17
Feb
16

Patriotism, Politics and Christian Culture


In the comments section of two recent threads I’ve been having a discussion with Roy, the owner of the Arminian Today blog. He has now referred to that discussion on his own blog but isn’t allowing comments to be made about his post.

https://arminiantoday.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/is-patriotism-sinful/ ,

I’m saddened by some of the things he says.

An example is this:

We live in a society that has lost its Protestant work ethic (that work is to the glory of God and is rewarded) but now I read that the younger generations favor socialism (stealing from the hard working to provide equality to those who do not work as hard).

The use of the term “socialism” in the quote above appeals to a prejudice that seems to have been instilled in the general American consciousness from the beginning of the cold war and displayed at its worst through McCarthyism. And (pardon the pun) I believe its use by Roy is a “red herring”.

If it wasn’t such a serious libel against so many who are struggling to survive under conditions of extreme poverty, even in the prosperous USA, I would find his definition of “socialism” laughable:

“stealing from the hardworking to provide equality to those who do not work as hard”

Roy said something similar in my comments section this morning, and I gave him this reply:

Don’t you realise that many of those “lazy” are actually working two or three jobs and still can’t earn a living wage? Others can’t find work because the jobs they could have done (or used to do) have been outsourced to other countries. Yes there may be some who exploit welfare but the gains from their dishonesty is not as significant as the gains of the ultra-rich who are no less guilty of exploitation but for massively larger amounts of money than alleged “welfare cheats”.

Many of those he accuses of “Stealing from the hardworking” possibly work far harder than the ultra-rich who can be paid more each hour than most of us would get in a year. It’s sad that their plight and their character should be disparaged in such a dismissive way.

At the beginning of Roy’s posts he describes me as someone who attacks Americans “for various reasons”.

That is a complete misreading of anything I’ve ever written. As far as I’m aware, I’ve never attacked Americans at all, but I HAVE said some strong things against a characteristic shared by many American Christians: an adherence to a blend of patriotism and right wing “conservative” politics, decorated with Christian language and terminology. A political outlook that favours the rich over the poor and illegitimately links itself to Christ to gain support.

I believe the acceptance and even promotion of exploitative political dogma is a serious problem among many of Christians, particularly in America, but like so many trends it is now spreading beyond the USA.

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16 Responses to “Patriotism, Politics and Christian Culture”


  1. 1 Marleen
    February 17, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I wonder if those who lean a certain way notice, “the left” in the U.S. (which left, as you noted, isn’t very far left) is talking about the need for jobs and economic dignity, true voice in democracy, and things like that. I dont think they want bigger government. I think they want functioning government that doesn’t get more and more disgusting. If taking in taxes from the richest and most able entities means bigger (instead of effective rates of 0 or close to nothing), that’s okay with me. It doesn’t set me off to hear of our federal and local governments going through equitable collection of taxes. I’m in favor of having a civilization based on our heritage.

    I saw the “supply side” (trickle down) economic adviser to Ronald Reagan on Al Jazeera America a few evenings ago. He was a guest with Ali Velshi (who only asked the man what he thinks and didn’t put him down at all). The way he talked, I felt like his style is that of a huckster. I grew up believing supply side, hard work and morality (including respecting girls and women). I was taught it by relatively calm and naive ideologues for the most part. I tended to believe them. Pretty much, I plain old did believe them (I only didn’t agree nuclear power is safe and fine). Here’s the problem: the ideology doesn’t come from humble and moral people; they confidently passed it on like sheep. It can seem to make sense, if you somehow don’t see the real world.

    My emphasis was on what’s good (not politically correct in just a different way), so I began to see the cracks. In what the flat tax apostle said in about five minutes, I could pick out at least two clear misrepresentations. For one, If you didn’t know any details but simply knew about people (not only government), you could easily see that instating a flat tax will not “take away the incentive” for high income or obscenely rich people to find ways to cheat on their taxes or find loopholes. He presented rich people as essentially moral and reasonable. Of course, the brainwashed do think all that is evil worth talking about is in the government and in the needy or less powerful but not so much with the less needy outside government per se (not even in the para government that gets its way). I was “conservative” before the “tea” party, before the “moral majority” and before Reagan.

