Saturday, November 13, 2004

Confusion twice confounded

Dear Dr. Sanders,

I read your essay on the recent election with interest:

A few comments:

1. You accuse the religious right of syncretism. This may in some measure be true. However, once one considers the beliefs, practices, and morality of the Robert Sanders, one finds that they are syncretistic as well. For example, Dr. Sanders believes that we should model our society on OT economics. I myself am quite open to that argument.

However, Dr. Sanders evidently does not believe that we should model our society on the OT theology of war. So he believes in OT economics, but not OT ethics.

Now, perhaps you would say the OT theology of war was fulfilled in Christ, such that it is no longer applicable under the New Covenant--not, at least, at a literal level. Yet you also say that OT economics were fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor 8:9), and yet you apparently believe that his example is exemplary for Christians, and exemplary at a fairly literal level, when you literally reapply the Jubilee to Christian ethics.

2. There is also the problem of your love/hate attitude towards private property. On the one hand, you seem regard poverty as an evil--to be rectified by income redistribution. Yet, in the exemplary case of Christ, you regard impoverishment as a good. On the other hand, you evidently regard wealth as an evil. Yet you seem to believe that the rich ought to share their wealth so that everyone is relatively rich.

So is affluence a good thing or a bad thing? Is your position that no one should be rich unless everyone is rich? It looks like you love the poor as long as they're poor, and you hate the rich as long as the rich. If the rich became poor, you'd love them; if the poor became rich, you'd hate them. Yet you think that the rich should enrich the poor, at which point the poor would become hateful.

Although I don't suppose you're a rich man by American standards, you are a rich man by Third World standards. Does the fact that Robert Sanders is the thankless beneficiary of a modern American standard of living make him a worshipper of Pluto? Is so, that's another aspect of his syncretistic doctrine and praxis. He combines ingratitude and hypocrisy all in one sanctimonious package.

3. Then there's your stated commitment to radical pacifism. Putting aside the question of whether this is exegetically supportable, it raises yet another difficulty. Suppose the wealthy were to spread their largesse in some equitable division of the spoils.

How do you square your radical pacifism with the right of private ownership? What keeps the thief from impoverishing his neighbor? If you don't believe in the use of force to restrain evildoers, then evildoers will use force to confiscate all the goodies for themselves.

That, indeed, is more than a hypothetical. It happens all the time in totalitarian regimes.

4. In this same general connection, you talk about the Confessing Church, that remnant of Christians who stood against the Nazis.

Now, forgive me for stating the obvious, but you can only talk about a Christian remnant because our side won. If Hitler had been victorious, there would be no Christian remnant, or Jewish remnant for that matter. The whole world would be Nazi.

Indeed, we can turn back the clock. If our side hadn't won the Battle of Lepanto, or the Battle of Poitiers, there would be no Christian remnant. The whole world would be Muslim.

BTW, this is one of the problems with your "Christian" pacifism. Your "Christian" pacifism is a ghost town, uninhabited by Christians. A necropolis rather than the city of God.

Our Lord founded a church--a church for the duration of the church age. A defenseless church cannot long survive.

Oh, yes, you can cite historical examples in which nonviolence has been successful, but that will not work with everyone.

You set up a false antithesis between patriotism and the church. Yes, there's a danger of blind patriotism. But at this present time, America is the only force on earth that can repel the two major enemies which threaten the life of the church: secular humanism and global jihad.

5. So far I've confined myself to your syncretism, to your systematic incoherence. Given the massive moral condescension of your essay, I don't think it is asking toi much from you to favor us with a principled and practical alternative--instead of an intellectually confused and contradictory screed.

Now let's move on to some detailed errors.

6. There's a difference between quoting the Sermon on the Mount, and exegeting the Sermon on the Mount.

What does it mean to turn the other cheek? Have you bothered to visualize the concrete imagery? To strike someone on the right-hand side of the face is, literally, a backhanded slap. That is an insult, not an assault.

The Sermon on the Mount was addressed to Jews living under Roman occupation. It doesn't envision or address a post-Constantinian situation.

This doesn't mean that the Sermon on the Mount has no relevance for contemporary Christians. But some minimal effort must be made to adapt the message to our own time and place. Again, that doesn't mean that we conform the message to our situation. We may need to conform our situation to the message. Nevertheless, you do need to recontextualize the message to the circumstances of an audience other than the original audience.

7. The Jubilee was not about income redistribution. Rather, it presupposes a tribal society in which major landholdings were common property of the clan. The Jubilee represents a restoration of the status quo ante.

8. As to the plight of the poor, the OT makes provision for charitable giving. It was not, however, welfare, but workfare--gleaning the fields (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21).

9. You level the following accusation: "the United States has been profoundly implicated in the rule of Mammon, the economic laying waste of entire countries, if not continents, together with the devastation of wars and invasions, some of which were needless."

What wars and invasions in particular? W.W.I? W.W.II? The Cold War? The ongoing war against Islamo-terrorism? Would the world be a better off without our intervention? If the Third Reich or the Empire of Japan had been victorious? If Stalinism swept the world? If the forces of global jihad, aided by state-sponsored terrorism, were victorious?

What is your standard of comparison here? And what does it mean to say that some of our wars and invasions were needless? I thought your were a radical pacifist. Are you now saying that although some wars are needless, other wars are needful, but we shouldn't fight them anyway?

What makes you think that the US has impoverished rather than enriched the world? Isn't the US the engine powering the world economy? Wouldn't broad swaths of the world be infinitely poorer without American trade, technology, and outsourcing? Why are Mexicans pouring over the border for their slice of the American dream if the American way of life is such a nightmare?

You love employees, but hate employers. Can't have one without the other, though.

If you want to attack specific instances of abuse, fine. But warm fuzzy words don't defend the defenseless or feed the hungry.

If you really think you have a better way of getting the job done, go somewhere and make it happen. If you think pacifism is the answer, then go to some war-torn part of the world and try it out.

If you think you have a better economic system, go somewhere and make it happen. Start your own little commune or whatever.

Why do you just sit there in front of your computer screen, brought to you c/o those evil multinational corporations, unctuously attacking everyone else for failing to put your wonderful ideas into practice? Why don't you make some personal effort to implement your own ideas? Why should we believe in your ideas if you don't? Why should we drop everything and try to make them work if you don't? What are we to make of your deedless creed? Haven't you ever heard of leading by example?

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