Why the Republican Platform isn’t Pro-Life


Understand that when I write this, I am not writing this as an endorsement for Obama or encouraging anyone to vote for either candidate. I am simply pointing out the realities of the situation; that the Republican platform is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform. While the Democrats explicitly support abortion on demand and lately have almost celebrated it, Republicans have an implicit support for abortion. I am not talking about their perpetual backing down when faced with the opportunity to limit abortion, nor am I speaking of how passive they really are when it comes to the issue in practice. Instead, I’m referring to their political policies that undermine the poor and disadvantaged, the stigma they create for anyone who has to go on government assistance.

When Mitt Romney mentioned that 47% of the nation is simply taking from everyone else, he was speaking to a Republican crowd who didn’t even bat an eye at what was said. The reason they saw nothing wrong with his statement is within the conservative mindset the only reason you should ever take aid from the government is if you were too lazy to conjure up your own money; and even then your aid should be limited. While there is no doubt in my mind that social programs geared to help the poor are in a serious need for restructuring (Democrats want to increase money to them, Republicans want to take the money away, neither wants to fix the problem), the Republican solution of just cutting the funding doesn’t fix it. The idea is that the majority of people on welfare, food stamps, or other forms of government aid are simply leeching off the rest of society so they don’t have to work. Such a view is ignorant of the fact that in order to qualify for many of these things, people actually have to hold down jobs (which, of course, tend to be low-paying and offer little room for advancement, creating a lack of hope and thus perpetuating poverty).

Because of this stigma, many women who have an unintentional pregnancy fear that by being pregnant, they’re not going to have any support throughout the pregnancy and the child’s life. Consider that nearly 42% of abortions come from women below the poverty line, it’s easy to see that the personal well-being of the mother comes into play. And who can blame her really? She’s facing a pregnancy and most often already has other children to care for. Food stamps only cover so much (and by “so much” I mean not nearly enough) and if she’s like most women at the poverty line, she’s working in a job where she can’t really afford to take time off work to have a baby. In short, there’s little to no social structure available for her to use. Even if she takes the brave step of having the child she still has 18 years of providing for the child, sending her to school, and so on. At best, by having the child she’s perpetuating a life of poverty, at worst she feels she has no choice but to kill her own child.

From a moral standpoint obviously we should never intentionally kill the innocent. At the same time, how is it moral to claim to be pro-life, but then undercut any social programs that would help to actually promote life? How is it moral to slap the pro-life idea onto a political platform alongside other items that stigmatize anyone who has to use government aid? The Republican Party platform, which teaches across-the-board cutting rather than reforming, is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform; neither emphasize the value of human life. The Democrats lower the value of life in the womb and even at birth while the Republicans lower the value of life post-birth. They want to protect a child inside a woman, but God forbid tax payers pay for that child once he’s born.

Certainly we should support charities that help these women throughout their pregnancies and well into the development of the child. But charities are not enough, we need the government to get involved as well. Those of us who are pro-life have no problem stating that we’re supporting a moral issue and trying to get the government to decide on a moral issue. All major legislation comes down to being moral and not political – segregation was legislated out of existence, as was slavery, but no one would dare say this was purely political and not moral. The moral issue gave rise to the necessity of political intervention; any moral issue of grave importance will necessarily rely on the government to involve itself. Abortion is no exception to this as it involves the taking of an innocent human life.

But if we’re willing to concede that abortion is a moral issue first and a political issue second, wouldn’t this mean that many issues that impact innocent humans are moral issues first and political issues second? If I have an obligation to protect the innocent within the womb, what about the innocent outside the womb? That is, if I’m truly pro-life, won’t I want my government to help pay for pre-natal care, for doctor’s visits, for the education of the child, and so on? Or, on a better note, would it be so bad to suppor the government paying for daycare and even paying for a woman’s education (or partially paying) should she choose to advance her life? After all, if we have to shell out 4-5 years worth of aid so she can find herself in a well-paying job, one that pays so well she doesn’t need government assistance, doesn’t that make sense? And if we’re truly pro-life, aren’t we going to want to help to advance both the woman who kept the child and the child himself?

In short, to be pro-life means you support the whole of life.  You support not only the right to exist, but also support any program that helps advance a child out of poverty. If we’re going to force women to carry their children to term, the least we could do is provide them with an infrastructure that helps them both during the pregnancy and after. If we seek to undercut such an infrastructure, or are simply anti-abortion and not actually pro-life, then we might as well be pro-choice.

