CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Religion and the Political Spectrum

Sep 13, 2007

While many Christians may be apolitical or even look down on political involvement as being somehow not very “spiritual,” the truth remains that we live in a world where politics is one crucial dimension of human life.

Avoiding politics or taking a head-in-the-sand approach to the crucial issues of the day is both irresponsible and a neglect of our duty as believers to be salt and light in this world. Here is not the place to go into the reasons for Christian political involvement. For the moment I simply assume it is an important part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Nor is this the place to argue that Christianity ultimately transcends party politics. I have made that case elsewhere. Suffice it to say that believers are called to have an impact in every area of life, including the political realm, and that the biblical gospel must not be tied too closely to any one political ideology or party.

Having said that, we must be reminded of the fact that however idealistic and biblical we seek to be in our political expression of the faith, it will be played out here in the real world. That is, every believer who thinks and acts politically will fall somewhere along the political spectrum, either more to the left or to the right, or some combination thereof. There is no escape from landing somewhere on this spectrum, even though we may argue for some pure, untainted version of faith-based political thought and action.

Some Christians will try to argue that they are neither left nor right, but are seeking to represent some third way, which is more in tune with biblical concerns. But I am not sure this is possible. There is no one pure, unadulterated Christian view of politics, or Christian political party. All will fall short of the biblical ideal.

We all have part of the truth, but none of us have all of the truth. That is true of all aspects of life. In a fallen world with finite creatures, nothing we do or say will be 100 per cent pure biblical Christianity. But that should not deter us from seeking to be as Christ-like and biblically-based as possible.

Of course I make no bones about the fact that as a Bible-believing Christian, I find the right side of politics, generally speaking, to be more conducive to my faith. But I realise there are plenty of good Christians who are on the left side of politics. Thus I need to be careful not to demonise my friends on the religious left, and they also need to be on guard against this.

For example, the religious left often condemns the religious right for abandoning biblical principles and too closely aligning themselves with the political right. This is sometimes the case. But it seems that this is often true of the religious left as well.

Consider one very popular religious leftist in America, Tony Campolo. He regularly denounces the religious right in often quite strong terms, and chastises them for being un-Christlike. Yet a close look at his writings reveals that he too seems guilty of such charges. While he does have some good things to say, often it seems that he has just assumed that progressive politics is the only proper political version of biblical Christianity.

I came across a very good open letter sent to Campolo by Jordan Hylden in the February 2007 issue of First Things. It is well worth reading in its entirety, including the follow-up correspondence between the two (see the links below). Here I offer a few extracts from that article. It concerns Campolo’s recent book, Letters to a Young Evangelical.

Hylden begins by praising many aspects of the book, but then makes this telling observation: “You start off by accusing conservative Christians of uncritically baptizing the Republican agenda, and you claim to offer a biblical outlook that ‘transcends party politics.’ But then you turn around and support nearly every plank in the Democratic party’s platform. I tried to keep track: You make an argument (liberally peppered with Bible verses) for the Democratic position on abortion, gay marriage, tax cuts, trade policy, Iraq, nuclear disarmament, school vouchers, racial profiling, the closing of Guantanamo Bay, capital punishment, and global warming.”

He rightly asks, “I have no problem with politically liberal Christians, but why do you claim to be beyond party politics when you so clearly aren’t? Do you really expect us to believe that Jesus just happens to have the same politics as Nancy Pelosi?”

Consider the issue of homosexuality. Campolo has long criticised conservative Christians about this issue. Says Hylden: “As for gay marriage, you write that you are a conservative on this issue as well. But then you make an extended argument for the opposite position, ending with this clincher: ‘If you are going to be Red-Letter Christians, it is important for you to recognize that there is no record in the New Testament of Jesus saying anything about homosexuality.’ And, you add, ‘Evangelicals spend far too much time worrying about gay marriage’.”

He continues, “In truth, we do tend to worry about gay marriage – but we worry that it will contribute to the decline of marriage overall, which you say is ‘absurd.’ Government, you argue, should ‘get out of the marrying business completely.’ This seems like an odd position to take, especially for someone who cares about education and poverty. Surely you know what, say, James Q. Wilson has written about how strong marriages help children succeed in life, and how good marriages are becoming less common among the poor. Wouldn’t it make sense for government to encourage healthy marriages? And if it turns out that legalizing gay marriage would contribute to the problem, wouldn’t that be a strong argument against it? It may be that Maggie Gallagher is wrong to contend that gay marriage will weaken marriage overall, but surely that does not make people like her into ‘homophobic’ activists out to ‘deny gay and lesbian couples basic civil rights’.”

Campolo in particular, and the religious left in general, make much of the notion of justice, especially that elusive concept, social justice. They accuse those on the religious right of ignoring social justice, and failing to reflect biblical concerns in this area. But it seems the left is selective here. They speak much of justice for the poor and oppressed, but rarely seem to speak of justice for the unborn, for example.

