Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Greed, Trump, and Compassionate Conservatism



Trump in the 2016 campaign said he was very greedy, and implied that his greed is a good thing. 

Biblical Christianity, on its face, is in conflict with the basic goals of capitalism. The goal of capitalism is to win the game of Monopoly and have all the money, the Bible says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a gay man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Oh, wait a minute, I have one word wrong in that quote. The word "gay" to be replaced by rich. And, of course I love that Bible passage in which Jesus cast the abortionists out of the Temple. Oops, got that one wrong, too. It was the moneychangers. The love of money is the root of all evil. That comes from what, the Communist Manifesto? No, the Bible.
Now Christians can respond by saying that before turning God into a commie, you should think about the fact that wealth in itself isn't necessarily bad, so long as it is acquired ethically, and a person is generous with it once they get it. John Wesley said "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can." What no Christian can say is what Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, that greed is good. Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
One can, it seems to me, reconcile conservatism with Christianity by saying that while greed isn't good, and the wealthy should be generous in alleviating the poverty of others, attempts to get the government to force this generosity puts too much power in the hands of government. This puts the onus on private generosity, not the government, to alleviate the ill effects of social inequality. We can argue about whether this works, but at least the heart of it is in the right place. This "compassionate" version of conservatism is the only one compatible with Christianity. Given this, Christians who accept conservatism ought to have a real problem with a President who advocates and practices the Gordon Gekko philosophy that greed is good. Oh, he also says he loves to brag, and of course that one is on the top of the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.
While conservatism is consistent with Christianity, Trumpism is not.

59 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

Assuming "Trumpism" is defined as "doing things the way Trump does them", then I certainly agree it is not compatible with Christianity.

Of course, by the same token, in 2016 we did not have an option for someone whose personal "ism" would be compatible with Christianity. Which incompatibiltiy to choose? The one most likely to shift the Supreme Court in the direction we want, perhaps?

There are aspects of conservatism that are compatible with Christianity. There are aspects of progressivism that are, as well. There are aspects of both that are decidedly NOT compatible, and when you bring the two major political parties' behavior in to "champion" those causes, then the incompatibility increases drastically.

I see no way of voting for a political party and feeling like it is a Christian work. UNLESS...you believe that a particular policy is essential and voting for a certain party or candidate is the most likely way to achieve it, so you vote and hold your nose at everything else your vote entails.

And then, when conservative Christians have a choice between Trump and Clinton...who to choose? The walking flaw who might enact the policies you want, or the one who definitely won't?

I made my decision and didn't vote for either. Come what may, I did not feel I could vote for either in good conscious. At least that is compatible with Christianity.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, one can easily understand a neither-nor decision in many cases. Character flaws will damage the success of whatever causes that flawed candidate endorses. For example, Bill Clinton's known moral failings prevented Al Gore from championing the achievements of the administration in which he served, which is the best way for a vice-President to achieve promotion to the Presidency, and they also tamped down the embarrassment Trump experienced when his own proclivities in the same area were brought out for all to see when Access Hollywood came out. Thus, while Clinton won two elections, his actions may have cost his party two others, one in which his VP was the candidate, and the second when his wife was. Similarly, I don't think Trump can expand his base and appeal to people he doesn't already appeal to, so I think he is a doomed candidate if he goes for re-election. The trouble is, he is so strong among Republican primary votes that anti-Trump sentiment within the Republican party is not a pathway to nomination.

As a Christian, my hope is in Christ, and not in the success of some political party. I can be, and sometimes am, an enthusiastic supporter of political candidates and vote for members of political parties, but Christians are guaranteed to be uncomfortable with any political party. Motivations rooted in Christianity drive both the right and the left. Nevertheless I do think Trump is more than just flawed, he is flawed in a way that, if he isn't controlled, he will undermine our political system, and he treats things as virtues that are in fact deadly sins. I consider this to be far more dangerous than just, say, mistaken views concerning the personhood of fetuses.

Legion of Logic said...

Nevertheless I do think Trump is more than just flawed, he is flawed in a way that, if he isn't controlled, he will undermine our political system, and he treats things as virtues that are in fact deadly sins.

I think the way the parties behave in Congress has done more to undermine the political system than Trump could ever accomplish.

Starhopper said...

