Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 18, 2020

Shavuah Tov,

Believers Could Decide Every Election for God’s Glory (Part 3)

B by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In recent RRs, I have discussed the upcoming presidential election. In today’s RR, I wish to discuss briefly what I consider a disturbing change in the thought of many Americans– preference for socialism over  capitalism. Does it matter whether the United States’ economy is based on capitalism, socialism, or communism?

DEFINITIONS: Brief definitions are in order:

Capitalism: Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals or businesses own capital goods. [“Capital goods” = machinery and other resources used in the production of commodities.] Production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in consumers’ marketplaces, rather than being based on central (governmental) planning and control. Purest capitalism is laissez-faire capitalism. [“Laissez-faire” = literally, “let the people do as they wish” or “let something go,” is a policy opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the  maintenance of peace and property rights.] In laissez-faire capitalism, the private sector is virtually unrestrained, operating almost without any governmental control or oversight. In practice, most capitalist countries practice regulatory oversight of businesses and own select industries. In this area, for example, TVA was started by the federal government, not electric companies like KUB. Entrepreneurship is valued and encouraged, and is essential for economic growth. Individual freedom is maximized in a capitalist country.

● Socialism: Socialism is an economic system in which there is public, rather than private, ownership and control of industrial/ business property and natural resources. The philosophy is that the individual person does not (should not) work in isolation, but does so in cooperation with the entirety of society. An individual’s work is regarded as work for the whole of society, and all should benefit as equally as possible (that is, all are entitled to share the wealth as equally as possible). Entrepreneurship is necessarily undervalued. Is socialism harmless? A wag has offered a humorous definition I like: “A communist is a socialist with a gun.” Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, was more direct and honest: “The goal of socialism is communism.” Winston Churchill described socialism as: “a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” 

● Communism: Communism is an economic system in which liberal democracy and capitalism are opposed. Society is supposedly classless. The means for production and resources are communally owned. Private ownership is abolished or significantly limited. Entrepreneurship is, by definition, abolished.

● Examples: The United States is a capitalist nation. Recently, however, there have been strong efforts to make it a socialist nation (especially from such Democrat Party politicians as Bernie Sanders, the guilt-ridden rich, many news media organizations, and university/ college professors). A number of nations have tried socialism (most recently, Venezuela), but no nation has succeeded. Prominent examples of communist nations include the U.S.S.R. and the People’s Republic of China, but the U.S.S.R., now Russia, has collapsed and China has greatly modified its original political and economic philosophies. 

SHOULD A BELIEVER BE A SOCIALIST? The following five points in this RR  are heavily based on:* https://www.christianpost.com/news/5-reasons-socialism-is-not-christian-opinion.html . [* Since “heavily based on” is much kinder than “plagiarism,” I choose to be kind to myself in this RR. In my defense, I have added a number of my comments to Julie Roys’ article.]

Reason 1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview: Prominent socialists, such as Bernie Sanders, argue that the world’s greatest problem is the unequal distribution of wealth. He writes: “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.” 

This argument exposes a strong materialistic worldview, which is the basis of socialism. To socialists, all that really exists is the material world. Many socialists see no need for a Creator (God). Only material things are real, exist, and have value. Human suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of material “stuff” and wealth. Salvation from this suffering lies in re-distribution (by government) of this material “stuff” and wealth, so that equality is better approximated. It is assumed that if every person is given equal “stuff,” all problems in society will somehow disappear. Spiritual issues are irrelevant. 

This worldview of socialism is in direct contradiction to belief in Yeshua, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world, and which teaches that humans’ greatest problems are spiritual. Biblical doctrine states the cause of suffering is sin and salvation is found in the cross of Messiah, which liberates us from sin. Because of sin (unbridled greed, theft), though, there will always be inequalities in wealth. In the parables of the talents or minas (Matthew 25:14–30, Luke 19:11–27), Yeshua taught that persons of good character (strong work ethic) may accumulate more wealth than lazier persons, who may actually lose everything. NOTE: Yeshua was emphasizing spiritual matters, rather than financial matters. It is not sinful to be poor, if the poor person is morally doing his/ her best. Yeshua had much to say in loving support of poor persons, and much to say in condemnation of rich persons. Yeshua taught that abundance in life comes not from accumulated wealth, but comes through Him (John 10:10b): [Yeshua said] “… I have come that they [My sheep, My followers] might have life, and have it abundantly!” Consider also (Matthew 6:19-21): [Yeshua said] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Reason 2. Socialism Punishes Virtue: Socialists desire to distribute wealth to individuals according to their need, regardless of virtue (work). This concept is based on Karl Marx’s statement: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” A fault of this form of government is that we sooner or later “run out of other people’s money,” as Margaret Thatcher pointed out.

