The Moral Hazard of Intentions Based Policy
Some readers may have been wondering how a series of posts titled “Mainline Christianity and Progressive Politics” could have focused almost exclusively on general Progressives for so long. The answer is that Mainline Christian politics (from the leadership and organizational perspective) is often virtually indistinguishable from secular Progressive politics. The only difference is that a sentence here or there in Mainline political statements might mention Jesus or the Bible or something else vaguely religious in origin.
For the last four posts I have been indirectly describing the “moral hazard” associated with the intentions based policy philosophy used (though certainly not exclusively) by Progressives (Christian or otherwise). A useful definition for this term is:
Moral hazard is a situation where somebody has the opportunity to take advantage of somebody else by taking risks that the other will pay for. The idea is that people might ignore the moral implications of their choices: instead of doing what is right, they do what benefits them the most.
It’s now time to directly call out the key dimensions of moral hazard into which Progressivism has fallen headfirst.
Votes and Political Power
In the recent presidential election candidate Donald Trump asked black voters: “What do you have to lose by trying something new?” Candidate Hillary Clinton wasted no time in answering that question: “What do black people stand to lose under Trump? Everything!” Her response adds additional evidence to the conclusion that Progressives literally believe that Republican’s “bad intentions” will inexorably lead to “bad results.”
However, this incident also illuminates a massive moral hazard for Democrats. For, given that they depend on 90%+ of black votes for continuance of their political power, isn’t it far more certain that the Democrat Party would lose “everything” were the black community to lessen their level of support?
So, given that current welfare, education and crime policies (among others) have created this massive block voting by the black community, the downside to any reforms that might lead to improvements in their lot could be political death. Given the stakes, is it really credible that Democratic politicians, bureaucrats and supporters are so morally superior that they are immune to such a temptation? I say absolutely not.
If your self-image is that of a Progressive “hero” who delivers the best possible results to the designated “beneficiaries” because of your “good” intentions, then it could become acceptable for those beneficiaries to remain in need. If you have been a “beneficiary” and become dependent, then you also could come to desire that the Progressive “heroes” remain in power. This codependence can tempt both sides into supporting a failing status quo.
Hate-Based Self Esteem
If your self-image is that of a morally superior “hero,” then besides the need for “beneficiaries” there is the need for “villains.” However, beyond providing “proof” of your own moral superiority, “villains” also can become objects of hate. That’s because the “heroes” can begin to believe that “villains” exist not because they make honest errors or hold mistaken beliefs, but because they harbor “bad intentions.” So, the Progressive moral model demands that the world be split into “heroes,” “villains” and “beneficiaries.” Thus, our shared humanity can be denied, creating a world with greater strife and violence. And so, Progressives obtain their fraudulent fantasies of moral superiority at the expense of other human beings and create a debased culture in the process.
If you are a Christian who erroneously seeks a works-based mark of salvation, you might well be drawn to the easy moral superiority promised by adherence to Progressive politics. “Evidence” for a works-based salvation can be most easily found by comparing oneself to others. Is there currently a more potent, visible ideology that allows the manufacture of accredited “heroes” and “villains” than Progressivism? And, if you are a Mainline Progressive Christian leader, might the temptation to encourage such false belief in order to advance your preferred political policies be strong?
There is another dimension to this theological error, that being the narrowing of Christian virtue and vocation to only those acts directly associated with Progressive sources. Thus, for example, were a person in their private-sector job to enable creation of many well-paying jobs (through honest, hard work) throughout the world, it may not count as “good works” in the Progressive Christian worldview. That’s because, by their blinkered definition, these works were not motivated by approved “good intentions.”
Therefore, those of us who define our Christian vocation as encompassing all of our lives are yet regularly harangued by believers who only allow their pet Progressive Christian projects to be included in “good works.” They literally don’t appear to care that we are generating good results outside of their narrowly defined domain.
Of course, I am not here thinking of good works as having anything to do with our salvation in Christ. Rather they are thank-offerings for that undeserved grace by which we have been saved through Christ Jesus.
Finally, trusting souls are told that slavish adherence to secular Progressive positions makes them into “super Christians.” That is, because of their superior Progressive-derived “good intentions” they hold a special place of authority in the church. From that fraudulent perch they decide what works are actually Christian. They also sometimes imagine that they are free to misinterpret the Bible as necessary to bring its teachings into line with the positions determined by the secular Progressive elite.
This analysis may explain why Progressives have such a powerful compulsion to claim moral superiority. For, by virtue of the scope and aggressiveness of their ideology they unavoidably place themselves in positions of great moral hazard. Only by presuming that they have moral purity and perfection far beyond that of normal humanity can they convince themselves that their power will not result in bad, even evil results. Of course, this presumption is built from pure fantasy, as they are made of the same fallen moral material as is everyone else. However, the fact that they so convince themselves of falsehood makes them far more dangerous when in power, and far more fragile and unstable when they are on the outs.