Being rich is no sin. Scripture is replete with rich persons who are also held up as role models. Abraham comes to mind, as does Job, and Joseph of Arimathea.

What is sinful is worshiping wealth, turning it into an idol - a false god. That was the point of Jesus' admonition to the rich young man, telling him to sell his possessions and "follow me". Christ was not telling everybody to do likewise, but only the young man. His wealth had become a barrier between him and God, whereas Job's was not.

But on the whole, I regard great wealth as a mortal danger and a great curse. I'm glad that I have enough to get by, but no more. And what surplus I do have, I mostly give away.

If I ever did have 5 minutes face time with Trump, I would use all of that time to urge him in the strongest language possible to divest himself of all of his wealth, other than enough to meet his daily needs.

Legion of Logic said...

I'm sure he would find some scripture in Two Corinthians to counter you.

Starhopper said...

Ha! Some days, I am really slow. Took me a while before I recognized this as sarcasm.

But I was quite serious. I know full well such an improbable meeting will never ever take place, but let's say it did. What would you do with such an opportunity? Plug some policy? Good luck with that! I meant what I wrote. I would use the time to save his soul.

Legion of Logic said...

I'd be surprised if he has ever opened a Bible. I'd imagine he saw an open Bible shortly before that comment and it was open to 2 Corinthians, so he thought he'd sound pious by mentioning "Two Corinthians".

He's already said he does not feel he needs forgiveness. I'm not sure what I would do with a personal interaction that I felt would be productive in any manner, but what you suggest is the best we could do.

bmiller said...

Victor,

I don't think Trump can expand his base and appeal to people he doesn't already appeal to, so I think he is a doomed candidate if he goes for re-election.

No problem then. How can he "undermine our political system" if he is a lame duck.
Our political system has a 4 year election cycle for president for this very reason. Now if we only had term limits for the Senate and Congress.

bmiller said...

However, if people don't understand what his appeal was in 2016 how do they think it will be different in 2020.

This Vanity Fair article gives a reasonable argument of why Trump won.

Now I could have linked to a "conservative" site that said substantially the same thing, but really, how many people still reading this blog would have gotten the vapors if I had done that. :-)

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...



My dialogue with atheist celebrity Jeff Lowder of secular outpost and sec web fame, on his debate with Frank Turek and other issues,



Metacrock's blog

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Trump is consistent with Capitalism. God is a commie by capitalist standards.

bmiller said...

If God were a commie there would be fewer than 10 commandments. There wouldn't be that business about stealing and coveting.

Starhopper said...

Way, way too many people and movements throughout history have claimed "God is on our side!" when He isn't on anyone's "side". The question that ought to be asked is, "Are we on His side?"

The Creator of all things visible and invisible cannot be boxed in by our petty "isms". He is not a capitalist, nor a socialist. He favors neither the Democratic nor the Republican party.

If anything, He's a monarchist (but that's another story).

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

You've got something there. Both capitalistic and communistic theories came out of Enlightenment thinking which wasn't all that enlightening.

Starhopper said...

Part of my reasoning comes from C.S. Lewis's marvellous chapter on "Christianity and.." in The Screwtape Letters. (If anyone reading this site has not yet read that book, you NEED to drop whatever you're doing and get a copy, and read the danged thing.) To sum it up, Lewis basically says that whenever a believer uses his faith as an argument for a favorite cause, whatever it be, that cause rapidly becomes the most important thing, and the faith (and Jesus, and God) become merely useful allies.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,


So you mean that using biblical phrases like "Thy Kingdom come" as an argument for advancing a particular stand on immigration policy would be wrong? 😉

Starhopper said...

Nope. It would not be.

bmiller said...

Right ;-)

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

bmiller:
If God were a commie there would be fewer than 10 commandments. There wouldn't be that business about stealing and coveting.


sucker

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Way, way too many people and movements throughout history have claimed "God is on our side!" when He isn't on anyone's "side". The question that ought to be asked is, "Are we on His side?"

The Creator of all things visible and invisible cannot be boxed in by our petty "isms". He is not a capitalist, nor a socialist. He favors neither the Democratic nor the Republican party.

If anything, He's a monarchist (but that's another story).

excellent, if you wan to be serious

bmiller said...

No private property. Nothing to steal or covet.

Starhopper said...

Sounds like a John Lennon song.

bmiller said...

Kind of what I was going for.

Starhopper said...