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Rethinking our economy


Imagine you live in a town where everyone needs to have widgets. Because everyone needs to have widgets, there are about twelve different companies dedicated to making widgets. Since all these companies compete against each other and the supply matches the demand, the price of widgets is low. But then one company becomes innovative and creates a higher quality widget at a relatively cheaper price. As time goes on, only about 2-3 companies are left who produce the widgets. Since these 2-3 companies all produce equal quality widgets, they each claim they have to raise the price of the widgets because the quality is so high. While the owners of each company never talk to each other, they watch each other and keep the prices of the widgets about the same, slowly raising the price.

The workers, seeing their bosses make more and more money from the widgets, demand that they get a share of the profit. They go on strike until the bosses begin to share their profit with the employees via benefits and an increase in wage. The bosses, however, don’t want to give up their total profits, so they increase the prices of the widgets. The workers realize this and demand more money and benefits; after all, the cost of living in the town has gone up because the price of a necessary item (the widgets) has gone up. The cycle continues until the bosses realize that the widgets are going to simply cost too much.

Thus, the bosses begin to have the widgets produced overseas at a much cheaper price, but keep the price of the widgets the same. Because people in the town are now out of jobs (since the 2-3 widget producing companies are the only ones left and they’ve shipped the jobs overseas) they struggle to pay for the widgets. The bosses open stores in the town where people can buy the widgets and employ the people to work in those stores, though at a reduced rate and with no unionized labor; thus, the employees are at the mercy of the stores.

People begin to rise up against these bosses and demand the government do something. The bosses, realizing the government could bring an end to all their profit-making ways, contribute money to politicians. Two companies contribute funds to one politician while another company contributes money to another politician. Either way, whichever politician wins will owe his victory to one of the companies, meaning he won’t be able to come down against them. And even if he can, there are multiple politicians in the town; so long as the company can purchase the majority of them, nothing can be done to the companies. The town is then left without recourse to change the way things are.

What is sad about the above scenario is that it’s not hypothetical; I believe it adequately summarizes the United States’ economy post-WWII. Since WWII, more and more small businesses and small corporations have been consumed by bigger corporations. In doing this, we’ve moved from a three class system (rich, middle-class, and poor) to a two class system: Job creators and the employed. Some may not see the problem with having these two classes, but think on it for a moment.

A job creator has no reliance on the employed. If he opens his business in America he is typically leaving it open for skilled labor only. Even then, if he can ship it overseas to make money then he will do so. Thus, the employed are almost literally a dime a dozen, but completely reliant upon the job creators. Why do we value the job creators so much? Because we apparently base the strength of our economy on the number of people employed, or number of people who have jobs. But this is a false measure for the strength of the economy. Having a job is nothing more than being a wage slave – your income is completely artificial and in a bad economy, that income is cut. Thus, you may have a “job,” but that doesn’t mean the economy is healthy – we could employ all the out of work people in America and put them on minimum wage, but it wouldn’t mean our economy is healthy.

To go back to our analogy, let’s assume that a mid-level manager for one of the widget companies makes a comfortable salary because he’d educated. Yet, within 10 years the majority of the town has the same education, meaning there are others out there who are willing to work this manager’s job for less pay. He is then left with having to take a major pay cut or lose his job entirely. This is why being paid a wage isn’t always ideal, that same wage can be devalued in an instance even if the product you sell isn’t.

Instead, the real measure of a strong economy is how many people own capital producing property. This means that, in some way, they have control over their income through being part-owners in a business or complete owners in a business. In this case, one’s income is only reduced when (1) the demand for the product is reduced and/or (2) a better product comes along. Thus, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, the problem with Capitalism isn’t too many capitalists, it’s too few. Or, the problem isn’t that people own private property, it’s that too few people own private property. We are the town in the analogy where only a handful of companies ultimately run everything, meaning that capital producing private property is held by a few people. To liberals this is a social injustice, but to conservatives this must be understood as the destruction of the free market. In other words, the current system we have in our nation is not a free market system; it’s something that neither conservatives nor liberals can tolerate (hence the Tea Party and Occupy protests being so similar in their complaints, but different in their solutions).