In the follow-up correspondence, Hylden makes this important observation: “it is worrying that Campolo encourages young people to view Christian moral teachings on abortion and marriage with doubt and insouciance. As he admits, Campolo made a point in his book to present ‘both sides’ of the discussion on these two ‘controversial issues.’ To start with, one must wonder why these two issues … are presented as ‘controversial’ matters about which faithful Christians may disagree, while issues like foreign policy, environmentalism, and economics are presented as simple matters of justice. It is severely wrongheaded of Campolo to present abortion and sexual ethics as ‘controversial.’ While it is true that these issues have occasioned much controversy in American politics and that we ought to engage civilly and respectfully with those who dissent from Christian teachings, it is not true that God might or might not want us to kill unborn babies or that God might or might not call us to live by biblical sexual norms.”

Exactly. Why is it that the political left simply assumes that leftist positions like anti-capitalism and (often) anti-Americanism are just clear-cut biblical positions, but issues like abortion and homosexuality are far from clear, and need to be debated? The left is usually not happy with presenting all sides of the debate on such contentious issues as war and peace, or wealth and poverty. For them there is usually only one correct position to hold on such issues. Yet on issues that Scripture seem to be pretty clear about, they want debate and understanding.

It seems that the religious left is simply being that; of the left. They can be as selective and politically biased as anyone on the religious right can be.

Perhaps these quarrels and disagreements between the religious left and right is what puts many Christians off from political involvement in the first place. They may think it is all too hard or too controversial. But the fact that believers may strongly disagree is no reason to withdraw altogether from the important social and political issues of the day.

It just means that we all need to pray harder, think harder, and do more interaction with Scripture as we seek to discern God’s will on these various issues. While there may not always be just one clear biblical position on some of these difficult issues (such as global warming, nuclear energy or globalisation), that should not prevent us from doing all we can to act and think biblically on the hot topics of the day.

True, we will not be perfect in our analysis and reflection, and we will make mistakes. But opting out of the political arena entirely is not the solution. In a fallen world, we will fail in every area, including the political sphere. Yet we are called to exercise our faith in the world as it is, even if along the way we fail to always fully reflect the heart and mind of God in these areas.

www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5411
www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5481

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38 Responses to Religion and the Political Spectrum

  • Thanks Bill.
    Fantastic stuff. I lean slightly to the right, and it’s precisely because of some of the issues you’ve alluded to – Biblical teaching on abortion and gay marriage IS quite clear-cut, but teaching about war, social justice is less so.

    While I admire the Christian left’s dedication to social justice, I shy away from them to some degree because in my view many of them pay mere lip service to issues like abortion, and I can’t accept that.

    Tim Baker

  • Good article Bill. The religious left have it exactly backwards. As you said, on the important, clear-cut biblical issues (e.g. abortion) they are either weak or worse, on the wrong side, and on the not so clear-cut issues they invariably take the leftist position and make those issues paramount (e.g. anything relating to “social justice”). They fail to distinguish between the public and the private responsibilities of individuals and government. They think government exists to usurp the individual’s responsibility toward helping the poor, and those core government responsibilities such as protecting life, liberty and property, are thought to be optional. In all their talk about “social justice” they don’t understand what defines “justice”. They define justice according to humanism rather than the Bible. In their talk about “civil rights” neither do they understand that “rights” do not exist beyond those that come from God and He gives no one the “right” to sin.

    The biblical position on global warming is quite clear – man needs to be a good steward of the environment. I think both religious left and right agree on this. The difference is that the religious left accept the alarmist claims of secular science in a credulous unthinking way whilst the religious right better understand the nature of fallen man and know that just as with evolution, scientists can be equally wrong about predicting the future effects of CO2 on the environment.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • I have a fear of revealing my ignorance on these matters but isn’t the left and right simply a reflection of God’s righteousness and justice, the two sides of the same coin, which is why a single party state is unbalanced? I believe that if Christians – as with Wilberforce and Shaftsbury -are passionate about current issues, surrounding love and law they will be inevitably be drawn into politics. I also believe that one should change from left to right, or right to left, according to one’s conscience. I was born into a socialist family but almost the entire British labour party is made up of atheists and ex Marxists -not withstanding Tony Blair’s claim to being a Christian. How are we to act as salt and light if we do not speak up for the poor, the oppressed and the stranger? But if the labour/communist parties, who traditionally have been identified with the poor and oppressed are in fact through their policies producing poverty and injustice and, indeed, needing these social evils in order to justify their political existence, then they must be fought to the bitter end.
    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks David

    But the issue is not whether we should be concerned about helping the poor and the oppressed. Both sides agree that this is important. But the two sides come up with quite different analyses of the problems, and therefore quite different proposed solutions. The left tends to favour big government and/or socialistic solutions, while the right looks to the free market and voluntary societies.

