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Making My Case For Life

by Povidence Crowder

I thank God that my mother was pro-life!  I am the oldest of four children and I was born a year after Roe v. Wade was the law of the land.  Had my mother not valued life, I may have never been and my story would never have been known.  She could have legally killed me in the year of my birth; she fit perfectly the profile of the modern day baby killer—a poor, uneducated, black woman living in the inner-city.  My mother and father separated before I was four, so I have a scant recollection of them being together.  What I do recall is my mother struggling to make ends meet.  I remember us being on welfare, and getting food stamps and government cheese . . . oh how delicious those grilled government cheese sandwiches were, mmmm! 

I remember occasionally looking into a bare refrigerator; I remember some winter nights sleeping in a cold house after the gas man shut off the heat for non-payment; I remember enduring the shame of going to the corner store with food stamps and trying to exit before any of my friends saw me—kids in those days cruelly mocked those on welfare—welfare was a dirty word.  We had very little material wealth, we were poor and broke . . . but my siblings and I knew we were loved.   We didn’t have much cash, so my mother got creative in order to get other items she wanted but couldn’t afford.  I recall going to the corner store at various times throughout the day to break one dollar food stamps by purchasing penny and nickel candy until my mother had enough change to buy her Newport 100 cigarettes.  If you’ve ever been on welfare, you’d understand.  I was taught at a young age that with some effort, the government system could be manipulated.  

Thankfully, it was too much effort for my mother!  She found it difficult to support a smoking habit on welfare and she found it even more difficult to support a family—those were the days before welfare became a competitive sport.  I am grateful that welfare was so uncomfortable and unpleasant, and degrading, that my mother was extremely discontent in her impoverished condition.  As well, she believed that God was not pleased that she had strayed from her Christian faith.  Resultantly, she rededicated her life to Christ and went back to school.  Through hard work and by God’s grace, she escaped the poverty trap—and she eventually quit smoking! 

I watched in amazement as my mother persevered.  She attained her GED and went on from there to complete her college degree.  After a few bumps in the road, she landed a pretty good job and has not looked back since.  Only in America could such a narrative be achievable.  My mother told me that caring for my siblings and I gave her a reason to press on when she felt like giving up on life.  Knowing that she had a responsibility to love, feed, and care for us, she says saved her life.  She was poor, but she never considered aborting us as an option.  Her belief in God gave her the conviction that abortion was wrong; it went against God’s very law, “you shall not commit murder.”  My mother instilled her Christian values and strong work ethic in us, her children.  Her story is the story of many men and women in this country who have struggled to raise children in poverty rather than see their posterity destroyed for mere convenience.    

Why then, if poverty is not the end all, do abortion proponents make poverty a central argument to support their position?  They use fear tactics to coerce women into committing unimaginable acts.  It is this trumped up fear that often drives a women to make the decision to abort her child—a daunting fear—fear  of the unknown, fear of their children growing up in poverty, fear of a lifelong responsibility, and many other fears.  As a Christian, I have a responsibility to tell these women the truth!  I have an obligation to stand against the sin of abortion and I do not deny the political ramifications of my stance.  I recognize that Christianity is a political power as much as it is a religious rite[1] because “Democracy is not served by silence.”[2] 

How in America, did we reach such a moral regression that the mass murder of unborn children does not even raise an eyebrow but on the contrary is celebrated as “choice.”  Bad law, the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is what essentially denied unborn children personhood, making them the property of the mother, and led to the “legal” murdering of millions of unborn children in the past quarter century.  Pope John Paul II spoke out against abortion.  He basically said that the new cultural climate had made crimes against unborn children exempt from punishment because these crimes had become State sanctioned legal rights of individuals.  Even more shocking, these crimes would be committed with the assistance of health-care professionals and health-care systems.  He rightly asserted that the Church should not be silent concerning their opposition to abortion laws.

So what Roe v. Wade did in denying unborn children personhood, it denied them basic civil rights and protection under the law from violence and murder from their mother and her doctor should the mother determine that for socioeconomic or health reasons, her child was unwanted.  The same exact thing happened with bad law, 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford, which denied blacks their citizenship and claimed that they were property of the slaveowner, and that blacks had no rights that the courts had to respect.  Wow!  In denying blacks their personhood, they had no basic civil rights and protection under the law from violence and murder from their slaveowners if their slaveowner determined that for socioeconomic or other reasons, the slave was no longer wanted or needed.  Sounds similar?

Just as the unborn are now, blacks in America and Jews in Nazi Germany were once denied the right to life.  What group will be next?  We should all be concerned when mere men can determine which groups of people have the right to live and which do not.  As a Christian, I have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society, the defenseless—namely the unborn and others—from those who do not value their life but will change definitions and terms and make even the possibility of poverty, which all humans face, a reason for the termination of their life.  God places a value on our life; it’s a dangerous thing when we try and play God.  

The notion that the unborn is a human being is not a religious assertion but a biological fact.  They are no different than you and I except for size and development.  By design, God chose the woman’s body as the vehicle in which all humans should enter this world.  The “fetus” growing inside of the woman is not an extension of the woman’s body so that she could argue: it’s my body to do what I please.  The baby is a separate and new life with its own body and soul—a body that is properly nourished for growth and prepared for independent living through the care of the mother.  Yet some reckon that because the mother provides the shelter, she can at any time decide terminate her child and have her child violently ripped from her womb—the mother’s womb use to be the safest place on earth.  But the child’s father has no such right.  If a father killed his unborn child, all agree that he is a murderer. America cannot be looked upon as a free and civilized nation when we do not recognize and value the basic right to life of every individual. 

Scott Klusendorf, in his book, the Case for Life, raises the most pointed arguments for abortion.  He asserts that some people claim that we shouldn’t force our views on others.  Would we say such a thing if someone wanted the right to choose to kill toddlers?  Some argue their right to privacy.  If I had a two year old toddler, may I kill him as long as I do it in the privacy of the bedroom?  Some argue that poor woman cannot afford to raise children.  When human beings get expensive, may we kill them?  Or some argue that when a woman is raped, the baby is a painful reminder of the worst kind of violence against her.  True indeed, and with compassion we should care for the victim.  But how should a civil society treat innocent human beings who remind us of painful events.  Should we kill them so we can feel better? 

If the unborn are part of the human family, like toddlers, we should not kill them to make us feel better.  It’s better to suffer evil then inflict it.  Sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.  Some say that government shouldn’t get involved in our personal decisions.  Can you imagine, even for a moment, suggesting such a thing in the instance of child abuse?  If the unborn are in fact human, then abortion is the worst kind of child abuse imaginable.  Some say that women would be forced to get dangerous back-alley abortions if abortion was restricted or made illegal.  If the unborn are human then you are arguing that some people will die while attempting to kill others so the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so. 

I pose a final question for pro-choice advocates.  In the words of Klusendorf, “Why does the high number of abortions trouble you?  After all, if abortions do not take the lives of defenseless human beings, why worry about reducing the number?  If the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled or tonsils removed, or removing an unwanted wart.  However, if the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong.  I support a woman’s right to choose a variety of things.  But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. “   This is my case for life.


[1] John Henry Newman, The Triple Function of the Church, 3rd ed. (National Institute for Newman Studies, 2007), under “Preface to the Third Edition,” chap. 4, The Newman Reader (accessed November 15, 2011).

 [2] “Living the Gospel Life: Challenge to American Catholics a Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the United States,” National Right to Life, http://www.nrlc.org/news/1998/NRL12.98/Gospel.html (accessed November 16, 2011).

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 1

by Providence Crowder

 The Problem

There is a war of ideologies being waged on the American political scene.  Those on the left and right sides of the political spectrum are simply unable to come to a viable compromise concerning prominent socioeconomic issues of today.  In the meantime, while the politicians in Washington fight, the director of the Congressional Budget Office—Douglas W. Elmendorf—warned in his 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook that the United States is headed towards the biggest economic downfall since World War II.  He testified:

Policymakers will need to increase revenues substantially as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), decrease spending significantly from projected levels, or adopt some combination of those two approaches to keep deficits and debts from climbing to unsustainable levels.

