So You’re a Conservative? Why Do You Hate Poor People?

“Every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.”

- Frederic Bastiat

“There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions.” 

-Karl Popper

_____

Poisoning the well” isn’t something unique to political progressives. Lately, though, it seems to have become standard practice among Those On The Left to assume that anyone disagreeing with their policy positions is acting out of bad faith. Consider, for example, President Obama’s recent remarks on the Affordable Care Act:

“[Republicans have] spent the last few years so obsessed with denying [people] access to health insurance that they just shut down the government and threatened default over it.”

According to this narrative, opponents of Progressivism don’t simply have different ideas about how to make the world a better place. Opponents of Progressivism are actually just mean, spiteful people who want to harm others. Because they’re mean. Here’s another shining example from the College Democrats of America:

college dems

In other words, if you don’t support the Democrat Party’s specific plan for organizing the American healthcare system, you don’t care about human life. Because you’re trying to take away people’s healthcare. Meanie. Yet another example from left-leaning news site Slate:

“When we talk of cutting food stamps or gutting education, we shouldn’t just call it greed. We should call it a sin.”

Translation: “If I think the government should set aside X% of the federal budget for education, and you only think it should set aside Y% of the budget for education, YOU’RE A SINNER.”

When someone has the audacity to oppose re-defining society’s definition of marriage, the progressive is unable to comprehend that his opponent could be motivated by anything other than ill will toward homosexuals. Hence, the labels “bigot” and “homophobe” are swiftly handed down to anyone who disagrees with the progressive’s viewpoint.

When someone questions why businesses should be forced to offer their employees free birth control pills (but not free allergy pills, or free pain pills), the progressive indignantly asks why that person is “anti-women”.

buckley

Such rhetorical tactics are deeply authoritarian. “Agree with me, or you’re a bad person.” “Stay silent, or I’ll drag your name through the mud.”

It seems especially ironic, then, that this approach has been embraced by self-described crusaders of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Tarkovsky Films and Christian Allegory

I’m an enthusiastic fan of foreign film – from the works of Andrei Tarkovsky to those of Akira Kurosawa. Tarkovsky’s films are especially noteworthy for their religious imagery, so I wasn’t at all surprised to come across this article on Christianity Today.

“The most revered Russian filmmaker since Sergei Eisenstein, Tarkovsky offers an unabashedly religious worldview, without which, he wrote, ‘people cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume films like bottles of Coca-Cola.’”

(Aside: For more on the relationship between art, beauty, and religion, I strongly recommend Roger Scruton’s documentary, “Why Beauty Matters“.)

tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky

The article goes on,

“The influence of Russian religious history is also evident in his use of the Holy Fool, an archetype of Russian literature—often characters of deep faith, seen as fools by the world, yet who see God’s reality as it truly is.

All his films deal with apocalyptic scenarios; indeed, one film idea he had was titled ‘The End of the World,’ yet he refused the label ‘pessimist.’ Indeed, he said of apocalyptic literature, ‘It would be wrong to consider that the Book of Revelation only contains within itself a concept of punishment, of retribution; it seems to me that what it contains above all, is hope.’”

For anyone interested, most of Tarkovsky’s films can be found free online. I’d recommend starting with my personal favorite, “The Stalker”. Gregory Schreck provides some fascinating historical context:

“Andrei Tarkovsky’s last film made in the Soviet Union, The Stalker (1977), illustrates the difficulty of properly interpreting his work, and rightly understood, underscores his Christian perception of life and struggle…[The] script approved by censors included a clear indictment of the United States and, seemingly, of capitalism. Yet the finished film, with obvious religious overtones, and with a protagonist who looks like a political prisoner right out of the Gulag, infuriated Soviet authorities. The Stalker turned out to be a condemnation of materialism, both East and West, and ultimately caused Tarkovsky to leave the Soviet Union to finish his career in exile.”

The Drowning Stranger: A Problem for Secular Humanists

Here’s a thought experiment.

_____

Imagine that you’re a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old male. It’s the morning after a thunderstorm, and you’re standing on the banks of a flooded, violently churning river.

You notice an object floating downstream.

whitewater

As it moves closer, you suddenly realize that this object is a person. The head breaks the surface, and you see a panic-stricken elderly woman gasping for air. You’ve never met her before, but vaguely recognize her as an impoverished widow from a neighboring village.

You look around for help, but there’s no one in sight. You have only seconds to decide whether or not to jump in after her – recognizing that doing so will put your own life in significant peril.

_____

Is it rational for you to risk your life to save this stranger? Is it morally good to do so?

For the Christian, both of these questions can be answered with an emphatic “yes”.