    And as I have written elsewhere, the left tends (but not always) to reflect more a secular humanist worldview, while the right tends (but not always) to see things more through the Judaeo-Christian worldview, taking sin seriously and thus the fallenness of man and the possibility of accumulated power to corrupt. The idea of limited government and diffusion of the powers flows from the biblical worldview. The left however tends to want to increase the power of the state, and tends to believe in the perfectibility of man.

    But yes, as I hinted at in the article, a believer may be mostly on one side of politics, but may on some issues favor the other side.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    The reason there is confusion amongst Christians about which side of politics is “more Biblical” is that the old left/right divisions are primarily about economics, while social/moral issues largely occupy an unrelated dimension. Hence we find many believers drawn to a hard right position because they are social conservatives, but they may be uncomfortable about supporting capitalist “survival of the fittest” economics and authoritarian politics. Furthermore, many aspects of contemporary politics did not exist in Biblical times, and attempts to decide “what would Jesus do” often come down to a matter of personal opinion.

    This is because the traditional left/right divide is one-dimensional. The Political Compass attempts to overcome this simplistic spectrum by developing a two-dimensional map:
    http://www.politicalcompass.org/
    I’d be interested in your opinion of that test.

    Finally, may I suggest that in Australia today, it is difficult to find major differences in economic policies between the major parties. Both sides support an entrepreneurial economy, and both sides support a strong welfare system. And on social issues, compromise is often involved because policies are very much influenced by individual conscience. Very confusing times indeed for those keen to merge religion and politics.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    Actually it is interesting that you should mention this. Your 2-D political map sounds almost identical to what a friend told me about just this morning over a cup of coffee. He said Barry Jones in his 1965 book Decades of Decision argued for two axes: a right-left axis, and a hawk-dove axis. Thus for example Stalin would be a left wing hawk, and Gandhi a right wing dove. I will have to dig up his book. Thanks for the comment.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve when you say that social/moral issues largely occupy an unrelated dimension, a biblically based Christian, on the contrary, would say that everything, including the material world of economics, was related to everything else, including morals; they are seamlessly related – there is real unity of knowledge. Your other assertion, ‘contemporary politics did not exist in Biblical times, and attempts to decide “what would Jesus do” often come down to a matter of personal opinion,’ ignores the fact that there are economists, businessmen, scientists, politicians and military men whose professional decisions are very much informed, not by personal opinion but by every word of God. Jesus Christ had much to say about say about economics for example. We do not worship a God of confusion. Confusion comes when in fact we are simply guided by our consciences because these can deceive us. The Christian is guided in all matters by the Holy Spirit revealing the truth found in the word of God.
    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks for this article, Bill.

    Being a centre-left type, I think along Campolo’s lines regarding issues of social justice and environment. However, I am concerned about abortion and family as well. However, I sincerely believe that social justice and environmental issues are as biblically clear cut as abortion and family(marriage, homosexuality etc…).

    You cannot read the gospels or the prophets and avoid the fact that Christ requires us to help the poor and the vulnerable. I agree, though, that there is a discrepency between left and right as to how we should go about this. I think that our capitalist/market economies (as Steve aptly described as “survival of the fittest”) are completely unjust. You cannot attribute justice to a system where the rich and powerful continue to reap most of the benefits. I concede that there are economists who have very good cases for markets and ther ability to restore economic balance. However, I hardly think that today’s free market economic system is biblical. Perhaps if it is changed (a lot!) then markets could work for the poor. But as it is today, it doesn’t, and cannot, function fairly. I don’t offer any alternative. I am not an economist. It is very clear that the current system is not working.

    Global warming is also clear cut. Even if predictions are inaccurate, it’s clear that we are wrecking our planet and should stop doing it. We need to change economic and environmental practices, and I think both sides of politics can agree with that.

    Perhaps not. What do you think?

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks Simon

    You are certainly correct to care about these issues. I wish more people took these things seriously. But are social justice and environmental concerns so clear cut in Scripture? Which passages speak about ozone depletion or desalinisation? Which biblical passage do we appeal to when trying to determine which scientists are right or wrong about global warming?

    And social justice is an incredibly nebulous and vague term. Just what exactly does it mean? How does it translate into specific action? Which specific polices are we talking about here?

    As to economics, you suggest that the free market is unbiblical, and that the current system is not working. But how is it unbiblical? How is it not working? If you are concerned about the poor, then surely you should support wealth creation and job creation, things which the free market does rather well. Unless you do have some alternatives, it seems a bit silly to just rail against capitalism. Your comments appear to be mostly sweeping generalisations.

    Just how is it for example that the “rich and powerful continue to reap most of the benefits”? How did they get rich in the first place? And are you saying that you are totally devoid of any benefits of capitalism? You say you “hardly think today’s free market economic system is biblical”. I don’t either. But then again, no other current economic theory is all that biblical either. All economies and all political systems will invariably fall short of biblical ideals.