Whenever any institution or agency provides aid, it runs the risk of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish industrious persons by making them pay for those who lack industry. That is, it can reward those who are not industrious by giving them the fruits of another person’s labor. An interesting sidelight is that Karl Marx was a lifelong freeloader, failing to provide for his wife and children. Marx’s personal life validated Aristotle’s observation: “Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.” 

This tendency to live off others’ industry is the consequence of socialism, but is the opposite of teachings of the Bible. For example:

** (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13): For even when we were with you, we would give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that some among you are behaving irresponsibly– not busy, but busybodies. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Messiah Yeshua to work in a quiet demeanor, so they may eat their own bread. But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary of doing good. 

** (1 Timothy 5:8): But if anyone does not provide for his own, especially those in his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 

** Even when a faith congregation in Yeshua dispenses aid to, say, an older widow in need, the recipient of aid should be as industrious and virtuous as feasible (1 Timothy 5:10). Of course, Paul would join us in providing aid for handicapped (disabled) persons, without requiring them to be “industrious.”

SIDELIGHT: For many years, I was a “soft touch” for any panhandler who crossed my path. I would give money to almost anyone who claimed a need. I realized that much of my money would buy alcohol and other drugs for these panhandlers. I certainly would not wish to finance their “sorceries” (“sorceries” = drug abuse, translating the Greek pharmakeia, which is strongly denounced in the Book of Revelation). Sadly, and with some guilt, I am much, much restrained now in doling out money to panhandlers. I readily donate to faith organizations, which provide food, clothing, and other necessities to families in need in Yeshua’s name. In my mind, this is the responsible way to help “the least of these, Yeshua’s brethren” (see Parable of the Righteous Judge, Matthew 25:31-46). Socialism provides aid without credit to the love of Yeshua. END sidelight.

Reason 3. Socialism Endorses Stealing: Barack Obama once defended his socialistic policies to a little girl by saying: “We’ve got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money. If you had a whole pizza, and your friend had no pizza, would you give him a slice?” That sounds like laudable Judeo-Christian doctrine, right? What Believer would not endorse sharing his/ her abundance with someone who has nothing? The problem is that Obama was not endorsing people voluntarily sharing their wealth (a “pizza slice”) with others (who had “no pizza”); he was endorsing the government forcibly taking a piece of the pie from one person and giving it to someone else. Put another way, that is saying that if you have three cars and your neighbor has none, the government has a right to take one of your cars and give it to your neighbor. In a word, that is stealing!

Socialists are not strong advocates of private property. Some Christian socialists actually assert that the Bible does not teach private property rights. And, some Scripture passages do seem to describe a society better served by socialism.

However, both the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah unequivocally affirm private property. We cannot even obey the eighth commandment to not steal (Exodus 20:15), unless we accept the notion of private ownership. From whom would we steal, if there is no ownership of property? Nor, can we steward our money as the Bible commands, if the state owns our money, not us. So, for an economic and political system to be of Judeo-Christian origin, it must protect private ownership and allow individuals freedom to allocate their resources according to their conscience. If taxes support a person in need and some of that tax money is from me, I probably have no Heavenly reward in helping a needy person, since my tax money was seized from me (even though legally by the government) and distributed (by the government) without my direct knowledge.

Reason 4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare: Socialists demonize the rich, blaming all of society’s problems on them. Bernie Sanders once posted on his Facebook page: “Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.” Sanders mimicked Karl Marx, who viewed history as a series of class struggles between the rich and the poor and advocated overthrowing the ruling class. (Compare various “White Supremacy” chants today.)

Scripture strongly warns the rich and powerful not to oppress the poor (Proverbs 14:31): The one who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors Him.  And even I, a capitalist, am uneasy at the embarrassingly excessive wealth of, say, Jeff Bezos (Amazon).