The Christian is called to emulate the example set forth by Jesus, who not only risked, but sacrificed his life for the sake of others. The Christian believes that the soul is eternal, and that one’s existence doesn’t come to an abrupt end with death.  Additionally, he can point to the examples of countless Christian martyrs who have willingly sacrificed their own lives.

For the secular humanist, the answers to these questions are much more subjective. When I previously asked 23 self-identifying atheists, “Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger?” only 4 of them responded with an unqualified “yes”.

Biologically speaking, the young man in our scenario has nothing to gain by jumping after the drowning woman. Since she’s poor and elderly, there are no conceivable financial or reproductive advantages involved. Evolutionary biologists often speak of “benefit to the tribe” as a motivation for self-sacrifice…yet the young man’s community would certainly place greater practical value on his life than that of a widow from a neighboring village.

Secular humanists argue that people are capable of making ethical decisions without any deity to serve as Moral Lawgiver. On a day-to-day basis, this is undeniably true. We all have non-religious friends and neighbors who live extremely moral and admirable lives.

In the scenario above, however, secular ethics break down. The secular humanist might recognize, intuitively, that diving into the river is a morally good action. But he has no rational basis for saying so. The young man’s decision is between empathy for a stranger (on the one hand) and utilitarian self-interest & community-interest (on the other).

In the end, there can be no binding moral imperatives in the absence of a Moral Lawgiver. If the young man decides to sit back and watch the woman drown, the secular humanist cannot criticize him. He’s only acting rationally.

Pro-Life Quotes from Famous Women

“The rights of children as individuals begin while yet they remain the foetus…Whoever has read the ‘Weekly’ knows I hold abortion (except to save the life of the mother) to be just as much murder as the killing of a person after birth is murder.
- Victoria Woodhull (first female candidate for President of the United States)

“The gross perversion and destruction of motherhood by the abortionist filled me with indignation, and awakened active antagonism. That the honorable term ‘female physician’ should be exclusively applied to those women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror. It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.”
- Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States)

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell

“Dr. Oaks made the remark that, according to the best estimate he could make, there were four hundred murders annually produced by abortion in that county alone….There must be a remedy for such a crying evil as this.”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we wish.”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder…We want prevention, not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil, and destroy it.”
- Susan B. Anthony

“Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime.”
- Susan B. Anthony

“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.”
- Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
- Mother Teresa

“Abortion kills twice. It kills the body of the baby and it kills the conscience of the mother. Abortion is profoundly anti-women. Three quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”
- Mother Teresa

“Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
- Alice Paul (author of the 1923 U.S. Equal Rights Amendment)

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

“My case was wrongfully decided, and has caused great harm to the women and children of our nation.”
- Norma McCorvey (former plaintiff in Roe v. Wade)

“Child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned…Is there no remedy for all this ante-natal child murder?”
- Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (early feminist)

Why Do So Many Christians Favor “Small Government”?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

- C.S. Lewis

__________

Anyone who tries to claim that the Bible prescribes his or her specific political opinions should be met with a certain degree of skepticism. The Bible does, however, hint at how Christians should interact with the societies in which they live (go read Acts 5:29 and Luke 20:25). It also provides strong caution against placing one’s confidence in Earthly governments (go read I Samuel 8 and Judges 8:22-23).

My purpose here is to address the common (and erroneous) claim that Christians who favor “small government” are, by definition, being hypocritical. Or as Jimmy Carter puts it,

jimmy carter

For one thing, I only know of maybe 2 or 3 people who oppose tax dollars going to help the poor. All of them are anarchists. So it’s not entirely clear who, exactly, Carter is addressing. But I’m pretty sure he’s just addressing anyone who favors a more limited welfare system than he does.

The real debate, if we’re being honest, is the extent to which – and the means by which – public assistance should be directed to the poor. The question is whether primary responsibility for assisting the poor should rest with government, or with individuals, churches, and private charities.

To many on the Left, conservatives who attempt to reduce the size of the welfare state are either acting out of greed, malice, or a lack of empathy for the poor. In reality, the conservative’s goal is to limit and decentralize power. The conservative understands that power leads to corruption, and that powerful, centralized governments have a long history of abusing human rights.

The conservative also recognizes the importance of individual responsibility and the dignity of providing for oneself and one’s family. In this sense, the conservative is concerned not only with the poor man’s physical needs, but also with his spiritual, non-material needs. Any form of government assistance should therefore have the aim of making the recipient self-sufficient, rather than perpetually reliant on public assistance.