I look upon wealth, and possessions in general, as relevant only insofar as they pertain to an individual's relation to God. If a person is basically possessed by his possessions (in effect worshiping them), then they are a great evil. Whereas if an individual sees himself as merely the steward of the things he "owns", and wonders how he can best use them for the benefit of all, then they can well be a gread good.

As for myself, I strive to own no more than what is necessary to maintain a comfortable existence, and any excess I routinely give away (typically about a third of my income). like St. Paul, I write this not to "boast" but rather to establish my credentials. I estimate that in the past 2 years, I have given away more than a quarter million dollars to others, without asking anything in return. That figure is considerable higher than usual, because I gave away almost everything I had profited from the sale of my house. (That, of course, cannot be repeated.) I didn't need it, and did not wish to be burdened by it.

bmiller said...

Did you give any of it to relatives?

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

I;ve done a second interview with Rauser. It'son my TS argument

Interview here

Starhopper said...

bmiller,

Yes. I also give regularly to the Catholic Church (the Diocese of Baltimore), the Vatican Observatory, 3 political organizations, WYPR, various friends in need, and a village in northern Togo, Africa - especially to two girls there for whom I am pretty much sole support.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

Good for you because family comes first.

I'm not sure the observatory, radio station or political organizations count as charity though.

Starhopper said...

"I'm not sure the observatory, radio station or political organizations count as charity though."

Neither do I. You asked who I gave money to, not whether such giving was "charity". It's primarily a desire to own as little as possible in this world. I have a plaque in my (rented) kitchen which reads "The best things in life aren't things," and I've pretty much kept to that mantra. I own the necessities of life, such as my clothes, my car, some furniture, my (cheap) laptop, my pots and pans, etc. But the only extraneous physical objects in my possession are my books (lots of them!), my collection of Catholic religious statuary, and my telescope. (And since the latter is so frequently used in what we amateur astronomers refer to as Public Outreach, I've justification to include its use amongst my "giving".)

Starhopper said...

Hmm.. Speaking of telescopes, over the past couple of years, I've donated a good 4 or 5 thousand dollars worth of astronomical equipment to Howard County for use in their public events.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

You asked who I gave money to, not whether such giving was "charity".

That's true, but I think that you do expect something in return of the other organizations I listed.

For instance I doubt you'd continue to give money to WYPR if they started running 3 hours of Rush Limbaugh daily. :-)

Starhopper said...

Who knows? I might be tempted to bribe them to stop!

bmiller said...

Haha!

bmiller said...

"Imagine no possessions"

Goes along with:

"Imagine there’s no Heaven"

I like the song as long as I can ignore some of the lyrics.
But the real message is that religion gets in the way of the Communist ideal.

God would not have had a commandment against theft if private property was not in His plan.

It seems to me a sort of heresy. By that I mean The term heresy, from Greek αἵρεσις, originally meant "choice" or "thing chosen",.

The Catholic Church has always taught:
We should treat people as individuals.
We should look out for the good of the community.

But didn't the Enlightment end up dissected this into individuals vs community?

Stereotypical complaints about communism is that it only concerns the welfare of the community at the expense of the individual while stereotypical complaints about capitalism is that it only concerns the individual at the expense of the community.

Lennon (both of them), thought you have to get rid of God to reach what was the "good of the community". I'll let you all to list the names of those who thought you have to get rid of God to reach what was the "good of the individual". I'll probably agree.

Starhopper said...

Ha! If only we had a third Lenin/Lennon. One who embodied "get rid of God for the good of the individual" and the symmetry would be perfect. (Oh, I know. We have dozens of such (Such as Ayn Rand). But, alas, their names do not rhyme with Lenin.)

I would cheerfully wager a sizable sum that I have read more Lenin than anyone else who habituates this site. And let me tell you, the more I read, the more of an enigma he is. On the one hand, his aspirations were truly wonderful - a utopia for all Mankind. But on the other (and more important) hand, his actual actions were truly horrific, creating a true hell on Earth. This sets him apart from other monsters of the 20th Century, such as Hitler and Stalin, whose actions and "ideals" were indistinguishable.

bmiller said...

Why do you consider Lenin worse than Hitler?

If you asked the modern American who was the most evil person in history it would definitely be Hitler.

Legion of Logic said...

