Reverend Randy Van Doornik, pastor of the North Reformed Church in Newark, New Jersey eloquently confirms why a nation's government is an extension of that society's dominant ethical principles. In a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter titled Sanders breaks barriers at Liberty, but why the barrier?, Van Doornik provides an exclamation point to Bernie Sanders’s call in a September 2015 speech to an audience of Christian conservatives to put their Christian ethics where their political mouths are. Van Doornik writes, in part:
Bernie Sanders entered "enemy territory" to speak at Liberty University. . . [T]he primary message Sanders brings should be squarely in the evangelical wheelhouse.
[I]f religious people carried the banner of justice in the manner described in scripture, the poverty and justice failures of the United States would diminish dramatically. Think about it: four out of five Americans claim religious faith. What would the world look like if the values of justice and peace so prevalent in scripture were lived out as priorities in community?
[T]he claim of separation between public and private venues for pursuing justice and peace rings false. First, politics and government are true expressions of the values and priorities of the people. We organize community according to the values that matter most. Second, scripture calls us to organize nations reflecting the priorities of our gods. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord," according to Psalm 33. What would the world look like if our nation reflected our faith priorities? Well, it does reflect our faith priorities.
My emphasis added.
I left these comments, somewhat edited for clarity:
“Justice in the manner described in scripture” is not justice at all. Real justice holds that people should get what they deserve, for better or for worse—in what they earn, in how they are judged, etc.
Christian ethics—the ethics of altruism—teaches that self-sacrifice for the needs of others is the essence of personal morality. You don’t have to deserve it. You just have to need it. If someone has a need, those who have more are morally obligated to sacrifice for those needy—selflessly, without judgement, without principles, without limits, and regardless of personal loss to the giver. This kind of “justice” logically leads—eventually but inexorably—to the leveling down of everyone to the lowest common denominator, with everyone whining for their needs to be satisfied—by someone else. A predatory man-eat-man world of equal poverty, because no productive achiever is ever safe from the chains of others’ needs. Christian ethics—the ethics called altruism—is utterly inverted on principle: If you’ve earned it, you have no moral claim on it. Only those who didn’t earn it have a moral claim on it, merely because they need it. Or, according to Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s crusade against economic inequality, have less of it than you do.
I agree that Christian conservatives are wrong to think you can separate ethics from politics—i.e., government. It stands to reason. Van Doornik is absolutely correct: “politics and government are true expressions of the values and priorities of the people.” If self-sacrifice for the needs of others is the primary virtue, who is anyone to claim that the state shouldn’t have the power to override anyone’s right to decide for themselves who, when, and in what capacity to sacrifice for others? It’s selfish to defend your right to make your own choices about what to do with your own property. Individual rights are selfish. But, according to the altruist ethics, you must be willing to selflessly sacrifice your rights for the needs of others, in the name of the “greater” or “common” good. Christian ethics demands it. And if you resist, government must force you to do it by legal aggression. How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian demand a separation of government and charity? On what moral basis? Only on a selfish basis, which is morally forbidden.
It’s important to understand exactly what Sanders, Van Doornik, and their ilk are saying.
Christian ethics—scripture—upholds the tyranny of need. In economics, it means the sacrifice of productiveness to non-productiveness, ambition to laziness, self-responsibility to irresponsibility, virtue to vice, wealth to poverty—From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. If all someone has to do is need something—rather than think, plan, and work to satisfy those needs; just need it—and others must be forced to provide it—then the best of society, the self-responsible, the worker, the trader, the respecter of others’ lives and rights, get systematically enslaved and destroyed. We’ve seen it before, in 20th century communism; In any socialist state; In our increasingly-struggling American economy. A steady economic downward pull towards a chain gang of poverty, overseen by an increasingly omnipotent state. This is not justice and peace. It’s predation and aggression as a way of life.
If we accept “justice in the manner described in scripture,” an omnipotent socialist state is all that can ultimately result from this Christian ethics. And as Van Doornik emphatically makes clear, this same “justice” demands the sacrifice of the fruits of freedom and hard work enjoyed by Americans, not just to other Americans, but ultimately to the rest of the world, under an organization of nations “reflecting the priorities of our gods.” A global socialist regime designed to drain the hard-earned wealth of the citizens of the prosperous nations into the pockets of backward peoples everywhere is the only result possible under the politicization of scriptural ethics.
This is not justice. It is the antipode of justice. Why?
Poverty is the natural state of man. The “cause” of poverty is birth. The cause of non-poverty—prosperity—is what we should be concerned with. Virtually nothing humans need or desire occurs free in nature. Our survival depends on creating the material goods our lives and flourishing depend on by reason-guided physical labor (productive work). There are only two ways for an individual to satisfy his needs: self-responsibility, productive work, and trade . . . or mooching off of, stealing from, or enslaving the self-responsible productive worker. Those who propose to eliminate poverty by looting and shackling those who rise out of poverty only condemn more people to their natural state. As the state expands it tax-and-spend programs to satisfy needs, the rising taxes (both direct and indirect) pushes marginal earners into poverty. The more the government taxes to satisfy needs, the more people become needy, creating a cycle that results in a broadening downward pull into poverty.
But that’s just fine with the champions of the poor. For the theoreticians of altruism—the socialists, the economic equalitarians, the Church, and their ilk—alleviating poverty is not the goal. Poverty is the goal, as an end in itself.
The alternative to this brutal man-eat-man abomination is a social organization of individual rights and a government charged with the responsibility of protecting those rights; a society where everyone is free to live un-assaulted by neighbors and government, keeping what he earns, respecting others’ property, dealing with each other not as sacrificer and parasite or slave and master, but as legal equals; by exchange of values in voluntary, mutually consensual trade to mutual advantage. A non-sacrificial society of gain by win-win relationships—including the protected right to selfishly judge for oneself, based one’s own values, resources, personal circumstances, and judgement as to the recipient’s worthiness when, who, how, and in what capacity to help others. I’m speaking, of course, of free market capitalism, the system spawned by the principles in the Declaration of Independence. To have a politics of real justice, liberty, mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and prosperity, we need an ethics of rational self-interest.
The only people who could have any objection to such a benevolent system are parasites, power-lusters, and those rotted out by envy. Sweep aside these altruist poverty-worshipers, and celebrate prosperity and its cause, rational self-interest, liberty, and individual rights.
For anyone who doubts that the government and social system we get is a direct outgrowth of the society's dominant moral values—or that the religious/altruist ethics, including Christian ethics, underpins collectivism, socialism, and statism—Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis, and Reverend Randy Van Doornik are doing a wonderful job of dispelling that doubt.
Pope Francis, Religion, Capitalism, and Ayn Rand—Craig Biddle for The Objective Standard