Part 1: Why Are Many Christians Randian/Miserian Influenced Social Darwinists Instead of the Socialists The Bible Prefers?
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness.”
Paul in 1 Timothy
These days many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, would have us all believe that the Creator is not only dead set against any wealth redistributing socialist collective, but that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat boosting capitalism that buts the individual above all else as the best if not ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christolibertarians are either direct or indirect followers of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, who were the most hard-line anti-Christian atheist/s you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinism strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism! Meanwhile atheists, secularists and evolutionist are denounced as inventing the egalitarian evils of anti-socially Darwinist socialism and communism.
Liberals and progressives are also doing something strange. They are failing to take full advantage of The Great Theocon Libertarian Contradiction by loudly exposing the marvelous contradictions of the religious and economic right. And the mainstream press is missing the boat as it fails to cover a top factor of the ongoing cultural, political and economic wars raging in the US.
I published a short essay on this amazing situation at Washington Post/On Faith (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/from-jesus-socialism-to-capitalistic-christianity/2011/08/12/gIQAziaQBJ_blog.html). They then carried two counter views. One by Christocapitalist and Discovery Institute creationist Jay Richards who does not believe in parts of modern science like biological evolution, and who authored Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem. The other was penned by David French and Jordan Sekulow out of loony tunes Pat Robertson’s hard right American Center for Law and Justice. Cannot say I was impressed by the credentials of these critics. This is a more extensive discussion of this big but under considered issue, parts of my OF essay are repeated to a greater or lesser extent.
The notion that there is a major socialist component to the Christian message is by no means the “wild” idea that fringe ConservoChristians French and Sekulow imagine it to be. The tradition of socialistic Christianity includes Francis (Pledge of Allegiance) Bellamy, the pro-union leftist Martin Luther King, and anti-poverty Desmond Tutu. The Popes including the latest have a long history of issuing encyclicals denouncing the extremes of capitalism and socialism in favor of a progressive mix that favors social justice at the expense of wild west capitalism. So where are these mainstream followers of Jesus coming from?
In part it’s a Biblical thing. The Israelite society was prefeudalistic, but a strong dose of scriptural socialism creeps in when the manna arrives to save the wandering Israelites, and God through Moses orders that “you shall take an omer apiece… they gathered some more, some less. But he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.” No two ways about it, the Biblical God was – or those who wrote the texts were -- not opposed on principle to classic redistribution of the wealth by the ruling authorities.
But for Christians it’s the Gospels that really count. And Jesus was no free marketeer. Improving one’s earthly financial circumstances was not nearly as critical for the Jesus character as was preparing for the end times that he predicted would arrive in during the lives of those who witnessed him. According to the gospels he did offer substantial encouragement for the poor, and warned the wealthy that they are in grave danger of blowing their prospects of reaching paradise, as per the metaphor of a rich person entering heaven being as difficult as a camel passing through the eye of the needle (a narrow passageway through a town or city wall designed to hinder intruders). This caution makes sense, sociological research is confirming that the more securely prosperous individuals and societies are the more likely they are to lose the faith (www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf). A basic point of core Christian (and Islamic) doctrine is that the wealthy have at best no more access to heaven than anyone else, offering hope to the impoverished masses who were rejected by other cults that courted the elites. It’s a core reason why ChristoIslam is so popular.
To understand just how uncapitalist Christianity can be we turn to the first chapter after the gospel of Jesus, Acts, which describes the nature of the early church. Sections 2 and 4 state that all “the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need… No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”
Now folks, that’s an outright redistributory, egalitarian socialist commune of the type described millennia later by Marx – who likely got the general idea from the gospels. In 2 Corinthians Paul reinforces the socialist ideal, “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now as this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack – that there may be equality.” Paul then refers back to the Exodus example as a precedent. To appreciate how big a deal this all is consider that the Bible contains the first descriptions of socialism in history. There was nothing socialist about the Roman Empire, or other ancient civilizations. Apparently no one had previously thought up the idea, radical as it was in a prefeudal world. Richards, French and Sekulow attempt to evade the outstanding socialism of their Good Book by pointing out that the Christocollectivism was not governmental, but NGOs can practice full blown socialism. Nor do Richards and company mention that in Marxist Communist theory the state is supposed to wither away leaving no government to enforce the voluntary socialist utopia. Sound familiar?