The CBO reports that for 2011, the federal government faced a 1.3 trillion dollar budget shortfall—the third largest to date—continuing its trend since 1969 of spending more than it takes in.  Only in the years 2009 and 2010 were the deficits greater—those years produced the largest budget deficits in modern history.  Elmendorf recommended early action and more sacrifices “for the benefit of younger workers and future generations.”  Simply put, the U.S. economy is in BIG trouble!

America, the most prosperous nation in the world, is currently the biggest debt owner in the world.  This colossal debt is reprehensible and represents instability and insolvency to our lenders.  Our looming liabilities threaten to eliminate the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and the loss of this status would be catastrophic.  It would bring an instant devaluing of our investments, drastically drive up the cost of goods and services—hyperinflation—and create a radical change in American life as we know it.  All Americans would experience a significantly lower quality of life.  The idea of the American dollar collapsing should cause all Americans to take pause.

This Is What One Trillion Dollars Look Like

Jay Richards[1] explained that “Money has value only if trading partners believe it has value.  This is why currency quickly becomes stove fuel when people stop trusting it.”[2]  Our colossal debt is not the result of insufficient tax revenues because we are taxed at a level sufficient enough to pay for the necessary functions of government.  America’s problem is excessive and wasteful spending.  Any average American who has lived beyond his or her means could warn the federal government of the end result of its imprudence—reduce spending or risk losing everything.  At a whopping $13,561,623,030,891 of debt—according to the 2010 U.S. Treasury report—multiple years of deficit spending by the federal government has left our children to bear the burden of our irresponsibility and profligacy.  The interest alone on our nearly $14 trillion dollar debt make our meager attempts at debt solvency unrealistic.

The Cause

Many on the left, namely Democrats, choose to blame President George W. Bush for the economies troubles.  On the right, Republicans give President Obama the brunt of the blame.  Yet the administrations of both of these presidents, with their big spending and bailouts, and massive expansions of government have exacerbated the debt problem.  We also owe a huge debt of thanks to Democrat President, Bill Clinton, for our more recent recession and debt fiasco.  Back in 1995, the regulatory revisions made to the 1977 “Community Reinvestment Act” under the Clinton administration greatly weakened the housing market.  Initially the law was enacted to ensure that banks were fairly addressing the lending and banking needs of those people in low and moderate-income neighborhoods that they accepted deposits from.  Yet the Clinton administration’s 1995 revisions forced banks to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to people with little or no credit, and even people with bad credit—lending to these high risk borrowers under the guise of “the convenience and needs of the communities.”[3]

In other words, “if banks wanted to continue to indulge from the hand of government-created money and insurance (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), then they had to prove to government agencies that they were lending these indulgences to even the un-creditworthy in their community.”  The revisions to the Community Investment Act became a powerful mandate that reshaped lending practices.  This act was a recipe for economic disaster that the banks initially opposed because they didn’t want to be “forced” into bad lending.  Regardless, congress passed the initiative, alluring banks into lending big money to people with little or no credit.

To his credit, in 2003 President Bush attempted greater oversight of the two major government-sponsored lenders of the subprime, or risky loans—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—yet Democratic opposition shut his measure down, accusing Bush and the Republicans of all things, racism.  Shocking!  We know the end of this sad story—the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis led to the collapsing of a housing bubble that brought the banking and real estate industry to their knees.

To add insult to injury, the Federal Reserve Board’s response to the mortgage crisis was grossly irresponsible and unethical.  Wayne Grudem noted that “The Federal Reserve decided to pump reserves into the financial system by purchasing $1.2 trillion in assets, including $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities from companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac . . . leading to increased inflation and thereby robbing everyone in society of the value of their dollars and their contract.”[4]  Simply put, the government rewarded reckless and irresponsible behavior by loaning hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bailout the big banks and the mortgage agencies, with more than half of  the money going to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Economist Thomas DiLorenzo described that the current financial debacles are simply the “chickens coming home to roost after more than 30 years of progressive government interference and artificially deformed markets.”[5]  The current crisis is not a sudden or surprising occurrence, but the eventual result of salvation politics.[6]

No one is innocent in this scandal of magnificent proportions, not even the voters.  The recent political protest movement, Occupy Wall Street (OWL), self-righteously protest the “Wall Street” bankers and the “1%” of the rich.  Yet these crooks are the ones who knowingly elect politicians who extort money from others to subsidize irresponsibility and greed—they vote for big government.  OWL’s voted for crony capitalists who afforded political favors and preferential treatment for their friends at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Many of them voted for our current president, Obama.  He handed over a trillion dollars in taxpayer funds to bailout Fannie and Freddie, and the auto-industry and banks they now protest!

These OWL’s are the same who continue to vote for increased government spending on federally funded entitlements—the biggest debt busters of all.  Currently, the federal government is scrambling to fund its existing entitlements in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, retirement pensions, and welfare.  The funding of future entitlements is an even greater concern.  If the Federal Reserve continues the practice of pumping dollars into the system to keep up with government expenditures, Wayne Grudem asserts that “we can soon expect to see record high interest rates and/or inflation, coupled with the collapse of many entitlements.”[7] According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, entitlement spending as a percentage of GDP has now doubled that of U.S. spending on national defense.  An increase in entitlement spending and a decrease in spending on national defense, a core constitutional function of government, indicates clearly—our government’s priorities are misguided.[8]

Stay tuned for Unsinking the Titanic-Part 2, Ethical Implications.  Excerpt: “Spending of this sort is immoral; it is sure to hurt the poor and others who are dependent upon the government for their livelihood.  America’s reckless entitlement spending has baited many American’s into dependency and has promised future payments that won’t be worth the paper they are printed on.”

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

So How then Can Government Help?

President Abraham Lincoln declared: “The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.  But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere.”  In America and Europe, organizations such as the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Salvation Army were Christian initiatives established to, as Gonzalez has said, “reach the impoverished and unchurched masses.”  Ordinary people saw a need and responded.  The United Way and the American Red Cross were also developed to aid those in need.  Voluntary contributions have allowed them to successfully aid millions. 

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said concerning a tax for the maintenance of the poor: 

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.

 The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of  all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.

Knowing this, Christians should encourage personal and voluntary charity as the Bible has prescribed instead of deferring the responsibility of attending to social ills to the state.  More government is not the solution.  Should the government redistribute societal wealth so that none are rich, who would help the poor?  Besides, what reasonable person would continue attaining prosperity if it would all be taken from him and given away?  What good is working hard if hard work is in vain?  If government remains the sole entity with all wealth, power, and control, if they control the marketplace, production, who eats, and who drinks, then freedom is surely lost. 

 The best way government can promote the greater good of society is by giving the poor the tools to help them become self-sufficient.  Government intent should be to lend a hand-up, not a hand-out.  American President Dwight D. Eisenhower has rightly advised, “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human.  In all those things which deal with people’s money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative.”  Unfortunately, some regimes have found it difficult to be conservative with other people’s money. 

 McDurmon called to mind that “People, once the beneficiaries of government extortion, will never relinquish their ‘benefits’ voluntarily, even if it means others must bear the burden of being stolen from.  This is the basis on which most people will vote: the candidate that promises them the most money.  This is salvation politics.”  In the United States, many domestic benefactors of government aid refuse to or are ill equipped to become self-reliant.  Socialist policies have created perpetual dependents who have not and will not provide for themselves or their families.  These dependents refuse to perceive the aid as a temporary help, denying the taxpayers relief from the burden of supporting them; and they reject work in exchange for taxpayer funded public assistance.  Scripture says those who refuse to provide for their families have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).  

Church, Rise Up

Were the Church to lead by example and champion the cause of the sick and downtrodden, the needy would not seek the help of the government; but seek Christ to fulfill their needs. When people are in Christ, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live righteously, according to God’s Word.  They are taught how to live responsibly and selflessly.  They are taught personal responsibility.  They are taught to love their neighbor.  The people would not be so deceived as to elect governments to do the work that the Church was intended to do.  Secular governments would have immense disapproval when they erect themselves in opposition to the Church.  Nearly every socialist government has always led to the suppression of Christianity.  Were the Church to proclaim the Word of the Lord all over the earth, people would not be overly consumed with temporal matters but instead heed the words of Christ: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).  Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always” (Matt. 26:11); men will have many opportunities to be charitable.  This suggests that there is no permanent solution to poverty in the here and now.  Biblically speaking, at a man’s best he is poor and dying outside of fellowship with Jesus Christ.  