    I am not an economist either, but I try to stay up on these issues as much as I can. And while no economic system is perfect, I think you may be far too critical of the free market, and overlook its many advantages. Indeed, unless you can offer me specifics, not just broad generalisations, it seems like you are just regurgitating the usual vague criticisms of leftists and Marxists.

    The alternatives to the free market involve statism, redistributionism, and so on. But to redistribute wealth, it has to first be created. Socialist alternatives have never been very good at doing that unfortunately. And tell me where we can find a socialist economy which has both strong economic growth and respect for human rights and freedoms.

    As to global warming, I again think we are just left with vague generalisations from yourself. What is clear cut about it? Is it clear to what extent it is occurring? Is it clear to what extent human contributions play a role? Is it clear what solutions, if any, are needed? And how exactly is it clear that we are wrecking our planet? Who is doing this wrecking and how?

    Don’t get me wrong Simon. I am not decrying your concern about the poor or the environment. I am glad you care, and wish many others shared your concerns. We need more people like you. But I think we all need much more sharper thinking and ethical reflection if we in fact are to make a difference here. But over to you and others.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Simon, if global warming “predictions are inaccurate” then how is it “clear that we are wrecking our planet”?

    You also demonstrate in your comment why the religious left are wrong. How can any Christian rate abortion, which is a life and death issue, on the same level as “social justice and environmental issues”? A person has to be born before they can have “justice” or enjoy the environment. The point missed by the religious left is that Christian responsibility to help the poor is primarily the responsibility of individuals and the church, not civil government. As I said the primary biblical mandate for civil government is to protect life, liberty and property.

    The free market economy has more biblical support than any other system and what’s more in terms of lifting people out of poverty it works better than any other system.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Sure Bill, I understand entirely what you’re saying. I hastily compiled that comment. Those were thoughts, as opposed to it being, say, a blog post like you have written. So they weren’t backed up by evidence. Your claims regarding job creation and wealth creation are without any evidence, much like my comments regarding “the powerful and the rich”. I am picking at hairs here; we are both assuming that readers have this knowledge.

    I feel I can rail against capitalism and not have a viable alternative. It is perfectly ok for someone to question something, not approve of something, yet not have a clear idea of how to improve it or change it. I think the process of change has to start with the identifying the problem. An itch cannot be scratched unless the itch is discovered first.

    Example: capitalism involves a “race to the bottom.” Lowest cost of producing, highest cost of selling possible. Makes sense, really. Except that the results are not fairly distributed. In fact they often unjustly distributed.

    This race involves large multi-national companies out-sourcing to Asia or Africa, employing cheap labour, and making goods for as little as possible. Makes sense. No problems there. However, this system, in my opinion, creates many benefits for the consumer and the company executives, and few benefits for the workers. Workers are, generally, paid as little as the company can legally afford to pay them. The working conditions in some workplaces would rarely meet Western standards. Child labour is sometimes employed. Products are often sold for 20 to 60 times the amount the worker was paid. Now, these are still general statements and I don’t mean to brand ALL multi-nationals in a bad light. I guess my point is that Capitalism and world markets are not conducive to fair labour conditions and balanced wealth distribution.

    I agree with you, Bill, that the other side of the coin is that these companies create employment for those who would otherwise not have it. The system would work well if workers were treated like Westerners would demand to be treated. I’m not dismissing capitalism, I just have issues with how it functions. I hope that my point is clear here.

    Environment; I wasn’t intending to say Global Warming is a fact, and it’s in the Bible. As you say, it’s not. However, our consumptive lifestyle is damaging the planet. Example: We cut down massive amount of forest every day to feed our desire for wood, soy, beef etc… And it is desire. It is not need. In cutting down forests, we destory natural habitat for animals. One of the most diverse habitats in the world, the Amazon rainforest, is being destroyed at an astonishing rate; 20 percent of it in the last 40 years. It is predicted another 20 percent will dissapear in the next 20. This is an example of how our consumerism destroys the environment.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks Simon

    Yes, all fair points to an extent. I have written elsewhere on the environment and global warming, so I draw the attention of readers there. I have not yet written too much on the free market, although there are 37 articles in the economics section which do raise a number of relevant points about the merits or otherwise of capitalism. I guess I will need to do a couple of articles directly on the topic.

    Perhaps I can just pick up on your last remark. Some people may be exploiting forests for less than ideal reasons. But many are not. The truth is, many trees are felled around the simply so that poor people can have a bit of shelter and some fire wood.

    It may be easy for us in our lavish middle class suburbs to complain about forest loss, but for many people around the world the reality is either cutting down a tree or perhaps simply dying. So as I say, the issues tend to be a bit more complicated than some of the clichés of the left (I am not referring to you in particular here Simon, but to the left in general).