Frightening passages in Acts further emphasize how not antisocialist the New Testament deity is. And how dark the Biblical Christosocialist cult was. Section 5 details how when a church member fails to turn over all his property to the church “he fell down and died,” when his wife later did the same “she fell down… and died… Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” The theocon gang of three tries to get around this one by explaining that those holding back their property were actually punished for the sin of lying. But that is not all that different from communist enforcers going after cheaters of the collective, and the fear factor language makes it clear that the deaths were also intended to compel compliance through a degree of terror imposed by a God who thinks that those who have joined the Jesus movement but fail to fully embrace the collective are worthy of death. This is a particularly grave issue. The Bible exhibits a perturbing propensity for resorting to lethal termination as a means of imposing conformity, and its ancient writers could not help contaminating socialism with a thuggish death factor from the get-go.
Richards, French and Sekulow go on to contend that the socialism of Acts was but a temporary expedient. Yet the lines in Acts 2 and 4, and in Corinthians by Paul, have the air of a profound Christian ideal of the flock of the Son of God ensuring the well being of its own members (see footnote). An ideal important enough to require whacking off some who fail to fall in line. Most likely Christocommunism soon went a glimmering because it did not work out that well. That Paul later became a social Darwinist demanding that if “a man will not work, he shall not eat” is not particularly good for the faith -- it indicates that the Christian message is not sufficiently powerful and inspirational to motivate followers to work hard simply for the godly goodness of hard work, instead the early Christians leaders had to fall back upon the run of the mill motivators of fear of poverty and the lure of earthly rewards secular elements often rely upon.
Not only are the Gospels’ socialist friendly, they are not at all pro-libertarian. It’s not hard to figure that one out – we all know that Jesus said to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caeser’s.” No libertarian would say something like that, it being in accord with exactly what this country is not about, taxation without representation. It is not an accident that many of the founders, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Paine, were Deists who rejected the Biblical concept of rule through Divine Right. Otherwise they could not have revolted against the Crown in favor of democratic free markets that are not described in the scriptures, that not being surprising because capitalism had not yet been invented (while the pagan Greco-Roman experiments with democracy were ignored).
Far from being the antithesis of modern Communism, the system in Acts is accurately labeled Christocommunism. Although not identical to the Marxist-Leninist variety, it is too lethally close. So not only is the idea of socialism a Christian invention, its extreme communistic variant is too. That means that the combined claims by many on the Christian right that Christ hates socialism it being a modern lefty atheist concept is a extraordinarily successful Big Lie that that right wing nationalist socialist, Goebbels, would be proud of -- which reemphasizes the point that nondemocratic collectivism has never been a concept limited to the left.
No one is more expert such as it is than Jay Richards at trying to sweep Christocommunism under the theoeconomic rug. Yet he and Robertson’s French and Sekulow fall flat on their faces in their efforts. That should be no surprise. After all, isn’t kind of funny how if the capitalist road is the Christian way it did show up until millennia after the Bible was assembled? And if the Judeo-Christian deity truly were pro-libertarian then, rather than the Bible including all that socialist nonsense don’t ya think that Acts would read something along the lines of “the wealthier believers righteously used their monies to further increase their fortunes, and all had to provide for themselves to avoid being impoverished. Thusly a few believers were wonderfully bestowed with tremendous treasures, while many had little, but all shared a deep love for the redeemer. For this is the way of the Lord for his flock on earth”? That way the Intelligent Designer would not leave it to a bunch of proDarwin atheists to detail the marvels of full blown capitalism in the 1800s and 1900s.