The reality is we need a complete reformation of our economic system. The practical aspects of that can be debated and discussed by economists, but I believe the following philosophical principles need to undergird it:

  1. There is no utopia. Any system we developed will have inherent flaws to it, corruption will still exist, and injustices will still happen. The goal is to create a system that minimizes these realities and does all it can to delay them. Within the system there should be a series of checks that allow for penalties when corruption is found, but we should acknowledge that corruption will never be completely eradicated. There will always be the rich and the poor, the have and the have-nots, Peter will always make more than Paul, there will never be economic equality, and so on. The goal is to lessen these realities, not eradicate them.
  2. Any economic system we develop must value human beings as people with inherent rights. In other words, they cannot be part of the collective as they are in Communism, nor can they be means to an end as they are in Industrial Capitalism (or Objective Capitalism). The primary motive in any economy cannot be profit; while it must be a motive, it cannot be the motive. The primary motive needs to be the betterment of individuals and the local community.
  3. We must allow for the free market, but in a true sense of the word. The free market is the best way to value human beings because it allows them to make something of themselves. But the free market must truly be free; when left unregulated or free from government involvement, eventually the free market collapses. When only a handful of companies control the market, it’s not a “free market.” Thus, the government has the obligation to protect the free market, by limiting the growth of certain companies, or by ensuring that in corporations that are necessarily large (such as car companies) the overall power of the company is in the hands of the many and not the few (more on this later). At the same time, this means the government must keep their hands off small businesses and let those businesses develop within reason. It means the government’s job is to protect and support the ownership of private property, not make it more difficult via taxation. Thus, the system cannot be socialist, but it cannot be capitalist (as presently understood) either.
  4. In necessarily large corporations, the power within the company must be divided. While we need leaders and people who are visionaries, as a company grows, so too must its ownership. This simply means that the workers ought to get a share of the profit via direct profit share, not through wage increases. In many ways, this makes all the workers types of owners. On big decisions, such as moving the company or the like, everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion. While this allows for corporations, it takes away the power of the corporations and especially of those at the top – the richest people in the corporations still don’t have enough money to influence elections. It also lowers the gap between rich and middle class (which is a problem). While the owners and CEOs will still make quite a bit of money, in having to share the profits of the company with the workers, that gap is reduced. Furthermore, when people know that working harder will bring in a higher profit bonus, most people will be motivated to do so, which makes for better products put out at a faster rate, which does make for a better economy.
  5. The government must regulate the market to protect the free market. That is, they must protect the market against monopolies and de facto monopolies (when 2-3 companies rule an entire region). In cases where a monopoly become inevitable – such as an energy company – the government holds the job of regulating the cost and preventing the cost from getting too high. They also hold the responsibility to ensure that in large corporations the workers are given a profit share and treated as co-owners.
  6. The government must watch its regulation and not peddle when some companies fail. Failure is a good thing because it allows for learning and growth. While painful it is a necessary part of an economy. Thus, if a company is about to fail, let it fail, even if it’s a large company. The temporary pains won’t destroy the economy, but the government getting involved and ruining the free market will destroy an economy.

The goal in all of this is really to respect and protect the dignity of man. The most important point that I did not include is that we must have a moral society. We must drop the moral relativism that we’ve bought into and realize that objective moral values exist, naturally so, and that when we abandon them there are negative consequences to be had. While the above points would make for a better economy, what would ultimately help the economy is for people to realize that acting ethically allows for a more sustainable economy. Acting ethically may cap a business owner’s income to a few hundred thousand instead of a few hundred million, but it will allow for a stronger economy for everyone else and still give him enough money to live comfortably. But we have to be willing to do what is right and that requires us to reject subjectivism when it comes to ethics.

Thus, if we wish to fix our economy and overhaul it, the first step has to be an ethical one. It has to be a commitment to doing what is right and encouraging others to do what is right as well. The economy we have today was founded in the 60s and 70s, the self-love and individualistic ethos. To fix our economy we have to fix our social ethic, I’m just not sure anyone is willing to do that.

The Problem of Healthcare: A Christian View and General Solution


Today the Supreme Court essentially upheld most of the Affordable Healthcare for America Act (AHAA). While I do disagree with the individual mandate as being Constitutional (as a tax, yes, but as a mandate, no), to me the biggest problem is in the wisdom of the legislation. While the practicalities of such legislation are complex, the underlying issues behind healthcare are pretty simple. From the Christian perspective we should desire that healthcare be available and, more importantly, affordable to all.

For Christians, all humans are made in the image of God, thus all humans have intrinsic worth. This means that while all life is a gift, human life is seen as unique and special. Therefore, when we see that someone cannot get medical treatment for the simple reason that they lack money, we should see such a thing as an injustice. It’s simply not right for a human to be denied healthcare because he cannot pay for it. While we wouldn’t call the denial of an elective procedure that has no real health benefit (such a plastic surgery) an injustice, any denial of service that can lead to more serious health issues is a massive injustice; not to mention that it does violate the Hippocratic oath (how is one to treat patients if one refuses to see them due to lack of payment?).

