Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shrewd Bishop Shatters Stereotypes

I am not sure why the word 'upset' is in this article. Everyone seems very pleased with the decision made at the election. But the result continues to speak out, he is an Amos for our day ... here.

Saturday Update: interesting tie between minimum and living wages here.

30 comments:

Edward Prebble said...

Hello Peter
I thought I would comment here, rather than in the thread about the Luke 16 passage, as I don't want to get tangled in the Ron/Shawn discussion.
I think you provide an invitation to do so by your use of "shrewd" in both cases. I want to make the connection closer by suggesting that +Justin is making a similar point to that argued by Jesus/Luke in the parable.

In my preparation for preaching on Sunday, I was greatly helped by a chapter by Ched Myersabout this very passage. I was not able to download it, but read it on screen at:

http://books.google.co.nz/books?hl=en&lr=&id=F_oOzuSLNWwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA51&dq=ched+Myers+defection+as+discipleship&ots=-wbdgcd0WO&sig=Vu27jo1Qzq3fNB8VACz7tM-4KGg#v=onepage&q=ched%20Myers%20defection%20as%20discipleship&f=false

I think Myers would differ with your statement that "The parable is not in its main message about faithfulness in the use of wealth..." In the context of 1st century Palestine, the only way to become a "very wealthy man" was to be part of the cruelly exploitative economic system encouraged by the Roman occupiers. We should certainly not interpret this parable from the point-of-view of the landowner (not that that is what you are doing). What the steward is accused of doing is 'scattering' the wealth of the land-owner, using precisely the same word as does the Magnificat in describing what God is going to do with the rich.

Myers suggests, persuasively in my opinion that, while most of Jesus' parables are directed at the peasants of his day, this one is most relevant to the middle classes. Are we, who have reasonable access to resources, willing to subvert the unjust economic systems of today in the interests of justice? +Justin seems to be asking a similar question.

I do realise that this interpretation does not make some aspects of the passage any easier;if we are working for a rich person or organisation, whom we adjudge to be unjust and exploiting, are we justified in embezzling funds and giving the proceeds to the poor?

Probably not.

Still, both Myers and +Justin are onto something pretty important here.

Peter Carrell said...

Very interesting, Edward.

I admire Ched Myers approach to interpretation of the gospels.

Strictly speaking, and as you recognise, this approach still 'strains' to get an interpretation coherent with the whole parable in all its details.

But here is a thought: perhaps Luke saw in this challenging story something of what Myers also sees, consistent with his 'Magnificat' theology and thus included it in his gospel. But its inclusion does not mean that Luke understands its message anymore than we do!

Father Ron Smith said...

"He told 600 people at a Salvation Army social justice conference in Manukau yesterday that they could not seek well-paid careers and work for social justice at the same time."

- Report on Bishop Justin's words -

The question here - for social workers, whether Christian or not - who appear at such conferences, might be "What responsibility (or even right) do I have to work for a 'just' wage for all, when my personal share of the pie is much greater than those for whom I elect to speak?"

This is a legitimate question for all who presume to 'speak for' the poor and disadvantaged. At least, Bishop Justin appears to be putting his money where his mouth is. How many of us, on above the average wage, or stipend, can guarantee as much? - ME TOO! He puts me to shame!

Shawn Herles said...

If Justin is suggesting that "the rich" voluntarily spread their morally obtained wealth to the poor, then I agree. That would be consistent with Biblical teaching.

However, he seems to be suggesting the idea of a living wage, or a minimum wage, which can only be funded through coercive taxation, which is a form of theft, and thus contrary to the Biblical commandments against stealing. Jesus never says that charity be funded through coercive means, but always voluntarily.

The non-aggression principle, which I believe to be consistent with the teaching of Christ, and indeed, an expression of that teaching, is that it is always wrong for any person, or group of persons, including persons calling themselves the State, to initiate coercive force against other persons and their property. Jesus says we must not lord it over others.

Justice, to be truly just, must be as much about means as ends. Just ends do not justify the means, and in fact unjust means make the ends unjust as well.

