Friday, September 2, 2016

The Four Foundational Disagreements between Left and Right

How can you help create a better future?  That is the question. In modern society, we find ourselves split on many values that were once shared values.  Whether left or right, both sides seek to help create a better future.  Both sides base their approaches on presuppositions regarding ethics, philosophy, government, and policy.

As a Christian I know that the principles I live by can be applied to any situation, on any level.  The nice thing about Christian ethics is that they transfer into modern life quite well.  Of course, there is a required effort to help translate principles into practical application.

There are two primary principles within the Christian worldview, they are love and truth.  We stand for love and truth foundationally as Christians.  We believe in loving others, caring about others, and helping our neighbors to succeed.  We believe in mercy, we believe in second chances.  

We also believe in truth.  We believe in foundational objective principles that don't change with the whims of the majority.  In fact that very principle of unchanging foundations was written into our system of government, it was written into the Constitution.  See the Constitution is our agreed rule book for life in the United States.  Our government leaders agree, or at least they should, that the Constitution is the rule book.  Laws can be passed and policies executed with the condition that these laws and policies are in line with the Constitution.  The Constitution restrains government and safe guards the rights of the people.  

In the United States an irate authoritarian majority may not run rough shod over the entire country with 51% of the vote.  The Constitution prevents such a possibility.  The founders knew that man would tend toward ignorance, fear, and the desire to gather power and become corrupt.  Therefore the founders built in foundational principles, outlined in the Constitution as the playbook for life.  They wrote universal truths into our system.  This is a Christian viewpoint, that truth does not change, that truth is fixed and unchanging. 

Love and truth.  We offer love freely, through charities, non-profits, and personal acts of kindness.  One could say that our Christian love is linked inexorably to freedom.  We voluntarily and freely give our love and at times with-hold it if we choose.  Truth also is inexorably linked to liberty.  The truth of our worldview is applied through government and the Constitution to the extent that it provides freedom and liberty for the population, while restraining government from exceeding it's primary mandate of providing safety and liberty to the people.

Of course in the area of truth, there are many areas where foundations can't be rewritten or removed.  Or at least that was the intention. Unfortunately we find ourselves in a day and age when nearly all the foundations of our system are under daily attack.  Amazingly, they are now being successfully circumvented in many cases.  

In the ideological struggle within the United States and western civilization all together there seem to be two sets of presuppositions vying for control.  There are many layers to these presuppositions.  One could say that it's fundamentally about a religious vs. secular perspective.  That's certainly an aspect of this struggle.  One could also say it's a contest regarding systems of government, say free market capitalism vs. government controlled capitalism.  Or even capitalism vs. a hybrid capitalist-Marxist system.  Or even simply capitalism vs. socialism.  One could go even deeper and say that it's really a contest of ideologies, philosophies underpinning two perspectives of existence: one side defends naturalism, the idea that all life is evolved and there is nothing beyond the material vs. an intelligent design position that posits inalienable rights and a sovereign creator.  Another layer is of political ideology: One could say it's about conservatism vs. progressivism.  Left vs. right as they say, democrat vs. republican, federalist vs. anti-federalist, and many other such dichotomies.  There are many ways to look at it.  

Today we'll look at four foundational disagreements between these two groups.  There is certainly a fair amount of crossover between these two groups at war, you'll see many points of overlap.  But there are also noticeable patterns.  You'll much more often see that naturalists tend toward Marxist ideology, greater government control, collective group rights, materialist underpinnings and progressive political causes.  And generally on the other side you'd see Christians tending toward capitalist voluntaryist ideology, limits on government, inalienable personal rights, deistic underpinnings and conservative political causes.  We'll preface that there is a great deal of overlap, including recently with many atheists and agnostics abandoning ship on the left, moving toward more libertarian and classical liberal views on government and personal liberty.  

The Four Key Disagreements

1. Personal Responsibility vs. Societal Responsibility
A man walks into a bar, has a few too many drinks, gets into a bar fight, and shoots another man with a hand gun.  Who is at fault?  From the Christian perspective, the individual is at fault for making a poor decision.  The individual ought to be charged with a crime, given a fair hearing, punished if found guilty, and provided with the chance of rehabilitation.  The fundamental view is of personal responsibility.  It's the same way with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It doesn't matter if my dad follows Jesus, or my grandparents followed Jesus, what matters is that I personally, individually have that one on one relationship with Jesus.  

The opposing perspective is that society is to blame for this crime.  The appeal is made to society.  Society and government need to take away the man's gun.  Society and government need to regulate the bar, and instruct the people in how to conduct themselves in such a situation on a mass level.  Education programs are put into place.  New laws are passed to try to control the conduct of the people, and remove the guns to prevent the crime.  The person is seen as a victim of the failures of social institutions to make change.

