The Purpose of Relentless Hysteria (2)

A herd of Guardian readers reacts to the latest news. The BFD.

The state into which our Elites would like to reduce us Commoners

Understanding the Purpose

Occasionally after a period of frustration on how to address a particular issue an article fortuitously appears that opens the doors of enlightenment.  Just such an article, titled “The luxury of apocalypticism” recently bubbled to the top of my reading.  The following excerpt beautifully captures one key dimension of this behavior by our elite “betters.”

Here, we cut to the heart of the apocalyptic mindset of the modern elites. Their dread over natural calamities or novel new illnesses is not driven by the actual facts about these things, far less by the desire to overcome them through the deployment of human expertise and scientific discovery. Rather, it speaks to their pre-existing moral disorientation, their deep loss of faith in the human project itself. It is their downbeat cultural convictions that draws them to apocalypticism as surely as a light draws in moths. In her essay on the AIDS panic of the late 1980s, when that sexually transmitted disease was likewise imagined as a portent of civiliational doom, Susan Sontag talked about the West’s widespread ‘sense of cultural distress or failure’ that leads it to search incessantly for an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ and for ‘fantasies of doom’. There is a ‘striking readiness of so many to envisage the most far-reaching of catastrophes’, she wrote. It wasn’t so much ‘Apocalypse Now’, said Sontag, as ‘Apocalypse From Now On’.

How perspicacious that was. From AIDS to climate change, from swine flu to Covid-19, it has been one apocalyptic scenario after another. The irony is that the elites who readily envisage catastrophe think they are showing how seriously they take genuine social and medical challenges, such as Covid-19. In truth, they demonstrate the opposite. They confirm that they have absolved themselves of the reason and focus required for confronting threats to our society. It isn’t their apocalypticism that captures the human urge to solve genuine problems – it is our anti-apocalypticism, our calmness, our insistence that resources and attention be devoted to genuine challenges without disrupting people’s lives or the economic health of our societies.

‘I want you to panic’, they say. But we don’t. And we shouldn’t. Apocalypticism is a luxury of the new elites for whom crises are often little more than opportunities for the expression of their decadent disdain for modern society. To the rest of us, apocalypticism is a profound problem. It threatens to spread fear in our communities, it causes us to lose our jobs, it mitigates against economic growth, and it harms democracy itself. Resisting the apocalypticism of the comfortable doom-mongers who rule over us is unquestionably the first step to challenging Covid-19 and preserving society for the decades after this illness has wreaked its disgraceful impact.

But even this excellent passage doesn’t expose the full story.  For while it explains the psychological underpinnings of this behavior it doesn’t address the purpose.  This purpose is hinted at by the first sentence in this same excellent article.

People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years.

Panicked humans are far more susceptible to suggestion and manipulation then are calm humans.  However, if humans can be panicked as a mob the effect is multiplied by orders of magnitude.  Thus, if you are attempting to market ideologies that have been demonstrated by any rational analysis to be utter failures or even genocidal, then your best hope for success is by inducing the irrationality associated with a panicked mob.

That they have thus far failed to achieve this end (but the COVID-19 hysteria may break this string of failures) has left our “elites” in a state of psychological degradation that undermines all claim to their supposed status.  Returning one last time to the article.

According to the new elites, their apocalypticism is normal, while our calm democratic commitment to a political project, such as … our desire to treat pollution as a practical problem rather than as a swirling, cloudy hint of nature’s coming fury with man’s hubris and destructiveness, is mad, deranged, in need of treatment.

Yes, our levelheadedness and calm prevents them from rushing us over the cliff into the abyss of their proto-totalitarian rule.  The punishment will continue until we comply, or perhaps until we throw them out from their positions of undeserved power.

Lemmings at the cliff

The Purpose of Relentless Hysteria (1)

Introduction

Looking back on this blog’s content one obvious theme is the seemingly purposeful deployment of hysteria to advance social-political goals.  I suppose it’s natural for this theme to rise up into view given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.  While I may cover this particular contemporary issue in detail later, the following excerpt provides a good summary of our current situation.

While we should be concerned and diligent, the situation has dramatically elevated to a mob-like fear spreading faster than COVID-19 itself. When 13% of Americans believe they are currently infected with COVID-19 (mathematically impossible), full-on panic is blocking our ability to think clearly and determine how to deploy our resources to stop this virus.

don-t-keep-calm-the-end-is-nearCertainly the “climate change” community has sought to induce a sense of hysterical doom in the general public for the past 50 years at least.  Although I’ve blogged extensively on this issue, recent explicit statements by this community’s designated leaders have confirmed my point.

