*** Not a Believer? Disclaimer at end***
First of all the government does not have any responsibility… People have responsibility. The question is how can we, as people, exercise our responsibility to our fellow man most effectively. That’s the problem.
– Milton Friedman
“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
– Frederic Bastiat
If I were going to start an article with a Wikipedia quote and hope that people would take me seriously, I would use the greedy corporation Google search for what Jesus actually talked about the most. This is what my extensive research found: HERE &HERE.
When wading in the shallows of politics, I must confess that I usually am not prepared for a sermon. I believe that there are some issues that are so vitally important and fragile that once they are taken from the arena of thought and injected into the political body, they are subjected to corruption, manipulation and cynical skepticism. The serious believer, or the socially conscious person, knows that taking care of the helpless (Those who cannot do for themselves) is a cause of selflessness and nobility.
When Social Justice is devolved down to either a vote or a judge sanctioned edict, the essence of Social Justice disapparates (#harrypotternerd) and its replacement is government; a cold and unfeeling institution that demands nothing in return for its generosity except your vote. The troubling trend I see with Social Justice, for both the believer and the non-believer, is the push for government to become the primary force for both its inspiration and, more contentiously, its resources. If the Believer is to take God (Father, Son, & the Holy Spirit) seriously, then bringing glory to His name should be the source and strength of all Social Justice. When a faceless government becomes the source instead of a (higher ideal) humans inevitably do what they always do: steal the spotlight.
I think Thomas Sowell was onto something when he talked about Social Justice. “If you believe in Free Markets and… Traditional Values and so forth, there is no exaltation that comes with that. You are just somebody who believes in Free Markets and Traditional Values… But if you believe in Social Justice and saving the environment, you are really something! The people with that viewpoint have a huge ego state.”
If a faceless government is your main vessel to help the poor, then you will superimpose your face and the softness of your heart onto the movement of Social Justice while using other people’s money as the means to an end. As a result, one’s passion for the poor, however powerful it might be, runs the risk of devolving into self-righteousness. And one’s self-righteousness, regardless of political persuasion, gets intensely irritating during election years.
I found myself in a Facebook conversation with a friend over the Occupy Wall Street movement. He was frustrated at the mainstream media and how it was portraying the movement. Based on his postings about economical issues, my friend clearly is a Free Market Capitalist with absolute zero government intervention outside the restrictions of the Constitution. I was confounded because a lot of the amateur video and pictures I had been seeing were calls to abolish of Capitalism. My friend’s main message was that corporations and the State should be separate.
To quote Milton Friedman, “I’ll agree with you that everything called Free Enterprise is not Free Enterprise. I agree with you that many things that have been done under the name Free Enterprise that are not consistent with Free Enterprise. I agree with you… that whenever businessmen have the chance they will, of course, use government to pursue objectives which may or may not be in the interest of the public at large.” Once successful businessmen use their connections in Washington to curry favor for further profit and security, then these businessmen are engaging in what is called crony capitalism in which the indiscriminate marketplace is no longer the arbiter on which businesses succeed and which businesses fail. This is how businesses become, “Too Big to Fail.”
My friend seemed to think that a lot of these Occupy Wall Street protests were championing Free Markets and Freedom from government intervention. But what I was seeing were people protesting the government to stop giving corporations money (GOOD) and have the government ease or erase their student loans and give them jobs (BAD). My friend and I share the stance that the government ought not give money to corporations or people. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a perfect example of the increasing dependence of government. Alexis de Tocqueville said, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
Tocqueville also when on to say that, “Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood; it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances; what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”
To modify liberal Aaron Sorkin, If the Occupy Movement wants to sit on the “1%” shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but it is more than the rest of us should have to bear when we see “on-edge-radicals” pleading emancipation from the 1% while begging the government to enslave them. Milton Friedman said that if a society puts equality before liberty will have neither equality nor liberty. Judging by the demands that have been made public by the majority of the Occupy Movement, they would rather see the rich less rich even at the expense of the poor.
Theologically speaking, this an example of putting one’s gifts before God and coming to the conclusion that just because one is passionate about something (Social justice, holiness, grace, discipline, etc) then this must be on the forefront of God’s heart and mind. This putting of passions before God is exacerbated when certain cherry-picked Scriptures line up with one’s zeal. When God’s overall glory is paramount, aligning one’s passions and gifts with Scripture is very good. But when one’s passions and gifts are the focal point and somehow God gets the Glory down the road, then one runs the risk of “making” God a champion for their cause and not being ambassadors for His.
As a result, Jesus becomes mostly interested in helping the poor while all of His other commandments verses on personal responsibilities or ethical behavior are given short shrift. As a consequence, the eager Social Justice believer gives preferential treatment to the verses on helping the poor while not balancing them with
Again, when I hear about political issues, I am not prepared to hear about the Beatitudes. And yes, my brethren on the Right have been known to ventriloquize God as well. For instance, former governor Sonny Perdue should not have preached a sermon at a church during a re-election year. This is a Right Wing example of the appearance of one’s devotion to preaching the Word coinciding with one’s ambition to get re-elected. But if you are of the left of center persuasion, then you cannot puppet Jesus for your cause while condemning the Right for doing the same thing.
God is not on the side of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. God is not on the side of the Tea Party. God is on God’s side and He has an open invitation to us to share His name and spread His glory, not our causes. So if you are petitioning the government either from the Occupy Wall Street side or the Tea Party side, if you invoke the Savior’s name, make sure you are on His side and choose to act accordingly. And if you are a non-believer, when you are petitioning the government on behalf of the poor and downtrodden make sure they are the ones on center stage and not you or your cause.
*** The premise of this discussion came from this article. I am addressing my fellow non-believers in this discussion but the argument works in a very similar manner. If you do not adhere to a faith, then helping others must not be, primarily, a selfish endeavor. In order to promote Social Justice, one must put others before yourself which I call Concern for Your Fellow Man. ***