I would also challenge Justin in his view of who are in fact the rich. The minimum wage as it is currently set, would be considered great wealth in many parts of the world. Is it not possible that we have defined poverty upwards in the West to a degree that makes even the "poor" comparatively wealthy.

A more radical challenge would be to call for all of us in the West, including those we define as poor, to live with less, and use what we do not need to fund those in Africa or the slums of Asia and Latin America, the truly poor, rather than trying to fund the already comparatively wealthy to live even more wealthy lives.

carl jacobs said...

Do bishops go to school to become economically illiterate? It's nice and all that he wants to reduce his salary and all but does he have even the first clue how the market works?

Let's say you are Mr Owner, and you have an employee (Bob) worth $100,000 on the open market. You go to this employee and say "Hey Bob. I want to pay you $75,000 so we can raise the wages of Bill & Mike." Now let's walk though Alice's Looking Glass and speculate that Bob actually agrees to this. Bill & Mike are now over-valued in the market place. They aren't earning enough value for the company to justify their wages. Bob is subsidizing their cost of employment. So what happens when Bob walks into the office one day and says "I have to move to another city to take care of my mother, so I am giving notice." Mr Owner is now in trouble. He has to replace Bob but he is going to have to pay market rates. He can't advertise a job for a salary 25% below market rates and expect to find a good hire. Bob was worth $100,000 for a reason. But if Mr Owner pays market rate to Bob's replacement, then how does he finance the added salary for Bill & Mike? Does he cut profit and sacrifice the long term competitiveness of his business? Does he raise prices and risk loss of market share? Does he cut back Bill's & Mike's salary to market levels? What does he do? Now add the compounding factor of raises and COLA into this. It quickly becomes difficult. That's why no rational business owner would dream of doing this. He needs to compete for quality labor. I suppose a bishop who is totally divorced from concepts like supply and demand (because he is financed the 'rent' called parish share) wouldn't understand the realities of business. He just wakes up each morning and money gets dropped in his coffers. Mr Owner might go out of business if he replaces a high-value employee like Bob with someone not so qualified. That's why Bob was worth that money.

We could all have a 'conversation' about leveling wages so that there is less spread in income. "Social Justice" (whatever that is) says the "some people" (whoever they are) make "too much" (however much that might be) for activities that have "too little social value" (however that might be measured.) Evidently, we need to talk about when "enough is enough." And what will it mean? Nothing. It would be easier to convince people to pay more for locally-produced products, and that effort has totally failed. ("You want me to pay a 75% premium on a shirt? Whatever.") Rational people will still go on making rational (and oh btw perfectly moral) decisions. Those decisions get even more rational when it comes to personal income. It isn't wrong to accept your payment at market value.

Bob isn't responsible for Bill's salary. Do you know the real problem? It's the exploding labor market in the Asian giants. Technology and development have opened up vast new labor pools for employment, and that is putting downward pressure on wages in the developed west. Our problem is that we feel entitled to a certain standard of living. Well, guess what. Economic laws don't care what we feel entitled to. And gov'ts can't repeal economic laws.

There aren't many solutions. Grow the economy. Become more competitive. Lower your standard of living. But artificially lowering someone's wage would be as destructive as artificially raising wages has been. It is a market distortion that will have predictably bad consequences.

I wish bishops would stop talking about things they don't understand.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Partly in response to comments above and partly in response to the article (and related bits and pieces re social justice in NZ these days), is there any real difference between focusing on the living wage (around $18 per hour, I believe) and campaigning for raising the minimum wage (around $13.50 an hour)?

That is, why not campaign for the minimum wage to be $18 or so an hour?

I tend to agree with Carl and Shawn: life is complicated when we attempt to resolve inequality issues by raising the lower wages of the lower paid.

Shawn Herles said...

Yup, totally agree with Carl on this. Bishops and Priests, with rare exceptions, do not seem to understand how real world economies actually function, and have a bad habit of advocating specific policies which not only would not work, but likely do more damage in the long run. And the people who are effected the most by market distortions are the very people Bishops and Priests are advocating for.

Or, in short, Greece.

Tim Chesterton said...

I would disagree with Shawn and Carl here, on a number of fronts.

