15 November 2011

The Envy Straw Man

A Response to Colson's Fantasies

I hear Colson every day on the radio. It’s amazing but whatever the topic he has an almost perfect track record, he gets it wrong almost every time.

The latter part of the 20th century has seen some incredibly destructive forces at work in the Church...

Francis Schaeffer, RJ Rushdoony, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Chuck Colson are all part of the generation that is rapidly disappearing.

The new generation is just as bad if not worse…except for one thing. Their errors are perhaps more obvious in some ways. Maybe I’m fooling myself to think that, but it would seem the Joyce Meyer’s, the Joel Osteen’s, the Rick Warren’s and the Brian McLaren’s are so obvious that no one reading their Bible would fall for them…but I guess people still do. The nature of the error changes or in some cases is just repackaged and tracks differently.

But you have to hand it to Colson, he’s achieved some pretty amazing stuff. Within a generation he softened the Evangelical posture toward Roman Catholicism and that coupled with Dominionism’s ever growing fondness for the Middle Ages has brought about a new appreciation for Rome and its errors.

He’s influenced a lot of people and done great harm to the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. Here’s yet another interaction with his daily commentary. Today’s just put me over the edge. He contradicts himself terribly and he has either a very inverted sense of truth, reality or both.

Here’s his commentary with my responses interspersed.


Equality and Envy

The Proper Role of Government

By: Chuck Colson|Published: November 15, 2011 7:55 AM


Colson:

Sure we want equality. But what kind? Equality of opportunity or equality of results? One is biblical, the other is not.

Proto:

How is one Biblical and one is not? I hear this kind of statement many times a day. The Sacralist model is assumed, that we the Christians have some kind of model-blueprint for society and that we’re supposed to be working toward erecting a certain kind of social structure.

Even the way of framing this discussion is not really very honest. Only Communist purists want equality of results. Those who oppose the Right-wing ideology of Colson, those who are protesting, those on the Left are hardly demanding Communism.

Framing it this way is popular tactic to obscure any real discussion about the issues. Build a straw man and then beat it up instead of engaging your opponents.

Colson:

Following the conclusion of the World Series, more than 150 players became free agents who could sell their services to the highest bidder. At least three of them — Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes — are expected to sign contracts that will significantly exceed $100 million dollars each.

Stated simply, each of them will likely make more in one game than approximately 90 percent of American households make in an entire year. Even the least-coveted free agent will make more than 99-plus percent of all American households.

What should government do about this inequality? What should Christians think about it? The reason I ask is that the question of “income inequality” seems to be on everyone’s minds these days.

But any discussion about income inequality must begin with a discussion of the role and purpose of government.

At the most basic level, government’s job is to preserve order, do justice, and restrain evil. Modern governments, like ours, also provide for common defense and general public health and welfare. This of course requires money, and that money comes from taxation.

But the Christian tradition also puts limits on the size and scope of government. The idea that government would take care of all the people all of the time and meet all their needs is foreign to Christianity. So, while the Bible contains many injunctions for helping the poor and teaches that the weak and the marginalized in our society are especially close to God’s heart, it does not prescribe policies. Instead, it makes it very clear that if we do not care for them and put their well-being at the top of our priorities, God will disown us just as we have disowned them (Matthew 25).

Proto:

What Christian tradition is he referring to? American Christian tradition? Because certainly in the rest of the world this has not been the case. Christian Conservatives don’t have a problem with a big government and granting it a vast scope. They want the government to become involved in your marriage and domestic affairs. They want the government to control what you take into your body, what you watch and listen to, what you say or don’t say. They want the government to have the power to force you to take up arms and kill others. They like government and lots of it. They just don’t like any kind of regulations or policies which will curb their power.

Don’t be fooled by all the economics…it’s all about power in the end.

Again I don’t argue that the Bible prescribes a particular form of Civil Government, but Colson does and his statement regarding Tradition is wobbly at best.

Who is suggesting that Government take care of every one all the time? Again, we’re arguing against the Communist straw-man.

Is the concept foreign to Christianity? Sure. But so are most of the political and economic ideas Colson stands for. You can make an argument, derived from philosophy perhaps, but you will hardly find American Republicanism and Adam Smith on the pages of the New Testament.