But wait, there’s more. Richards tries to pull off another lulu. He actually tries -- and I’m not making this up – to deny that Ayn Randian libertarianism has made deep inroads into right wing socioeconomic thinking, including theoconservatism variety. That lie is made absurd by all the Ayn Rand signs that grace Tea Party rallies. He dismisses my evidence of theocon Randism by repeating my list of antisupernaturalist Ayn Randians, such as Penn and Teller and Michael Shermer. But those guys were cited just to show that a number of atheists are members of the Rand movement that has made such inroads into theoconservatism.
Richards says that just because House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan told the Weekly Standard in May 2003 that “I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it” does not establish that the Catholic Republican is deep into Ayn Rand’s hyper-individualistic socioeconomic message. Are you serious Jay? Ryan has gone to the trouble of posting web videos that among other things laud her books for being “the kind of writing that is sorely needed,” and that contend “Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism” (www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1191939045695). And Ryan does not merely praise Rand, he is a man of Randian action -- the low Federal budget, low taxes for the wealthy, low regulations, anti-union scheme he proposed went a fair way to make her libertarian dreams into national policy. Lutheran Republican Senator Ron Johnson considers Rand’ s works “foundational” to his views. Baptist Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul openly admires Rand (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjwuGHPilwI), so does his Presbyterian son and new Republican Senator Rand Paul (www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHNg0mf4Jos). Methodist Rush Limbaugh describes Rand as the “brilliant writer and novelist” as he gushes over her promotion of unrestrained self-interest (www.theatlasphere.com/metablog/800.php). And let’s not forget David Koch who is as Randian libertarian as they come. Chances are good that he is an atheist – he funded the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins which is all about Darwinian evolution over deep time -- but he has had enormous influence on the Christian right with the vast monies he has poured into theocon causes when he thinks they will aid the overall libertarian project.
Born again presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is a fan of Rand devotee Walter Williams who and I am not making this up thinks that folks should enjoy the freedom to sell off their body parts for money (econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/articles/fee/organs.html). Need an arm, anyone? Eurolibertarian guru Ludwig von Mises wrote to Rand about her “masterful” Atlas Shrugged, ending with “I warmly congratulate you” (mises.org/journals/jls/21_4/21_4_3.pdf). Bachmann takes Mises to the beach. While basking in the sun did the Republican congresswoman notice how his pro-libertarian classic Socialism loathes the “utterly negative” teachings of Jesus because Mises thought “the clearest modern parallel to the attitude of complete negation of primitive Christianity is Bolshevism,” and “the religion which called itself the religion of love became a religion of hatred” (for more see www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-0215-ferrara-ludwig_von_mises_versus_christ.htm)?
Bachmann follows the man theoconservatives most adore, Ronald Reagan, in esteeming the great libertarian and Pinochet supporter Friedrich Hayek. Although not directly anti-Christian, he was a godless agnostic. And it was Reagan who made the nonreligious groupies of Hayek, Mises and most of all Rand -- Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan -- his key economic advisor and head of the federal Reserve respectively.
It’s not like the great majority of Christoconservatives have to be publicly proud Randian/Miseans for their views to have crucially influenced the economic politics of the Christian right. Not even denouncing the atheistic version of libertarianism as has Richards protects does that. Assume for the sake of discussion that the 19th century inventor of social Darwinism (more accurately social evolutionism because the biologist Darwin was not particularly interested in economics) Herbert Spencer and its 20th century uberpromoters Hayek, Mises and Rand had never existed. Nor anyone else along the same lines. Would political Christoconservatism be backing extreme libertarian economics along with working to ban abortion and discriminating against gays? Not likely.
When the libertarian Tea Party minority that pretty much runs the GOP these days vociferously refuses to compromise their principles in order to promote individual economic liberty and make government inconsequential in American’s lives while shouting down and condemning the majority that oppose their extremist positions, they are working right out of the absolutist Randian playbooks Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and The Virtue of Selfishness. They are not getting it out of the Bible that tells true believers of its words that forming socialist communes is more than fine, and advises them to pay their taxes to authoritarian governments.