The above is why some people have said that the healthcare system in America is broken and the AHAA (or derogatorily, “Obamacare”) is the solution. Of course, both aspects of that argument are absolutely wrong. First, the healthcare system is no more broken than a Mercedes is broken; the problem isn’t the quality of the product, it’s the cost of the quality. Thus, Obama’s solution, while possessing some good things in it (such as making it illegal to refuse insurance for pre-existing conditions), doesn’t do much to address the actual problem in our healthcare system. The AHAA may lower the cost of insurance, but it won’t lower the cost of quality care. In other words, bringing more people onto insurances without lowering the cost of the healthcare service is either going to (a) bankrupt the insurance companies, (b) eventually drive the cost of healthcare up, to the point where hardly anyone can afford it yet will be penalized due to the individual mandate, or (c) result in the government having to provide universal healthcare. Option C is what many people naively think is best, but it doesn’t work because the government either goes bankrupt (government’s do not have unlimited funds) or it has to cap the price of medical procedures, which of course drastically lowers the quality of healthcare.

Such a system might work in smaller nations or in nations geared more towards socialism, but it will not work in America. While it works in Norway, Norway isn’t the United States; there are certain cultural ideals, economic beliefs, and so on that allow such socialized medicine to work in one nation but not in the other.

At the same time, we have to do something to make medical procedures cheaper. Making insurance cheaper makes little sense – so long as the medical procedures cost money and the cost rises, so too will the insurance. Car insurance is cheap because there’s a natural cap to it; the average person will only spend $10,000 to fix a car. Any more than that and the insurance will simply cut a check and the person gets a new car. In other words, the idea behind the AHAA that car insurance is cheap because a lot of people buy it (and are forced to if they own a car) is somewhat false; while more people in the system helps, the real reason that car insurance is affordable is because there’s a natural cap within the industry. Within health, however, such a cap doesn’t exist because the average person cannot simply replace their body or life. Thus, it tends to be quite a bit more expensive, to the point that even if more people buy in it won’t have a significant impact. Not to mention that the most affordable of car insurance hardly covers anything; shall we desire the same thing for our health?

From a Christian perspective we want to create an option that maintains the quality of healthcare (and improves it) while making it cheaper. The point in making it cheaper isn’t just so that more people can afford health insurance, but so that charities can do more to help those who can’t even get cheap health insurance. Making healthcare cheaper benefits everyone. Yet, all of this must be done while respecting the dignity of being human, that is, we cannot tax the people into oblivion to accomplish our goals. We cannot nationalize private industries in order to make them cheaper as this robs people of their well-earned property. In short, we can be neither socialists or pure capitalists. We cannot trust socialism as this would rob people of their property and rob the market of its resources to continue to research. At the same time, we cannot simply leave healthcare to the market and let the market decide because supply and demand doesn’t work when it comes to essential services. The government has always had to regulate essential services, even in the early days of our Republic.

In addition to the above, the Christian view of man is one that views man as both angel and demon, both good and evil. This means we cannot suppress the profit motive within the business and expect everyone to perform medicine out of the goodness of their hearts, but we also cannot expect people to be motivated by more than profit. Within the socialist approach, the motivation for the doctors should be the greater good of society, not their own income. But no one goes into a business to break even; everyone wants to make a profit. In healthcare making a profit is vital because a lot of that profit goes back into research and development for better medications and treatments. At the same time, we don’t want our doctors to be solely motivated by profit. When motivated solely by profit people will cut corners and cheat their way to more money. No one wants a doctor that is in it solely for the money because the doctor, at the end of the day, could care less if the patient is healthy or not.

With the above foundations for healthcare, which stem from the Christian perspective (though they are not exclusively Christian), I think there are a few very broad practicalities that could help lower the cost of healthcare while maintaining the integrity of our healthcare system (and even improving upon it). I leave the specifics to the politicians, but I think some generalized solutions could possibly get people going:

Eradicate the Patent System for Drugs and Medical Equipment  – before the conservatives jump down my throat on this one, I’m not saying we should eradicate profit. Rather, I’m pro-free market because this fits best with the dignity of man. A patent, on the other hand, is not a free market solution. A patent allows the developer to hold a monopoly over their invention for quite some time, allowing the company to charge whatever price they want to gain back the money that went into developing the item. 