‘The planet is burning’, they lie, in relation to climate change, … ‘I want you to panic’, instructs the newest mouthpiece of green apocalypticism, Greta Thunberg

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Progressive hysteria

However the most posts by far have been devoted to the elite Progressive freak-out caused by the election of Donald trump to the Presidency.  In fact, so numerous and wide ranging were these posts that I organized them into my latest eBook, titled The Progressive Riot.  What but hysteria does the cover to this book seek to convey?

But this hysteria isn’t randomly deployed.  No, it has a definite purpose in pursuit of a specific goal, that being to convince the American public that they allowed a man of ultimate evil to attain the highest office in the nation.  It is this sin from which they must repent by throwing him out of office or the beatings will continue.

Perhaps the best summary of my thoughts can be found in a post titled Progressive Insanity (2).

What we are witnessing is a collective nervous breakdown by a group that viewed themselves as the perfect-righteous; confronting the cataclysmic reality that over sixty-million citizens disagreed enough to elect their polar opposite to the Presidency.  In fact, enough citizens in states that had for decades voted reliably for the “righteous” politicians turned traitor to righteousness and voted for an “unrighteous bigot.”  This outcome has launched the elite perfect-righteous into a state of mind-shattering cognitive dissonance from which escape will be at the very least painful and difficult.

What has emerged is a group of people who occupy powerful positions in our nation whose personalities have disintegrated and been reconstituted as seemingly undifferentiated components of a massive social justice mob.  They will believe anything, say anything and do anything, in collectivist unison, to destroy the source of this atrocity committed against their sense of perfect-righteousness.

I contend that there is a consistent purpose to all of these examples (and so many more) of hysteria-mongering.  It is this thesis that I will explore in the following posts.

Psalm 13

Psalm-13-how-long

Introduction

David, being afflicted, not only with the deepest distress, but also feeling himself, as it were, overwhelmed by a long succession of calamities and multiplied afflictions, implores the aid and succor of God, the only remedy which remained for him; and, in the close, taking courage, he entertains the assured hope of life from the promise of God, even amidst the terrors of death.

Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I

Commentary

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?

I fear that our problem in the United States isn’t that God has hidden His face from us, but rather that we have taken His blessings for granted.  Even worse, we no longer even acknowledge that our blessings come from Him.

We foolishly assume that regardless of how we behave and what we believe there will be an endless blessing of peace and prosperity.  We in our churches are free to worship, but too often we consider Christianity to be just politics by other means.

God has every reason to hide His face from us.  He has every reason to turn His back and leave us to the terror and judgement that we have stored up for ourselves.  The tragic truth is that it is often only by a terrible judgement that a decadent and corrupt people rediscovers their need for God.

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

But the Psalmist lives in assurance that God will indeed demonstrate His justice in the end.  Thus, the issue isn’t if, but rather when.

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

The Psalmist sees his own fate as entangled with God’s reputation.  The argument appears to be that if God allows the Psalmist’s enemies to win they will interpret it as God’s failure and thus His weakness.  We can cynically say that this is a selfish attitude.  However, if our heart’s desire is for others to trust in the True God then our fondest hope is that others will find Him.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Even within this time of fear and suffering there is trust in God’s love and salvation.  The fact that God appears to tarry has no impact on the ultimate issue of faith.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Note that this song of praise occurs before salvation from these current trials.  The Psalmist has made his case and now waits in trust, sure in the hope of God’s ultimate goodness.

 

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (5)

urban-public-ed-failure-reading-chart

This figure shows the utter failure of public education in large U.S. cities.  Note that the displayed percentages are of students who are not proficient in reading.

What Should be Done?

I certainly don’t expect Progressive individuals and organizations to embrace conservative ideas for welfare reform.  However, even this position doesn’t preclude the finding of common ground.  For example, the Progressive community could say something like this:

“While we believe that conservative ideas on welfare reform are fundamentally flawed, we yet agree that the current set of welfare policies has not achieved their intended results.  In fact, on numerous key measures of well-being the beneficiaries of welfare have significantly digressed over the past decades.  Therefore, we will support an open discussion on what has gone wrong and why.  From there we will support an open debate on the reforms necessary to correct past mistakes and increase the likelihood of future success.”