Unfortunately, there’s an epidemic of young, progressive, “enlightened” individuals in this country who eagerly vote to expand the welfare state, and conclude that this makes them champions of the poor. Yet when asked, directly, what they’ve personally done for the poor, the only things they can come up with are Holding Benevolent Opinions, paying taxes, and maybe attending a charity walk.

I realize that sounds a tad anecdotal…but as it turns out, there’s solid data to back it up. According to research out of Syracuse University, “people who reject the idea that ‘government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality’ give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.” In the U.S., conservative states consistently see higher levels of charitable giving than liberal states.

In short: when a person considers his taxes to be a legitimate form of charity, he becomes less charitable.

The modern progressive, unwilling to recognize mankind’s fallen condition, sincerely believes that the State provides the means of realizing his egalitarian utopia. The Christian should know better. Those who place their faith in the strong arm of government walk a fine line between folly and idolatry.

__________

See also:

“Why Christians Make Great Libertarians” (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

“There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile.”

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

“In the New Testament our enemies are those who harbour hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility.”

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love. God makes your marriage indissoluble.”

“It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.”

“Primum non Nocere” and the Affordable Care Act

I recently wrote an article for Liberty Without Apologies, and thought I’d share it here as well. (If you haven’t already, you should bookmark the site and follow Liberty Without Apologies on Facebook. I have several friends who are regular contributors, and they’ve got some great political content from a right-libertarian perspective.)

I wrote the article because I believe that a law addressing medical care should be held to the same standard as medical care itself: “first, do no harm”. Too many progressives are anxious to overlook the harm caused by the Affordable Care Act, saying things like, “we had to do something” or “it might be flawed, but it was a step in the right direction”. They want to judge the law by its motives, rather than by the impact it’s having on people.

I see real people suffering, and I think it’s a shame that the country had to settle for reforms that were rammed through on a party-line vote, without being thoughtfully considered or even read by the law’s supporters prior to passage. If a doctor approved a treatment plan in the same haphazard manner that Congress approved the ACA, he’d be rightfully sued for malpractice.

I’ve copied the article below:

_____

A typical physician begins her career as a thirty-year-old with six figures of debt. While her peers have spent the last decade accumulating income and work experience, she’s been pulling all-nighters in the library – living on coffee, Ramen noodles, and student loans. She enjoys what she does, but the hours are brutal. After 8+ years of post-secondary education (plus another 3-6 years of residency) and tremendous personal and financial sacrifice, she has finally scaled the summit. She’s a doctor. In the meantime, changes in the U.S. healthcare system leave her feeling more like a glorified bureaucrat – trying to navigate the mountains of paperwork and ever-changing federal guidelines that stand between herself and her patients.

Most of the medical students and young physicians that I interact with are growing increasingly disillusioned with the future of our profession. The outlook is especially bleak for those considering primary care – the dwindling supply of “front line” doctors expected to accommodate an exploding demand for office visits. In their great wisdom, the architects of Obamacare sought to extend health insurance to 32 million new Americans without taking any steps to increase the number of practicing physicians.

I'm no economist, but this doesn't look like a recipe for "affordable healthcare".

I’m no economist, but this doesn’t look like a recipe for “affordable healthcare”.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are quick to point out that the law was endorsed by the American Medical Association. What they won’t tell you is that only 15% of America’s physicians are members of the AMA (compared with 85% of American’s dentists who belong to the ADA). In fact, individual physicians oppose the Affordable Care Act by a wide margin, and believe it will ultimately increase the cost of healthcare.

In a recent interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews (may the thrill run ever up his leg), the president characteristically deflected blame for the Obamacare website debacle. Yet along with the usual finger-pointing at House Republicans, he actually suggested that the problem might lie with overly bloated government agencies, “some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”

"If you like your health care plan..."

“If you like your health care plan…”

This kind of schizophrenic assessment – blaming, in the same breath, both government bureaucracy and those who opposed the law’s reliance on government bureaucracy – seems strangely befitting. The Affordable Care Act is a stamp collection of such paradoxes.

Most of us in the medical field aren’t policy wonks. Our primary interest is fixing sick people – preferably with as little interference from third parties as possible. There are, however, a number of sensible and liberty-minded proposals that receive widespread head-bobbing in hospital break rooms. Physicians are generally receptive to the very solutions that were conspicuously absent from the ACA: tort reform, health savings accounts, conscience protections for healthcare providers, and market-based reforms to Medicare and Medicaid. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, proposed some very workable (but largely ignored) reforms back in 2009.

Returning control of medical decisions to patients and their doctors would go a long way toward controlling costs and reversing the damage done by the ACA. The U.S. healthcare system has a fever, and the only prescription is less government.