    I’ve learned, subsequent to starting to see the problems conceptually and as a witness of facts on the ground, the kinds of who’s whos that had been behind the early pushes to “educate” along those lines (before 1979/80). Behind the scenes, it was known (in the actual leadership or fomenters) that the morality part was largely a joke or b.s.. but useful. In this latter incarnation, the tea party has (at least early on) admitted or bragged that they weren’t about social issues or morality but economics only. This was right at the end of George W. Bush’s eight years, because he was so pathetic as a president. One disjointed set of actions was reducing taxes and going to war (besides how stupid the wars were anyway… unless your goal involves the bank accounts of corporatized soldiering or Haliburton’s bottom line, examples of a military complex that are not quite the military and in truth are counterproductive to legitimate military activity of our government by the people).

  2. February 17, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Some comments are best ignored, and not worthy of reply, don’t you think?

  3. February 18, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Thanks, Tim, for referencing Roy’s blog. Like you, I looked for a place to leave a comment, and found none.

    Speaking as an American who’s read and pondered on your comments here and on other sites for several years, I can’t agree with Roy that they are attacks on Americans.

    You frequently call out ungodly ideas, hypocrisy, rank stupidity, violence, arrogance, and evil-doing, certainly. American culture (especially American political culture) has its share of all those: and is sometimes the world-class exemplar of those.

    Hopefully Roy will be able to distinguish an attack on ungodliness manifested by Americans, from an attack on Americans qua Americans. Perceiving an attack on evils manifested by Americans AS an attack on Americans themselves, seems to betoken a mindset that closely identifies Americans, as Americans, as inherently evil. (Strange how often that mindset is perversely put forward as “patriotic.”) To my experience, your comments never come from that false equation.

    I have to agree with your comments on Roy’s invoking “socialism.” He obviously doesn’t mean for readers to think of the actual political philosophy of that name. Roy’s “socialism” is just the overworked scare-word America’s faux “conservatives” use to elicit fear and hatred, and short-circuit rational thought.

    Likewise his use of “liberal.” But while he takes for granted that we all know “socialists” are evil people, he wants to offer proof that “liberals” are…in case we don’t get it. “…the liberals today want us…to ignore Christianity…” I’m always skeptical when people from one “side” tell us what the other “side” is about, and doing, and thinking. In those cases, skepticism seems basic wisdom. So I’m skeptical Roy’s assertions.

    Not coincidentally, the sins of America Roy “confesses” are the usual ones “conservatives” will own up to: “liberal” sins, like abortion, homosexuality, and etc. I’m likewise skeptical when one “side” confesses the sins of the other “side.” My reading of scripture is that God’s also skeptical of such “confession.”

    I think your comments to Roy hit the key point: his definition of “socialism” as “stealing from the hard working to provide equality to those who do not work as hard.” My experience of American society is exactly what you point out to Roy: that many people he characterizes as “not working hard” work two or even three jobs, and still need help to support their families: and that many of them work much harder than the “ultra-rich.”

    In Roy’s definition I think too there’s more than a strong hint that those getting help don’t deserve it. Your comments that some poor people exploit the help our system offers is certainly true. The same could be said of some of the “ultra-rich.” But even among exploiters, there seems to me a vast moral difference between giving to people so they have basic living necessities (food, healthcare), and giving to people to increase the wealth they already have in abundance, The latter probably should also be considered undeserving.

    However, I doubt any of those relative and circumstantial criteria: equality or lack of it, wealth or poverty, “socialism” or “conservatism,” hard-work or exploitation: have legitimate bearing on Christians’ practice. “Undeserving” does, as central to the Christian understanding of man’s inherent position before God. Central as well to our understanding of God’s response to man, “grace.” Super-adding any of man’s distinctions to our own practice of grace; “doing” as Jesus did “the work of Him Who sent me;” seems to me an enemy snare.

    Blessings, Steve

  4. February 18, 2016 at 7:07 am

    In this latter incarnation, the tea party has (at least early on) admitted or bragged that they weren’t about social issues or morality but economics only.

    That’s interesting.
    It falls in line with my thinking of which side the Tea Party is on in the choice of serving God or Mammon; and therefore a very good reason to question why so many Christians can be so enthusiastic about Tea Party politics.