If anything, I think he was saying that Lenin was superior to Hitler and Stalin, if only because Lenin's stated ideal was not evil in of itself. I wouldn't know, as I am completely unfamiliar with Lenin.

Starhopper said...

I guess I did not express myself clearly. I didn't mean to say that Lenin was worse than Hitler, but that his ideals and his actions were poles apart. Such was not the case with either Hitler or Stalin. In their cases, they both practiced what they preached - which was pure evil. But Lenin wrote and preached extensively about creating a paradise here on Earth, all the while creating the exact opposite.

Quite the enigma.

Hal said...

I would agree, I didn't get the impression he was implying Lenin was more evil than Stalin or Hitler.

I would disagree with his view that Stalin and Hitler were equally evil. Seems to me that Hitler was ideologically motivated to wipe out or enslave all peoples he viewed as racially inferior to the Aryan race. Stalin seems to have been motivated mainly by self-preservation.

Of course this doesn't speak to the relative evil of Stalin or Hitler, but it was the self-sacrifice of the Russian people that were primarily responsible for the defeat of Hitler. Hopefully, the teaching of history in our schools has improved since I was in high school. Back in the 60's the emphasis in history class was on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. The fighting on the Eastern Front was little more than a footnote.

An excellent history of WW2 is Gerhard L. Weinberg's "A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II".

Hal said...

My above post was directed to Legion of Logic. Starhopper posted his while I was composing mine. Sorry.

bmiller said...

But Lenin wrote and preached extensively about creating a paradise here on Earth, all the while creating the exact opposite.

Sounds like something the Devil would do doesn't it?

Starhopper said...

"Sounds like something the Devil would do doesn't it?"

No question about that - it's to be expected. But what intrigues me is when human beings do the same thing.

bmiller said...

Something that intrigues me is that people would believe any human invented "-ism" could bring paradise here on Earth.

Starhopper said...

bmiller: So you mean that using biblical phrases like "Thy Kingdom come" as an argument for advancing a particular stand on immigration policy would be wrong?

Me: Nope. It would not be.

bmiller: Right ;-)

In today's Gospel reading from the Catholic liturgy, I gained a fresh insight into this very matter. Here is the reading:

Again Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here." And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6)

Now read this news story from the Washington Post.

Now let's do a midrash on the above reading from Mark:

Again the women entered the wildlife preserve, where people were dying of thirst in the desert. And the authorities watched them, to see whether they would violate the law, so that they might accuse them. And the women said to the thirsty migrants, "Here is water to drink." And they said to the authorities, "Is it lawful in the preserve to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But the authorities were silent. And the women looked around at them with astonishment, grieved at their hardness of heart, and again said to the thirsting people, "Here is water to drink." And they drank their fill. The authorities went out, and immediately arrested the women, and sentenced them to prison.

See the difference? The women are not claiming that God is on their side, but rather that they are on His side, acting as Jesus does.

bmiller said...

Aside from the fact that Jesus was actually following the Law (healing a gentile on the Sabbath would have been prohibited, not a Jew) Jesus was not part of a Marxist group trespassing in an environmentally protected area and creating an attractive nuisance.

Like C.S. Lewis said, it's a shame when people try to twist biblical stories into advocating for their favorite political cause.

There is nothing immoral about a country limiting immigration and citizenship including a naturalization process, in fact is biblical. As Aquinas notes when foreigners wished to be admitted into complete fellowship with the Israelites "a certain order was observed: For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations,"

Starhopper said...

There is a gigantic difference between "twisting" biblical stories and being inspired by them in one's actions. Did the abolitionists "twist" the story of the Exodus when they felt its call to end slavery? Are the pro-lifers "twisting" Psalm 139 when it inspires them to protect the preborn? Were those women at the border "twisting" scripture when they heard the words "I was thirsty and you gave me to drink"? I don't think so.

In each of the above examples, the various persons are not claiming that God is somehow taking their side, but are rather being motivated by the inspired word of God to act in a particular fashion - to take, as it were, God's side.

bmiller said...

Likewise slaveholders pointed to the bible to justify slavery. So please just stop.

It appears to me that you are motivated by Lenin-Marxist theory of globalism, but of course the motivations of people in a rational dispute about policy are irrelevant.

It is life and death stupid for illegals to try to cross the Sonoran desert period. So if those women really wanted to save lives, they would do everything in their power to dissuade people from making the attempt.

