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Friends, Christians, and Communists (Part 1)

This was originally posted in 2007, and an email from a fellow blogger (Tom at Responsibility) called it to mind. Tom sent an email with a reference to a Wall Street Journal article that he thought I might be interested in – and I was so interested I decided I’d post something in response. Big hat tip to Tom 😉 While this isn’t a response to the WSJ article, it is a bit of background and foundation for an answer, which I hope to post before Monday. So, the original post from August 6, 2007:

I’ve heard that nasty word “social justice” once again, and I’m always interested enough to ask my erstwhile conversation partner what he means by this interesting compound idea. Erstwhile? Former conversation partners because I’m generally opposed to the common or popular notion of what “social justice” constitutes, and my opposition seems to color me as Satan himself to some of the liberal nutroots I’ve engaged in conversation (despite their intense opposition to religion, it is ok to label opponents as the minions of Beelzebub). Taking the adjective social away from the concept at least leaves the actual noun being modified in some fashion. Make no mistake, English works precisely this way.

“No, no, no, you don’t understand. It wasn’t simply a man; it was a little green man!”

Granted, that’s poking a little fun, but whether used rationally or irrationally, that’s the way we use our language. Clearly, progressives are trying to make it plain that they are NOT talking about the classical meaning of justice, and hence, the adjective “social.” I had always thought justice by nature and definition must be social. Something else is meant in this case – so, for comparison, let’s take a look at the origin of the word “justice.” I’ll use the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1140, “the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment,” from O.Fr. justise, from L. justitia “righteousness, equity,” from justus “upright, just.” The O.Fr. word had widespread senses, including “uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge.” The word began to be used in Eng. c.1200 as a title for a judicial officer. Meaning “the administration of law” is from 1303. Justice of the peace first attested 1320. In the Mercian hymns, L. justitia is glossed by O.E. rehtwisnisse.

Generally, “the administration of law” was once a common understanding of the term “justice.” On the other hand, the term “social justice” uses the adjective “social” to incorporate the notions often associated with socialism/communism. The always popular “take from those who are more prosperous and give to those who are less prosperous” – whether on a national or global scale depends largely on who is promoting the idea. For example, Anthony Brunt at the University of Iowa puts it this way:

The first component of social justice is a minimum standard of living in the realms of employment, health, housing, and education. This is the portion of social justice that is best dispensed through government agencies. According to the 1999 U.N. Human Development Report, for forty billion dollars the most disadvantaged portions of the world can achieve basic healthcare, education, sanitation facilities, potable water, and an adequate food supply for all. To contrast this amount in relative terms, last year Microsoft chairperson Bill Gates had an estimated net worth of fifty-two billion dollars. I do not believe that allocating an additional forty billion dollars will strain those living in a state of luxury.

Only somewhat tongue in cheek, Kfir Alfia and Alan Lipton in A Field Guide to Left-Wing Wackos, says that communists are “Anyone who likes the things you have, wants them for his own, and doesn’t mind if a totalitarian state is what it takes to make that happen.” This idea of using a government to accomplish their ends is highlighted by Brunt in the next paragraph of his paper, albeit for logistical concerns.

Why even mention this topic? Because I find it at least a little ironic and humorous that this unusual group of liberals shares so much in common with the very people they are so opposed to having any influence on our society. Truly, the only real difference between the liberal nutroots and the Christians in this case is the means by which they ameliorate poverty. I really cannot say it better than C.S. Lewis on this topic, and he makes the point so forcefully, I’ll close with a small portion of The Problem of Pain:

Those who would most scornfully repudiate Christianity as a mere “opiate of the people” have a contempt for the rich, that is , for all mankind except the poor. They regard the poor as the only people worth preserving from “liquidation,” and place in them the only hope of the human race. But this is not compatible with a belief that the effects of poverty on those who suffer it are wholly evil; it even implies that they are good. The Marxist thus finds himself in agreement with the Christians in those two beliefs which Christianity paradoxically demands – that poverty is blessed and yet ought to be removed. (C.S. Lewis, 1940, pp. 108-109)

P.S. The question to ask is: “Is poverty a/the ‘root cause’ of crime?”

Cheers!

  1. January 7th, 2010 at 22:27 | #1

    Great post, Steven.
    I think I need to read it a couple more times to truly understand, but, I particularly enjoyed the Anthony Brunt quote. He should be the poster boy for the loonies on the far left. Forty Billion of someone else’s money is a pittance. It appears that our Congress feels the same way. And of course, he uses class envy – “the rich can afford it.”
    I look forward to the next post.

    Tom

  2. John
    January 9th, 2010 at 14:30 | #2

    P.S. The question to ask is: “Is poverty a/the ‘root cause’ of crime?”

    Good question. I wouldn’t say that poverty is necessarily the root cause of crime. But a contributing cause is people of all income levels who are trying to live beyond their means that would be tempted to take the “short-cut” to keep their lifestyle, instead of adjusting their lifestyle to fit their income level. There are a lot of criminals, rich and poor, with the difference being the type of crime they commit – armed robbery, identity theft or investment fraud.