    And by the way, I am aware of the various charges you raise against the free market. I used to raise them too, back in my wild radical leftist days. I used to consume a lot of Marx and Lenin, et. al. So I am not unfamiliar with the arguments and the issues. But these points are still worth debating and thinking about. Thanks again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ok, good to hear your thoughts Bill. Thanks for that.

    I agree that these issues are far more complicated than what I have said here. They are difficult. I am still finding my feet as to what I think about them, myself, so thanks for exploring them with me. Former “radical leftist” eh? Wouldn’t have picked it :)!

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Campolo is simply wrong that Jesus said nothing about gay marriage. In Mt. 19:3-6, Jesus explicitly affirmed that from creation, marriage was a man and a woman, citing Gen. 1:27 and 2:24 as history. The Bible is also clear that the unborn baby is a child, e.g. the accounts of Rebekah and her twins in the womb, and Mary visiting Elizabeth, and that murder is wrong, so this logically entails that the Bible prohibits abortion.

    Conversely, there is nothing in Scripture about governments forcibly redistributing wealth, as per socialism. But there are plenty of teachings about treating rich and poor equally, contrary to the confiscatory “progressive” taxation.

    Note also, the early capitalists did not rely on Darwin but on the pre-darwinian moral philisopher and economist Adam Smith. And while Hayek talks about “evolution” in relation to his advocacy of the free market, he makes it clear he is not talking about Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest.

    Simon Kennedy is right that multinationals do not employ workers under the conditions that western workers enjoy. But he overlooks that their conditions and wages are much better than the local industries provide. So much so that many people bribe so they can work in them!

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hello Simon, living here in a wealthy society it is quite easy for people to develop an unrealistic view on other societies. I have had the experience of being involved with an alternative society, communism. I can assure you that the poverty I saw was enormous and the most prosperous people were actually the ones employed by the Western organisations. In Australia we have something like a 4% unemployment rate. I can assure you that this is not so in other countries. Certainly the capitalist plan is to increase profit by reducing expenses, but this plan helps the third world countries by increasing employment and bringing much needed income into the family. Certainly we can deride the distribution of such wealth but I can assure you that people living in poverty are only interested in improving their lifestyle.
    As far as protecting the enviroment we are faced with a “catch 22” problem problem. To ensure income, employment and lifestyle maintenance we need industry. It is a great concept that we reduce emissions by cutting back on fossil fuels but at what cost? The problem is not as simple as many people will make out.
    Jim Sturla

  • The problem with Christian ‘social justice’ advocates is that they do not know what justice is nor do they know what the Bible says.

    Their policies are more about feeling good instead of doing good.

    As Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

    On Biblical Justice see the paper I gave at Summit Australia 2007:
    http://hermeneutics.kulikovskyonline.net/hermeneutics/JusticeAndBible.pdf

    On Biblical Economics and Industrial Relations see my recent paper:
    http://hermeneutics.kulikovskyonline.net/hermeneutics/BiblicalEconomics.pdf

    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • I hadn’t seen Andrew Kulikovsky’s justice paper before, but it’s excellent just like his economics paper.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Andrew,

    What are your views on the Biblical economic principles expounded by Rushdoony and North?

    I’m also curious about your conclusions that the market is always the best solution to economic problems. With the world entering a period of considerable distress and upheaval due to the triple whammy of global warming, energy insecurity, and population pressures, the position of denial that the right has adopted on these issues doesn’t inspire confidence that a free market economy will deliver solutions. Corporations have much more limited vision horizons than governments have, or should have.

    One of the major factors that has caused Australians to consider a massive swing to the left in national government is that we have lost confidence that a laissez-faire approach can actually deal with the big global problems, especially climate change.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • In his discussion of economic issues, Simon appears to promote the kinds of views which mostly entail intervention.
    That is, he is of the view that errors and injustices cannot be corrected except by force.

    Thus I infer that he holds an a priori view that for example “free markets” fail to provide justice for the poor, and that consequently coercive intervention is required to provide justice.

    Two corollary assumptions emerge:
    a) he assumes that the purpose of free economic markets is to ensure justice for the poor
    b) he assumes that removal of freedom from market participants does not entail a loss of justice.

    Neither of these assumptions is necessarily valid since
    a) markets are meant to balance supply and demand by striking a price between willing, informed buyers and willing, informed sellers, and thus to clear the goods or services traded
    and
    b) stating the second assumption exposes its fallacy: loss of freedom is an injustice.

    I suggest that Simon and others who hold similar views need to read “Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators” by Dr David Chilton, which was a point by point refutation of Ronald Sider’s well-known book “Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger”, and remains a masterful discourse on the Biblical economic structures.

