Friday, November 14, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 7

Is the redistribution of wealth moral? Since the rise of Barack Obama and a progressive movement who is becoming more brazen in its arguments and policy as a result, the question is an important one. Progressives coax their doctrines under the guise of emotionalism and morality. Thus it is morally necessary to legalize millions of undocumented workers. It is morally necessary to raise taxes on the rich 1% (they don't need it anyways). It is morally necessary to pass single-payer healthcare. Etc.

But is progressive fiscal and societal policies moral? In their book Seeking the City, authors Chad Brand and Tom Pratt emphatically argue no. They write:
It follows from these propositions that "redistributive" schemes to acquire wealth among people (note the word here is acquire not produce) are immoral. The earliest forms of this process were personal theft and dishonest business dealing for bartered goods. On a macroscale it involved groups getting together to raid and pillage. When coinage came to be a form of universal exchange, carving and chipping at the precious metals served the same purpose, just as counterfeiting of coins and paper money did and do. The Bible condemns the dishonest scale or measure and other forms of marketplace deception. All kinds of cheating in the economic realm have been the common lot of mankind from time immemorial. The worst schemes, however, proceed under the guise of legalized theft. This was the sin of the kings of Israel and Judah who transgressed God's commands to benefit their "servants," so tellingly denounced by the prophets and punished in the exile. It is not he "beastly" theft of empire, but such thievish sin is condemned in the sight of God, though it be done by supposedly theocratic kings. This is now the common practice of modern governments who, if democratic, organize constituencies to confiscate the wealth of other constituencies by law, until those (and other) constituencies can seize the power to do the same to others, and "redistribute" to chosen receivers, while taking some off the top for themselves (a la Judas and the bag). It matters not whether the constituencies are denominated "rich" or "poor" or "corporate" or "private" or "Democrat" or "Republican." some might label it "gangster captalism." No rational consideration of what is actually going on here can be called moral. This is immoral by definition, and to call it otherwise (often by degrading the language to obfuscate what is called in the jargon of the Left "unearned income") and denounce from a Christian standpoint those who oppose it (as greedy or covetous or hateful or even "fascist") is a distortion of moral categories that leads to the unwinding of foundational concepts of human rights and ethical standards. This is precisely the kind of degradation of the language used by fascists to confuse the public and manipulate politics. (855-856)
I agree. A few, very brief points of elaboration. First, the difference between "acquire" and "produce" mentioned above is huge. Wealth produced is wealth earned. Wealth acquired is wealth taken.

Secondly, the strength of modern progressivism can be laid at the fact they have corrupted the meaning of "moral." The rise of moral relativism has become nothing more than vacant emotionalism. Ravi Zacharias is fond of suggesting that we are a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings. Such a generation will be quick to surrender freedom under the guise of "doing what feels like the right thing." Or more simply, "do it for the kids."

Finally, let us return to an earlier point made in Seeking the City. Government cannot love my neighbor for me. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is far from love. The authors put it this way, "Nowhere in the long discourse on the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 does Jesus condone taking other people's money to feed 'the least of these my brethren.'" (857)

Point well made. They then reminds us all that "no Christian who would learn of the need of a friend for transportation, who would then steal his neighbor's vehicle to give to the friend in the name of compassion or justice or 'fairness.'" We do, all too often however, do just that when we "vote to have someone else do it for us, if we happen to be of this moral and political persuasion." (857)

Finally, we must conclude as the authors do at the very end of their book:
C. S. Lewis years ago seemed to be warning of a terrible time and place where perpetual winter prevailed at the behest of the white Witch, her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia (or so she imagined herself), who deplored Christmas and was defeated only when the sacrificial Aslan returned from the among the dead to defeat her. His Chronicles of Narnia, couched int he guise of children's stories, teach far more than fairy-tale lessons. In our opinion, if the real world of ruling-class, czarist fantasies continues to set the agenda, a long winter threatens the political economy and constitutional liberties of an enervated and supposedly secure populace with no Christmas in sight. Lewis was prescient: "Of all the tyrannies, tyranny sincerely expressed for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent oral busybodies." We must concur. (877-878)

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5 
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 6
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 7


For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
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