The problem should be obvious – if Company A can charge whatever they deem necessary to recover their research, then the price of their product will increase. Now, some argue that the market is a natural check on patents and in some cases it is. If Apple has a patent for a new iPhone, it means no one can copy any innovative component of that iPhone for the duration of the patent. Of course, Apple can’t in turn charge $30,000 for the iPhone because they’d never gain their money back; no one could afford the iPhone at that point and thus no one would buy it. In cases like this where competition exists a patent has a natural check on it.

In the medical field, however, where there is no natural check (remember, insurance companies will pay for it because they have to pay for it; the medicine is essential), a monopoly causes the price of medication to rise up. In such a system you really have only two options: a free market solution or a regulated solution. The regulated solution is one that most people would reject, which is where the government puts a limit on how much medication can sell for. Thus, if a company puts $100 million into developing a drug and it will take them 15 years to gain that money back, but they sell it at a price so they’ll gain it back in 10, the government would come in and force them to go with the lowest price. This solution would work, but it wouldn’t be as efficient as a free market solution; it would provide less incentive to develop a drug if the maker figured they’d never make a return on it, likewise it wouldn’t make things cheaper because the cap would still be relative to the amount of money put into developing it (if anything, creative companies would fudge the numbers to make it look like they put more into the development than they actually did, thus increasing their cap).

The better solution is to eradicate the patent system entirely with drugs and medical equipment and instead force them to create a license. In a license, a royalty fee has to be paid to the creator of the drug/equipment by any manufacturers. Under a licensing system, some companies could simply move into research and development and simply forgo manufacturing their drugs or equipment; they could instead license out their discoveries to multiple manufacturers. In turn, the license would last longer than a patent allowing the company to make back their money and then make a profit. The best benefit, however, is that if you end up with 10 companies manufacturing the same drug, all with the same licensing fee, the original developer will make their money back, yet the drug will be cheaper due to competition. Obviously drugs would still be expensive, but they wouldn’t be as expensive as they are now. It would lower the cost and make it far more affordable, which is what we’re aiming for.

Multiple Safety-Nets for the Uninsured – Right now if a patient goes to a hospital and cannot afford treatment, there’s no established system to help him find a way to pay for his treatment. This is one area where the federal government and state governments could really help out. The state governments should create a database of charities that help people who need healthcare coverage. These charities would simply register with the state or the federal government, depending on if they intend to help people in their state or nationwide (thus, a local collection of churches may only help people in their city, but the Catholic charity may help people from any state). 

Each hospital, in turn, would then help the uninsured go to these charities first. The person would help with paperwork, help them fill the paperwork out, and exercise all private options first before turning to a government option. The government option would be either the government simply pays for the debt, or the person can enroll in a government loan (if eligible) that can be paid at a minimal payment relative to the person’s income.

The reason for the above is that right now if someone doesn’t pay, that cost is passed onto the next patient. In other words, we already have universal healthcare coverage, it’s just not structured and it’s poorly designed. If we were to put together a cohesive system where charities could be contacted or some accountability is built in for the person paying the bill, we could limit how much (if any) unpaid bills get passed on to other patients. This would lower the cost of healthcare and insurance, since insurance companies wouldn’t have to pay for other patients. This is where the AHAA works as a short-term solution; if most people have insurance, less unpaid bills are passed around, which lowers the cost of healthcare. But this one component doesn’t fix the cost of the entire system (as I explained above).
Create More Competition – there needs to be more competition between hospitals, between insurance companies, between medical manufacturers, and so on. Competition creates cheap prices. The more natural competition that exists in a field, the cheaper products are in that field. How this competition is to be created is up for debate; as a distributist I would support the idea of constructing medical guilds, each one in competition with the other, where they are in charge of handing out licenses and then creating degrees of licensing. While there would be government oversight of the guilds (to prevent them from turning into monopolies), the guilds would essentially be left determining the quality of their doctors. In doing so, competition would exist. But I don’t want to get bogged down in details on this point because I first have to defend having guilds and then defend placing guilds within the medical community.

In short, the above three solutions are not perfect. But they hold to the basic principles that everyone deserves healthcare, but we don’t have to destroy individual freedoms to secure it. Certainly the above would require much debate, some things changed, but overall it’s a solution that I think goes to the heart of the issue while trying to appeal to both liberals and conservatives. Most importantly, however, is I believe it’s part of an overall system that respects the dignity and freedom of man.

Christianity and Wealth, or An Unoccupied Conscience Begets an Occupied Street


Picture courtesy of http://www.globalexchange.org

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults [lit. blasphemes, taunts, defies] his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him. – Proverbs 14:31 (ESV with my own clarification added)

What is extremely interesting about the above passage is that in the King James Bible, the order of the last part is reversed: “…but he that honoureth Him [God] hath mercy upon the poor.” The same thing happens if we turn to the Septuagint translation (verse 32 instead of 31); “He who oppresses the poor provokes his Maker, but he who honors Him [God] has mercy upon a poor man.”

