So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pleading the Eighth, Part Two

            Like I said in the last posting, harboring “private” sin is bad, and eventually it’s going to harm you and those around you in concentric circles. Like ripples in a pond when a stone is dropped into it, your sin has an effect on the world, just like mine does. But one of the signs of sickness in a man or society’s soul is that he (it) doesn’t bother to hide sin and instead celebrates it publicly and tries to encourage others to indulge.
            Theft, or more precisely a contempt for the 8th Commandment, is not only indulged in by people in our society (as in every society) but flouting it is celebrated publicly. And I think that’s a problem.
            How is it celebrated? Well, today we’ll discuss one such expression of this: Apparently your right to own property is based upon how much wealth you already have. The more you have, the more acceptable it is to steal it from you.
            What do I mean by this?
            Let’s look at the big boogeymen of modern-day society: CEO’s of private corporations. People seem to find it perfectly acceptable to say that CEO’s make too much money, especially in comparison with those on the bottom of the Totem Pole. They say that the income gap between a CEO used to be X times what the janitor made thirty years ago, and now it’s 20 times X what the janitor makes.
            As I’ve tried to make the case earlier, the idea that God is concerned in the slightest with income disparity is found nowhere in Scripture. If Bill Gates or some billionaire makes 1000 times in a day what I make in 10 years, how does that hurt me in the slightest?
            But here’s where I need to really let loose some tough love. If a company’s stock holders decide to pay a CEO a certain amount, how is that your business, either literally or figuratively? The Board of Directors, acting as representatives of the stock holders, oversees the CEO. His salary is based on the contract that he signed with them. The stock holders own that company. If you think he’s making too much money, then buy some stock so you have a voice in how that company’s run.
            BTW, as I found out by reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, much of the time a CEO has a set salary based on the employment contract, not based on how well the company does. It's much like a contract a company has with an advertising agency. If the agency has a really successful ad campaign, the money paid to the agency is still the same. If the ad falls flat on its face, the company still has to pay the ad company what it agreed to. That’s why you see CEO’s who get huge bonuses even when the company fails: That’s what’s in the contract. Now, maybe you disagree with the way the system works. That’s fine. Then start your own company, which you own, and you can set the rules however you like within the boundaries of the law. But quite frankly it really irks me when I hear people who don’t run a company, who don’t own stock in a company, and who’ve never run a multi-million dollar company think they know what a CEO ought to be paid. You’re not the one paying his salary.
            You can see this in how some people seem to think that stealing from a huge corporation is fine, but stealing from an individual, especially a poor person, is bad. They have absolutely no idea how big companies make our standard of living possible. Unless you’re highly unusual, there are probably very few objects or services in your life which aren’t brought to you by a huge corporation or company. The lights in your house? The running water? The computer you’re typing on? The car you drive? The gas in your tank? The food in your fridge? The electricity that powers your fridge and everything else in your house? It’s very likely that everything I just named was manufactured and brought to you by a huge corporation or company. Your quality of life is made possible by these big evil companies and corporations.
            How’s about stealing intellectual property? Younger people think that it’s perfectly fine to steal music and movies from rich and famous musicians and actors. They download stuff without paying for it and don’t think once about it, much less twice. They’d likely feel it’s less acceptable if the object of their theft is a band that’s just starting up or an entrepreneur who’s just started his own business, but if they’re stealing from a multi-million dollar music company or movie studio, then it’s apparently OK.
            People sometimes love to justify theft by talking about “greedy” companies and CEO’s. The problem is that apparently they define “greed” as somehow different from what they practice every day of their lives. Tell me something: Do you look for the best value at the lowest possible price? Do you shop around and give someone your patronage based on that standard? Then why is it wrong for a company to do the exact same thing? If a company can hire A) someone for $8 an hour or B) another person for $12 an hour to do the exact same work, then whom do you expect them to hire? Don’t you do the same thing, in every single business transaction you engage in?
           “Oh, but they’re already rich, so it’s OK to steal from them.” Spoken or unspoken, the principle seems to be that the rules ought to be different for rich people vs. poor people. Well, maybe that’s how you feel, but that’s not what the Bible tells us. Here’s what Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, specifically told the Israelites:

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

            Dennis Prager put it so well: In the “micro” areas of life—in our personal relationships--we need to show kindness, compassion, mercy, and love, just like the Lord’s shown us, especially towards the poor and those who’re downtrodden. But in the “macro”—as far as government (which enforces such things as property rights) is concerned—the keys words are impartiality, justice, and truth. What do the facts and the law say?
            Stealing is stealing is stealing. The Commandment says “You shall not steal.” It doesn’t say “You shall not steal. . .unless the guy’s rich,” or “. . .unless you think he’s made too much money," or ". . .unless you don't like the guy." 
            Yes, there are lots of things more important than money or other types of wealth. As our Savior (who came from a pretty lower class background) put it: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Some other time we might get into trying to nail down exactly what “greed” means.
            But that’s entirely irrelevant to our discussion at hand. My thesis is that our society, influenced by Leftist thought, has bought into the notion that some forms of theft are perfectly acceptable. The more on the Left you get, the less and less you value the importance of property rights, at least the rights of those people you don't happen to like. I feel the need to point out again: The Eighth Commandment has no asterisks or caveats.
            Let’s talk about our popular culture in the next posting. 

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