Spent a little time reading THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL today. I was going to leave the following as a comment on More reparations nonsense, but I decided it might make a better Father’s Day post.
In More reparations nonsense, the author worries that the demand for reparations from the rest of us to the LGBTQ crowd is growing. He further observes that this kind of nonsense needs to be stopped. Here is my take.
Why does this kind of nonsense need to “stopped”? Where does it lead?
Let’s compare two forms of argument.
Some people believe in reasoned argument. These people believe that with sufficient facts and a logical presentation of those facts that they can “compel” another person to believe the “truth”. Unfortunately, we can either accept what is presented as a logical argument, or we can refuse. We can believe whatever we want.
Still, when someone presents the “truth” with facts and logic, they don’t believe it is their truth. They may get aggravated and disgusted, but mostly they will just wonder why anyone would deny the truth.
Others believe in persuasive argument. These tend to believe that the truth is something we can choose and even create.
How does a persuasive argument begin? With charm. Then it moves to guilt. Next comes the offer to join the bandwagon. Implied is the fear of being left out, not being part of consensus, being a laughingstock to the ruling clique.
If the persuader, the one who would transform the truth of the people around him, is a fanatic, then at each opportunity, the persuader will escalate the pressure to accept his transformation. When all else has failed — when he can get away with it — the persuader will employ direct force. Then the persuaded will find themselves at the end of the barrel of a gun. Then the means of “persuasion” will become a direct and brutal threat, coercion and violence.
So what does stopping this nonsense have to do with Father’s Day? What is a father’s role with respect to the “Truth”? Fathers have the duty to lead their families in meekness and humility. We don’t transform our children with force; we teach them with love.
When we are meek, we are not weak. We just have whatever power we have under control. Thus, our children learn self-discipline from our own example.
When we are humble, we do not pretend to be less than we are. We just recognize that God is God, that we must be obedient to Him and put our faith in His Truth.
And what has the Lord commanded. We must love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we must love our neighbors as we love our self.
Therefore, because they belong to God, we do not seek to transform our neighbors with force, not even the force of government. Instead, with the power of our example we lead others — especially our families — to Jesus Christ so that they can be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I posted the new post government and religious paths. Would appreciate your comments before I post a follow-up post on the subject.
Regards and good will blogging.
Although I agree with your ultimate conclusion, I think both sides are making the same sort of persuasive argument in order to maintain that they actually have absolute, omniscient certainty on issues that are actually quite ambiguous.
For most of human existence, people thought that the Sun moved across the sky each day with a varied in time and angle according to season. That “truth” served very well in allowing humans to accurately make an incredible number of very important, even existential, logical predictions about animal migrations and crop planting. That “truth” provided such powerful utility that humans everywhere afforded axiomatic religious (and therefore “moral”) certainty to it. And yet, as humans expanded our knowledge, that “truth” turned out to be very incomplete.
One would think that our constantly finding out that our most certain and often sacred truths are either wrong or are far from complete would humble us (or as you say, make us “meek”), but it doesn’t. If God (and actual knowledge) is infinite, then what we actually know must be infinitesimal and therefore most of knowledge lies behind that infinite veil. Arguers on both sides rationalize absolute, even divine, moral certainty on a range of issues for which we should be far more humble about our actual infinitesimal knowledge.
Jesus’ Law of Love does not solve the problem of our infinite ignorance. It just gives us a solid place, a firm foundation, on which to stand and look out into this blinding confusion of uncertainty. It does not give us the absolute right choice in every dilemma,, but the Law of Love affords us a way to humbly and compassionately measure between often ambiguous conflicts of competing goods and evils to try to choose the most loving option and to weigh the risks of the necessary sacrifices that Jesus’ Law of Love often demands. There is no actual justice without our willingness to risk compassionate sacrifice in the name of God’s Love.
Given this way of Christian practice, the question then becomes how to humbly bring Jesus’ command to and ultimate example of God’s mercy, sacrifice and compassionate Love into the reparations debate, and all these difficult debates.