 Despite the best human efforts, the biggest obstacle to the fairness in which socialism supposedly seeks is human sinfulness. Scripture, for example, has demonstrated that some able-bodied men refuse to work and contribute to their own livelihood. These men relish in laziness and delight in blaming others for their failures. Who should bear the burden for these slackers? The Apostle Paul said that these men who choose not to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).  Therefore, although socialist governments attempt to rectify disparities within their lands, socialism falls short. It exacerbates the inequities instead of alleviates them. It fails. These governments are only successful in making its citizens substantially deprived slaves of a godless state.  

 Christ never condoned or advocated for such a system. Christ entrusted the moral responsibility to care for the less fortunate to His church, not the government. The rampant spread of socialism throughout the earth should cause a sleeping Church to wake up, rise and reclaim its rightful place. Preach Christ everywhere, give to those in need, and defend the faith knowing that heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will live on forever (Lk. 21:33).

Suggested Readings:

The Bible

God Versus Socialism, A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel by Joel McDurmon

Money, Greed, and God:  Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay W. Richards

The Story of Christianity, The Early Church to the Present Day by Justo L. Gonzalez

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 2

by Providence Crowder

Wealth is Not Evil

The Bible indicated that certain believers had been entrusted with riches (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, etc.) and others had lived in poverty.  Although Christ encouraged the idea of community and admonished believers to care for the poor, He never guaranteed any man an income, poor or otherwise, nor did He rectify inequalities in material wealth (see the parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30).  In the book of Luke, a man from the crowd asked Christ to make his brother share his wealth with him.  The man demanded, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’  And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Lk. 12:13-14). 

 Jesus observed men’s attitudes towards money and possessions, and He addressed the very condition of their heart, which Scripture taught was deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9).   Christ rebuked men, both rich and poor; those who would make money their idol, those who suffered greed, those who coveted, and those who would seek after riches instead of seeking the kingdom.  Over and over again Jesus redirected mankind away from being consumed with material possessions and the accumulation of them, because serving God and serving possessions were incompatible.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). 

 Community not Communism

Certainly some modern Christian communities have taken to modeling after the first century church in Jerusalem, where the believers were said to have given all of their possessions and they held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35).  This idea of a communal church in which no property was privately owned and all things were shared equally has had some appeal for modern believers.  Yet, in the context of the early church, which suffered great persecution at the hands of the Roman government, community was all they had.  Until the rule of fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was outlawed and Christians did not share in the wealth that is common for some Christians today.  Christians held no positions of authority, they had no political power, and they did not live peacefully among other Roman citizens, and they could in no way look to their government for any type of assistance or help. 

 Because persecution was so severe in the land, these citizens voluntarily gave all they had for their common good, so that all of their brethren may both worship God AND eat.  Consistent with the teachings in the Bible, they did what they wished with their own property.  As in Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner proclaimed, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things?  Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15) These early Christians did not cling to material wealth or possessions but lived each moment not knowing if it would be their last. 

 The early church’s communal experience in Jerusalem ended as early as the first century with the scattering of the saints to other regions due to persecution (Acts 8:1).  And despite persecution, Christians preached the gospel everywhere.  They, like their Messiah, cared for the poor in spirit above all and in addressing the physical needs of a man, that man became more receptive to God’s message of salvation and redemption.  Christians were generous in giving and they served the underprivileged while sharing God’s message of love and hope to the unsaved masses.   Secular governments, on the other hand have robbed and oppressed in the name of righteousness, tyrants have abused their citizens in the name of goodwill; all under the guise of equality.

The Need for Evangelism

Many societies have felt the social and moral obligation to help those working poor who struggle to make ends meet and to provide for those who are unable to care for themselves; and rightfully so.  Still, with more people on the welfare rolls than ever before and billions of dollars being pumped into impoverished communities all over the world, poverty remains.  Resultantly, many Christian proponents of socialism have become, as Justo Gonzalez has asserted, “preoccupied with the existing social conditions” instead of focusing on Christian evangelism and discipleship.  Were the needy to know the true and living God, they would recognize that their existing social conditions are temporal and that their happiness doesn’t persist in material wealth.  Were the more fortunate to rightly know Him, their hearts and desires would be turned from self toward others, generosity would be instinctive, and they would take to the business of blessing other people.  Were people to know God through His Son Jesus, serving one another would be an inherent virtue.  However, because of the perpetual selfishness and wickedness of the ungodly, and because many in the church often fail to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) in their clamor to erect buildings instead of building people, greed, vanity, and covetousness reign above charity.

Government “Charity”

In any nation, governments do not produce wealth but merely collect and redistribute it.  In a constitutional republic such as America, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; and under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to collect taxes so that the government may properly function in its governing.  As the Apostle Paul said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Rom. 13:1, 6).  Taxes do serve their purpose and through paying them, taxpayers receive some product, good, or service from their government in exchange for their money; as well, the citizens who pay no taxes directly benefit from the public services that are provided at taxpayer expense.  Yet concerning taxpayer subsidies to the poor, no such exchange exists.  Giving in exchange for nothing in return is charity.  Christian charity is voluntary; government charity is extortion.  The term government charity is an oxymoron because the term implies choice. Outside of our biblical responsibility to those in our family and of our household, no person should be forced to pay for another person’s education, health care, or housing. 

 Joel McDurmon has noted that although, “God does require that we not let our poor neighbors languish,” the question remains, “Does He authorize the State to use force toward this end?” That answer is no.  Government should not exercise force upon its citizens unless, as Charles G. Finney has warned, “It is demanded to promote the highest public good; it is the duty of government to inflict penalties when their infliction is demanded by the public interest.” But what if a man is poor and starving?  Should the government then force its citizens to feed the poor?  The biblical answer is no.  The Bible proclaims, “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.  Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Prov. 6:30-31).  And though most can empathize, stealing is wrong even in the worst instances of poverty.  Like Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. proclaimed, “It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”  Government is not justified in stealing from one family to feed another. 

Jay W. Richards said: 

The government functions stem from our inalienable rights.  We have a right to protect ourselves, for instance, so we can delegate that right to government.  We don’t have the right to take the property of one person and give it to another.  Therefore, we can’t rightfully delegate that function to the state.  Delegated theft is still theft . . . Using the state to redistribute wealth from one citizen to another is different from general taxation for legitimate governmental functions, such as those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than promoting the general welfare, redistribution schemes involve a group of citizens voting to have the government take property from others and give it to them.  Rather than celebrating such schemes, Christians should be holding them to the light of moral scrutiny.

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 3, “So How then Can Government Help?”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 1

by Providence Crowder

Was Jesus a Socialist?

Many people question whether or not Jesus of Nazareth promoted and supported the ideas of a socialist government.  That question can be emphatically answered no.   Socialism can be defined as “an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state.  It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels” (World English Dictionary).  By this definition, Jesus can be said to espouse some socialist views, but he does so only within the confines of His Church, not secular government.  Out of love for God and fellow man, Christ taught His followers to voluntarily and charitably give of their possessions to care for and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in society; the sick, elderly, poor, widow, and orphan.

The visible church, the people of God, was to be a conduit for healing and deliverance through proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ saves; a message of hope to a lost and dying world.  All who acknowledged and turned from their sin, received Him and placed their trust in His name (whether rich in this world or poor) would be awarded eternal life (Jn. 1:12).  Through Christ’s example, His disciples were taught that preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, the worship of God Almighty, and righteous living were to be primary focuses in this life, not accumulation of wealth or material goods.  The poor were warned not to covet (Lk. 12:13-21) or be anxious about temporal hardships (Phil. 4:6), and the rich were cautioned not to trust in uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17) and admonished to give generously.  Because of sin, the poor and the rich alike were both spiritually depraved and in need of salvation.  The Church was tasked to share the gospel, while showing the same concern for the needs of all people as Christ did.