    John Angelico

  • From this interesting discussion, we can conclude that right wing Christians mainly worry about abortion, gay marriage, etc and left wing Christians mainly worry about social justice and the environment. I can think of only one group who are equally concerned about both, and that is Catholics (I am not a Catholic myself). Interestingly, when Catholics were dominant in the ALP, it tended to espouse left wing socialism and conservative morals. Two good representatives of this (not exactly allies) were B.A. Santamaria and Arthur Calwell. I found Calwell’s memoirs quite an eye-opener as he spent a whole chapter bewailing moral decline, hardly a typical ALP position today. Now both Santamaria and Calwell were (I believe) economically deluded, but at least they showed that left wing concerns about social justice and right wing concerns about abortion, etc can be combined by Christians.
    Jon Newton

  • Steve, I must admit that I know very little about North and Rushdoony but I am aware that they espouse similar pro-market views. I do know that, theologically, they tend toward reconstructionism, which I emphatically reject.

    I endorse the market because historically it is the only solution that has worked. In contrast, leftist socialist ideas have never worked.

    Re global warming, the historical record shows that the medieval warming period was a time of great wealth. I suspect the economic benefits of a warmer climate will far outweigh any negative effects.

    Energy insecurity is actually a market and technology driver to find alternative cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, so I really don’t see this as a problem.

    Population pressures? The biggest pressure faced is an aging population and a declining birth rate. The biggest cause of such factors are leftist socialist anti-family policies.

    The only thing we on the right deny is that governments and central planners have all the answers and will deliver solutions. History overwhelmingly supports us, and mocks those on the left.

    I disagree that corporations have a much more limited vision than governments. Corporations operate on 5 and 10 year plans. Governments only see as far as the next election.

    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • Jon Newton, I would undoubtedly be considered to be on the Christian right, but I am also most certainly interested in justice and the environment.

    The problem is that the left simply don’t understand what justice is. See my paper on Justice I cited above.

    On the environment, God told us to subdue the land. It is possible to do this without destroying it.

    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • Thanks Jon

    BA Santamaria was certainly a social conservative, but was a bit of a mix elsewhere. On economics, he tended to follow in the Chesterton/Belloc tradition, and was more or less equally critical of both socialism and capitalism, although of course he was (rightly) a fierce anti-Communist.

    As to the environment, he often sided with those who were critical of the gloom and doom and panic mongering amongst the environmentalists, and was worried about the new alternative religion of the radical greens.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks to all who responded to my comments.

    Indeed, western corporations do offer better working conditions than most local industries in developing countries. And the environment and emissions reduction is not a simple thing.

    As a Christian, though, I find it difficult to justify why we should continue to exploit the environment and exploit the developing world. Most of the lifestyles we lead, if everyone lived them, would need at least 2 or 3 earths to support. Now, not everyone does live our lifestyle. Lucky, really.

    Also, our lifestyles are generally supported by over-use of resources and consumer products made off the back of cheap labour. We can reason as much as we like about how much it would cost to curb our lifestyles, and our habits and change the functions of world trade. These are the facts though.

    Assumptions are being made here about what I think, and fair enough. Perhaps I do think in that way, but I honestly haven’t decided anything. Steve Angelino observes that we are entering a period of global distress, and that is what is concerning me. I am not concerned with either capitalism or socialism. It is the way in which things ARE that concerns me. I am have not once put forward communism as an alternative, and I wouldn’t consider it one. I haven’t even suggested particularly left-wing ideas. People are assuming that I am a raging(or maybe a less controversial adjective) left-winger because I am critical of the world system as it stands; that is a mistake.

    I am merely looking at the situation that we are faced with, and concluding that it is not a world in which Christians should tolerate many of the things that our comfortable Western lifestyles is propped up by. Remove all of your political alliances for a moment, and just think about the injustice and then what we should do about it. I don’t know whether, as things are today, justice can be done.
    Thanks again, folks.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks, John Angelico, for the suggested reading. I shall certainly look into it.
    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks Simon

    But if you are being misunderstood here, it may be because of what you are saying. You again offer generalities: e.g., we “continue to exploit the environment and exploit the developing world”. I again ask, just how exactly are we doing this?

    Now if you are saying you feel guilty about the extravagance of your Western lifestyle, and that we live with way too much compared to much of the rest of the world, I can begin to agree with you. Yes we are very affluent in the West, and we can all cut back on the luxuries of life. Yes, we can do without the fourth plasma TV and the third 4-wheel drive, etc.

    But two points. One, I reject the position which goes back to Lenin which seeks to argue that Western wealth is solely due to third world exploitation. And I reject the guilt manipulation of the left on all this.

    May I remind you that you began this thread by bewailing deforestation. But can I suggest with all due respect that you were probably sitting on a chair made of wood when you typed your comments, and your computer may well have been on a wooden desk. Sorry Simon, but trees were chopped down to support your lifestyle, yet you go on about exploitation and the like. Who is doing the exploitation?

    At least be consistent here. If you think it is wrong to fell trees to support lavish Western lifestyles, maybe you can begin with yourself. Is your home made out of wood? I think you get my drift here.