  5. February 18, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Thanks Steve, too often our views can be shaped (and stunted) by the use of a few inappropriate definitions (such as the one of “socialism” mentioned in my post). Accepting, and using, those definitions helps us to take a short cut around the truth so we can avoid facing up to things we don’t like.

    It becomes easier to demonise the poor by calling them lazy, to say they want something for nothing. If that is the case their poverty is their own fault and therefore not our responsibility to help them. Likewise its becomes easier to demonise the kind of political actions intent on helping those “lazy” people – by applying a name that has historically become anathema in the minds of a nation (such as “socialism”). When we allow ourselves to think along those lines we see no need to consider the facts, to see what the situation REALLY is.

    However, I doubt any of those relative and circumstantial criteria: equality or lack of it, wealth or poverty, “socialism” or “conservatism,” hard-work or exploitation: have legitimate bearing on Christians’ practice. “Undeserving” does, as central to the Christian understanding of man’s inherent position before God. Central as well to our understanding of God’s response to man, “grace.”

    Thank God that He doesn’t give us ALL what we deserve! Thank Him that He’s made a way for us to avoid our just deserts!

  6. February 18, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Some comments are best ignored, and not worthy of reply, don’t you think?

    Hi Ian,
    While a comment may not be worthy of reply in the sense that a reply won’t change the mind of the commenter, I think the issue itself is important enough to address because others may be more willing to start viewing things differently.

    In America there is a worrying hybrid of extreme politics and “Christianity”. It becomes more noticeable when Presidential candidates “give God the glory” for their wins – and yet their politics and rhetoric are fear removed from anything that would glorify God.
    While the political scene in Australia is quite different, the religious world isn’t, being strongly influenced by American trends.

  7. February 19, 2016 at 1:13 am

    “Here’s the problem: the ideology doesn’t come from humble and moral people; they confidently passed it on like sheep. It can seem to make sense, if you somehow don’t see the real world.”

    Marleen, I think you put your finger on a couple central problems of ideology.

    Ideology is at root an assertion that reality is a certain way (Marxism, for example, that all of man’s political and social life is determined by economics). To hold on to his/her belief, an ideologue must deny any evidence from reality that challenges or refutes that assertion. And by that denial, an ideologue invariably comes to believe in a false reality.

    I was raised, like you, by “naive ideologues” (thank you for that wonderful phrase !). And probably most ideologues fit that characterization: not themselves architects of false realities, but willing to live in one that they (in my mother’s words) “like:” willing to believe the real world is something other than it truly is. That attitude must surely be a great affront to the One Who IS “the truth,” by Whom all that exists has its being. (John 14:6, John 1:3)

    A lot could be said about the sin of accepting ideas and teachings because we “like” them.2 But scripture’s fierce pronouncement of judgement on those who “…received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:10) probably covers it.

    But as you point out, ideologies don’t originate with the otherwise “humble and moral people” who use them as a “short cut around the truth” (another great phrase: thanks, Tim !). Ideologies are always crafted by people who wish to shape the thinking of others, usually with some kind of self-interested purpose. In that regard, any ideology should probably be regarded as a form of institutionalized manipulation.

    I have to wonder about the spirit of manipulators. At least some of those “down-stream” probably sincerely believe the deception; and only become manipulators when they foolishly and irresponsibly certify it by their own name to others who trust them. I don’t doubt that Roy (for example) sincerely believes that America’s sins are all the fault of “socialists” and “liberals.” Nonetheless, his sincerity doesn’t lessen a whit the harm done those who believe the lie on his say-so.

    But sincere deceivers are hardly the worst kind. I have to believe that some of those who have deceived Roy…for argument’s sake, let’s say Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, etc….KNOW the ideas they spout to manipulate people are false.

    That’s certainly at least hypocrisy. It may be more than that. Knowing what is truth, and willfully choosing against it from self-interest, probably indicates an irredeemably hardened spirit like the one Jesus excoriated in those whose deeds showed them to be children of “the father of lies” (John 8:39-44).

  8. February 19, 2016 at 1:24 am

    “In this latter incarnation, the tea party has (at least early on) admitted or bragged that they weren’t about social issues or morality but economics only.”

    Ironic, isn’t it, that the Tea Party admits its agreement with Marxism, that economics is the most important fact of human life ? As does Ayn Rand’s brand of capitalism too ?