I don’t know anything; I am infinite ignorant. However, since I love you so much, I think I need to protect you from your infinite arrogance (which is so much greater than my own infinite arrogance) by making you my slave?
Seriously, love is not a substitute for justice. Love is not an excuse for forcing others to make sacrifices to whatever gods we want to worship instead of God.
Love — charity — is a personal act. It has next to nothing to do with anything government can do. Government does not love anyone.
Out of love for our family, friends, and neighbors, we can vote for the public officials we think will be the most honorable and just, but we cannot make others love anyone. We can only steal what they have and give it away, and politicians do that to buy votes.
Thank you for your loving concern. I’m sorry that you are offended by my words, especially as words like compassion, mercy, sacrifice and love are not usually taken as either arrogant or offensive words. You misunderstand if think I am saying that I am more loving, and therefore more moral than you are – I’m a terrible sinner in many ways. This is not personal between you and I. I’m simply saying that we could all be better in Christ through Christ if we practice Christ’s Law of Live in every aspect of our lives.
Love is not a “substitute for justice”. For a Christian, love (specifically, God’s merciful, sacrificial and compassionate love) IS justice. It is the ultimate perfect justice, the more so because it is so undeserved.
You make a good point when you say that a person’s practice of God’s love in Christ cannot be forced – it must indeed be voluntary. For example, we cannot force the thief to love his victims and thus quit stealing from them because of that love, but we can, out of love for the thief and for his victims, pass laws that protect future victims by incarcerating the thief away from them, that force the thief to compensate his past victims, and that lovingly try to rehabilitate the thief so that he may rejoin a moral (and loving) society.
That said, I agree with you completely that as Christians citizens of a Republican government, we should try to elect Representatives who pass laws that reflect as perfectly as possible, in an imperfect and fallen world, the perfect justice of Christ’s love. We cannot expect that, because the government we create cannot be perfectly loving and just, we have no obligation as Christians to make it as just as we are able. Simply because government has been used in the past to unjustly steal doesn’t mean that we as citizens cannot make it more a reflection of God’s love and therefore, more a reflection of God’s justice. Government is neither inherently loving or naturally hateful, just or unjust. Government is as loving and just, hareful and unjust, as we citizens allow it to become through those we choose to elect.
The point of words is to communicate, not make pretty sounds. Love is not prudence. Love is not temperance. Love is not courage. Love is not justice. We use different words for different virtues because they are different.
We say God is love because God provides the best example. When Jesus died on the cross, did He do so out of His love for us? Yes, but when He sacrificed Himself that was not just. That was grace and mercy we did not deserve..
So, speaking plainly, would you care to explain plainly what you are advocating?
You want to use Christian love to justify what? Government that provides justice? Or government that unjust redistributes the wealth and calls that social justice?
Yes, I think some defining of terms is in order. Prudence, temperance and courage certainly have distinct meanings, but can’t you see how every virtue is founded in love and are actually just distinct manifestations of love? Why be courageous if it is not out of love? Is someone even practicing prudence or temperance if no true love of God, of oneself or of others drives that virtuous behavior?
Just as we are undeserving of Jesus’ perfect loving sacrifice, He does not ask us to parcel our own living sacrifices as part of perfect and equal transactions. If that were true, He would not have told us we must even love our enemies.
“You want to use Christian love to justify what? Government that provides justice? Or government that unjust redistributes the wealth and calls that social justice?”
I believe that our voluntary obedience to God’s Law of Love must justify everything a Christian does. That willing obedience makes no exception for any aspect of a person’s life, including government. Love, all forms of love, are kinetic and dynamic expressions in actual life. Love is most actualized not by its semantic definition so much as by the practice of it. Loving God with all “your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” implies not just a state of being, but a state of continuous action, and the manifestation of God’s love through us to our neighbors is an active sacrifice, a dynamic compassion, an actual expression of mercy, and yes, the living manifestation of every single virtue.