2. Personal Empowerment vs. Personal Victimhood
A young African-American is raised by a single mother who doesn't know how to read. Is he a victim or a potential victor? In the case of Dr. Ben Carson, this African-American decides to do great things in his life.  And he does just that.  He overcomes every barrier, he makes good choices, and reads lots of books.  He decides internally that he is not going to be the victim and he is therefore personally empowered.  The Christian perspective of personal empowerment is that the individual is able, God-willing, to take a stand and rise out of poverty, crime, addiction and depression to achieve anything they set their mind to.  

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God the human race fell away from truth.  We learned to victimize ourselves.  When God asked Adam about why he had eaten from the tree he was told not to eat from, the first words out of Adam's mouth were: "The woman, who you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it."  He transferred the blame for the fall away from himself.  First he pushed it upon the woman, then he pushed it all the way back to God himself.  Because after all, didn't God make the woman?  If we go back far enough we can all find something to play the victim of.  An African-American today could look back to slavery and say that this makes him a victim.  A man of polish heritage like myself could look back to the Nazi genocide in Poland during World War II and I could say that this situation makes me a victim.  A girl could look back to when she was raped, and say that this makes her a permanent victim.  A drug addict could say that this is a state of victimhood, and that no one could expect him to get clean since he has been so victimized.  I could and often did point back to the divorce of my parents as a reason that I was an eternal victim.  If we go back far enough, we can all play the victim to something.  But when we decide that it is within our power to overcome every obstacle then nothing can stop us.  

The New Testament scriptures affirm this empowerment in these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Even when we are weakened by past struggles and sorrows, and our tendency is think of ourselves as victims, we are actually strong thanks to Christ and His power working in us.  

The opposing viewpoint would say that people groups, like african americans, women, hispanics, and LGBTQ persons are actually victims of society and mainly victims of white Americans.  The view is that these people need to be advocated for, given benefits and support, and provided for by government.  The Christian perspective would certainly agree with advocating for those who are minimized and harmed.  That's why there are charity organizations like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and many others that advocate for the lost and hurting.  But when that compassion goes too far, into the realm of providing free food, free college, free housing, and free everything we would recognize that as crossing the line and moving outside of Christian values.  As it's written, he who does not work does not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  In addition, mandating through government that people be forced to give up their money to have it redistributed to those who don't work is completely anti-Christian.  

Ephesians 4:28 (ESV) "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."  Ephesians 4:28 should forever put to rest the false notion that Jesus was a socialist or that the Bible teaches redistribution of wealth.  It most certainly does not.  It does certainly teach sharing and giving of each other's possessions and wealth voluntarily.  Government coercion is never suggested and is instead flatly rejected. 

3. Knowledge vs. Emotion
Recently a prominent atheist suggested that the most perfect form of government possible would be "Rationalia" where every policy would be based on the weight of evidence.  That seems very noble.  But too often, especially on the progressive side, facts are manufactured to fit the agenda.  Much the same is done through evolutionary biology to support the presuppositional position, naturalism.  If facts don't fit the narrative, they are discarded.  If statistics don't match the preset conclusion, such as climate change, or gender ideology, or gay marriage or gun control or socialism or big government programs, then those statistics are discarded while others, often disproven studies are magnified.  It's a troubling situation.  

Yet more often than not the fundamental divide seems to be between knowledge and emotion.  The knowledge side often matches up with the Christian and conservative group, not always, but most of the time.  Conservatives look to the past, they look to history to see what has worked and what hasn't worked.  Christians look to morality, principles, religious faith, and such solid bedrocks for the course of the future.  The foundations of the government, and the Constitution rest on the theories, philosophies and ideas of the past.  This is all from knowledge of the past.

On the opposing side, there is primarily an emotional response.  The goal is to push for compassion and fairness.  The primary goal is for equality.  But the interesting thing on the progressive side is that definitions change, the theories are always evolving, and the past tends to get ignored, while utopian ideas tend to prompt the naturalists to push into the future through discussion, consensus, and scientific inquiry.  Compassion and fairness are good things.  But when knowledge in the forms of history, analysis, statistics, and science are ignored to push an ideology then compassion and fairness can quickly become bullying and tyranny. 

There is a balance at work between knowledge and emotion.  Many times in the past the conservative side has allowed knowledge to go to far in a way where the letter of the law, and the traditions of the past become dogmatic and without compassion or consideration of the minimized minority.  On the other side, and more recently compassion can go too far as well.  And knowledge gets thrown out the door.  Eventually you have open borders leaving the door open to terrorist attacks, you have all kinds of benefits and government programs but the 20 trillion dollar national debt is carefully ignored.  The balance is vital, we must center ourselves on knowledge while making sure it remains balanced with compassion and fairness.