The Problem with Socialism

The concept of socialism in government (government sanctioned equality of outcome) is not biblical.  Joel McDurmon said it best when he affirmed that the Bible has “never spoke a single verse in support of government involvement in charity, health, education, or business . . . Where is universal health care in the Bible?  Where is government-guaranteed minimum wage in the Bible?  Jesus accepted wages to be negotiated between workers and employers, not guaranteed by government decree.”  Jesus never proposed that any secular king or government should take on the role of provider or savior.  Government was established by God to punish evil and promote good (Rom. 13:1-5), and administer justice (1 Pt. 2:13-15).  Its function was not to make victims of its citizens by robbing and forcing charitable acts upon the most productive in society to subsidize government prioritized charity; where its citizens were forced to succumb to that government’s definition of equity and fairness concerning one’s fortune, health, and personal sustenance; where acquiring wealth was considered criminal and immoral; where a man’s worth was measured merely by earthly standards; where Christ was nowhere preached. 

Besides increasing poverty through minimizing economic growth and opportunity, socialism creates a vast social and financial imbalance by placing most societal resources in the hands of a few bureaucratic bandits and politicians who relegate individual freedoms.  These bandits, as McDurmon has noted, “redistribute wealth evenly despite an individuals’ productivity.”  Thus, socialism reduces incentive and motivation, and discourages hard work.  Scripture taught just the opposite.  Individual responsibility, owning private property, inheritance of wealth, hard work in exchange of personal reward or profit, and wise stewardship were encouraged throughout Scripture.  Laziness, idleness, and gratuitously remaining a monetary burden to others were rebuked.  All able-bodied men, poor or otherwise, were required to work (Ex. 23:11, Lev. 19:9).  The poor were encouraged to help themselves; the disciples taught that every able-bodied individual was to work and contribute toward their own livelihood.  The Apostle Paul commanded this, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:6-10).  Other biblical passages support the same. Socialism remains unbiblical even, like McDurmon said, when you use the poor to try and justify it.

Some proponents of socialism claim the advice such as the Apostle Paul gave to the Church at Corinth in His second epistle to them prove equality of outcome is a biblical principle that should be held by all.  The Apostle stated,

 “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.   And in this I give advice . . .  by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:9-13).

 Essentially, Paul knew that all wealth belonged to the Lord, and men were mere stewards.  His advice and challenge for believers was to emulate Christ’s selflessness in giving.  People with material wealth, because of their abundance, were in a position to help the poor.  If everyone followed Christ’s example, then men’s basic needs would be met.  Jesus showed mercy to all people and He especially cared for the poor; He loved them, He rebuked them, He corrected them, He taught them, He fed them.  Believers should do the same. 

 Generosity was a principle strongly promoted throughout the Bible and the concept of giving was valued, not only so that none should lack anything, but so that money would not become their taskmaster.  Those who gave charitably were considered good stewards (1 Pet. 4:9-10).  Christian giving was always voluntary and “as each has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7) unlike in socialist governments in which giving is coerced and involuntary.  Biblical charity involved choice.  God commanded men that when they gave, they were to give generously and do so without a grudging heart” (Deut. 15:10). 

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 2, “Wealth is Not Evil.”

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

Suggestions, Solutions, Reflections

If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!  They would end the practice of deficit spending for programs and entitlements that do more harm than help and pass a balanced budget amendment requiring the federal government to exercise responsibility and restraint concerning its outrageous spending.  All Americans are expected to live within their means; therefore, so should the government we elect. 

Seemingly, our current President, Barack Obama, has a vision for America different than the vision of the founders of the great American experiment.  They envisioned a nation of free peoples whom—unlike all the nations before her— would govern themselves and share in ruling.  American colonists became disenfranchised and disillusioned by monarchial British rule; therefore, personal liberty and limited government were central themes to the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  Many nations have since emulated the American model and have tried to duplicate America’s ingenuity and success. 

Yet President Obama envisions big government and limited liberty because he has no confidence that Americans are capable enough to make responsible choices with their money and with their lives.  He believes in a ruling class, the government.  He promotes class distinctions by demonizing the rich and demoralizing the poor.  His ideology is reminiscent of German revolutionary and socialist Karl Marx.  Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is quoted as stating this of Marxism;

Marxism taught me what society was.  I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t even know where the north or south is.  If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything.[14]

 But the grand communist experiment was just a secularized attempt to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, but without the God of heaven.  Richards notes that:

Marx’s story has the main elements of the Christian story: primeval paradise, fall, redemption, eternal paradise.  It’s just stripped of reverences to God, sin, Jesus, and the afterlife.”[15]  Christ established his Church, and we are expected to be salt and light—reflecting God’s kingdom though sin and death are among us.  Yet our good works will never bring about God’s kingdom.[16]  It’s a delusion to believe that we can build a utopia if we try hard enough.[17]  This vision doesn’t take in account human sinfulness and God’s mercy.  Jesus Christ will establish his Kingdom and if we try, we will not only fail, but “do more harm than good.[18] 

I believe Marx, Castro, and Obama genuinely want a world in which the ordering of society is more fair and just.  But when we speak of building a just society, we must ask ourselves, “just compared with what?  It does no good to tear down a society that is ‘unjust’ compared with the Kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.”[19]  Compared to God’s Kingdom, every society gets failing grades.[20] Therefore, to hate capitalism and prefer socialism or communism is not more just.  Socialism has proven to bring greater poverty and injustice among the people and “never has there been a greater gap between ideas and outcomes than in communism.”[21]  Jay Richards notes that socialists, “talk a good talk, denouncing inequality and defending the poor, and despite the nasty outcome of their experiments, they can still get a pass from those who sympathize with their ideals.”[22]  

The current administration, under the lead of President Obama, should end its love affair with socialism and end his policies of taxing and spending.  The more that the government does for its people, the more dependent the people become and less likely they are to provide for themselves.  Without the safety net of big government, out-of-wedlock pregnancies look less attractive, hard work becomes necessary to eat, saving for hard times becomes a priority, community becomes important again to care for the least in society, and the government can focus on governing and protecting our freedoms.  America is still a great nation, and with the right leadership, the ideas upon which she was founded upon will again be respected.


 [1] Jay W. Richards is an author and theologian.  He has a PhD in philosophy and a Master of Ministry.  He has written dozens of books and articles on the topics of economics, theology, and science.  He has published in academic journals all over the country and he is an editor and contributor to numerous apologetic and theological research publications.

[2] Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009), 94.

[3] Joel McDurmon, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2009), 43.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2010), 273-74.

[5] McDurmon, 43.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Grudem, 274.

[8] 2011 Chart Book, “Federal Spending Chart 7.”  Retrieved from http://blog.heritage.org/2011/08/21/chart-of-the-week-defense-spending-has-declined-while-entitlement-spending-has-increased/ on January 10, 2012.

[9] A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964.  Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer

[10] John Wihbey, “2011 Annual Report by the Social Security Board of Trustees,” Retrieved from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/politics/social-security-report-2011/.

 [11] McDurmon, 47.

[12] Richards 51.

[13] Ibid., 47.

[14] Castro, Fidel; Ramonet, Ignacio (interviewer) (2009). My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. New York: Scribner.

[15] Richards, 30.

[16] Richards, 30.

[17] Richards, 31.

[18] Richards, 30.

[19] Ibid., 31.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 25.

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Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 2

 by Providence Crowder

The Prosperity Gospel, the Wrong Gospel

Many church leaders in the twenty-first century have aided in the oppression and bondage of the scripturally illiterate masses by promoting material worship through the “prosperity” gospel.  Advances in technology, such as the advent of television and internet, make the preaching of a false gospel more devastating as it is able to quickly reach large audiences.[25]  These false prophets promise prosperity and healing, often in exchange for an offering or a fee.  Prominent twenty-first century televangelist and Pastor Frederick K. Price is quoted as saying on his Ever Increasing Faith television broadcast that “The Bible says that he (Jesus) has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.  That’s why I drive a Rolls Royce.  I’m following Jesus’ steps.”[26] 

Likewise, televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27]  The statements made by these preachers sound characteristic of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the ones he rebuked saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Mt. 23:25). 

Finding Balance Between Social Justice and Evangelism

Christians should continue their plight for social justice.  Dr. Martin Luther King summed up beautifully the Christian response to the social evils that plague this world:

The Kingdom of God as a universal reality is not yet.  Because sin exists on every level of man’s existence, the death of one tyranny is followed by the emergence of another . . . Although man’s moral pilgrimage may never reach a destination point on earth, his never-ceasing strivings may bring him ever closer to the city of righteousness.[28]

In North America, Christian abolitionists—evangelicals—used political means to bring about an end to slavery; Baptist preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well, became politically active in his plight for civil rights for black Americans; and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez urged the Church to use political means to bring about liberation for the peoples in the countries of Latin America, where “the situation of injustice and oppression is characterized as a sinful situation”[29] because the oppression is so great. 