The tragic truth is that virtually no one finds this imagined statement by our Progressive elites to be in the slightest credible.  This is because their power rests on the false assumption of their intellectual and moral superiority. Thus they cannot survive if they ever admit to have been wrong.  Not surprisingly then, what we have observed is retreat into reactionary positions from which any criticism of the Welfare State or proposal for welfare/education reform is viciously attacked.  When “welfare reform” was passed in the 1990s the Progressive community pulled out all the stops to retard and ultimately reverse this initiative.  The Progressive community continues to be opposed to “school choice” even though a majority of disadvantaged parents support it.

In the 1960s and 70s Mainline denominational leadership tied itself to the secular Progressive movement as the vehicle for positive social change.  We can legitimately debate the wisdom of this decision within context of what was known at that time.  However, from the 1980s on it has become progressively more clear that the Great Society and associated policies have had the opposite effect of those claimed to be intended by their supporters.

We Mainline Christians must seriously ask ourselves what we really are accomplishing by our continuing support of these destructive social policies.  If we want an endless supply of people in poor and oppressed communities as recipients of our charity then by all means continue on.  In that direction lies the continued affirmation of a godless elite class who value us only to the extent that we slavishly uphold their power and follow their political line.  In that case Jesus’ words should burn in our souls.

1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Matthew 6:1, 2 (NIV)

If we want to actually improve the lives of the people trapped in these communities then we must open our hearts and minds to the concept of reforms that challenge the current Progressive orthodoxy.  In that direction lies suffering, as we will be subjected to the full force of hatred that holds current policies in place.  We will be called terrible names.  Our motives will be attacked.  Our Christian faith will be denigrated.  Everything will be done that can be to make the world consider us pariahs.  But if we reject their power to destroy we may actually through God’s grace find new paths that lead towards renewal and hope.

18“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:18-27 (ESV)

 

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (4)

hell-good-results

Commentary

I suppose some might contend that I’ve placed my thumb on the scales in describing the two cases of this series’ previous post.  After all, they may argue, don’t the Christian organizations who operate within the Case 1 framework also work to resolve the “root causes” of poverty and oppression?  If you limit this critique to intentions then I may be able to agree.  However, if we insist on results then there can be only strong disagreement.

I have already discussed this conflict between “intentions” and “results” in detail (see here for definitions and here for commentary).  Note that the intentions of the Christian organizations in Case 1 and Case 2 were initially identical.  What differentiates them is their response to observing actual results over a significant time period.

The Great Society legislation that created what we now call the Welfare State was passed in the mid-1960s.  At the time the stated intention was to end poverty and racism through aggressively expanded government action and new programs.  Not surprisingly there was significant, though ultimately ineffective, opposition to this set of policies.  However, there can be no doubt that the intentions behind the Great Society by most supporters were very good.

Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Therefore, when in 1965 a report titled The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, which has become  known as the Moynihan Report was issued by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the the resulting firestorm was understandable. A “resounding cry of outrage” occurred because Mr. Moynihan dared to challenge the then Progressive party line that it was only “the system” that stood between the black community and full equality in American society.  For this sin Mr. Moynihan was hounded out of the Johnson Administration.

In context of what was known in 1965 we may be able to forgive Progressives for being so politically protective of a new set of government policies.  After all, if they were successful then the twin evils of poverty and racism would have been defeated.

By, say, 1995, there could be no credible doubt that the Great Society had not just failed, but had condemned its intended beneficiaries to multigenerational dependence, poverty and hopelessness.  This is why, though dishonestly said, President Clinton felt obliged in 1996 to say that “the era of big government is over” and sign Welfare Reform into law.

Amy-Wax-and-Larry-Alexander-e1503967429284-620x435

Amy Wax and Larry Alexander

However, any reform of the Welfare State was anathema to the Progressive movement.  Therefore, a coalition of Progressive groups, definitely including many Christian organizations, opposed and eventually overturned these reforms.  Thus by 2017, when two tenured professors (Amy Wax and Larry Alexander) published an article titled “Paying the price for the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture” there was a powerful Progressive response to destroy their careers and very persons.

In context of what has been known since at least the mid-1990’s this Progressive response is unforgivable (from a political as opposed to a religious perspective).  What Professors Wax and Alexander said was motivated by the tragic results of the Welfare State policies.  What they proposed were ideas to recover the social and cultural capital that had been destroyed by the Welfare State.  It’s legitimate to disagree with their proposals.  In the best case that disagreement would be accompanied by counter-proposals seeking the same better ends.  It’s utterly corrupt in every sense of the word to seek the destruction of people who see the suffering of the Welfare State’s supposed beneficiaries and offer reforms to improve their lives, all while maintaining the very policies that led to the catastrophe.