  9. 9 Marleen
    February 19, 2016 at 8:00 am

    We could notice that the super rich require welfare from government sources on the backs of every one else (including the backs of those who get help from government while also paying taxes). For instance, Wal-Mart counts on many of its workers getting help from government. They have even suggested to their workers to look to government sources. Thus, Wal-Mart doesn’t have to pay their workers a living wage in order to make humongous profits for itself or the few people in that owning family. So, in fact, the Wal-Mart owners are themselves actually “on” welfare.

    Similarly, at least in terms of concept, Steve Jobs was such a self-absorbed jerk that he allowed the mother of his child to be on welfare in order to support herself and their child. Of course, mothers are lazy people who don’t deserve to live — because they don’t have money based on what they do with their time. Maybe mothers who inherit fortunes and can invest them to make gains while they don’t “work” are okay people we can see as upstanding morally. Men, meanwhile, can do whatever they want so long as they take in paychecks for daily activity or likewise invest a nest eggs.

  10. February 20, 2016 at 2:44 am

    A follow-up thought about ideology.

    The attraction of ideology is that embracing its assertion about the nature of reality gives us a cognitive “place to stand” amidst what can seem the real world’s random chaos.

    Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan makes an interesting observation about the similar mindsets of Stalin and Hitler in her 2015 book, History’s People: “Each…embraced his guiding ideas early on and never altered his conviction that they explained all and justified all.”

    An ideology (“guiding idea”)…any ideology…fulfills basic human needs for an explanation of reality (a “creation myth” in the fullest possible sense; WHY things are as they are); and growing from it an operative code, what is “good” or “bad” regards the nature of that reality, by which individuals are justified as acting “rightly” (i.e., morally) in it.

    I think an ideology also fills for those who embrace it the human need to “predict all.” Nazism promised its followers a “Thousand Year Reich,” and Communism’s prediction is an eventual universal classless society.

    In all those ways: explanation, justification, and prediction: every ideology seems to fill basic human religious needs. In virtually all of them, with little or no reference to God Himself.

  11. February 22, 2016 at 11:49 am

    That super-rich welfare is something that rarely gets mentioned when people are pointing out the alleged laziness of welfare recipients. From what I’ve read recently it seems that some of the current candidates hoping to run for president are against legislating a minimum wage. so there’s no hope at all of them seeing the need for people to receive a LIVING wage.

    Until every willing worker is able to get a job paying them enough to live on – then there will always be a need for welfare assistance. Reducing the costs of welfare is easy: create and keep jobs within one’s own nation and pay workers enough to live on (instead of cutting and outsourcing overseas them to cut costs)

  12. February 22, 2016 at 11:56 am

    “The economy” always seems to be the priority of government no matter what its claimed ideology. It seems the common view is that taking care of the economy will automatically take care of the people.

    On which side of the God vs. Mammon ledger does that view seem to fit best?

  13. February 23, 2016 at 1:22 am

    “The economy” always seems to be the priority of government no matter what its claimed ideology. It seems the common view is that taking care of the economy will automatically take care of the people.

    On which side of the God vs. Mammon ledger does that view seem to fit best?

    Amen ! This operative idea of the world and all human nations, that “the market” controls all and is the source of all good or woe, is the paganism of our age.

    Blessings to all whose trust is in our God !

    Steve

  14. 14 Marleen
    February 23, 2016 at 8:05 am

    The “market” and the “invisible hand” that will right all things if we neglect everyone with enough dedication.

  15. February 23, 2016 at 8:19 am

    “The Market” and “The Economy” are the deities requiring sacrifices. The rich who benefit most from the favour of these gods are willing to offer up the less well-off to appease the appetite of “The Market”.

  16. March 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    IN my original post I quoted a statement I’d read on another blog.

    We live in a society that has lost its Protestant work ethic (that work is to the glory of God and is rewarded) but now I read that the younger generations favor socialism (stealing from the hard working to provide equality to those who do not work as hard).

    Today I read this very pertinent observation in a book called Econobabble by Richard Denniss.

    …unemployment grew by 6.5 million people in the United States after the GFC. Does anyone really think those 6.5 million people suddenly became lazy?


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