The real discussion between Christians should not be whether express our citizenship with Christian love (of course we do), but instead on what is the best way to do this in a Republic. “Redistribution” itself is a red herring. Wealth is constantly redistributed in just and unjust ways by the laws of government. Just by defining, arbitrating and enforcing property and contract rights, government continuously determines wealth distribution. Emancipation itself was a massive (and just) government redistribution of wealth. The question we should ask ourselves as Christians therefore is not whether laws should effect distribution and redistribute of the wealth of a society – they already do that by definition. We should instead ask God for the grace to know how to make laws more just, and by that we should mean how to make our laws the best possible manifestation of His commandments to love.
Love is the primary virtue upon which all the others depend. That’s no mystery. However, love is not a substitute for the other virtues.
Think about the definition of wisdom. Love motivates us to be wise, but love is not wisdom.
When we study the Bible carefully and ask God for wisdom, what do we gain? We learn how to live well, We gain the skill of living well (https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/CGG/ID/9882/Wisdom-as-Skill.htm).
Consider what you are willing to do to win your point. You are twisting the meaning of words. Is that wise? No.
Emancipation was just a massive government redistribution of wealth? Slavery is evil because it involves treating people like property, as a resource to be used and spent by others. Yet here you are justifying the enslavement of the People by their “loving government” in the name of love.
Most wealth transfers in our society are transactional. On the other hand, redistributing the wealth is simply an ironic euphemism for stealing by corrupt politicians. Everyone knows politicians tax some people just to buy the votes of other people. The redistribution of wealth, of course, includes politicians paying off their donors, but none of this fits your pretty Utopian picture.
Note that when politicians redistribute the wealth the filthy, greedy rich don’t pay the glorious taxes that are suppose to solve all our problems. Everyone else does. That’s why the filthy rich are Democrats.
Have you a clue as to how you are going to resolve the ethical problems with what you want? Why not? Are you so busy spouting pretty nonsense about love you are ignoring another virtue, honesty?
You want to make our laws more just? Then answer some basic questions.
1. What are the ethics of taxation and spending? That is, what sort of programs justify taking people’s property by force so that the government has the wealth it needs to conduct its business?
2. How much can we trust our leaders? How do we prevent them from abusing their powers?
3. How do we prevent the People — ourselves — from being goaded into bad decisions, including just plain acts of covetousness and greed?
4. How do we restrain ourselves so that our government provides justice instead of mob rule?
“Love is the primary virtue upon which all the others depend. That’s no mystery. However, love is not a substitute for the other virtues.”
If you agree with me on your first sentence, then your second sentence makes no sense. It’s like saying that scientific theory is not a substitute for geology, biology and physics. The latter derive their foundational logic from the former.
“Think about the definition of wisdom. Love motivates us to be wise, but love is not wisdom.”
“When we study the Bible carefully and ask God for wisdom, what do we gain? We learn how to live well, We gain the skill of living well.”
No where have I argued against the benefits of studying scripture. However, in my humble opinion, living the message of Christ rather than simply studying it is the key to living with meaning. Plenty of Christians throughout history have to varying high degrees “lived well” by Christian standards without being Biblical scholars. The profound message, the story and the saving grace of love in Jesus and the Holy Spirit is available to the illiterate and the scholar alike.
“Emancipation was just a massive government redistribution of wealth?”
Well, it wasn’t “just” that, but in purely an economic sense, it certainly was that. At least the slaves who gained the value of their labor and the slave holders who lost that value would have felt a dramatic government enforced redistribution happened, wouldn’t they?
“Consider what you are willing to do to win your point. You are twisting the meaning of words. Is that wise? No.”
I don’t think unfounded accusations that I am purposely lying is really a good argument, do you? I simply disagree with you but I don’t doubt your integrity. I can only ask that you afford me the same curtesy. Neither is your simply using demeaning language a substitute for an actual rational or moral argument.
Where have I proposed some Utopia? By historic standards, the developed democracies around the world have progressed to an extraordinary level of average freedom, opportunity and prosperity, and all the most successful of those countries, including our own, have done so with some balance of welfare state style social safety nets and competitive capitalism in their government and their economy? How can it be a “utopian” pipe dream if we are actually living it? On the other hand, point me out one one free and prosperous government that has the dystopian government-free society that you would imagine?