The Bible doesn’t make policies regarding the poor…why not? If we can glean general principles regarding Stewardship and Economics from the Proverbs and other places and turn them into policy, why then can’t we do that with the poor? I’m not arguing we should do that but I wish to point out that Colson isn’t making any sense. He wants to take some ideas and say yes, we want the state to promote these general Biblical concepts but not others.

Aside from not being based on any kind of sound exegesis, the idea that millions of pagans are going to be aided and supported by ecclesiastical charity is a fantasy.

I know people say the early Church helped the pagan poor and they certainly did, but not all of them, all of the time. And I might add our culture today is slightly more complex.

But even granting that…who said that’s the Biblical model? Does the New Testament teach that Pagan Rome had specific tasks and that other tasks were then assigned to the Church?

Historical occurrences do not mean that’s the eternal or universal model. The Church is always supposed to be helping the poor.

Is the Church going to pay all the healthcare bills for the people sitting in the pews? Isn’t the problem a little beyond that?

Isn’t this just another case of gross over-simplification to obscure talking about the real problems?

Colson:

None of this requires income redistribution — taking money from one person and giving it to another to make them more “equal.” It doesn’t require punitive levels of taxation whose principal purpose is satisfying people’s sense of envy.

Proto:

The Envy Trump Card. See he argues the Government is supposed to promote good and justice and then when people call on the government to do that…through various means, he calls it envy.

The protestors would argue that many of the wealthy and many corporations exploit people, their profits are beyond what is reasonable. No one begrudges profits, what bothers them is when it becomes obscene and on the backs of other people. If there is a punitive element it’s not based on someone simply being wealthy…it’s the idea that they’ve not paid those under them in an equitable manner. The government is forced to step in to help people survive. So then some have suggested that the government demand a little compensation to help pay back what they refused to pay in the first place.

The poor are blamed for signing up for food stamps, heating assistance, and medical assistance. Who’s benefitting? Maybe they wouldn’t have to sign up for these things if their employers were paying them a wage a person could survive on. No one can live on $8 or $9 an hour. Who are they kidding?

People like Michelle Bachmann would end the minimum wage and the subsidies. Go ahead. Within 12 months we will have a revolution.

Oh it’s because they want to have a high standard of living. Really? Sure there are people on the take. There are plenty of very wealthy people on the take as well. Do people make poor choices? Do they use their money to support vices instead of save? Sure. I doubt Colson has ever talked to anyone who is poor. He probably knows nothing of the frustrations they experience and the despair that often grips them. That’s not your problem? Well fine, but keep that in mind when you want a cohesive society to fight for your corporate interest overseas. And keep that in mind when you complain that they don’t keep their lawns just so or their houses looking the way you want them to. And you can hardly expect people who are not Christians to then work in a productive and ethical manner for you. Why would they? There are millions of people trapped in a dead end of endless low-paid jobs. Everywhere they turn they’re being squeezed and taken advantage of. Is it any surprise they just don’t care anymore? You see it everywhere you go. Customer service has never been so bad. People just don’t care. It’s sickening but it’s no shock.

Everywhere I go I talk to people. Just the other day I was talking to the guy at the tire place. He’s been working there since 1972 with no end in sight. He’s never had a vacation, he has no benefits and only makes a few dollars above minimum wage. He even worked several years ago with a broken leg. He doesn’t even get a discount when he needs tires for his car. He works about 45 hours a week changing tires. He’s not out protesting, he wasn’t complaining. I was chatting with him and extracted the information.

Has he been treated with goodness and justice? Does he have right to expect more, to complain a little? Are you going to suggest he doesn’t work hard?

What…do I want government to do something about it? I don’t personally but I can sure understand why others would. Especially those who have hope only in this life. But I hardly see the merit in the system Colson promotes either. I think if the tire man were face to face with Colson he would invoke the old saying… Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Since the government is wedded to the wealthy and powerful and is in many cases involved in a symbiotic relationship with the largest corporations the only place to pursue justice is through things like labour regulations and progressive tax scales. It’s a way for the government to throw the mob a bone, to keep peace on the streets. Endless loopholes and different ways of classifying income allow all but the dullest of the wealthy to escape really being hit by these taxes. Warren Buffett has made this clear. Why does he pay less in tax than his secretary? Because his income is not income per se…it’s dividends on investments.

