Thursday, June 3, 2010

Defender of the Faith (Pt. II)

Yesterday we took Sojourner's editor Jim Wallis up on his challenge to consider whether the Tea-Party is compatible with Christian principles. Wallis says it isn't but, in my opinion, at least, he failed to make a convincing case. We return today to examine the rest of his argument.

We begin with Wallis' claim that an anti-government ideology just isn't biblical.

To disparage government per se -- to see government as the central problem in society -- is simply not a biblical position.

This is true, but it's irrelevant since the Tea Party is not anti-government. Wallis wants his readers to associate Tea Party opposition to big, bloated government with opposition to government itself, but, as we pointed out yesterday, there's a significant difference between the two, and it's at best misleading for him to repeatedly ignore the distinction.

Wallis' next claim is almost humorous in its irony. He writes that:

The Libertarians' supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.

True enough, but neither is Wallis' supreme confidence in government consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. A just state is one in which the market is given the freedom to do what it does best, i.e. create a flourishing economy, and in which the state limits itself to ensuring that the market does not abuse its freedom. What Tea-Partiers object to is a state that actually controls, regulates, and owns a huge sector of the market. When that happens who will oversee the state? Wallis, like socialists of all stripes, doesn't seem to be worried about that problem, but he should be.

He goes on:

Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don't, it's not government's role to correct it.

This is not just wrong, it's a deliberate falsehood. Wallis knows very well that not even libertarians believe in a "sinless market" any more than Wallis himself believes in a sinless government. He also knows that, whatever the case might be with libertarians, few in the Tea Party think that government has no role in correcting the market. To suggest that they do is to cast into question his commitment to the truth.

But he's not done:

The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. "Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money" is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage....To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion. When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system.

What is unChristian is to coerce people into helping others. Wallis suggests that if there are people who lack what you have the Christian thing to do is for government, essentially at the point of a gun, to seize your property in order to give it to those who don't have their own. He also assumes that everyone agrees that the (capitalist) system is designed to protect the privileges of the strong and to punish the weak, but if any system is designed to protect the privileged it's our government. Consider the perks and privileges that go with being a government employee or being a CEO of a favored bank or industry under the current administration. Consider the power government bureaucrats can bring to bear against the rest of us, and then consider that Wallis wants to make government even bigger, stronger, and more coercive.

Up until this point in his essay Wallis has merely, in my view, been wrong, deceptive, or tendentious, but now he makes himself sound eye-rollingly ridiculous. Perhaps sensing that he has failed to mount a convincing case against the Tea-Party folk he reaches up his sleeve for the old threadbare liberal hole card and avers that because the Tea Party is mostly white there just has to be the odor of racism clinging to it:

Finally, I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren't the first black man to occupy that office? It's time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism -- overt, implied, or even subtle -- is not a Christian virtue.

Allegations of racism are often acts of desperation on the part of those who know they have a distressingly weak argument. In this case the allegation has the further liability of being so simple-minded as to make one feel almost embarrassed for Wallis. He seems intellectually unable to imagine that anyone could plausibly object to Obama's radicalism, his reckless spending, his disdainful treatment of our allies, or that he brings to the White House an historically unAmerican set of attitudes and beliefs. For Wallis it's apparently incomprehensible that a significant number of people could sincerely be opposed to a government take-over of the national economy.

No. For Wallis and others like him, opposition to the President is fully explained by this simple syllogism: Obama is black, Tea-Partiers oppose him, therefore their opposition must be because he's black. It's just as silly as arguing that Lincoln was from Illinois, the Confederacy hated him, therefore southern hatred must be because the President was from Illinois.

If Wallis is really interested in learning why the Tea Party is mostly white, if he really wants to prospect for racism, all he need do is look at the President's support among African-Americans. Much of that support has nothing to do with Mr. Obama's policies and everything to with the fact that Mr. Obama is black.

The Tea Party is largely white for the same reason that it's largely comprised of conservatives, Republicans, and Independents - because it opposes leftist Democratic policies. African-Americans are mostly Democrats so they're no more likely to feel comfortable in the midst of people who stand in opposition to Democrat policies than are Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid.

Surely Wallis understands this, it's not a difficult concept, after all, but then why does he want to leave us with the impression that there's something racially odious about anyone who opposes the President?


Preacher of the House

Like expert wine tasters, liberals evidently have a highly refined ability to discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate insertions of religion into politics. The litmus test is, it seems, that when a liberal does it, breaching the wall of church/state separation is just hunky dory, but when a conservative does it it's a threat to the fabric of our Constitution. It was inspiring, for example, when Martin Luther King did it, but not when Jerry Falwell did it. It's uplifting when Barack Obama does it, but not when George Bush did it, and it's charming when Nancy Pelosi does it, but not when your local congressperson does it:

It's ironic that the woman who voted against banning partial birth abortion can caution us with a straight face that we must be prepared to give an account to God for how we have "measured up" in this life. Whatever one thinks of abortion, surely partial birth abortion is hard to square with the tenets of the teaching of Christ. I should think that anyone who defends infanticide will, indeed, have someday a lot of 'splainin' to do.