Make no mistake, this entrenched, vicious coalition of Progressives, including many Christian organizations, is absolutely committed to preventing even the smallest reforms to the Welfare State.  And this commitment exists in spite of well over 50 years of failure.  I simply ask, are these the actions of people who are committed to results that demonstrably raise others out of poverty?  Or are they the actions of people who are content for the supposed beneficiaries of their compassion to fall ever deeper into hopelessness, violence, and despair?  I contend that almost 60 years on it is utterly credible to conclude the latter.

Defeating Progressivism (5)

Math is hard

Moral truth is so much easier than math truth!

The Burning Question

We “commoners” operate under the distinct disadvantage of not spending every waking hour planning the destruction of our political “enemies.”  As discussed in a previous post we just have so many priorities and interests other than the achievement of raw power over others.

We are currently a nation splintered into contending groups who appear to have lost the ability to communicate, let alone cooperate, with each other.  These groups can often (there are numerous exceptions) be be roughly divided into two primary camps.

The first is populated by people who tend to define themselves by associations and interests outside the realm of politics.  To them, though politics may be an important part of life, other domains like faith, family, neighbors, sports, etc. have clear priority.  Although there is no agreed name for this group, I’ll refer to them as the “commoners.”  This is justified not by any presumption of lower ability or value, but rather by the fact that they see themselves as part of a common heritage and culture.  Thus, they have appreciation for the nation and those through whom it was formed and maintained.  If there is a central organizing principle for this camp it is opposition to the idea that the nation must be “fundamentally transformed” in order for it to be valued.

So the question burning in my mind has been:

How can we “commoners” be motivated to set aside all of our sensible other interests for long enough to repulse the proto-totalitarian Progressive project?

A Possible Answer

In this time when family gatherings, church attendance, sports and all other normal human interests have been removed, I simply ask you to focus on these elite Progressive betters revealing their actual mental prowess.

Example #1

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I’ve previously posted on this incident.  This massive math error got past all of MSNBC’s reporters, editors and fact checkers to get onto the air.

Example #2

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The Federalist documented this amazing gaffe by Democrat Presidential Candidate Joe Biden.  To provide context, approximately 400.000 Americans died in World War II, which is 1/375’th of 150 million. In 2017 there were approximately 2.8 million deaths from all causes in the United States.  If we assume that number of annual deaths over the 13 years between 2007 and 2020 the result is 36.4 million total deaths from all causes, or less than one-quarter of 150 million.

Example #3

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Democrat Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager claims that 170 million more Americans than there are Americans go bankrupt every year (!) due to medical debt.  Also, how can only 68 million Americans be “under insured” for health care when 500 million Americans go bankrupt every year due to health care bills?

Example #4

oac-math-woman

This one takes the cake.  I’ve previously commented on Congressperson Ocasio-Cortez’s economic “plans.”   What makes this example the perfect capstone is that it can be legitimately interpreted as (1) “You only question my plan’s math because I’m a WOMAN (you sexist PIG).” or (2)  “Because I’m a WOMAN you can’t expect my math to add up correctly.”  

 

So, here’s my motivational statement to we “commoners” in this time of political peril.

Do we want history to record that we were defeated by “elites” who demonstrated this level of mental acuity?

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (3)

mind-experiment

A Mind Experiment

In order to explore the true nature of what we want to accomplish, consider the following two theoretical cases.

Case 1

A Christian organization identifies a group of people who are undeniably oppressed and impoverished.  They therefore develop support programs that minister to the individual members, families and organizations within this group.  Over a significant time period (i.e., decades) wonderful supportive spiritual, personal, financial and organizational relationships are developed.  Much that is good from a Christian perspective has clearly been accomplished.

However, over that same time period, although good is done, the overall environment in which this impoverished group lives not only doesn’t improve, but in many respects gets demonstrably worse.  For example, crime, including murder, increases.  Schools utterly fail to provide even the most basic educational value to students.  Family life remains utterly chaotic.

The Christian organization is aware of this situation, but refuses to ask why it has occurred, let alone do anything about it.  They rather continue their programs and ministries with only minor modifications.  Beyond this, in their political action they oppose any proposals to significantly change the schools, public safety, personal / family incentives and economics.  They thus, in effect, behave as reactionaries who deem the current policies and resulting environment to be the best that can be practically obtained.