There are endless ways to tie up your money and avoid taxation. There are all the banking games, but even things like forming trusts and placing your belongings and real estate in corporate status allow you to mask your true income.

Thousands of ‘christian’ ministries do this as well.

While there are some people who are motivated by envy, this charge is pretty empty. You might charge some of these people with the sin of vengeance. That might stick but of course vengeance is pretty much a basic component of politics, something Colson knows all about. Vengeance is also something the Church promotes when it comes to foreign policy. For some reason Christians are exempt when aiding the state in its pursuit of manipulation and revenge on its enemies.

Colson:

This is not to say that Christianity doesn’t care about equality. But the equality Christianity is concerned about is legal and political equality. It’s the equality that insists that rules are the same for everyone, regardless of how much they do or don’t make.

Proto:

Exactly. That’s why people are protesting. Colson thinks that because the millionaire is taxed at a higher rate that the poor are somehow getting ahead. Of course the way our Social Security tax is structured that’s actually reversed where the people at the bottom pay more. Once you’re making a little over $100K a year, you quit paying.

The people protesting are looking for legal equality. If you don’t have money, then most likely you will not get any justice in our country. Equality is largely for people that have money.

Colson:

In Democracy in America, Alexis d’Tocqueville commented on the relationship between liberty and equality in early America. He wrote about how “labor is held in honor” and how our political institutions reflected this liberty. In this sense, earlier Americans reflected biblical notions of equality — the kind of equality proclaimed by the Hebrew prophets, who decried unjust courts and corrupt judges.

Proto:

Are you kidding me? Colson is a lawyer and he’s going to pretend that the wealthiest Americans and the leading Corporations play by the same rules as the lower and middle class?

He is either painfully blind or being very deceptive.

Colson:

This is the kind of kind of equality that Christians ought to be working to promote. We shouldn’t focus so much on the results: After all, no law can make my skills as economically valuable as that of a three-time Most Valuable Player or those of a world-class brain surgeon.

Proto:

Of course I could also point out that most professional sports are largely dependent on tax subsidies. They rake in massive amounts of money by getting taxpayers to fund their stadiums and other projects which increase the value of their franchises. They then sell the teams and keep the profits. George Bush was famous for this. So is Colson going to suggest his holy Free Market is at work here? Hardly.

-Again I’m not anti-Free Markets, but I don’t try to argue the concept if Biblically mandated for the United States of America.

The fact that our sports figures make millions of dollars is more a commentary about how diseased our society is.

Brain surgeons deserve financial compensation and accolades but in the American system they are profiteers, parasites cashing in on the pain and suffering of people. Our entire medical system is one big racket, a craps table playing with people’s lives.

Colson:

But we should work to make sure that the law doesn’t treat them more favorably than other, lesser-paid, people. That’s why, for example, lessening the influence of lobbyists is so desperately needed today. Their entire purpose is to shape the rules so that one group benefits at the expense of everybody else.

Proto:

Bravely spoken by a man who spends massive amounts of time with lobbyists and working with them to promote the idolatrous political agenda that infects American Christianity.

Lobbying is about exercising power through money. The Left still has some clout in the unions, but not very much. The vast majority of lobbying money lies with the wealthy and the corporations they are part of. The Koch brothers, and others on the far Right are the chief corrupters of our democracy.

Colson:

That’s the kind of inequality that should concern us. The rest, whether we are talking about bond traders or ballplayers, is simply envy.

Proto:

God sends false prophets as Judgment when the Covenant people are in a state of apostasy. Charles Colson is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

1 comment:

Cal said...

The question is "What is the Church?". The delusion really has to do with the fact that so many don't really think the Kingdom of God exists. The Church becomes a psuedo-rabbinic society that is just a bust raft, trying to float its way to the real Kingdom of God. It gets picked up by a "divine" ship and this ship is the way to get to the end of the river. This ship may be the nazified Germany, Britain, USA. It is the arm sown into this ravenous Beast. The Church is just to be some social engine to make sure the establishment keeps on chugging along. And on top of it, they make strange bedfellows with the christendom/theonomics of Rome/Byzantium.

Yikes!No wonder Colson moves so smoothly, getting lots of money and power! So many have sold out to the flag as their kingdom rather than the Kingdom of the Lamb.