I have not proposed any absolutist solution in any event. I don’t believe the world we fell into works on deterministic absolutes and rash generalities that you claim. Love provides us with a measuring stick, not a crystal ball. My only argument is that, as Christian citizens in a republican government, our moral decisions about government, like every other thing, should be based on God’s commandments that we do so with love.
I can answer your questions if you want me to, but I will just argue that there are no perfect answers to such things and that only a utopian (or a dystopian) fool would think so. All we can do is be imperfectly guided morally by God’s commandments to love, and rationally by a humble knowledge and expertise that recognizes both the power and the limits of such knowledge.
If we are going to obey God, then love is the primary virtue upon which the others depend. Do the other virtues disappear without love? Nope! Even evil people can be virtuous.
Love is not the only source of motivation. Even animals can exhibit prudence, temperance, patience, courage, and so forth. Even the suicidal may exercise prudence to avoid pain. Even an athlete driven by the desire for fame will practice temperance. Even a hunter starving for his next meal will learn to patiently track his quarry. Greed can make a thief courageous.
Can evil people or animals be wise? Yes and no. An animal lacks an understanding of the difference between good and evil. So wisdom is not something we associate with beasts. Evil people don’t live well; they live for the moment and their own pleasure, not for eternity and the glory of God. Therefore, evil people may be wise in the ways of evil, but they never rest.
Are you proposing some sort of Utopia? Yes. What Utopia involves — what the book by that name was about — is a master planned, centrally managed society. That is where you are clearly headed.
In a free society, the government has to justify its actions. In a Utopian society the individual has to justify his right to make any choice. That’s because any choice the individual might make for himself could, supposedly, never be as good a choice as expert government planners would make for him.
I confess that the wandering drift of your first few paragraphs above eludes my simple understanding as to what your actual point is. Between your critter moralities and your honor among thieves analogies, you’ve completely lost me. However, we seem to be in agreement as to the basic principle about love so I won’t bother to pursue the matter further.
“Are you proposing some sort of Utopia? Yes.”
“Utopia involves — what the book by that name was about — is a master planned, centrally managed society. That is where you are clearly headed”
No. I’m not. Why does everyone who does not agree with your unrealistic and unrealized Utopian extreme have to be mischaracterized at the other unrealistic and failed Utopian extreme? What are the real working examples of national governments with both the greatest liberty and prosperity in the world today? They are not the absolute ether/or choices that seem to be the only ones you recognize. Are all the great capitalistic democracies (from Sweden to us to Japan and everything in between) necessarily on some inexorable slippery slope to ether an Orwellian dystopia of centralized control or else a failed state anarchy? Perhaps, but that depends upon whether we succumb to the fanatic absolutists or the cynical demagogues in our midst. I submit that our tenuous progress in continuing some form of moral and practical balance (that mythical arc toward justice) that lies between too much anarchy and too much tyranny will be our ability to look to love for our moral scale and to a humble and prudent, but expert, reason for our practicality.
With all due respect, please don’t assess idiotic extreme positions to me that I don’t actually hold or advocate simply because you need a foil to scapegoat in order to make your extreme positions somehow feel more reasonable. Is that too much to ask? Maybe it is. 😏
So you confess that the wandering drift of my first few paragraphs above eludes your simple understanding as to what my actual point is? That’s progress.
Don’t assess idiotic extreme positions to you? Half of the population votes for Democrats. We elected Obama twice. Now Democrat presidential candidates are competing to give away the most of “other people’s money”. So don’t worry. Your positions are not extreme, and I have not represented them that way. What you believe is all too ordinary. Even your super-conservative, right-wing Christian big brother once believed some of the things you believe. Because most of the world’s population believes such things, most of the world suffers under some form of tyranny. We constantly fight the Utopian impulse here, and we have been losing.
So what then are you objecting to? Charges of extremism? Being misrepresented? No. What you are objecting to is being asked to explain your positions in plain language.
What is the problem? Love without temperance, prudence, justice, self-control, and all those other virtues — love without the benefit of wisdom — is just an excuse — a rationalization — for doing something we should not do.