Case 2

This case begins exactly like the first.  However, after a long period of time, say twenty years, leaders in the Christian organization begin to ask serious questions.  While they rejoice in the good that has been accomplished, they also mourn the fact that this impoverished group’s situation has demonstrably grown worse.  They begin to contemplate the tragic fact that, under the current set of social policies, the impoverishment (spiritual, educational, personal safety, economic, etc.) of this group will not be improved in any foreseeable timeframe.  Thus, in effect, the current social policies ensure that there will be an unending supply of victims to whom their Christian good works can be delivered.

Thus, if being kind to victims of impoverishment and oppression is the ultimate end of Christian compassion then this is a perfectly acceptable outcome.  But these leaders reject this ultimate end.  Rather, they conclude that the true ultimate end should be a situation in which this victim group no longer suffers under impoverishment and oppression at all.  In this end they would no longer need the support of Christian charity but would rather take their place in society as peers rather than supplicants.  Then the Christian organization, perhaps enriched by the contributions of this past impoverished group, could move on to other issues that appear most urgent.

But in order to pursue this new and better ultimate end the Christian leaders realize that they will have to confront the power interests that support the status quo.  The realize that their ideas for reform, such as rebuilding of marriage and the family, will be met by accusations of evil motivation.  Powerful political and social organizations will oppose reform of the schools, and will stoop low to attack the reformers.  Anything that smacks of economic self-sufficiency will be denounced as greed even though a massive structure of bureaucrats earn a good living by doling out endless goods, services and money that breed hopelessness and dependency.

 

The Janus Award for Projection and Hypocrisy (2)

janus-award

Winner: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

On February 13, 2020 Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer went to the floor of the Senate to denounce President Trump for this tweet.

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Although President Trump was clearly being critical of the judge in question, there is not the slightest hint of a threat.  However, on March 4, 2020 this same Senator Schumer explicitly and directly threatened two Supreme Court justices while standing on the steps of the Supreme Court building.

While Chief Justice Roberts rightly ignored Senator Schumer’s bogus request to “speak up” regarding President Trump’s tweet, he “spoke up” to Senator Schumer’s threat with a stern rebuke.

This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside. Senator Schumer referred to two Members of the Court by name and said he wanted to tell them that “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.

This thuggish, two-faced behavior by the Senate Minority Leader (the second highest ranking Democrat national politician) warrants issuance of the second Janus Award.

schumer-SC-threat-2

 

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (2)

intentions-hell-600x280

What Do We Really Want to Accomplish?

This is the core question that I have been asking.

We as limited, frail beings can never be absolutely certain that any action will have the intended results.  Were we to honestly review our actions as parents, congregants, children, friends, citizens and colleagues we would have to admit that many of our actions, though intended to advance the good, actually had decidedly mixed and even the opposite effect.  In many cases the actual effects didn’t become clear for months, years or decades after the fact.  It is so easy therefore to neglect the issue of actual consequences given these experiences.  Better, we imagine, to just follow our best intentions and hope for the best.

But then enters in the issue of sin.  If we are willing to admit (and many people aren’t) that we are corrupted by sin then even our intentions can’t be confidently assumed to be good.  Thus, we come to the terrible, humbling realization that our supposed good intentions may actually be bad intentions dressed up in our imaginations as good.  This thought is too scandalous for many people, including Christians, to accept.  Yes, they are happy to claim that others are motivated by evil intentions, but they are not willing to accept the same possibility for themselves.   Oh, they may intellectually claim to accept the fault of, say, “white privilege,” but by their selfless willingness to claim this sin they simultaneously are raised above it by their demonstration of a “higher consciousness.”

Given these fraught issues it’s easy to understand why busy, distracted people will dispense with the complexity and settle on good intentions as their moral guide.  But here lies the road to Hell.  It is thus because this guide creates massive opportunity for manipulation and deceit.  Note first that by accepting a superficial guide for their actions the people in question have telegraphed their vulnerability to exploitation.  And, by limiting their moral reasoning to only that which occurs before any results occur these same people can be deceived indefinitely.  Finally, use of a self-centered metric for merit makes people prone to seek the approval of others, particularly those others who occupy positions of power and prestige.

wolf-among-sheepIn this fallen world there is no shortage of wolves who are happy to prey on this population of good intenders.  Unfortunately the Christian Church is not immune to this evil.