First, The Bible does not say that coercive taxation is wrong. Indeed, in the very same passage that is often quoted to me, as a pacifist Christian, to justify war, Paul tells Christians that they out to pay their taxes, because the government is doing God's work and needs to be paid for it.

Second, taxes today are not coercive - at least, not if the rhetoric of the American revolution is true: government by the people, for the people. Today, if enough people don't like the tax system, they can vote out the government. Recent experience has shown that political parties are quite willing to run on a lower tax platform and make significant cuts in taxation, even if it means bankrupting the government purse. In this we are in a significantly different situation from most people in history, who had taxes imposed on them by tyrants.

Thirdly, history shows that the laws of economics do indeed change over time. For instance, I can't remember immediately the name of the 17th century Scottish economist who felt it necessary in one of his well known works to set out a biblical justification for the concept of private property. The fact that he felt it necessary to do this shows that it was by no means axiomatic in his day.

Indeed, different cultures have different systems of economics. I have had a lot of contact with North American First Nations people. One of their struggles has been that in their traditional systems of economics wealth s predominantly communal, and a person who showed signs of eating to amass personal wealth would have been looked on with great suspicion. This of course has made it very difficult for them to adjust to the highly individualistic, everyone for himself economics that prevail in North America today.

Finally, I was delighted to read these words of yours, Shawn:

The non-aggression principle, which I believe to be consistent with the teaching of Christ, and indeed, an expression of that teaching, is that it is always wrong for any person, or group of persons, including persons calling themselves the State, to initiate coercive force against other persons and their property. Jesus says we must not lord it over others.

As a pacifist I reply, Amen!

Tim Chesterton said...

Found him - it was John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government who offered the defence of private property. Note that even he did not consider it to be an absolute and unlimited right.

Father Ron Smith said...

I find Carl's explanation of the term 'economics' - in which he apparently speaks of the academic study in the way of 'justification in terms of profitability' - to not quite match up to what Bishop Justin is here getting at, in his remarks to the S.A. conference.

And this is precisely where 'The Rich Young Man' who approached Jesus also found a real problem. He mistook following Jesus for being able to live within the worldly sophisticated economical situation he was presently enjoying.

However, Jesus demanded that if he wanted to follow the Gospel Way utterly and completely, he would have to forsake the world's (academic?) understanding of economia, and surrender everything - not just a proportion - of what he had, to the mission.

This sort of radical discipleship is only for Christ's most dedicated disciples. It may not be for Carl, or for anyone who wants The Economy to balance itself by 'market forces'. I guess it would take a modern-day Saint Francis of Assisi to understand that un-worldly sort of enterprise.

I think our Bishop Justin is on the right track - like the present day Pope Francis I, who seeks to serve God's little poor ones. God knows, we need bishops who recognise the call of Christ to share God's generosity extravagantly - just as God shares His mercy with us.

(Incidentally, Jesus was not, in principle, opposed to taxation. Remember the coin with Caesar's head on it?)

Tim Chesterton said...

Sorry about the typos in my last message - the perils of an iPad keyboard!:

'Signs of eating to amass personal wealth' should have been 'WANTING to amass personal wealth'.

'they out to pay their taxes' should of course have been 'OUGHT',

Mea culpa!

Anonymous said...

The trouble is, it is difficult to sustain low-skilled employment in expensive countries like NZ, when the same goods can be produced much more cheaply in Asia - and the same applies increasingly to financial and information-based services, as technology and telecommunications improve exponentially. Protectionism doesn't really work today - and I say this as one who is instinctively an economic nationalist, as well as believing in free markets.
I do think there is a real issue about widening income gaps, and I wonder if a certain mandarin class has developed, especially in local government, which isn't competitive, has job security, is paid from taxation, and is often better remunerated than the private sector. Who will grasp this nettle?
If NZ is not to live beyond its means, it needs to avoid complacency, promote tax-paying growth, and to get fracking!

Martin Keynes

Peter Carrell said...

It is interesting that you should mention the mandarin class Martin because just this morning in the paper there is an item about significant rises in the income of heads of government departments ...

Brian Dawson said...

