific about what context government is to hold as God's ministers for good. The actual duties are not specified there, but I think the limits to the state in the Constitution reflect Christian thought. You can take that or not, I'm not prepared to take the time to defend my position right now.

As for the OT law, there's a difference between the theocracy of that day, and modern government. Indeed the church would do well to preach to the saints of God that the kindness and charity to neighbors described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy ought to be examples to be followed, but not out of compulsion by government/law.

Communism sets itself up as a false god. If you dont see the connection in reality, you must not be looking. As far as the ideal "from each according to his...to each according... " it is external law, not true compassion, and devoid of personal relationship all the while setting itself up as God. And this can be the case in any form of government, not just Marxism but especially Marxism, that attempts to legislate compassion. I think the tower of Babel reeks of a communist mindset with talk of a one-ness of the people, not individuals. I think that if a Christian is willing to defer his personal duty to charity to the government, he's not honoring "love thy neighbor as yourself".

Brad

fwiw i posted this on my blog a few weeks ago re the gov't thingy... it was a bit of an angry post but it may be worth thinking about here...

Being a Christian is a complete worldview that subverts every vain philosophy that the world puts up to cope with the position of falleness that we find ourselves in... a capitalist puts faith in money (the profit motivation - based on selfishness) to cure the worlds problems... a communist believes in command economies and redistribution of wealth...

more careful consideration is needed of the concept of "in the world but not of the world" ... we live and work in a capitalist democracy... but we are neither capitalist or democrats.

the Western Church has syncretised its beliefs with non-Christian worldviews so seemlessly that it can't now comprehend that God is opposed to those beliefs or is even capable of having his will done without our money...

Bill, people who earn minimum wage by and large don't have access to a myraid of social programs. They are just poor and probably without health insurance. Most of us don't realize how restricted and limited the lives of the poor are.

Louis, not all social programs are poorly administered or underfunded. Social Security is administered very efficiently and is hardly in trouble. It needs only minor tweaking in order to work for the rest of the century.

Medicare is in trouble and the recent drug bill is a boondoggle and was designed not to work.

A couple of interesting links:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_08/009420.php

http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2006/08/why_the_eitc_wo.html

http://angrybear.blogspot.com/2006/08/rich-get-richer.html

Just expanding a little bit Robert.

"Schaeffer's stuff is great"

1979 Schaeffer & Koop on the a-moral implications of atheism
http://tinyurl.com/ebvze

Social Security is ok for now, but there maybe a problem, Houston, in about 5 years or so when the big population hump of 75M baby boomers start retiring and drawing SS benefits. Unfortunately, it's a pay as you go system, and in a few years there'll be more people drawing it than paying into it, unlike now & previously. That will mean either a big hike in SS payroll deductions or a big change in payouts or a raise in the age you can start drawing SS--that will mean more than minor tweaking. This will mean major changes that a lot of people will not be happy with--a lot more unhappy than they were when W suggested looking at changing the system awhile back........

Mike, the effects of the baby boomers have been factored into the projections. Payroll taxes will run a surplus until around 2020 and the trust fund lasts a couple of more decades or so. A couple of simple tweaks and the system works into the next century. W seeks to destroy the system which is why his plan bombed.

W's plan included letting me keep at least part of what is now SS withholding, which I could invest myself and get a much better rate of return than SS gives me over the long haul. I wish we could opt out of SS & divert all of it to a mandatory, tax deferred investment vehicle--which I would do in a heartbeat. I would most assuredly retire with a lot more than I'm gonna get from SS. SS is a forced savings plan for those who haven't the foresight or the wherewithall to do so themselves, so it's good for some--not so for others. I don't see how "destroying the system" would benefit anyone politically, which is obviously only an assertion on your part. Projections are only that, and are not written in stone. A lot can happen in 20 years. I'd rather take the chance and risk screwing up my retirement myself, rather than letting the government make it a foregone conclusion.

Mike, I'll deal with the political question first. Back when the Clinton health plan first surfaced, Gingrich made the observation that if the Democrats were to reform health care they would hold power for another generation. The link below points out the political considerations

http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/003538.php

Social Security honors work. It says that if you are willing to work, no matter how little you make or how bad your luck or imperfect your decision making process, you will not be destitute in your old age. That is an important statement for a society to make.

The reality is this Mike, if you are making so little that you need the amount you pay in payroll taxes in order to have any significant savings, you need something like Social Security; you just don't realize it.

If you are able to have significant savings after paying payroll taxes, credit yourself for your part in it all and also have the honesty to aknowledge your undeserved luck. Also seriously consider what life in a ruthlessly zero-sum nation would be like and be grateful for Franklin Roosevelt.

Below is an interesting comment on the past century. The whole letter is interesting but last paragraph in Brad's post should be of interest to us today.

"Well, Thompson, I really do not attribute to you this way of thinking. Still I cannot help noticing your use of double standards of evaluation.... We must not be fervent moralists in some cases and Real-politikers or philosophers of world history in others, depending on political circumstances.... [A] Latin-American revolutionary who told me about torture in Brazil. I asked: "What is wrong with torture?" and he said: "What do you mean? Do you suggest it is all right? Are you justifying torture?" And I said: "On the contrary, I simply ask you if you think that torture is a morally inadmissible monstrosity." "Of course," he replied. "And so is torture in Cuba?", I asked. "Well, he answered, this is another thing. Cuba is a small country under the constant threat of American imperialists. They have to use all means of self-defence, however regrettable"...
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/09/main_currents_o.html

Reality intrudes on rosy economic scenarios:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_09/009444.php

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