Here’s what it comes down to. If Richards, French and Sekulow and their ilk are right that the Christian God they suppose created us all thinks that the laissez faire capitalist economics are the best for humanity, then the Intelligent Designer is backing the version of capitalism that comes the closest to replicating the amoral, often brutal bioevolution (that actually created us), and that as all damn well know is driven by healthy doses of greed and lust for the extraneous material stuff that we are genetically programmed (by bioevolutionary natural selection) to crave. To put it another way, God agrees with the God hating Mises and Rand who took the social Darwinism concocted by proevolution Spencer to its secular extreme. Or, Richards et al. are wrong and all the Christocapitalists like himself are in a whole lot of trouble with the God they think they are worshipping in case one exists. Because there is so much pro-socialist language in the Bible including the Christian section, those who claim that socialism is ungodly are literally and obviously committing blasphemy! Being an antisupernaturalist myself either option is fine with me, but the Biblical evidence favors the second option.
And being a person who studies evolutionary systems, I can further testify that striving to make economic systems as much like amoral, brutal, war-like evolution is just not the best idea. The theoconservative success in pushing aside much of the New Deal in favor of libertarianism has had bad results, results the right is trying to hide. As when French and Sekulow descend into sloppy sophistry by citing Eurotroubles as proof of the inferiority of progressive sociocapitalism compared to Christocapitalist America. This is perverse because Europe’s problems are too a great extent the result of being suckered by the libertarian cant into adopting dysfunctional Randian-Misean policies that also damaged US finances to they degree they degraded Eurofinances -- one reason secular Canadians are so calm these days is because tight regulations prevented a real estate bubble-collapse, minimizing the injury. While the American middle class has been stuck in a rut since the advent of the Reaganomics founded on Spencer-Mises-Hayek-Randonomics, Germany and some of Scandinavia has come to enjoy better upper mobility, employment levels and compensation because of more collectivist, prounion policies that have preserved a strong manufacturing base. Censured by many on the left because it’s run by business executives from top companies, even the World Economic Forum ranks Sweden and Switzerland as more economically competitive than the US that lost its top position after years of libertarian economics, and other hybrid economies score almost as high. Secularly progressive New York and Massachusetts have more and better jobs than conservative Christian Rick Perry’s Texas. In my statistically rigorous technical studies (www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf) I have repeatedly challenged those on the right to publish an equally comprehensive peer reviewed analysis showing that Americans are better off in terms of homicide, incarceration, juvenile and adult mortality, STD infections, abortion, teen pregnancy, mental illness, illicit drug use, and so on than the rest of the 1st world which is far less libertarian or pious. So far nothing as shown up, and I’m not holding my breath because the data is just not there.
That’s it for demonstrating the ironic and important truth that the Richards, French and Sekulow trinity cannot refute -- that one way or another, directly or indirectly, the profit obsessed and wealth adoring social Darwinism developed and promoted by the godless libertarian quadruplicity of Spencer, Mises, Hayek and Rand has been heretically embraced as Godly by the Christian right despite the scarcity of libertarianism in the protosocialist Holy Bible. But demonstrating it is not close to being enough. Getting the word out about The Great Theocon Libertarian Contradiction is next vital step. That’s what Part 2 will take a look at.
Footnote - That Acts was describing a Christian egalitarian ideal is in accord with the old timey radio preacher I heard while driving down the road when Nixon was president. He was going on about how the members of the earliest churches got along so wonderfully with one another that they had no need for property, and shared and shared alike without poverty to afflict them or wealth to corrupt them. While it sounded like a comparison of the ideal then to corrupt modernity, being more conservative back in those days – I’ve since matured – I suddenly said to the radio “but isn’t that communism?” About the same time the preacher said something like “now children, that wasn’t communism because the communists make you do it.”