Just correcting some issues here: The difference between a Living Wage and a Minimum Wage is that the former is not calling on 'the government' to do something, and nor is it mandating anything. Many of the comments above show an ignorance of what the Living Wage movement is really about. If it is just a loony socialist idea why is Boris Johnson a big fan? Or Rod Oram?
The Living Wage debate is one about morals and values, not economics and political philosophy. That's precisely why Living Wage Aotearoa decided at the outset not to invite political party involvement and to focus on ground up awareness raising. What's happened in the UK and now in many parts of New Zealand is due to that approach.

carl jacobs said...

Brian Dawson

No, we understand what it is. And there are other ways to implement it. For example, we could have a conversation about making divorce harder, and convincing women to go home and raise their children. That is the more traditional 'living wage' strategy. But most of your supporters just suffered an apoplectic seizure at the mere suggestion. "We can't do THAT! It would violate the autonomy of women!"

No, instead, you will try to harangue people into taking less money, because that is ever so much more possible. Then you will encourage them to pay higher prices for locally-produced merchandise from the remainder of their reduced salary. The political feasibility of this plan is staggering. No wonder you are trying to build support from the ground up.

Look, you can say this is about morals and values all you like. If it isn't economically rational, you can't do it. There is no way to sustain wages at above-market levels over time. And you certainly can't finance by suppressing the wages of higher-value workers. It creates all sorts of disadvantages that can be exploited by a competitor. And they will be exploited. Rallys won't help. Speeches won't help. Grass roots efforts won't help. It's like ordering water to flow uphill. You can try, but the water won't listen to you.

Frankly, you have a better change of getting women to voluntarily withdraw from the job market.

carl

liturgy said...

Disclosure: I am one of those priests who do not understand how real world economies actually function. I have nine years of tertiary studies, which includes a Maths degree and post-graduate Maths qualifications, and lecturing and tutoring at tertiary level, but I do not understand why our NZ Prime Minister is paid ten times more than the country's GDP per person (measured on a purchasing-power parity basis) placing him above USA, Germany, UK, and Aus; nor why he is paid more, in real terms, than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; I do not understand why the gap between rich and poor in NZ is growing faster than almost anywhere else; I have had explained why electricity is SO expensive here (making those poorer struggle with health issues); I still do not understand why we have had such a barbaric approach to housing, so that a million homes are unnecessarily sub-standard (again, like electricity, affecting health of the poorer); I do not understand why adding up the costs of a house and land does not result in the total costs of a home – why homes are so far beyond means in this country; and what I don’t understand, and no qualified economist appears to either, is why food produced in NZ is so expensive here and so inexpensive after it has been shipped half a planet away. But then, I acknowledge, I am one of those priests who do not understand how real world economies actually function – should I be pleased that the economy is in the hands of people who are so certain that they do?!

Blessings

Bosco

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for that clarification. Part of the difficulty is that online information that I have seen does seem to confuse the two, thus my own.

Hi Tim.

The Bible, specifically the Golden Rule and the general thrust of the Gospel does, it seems to me, to rule out coercion. If coercion of any sort is contrary to the Gospel, this must therefore include compulsory taxation.

In both Christ's response to the Pharisees, and Pauls teaching, the issue is about citizenship, not economics. This is clearly seen in Paul's teaching. He is saying that Christians should, within certain bounds, obey the laws of the land, which usually include paying taxes. It is a huge stretch in my opinion to take what Paul is saying as advocating taxation. He is advocating being law abiding citizens, but not commenting on whether the laws themselves are good or bad. This can be seen in his advice that slaves obey their masters. It does not follow that slavery is a good thing that we should adopt, which would be the logical conclusion of your approach.

Representative democracy does not change the coercive nature of the State. Force is still being used against people and their property. Merely because the people initiating that force have been voted into power does not make that force right. I am not simply free to vote for another party as you claim, as all mainstream political parties, including those on the Right which favour tax cuts, advocate and practice the initiation of force. I'm not represented,, and the "freedom" to vote is really not a freedom at all, merely an invitation to use force against others, which is why I no longer vote.