Socialists basically condemn an entire class of people simply for possessing wealth. And, they encourage poor people to overthrow them. For example, Hillary Clinton once said the U.S. economy requires a “toppling” of the wealthiest one percent of Americans. (Was this a call for civil war– a revolution?) 

Although their wealth is embarrassing, their politics unseemly (to me), and their lifestyles insensitively obnoxious, the uber-rich are not causing all problems in American society. Billionaires are not acquiring wealth by stealing from the masses. They create/ sell innovative products and services desired by the public, which produce wealth and create jobs for many people. But, even if they were exploiting the poor, nowhere does Scripture support the “have-nots” (us) demanding money from the “haves” (the billionaires). Instead, Scriptures teach:

** (Exodus 20:17): [God spoke] “Do not covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” That is, do not envy (covet, lust for) the possessions of Bezos, Gates, and other billionaires.

** (Philippians 4:11b-13): … for whatever circumstance I am in, I have learned to be content. I know what it is to live with humble means, and I know what it is to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment– both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me. Be content in all things. Our home is Heaven, not earth.

SIDELIGHT: On a personal note concerning contentment, my wife and I married at a young age (she was 18, I was 20). I was a student. We lived in Memphis, four-hundred and fifty miles from both of our families. We had no money. We ate the cheapest food we could buy. We lived in dingy, roach-infested apartments. We could not afford an automobile or television. We could not afford any recreation. However, Linda was the best wife I could imagine, and I loved her very much. I was content and happy. I felt blessed by God. I can attest that contentment is a state of mind, not by ownership of “stuff.” I look back at our first years of marriage– years of true poverty, years in which Linda and I had nothing except each other– and I honestly believe they were the happiest years of my life. Multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos recently had a messy divorce, but I am still happily married after nearly fifty-nine years. Uber-rich Jeff was/ is miserable; not-so-rich Raymond is most certainly content and happy. END sidelight.

Reason 5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage and Family: A little-known goal of socialism is that it seeks to destroy marriage and the family. Many propose that socialism (the government) replace the family (the home). In socialist Hillary Clinton’s well-read book It Takes a Village, she wrote: “I believe the primary role of the state is to teach, train, and raise children. Parents have a secondary role.” This one belief that government should replace parents should have caused every Believer to vote against her! By replacing parental influence in the home, the government can indoctrinate children in its Leftist way of thinking and shield them from any notions of God and religion. 

Public schools are not what we older people experienced decades ago. When I was young, we were taught “the three R’s,” practical life skills, patriotism, and love of God. (I did not realize it at the time, but the Board of Education violated my civil rights. We started each day by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Some teachers even read Scripture passages to us. Today, I guess I am too dumb to just see how I was harmed by a daily prayer to God and affirmation of allegiance to my country. I probably need an ACLU lawyer to explain it to me.)

Today, public schools are indoctrination centers. My grandsons attended Knox County public schools. They spouted socialist garbage taught to them by their indoctrinators, much to my dismay. Then, they got jobs. After examining the deductions in their paycheck stubs, they stopped being socialists and became capitalists. The more the government takes, less is the incentive to work.

Friedrich Engels, who co-authored The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx, wrote that the society he envisioned would be one where “the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society…. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.” Bernie Sanders called for a revolution in childcare, with government providing early childhood education (indoctrination?) beginning with children as young as six-weeks old (!). In Tennessee, we begin  pre-K (prekindergarten) school for children as young as four years, although attendance is voluntary. Some would like to lower the pre-K age even younger! 

Socialists/ communists strongly support gay marriage, which has been called   “Communism’s Trojan Horse,” because it secures the final takedown– the final defeat– of the traditional home. Adonai decreed the home to be the union of one man and one woman to form one flesh (Genesis 2:24). He did not place two  same-sex persons or government into the home to serve as parents.

What socialists/ communists describe as Utopia, is, to the Judedo-Christan faith,  a dystopia. [“Dystopia” = a world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives; dystopia is the opposite of Utopia.] Yeshua would never promote such a dehumanizing existence for His people.

Hundreds of quotations about socialism, mainly from well-known persons and covering the gamut from supporting to opposing views, have been collected in: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/socialism . (Some excellent quotations, well worthy of your reading and thought, are included in this site.)

Be careful what slick political messaging lodges in your mind and is taught to  your children. Grass is not always greener on the other side. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.