In PART 3 FOR BOTH “HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING” AND “GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS” we went back to GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS-PART 1 and resumed the original outline (for a four-part versus a five-part series).Why a five-part series? Now we are interweaving ideas from HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING — PART 1 into the series. The object is to show what the story of The Widow’s Two Mites (Mark 12:41-44) teaches us about how we should govern ourselves.
How Well Does Statism Work?
How well does Statism work? It does not work well at all. The focus of statists is the acquisition of and the concentration of power. Therefore, the people who run the government use this measure of success: How much power do we have?
To obtain power, leaders undermine the character of their People.
Politics and Religion
What is politics?
politics (n.) 1520s, “science of government,” from politic (adj.), modeled on Aristotle’s ta politika “affairs of state,” the name of his book on governing and governments, which was in English mid-15c. as “Polettiques.” Also see -ics.
Politicks is the science of good sense, applied to public affairs, and, as those are forever changing, what is wisdom to-day would be folly and perhaps, ruin to-morrow. Politicks is not a science so properly as a business. It cannot have fixed principles, from which a wise man would never swerve, unless the inconstancy of men’s view of interest and the capriciousness of the tempers could be fixed. [Fisher Ames (1758-1808)]
Meaning “a person’s political allegiances or opinions” is from 1769.
When she dropped a couple of coins into the temple treasury, how did a poor widow perform a political act? When the widow dropped her coins into the temple treasury — even when she prayed in the temple — she performed public acts. She demonstrated her support for the teachings in the Old Testament.
When we demonstrate what we believe about God, that says a great deal about our political allegiances. Two thousand years ago what the Old Testament says about proper behavior differed greatly from the teachings of the various pagan Peoples that surrounded Israel. That led to strife. Eventually, in 70 A.D., because the Jews found it so difficult to submit to the rule of the Roman Empire, Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem. They butchered, enslaved, and scattered the Jews; almost two thousand years passed before Jews once again ruled in Israel.
Similarly, when Jesus taught and performed miracles, His teachings irked the Jewish religious elites. Thus, Jesus performed a political act. Therefore, the Sanhedrin sought Jesus’ death, and the Roman government crucified Him.
How did Jesus perform a political act? Even though Jesus taught from the same Old Testament as the Jewish elites, Jesus provided a distinctly different interpretation. Whereas the Pharisees taught we can be saved by obeying the Law and the Sadducees claimed there is no resurrection, Jesus proclaimed Himself as our savior, that our faith in Him justifies us. What Jesus taught undermined the worldly authority of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. So they hated Him and sought His death.
Statists Must Pervert Virtue
When Jesus’ disciples began to see everyone, especially another disciple of Jesus Christ as someone to love and care for, they began respecting the rights of others, confident that this was what God had made them to do. That is, Jesus’ disciples became virtuous.
In the Catholic catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues. The four cardinal virtues, from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance (meaning restriction or restraint), and courage (or fortitude). The three theological virtues, from the letters of Saint Paul of Tarsus, are faith, hope, and charity (or love). These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues. (from here)
What is the problem with Statism? Statism requires a corruption of virtue. Why? What we believe affects what we call virtuous. Consider how different people interpret these words.
Mark 12:13-17 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?
13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”
But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” 16 So they brought it.
And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And they marveled at Him.
Some people read Jesus’ reply, and they see only a clever answer that ducks the question. Supposedly, Jesus avoided the trap. Supposedly, the Pharisees and the Herodians did not trick Jesus into advocating rebellion against Rome, but consider what Jesus said. He said we must render to government that which belongs to government and to God that which belongs to God. Jesus also said all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength belongs to God (Mark 12:30). Whenever the desires of our rulers conflict with the Bible, Jesus said we cannot compromise. We must obey God.
Because Jesus taught we must love individuals — that God wants us to love Him above all and our neighbors as we love ourselves — what Jesus taught conflicts with Statism, which sacrifices individual rights for the good of the state.
HOW DOES THE STATIST PERVERT THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES?