    But if your concern is to live more simply for the kingdom’s sake, or to be more generous with what you have, I am with you all the way. We are way too consumeristic and materialistic as believers, and we need to be more willing to voluntarily spread our riches around. But wealth distribution is premised on wealth creation, as I already said, and it should be voluntary Christian giving, not coercive state redistribution.

    Whether you are a raving lefty on economics is not the issue so much, although your generalisations thus far may have opened yourself up to that charge.

    But let’s keep thinking and talking these things through. It is good for all of us.
    Regards,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    There seems to be an assumption running through much of this thread that there are only two possible political viewpoints, either you support free market economics or you support a state-run socialist economy.

    The reality is that neither of these extremes actually exist. There are no longer any significant economies in the world that are strictly socialist – even China is becoming increasingly capitalist. Real-world economies are actually a mix of socialism and capitalism, but with a distinct lean towards the right. Hence most major political parties in the West today would be classified as centre-right, which explains why what passes for political debate is so often focussed on personalities rather than policies.

    There are no purely capitalist societies either, although America comes closest. But look at the extremes of wealth and poverty, the crime rates, the gun mentatily, and the militarism that exist in America today and ask yourself whether perhaps a little more regulation of the excesses of capitalism might not be a good idea.

    The current mortgage crisis in the USA can be sheeted home directly to unrestrained greed on the part of unprincipled lenders, and lack of regulation by government. This scenario has yet to play out and may well cause a global economic crisis, quite apart from the misery that will be inflicted on millions of Americans who will lose their homes.

    I’m astounded by Andrew’s simplistic response to the major challenges facing humanity. The suggestion that a warmer climate will introduce economic benefits displays a staggering ignorance of the effects of climate on biodiversity, the food chain, human health, water security and flooding of lowlands. It is grossly irresponsible to simply label all such projections as alarmist when they are based on sound and well-established science.

    Similarly, while population concerns in Australia may be focussed on the demographics of ageing, the situation in poorer countries, e.g. in Africa, is very different. Overpopulation is a key factor behind poverty, hunger and disease, and these problems are not being solved by the market. Nor are they helped by the attitudes of Christian churches who stubbornly oppose education about contraception and safe sex.

    While I’m certainly no advocate of socialism, I’m suspicious of the motives of those who proclaim the benefits of the free market without acknowledging that regulation and safety nets are often necessary to make the system work more fairly.

    I often suspect that those who use the Bible to support an extreme position are simply looking for an excuse to justify a preconceived bias.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • One of the most pervasive falsehoods perpetrated by the Left is that the Right do not care about the poor, and too many Christians have bought into this. But it is logically fallacious to claim that because the Right disagree with a leftist policy, they don’t care about the people that the policy would ostensibly help.

    Furthermore, Prof. Arthur Brooks’ book Who Really Cares shows that religious conservatives are consistently more generous with monetary giving, service and even blood donation.

    But don’t expect this to change the Leftist lies about the alleged lack of compassion of the Right, and the Left’s self-flattering claims to be the compassionate ones. But by “compassionate”, they really mean “generous with other people’s money!

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Steve

    In my article I did state that “every believer who thinks and acts politically will fall somewhere along the political spectrum, either more to the left or to the right, or some combination thereof”. That is true of economics as well. Of course there are no totally pure forms of capitalism or socialism in the world, but neither is there an economic system or theory that does not fall somewhere on the spectrum.

    All economies will either be a bit more to the right (emphasising less government regulation), more to the left (emphasising more government regulation), or somewhere more in the middle (a blend of both worlds). Most economies do have a mixture, but some can rightly be called more socialistic, while some others can rightly be called more capitalistic.

    But free market economic theory can be compared with statist economic theory, just as free market practice can be compared with statist practice. Then it is a question of which one, or which combination, produces the best outcomes as measured by various indicators.

    As to the US, there are plenty of pros and cons that can be examined on the various “shortcomings” you find there, but this is not the place to do that.

    And your other points are starting to stray much further from the original article (sex ed, demographic issues, etc.), but I cover them much more fully in other relevant sections on this website.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve, I agree that that there appears to be an assumption running through the discussion that there are only extreme viewpoints being perpetrated; which is why I think I have been misinterpreted. Therefore, so has everyone. You rightly point out, too, that the generalisations being made regarding climate change and free markets are a little bewildering. “Irresponsible” is the right word for some of the assumptions being made.

    Thanks Bill; I have not once claimed that I am not living in a way which I think is not exploitative, so no real need to put the guilt back on me. I am only too aware that I am sitting at a wooden desk! Just in case you’re interested in finding out who is exploiting the earth’s resources;

    http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/ecologicalfootprint/calculators/personal/introduction.asp

    This has been a really good discussion. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s views. “Lets keep thinking these things through…”; I agree entirely. Thanks again.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • It is certainly true that the free market is not perfect. But this is to be expected since it results from the actions of imperfect human beings. But it is fallacious to argue from its imperfections that government interventions are necessary to “fix” them. Indeed, such “fixes” usually create more problems than they solve. Indeed the sub-prime crisis that Steve Angelino thinks requires more government intervention was actually largely caused by government intervention in the first place (see http://www.townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell/2007/08/08/sub-prime_politicians?page=full&comments=true by Thomas Sowell)!

