“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully.” – C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
GoodreadsNo data found
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully.” – C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
First, if he really does want a Christian nation, where are his supports for all other Christian virtues?
Second, is he saying this is a Christian nation? From where I stand it sure doesn’t look like one. It used to be. But not anymore.
Finally, the most obvious question that needs to be asked is, “what Christian is advocating not helping the poor?” I’m sure they’re out there but they would be a very small minority and barely worth mentioning.
This statement ignores other questions that need to be asked. Why does accepting the mandate to give automatically mean we should advocate the welfare and nanny state? Where did God or the apostles ever tell the early church to lobby Rome for funds? Where did they say to support a program that is damaging to the people it’s intended to help? Where did they say to take from others and give that to the poor? Isn’t stealing a sin too?
Such questions need to be answered Biblically if Colbert’s argument wishes to be considered legitimate. Until then we should assume it’s simply a contrivance for a statist agenda. He’s obviously not advocating a truly Christian nation.
The Bible does not give a specific way to fulfill the commandment to give. Why? I believe it’s because helping the poor is only part of the focus. The root of it is a challenge to our own greed. God wants nothing to have a stronger hold on our hearts than He does. If something like that exists, then we are worshipping those things more than God. Colossians 3:5 equates greed with idolatry. Since we can’t give materially to God, He asks us to give to others (“…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:31 – 46).
We give to God by giving to others. The command to give is more than just a benefit to the poor. It allows us the opportunity to give to God symbolically through our giving to others. The heart of this issue is the heart of the disciple.
This is largely why I reject the claim that it is a Christian mandate to support the welfare state. I believe that claim is largely missing the point of giving. God wants our hearts. Forcing someone to give will not change that person’s heart and will only make him more stubborn and angry.
Focusing only on giving as an end in itself also opens up the excuse to take from others “who have more” in order to give that to the poor. Again, it disregards the effects giving has on our own hearts. We get to keep our stuff and make someone else give? I think God would still consider this idolatry.
If you are a Christian and want to fulfill the mandate to give, then you need to give. Forcing someone else to do it will not fulfill your duty, and doing so is far too close to stealing for us to be comfortable with it (I and many others argue that it is stealing).
Preying Upon Good Intentions:
Colbert’s statement actually reminds me of Judas in John 12. When the woman washed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume Judas said it was a waste and the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor.
“Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.”
Now I doubt Colbert is pilfering from the U.S. Treasury, but he’s a tool and supporting those who are. Dan Mitchell has discussed the link between big government and corruption. Also check out his story of how 10 of the 15 wealthiest counties in America are in the DC metropolitan area. Coincidence? I doubt it.
No one ever uses pilfering as a platform for election. “Elect me and I will bring more corruption and steal more money than my predecessor.” That’s silly, right? Of course it is. Just like Judas they must mask their corruption with righteous statements. They will say what needs to be said to gain office and no potential tool is unworthy. In this case, they will use Christianity even though they are actually at war with that faith and don’t want this to be a Christian nation at all.
Statists (both “left” and “right”) will use whatever they can to promote their despotic agenda and as long as there are good hearted people willing to be taken advantage of, they will get their way.
The question for Christians has never been “Should we help the poor?” The questions are such like “Who is best capable of doing it, who has a legitimate right to do it, and what processes are proper and just?”
“The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials ‘for the sake of humanity’, and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Another serious question for Christians that needs to be answered: “Is the New Testament a handbook for governments or a handbook for individuals?”
“It is exactly when we do regard man as an animal that we know he is not an animal….The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one….It is not natural to see man as a natural product. It is not common sense to call man a common object of the country or the seashore. It is not seeing straight to see him as an animal. It is not sane….It is reached by stretching a point, by making out a case, by artificially selecting a certain light and shade, by bringing into prominence the lesser or lower things which may happen to be similar. The solid thing standing in the sunlight, the thing we can walk round and see from all sides, is quite different. It is also quite extraordinary; and the more sides we see of it the more extraordinary it seems….We can accept man as a fact, if we are content with an unexplained fact. We can accept him as an animal, if we can live with a fabulous animal.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
There’s another issue in Objectivism I’d like to address, though I was tempted not to because it’s not something most people care about. That is the subject of egoism vs. altruism as Objectivism teaches. Most of my understanding of it comes from Atlas Shrugged, Leonard Peikoff’s video “Introduction to Objectivism,” and Craig Biddle’s article “Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s Morality of Egoism.”
Egoism vs. Altruism:
Objectivism rejects any form of altruism. Objectivism teaches that one cannot look out for one’s own interests as well as the interests of others. It teaches that life is 100% egoism or 100% altruism and that no one can live in a 100% altruistic way.
I believe they are right that no one can live a 100% altruistic life. But I also believe no one can live a 100% egoistic life either. Only looking out for our own interests will only lead to problems.
