I agree that a big government does not build relationships. This is bad when your government is a representative democracy. Civic participation is vital in keeping a vibrant commitment to American life. However, given what I am about write, I feel that there is not a choice anymore. As a nation, we have morbidly set up a political system that forces voters to think into binary choices because of an increasingly polarized world. This polarization is having bizarre consequences on the majority of religious organizations and politics.
My troubles with Ayn Rand Republicans are their policies on tax cuts. This powerful ideology and political polarization is changing how we act culturally and religiously. This can be understood in my earlier [post]. There is a growing anxiety within me about the great divorce, which I feel, is between egalitarian Christianity and politics. This separation is going to exacerbate this nation’s income inequality and we should fear it. To justify this point, I bring in Thomas Jefferson and Tocqueville’s logic to illustrate the importance of a large middle class to sustain a free and equal society. Second, this separation will exacerbate the currently held anxiety that the United States is forgetting its fundamental principles. I illustrate this point by explaining two of the three American historical narratives with characters such as John Winthrop. Additionally, I will bring in G.K. Chesterton, an outsider prospective, to assess some the troubling trends within certain religious groups within the United States. Together, it will illustrate that various groups who claim we are forgetting our Christian principles are the violators themselves.
The American historical narrative and its founding principles come in three different strands, according to a book called Habits of the Heart (HOTH); these strands are the Republican (govt. not party), biblical, and Utilitarian individualism narratives. (Utilitarian individualism is left out for now. I have maxed out on my words.)
Thomas Jefferson’s ideal society, the Republican (govt. not party) strand, was a self-governing society among relative equals. Jefferson as well as Tocqueville, believed that this idea could be reached in the United States. In large part, America was not divided into a few very rich aristocrats and a poverty-stricken mass (large income inequality), like Europe. The U.S. had a large middle-class who could make a living, participate in public debates, and govern. Thomas Jefferson feared cities and manufacturing because it would bring “great inequalities of class and corrupt the morals of a free people.” This corruption is what Tocqueville adds that the immersion in private economic pursuits undermines the person as a citizen because it leads individuals to ignore or neglect common concerns. The corruption is the loss of solidarity and the sense of community. In so doing, this creates an environment for the majority of the population to fall prey to despotism.
Think about it, if you have government that is cutting taxes, cutting spending specifically in areas such as higher education, public facilities, infrastructure, research, and health-care, it takes away the majority of citizens (middle-class) to participate in quality politics, group organizations, and obtain decent wages/ income. Cutting budgets, in these areas, over the long term will make a smaller middle-class and making it feel isolated and powerless in an increasingly commercial society. A shrinking middle classes typically means lower incomes for churches, clubs, and other associations; therefore, the unintentional consequence is this: greater call for the increase and a reliance on a centralized technocratic state that opens the door for the despot, because the majority does not have the tools or the education to solve localized problems.
As the great divorce, the biblical narrative’s best example is the puritans and John Winthrop, the first Massachusetts governor.
Just before the Massachusetts Bay colonists were to disembark, John Winthrop gave a sermon to his follow puritans on the New World bound ship. The sermon was called “A Model of Christian Charity.” Winthrop warned that if we pursue “our pleasures and profits” we will surely perish out of this good land.
Winthrop declared that the Apostle Paul instructed us to “entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities… we must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes… our Community as members of the same Body.”
As one of the early settlers, the Massachusetts colonists established one of our nation’s civic principles, the hope of a just and compassionate society.
Yet, Philip Yancey wrote an introduction to G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy in which he quotes Chesterton. Chesterton, British journalist, was observing a certain sect of Christianity in the United States, known as evangelicals. Specifically, he means the kind of evangelical that point to “temperance, industriousness, and achievement as primary proofs of their faith.”
Joel Osten is one man I have in mind, and he is the modern example. Christianity has taken a bizarre turn with pastors like him. Wealth and success is proof of your faith. Politically speaking, this concept is not only bizarre, but a morbid turn for supposedly Christ followers. Thanks to polarization, it has allowed Ayn Rand Objectivism to coincide with Christianity, which together is a contradiction as illustrated by Stephen Prothero:
“Here are five big differences I see between the theologies of Christianity and Randism
1. Jesus preached the virtue of selflessness; Rand wrote a book called “The Virtue of Selfishness” (1964). Altruism is evil, she argued, and egoism the only true ethics.
2. The Apostle Paul called the love of money the root of all evil. Rand wore a dollar sign brooch and saw to it that a florid dollar sign stood guard by her casket at her funeral. She also put a love letter to the almighty dollar on the lips of one of her “Atlas Shrugged” heroes, copper magnate Francisco d’Anconia (a speech Paul Ryan has said he returns to repeatedly when pondering monetary policy). There d’Anconia calls money “the root of all good.”
3. “Blessed are the poor,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. And he says in the Gospel of Matthew that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” In the Gospel according to Ayn Rand, however, it is the “traders” (“job creators” in modern parlance) who like Atlas carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, while the poor are denounced as “moochers” and “looters.”
4. The hope of the Christian gospel is the kingdom of God, but Rand’s objectivist philosophy opposes “collectivism” at every turn. “Man – every man – is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake,” the inventor John Galt proclaims in “Atlas Shrugged,” “and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”
5. The ultimate concern of Christianity is God. The ultimate concern of Randism is the unfettered freedom of the individual. While the Christian Trinity comprise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Rand’s Trinity is I, me, mine.”
It has allowed American Evangelicals to support cuts towards the poor and embrace Ayn Rand’s politically philosophy. Additionally, it has allowed their churches to be morally free from assisting the poor because their condition is somehow God’s judgment.
G.K. Chesterton would say it neglects the basic fact that the gospel comes as a eucatastrophe, spectacularly good things happening to spectacularly bad people. He would say, “would not a title like Repentant Majority or Forgiven Majority serve as a more accurate way of defining Christians than Moral Majority?”
As Chesterton says, “the church has badly failed the Gospel.” In addition, I will add, the church has failed in carrying on two of America’s founding principles– Republicanism and biblical narratives.