    Steve Angelino, like many greenies, claims the support of “science” for his alarmist projections. But that’s the whole point: future projections are interpretations of the scientific data in the present, based on certain assumptions. Conversely, Andrew Kulikovsky appealed to well documented history that the Medieval Warm Period, warmer than today, was a period of prosperity. This was followed by the Little Ice Age, a period of famines and plagues.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Jonathan,

    In case you haven’t noticed, almost everyone is a greenie these days, and it’s no longer the pejorative term that you seem to imply it is. I would have thought a Christian would have concerns about the environment too. Doesn’t the Bible call upon Christians to exercise good stewardship over the earth?

    As for science and prediction, both you and Andrew are young-earth creationists if I understand correctly. Anyone in this day and age who still thinks the earth is only 6000 years old is to be pitied. You certainly have no credentials which would allow you to provide credible commentary on scientific matters.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Of course unlike the rest of us Steve Angelino has no “preconceived bias”, nor is he qualified to judge what to him sound like “extreme position[s]”. His views on global warming sound to me extreme if he thinks that global warming is a “major challenge facing humanity”. Bjorn Lomborg in his new book Cool it: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming documents that at present cold related human deaths far exceed heat related deaths, and even assuming the globe will continue to warm, are projected to continue to do so far into the future. So warming will lead to a net lower death count.

    Another good indication that the left has it wrong on most things, is the observation that within the Christian community liberal theology and liberal politics go hand in hand, whilst those who are biblically orthodox are usually also politically conservative.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Steve Angelino in italics:
    I’m astounded by Andrew’s simplistic response to the major challenges facing humanity.

    Actually, I haven’t given my full responses so how can you say they are simplistic?

    With respect to Climage Change, I reject the notion that this is a major challenge facing humanity, and my rejection is based on very sound scientific evidence. For a start, you may want to consult:
    http://www.climateaudit.org

    The suggestion that a warmer climate will introduce economic benefits displays a staggering ignorance of the effects of climate on biodiversity, the food chain, human health, water security and flooding of lowlands.

    Actually, I am very well aware of the effects: they are positive on balance.

    May I suggest that it is you who are displaying the “staggering ignorance”.

    It is grossly irresponsible to simply label all such projections as alarmist when they are based on sound and well-established science.

    But they are not based on sound and well-established science – that’s the point!

    Case in point: the famous “hockey stick” curve produced by Mann which formed the centrepiece of the 2001 IPCC report. McKitrick and McIntyre so thoroughly debunked it, showing it to be misleading and fraudulent, that the latest IPCC report has dropped it.

    in Africa…Overpopulation is a key factor behind poverty, hunger and disease, and these problems are not being solved by the market.

    In Africa, the biggest cause of poverty is under-development, civil war and foreign aid. Read my paper on economics and you will see what the Africans themselves are saying.

    Nor are they helped by the attitudes of Christian churches who stubbornly oppose education about contraception and safe sex.

    Yet the most successful policy to reduce AIDS in Africa is the Christian backed ABC program, which calls for Abstenance for unmarried people, Being faithful for married couples, and Condoms for already infected people.

    This program was being used only in Uganda. The result was that Uganda saw their infection rates drop from 30% to less than 5% in some areas. All other countries which simply adopted the UN approach of handing out millions of condoms all saw their infection rates continue to increase.

    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • Steve Angelino, I have an earned doctorate in science. There is nothing in real operational science to point to billions of years, and much against, such as carbon-14 in coal and diamonds that should have disintegrated if the samples were millions of years old.

    And not that you care, yes indeed the Bible does command good stewardship, as I have written elsewhere. That’s a major reason I oppose global warming hysteria!

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • See also Andrew Bolt’s recent column Questions for gassy Gore.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Balfour

  • It would be beneficial to see more Christians involved in the politicial arena – not so much to promote individual ideologies – but to impact our society with Christian ethical views in economic, social, moral and justice matters. It is not whether we lean to the left or to the right-that is a personal choice – but to make an impact in these matters in a Christ-like attitude. The Book of Amos gives us a warning, Wilberforce gives us an example, and so shouldn’t our Christian belief cause us to make inroads, either to the left or to the right side of politics, influencing those around us?
    Sergio Andriez

  • I hope I am not too late to enter this debate.

    Jonathan

    How do you know the diamonds weren’t produced recently as is possible from meteorite collisions and volcanic eruptions etc? Where were the diamond samples taken from?

    Damien Spillane

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