Every evil in history didn’t happen because people were too loving and never looked out for themselves (maybe others read history differently). Evil acts were committed because people wanted to gain something at the expense of someone else. Conquest and tyranny; genocide; slavery; these are all evils that benefit someone at the expense of another.
Pretty much every crime (that we all consider crime) is an attempt to gain something for ourselves and only ourselves. Stealing, fraud, murder, speeding, slavery, rape, perjury; these are gains for one with no thought of others.
Every defiance of traditional morality is an attempt to gain something for ourselves and only ourselves; adultery which seeks something we desire without considering how it will affect the spouses; a one night stand that leaves a woman pregnant while the cowardly man sneaks away into the night; high school cliques that demean the less popular in order to win admiration from others; lying or fraud which benefits us at the expense of others. All of these are self-focused and does not care about the other person. Who cares if the other person is hurt as long as it doesn’t hurt us?
If 100% egoism were true, it would be a virtue for a soldier to throw someone else on the grenade in order to save himself. He’s looking out solely for his own self-interest and his own survival.
But Objectivism is slippery in this. Craig Biddle addressed this particular issue of soldiers fighting for their country. He said soldiers serve because they value their country and liberty, which is egoistic in nature. But the problem is that he is splitting hairs and then holding up one half as the highest moral standard. He is also redefining the word egoism into something other than what the rest of us all know the definition to be: acting solely for our own self-interest. It’s easy to make something sound right when you have your own private dictionary.
Right about here is where I see at least one contradiction in Objectivism. It rejects any form of altruism. But in a small way they do actually think about the other person.
Objectivism teaches it’s wrong to initiate force. Says who? If our own gain and happiness is the highest virtue, why can’t we initiate force if it suits those ends? John Galt ended his speech saying, “I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” But if we only look out for ourselves, why not force another man to live for ours, such as in slavery or redistribution? Why not commit fraud in order to fleece the other person? Why not steal to gain something we want? Why not kill if it serves my purposes? Craig Biddle said people “must pursue life-serving values and respect the rights of others to do the same.” But isn’t this looking out for the other person? We should respect the rights of another. How is this 100% egoism and acting solely for our own gain?
Here again, Objectivism is slippery and will probably say that we do that because we want others to do the same to us. If we deny rights to others then they will deny them to us. Makes sense, but again, this is hair splitting and elevating one strand as the basis of all morality and re-defining egoism.
It seems that even egoists inherently sense that pure egoism with no checks will lead to anarchy and a return to barbarism.
Christianity and Self-Interest:
God doesn’t need to command us to do things that are easy. Looking out for ourselves is the easiest thing for us to do. He doesn’t need to waste paper on such commands. But many things in our nature are not healthy, such as self-interest on steroids (i.e. greed, egoism). When we care nothing for others and only for ourselves no atrocity is too atrocious. Therefore, He needs to give commands against greed and to consider others as well.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and said, “…do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Paul is basically saying it’s possible to look out for our own interests as well as the interests of others. It’s an easily understandable truth and doesn’t need to be complicated by nit-picking words.
The “golden rule” says to do unto others as you want them to do to you. Jesus doesn’t say “do unto others and they will do the same to you.” He simply says treat others as you want to be treated regardless of whether they do the same. Loving others as ourselves is a standard in our relationships and we all seem to inherently know this is true.
Indictments of Christianity:
In attempts to condemn Christianity, it’s fascinating that both altruism and egoism have been used as evidence. Ayn Rand condemned it for being altruistic. Others condemn it for being egoistic, claiming that we only follow Christ and the Bible in order to gain heavenly rewards, or the joy of the Lord, or to stay out of hell.
Being accused of both ought to suggest that maybe it doesn’t quite teach either. Maybe it goes deeper than we initially see. Maybe the critics don’t understand it all as well as they think.
“I will never believe that an error against which so many and various defensive weapons have been found necessary was, from the outset, wholly lacking in plausibility. All this ‘post haste and rummage in the land’ obviously implies a respectable enemy.” – C.S. Lewis
Maybe our ideas of altruism and egoism aren’t quite what we make them out to be.
Maybe these terms are pointless and bring discussions with no end.
I finished the Army of the Potomac trilogy by Bruce Catton. They were totally worth the read and they will keep a prominent place on my bookshelf. These are the types of books that will likely get a re-read someday.
The first volume is Mr. Lincoln’s Army and follows the army from the first battle of Bull Run to the massive battle of Antietam. The second volume is Glory Road. It picks up where the first left off and follows the army through Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and ended with a long section on the battle of Gettysburg. The third volume is A Stillness at Appomattox and for this volume Catton won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. It deals with the army under the leadership of U.S. Grant from 1864 – 65.