Democracy is a sham. It is merely the Divine Right of Kings transferred to the majority. That is tyranny, not freedom. If a majority of people living on my street vote to burn my house down, their actions are not made right by the fact of having voted. This is true of the State as well.

Different cultures may well have different understandings of economics, though I doubt the differences are more than paper thin. Economic reality does not care. The Laws of economics are part of nature, rooted in the facts of human existence in this world, and totally uncaring about human opinion or culture.

For example, if I have three children to feed, and only enough food for two, I must find a way to get more. That will be true regardless of my opinion, and regardless of culture. Economic laws in this sense of the term, similar to natural law, are like mathematics. 2 plus 2 equals four no matter what culture we are in.

Native Americans actually.did have an understanding of private property, and not everything was shared communally. What communal sharing did take place had more to do with necessity than culture, and differed greatly from tribe to tribe. For example among Plains Indians, who relied heavily on subsistence hunting, the sharing of food was a necessity. But amongst East coast tribes, who planted crops and stored food, there was much less communal sharing, and a stronger understanding of personal property. By the way, I can speak with some authority on that subject as I am Cherokee - French by blood, and have a very good understanding and knowledge of Cherokee history and culture.

Pacifism and the non-aggression principle are not the same thing. The non-aggression principle opposes the initiation of force, but not the use of defensive force in response to aggression.

A society based on that principle, on the removal of coercion from all human affairs, is the only one consistent with the Golden Rule, with the Gospel. Thus only a minarchist State funded solely through voluntary means, in which the States only responsibility is for the Police, the Courts, and National Defense, or no State at all, is in my opinion consistent with the Gospel. And thus, any form of "Christian" social justice which advocates welfare socialism, OR for that matter State imposed "Family Values", is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

Shawn Herles said...

Given Brian's clarification I'm inclined to far more interest in the concept. As an adherent of the Austrian School of economic thought, I'm pretty sure AS great Frederich Hayek advocated a voluntarily funded living wage, though it's been about ten years since I read Hayek. I need to check that and see what he said on the subject. If a voluntarily funded living wage was used to replace the Welfare State I would certainly support it.

Shawn Herles said...

Unfortunately there seems to be a contradiction between what Brian is saying and what Living Wage NZ is saying. They do seem to be advocating the use of "public" money, or in more honest terms, stolen money. Quite a few other red flags for me on their web site, a lot of coded language ("fair employment practices") which are often code for State interference and force against business owners.

I'm open to hearing more, but I'm skeptical.

Shawn Herles said...

A couple more thoughts on the points raised by Tim.

While John Locke offered a defense of private property, this was not a new idea. Medieval philosophers and theologians recognized private property, as did the laws of classical civilizations.

Private property is clearly taught in Scripture. The commandments against stealing and coveting our neighbors goods presuppose it. And in fact over three quarters of the laws in the Torah are concerned with defining and defending private property.

Even free market thinking is not new. The Austrian School (so called because two of it's earliest founders, Carl Menger and Ludwig Von Mises were from Austria) traces it's roots to the Salamanca School of the 15th century.

The question of whether or not property has been considered absolute in the past is less important to my mind than the question if whether or not it should be. Perhaps more importantly, the question of how one set of humans can exercise power and control over another, and what the limits of such power should be, needs to discussed far more, especially by those advocating coercive economic policies in the name of Christian social justice.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bosco,

There is one answer to all of your "why" questions. The State.

Why is the PM overpaid? The State.

Why are wages depressed? The State keeps them down to deal with inflation caused by it's own spending levels.

Why are power prices high? The State regulates and rations the power supply.

Why is housing both substandard and expensive? The State and it's local body versions regulates and limits housing development, forcing costs up, and pillages ratepayers to pay for their insane spending levels.

The State is not our friend.

Edward Prebble said...

I think I am with Bosco on this one.

As someone with 11 years tertiary education, and a PhD in Management, I can’t understand why people who on other threads on other subjects have insisted that biblical strictures be followed to the letter seem on this subject to go to great lengths to show that the biblical writers (and Jesus) did not mean what they said.

Did the writer of Leviticus 25 understand how markets work when he decreed that every 50 years land freely bought and sold should revert to its original owners, and that debts should be forgiven?