Does your recommended book explain why we should argue about the truth?
The truth is that if someone is harmed by someone, they should sue the person that harmed them.
In other words, why should my taxes be used to pay monetary reparations to someone that I never harmed?
True or false?
Regards and good will blogging.
If your father stole something from someone and you benefited from the theft, would you have a moral responsibility repay at least some of the benefits you gained even though you did not take any part in your father’s crime? Now multiply that times hundreds of years and multiple generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.
King Solomon wisdom adreesess this issue in Ecclesiastes 7:10. In my opinion.
Thank for your comment.
Regards and goodwill blogging
Maybe I’m missing the point. Are you making an argument that you owe nothing for the benefit you received from your father’s theft because you the victim’s son would be wise not to complain about the theft of his lost inheritance?
Wise logic in my opinion.
Regards and goodwill blogging
I certainly grant you the scriptural wisdom of counting one’s blessings with gratitude, especially in times of adversity, but in the hypothetical, wouldn’t it seem a little self serving to preach the wisdom of cheerful suffering to victim’s son while you enjoy the blessings of the stolen inheritance from which he suffers?😏
Why are Democrats so obsessed with guilt? We have enough trouble dealing with our own sins. So we are going to repair the sins of people long dead? Stupid!
Take the time to read Ezekiel 18. Most people don’t actually know much about their ancestors, but we do know that all of us are descended from a long line of sinners. If you want to repair all the damage your ancestors did, go to it, but keep me out of it.
God does hold us responsible for the sin of Adam. Otherwise, we are only responsible for our own sins. Even so, Christ death on the cross covers all our sins. We just have to have faith in what He did for us.
Is it actually possible for government to make life “fair”, wholly just? Isn’t that what you are truly asking — demanding — a perfection we have no way of achieving? Then you trying to render unto Caesar authority to do something you cannot give. Only God has the wisdom and power give us all perfect justice.
“Why are Democrats so obsessed with guilt?”
Don’t know? Ask them? Being raised Catholic, we have had guilt positively burned into us by the Nuns, the Priests and our own parents. That is not actually a bad thing. In many ways I think guilt is a good place to start any real atonement, don’t you?
If you pay some attention to what I wrote, however, the argument was not one of paying for the sins of a multitude of fathers, but rather to just recognize that we enjoy many privileges and benefit law that were involuntarily stolen off the backs of others by our fathers. If one father steals another father’s car, we may not send the criminal’s son to jail, but we do recognize that son has some moral responsibility for having benefited from driving for years what was stolen from another son.
Making such a moral responsibility a legal responsibility is fraught with practical and moral difficulties. It may not even be possible, and even the most just legal solution will be imperfect. However, at the very least, we should recognize our moral responsibility.
I wonder how many people will know who actually was harmed if the time frame goes back hundreds of years though?
For example, American Indians land was taken by conquerors. Does that mean every American Indian should be given back the land our homes are now built on?today?.
Regards and good willl blogging..
When our leaders propose to fix the sins of those long dead, all they can do is give renewed life to old hatreds. One has to wonder if that is what they intend.
In my opinion, the present use and need for politicians has strayed from what they are now doing compared to what government was intended to do according to what the founders envisioned them to do in our Nation.
This belief will be the subject of a future blog post comparing enabling government programs and focus to allowing people to help themselves.
In other words politicians should manage government instead of being managers of everything under the sun not related to governing.
Regards and goodwill blogging
Your source on two forms of arguments really needs to go back to school. I’d suggest reading “The Craft of Argument” to learn how to make effective arguments.
I don’t doubt there is someone out there who can do whatever I do better. The same is more true of the comment you just wrote. Did you actually consult that book before you wrote it? If you did, it doesn’t recommend the book.
Cool post, Tom. Happy Father’s Day!
Just like the Old Testament–explicit in law, but implicit with grace–and the New Testament–the law now bathed in grace–I had to grow as a father to 3 daughters. In the early years, I was “obey the law” (do this, don’t do this), in my later years repenting, I was “love the lawgiver”–grace. I so wish I had been that mature many years sooner.