The last year of the war was when it turned total and the destruction of Lee’s army became the prime focus, whatever the cost. Grant meant to end the war and the only way to do that was breaking the South’s ability to fight. This year saw the combats in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the crater at Petersburg. It also brought Sherman’s march to the sea (not dealt with in this book) and Sheridan’s war in the Shenandoah Valley, dealt with in some detail.
The main focus in these books is not just the events themselves, but the men of the lower echelons who participated in them. Many quotes are taken from letters, diaries, and regimental histories to illustrate life in this army and how the war affected them. Most were courageous but some were cowards; others enlisted for the cash bonus and then deserted at the first chance. All felt hunger and pain. One begins to feel guilty sitting on a couch eating Cheetos while reading about the struggles of these men through the mud, rain, dust, and blazing sun. Even though I constantly debate myself about which side in this war was more right, I still have to walk away with respect for anybody in our history who fought for this great country of ours—and become grieved at how we are throwing it away.
The Army of the Potomac never lacked fighting soldiers. It almost always lacked fighting generals. Because it was the army that protected Washington it was always pervaded with politics. Commanding generals had such pressure on them for victory that they often moved too cautiously, hesitating to make necessary decisions, and lost victories that would have been gained if the decisions were simply made.
McClellan always seemed to think Lee had twice the number of men than were actually there. During the Peninsula Campaign, Confederate General Magruder halted the entire might of the Union forces by continuously circling two regiments through a field, around some trees, and through the field again, thereby giving the appearance of a massive force. Later, when McClellan was nearing Richmond, Magruder sent “officers” into the woods to shout commands to imaginary brigades. The ruse made it seem there was a far larger army than was actually present. The hesitancy of the Union generals over this gave Lee time to organize his defenses. McClellan couldn’t even cross a river without a lot of thought! He and some officers sat their horses looking at a stream and McClellan said “I wish I knew how deep it is.” While other officers started making estimates George Custer got fed up with it, spurred his horse into the middle, and called out “That’s how deep it is, General.”
The Confederacy had men of action and quick decisions like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. As one of my history professors once said, “A maxim of war is that you never divide your army in the face of a superior force; unless your name is Robert E. Lee.” This comment nicely sums up the battle of Chancellorsville where Hooker had twice the men Lee had, was defending, but was still routed by a Lee’s split force. Fear of defeat caused the Union to be defeated far too many times.
It finally took men like Grant and Sheridan to win the war. They were men of action and quick decisions. After the Wilderness fight, instead of following previous examples and going back north, Grant continued to push south and fought at Spotsylvania a week later. During the Wilderness officers kept worrying over what Lee was going to do until Grant finally blew up at them yelling that he was sick and tired of hearing what Lee was going to do. “Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault and land in our rear and on both flanks at the same time. Go back to your command and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do!” When Lee retreated from Richmond in April 1865, Grant did not go into the capital to celebrate or rest; he pushed the tired army in pursuit because as long as the Army of Northern Virginia existed under the command of Robert E. Lee it was still dangerous and the war would continue.
When Sheridan led a fight he seemed to be everywhere at once, leading and encouraging the men onto victory, waving his hat and never considering defeat. This was something the Army of the Potomac had not seen much of and they began cheering Sheridan whenever they saw him. Sheridan pulled victory out of defeat a couple of times.
At the beginning of the war people believed it would be short. I sometimes wonder if it could have been. Lee met with near disaster several times and only escaped it because of the hesitancy of Union generals. McClellan had Richmond in his hands if only he had moved forward on the Peninsula. Lee was finished at Antietam but McClellan didn’t pursue and allowed him to escape. Lee might have been destroyed after Gettysburg but, since Meade pursued cautiously, Lee escaped. Even under Grant the hesitancy of officers gave the Confederacy time to organize defense, such as when Petersburg was wide open for the taking which would have cut off railroad supplies to Lee’s army in Richmond. Hancock saw it and wanted to move forward but was held back by General “Baldy” Smith. Even the men of Hancock’s battle-hardened II Corps were angry that they would not move forward into combat. They knew if Petersburg were not taken right then it would be taken only after a very hard fight. And that’s exactly what happened. In a matter of hours they lost the initiative and Petersburg would not be taken until nearly a year later and only at great loss. Much in this war hinged on doors that were only open for a couple of hours and it was the common soldier that paid the price for lost opportunities.
For any history buff these books are well worth the time. The works of Catton tend to focus on the Union side of the war and I hope to find an author of his caliber that focuses on the south. Any suggestions are more than welcome.
“We have grown up with the experience of our parents and grandparents that a man can and must plan, develop, and shape his own life, and that life has a purpose, about which a man must make up his mind, and which he must then pursue with all his strength. But we have learnt by experience that we cannot plan even for the coming day, that what we have built up is being destroyed overnight, and that our life, in contrast to that of our parents, has become formless or even fragmentary.