Charity involves giving of ourselves to others. Charity is based upon the most noble form of love, agape. Statists pervert the virtue of charity by using government provided “charity” to buy votes. That is, statists use “charity” as an excuse to raid the public treasury.
James Madison used different words, but he warned about this sort of problem in The Federalist Papers (see WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT OUR REPUBLIC IS ABOUT TO FALL? — PART 1). Madison advocated the Constitution because he believed it provided the necessary checks and balances that would prevent the formation of factions that used the powers of government to abuse the rights of others.
Faith is not just believing something because we want to believe it. Faith is believing something for good reasons and then acting upon that belief. My favorite example of faith is swimming. When we swim in water that is over our head, that requires faith in our ability to swim.
What does it mean to call faith a virtue? It means we believe God, and we trust — live by — what is taught in His Bible. Because the statist wants us to trust government, he sees faith in God as competition. That is why we see such a pronounced drive for secularization in our day. The statist wants to bury the competition. He want us to have faith only in the state.
Hope strikes many as a strange virtue, but imagine being without hope. That is what John Piper asks us to consider.
What is so important about Christian hope?
If our future is not secured and satisfied by God then we are going to be excessively anxious. This results either in paralyzing fear or in self-managed, greedy control. We end up thinking about ourselves, our future, our problems and our potential, and that keeps us from loving. (continued here)
Those who don’t believe in God put their hope in wealth or pride in themselves. Alternatively, they may seek escape in pleasure. Statists put their hope in government, and they delude themselves by electing prideful leaders who say what they want to hear.
Because they have nothing else, and all the things of this world must decay and pass away, the godless have no true hope. Until we put our hope in God, we are too fearful to love, and our courage is of no use.
HOW DOES THE STATIST PERVERT THE HUMAN VIRTUES (The cardinal virtues)?
Some describe prudence as the care of and moderation with money (here). It is a cinch that if someone is imprudent, that imprudent soul will most likely spend more money than he can lawfully acquire. Similarly, whenever their government begins to spend too money that is a good sign that a People has become imprudent.
With respect to Statism, reckless government spending merely indicates a larger problem. What is truly imprudent about Statism is the willingness of a people to surrender great power to few people. History has recorded time and time again how power can corrupt those who weld it.
social justice noun
the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society
Fortitude is another word for the virtue we here call courage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this verse as a source of strength.
John 16:33 New King James Version (NKJV)
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Christian teaching tells us to rely upon God, to persevere and do what is right, to be courageous in the knowledge God is All-Powerful. When a difficult problem arises, statists would have us rely on the power of government to fix that problem. Instead of voluntarily working with people within our communities to solve problems, statists demand costly government programs.
Whereas Jesus expected Christians to turn to Him and answer His calling, statists would have us define courage as depending upon and supporting the power of government. That is, statists would have us be brave only because there are so many of us.
I suppose many will read the above and roll their eyes. Will they even get to this point in the post? Who knows?
For those of you who have gotten to this point, let me offer you a reward. I refer you to a better, more thoughtful writer (H/T to Tricia). Here is how the relevant post begins.
The paradox of the individualistic society is that it can only exist if individuals embrace virtues that are greater than their own needs and whims. A society where each individual acts as a little tyrant, pursuing his desires with total selfishness at the expense of everyone else becomes collectivist as the little tyrants turn to a series of big tyrants to get what they want no matter who gets hurt by it. (continued here)
Statist decry (many with obvious hypocrisy) the selfishness of those who emphasize limited government and individual rights. Yet no such society can exist unless the People are virtuous.
Need further convincing? Then do what suggests. Please read Daniel Greenfield’s brilliant Youmerica post.
To Be Continued
The final post in this series will be: How Do We Choose The Best Candidate?
- Seven virtues (en.wikipedia.org)
- The Seven Virtues (changingminds.org)
- What is virtue ethics? (www.gotquestions.org)
- Virtue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue)
- Statism (kevincraig.us)
- State vs. Spirit (http://vftonline.org/VFTfiles/thesis/commentators/state_vs_spirit.htm)
- Immorality and Irresponsibility: A Justification for Statism? (www.connorboyack.com)