Did Isaiah understand how markets work when he said (5:8): “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until everywhere belongs to them and they are the sole inhabitants of the land”?

And did Jesus understand how markets work when he told the rich young ruler to sell all he dad and give the money to the poor? That is a rather more radical suggestion than the one +Justin is making.

I suggest that the question is not whether +Justin, or other advocates of living wage, understand how free markets work. The issue is whether free markets represent a Godly way of carrying on.

Peter Carrell said...

The difficulty, Edward, with asserting the opposites, that free markets are ungodly is that conveys a presumption that the alternative is better. State control of markets or at least aspects of them* means that, whether or not that control is "Godly" the state exercises a god-like function determining what is good for its people and what is not. We had that day: inefficient postal service, railway monopoly on goods not delivered on time, etc. I have no wish to go back there!

But the moot question, it seems to me,is this: if we raise the minimum wage and/or establish widely a living wage, do we resolve inequalities in the long run, or simply provide a brief holiday from them? In the long run, when some work harder than others, some have a more entrepeneurial spirit, some prefer to save than to spend, some prefer to gain qualifications etc, there will always be inequality. Does a mere raising of the lowest wage actually change much?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Peter that inequality is written into human nature, and I have to conclude in the end State attempts to create a false equality through manipulating the markets by regulation, "cooking" education results so that more people gain worthless degrees, or employing people on useless "services" will only degrade the mass of people. Economic questions are inherently cultural and moral, and the west should learn from countries like Singapore and South Korea, which reinvented themselves from abject poverty in the 1950s to some of the wealthiest nations in the world - at the same time that countries of comparable wealth - Tanzania and Zimbabwe - sank into poverty and despair, through socialist personality cults.
We must also reflect that the unceasing growth of government since the 1960s has been a gravy train for some. Mark Steyn's latest column (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/banana-527271-republic-government.html) notes how median household incomes in the US declined 6.6% in 2000-2012, while median household incomes in Washington DC *increased 23% - in a town that makes nothing, only collects money to spend. Across the western world there has been an enormous growth in management levels in education, health care and bureaucracy, with hefty salaries being commanded; but you have to wonder if there has been a comparable improvement in services, or just high-level feather-bedding.
Martin

Edward Prebble said...

Peter
I certainly agree that this is complex, and I no more than you, would like to go back to the pre-1980s government regulated conditions. I am not sure that such an outcome is the only alternative to untrammelled free market, but I’ll let that pass.

On your moot question, about whether raising salaries of the lowest paid, by either minimum wage, or living wage mechanisms brings about permanently better conditions, I also don’t know, but have enough respect for the views of Rod Oram and others to want to listen carefully to their arguments.

My point is a different one. Social Justice is an important biblical theme. So is a bias to the poor, the widows, orphans and foreigners, and so is the call to be self-sacrificial in our dealings with others. (I acknowledge Carl Jacob’s rather dismissive “whatever that means” comment about Social justice – it certainly does require definition and probably means different things at different points of scripture, but it is discussed in such a wide range of biblical contexts that we can’t simply dismiss it.)

On the other hand, you would be very hard-pressed to show me that the free market is a biblical theme. On the contrary, there are many places where the presuppositions of free market are challenged, not least in the Sermon on the Mount.

If we get back to the beginnings of this thread, I believe that what +Justin was doing was to remind us of that key biblical theme.

Peter Carrell said...

Social justice, Edward, I suggest, though difficult to define precisely, is about a just society. 'Society' suggests that justice is about the whole and not a part. Thus I think social justice is both about pressing for a better lot for the poor (including raising wages and asking the rich to share their wealth) and pressing for an economy which works well to provide opportunities for work, for access to housing and so forth.

The Bible may not be in favour of the free market in a direct way but it is in favour of remedy for sin. Ultimately the free market constrains greed. Just as democracy (also not directly favoured in the Bible) constrains abusive power.

Shawn Herles said...

Justice is an important theme in Scripture, but social justice, if it means redistributive economics, is not. The God revealed in Scripture has a deep concern for the poor, orphans and widows, but the Marxist/Liberation theology notion of a bias or preferential option, is a reading into Scripture something that is not there.