What are we to make of the discrepancy between the ESV and the KJV? Do we prefer the idea that God is honored when we aid the poor, or that if we honor God we will naturally aid in the poor? The truth is, both translations are not only correct, but in harmony with each other. Later in the Bible we read that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength” as the greatest commandment. But then Jesus says, “And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38, emphasis added). In other words, if we honor and love God then we will honor and love our neighbors, and in honoring and loving our neighbors we will inevitably be honoring and loving God. We cannot act in isolation on the two commandments; to perform one is to perform the other.

Thus, if we truly love and honor God then we will aid the poor and in aiding the poor we will be loving God and honoring God. One could say that the KJV translation points to a disposition that we should have towards God, one that loves Him and honors Him as a condition of our soul (the greatest commandment). The ESV then would take this disposition and put it into action (the second greatest commandment). From this perspective if we are to help the poor we must love God, but in helping the poor our love for God will also grow.

Among Christians, then, we are without an excuse when it comes to corporate greed. If we follow Christ and make millions, while we are not called to give up everything, we are called to aid the poor and not to oppress them. This transcends the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which are seemingly more and more occupied by disenchanted students who want bigger TVs and don’t care one bit about true social justice. For Christian business owners, they must make sure they are engaging in ethical business practices, from how they treat their own employees to how they are supplied.

Consider you’re a Christian and the owner (or a powerful executive) of a chocolate company. Would you make up excuses for your company purchasing chocolate from farms that use child slaves? Or would you find an ethical source of chocolate, even if it meant cutting into your own income to do so? Or would you take it a step further to shed light on the fact that numerous farms around the world that allow us to cheaply satisfy a sweet tooth comes at an ethical cost of using slave labor? Would you cut even more into your millions of dollars in bonuses to help end the plight of the poor? Or would you argue that, “This is simply how business must be conducted” and move about your day, convincing yourself that the ends (using your vast sums of wealth for your church) justify the means (child slaves in brutish conditions)?

How does a Christian CEO display his love of God if he knowingly uses slave labor (or mistreated workers) to gain his product cheaply? Greed, simply put, has no place in any business where a Christian makes high-level decisions. While salaries must sometimes be cut, workers laid off, and overhead reduced, there are ways to accomplish all of this without selling one’s soul. As a Christian, one is simply without an excuse when it comes to oppressing the poor.

But what about non-Christians? When I bring the above issues up to conservative Christians, I’m often met with, “Yes, but that’s a Christian mandate, not one to companies. We shouldn’t expect corporations to act like Christians because it’s a secular world.” Mind you, this argument often comes from those who would seek to see abortion ended, homosexual marriages forbidden, and the Ten Commandments on every single government building in existence. In short, it creates a contradictory and conflicted message. Why is it okay to speak out against abortion or homosexual marriage on religious grounds, but we must adopt a secular attitude towards aiding the poor (the opposite is true for progressive Christians). While I’m not asking for Christians to take up the hammer and sickle (because Communism, according to the late Francis Schaeffer, is simply a Christian heresy) nor am I asking for a theocracy, I am asking them to take up their cross and follow Christ, which includes helping the poor and oppressed.

This means that Christians ought to seek out legislation that helps the oppressed, such as those trapped in slavery. We should support legislation that punishes corporations that use or willfully ignore where their products come from (such as Hershey’s Chocolate or Godiva). We shouldn’t do this because we’re Democrats or Republicans, or because we’re Conservatives or Liberals, but because we’re Christians. If we wish to honor God then we will seek to end the oppression of the poor. That’s not politics, it’s Scripture.

The Failure of Evangelicalism: How Evangelicals are Killing Their Own Religion


To anyone who isn’t a stalwart conservative or burying one’s head in the sand, it’s quite clear that the Evangelical community is facing a drastic shift in direction. I would contend that while the shift was inevitable, it’s not a good shift. It’s trending towards a more liberal theology, a more anti-intellectual philosophy masquerading as intellectual, and growing in incredulity towards anything traditional or ancient. I’ve lamented it many times before, but it seems to be a growing problem, specifically for the younger generation.