We have impediments on high buildings to prevent people from falling off or jumping. Putting a mattress on the ground and telling jumpers to aim for that irresponsible to the point of culpability in their death. That's why I called what they did an attractive nuisance.

bmiller said...

s/b "is irresponsible"

Starhopper said...

"It appears to me that you are motivated by Lenin-Marxist theory of globalism."

Not quite. I am motivated by Dante Alighieri's theory of globalism*, as spelled out in detail in the Paradiso.

Bring back the Holy Roman Empire!

* Not his term. (It wasn't invented yet.)

bmiller said...

Paradiso on earth was what Lenin-Marx was peddling but is always really Inferno on earth.

Dante wrote about Heaven, not Heaven on Earth. Looks like confirmation of my suspicions.

BTW, the HRE was not global.

Starhopper said...

"BTW, the HRE was not global."

Au contrare, that is exactly what it was - at least in theory. The emperor was the universal authority on Earth, co-equal to the pope, to whom all kings and lesser rulers were subject, and who was himself subject only to Christ.

I've got two fat tomes on my bookshelf, The Holy Roman Empire by James Bryce, and Heart of Europe by Peter Wilson, both of which explain how that was supposed to (but alas never quite did) work in practice. The first book, despite its antiquity (it was written in the 1860s) is, in my opinion, the superior work. Bryce approaches his material chronologically, whilst Wilson treats the subject thematically, making for a lot of unnecessary confusion and a sense of "Haven't we been here before?" - especially after the 4th or 5th time we return to the 9th Century.

The decline and ultimate demise of the HRE is one of the great tragedies of history. It's impotence led to the Napoleonic Wars, and its absence to the World Wars of the last century.

bmiller said...

It was mostly German and this Wikipedia article has a nice graphic showing it's borders.

Not very global when most of the globe did not consider itself under HRE rule.

I'll tell you what. You can call yourself the Holy Roman Emperor as long as you keep to yourself. I promise I won't bother you as long as you don't tell me what to do :-)

Legion of Logic said...

The decline and ultimate demise of the HRE is one of the great tragedies of history.

You have no problem with the concept of a religious dictatorship with the power to censure, imprison, or even execute people who disagree?

Starhopper said...

"You have no problem with the concept of a religious dictatorship with the power to censure, imprison, or even execute people who disagree?"

"I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks." (General Turgidson, Dr. Strangelove)

bmiller said...

Legion,

Protestant controlled countries arrested, tried and executed Catholics and other Protestants also, since religious freedom was not a thing until fairly recently.

The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation certainly did need reformation and I doubt you'll find a Catholic that disagrees. But state religion was universal and not just a Catholic thing so you should pick on a unique Catholic practice or belief if you want to complain about it.

Legion of Logic said...

I didnt even know there WERE Protestant-led countries. Of course, I also tend to automatically think Baptist and Presbyterian, etc. when I think "Protestant". So thank you for that. Men are the same everywhere.

But if Luther or someone like him hadn't arrived, it would still be the Catholic Church in charge, so hypothetically the question would still stand.

bmiller said...

Presbyterianism was the Church of Scotland and most Protestants denominations that came to America seeking religious freedom were escaping the Church of England.

England still has that state church and Germany now has 2 stage churches rather than 1. So unless you want to argue that it's OK for only Protestants to have a state church and not Catholics then its not fair to single out Catholic countries.

The Catholic kings would argue with you about who was "in charge" as they frequently did in their fights with the Church and the Pope.


Starhopper said...

"The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation certainly did need reformation and I doubt you'll find a Catholic that disagrees."

Well, I'm a Catholic, and I do disagree - emphatically. The Church was definitely in need of reform. It always is (especially today). But a "Reformation"? Nope. That's like amputating a limb because of a blister. Terrible idea.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

The act of reforming is called a reformation. Not THE Reformation.

The formal action of that reformation was the Council of Trent.

The Franciscan Order was founded by St Francis and focused on his charism, care for the poor, Dominicans by St. Dominic and his charism of teaching and so on for the other orders.

Now it is good to care for the poor and to educate, but that doesn't mean that one is right and the other is wrong.

From the Catholic perspective we see things as "both and" rather than "either or". It looks to us that Protestants keep splitting because they see things as "either or".