Jubilee laws were about maintaining Jewish religious purity by keeping the land in the original tribal hands. That and a celebration of debts paid, not debts forgiven. Attempts to press Jubilee laws into modern ideas of redistributive justice are based, again, on reading into Scripture political ideology that the laws just do not support.

The rich man who chose not to follow Jesus is a story about idolatry, not the supposed evil of wealth in and of itself. Just like the man who wanted to bury his father first, Jesus always challenged people according to what was in their hearts, what their personal idols were. It does not follow that caring for our families, burying our loved ones, or creating wealth, are wrong in and of themselves.

Jesus was always focused on what is in peoples hearts, not Marxist ideas of class warfare. His constant praising of Roman soldiers who displayed faith is a rebuke to those who would press Jesus into currently fashionable ideas of social justice, including pacifism.

But the story of the rich man is illustrative in one way. When he chose not to give up his wealth Jesus allowed him to choose freely, and walk away. He did not point the sword/gun of the State at him and force him to give his wealth away. Jesus always respected freedom of choice, even when it had eternal consequences. Sadly the same cannot be said for many of the "social justice" campaigns popular with parts of the Church and some of our leaders.

Finally, there is no free market anywhere in the world, let alone an "untrammeled" one. The so-called reforms of the eighties barely touched the size of the State or it's arbitrary interventions in the market. In fact the scope of the State has grown alarmingly, and is now venturing into areas of conscience and religious and political freedom, in the name of "justice."

The State is not our friend.

carl jacobs said...

Edward Prebble

The reason I dismiss 'Social Justice' as a concept is because I have never heard anyone define it. Ever. And I don't mean a vague amorphous definition. I mean a specific definition that allows me to separate legitimate concerns from the latest "Left-wing political program du jour." Because that's what I suspect it really is. What do I hear?

"We must support gay marriage. It is a matter of social justice."

"We must support a woman's right to choose. It is a matter of social justice."

"We must support an increase in the minimum wage. It is a matter of social justice."

Etc, etc, etc. If that is all I hear about the subject (and that is all I ever hear about the subject) then I am not going to take it seriously.

Should you provide a specific definition, I want some standard of measure other than 'fairness.' Because I don't know what 'fairness' is, either. The best definition of 'fair' that I have ever heard is "I like it." That isn't sufficient for this concept.

That's the beginning of this discussion. Define the term in a way the separates it from left-wing politics. I am sympathetic to criticisms of those who suggest a one-to-one mapping between conservative politics and the Christian faith. That logic works both ways.

carl

Shawn Herles said...

I don't think modern conservative political ideology is congruent with the Faith anymore than modern liberalism is. Both are really two sides of the modern coin, resting upon "Enlightenment" assumptions and modernist ideologies. Both are happy with democracy and the modern super-state.

Post-liberal theologians such as Hans Frei and the late William Placher were right to critique the way in which the Church has become embroiled in the Liberal-Conservative civil war, seeing it as a form of cultural captivity.

The Christian Faith, when allowed to be what it is, is radically opposite to the modern world, a rebuke to all modernism stands for.

Anonymous said...

A lot of "modern conservative political ideology" is agnostic or atheist at heart and is little more than libertarian individualism. That is why it will quickly make its peace with the sinful innovation and deformation that is "same-sex marriage", just as it has with the greater sin of abortion, and the devastation of family life through widespread divorce.
Western conservatism as an ideology is actually Christian in inspiration, as the great Anglican Irishman Edmund Burke articulated it: the profound understanding that society is vastly more than a market of individuals buying and selling, but a nation constituted by the "small platoons" of family, voluntary associations and other manifestations of the body politic, undergirded by a familial concern for each other, and guided by the inherited wisdom of the past and the vision of the Church, that always point us to the City of God. Modern secular "conservatism" has lost this vision and, as a result, has largely lost its way. Whether 'right' or 'left', the modern State seeks to be what is properly the function of the Church.
Christians must keep modelling the truth and living for the City of God.
Aurelius Martinus