Commonplace Book #118

Evangelical pronouncements on the role of government are often contradictory.  Sometimes when attacking government measures they dislike, evangelical voices use libertarian arguments that forbid almost all government programs to help the poor. (“Helping the poor is a task for individuals and churches, not the government.  Government should provide a legal framework, fair courts, and police protection but then leave almost everything else to the free choice of individuals.”)  But when the issue changes from the poor to the family, the definition of marriage, abortion, or pornography, the same people quickly abandon libertarian arguments that maximize individual freedom.  Instead they push vigorously  for legislation that involves substantial government restriction of individual choices.  It is possible that there are valid intellectual arguments for adopting libertarian arguments in the first case and nonlibertarian arguments in the second.  But a careful argument would have to be made.  Without such argument, flipping from libertarian to nonlibertarian arguments looks confused and superficial.

Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics, 20.

2 thoughts on “Commonplace Book #118

  1. It seems contradictory but it’s completely logical. What’s good for the tribe is good.

    What’s good for everyone outside of the tribe is a) questionable, b) bad, or c) intolerable and everything is weighed via zero-sum calculation. It’s basic anti-pluralism self-promotion leading to a fearful and closed system/society. The greater the fear the more the system leans toward “c,” or intolerable and existential danger.

    If your tribe is conservative Evangelical Christianity (or its non-Evangelical equivalent) then anything that even smacks of criticism or challenge must be eliminated even if that means the more liberal strains of Christianity. The more elimination the better. (John, that’s why it’s always interesting to see you called out for “attacking” your fellow Christian when the whole edifice of liberal theology is under attack from the inside.)

    Secularism, as a political ideology that was mentioned a couple of posts ago, gives equal space to competing religious and non-religious thinking and ideologies and is intrinsically compatible with pluralism and, therefore, is the ultimate heresy to be eliminated by conservative Evangelical activists and their allies seeking self-serving privilege. That is why the Christian nationalist movement hates them some George Soros and his Open Society concept.* (see Karl Popper’s The Open Society and It’s Enemies , which was conceived and written during the height height of the fascist threat in Europe culminating in WWII). That is why the Christian nationalist movement works shamelessly and without deviation or distraction to create a Christian-nation myth based on outright lies and distortions.

    To those opposed to pluralism, and frankly, the rights and shared privileges of an open society, it must be very annoying to live in an America that the rabble – the people of the greater tribe – get equal attention. No wonder they always seem so cranky. No wonder they always seem so dead set on retribution.

    Anyways, that’s my guess.

    * defense of democratic, egalitarian, and liberal values – open to pluralism and wholly consistent with the ideology of “All men are created equal” and with the recognition of unqualified and unalienable rights of conscience and expression.


  2. John, have you noticed that Sider makes the same logical error he points out here when he considers homosexuality?


Comments are closed.