Hypocrisies

I’m working on transforming myself from a left-wing Christian into a… no-wing Christian.   (We shouldn’t need wings to fly, ha-ha.)

There’s been this tension I’ve been experiencing recently.  It’s been around politics, really.  I am so far from having it worked out.  I’ll probably continue to slip into old patterns when I don’t mean to.  But I’m going to shoot for being a no-wing Christian.

Conversations (both online and real-world) with many of you, and books like Shane Clairborne’s excellent Jesus for President have been some of the external factors that have shaped and driven some of the internal considerations that bring me to this place.

I’m probably going to be mining this territory in my brain/mind/heart/soul for some time, but today I’m going to start with some realizations that maybe laid the groundwork for where I’m at now.

These realizations are the hypocrisy of the right… and the left.

(If hypocrisy is too strong a word, at the bare minimum let’s call these inconsistencies.)

Inconsistency #1

The right says that the government shouldn’t police anything material, physical.  They say down with the EPA, down the FDA, down with consumer protections, because the market will keep us all safe… and then the right goes on to affirm that the government should police everything moral.

Inconsistency #2

The left says that we need tons of government regulation of material things.  But this regulation stops with anything we can put our fingers on.  Many folks on the left want the government to be a-moral, which seems to me do be a virtual impossibility.

Inconsistency #3

The right claims that a free market capitalist system is so powerful because greed is such a profound and universal characteristic.  Yet the claim seems to be that if we weren’t taxed so heavily the extra wealth that we’d all have would be used for so many charitable causes that we wouldn’t need government welfare programs.  This leads to the question: which is it, are people basically good or are people basically selfish?

Inconsistency #4

Many people on the left assert that convicted killers have a right to live, yet won’t accord that same basic right to children who haven’t left the womb.

Inconsistency #5

Many people on the right claim that we don’t have the right to terminate a pregnancy which will eventually lead to a human child… Yet they think that we do have the right to extinguish a fully developed human in the case of the death penalty.

I’m sure that there are more than just these.  And I’m sure that there are ways that some of these tensions and inconsistencies might be resolved.  But they all lead me to the conclusion that there aren’t any real political solutions.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “Hypocrisies”

  1. I am of course an atheist and my politics can broadly be described as libertarian, though true-blue libertarians would consider me the worst sort of heretic. (Christians and liberals tend to like me better than other atheists or even conservatives. People hate heretics more than infidels.) I guess I’d call myself a moderate libertarian conservative. So I’m going to see if I can resolve your inconsistencies in my own framework.

    Inconsistency #1) I mostly trust the market, both on regulating businesses (customers will cease to buy from bad-acting companies or individuals) and on regulating morality (through social opprobrium). The government has a role in both of these cases in the event of market failure. E.g. social opprobrium is not a strong enough punishment for murder and businesses must be enjoined from committing fraud. However, non-government intervention should be our default position, always keeping in mind that it is a defeasible position in any particular case and not handed down from on high. The FDA is not a bad idea, but its current form is a bloated government bureaucracy which is inefficient and wasteful and, by delaying the introduction of potentially life-saving products, may cost more lives than it saves. (However, it did keep thalidomide off the American market, a true triumph.) It also makes people less skeptical of products on the market since they assume that you can’t sell it unless it’s safe or effective and this too causes problems. There is currently a fairly massive market for so-called “herbal remedies” like homeopathy and the like which are completely fraudulent, but not regulated by the FDA.

    Inconsistency #2) The government cannot be amoral. All laws, even not passing them, are matters of morality. This is a genuine inconsistency caused by a too restrictive (and clearly false) definition of morality.

    Inconsistency #3) People are both mostly good (not perfect) and basically selfish. There is no necessary contradiction here. If we weren’t selfish, we’d all be dead. However we also receive a genuine joy and delight in helping other people. I think part of the problem with governmental charity is that it creates a disconnect in both directions. High income people who pay lots of taxes to help the poor do not receive the benefits of feeling good about helping the poor, since they are being forced to do it and have no say in how it is done. Low income people who receive the help do not feel any gratitude for it; they feel entitled to it and become resentful (perhaps with justification) to those people who are helping them. However, the real problem with government charity is that it changes incentives. I have no patience for Republican rhetoric (now, thankfully mostly dead) about “welfare queens.” People who abuse the entitlements of government charity do so because it is perfectly rational for them to do so. In many cases you are worse off taking an entry-level job than you are staying on government benefits because the government will withdraw some of the benefits (such as health insurance) which come from being on the dole, making you worse off. It’s not that I think government charity is going to undeserving people, but that it is harming these people by telling them not to improve their own lot in life and encouraging dependence. And this is rational from the government’s point of view. Imagine that you’re a government bureaucrat in charge of administering governmental charity. Do you really want people to support themselves? If they do, your budget and power will quickly disappear. Whereas private charities exist in order to help people get off charity. They are more likely to try to teach people strategies which will enable them to be proud and independent. The value of education, the value of personal finance, how to save money, etc. Most importantly, the crucial message of telling people that they really can get ahead, that this is not just a fantasy or an illusion. I might favor government charity if it were really interested in making people independent and productive members of society. This would mean mandatory seminars about personal finance, one-on-one counseling about how to budget, how to find a good job, how to make smart financial decisions, how to improve oneself and one’s life. In my retirement, I plan to volunteer as a financial advisor to the working poor.

    Inconsistency #4) I am pro-life in a wishy-washy way. And I’m opposed to the death penalty in a wishy-washy way. (I believe we should have a death penalty and occasionally use it, but would not use it to anything like the extent that it’s used, say, in Texas.) I’m not sure that this is an inconsistency though. The pro-choice side denies that a fetus in the womb is a person at all. They might be wrong about this, but I don’t think they’re inconsistent.

    Inconsistency #5) Again, this doesn’t seem like an inconsistency. The difference is guilt and innocence. Try this article, by the way. You may not agree with it, but it will make you think. I believe, for example, that it has much to inform our current culture’s more or less perpetual and life-long punishment of “sex offenders,” which includes not only reprehensible offenders like child rapists, but also drags into its net seventeen year old boys who have consensual sex with fifteen year old girls.

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