Both sides of our national struggle are quite useful in many ways.  Throughout the history of the United States there were great awakenings and temperance movements that helped keep the United States population grounded in Christian values, strong morals, service to the poor, social stability, and foundational principles.  At the same time and just as important are the American enlightenments prompting incredible scientific discoveries, engineering innovations, medical progress, new technologies, and powerful philosophical ideas tending to be bedded in ancient Greek and Roman ideology and government.  This is the primary reason I don't view the other side as enemies.  They have most often been our friends and allies in making America great.  But as this side steps from classical liberalism (liberty) to progressivism (authoritarian elitism) more and more I have to battle with their worldview.  But we aren't enemies, we've often been the best of friends, thinking all the way back to John Adams the conservative Christian and Thomas Jefferson the liberal deist.  How can we restore that coalition of left and right working together, not in some ridiculous John Kasich "reach across the aisle" lie where both sides join together to expand government and increase spending, but more so how can both sides rejoin hands in common pursuit and philosophical alliance? We need each other, I'll be big enough to admit that. Food for thought.

4. Liberty vs. Control 
Finally the great divide of liberty vs. control.  If your more to the left you might say it's a division between liberty and equality.  But this is one of the biggest questions of government: How much control is too much control?  On one end is the authoritarian and on the other is the libertarian.  I come down much closer to the libertarian side.  In the past many on the conservative side have actually tended more toward authoritarianism and big government.  Often on the left the focus was on more liberty and more freedom.  That has really flipped in the past ten years or so.  

Conservatives and Christians should always affirm liberty as the very highest virtue of American civilization.  The second would be justice.  Justice is presuppositioned on due process and receiving a fair hearing.  Enforced equality is not.  Liberty and justice are the primary values of American society. 

On one side you have the desire for gun control, economic control, higher taxation, government controlled healthcare, government run industries, redistribution of wealth, redefinition of marriage, forcing federal decisions on the states, and the like.  

On the other side you have the desire for free markets, 2nd amendment rights, freedom of speech, freedom of conscientious  objection, personal property rights, states rights, natural marriage, the right to life, and many other positions.

Fundamentally the question is: Should a single person be free and at liberty to make choices, good and bad?  Or should government and an intellectual class provide constant input, instruction, boundaries, laws, and if necessary, coercion to enforce the views of the majority?  Ultimately I have to believe the most fundamental right is that of a person's ability to be free and at liberty of choice.  Secondly this person ought to have the right to justice when his right to liberty is violated or someone else violates his or her rights. Personal liberty is scandalous and more dangerous.  It is only able to function properly when the morals and religious principles of the society are in tact.  The person then self-imposes restraints on his own actions.  The man is a moral authority unto himself and accountable to God.  The person is free to worship or not to worship.  The free person can be either a menace to society or a blessing to society.  That is the danger of freedom and the triumph of freedom.  We must advocate for freedom always.  What did Jesus say about liberty?  What does the Bible say about freedom?

It has a great deal to say about it:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1 ESV

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. -1 Peter 2:16 ESV

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. -Galatians 5:13 ESV

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32 ESV

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.-2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Our Christian principles and values, matched with the innovation and genius of the liberal and the freedom loving deists and naturalists have made the United States and western society in general highly prosperous, free and just.  There is always work to be done of course.  Unfortunately there is a growing divide between these two forces, with authoritarianism, militant atheism, and Marxist socialism beginning to push us away from the vision the founders laid out in the Constitution.  

As Christians we are builders of societies, of liberties, of philosophies, and of civilization itself.  We must be builders again, because the foundations constructed by our ancestors are being crippled and subverted by a militant new progressivism pushing our society, young people, and social institutions toward disaster.  We can build a better future.  

It's time for a new renaissance of innovations, ideas, and breakthroughs.  We need people willing to start now in the spreading of our ideas, and in the propagation of our principles to the masses, especially the young.  We can still win the day.  We are entrepreneurs and idealists.  We are dreamers.  We are followers of the greatest revolutionary of all time, Jesus Christ the son of God.  By His power we can build a better future by striking out boldly into new areas, hatching new ideas and starting businesses, in creating academic institutions, media megaphones, and internet outreaches to send our conservative, Christian, creationist views across the entire face of the Earth.  We can do it, one day at a time, build that future, it's never too late, and we will win the day.  We'll be dogged, constant, fighting day and night, year after year, never giving up, never losing hope, and never fearing the night we see before us.  Though evil may prevail for a little while, soon the bright morning of liberty, justice, and truth must break forth. 

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