What really hit me was yesterday when I was looking for books on deep theology concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation. It dawned on me that I couldn’t go to a Lifeway or other typical Christian bookstore (ones that are generally associated with evangelicalism). Instead, in order to find the books I needed I had to go to a store that caters to Eastern Orthodox. Once there, I looked for what I needed and of all the books I looked through, not a single evangelical author was available. This is not due to the bookstore bias against evangelicals (they had plenty of books by evangelicals and even supported some of these books…in the spirituality department), but because in order to find a qualified theologian on the Trinity who isn’t neo-orthodox or liberal you have to turn to the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics. In fact, the last great intellectual thinker for evangelicals who wasn’t neo-orthodox or liberal would be Francis Schaeffer, but even he claimed to be more of an evangelist than an academic (though there’s no denying that he was influential for many in the evangelical tradition). Likewise, this isn’t to say that there are no orthodox evangelical thinkers in the world of theology, merely that the most authoritative voices for the conservative movement tend to be Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

Certainly there are some great minds in the evangelical church, but these minds are usually geared towards apologetics (which tends to be weaker among the Orthodox), and many of these great evangelical philosophers are extremely weak when it comes to theology. Why is this? I would contend that because evangelicals have had either a fearful view of the patristics (or at least an apathetic view of the patristics), so fearful that they’ve avoided reading this essential material. For many evangelicals, Christianity apparently began around the time of the Reformation, thus ignoring a wealth of historical teachings that we need to pay attention to. When we abandon our history and tradition we begin to seek anything that is new; but truth is immortal and ancient, truth is without time, truth is before our existence, so we should never need to find anything new, for whatever is new is not truthful.

But this is merely the intellectual side of the faith. On the existential side of faith (which is a different side of the same coin), all three branches are failing, but evangelicals are failing the hardest (or so it seems). Why is it that evangelicals are trending towards a more watered-down faith? Along with the anti-intellectualism running rampant in evangelical circles (conservative and liberal), there’s an apathetic approach to holiness. Holiness seems to be a list of rules rather than a lifestyle we live. For conservatives, holiness is a matter of avoiding drugs, avoiding sex before marriage, avoided alcohol, avoiding certain types of music, avoiding saying the wrong words, and is purely individualistic and internalized. For the more “progressive” branch of evangelicals, holiness is about avoiding oppressing the poor, avoiding oppressing anyone perceived as oppressed, avoiding making absolute statements (for absolute statements are absolutely wrong), and looks more towards the community and how we act in it to determine how holy we are.

In both cases, both sides are right and wrong. The “emergent ethic of holiness” is really just an overreaction to the conservative ethic that we’ve seen for so many years. While we should be personally holy, which means abstention from certain actions, being holy is also contingent upon how we act towards our fellow humans, specifically those who are economically oppressed or oppressed by their status in life.

The failure of Evangelicalism is two-fold; it is an intellectual crisis and an existential crisis. We cannot reach the minds of a young generation, nor can we reach the hearts of a young generation. We’re still stuck offering simple platitudes of the faith, avoiding the deeper issues of the faith and casting such teachings to seminary (where many seminarians are beginning to fail to understand these essential doctrines). At the same time, we’re holding “prayer drives” thinking that if we pray for someone that it’s enough, even though the Bible says such an attitude is wrong. James 1:22-25 reads:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

He goes on in 2:15-17 to write,

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

When our churches raise money for bigger and better sanctuaries (or “worship centers” if your church wants to be cool), when our churches create ministries that cater to members rather than asking members to cater to those in need, when our churches become more concerned with the size of the church rather than the heart of the church, is it any wonder that young people are abandoning the evangelical church in droves? When they see people bicker over how to best fix a broken clock in the sanctuary, do we really expect them to stay? If we aren’t putting our beliefs into practice, then what value do our beliefs really hold to us?

If evangelicalism is to survive, then it must grab hold of the ancient faith that it has abandoned and begin to practice it as well. It must lose its love of numbers, it must abandon all hope of having a megachurch, and instead focus on truly helping people in the neighborhood who need help.

We need pastors to start preaching sermons on the Trinity and how the Trinity applies to our lives. Same with the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and other essential doctrines in the faith. We need churches that tell the members, “We don’t have a ministry to help you, but we have ministries you can help.” Will this cause our numbers to take a nose-dive? Absolutely. But that is what is needed; we need to lose some excess weight. If evangelicalism is to survive, then its adherents must begin to live like Christ, otherwise it will quickly die out. And if it can’t follow Christ both in thought and deed, then it is a death I welcome with open arms.

Conservative Liberation Theology


Glenn Beck has hounded President Obama for attending a church that takes to heart the principles of Black Liberation Theology. In fact, Beck has taken it further warning his audience to be weary of any preacher who calls for social justice, because they might buy into some type of liberation theology.