Unfortunately, many of the Church’s recent movements for liberation have abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ, the fountain from which her good works should flow.  These Christians have instead allowed gospel killers to inform their theology.  Many Christian social justice proponents have become overly concerned with materialism and balancing material wealth among peoples as a means for providing justice to the poor.  They do little in “balancing the scale” with their own wealth; yet in the name of justice, they use the powerful arm of government to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

They have done the very thing that Christ warned not to do, seek after worldly possessions and covet others wealth.  They fight the sin of oppression but stumble into the sin of materialism.  In doing so, they have inadvertently deepened inequalities and dependency, victimization and suffering.[30]  Again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offers his wisdom by advising his Christian brethren that laws do not change a man’s internal feelings.  Government cannot make a man love his neighbor or give to feed the hungry—religion and education must do that—but government can and should control the external effects of sin; it can control a man’s efforts to lynch and kill, enslave and abuse.  Dr. King suggests that one way Christians in America, who as citizens are afforded a voice in governing, can continue the struggle for justice is through gaining control of the ballot box—by promoting legislation that will restrain the effects of sin.[31] 

Conclusion

The happenings of the nineteenth and twentieth century should inform the twenty-first century Church that she should not discount the great sufferings in the world on account of human sinfulness—such indifference can lead to apathy and skepticism among those in whom the gospel seeks to influence.[32]   Christians should follow the example left by Christ and exhibit care and concern for their neighbors, because “to know God is to do justice.”[33] One aspect of Christian life is charity—feeding the hungry and giving to the poor—charity is a necessary aspect of God’s message of love. 

The Apostle James emphasized further God’s intentions for his people to not only believe him but obey him when he said, “Faith divorced from deeds is barren.”[34] (James 2:20).  Christian’s should not be merely concerned with external worship while ignoring God’s commandment to “love your neighbor.”[35] Social justice has a passion that seems right; yet the Church should be warned—she is no more than a self-righteous social movement if the heart of her aspirations and the object of her adoration are not centered on Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 1

Imageby Providence Crowder

At certain times throughout history, the Church had failed to side with the oppressed, choosing for erroneous reasons to instead to side with oppressive human governments.  They had negated their charge to “dispense justice to the cause of the lowly and poor.”[1]  The Church’s silence on social matters had spoken volumes to those who, like black slaves in America, suffered grave injustices at the hands of ill-willed men.  If theology intended to, as Karl Barth has suggested, “apprehend, understand, and speak of the God of the gospel,”[2] then understandably the theological tendencies of the poor and oppressed would be towards the God who dispensed justice to the cause of the poor; they would cleave to Christ the liberator of the world who sets the captives free.[3] 

The liberating nature of the words of Jesus that expressed his care and concern for the hungry, depraved, widow, and orphan, have given hope to the hopeless.  Liberation theology was birthed out of the aspirations of the oppressed; out of their hopes to change social class structures, instances of poverty, and occurrences of injustice and oppression—all consequences of sin.  Liberation theology had given a voice to the marginalized groups of the world who had, in recent times, became theologians in their own right by emphasizing the socially sensitive aspects of Scripture; “Though you offer countless prayers, I will not listen.  There is blood on your hands . . . Cease to do evil and learn to do right, pursue justice and champion the oppressed; give the orphan his rights, plead the widow’s cause”[4] (Isa. 1:10-17).  The Second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII had propelled liberation theology to its heights by challenging the Church to break with its past practices and side with the poor.[5]  Yet, the challenge for the Church has continually been to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) without minimizing the gospel to a social justice contract.[6] 

Marxism, a Gospel Killer

In their zest for economic liberty and liberation of the poor in the world, Christians have often abandoned the gospel of Christ for “other” gospels—social, prosperity, and liberal gospels.  The Church must avoid submitting to the ideologies of “gospel killers” in her plight to care for the oppressed.  For example, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, various challenges for the church paved the way for philosophies such as Fascism, Socialism, Marxism, and Communism to influence Christian thought[7]—each political system brought about their own perversions of societal justice and economic equality by using governmental power, coercive measures, and oftentimes violence.

Marxism[8] in particular had a huge impact upon Christian theology in the nineteenth century.[9] The concept of materialism is central to the Marxism doctrine.[10]   Karl Marx claimed that “The way in which human beings respond to their material needs determines everything else.  Ideas, including religious ideas, are responses to material reality.”[11]   He further argued that religion was thus, “the result of a certain set of social and economic conditions. Change those conditions, so that the economic alienation is eliminated, and religion will cease to exist.”[12]   One of his primary arguments was that religion will exist as long as it meets some economic need in the life of the disenfranchised.  Remove the economic need through Communism, a system in which everything is commonly owned and material goods are distributed equally among the people, and religion will cease to exist.[13]

While recognizing that materialism is a very real problem, Christians must guard against the Marxist spirit—killer of the gospel—because it robs the oppressed of true liberation in this world and the next; true liberation is only accomplished in the redemptive work of Christ.[14]  Marxism and materialism are synonymous; they both focus on the corporeal and disregard the eternal.  Therefore, Marxism is antithetical to the gospel’s message of selfless giving, love, and Christian service in response to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Black Liberation Theology, A Gospel Killer

Numerous theological movements surfaced during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each having varying criticisms and interpretations.  Modern trends attributed truth no longer to the God of Scripture, but to nature and humanity.[15]  Indifference to religion became a worldwide phenomenon.[16]  As a result of biblical criticism, a feminist critique of the Bible surfaced in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Women had suffered great oppression and mistreatment at the hands of men.  Many of these men had used the Bible, particularly the writings of the Apostle Paul, to justify their oppression of women.[17]   

As well, black slaves in America were kept under subjection in part by their slave master’s improper exegesis of the Pauline writings.[18]   Once freed, blacks sought to rightly read the Scriptures, refusing to exploit the Scriptures to manipulate people[19] as their slave masters had done.  Unfortunately, much like their oppressors, many of the marginalized during the modern era began to interpret Scripture through the lens of their social and economic experiences and needs.[20]   Some Christians had begun to dwell so much on social issues that they became preoccupied with the existing social conditions and forsook Christian evangelism and discipleship.   

For example, black liberation theology was a fruit of the black man’s experience in America.  “Black liberation theology began with the life experience of oppression and formulated theology respectively . . . It viewed the Christian gospel to that end.”[21]  Black liberation theology sought the dignity and improvement of the physical condition of the black man above all else.[22]  Black liberation theology failed to account that “full humanity is achieved through a union with Christ not through any material means, social class, or institutional structure.[23]   Christianity was reduced to “a means for poor blacks to achieve upward social mobility and economic liberation.”[24]  With liberal theologies such as black liberation, the gospel was no longer Christ centered but man centered.

Stay tuned for Beware of the Gospel Killers Part 2,The Prosperity Gospel, The Wrong Gospel.  Excerpt: “Televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27] 


[1] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1988), 110.

[2] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 5.

[3] Gutierrez, 111.

[4] Ibid., 111

[5] Ibid., xxi

[6] Gutierrez, xxi

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bradley, 87.  “Marxism’s fundamental presupposition is that human beings have no inherent nature.  Marxism views man not as an individual but rather as a species.  Early Marxism regarded man, not as an isolated individual but as ‘man in society,’ as primary.  In this way, Marxism is willing to give up the notion of a “person” in exchange for the community.  Overall, Marxism is centrally concerned with social ethics in such a way that ontological and epistemological categories often go uncategorized.  Marxism radically erases the individuality of the person, even to such an extent that acting in history with the potential to be productive or unproductive, the person must bow his will completely to the community and its objectives.”

[9] McGrath, Historical Theology, 229.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 230.

[12] Ibid., 231.

[13] McGrath, Historical Theology, 231.

[14] Bradley, 27.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology, 214.

[17] Carolyn Osiek, “Reading the Bible as Women,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 181.

 [18] James Earl Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans,’ in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 155.

[19] Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans, 155.

