U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist, says the minimum wage needs to be raised from $7.25 to $15 (though he’s unwilling to allow his employees to increase their gross income as a result!) and then U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib wants to raise him $5 to $20. What are we to make of this?
The fundamental question being raised by the Democratic Party is whether our governmental system that allows for free enterprise or capitalism has run its course and new structures are needed for American society.
The Pope Joins the Democrat’s Conversation
Even Pope Francis has raised this question (and I’m sure some protestants have as well, perhaps Ron Sider and Jim Wallis). In 2013, in Evangelii Gaudium, the pope wrote,
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. (emphasis supplied)
The solution, according to a growing number in the Democratic Party, is a change to socialism, beginning with the government fixing wages and profits by various means.
Ironically, this solution relies on that which the pope used to question free markets with only a twist at the end, namely, “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding [the] power [of the sword].”
One greedy person might harm me economically, but a greedy person wielding the power of the law’s sword against me is worse!
What the Pope Got Right
To his credit, however, Pope Francis did get right a part of the real problem. In 2015, he said,
Behind all this pain, death, and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.
Are Republicans Exacerbating the Drive to Socialism?
Sadly, from what I see, too many in the Republican Party, even in Tennessee, don’t have the solution, either.
Too often nowadays we see legislation that promotes the common good found even in good old common sense, let alone the Bible—e.g., boys are boys and girls are girls, and the two should not undress in shared locker rooms—go down to defeat because of fears it will lead to a boycott that will hurt our economy. That is exactly what happened in the Republican-controlled Senate this past session.
So, while Republicans by and large still support an economic system that allows for liberty in our private economic relations, it’s ironic that its almost exclusive emphasis on material prosperity does foster the “destruction of human fraternity” that leads to calls for socialism.
What Lies at the Root of the Socialism Problem
The drive toward socialism is rooted in two things, the first of which the pope mentioned, greed. But greed is most often spawned by lack of contentment with what one has or one’s station in life. Any solution must address both of these root issues.
The problem is that these are matters of the heart, which law and politics can only deal with clumsily at best.
That’s because God alone has jurisdiction over the human heart, and it is therefore God alone who can fix it. But do Christians who profess belief in God understand what it is about the God reveled in their Bible that provides the fix?
The Solution to the Real Root Problems
The biblical fix is rooted in two major things. First, a belief that all of humankind exists and continues to exist at every moment in time only by virtue of an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God. It is because of these beliefs about God that we believe Him to be sovereign and the Author of a transcendent law that He has imposed upon all His creation. Second, the fix is rooted in a Heavenly Father, who by an incredible act of condescending love, willingly cloaked His glory in the human flesh of His Son, Jesus Christ, in order that we, in the fragility of our human condition, might have some present comprehension of that and give us now a foretaste of knowing and experiencing that glory someday in fuller measure.
If these two things are true—and I believe them to be—then they provide a true, objective basis for us, subjectively as individuals, to have a real and true sense of equality and fraternity. As Abraham Kuyper said during his 1898 Stone Lecture presentation to seminarians at Princeton, this view of God and man “places our entire human life immediately before God.”
From this, he said,
It follows that all men or women, rich or poor, weak or strong, dull or talented, as creatures of God, and as lost sinners, have no claim whatsoever to lord over one another, and that we stand as equals before God, and consequently equal as man to man.
Hence we cannot recognize any distinction among men, save such as has been imposed by God Himself, in that He gave one authority over the other, or enriched one with more talent than the other, in order that the man of more talents should serve the man with less, and in him serve his God. . . .
It condemns not merely all open slavery and systems of caste, but also all covert slavery of woman and of the poor; it is opposed to all hierarchy among men; it tolerates no aristocracy save such as is able, either in person or in family, by the grace of God, to exhibit superiority of character or talent, and to show that it does not claim this superiority for self-aggrandizement or ambitious pride, but for the sake of spending it in the service of God. (emphasis supplied)
Herein lies both a reason for contentment and a rebuke to greed. After all, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6, KJV, emphasis added).
Those who attain to such wisdom will find it “better than rubies, and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (Proverbs 8:11, KJV).
Now if only I, and all the other people who profess biblical Christianity, would heed these words, live them, and then proclaim them.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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