The tragic truth is that, if we claim good intentions as our moral guide, then what we primarily want to accomplish is to feel good about ourselves.  Thus the people whom we claim to care for can easily become of secondary importance.  Worst of all, the actual results of our efforts can become virtually irrelevant.

But we can take precautions that reduce our vulnerability to this temptation that are both practical and effective, though requiring a bit more seriousness, patience and effort.

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (1)

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By what metrics should Christians measure the success or failure of their charity, mission and compassion?

Introduction

It is long past time for Christians, particularly those who find themselves in Mainline Denominations, to reconsider their responsibilities with regard to charity, mission and compassion.  For generations we have operated under the unexamined assumption that these Christian duties are best accomplished by the giving of material resources to the poor and oppressed.  This assumption has driven both public policy and in person charitable efforts.

But at some point the question “Is it working?” must be asked and honestly answered if our goal is to truly benefit the poor and oppressed.  And before that, we must determine the metrics by which we measure progress or lack thereof.

religion-politicsI began to indirectly raise these questions in a 2017 series of posts titled Mainline Christianity and Progressive Politics.  My primary goal was to examine the almost complete overlap of partisan Progressivism with Mainline political action.  However, in the fifth post of this series I introduced the specific case of Chicago, and pointed out that from the perspectives of crime and education Progressive public policies had not just failed, but had created an apparently permanent underclass.  I closed this post with the following comments.

These catastrophic failures, despite the incessant insistence on their benevolence by Progressives, Christian or otherwise, forces us to wonder about the relationship between intentions and results.  That is, if someone does things or supports policies because of “good intentions,” is that sufficient in and of itself as an act of charity?  Or, does their moral responsibility extend to the realm of demonstrable results?  These two philosophies lead to very different attitudes towards how best to help the poor, with corresponding differences in practical policies.

From there I examined in some detail the differences between “intentions based” and “results based” charitable philosophies, including two specific case studies.  In the ninth and final series post I introduced and discussed the concept of “moral hazard” within context of Mainline Progressive politics and associated charitable activities.  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.

A year later I again picked up this line of inquiry, this time within the context of Socialism (Questions for Socialists, four posts total).  This is deeply relevant, as it is by this ideology that the Progressive Left, most definitely including many in Mainline Christian denominations, propose to deliver their vision of utopia.

VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ-REMAINS

A Thought Experiment

Let’s imagine that there is a group of people who self-identify as protectors of the world’s poor and oppressed.  Members of this group continually boast about their good intentions for and practical expertise in improving the lot of humanity.  However, as a practical matter, we all know that what is said is not always what is actually in the heart.  Therefore, there is need for a means by which to determine if these people really care first and foremost about improving the lot of the poor and oppressed.

Let’s assume that in a specific nation the ideology and associated means by which these people propose to improve the world are embraced and implemented.  And, that the leadership of this group publicly and forcefully voice their support.

But something goes terribly wrong, and rather than the expected advance towards utopia the country descends into poverty, chaos, violence and starvation.  The fact of this utter failure is unavoidable and undeniable.  Thus, the leaders of this group must decide how to respond.

Response #1

It turns out that these leaders do indeed care first and foremost about the plight of the poor and oppressed.  Therefore, they enter into a state of public repentance followed by a ground-up reassessment of their ideology to determine what went wrong.  Although they may not (or may) throw out all of their ideology, they do honestly look into where it has led to the policies that resulted in such terrible human suffering.  After this process they reengage in the public debate, admitting their failures and seeking to advance updated solutions that they honestly believe will lead to improved human well-being.

Response #2

It turns out that these leaders didn’t really care about the plight of the poor and oppressed.  What they were really doing was to use their pretense of virtue to obtain the power by which to arbitrarily and capriciously rule over others.  Therefore, they fall silent for a time and then begin making up excuses for this humanitarian catastrophe.  These excuses place the blame everywhere but on the ideology and policies that they use in their advance towards worldly power.  They never acknowledge that they had previously supported this practical application of their ideology in a specific country, hoping that it will all be forgotten.

They also, over time, have built a predictable track record of support followed by silence followed by excuses as their ideology repeatedly fails miserably to deliver the promised results.  And yet they continue pretending to be the morally superior elite whom we should follow with unquestioning obedience.

It is from here that I intend to begin a reconsideration of our Christian responsibilities with regard to charity, mission and compassion.