Concerning the perils of liberation theology, Beck does have a point; all types attempt to supplant the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with one of the auxiliary issues of the Gospel, generally justice for the oppressed or justice for the poor. While these are areas impacted by the Gospel, liberation theologians tend to place these issues at the center of the Gospel. Thus, Christ died to bring economic parity, or Christ died to end a patriarchal system that oppresses women, or Christ died to free the oppressed. All of these systems then seek to bring about this new type of salvation through revolution or through the government. For the already oppressed in a corrupt nation, they use revolution to bring about the fall of the current government and to uplift a new government that falls in line with this new Gospel. For those in truly democratic nations, they tend to vote for the party that begets the most social change and actively support those parties.

Of course, under liberation theology, there is hardly equality among the ‘sinners.’ In black liberation theology, white people are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In typical liberal theology, the rich are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In all liberation theology, the typical structure is that one group of people is kept down by another group of people, and Jesus came to save the oppressed group of people and to overthrow the oppressors. Such movements are typically liberal.

But since the mid-80’s, conservative Christians have unwittingly bought into a type of liberation theology without realizing it. The Religious Right adopted the Republican Party and began to preach what I would call Conservative Liberation Theology (CLT). Glenn Beck, in all his lambasting against liberation theology, is simply the newest proponent of CLT. The conservative view tends to be less nuanced and holds to more traditional theology than the liberal view, but it is liberation theology nonetheless. Continue reading

Spending isn’t our government’s biggest problem


All the predictions are that the Republicans will win a majority in the House and Senate this coming November or at least will get very close to a majority. The biggest reason is that government spending is simply out of control and has been for over a decade now. With government spending comes government intrusion – more government programs means more accountability to the Federal Government required from the average citizen, while less accountability from the government to the people. Thus, multiple people are starting to feel “conservative” and are deciding to vote for people they believe will cut spending.

But is spending the biggest problem facing our nation right now? Should we “guard the change” as our President has asked, or should we change the guard? The problem is, no matter who you elect into office, while the problem of spending might subside, the problems of our government will only continue perpetually.

The reason is our government would lack a moral base for their claims. Right now, the call against spending is that it leads to debt, which cripples the nation’s economy. In other words, we’re against spending because we’re pragmatic; we want to protect our self-interest and care nothing for others. But the failure on the right to recognize that spending is a moral problem and that poverty is a symptom of the moral problem indicates that the right doesn’t truly understand the biggest problem facing our nation; we are a society without morals.

In the recent health care debate the left wanted to place everyone under healthcare, whether they could afford it or not, so everyone would be equal in their treatment. Of course, as other nations have shown us, while such a system makes us equal, that equality is generally a lowered version of what is available. At the same time, the people on the right showed little to no regard to those who worked 50 hours a week, but still couldn’t afford healthcare. “Get a better job” was the battle-cry of conservatives. Morally, neither side made sense. On the left, it is unethical to take away a person’s freedom to earn income or his ability to gain better healthcare. In our society, capital is a way to experience your freedom, so when capital is limited due to excess taxes you are in essence limiting a person’s freedom. On the right, it is unethical to simply cast the poor aside and let the best rise to the top. While the conservative movement is composed of many Christians, many of them have adopted a Darwinian view of society, claiming that only the fittest (the richest) get the best healthcare. From a moralist perspective, it would have made far more sense to reform healthcare to make private healthcare cheaper and also offered a public grant fund for those who could not afford healthcare; a person would pay what he could afford and public funds would cover the rest (which would also encourage a reduction in the cost of medical equipment, one would hope).

Notice how the rallying cry of conservatives isn’t rally all that conservative. Few of them want to deal with abortion. Few of them want to correct the social problems plaguing the US. Rather, they fall in step along party lines and unfortunately the same can be said for liberals. On the immigration issue conservatives want to put up a wall while liberals want open borders; neither side can reach a compromise because there’s a distinct lack of thinking in our government today. But the lack of thinking stems from a lack of morals; we do what is pragmatic and what helps us achieve our goals, but we never check to see if our ends and means to those ends are moral. Mostly because we don’t care.

We may elect people who can curb the spending of the federal government, but this won’t solve much in American society or in our government. Until our society and government align their ends and goals with virtue, there will be little to no positive change. Until we ask, “Is this the right thing to do?” rather than, “Will this help in my election/re-election,” our government will remain corrupt and bankrupt. They might turn the economy around, but they still still be bankrupt in morals, which only bankrupts a society and leads to its destruction.