    As for the irony of the non-christian liberals pushing a christian ideal of helping the poor, I find it equally ironic that christian conservatives are against it. That’s the beauty of being a moderate, I can disclaim either side and laugh at both when they deserve it.

  3. Jeff
    January 9th, 2010 at 21:08 | #3

    Is poverty the root cause of crime? Of course not. Choice is the root cause of crime. Choice is the very moment crime occurs. Make a different choice, there is no crime. And NO, I do not believe in people with no choice. There is always the choice to end it. Poverty may factor into the choice some make, but it is not a cause.

    Now about that 40 billion dollars… I love it when people make these kinds of statements. 40 billion dollars will do all that? Wow! Umm, wait… for how long? A month? A day? 3 years? Indefinitely? Did someone figure out how to create potable water indefinitely for 40 billion?! This is another example of Liberal factualation. For your edification, here’s the process:

    Liberal Factualation
    1) I need a fact.
    2) I can see it in my imagination.
    3) FACTUALATION! It’s true now because I wrote it.

    A few examples of factualation: health care reform will save the economy, we can’t win the war in Iraq, and Islamic extremism is a problem of poverty. Here’s the reality: health care is a degradation of our liberties and a bloating of our government, the US can win any war given the proper lack of sympathy, Islamic extremism is a problem of ideology.

    I make about $42k a year as do my overwhelmingly liberal co-workers at our detention center. We recently recieved an email telling us not to be surprised when our checks shrink next pay period due to the new federal taxes and increased health care costs. These idiots STILL haven’t made the connection… at $42k a year, they’re considered RICH by the powers that be. They blame Wallstreet as though a magic pipeline were somehow constructed between New York and Virginia that sucks out their money. Even more depressing, these people are registered, motivated Democrat voters. I’m left wondering, with such wide-eyed empty-headedness, is it really illegal to use a captive bolt pistol on them?

    All I’m HOPING is that I still have some CHANGE left in my pocket by 2012.

  4. January 11th, 2010 at 12:45 | #4

    @tom Vail You’re not kidding about Mr. Brunt! I don’t think he really knows the difference between net worth and earnings. The consistent play to class envy through out his essay was nauseating.

  5. January 11th, 2010 at 13:16 | #5

    @Hi John! I agree, there are a number of possible explanations for why people commit crimes, which is one of the subjects I’m going to try and tackle in my next post, but I think if a theory is going to have any explanatory power it’s got to be able to consistently predict what it is theoretically explaining. I’m certain some people wind up in trouble with the law for precisely the reasons you state – trying to live beyond their means!

    Concerning conservative Christians, I’ve never met or read about any that actually were against helping the poor. I have met and read about many conservative Christians that were against the government taking their money via taxes to help the poor. Many Christians, in spite of political affiliation, “tithe” 10% of their income to the church for the purpose of helping the poor. My poke at what was ironic wasn’t that one or the other did or did not help the poor, it was “the means by which they ameliorate poverty.” Liberals tend toward an increase in taxes (especially the wealthy, essentially saying one MUST) to help the poor with government mandated social programs, while churches (such as the Salvation Army soup kitchens) tend toward (everyone no matter your income, saying one OUGHT) volunteerism and giving/donations “out of the goodness of their heart” sort.

    I tend to believe that people on both sides sincerely want to help (though there may be a few troglodytes on both sides), but that they differ markedly in the way they want to help. One demands taxes, one begs for donations.

  6. January 11th, 2010 at 13:36 | #6

    @Jeff 😀 Love that factualation process… while it makes me laugh, it worries me at how close to the truth that comes sometimes! I’m hoping for a bit of CHANGE myself… we’ll see, after the layoffs… such is life 😕

    I’m in pretty much the same field, similar pay, but the break down is more conservative than your shop. Maybe 66%-34%. Still, being a union shop, there is a startling number of people who believe the same thing: evil corporations taking money. Astonishing! It is the state that is mandating furlough days, pay cuts, and higher taxes, not the evil corporations. What’s worse, is many of them don’t seem to understand that a reduction in revenue requires a fiscally responsible government to reduce services.

    I’ve been laid off (with many coworkers) on a number of occasions, and although the private sector employees may hate that they are getting laid off, most of them understand why… revenues are seriously down! The number of public employees who feel they are ENTITLED to be on the government tit despite the lack of milk is simply mind numbing. My popularity seriously plummets when I am in favor of cost cutting measures… go figure 🙂

  7. John
    January 11th, 2010 at 19:42 | #7

    @The Skald
    As for taxes vs. charity, I don’t trust most of the charities ability to get the money to the needy any more than the government, but then that’s just my rosy optimism showing.

    I do donate to some charities, but when money gets tight, the donations are curtailed. Which is part of the problem of leaving it to charity only, when people need help the most, there’s less money available.

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