[20] James Earl Massey, “Reading the Bible from Particular Social Locations” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995),  introduction.

[21] Bradley 19.

[22] Ibid., 19.

[23] Ibid., 31.

[24] Ibid., 30.

[25] Dawn, 23.

[26]Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis in the 21st Century (Nashville:  Nelson Publishing, 2009), 198.

[27] Hanegraaff, 209.

[28] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Cleveland, Ohio: Fortress Press, 2010), 83-84.

[29] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, rev. ed. (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1988), 64.

[30] Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (New York, NY:  HaprerCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 12.

[31] Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, Writings & Speeches that Changed the World, 25.

 [32] McGrath, Historical Theology, 238.

[33] Ibid., 110.

[34] Ibid., 113.

[35] Ibid., 111.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Healthcare Question—America’s Mixed Bag

by Providence Crowder

What is Healthcare?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this healthcare question. And if I am honest with myself, I’d say that there is no easy fix. People on both sides of the debate, the right and the left, oversimplify the problem by debating whether or not healthcare is a “right.” Healthcare has been defined as the diagnosis, treatment, preservation and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans through services offered by the health profession (www.thefreedictionary.com). Good health is a desired physical and mental state; every person wants good health. But, through the passing time, lifestyle choices, accidents, heredity, and other factors, good health throughout life is not guaranteed. Even in receiving healthcare services, good health is not guaranteed.

In America, our liberty to make bad choices concerning our health has been costly. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other ailments are symptomatic of a free nation that is enslaved to its deadly habits (smoking, drinking, promiscuity, overeating, etc.). Yet, we Americans demand comprehensive AND low-cost healthcare services to aid us in regaining and maintaining good health when our lifestyles or other factors cause our health to fail us.

Identifying the Problem

Talks of rights are somewhat unproductive. When it comes down to it, everyone has a right to almost everything except to infringe upon the rights of others. So naturally, some will tout their right to healthcare services because “Everyone has a right to life and human dignity!” Others will say, “You absolutely have the freedom and the right to obtain healthcare services if you so choose, but not with MY money! You do not have the right to force me to pay for your healthcare services.” We must look beyond this talk of rights and look at the real issue: everyone wants good health and a quality of life. When a person’s health fails, no one, regardless of class or ability to pay, deserves opportunities for improved health over and above another. So here lies the problem: How do we in America help the most citizens obtain access to quality healthcare services regardless of class or ability to pay?

Looking at what we have already done, we have used free market, government control, and charity/volunteer based solutions within our current healthcare system. All have benefited some group of Americans in some way because each has some attractive quality about it. That is why all three have found their way into the current system. Yet, the system is broken and is in need of reform.

Finding a Solution

Among those who identify themselves as liberals, moderates, and conservatives, reforms have generally been sought using one of two solutions— greater government control or increased free market solutions. Besides these two, I suggest allowing volunteer agencies, such as charities and faith based initiatives, to play a greater role in the reform debates. They have not been excluded from the talks, but by and large, the other two have dominated the talks. Volunteer and faith based agencies were the leading healthcare services providers in this nation in times past, before talks of Medicaid and Medicare. They have advocated on behalf of the poor and those with no ability to pay from the beginning. They have ensured that the “least” in society have had access to quality care during a time when the government’s job was to govern. With greater support from local communities and government at all levels, we can encourage volunteer activity and contributions through a variety of means, including educational and tax incentives for volunteers, medical professionals, medical supply companies, etc. Faith-based and volunteer agencies can once again take a leading role in healthcare services in America.

Brief History of Public Health

The emergence and ideas of public health and health services are not new; they were birthed out of necessity. Without going into the whole history of public health, I will mention that epidemics such as the bubonic plague, influenza, smallpox, malaria, yellow fever and syphilis, were catastrophic events that helped move communities all around the world towards public health solutions. Governments, communities, and health boards struggled to find remedies for treatment, containment, and prevention. As well, great industrialization and an overall increase in urban living (largely due to the industrial revolution) have caused problems with the spread of germs and disease, and have caused great unsanitary conditions for people living in overcrowded areas. Again, communities and health boards responded by developing hygiene and environmental regulatory systems and public health laws. Because health maintenance is so wide-ranging, the health profession has become one of the largest and fasted growing professions in modern times.

Blessed are those who live in nations where healthcare professionals are abundant, because the people in these nations have greater access to treatment and medication that is often lifesaving. Poor nations struggle to give their citizens the safety net of services that are provided by wealthier nations. Because good health is so important, and the risk of accident, illness, or disease is high for all, healthcare insurance has become a viable solution for citizens in many nations to supplement the costs of receiving treatment and medication, should it be needed.

Market-Based Health Insurance: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In capitalist societies, citizens have a variety of health insurance companies to choose from among those in the marketplace and these insurance companies offer a range of services. Because in the free market, competition drives down costs, citizens can often find low-cost coverage plans that are tailored to their individual or family needs.

Some argue that the capitalist model leaves too many people uninsured and unfairly reduces access to quality healthcare for the poor. They maintain that access to quality healthcare should not depend upon class or income status. For the uninsured, a trip to the hospital may push some into bankruptcy. For these individuals, trips to the emergency rooms ultimately drive up healthcare premiums after hospitals redistribute the costs of providing services to them (in America, federal law prohibits hospitals that participate in the Medicaid program from denying urgent care to the uninsured).

Additionally, greedy insurance companies take advantage of some citizens by denying coverage to some elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Opponents argue that Insurance companies should not be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

Government-Run Health Insurance: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In some socialist and communist societies, the government either provides a government run-option or is sole provider for healthcare services. Some argue that the socialist model ultimately leads to less access and poorer health services than in the capitalist model. Wayne Grudem has stated that “Government is never an efficient provider of economic goods because it does not have to face the competitive incentives of the free market . . . Federal government control of health care will inevitably mean a steep increase in costs, a decline in quality, a decline in freedom of choice, and a decline in the availability of certain kinds of medical care.” Additionally, “If a nation’s government controls health care, then some rationing system will be necessary to decide who gets treatments and who does not; and there will be widespread instances of denial of care; for a government simply cannot provide an infinite supply of care for everyone who asks for it.”

The current government-run healthcare systems in America, (Medicare and Medicaid) are expensive and highly problematic. According to a 2009 study done by National Center for Policy Analysis:

The 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports show the combined unfunded liability of these two programs (Social Security and Medicare) has reached nearly $107 trillion in today’s dollars! That is about seven times the size of the U.S. economy and 10 times the size of the outstanding national debt. The unfunded liability is the difference between the benefits that have been promised to current and future retirees and what will be collected in dedicated taxes and Medicare premiums. Last year alone, this debt rose by $5 trillion. If no other reform is enacted, this funding gap can only be closed in future years by substantial tax increases, large benefit cuts or both . . . Medicare’s total unfunded liability is more than five times larger than that of Social Security. In fact, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit enacted in 2006 (Part D) alone adds some $17 trillion to the projected Medicare shortfall – an amount greater than all of Social Security’s unfunded obligations . . . More than one-third of the wages workers earn in 2054 will need to be committed to pay benefits promised under current law. That is before any bridges or highways are built and before any teachers’ or police officers’ salaries are paid.

Those figures are catastrophic! America simply cannot afford another government-run health care program; the costs to run the current programs are unsustainable. Doctors and healthcare professionals have already felt the pinch every time the government has reduced their reimbursement payments for services. Expanding government control of the healthcare industry is sure to make doctors, healthcare practitioners, individuals with chronic illnesses, high risk employment, and the elderly among the biggest losers. Opponents argue that the government should not be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

Furthermore, the American government has not yet figured out how to provide a means for each citizen to receive basic needs such as adequate food, shelter, and clothing, so they lack credibility in promising the poor yet another entitlement that they cannot deliver on. With the billions of dollars spent each year fighting the War on Poverty, and with “free” money, housing allowances, and medical insurance provided for the poor, why has poverty worsened? Kenneth Blackwell has noted that “The Democrats War on Poverty has failed.” He then quoted a 1998 State of the Union address from Ronald Reagan:

My friends, some years ago, the Federal Government declared war on poverty, and poverty won . . . Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families.

Again, government is never an efficient provider for goods and services as evidenced with government-run healthcare and other government-run programs.

