Posts Tagged judgement

Occupy Yourselves: Targeting the Evil, Greedy 100%

The attitudes and actions of the Occupy Wall Street protesters have inspired many others to join the streets in outrage, leaving those of us at home to wonder what the point of it all may be.

And let me assure you: there is indeed a point.

I’ve been struck by the moral arrogance that permeates the crowds — a sort of pretentious, self-absorbed judgmentalism, self-anointed to invade the souls of the rich and expose their moral failings. Such supposed vice, we are told, must be stopped, and it is these brave oracles of materialism and greed who shall stand in its way.

There are, of course, a few problems with this. One is that “ending corporate greed” requires privy knowledge of who is greedy and who is not. We can certainly trust the discernment of the guy smoking pot in the sleeping bag next to the sewer drain, but even if he gets it right, how might we convince Mr. Fat-Cat Richiebottoms to alter his moral outlook?

“Just take his money away,” they’ll say.

Yet if I threw Billy Goodheart’s “Everyone is greedy but me!” sign in the garbage, my hunch is that his ability to produce quality picketing art would only improve. There he’d be, the very next day, with the same attitudes, the same platitudes, and the same distasteful propensity to blame the Man.

Reality alert: You cannot change the world by blaming others, and you cannot change moral behavior by yelling.

With particular precision, David Brooks sums up the issue nicely:

If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent. This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite.

And problems do abound. Yes, there are structural issues with the status quo. Yes, corporatism is out of control (which is not the same as “capitalism,” mind you). Yes, banks and businesses were/are reckless. Yes, people were/are greedy. You woke up on the right planet.

The question is, “What can we do about it?”

In a free society, one thing we can control is our own lives. If we don’t want to be beholden to greedy misers or enslaved to high-interest credit cards, we can say “no.” If we don’t want to be tied to 10 years of student-loan debt that we can’t afford, we can go to a trade school or demonstrate some basic upfront frugality. If we’re looking for our dream job and can’t find it, we can continue to increase our skills and standing, no matter how frustrating the process may be.

If, however, we are trying to “be the change we want to see in the world” by sleeping in a gutter for weeks on end, we should be prepared to receive our prize.

What we need is what John Witherspoon once called a “return to duty” — an introspective moment that leads us to “hearken the rod” rather than disdain it, to return to Read the rest of this entry »

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Love That Ends in Bloodshed: G.K. Chesterton on Division and Unity

G.K. Chesterton, OrthodoxyI recently wrote a piece at Ethika Politika discussing the problems we encounter when we pursue unity for the sake of unity. My basic argument — which is partially borrowed from Kenneth Minogue — is that moderation lends itself toward ambivalence, and ambivalence wanders from truth.

Shortly thereafter, my good friend RJ Moeller pointed me toward an excerpt from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodox, which illuminates similar similar points from a Christian perspective.

In this case, Chesterton points to the differences between artificial unity and active love (a close cousin of truth).

It is just here that Buddhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liberty and love. Love desires personality; therefore love desires division.

It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say “little children love one another” rather than to tell one large person to love himself.

This notion of being “living pieces” translates quite well into an individualistic approach to our public endeavors, particularly when we consider the benefits that can come from active struggle and engagement.

Chesterton continues, noting that Jesus made it clear his blood and sacrifice would provoke division, not soften it:

We come back to the same tireless note touching the nature of Christianity; all modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the Read the rest of this entry »

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The Judges of Judgmentalism: Discerning Truth vs. People

The thesis of Rob Bell's forthcoming book ignited a theological firestorm.

There has been quite a bit of hullabaloo over Rob Bell’s upcoming book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book’s thesis, according to the publisher’s description, argues that “a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.”

Since the book is indeed an upcoming title, the chatter has largely focused around its marketing materials, particularly a promotional video in which Bell does what Bell does best: talks like a universalist. (emphasis on “talks like”)

After perusing the available materials, as well as some advance chapters, Gospel Coalition blogger Justin Taylor concluded that Bell may indeed be a universalist, after which John Piper chimed in with a simple, “Farewell Rob Bell. These remarks spurred retorts from across the Web, resulting in a cacophony of Bell-centered banter.

Oddly enough, many of those who have been defending Bell seem to care little about the actual validity of his views and beliefs, which, although relatively vague, make some startling absolute statements about the nature of God’s love. Instead of arguing over whether Bell’s views do indeed mesh with true Christianity (and/or oppose universalism), many of his followers have backed away from matters of theology altogether — grounding their defenses in verses like “judge not lest ye be judged.”

The message seems clear: Bell’s beliefs should not be up for scrutiny because criticism is not the Christian thing to do.

This brings us to some larger questions about the role of judgment itself, particularly when it comes to Christians. Since there is already plenty of healthy debate over the contents of Bell’s book, it is here that I would like to focus our discussion.

How are we to respond to others when we disagree with them? More specifically, how are we to respond to Christians when we think they depart from the Read the rest of this entry »

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Jay Richards: “Can a Good Christian Be a Socialist?”

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Does being a good Christian go beyond profession of faith?

Jay Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God, recently made a post on The American asking whether a good Christian can be a socialist.

The question itself is enough to stir up plenty of ire among socialists, particularly because nobody likes to feel judged. But while I don’t believe we can or should make judgments about an individual’s personal salvation (see Matthew 7), I do think it’s healthy to ask whether certain belief systems are consistent with others.

Richards begins by emphasizing that brazen trust in the State does not necessarily negate one’s trust in the Christian God:

“I think one could trust God and affirm, say, the Nicene Creed (the touchstone of Christian orthodoxy), while also believing that the state ought to own the means of production and determine all the basic terms of the market, such as price and production. There have been many such people. It’s not my place to question either their sincerity or their status in the eyes of God.”

However, Richards then adds a caveat, arguing that being a good Christian — i.e. pursuing Christ beyond basic salvation — includes “working out the wider implications of one’s worldview.”

So when we work out the wider implications of socialism (as Richards suggests), what do we find?

“[S]ocialism, despite its compassionate rhetoric, inevitably involves gross violations of the right to private property—otherwise known as theft. That right is presupposed in at least two of the Ten Commandments (you shall not steal and you shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions).

Socialism estranges individuals from the right to the fruits of their labor. It allows a centralization of power utterly contrary to truth that all human beings are fallen. It harms the poor by decimating the information and incentives needed to abundantly Read the rest of this entry »

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Defining Social Justice: True Justice Requires True Judgement

"David and Goliath" by Gustave Doré

David chopped off the head of Goliath. Does this fit into your definition of "social justice"?

The term “social justice” is extremely en vogue nowadays. Celebrities apply it to their charitable side projects, politicians attach it to their pet policies, and Christians adopt it to stay “relevant” with the rest.

However, similar to those who tout “peace” from the rooftops, those who talk about “social justice” tend to ignore the various dimensions of what justice actually consists of. Whenever I hear someone pressed on what they mean by “social justice,” the answer always seems to be about some kind of momentary crisis or some urgent need to help others (or themselves).

Justice is having a house to live in. Justice is having health care. Justice is having a full belly. Justice is having a stable home environment. Justice is having the “right” to be married. Justice is making love, not war.

Such views are both too flexible and too narrow, and anyone who holds to them is extremely limited in making any real change in the world.

Peace and justice are both important, but they are desired outcomes, not starting points. True peace can only come when there is true justice, and true justice can only come when there is true judgment.

Yes, you heard me right. I said judgment.

Many shy away from this word because it means that some sort of truth exists. But, as much as it may hurt the feelings of those who advocate a relativistic worldview, true justice cannot be Read the rest of this entry »

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