Volunteer-Based Solutions: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Many nations have felt the moral obligation to care for its poor and sick. America is no different. American citizens by and large have agreed to have their earnings taxed for the purpose of providing some state and federally funded insurance for its poor and elderly (Medicare and Medicaid), but many warn that the government has overreached its constitutional authority in forcing some citizens to pay for the healthcare premiums of others.

Throughout most of America’s history, citizens of good conscience volunteered their time, money, and skills to build and work in hospitals and care centers for the purpose of caring for its sick, poor and elderly. They were the founding and leading providers of healthcare services in America! Christians in this nation built schools and hospitals and cared for men, women, and children of all races, classes, and cultural backgrounds. This was in response to the Christian call to “heal the sick” and “care for the poor.” The role of Christians in responding to a variety of human needs, especially those of the poor, has been marginalized in recent times by the broadening role of the American government. As noted in a recent article by Evangelical and Catholic Christians, “It is increasingly the case that wherever government goes religion must retreat, and government increasingly goes almost everywhere.”

Like government welfare, charity (another means of welfare) too has had some adverse effects. For those with no ethics of responsibility to self and community, charity alone may have the unintended consequences of removing the incentive for these individuals or families to save for instances of illness and make healthier lifestyle choices. It has had the effect of creating an entitlement mentality that cannot soon be reversed. Benjamin Franklin, on The Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766, noted:

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burden? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.

The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.

President Franklin observed that too many provisions for the poor has had the adverse effect of creating dependent and irresponsible citizens.

Americans Will Decide

The wisdom of America is that the American people decide how they want to be governed. The healthcare safety net in America provided through the free market insurance companies, the abundance of hospitals and healthcare professionals, the volunteer agencies and free clinics, and the government subsidies for the poor and elderly make the United States healthcare system a mixed bag. Everyone agrees that reforms to the current system are needed. Ultimately, the American people will decide whether those reforms lead America towards more government control or towards a freer market; added with that choice, Americans would be wise to re-visit the reasoning and power behind volunteer and faith based initiatives to alleviate the debacle caused by the healthcare dilemma.

 

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Abolitionism and the Evangelical Heritage

by Providence Crowder

Donald W. Dayton produced a remarkable historical summary of America’s evangelical[1] legacy in his work entitled, “Discovering an Evangelical Heritage.” This book provides compelling evidence that confirms “the Christian witness” has a powerful impact upon society when the gospel is put into action.  Unlike contemporary evangelicalism, which by and large evades questions of social responsibility,[2] Dayton sets out to prove that the evangelical heritage left by nineteenth century evangelicals such as Catherine Booth and Charles G. Finney demonstrated that the gospel and social responsibility were once intimately integrated.  He provides thrilling accounts of how the nineteenth century evangelical “abolitionists”[3] understood that to right societal wrongs, social injustice demanded a radical and Christian response.  The abolitionist movement was chiefly political and religious; abolitionists believed that slavery was a sin.  Through moral suasion, they set out to change laws in an effort to permanently abolish it.

Dayton revealed how many of the nineteenth century evangelicals joined in on the abolitionist movement and subsequently set the stage for the feminist movement; these activists rejected the governmental laws that legitimized slavery and oppressed women; they instead chose to submit a higher moral authority—God  as opposed to government.  Evangelicals were among the first to reject segregation in worship and ordain women in the ministry; their revivals bore a significant influence on social reform in America. 

Political Activism and Abolitionism in the American Evangelical Movement

Donald Dayton was successful in establishing that the marriage of politics to social responsibility was lived out in the lives of many evangelicals in the past and is a huge part of the American evangelical heritage.  Although the new trend in American evangelicalism, the “religious right,”[4] or the Christian conservative movement, shares much of the same vision for morality in government and society as did the nineteenth century evangelical abolitionists, I have observed that the religious right seems predominantly idealist and less reformist; some have taken to political activism.  Modern social concerns of the Christian conservatives include abortion, same-sex marriage, poverty, and socialism, but most evangelicals by and large avoid direct confrontation of the issues choosing rather to emphasize piety and personal conversion. Modern evangelicals by and large place an emphasis on the authority of Scripture and  ascertain that preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ supersedes the calls for social reform; their convictions are not determined by their social milieu but in the expression of faith that is uniquely connected to the person and work of Jesus Christ.[5]

Nineteenth century evangelicals’ “liberal” [6] theology, according to its critics, tended to ground its theology in human experience;’[7] they held a unique concern for social justice and civil rights in their plight against racism and slavery in America. On the contrary, the nineteenth century Christian social reformists would say that to not stand against the sin of slavery was unquestionably un-Christian.  These Christians submerged themselves into politics, joining themselves to the Republican Party, the anti-slavery party, to bring about morality in government, to change unjust civil laws, and ultimately abolish slavery. 

Evangelicals were labeled radicals because the opposed the establishment, the Democrat Party, and liberals because they sought to change laws that denied freedom and equality for blacks and women; they demanded justice for all Americans.  However, after the civil-rights era, the evangelical descendants of the nineteenth century failed to show the same concern for social reform as their ancestors, believing as Evangelist Billy Graham, “While some may interpret an evangelist to be primarily a social reformer or political activist, I do not! . . . My primary goal is to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”[8] During the post-civil rights era, liberalism in America took on various new meanings, more secular in nature.

Social Responsibility and Revivalism in the Evangelical Movement

Early on in the nineteenth century, Oberlin College, “a hotbed of radicalism,”[9] was a major contributor and advocate in the fight against slavery.[10] The school was founded on the principles of evangelist and revivalist Charles Grandison Finney, the “father of modern revivalism.”[11]  He suggested that the gospel had given men and women a social responsibility to shape society.  Finney believed that resistance to reform hindered revival and that he proclaimed:

Revivals are hindered when ministers and churches take wrong ground in regard to any question involving human rights . . . the church cannot turn away from (the slavery) question . . . Silence of Christians upon the subject is virtually saying that they do not consider slavery a sin.[12] 

Finney further believed that the Church is perjured and the Spirit of God departs from her if she refuses to speak out on the slavery issue.[13] 

Oberlin College, its students, and professors, became politically and socially committed to the cause of abolitionism.  Members of the Oberlin Colony left the conservative Whig party and joined in the Republican ideology to help push the antislavery agenda forward.[14] In most elections, “the Oberlin College voted solidly Republican.”[15]  Although these abolitionists used politics as a tool, the Oberlin members did not see abolitionism as a political plight but a moral obligation.  Rich businessmen Arthur and Lewis Tappan, as a moral obligation and “evidences of piety,” spent their lives and fortunes to support initiatives such the “Underground Railroad,” free churches,[16] and anti-slavery societies.[17] The Oberlin colony rejected fugitive slave laws[18] and saw civil disobedience as a necessary Christian response to laws that upheld slavery.[19]  Many were persecuted and imprisoned for their beliefs.  One Oberlin prisoner was quoted as saying, “We belong to no modern school of politics or theology . . . but we belong to the school of the Fathers, who having been driven from their native land by the persecution of their government, taught their children that resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”[20]

Preaching the Gospel to the Poor in American Evangelicalism

Many conservatives during the nineteenth century believed that the Church should be less concerned with social issues and should “preach the Bible not politics.”[21]  Nonetheless, the evidence presented by Dayton suggested that social injustices such as slavery proved to be the most divisive issues in the nineteenth century Church.  The Methodist branch of Protestantism, for example, experienced a split; those with antislavery sentiments formed new branches.  Under the leadership of bishop Orange Scott, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection was born.[22] Combining “piety and radicalism”[23] these Methodists attacked the sins of the Church, insisted that Christians side with God and stop neglecting the poor, and called Christians to discontinue the corporate guilt of being silent on the issue of slavery—they set out on a mission to spread the gospel of abolitionism.  

Evangelicalism Today

 Dayton has noted that during the period after the Civil War, evangelicalism experienced a drastic decline in social reform—the sin of slavery had been abolished.[24] Since then, time has not faired favorably for evangelicalism.  Urbanization and industrialization complicated the revivalist reform vision and the emergence of biblical criticism, Darwinism, and new geological discoveries caused the troubled movement to lose its great vision for America that once led its fervor for social reform.[25]  Furthermore, the rise a premillennialist[26] eschatology[27] has “undercut the social reform of earlier years.”  The reversal in social reform is demonstrated in prominent and influential seminary schools who insist that Christianity was never designed to dismantle social institutions—their focus has shifted from reform and ethics to doctrine. [28] 

The poor response and sometimes outright opposition of the twentieth century evangelicals to the civil rights struggles of the 1950’s and 60’s are a clear indication of the detachment to the spiritual heritage once held of the evangelical to transform the world through reform.  Many evangelicals have seemingly forgotten its legacy and lost its appetite for social justice as they had when they stood firmly against slavery.  

My Review

One issue, even one as large as slavery, does not and should not define a Christian’s theology.  Jesus is the focus of the gospel message, not any one social evil or concern.  Nonetheless, the nineteenth century evangelical’s immense opposition to the cruel and inhumane treatment of enslaved blacks was certainly biblical.  They believed that all men were created in the image of God; no man should be permanently subjugated to another.  They agreed with the founders of this great nation in their declared independence from England that “all men were created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights by their Creator.”  Their care and concern for the poor and oppressed was consistent with the biblical teachings of Jesus Christ.   

Unfortunately, social activism in America is now largely a secular sport and the American government, not the Church, by and large provides free food, shelter, and clothing to the indigent; free legal counsel and work among prisoners; public schools and hospitals (none of which are really free); these were all ministries developed and voluntarily performed primarily by the Church.[29] In modern times, the government has taken to the business of providing a “gospel to the poor” and has perverted God’s message of justice.  Under the pretense of “equality” and “fairness,” the government has extorted its citizens through heavy taxation and burdensome legislation to fund “charitable” programs for the poor.  They have usurped the blessings associated with freewill giving and charity.

In reality, both the Church and the American government have done a great disservice to the poor.  Concerning the government, the political powers that be have convinced the poor that they don’t need God and they don’t need the Church, but they need the government to survive and to meet their needs.  The American government has failed the poor because they have done nothing in advising them towards godly and purposeful living, and many of their policies have done permanent damage by enabling the indolent poor to become dependent, lazy, and forego personal responsibility.  The government has also failed the people because they have ignored the power of community and voluntary giving.  The result has been increased class-warfare, strife, and covetousness among the people, and dependency of the perpetually poor upon the government.  Concerning the Church, she has failed the poor because she has not defended them against ungodly and oppressive governments; and she has willingly surrendered her ministry of helps for the sick, the elderly, the orphan, and the widow to a secular state who is more concerned with maintaining their dependency and allegiance through political manipulation than seeing their souls saved.

My Review:  Moving Forward in the Twenty-First Century

Although the notion of social reform in and of itself is a good thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ should not be replaced by the social gospel.[30]  There have been causes and movements throughout all times, there are many sins to confront (namely all of them), and there are many souls to be converted.  Christians should not dwell so much on social issues that they, as Justo Gonzalez has asserted, “become preoccupied with the existing social conditions” and forsake Christian evangelism and discipleship.  The Church’s mandate is to both preach the gospel AND stand against sin in the world.  Christians are both proclaimers of the good news to the lost and defenders of the poor and oppressed.

 Evangelicals have a responsibility to stand against sin and stand on the authority of Scripture as a framework in which to critique modern concerns.[31]  When the Church fails to do both, Satan, the god of this world, will step in with his own gospel and distort God’s truth.  For example, when the Church fails to speak out against the sin of abortion, it ceases to be a moral authority on the subject.  By their inaction and silence; by not proclaiming God’s truth and standing against it, the Church becomes irrelevant.  Satan is then given ample opportunity to persuade many souls to his cause.  

Trusting in God’s moral framework, or standard, in which to “judge” good from evil will prove to help Christians avoid the pitfalls of conforming to cultural norms that are counterintuitive to the gospel; this the abolitionists did when they opposed slavery although it was “legal” and acceptable to most of society at the time.  The twenty-first century looks bright for Christianity.  Today’s Christians should examine modern issues through the lens of Scripture and avoid worshipping the ideological gods of our modern day; Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, Marxism, etc.  We are the voice of truth and we are called to action, radical action; proclaiming the good news and standing against sin in the world.


[1]  The term “Evangelical” has been applied since the Reformation to the Protestant Churches by reason of their claim to base their teaching pre-eminently on the Gospel.  Revivals were a key element of their religious worship and practice.  In some Protestant branches, they lay special stress on conversion and salvation by faith in the atoning death of Christ.  In other branches in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, evangelicals campaigned vigorously for the abolition of the slave trade.  Social and political reform disappeared from the evangelical program when personal consecration and world evangelism became its focus.  Evangelicals in the twentieth century have experienced a revival and a new concern for politics and social justice.  Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. “Evangelicalism.”

[2] Donald Dalton, “Discovering an Evangelical Heritage,” (USA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2007), 36.

[3] “An abolitionist is a person who advocated or supported the abolishing of slavery in the U.S., especially before the Civil War.”  Definition retrieved from Dictionary.com on October 11, 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Abolitionist

[4] “Christian right” is a term used predominantly in the United States to describe “right-wing”Christian political groups that are characterized by their strong support of socially conservative policies. Religious conservatives principally seek to apply the teachings of particular religions to politics, sometimes by merely proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times by having those teachings influence laws.

In the U.S., the Christian right is an informal coalition of numerous groups, chiefly evangelicals and CatholicsIt is strongest in the South, where it comprises the core of the Republican Party.  Besides conservative positions on domestic issues such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, the Christian right is a strong supporter of Israel in foreign affairs.  “Christian Right,” Retrieved from wikipedia.org on October 10, 2011 at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_right.

[5] Alister McGrath, A Passion for Truth, 126.

[6] Liberalism came into use early in the 19th century.  It has been defined as ‘the holding of liberal opinions in politics or theology.  If taken to mean freedom from bigotry and readiness to welcome new ideas or proposals for reform, freedom, and progress.  It is a characteristic which many people will readily profess.  In more recent times, the word has held a more secular or anthropocentric humanism meaning which has origins in the Renaissance and is inconsistent with biblical and dogmatic orthodoxy.  ODCC, s.v. “liberalism.”

[7] Ibid., 125.

[8] Dayton, 8

[9] Ibid., 35.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Revivalism is a type of religious worship and practice centering in evangelical revivals, or outbursts of mass religious fervor, and stimulated by intensive preaching and prayer meetings.  In the USA, revivalism has been credited with a considerable influence on social reform.  ODDC, s.v.“revivalism,” and  Dayton, 15.

[12]  Dayton, 18.

[13] Dayton, 18.

[14] Ibid., 43.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Free Churches were a form of protest by the reformers and abolitionists to the practice of selling and renting pews for the construction and maintenance of church buildings.  Renting pews was a practice that alienated and humiliated the poor and often times prevented them from attending church.  In free churches, pews were open to all regardless to class or wealth. Dayton, 66.

[17] Dayton, 67.

[18] Ibid., 49.

[19] Ibid., 48.

[20] Dayton, 61.

[21] Ibid., 49

[22] Ibid., 76.     

[23] Ibid., 77.

[24] Ibid., 122.

[25] Ibid., 125.

 

[26] Millennium is the belief in a future thousand-year period of blessedness.  The premillennialist group maintains that the millennium will follow the Second Coming of Christ and postmillennialists believe that it precedes the Advent, and prepares the way for it by the spread of righteousness over the earth.  The abolitionists and nineteenth century evangelicals were postmillennialists, hence their focus on social change.  Post-Civil War, eschatological views shifted to premillennialism, hence their focus on preaching the gospel, personal salvation, and repentance.  ODCC, “Millenarianism.”

 

[27] Eschatology is the doctrine of the last things; that is the ultimate destiny both of the individual soul and the whole created order.   ODDC, “Eschatology.”

 

[28] Dayton, 128-129.

 

[29] Dayton, 129.

 

[30]The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the early 20th century. The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially social justice, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. Theologically, the Social Gospel leaders wanted to operationalize the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done on earth.” They typically were post-millennialist; that is, they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort.  Social Gospel leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of the Progressive Movement and most were theologically liberal, although they were typically conservative when it came to their views on social issues.”Definition retrieved fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_gospel on October 16, 2011.

 

[31] McGrath, 62.

 

 

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