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Social Justice and Adventism
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Submitted: Apr 16, 2012
By Charles Eaton


The last month and half has seen two issues in rapid succession grip the attention of the national news machine and private conversations alike.  First, the Invisible Children video about the international criminal Kony took the web by storm with over 80 million hits in just a few weeks.  Then, the tragic story of Trayvon Martin’s shooting sparked a fierce public debate about race, gun safety, and the morality of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Note:  These are only recent examples I am using to contextualize this blog.  What I want to address is a systemic change in our culture.  This isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans nor is it about liberals vs. conservatives it’s about What Would Jesus Do in today’s society.

The emergence of these social issues has highlighted an interesting phenomenon that, while I am sure is well known to some older participants of this site, was a new discovery for me.  Adventists don’t do much at all to collectively address and solve social issues.  Relatively speaking, I can’t help but notice that our Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ use their sphere of influence much more actively than we do.  To this day I have never seen an Adventist church organize a march, boycott, protest, or really anything that might disrupt the status quo.  A huge reason for this differences lies in our denominational bureaucracies.   The individual Baptist churches aren’t nearly as tethered to a centralized government as local Adventist churches are.  The Baptist churches have no need to “toe the party line” for fear of reassignment or a smaller allocation of funds because they are autonomous in their authority.  This results in a greater willingness to take chances because the only repercussions will come from within the four walls of the individual church.  The Adventist fear of social issues is so great, that even the mistreatment of blacks before and during the civil rights era was met with collective silence.  Dr. Samuel London, professor of history here at Oakwood University, and author of the book Seventh-day Adventists And the Civil Rights Movement noted to me that the church of Seventh-day Adventists was institutionally apathetic to the civil rights movement.  While there were individuals who did great things for the movement, the policy of the church at large was Do Not Interfere. 

I ask two simple questions:  First, should our local churches be given more freedom to act influentially about the social ills that they see?  Second, should the body of Adventism as a whole be more vocal about social ills in general?  I want to be very clear though.  Most of the major social issues that have emerged in the United States have been in the context of white-black race relations.  I myself, as a black student attending an HBCU, have been affected negatively and positively because of race relations in this country, so I am clearly biased and have no qualms with my own biases.  But in no way do I mean either overtly or subtly that I want Adventists as a whole to get involved in just white/black issues.  These are simply the issues that have come up most often in this country.

I am a firm believer that everything I do and say will either advance or harm the cause of Christ.  As Adventists, we believe that our mission is to preach the gospel and prepare the world for Christ’s second coming.  Therefore, my questions absolutely must be framed by our mission.  Meaning, would an increased Adventist presence in social issues harm or advance the cause of Christ?  I advocate the latter.  But let’s also be realistic, a greater Adventist participation in social ills would cause division among Adventists, because some would say we don’t need to get into a particular issue while others would say we should.  Be this as it may, I believe that the positive social impact on the world would advance the banner of Christ more than our own internal debates would harm it.

________________________
Join in the discussion:

Kevin Riley
2012-04-17 7:34 PM

We are a church led mostly by middle-class professionals.  When have you ever seen middle class professionals out protesting or in any way directly confronting the status quo?  The middle class is obsessed with respectability.  Ellen White led a long and, ultimately, unsuccessful attempt to make us focus on holiness rather than respectability.  I remember when the pentecostals first appeared in our small country town.  The topic of conversation at church for weeks could be summarised as "what would the neighbours think if we acted like that?"  While we are led by people who care very much about their reputation, and genuinely care about the reputation of the church with 'people who matter', you will not see much change.

Look at our history.  Not just the US, but South Africa, Eastern Europe, Rwanda (as reported elsewhere on this site) - just about anywhere we have been for some time.  As long as we can keep the Sabbath and evangelise, we are willing to keep quiet about social issues.  Should we change?  I believe we will not want to hear what God has to say if we don't.  Should we give local churches more freedom? Not necessarily.  Local churches can be effective in social justice in the existing system.  The Conference/Mission can fire the pastor, but this is one issue (among many) that we should not leave to the pastor.  The problem is, at least in most Western countries, that most members in the pew are also focused on respectability and don't want to upset either the stauts quo or their neighbours.  If we ever get to the point where we all genuinely care far more about what God thinks than what our neighbours think, then we will see some action.

Don't judge others who are in a different situation too harshly.  Being 'a black student' gives you a pass to do things others would be judged harshly for.  Make the most of it.  While you will no doubt remain black, you will not be either a student or young forever, so make the most use of both as an 'excuse' to do what you believe needs to be done while you still can.  Or become a social scientist and then, even when you are a grandfather and, according to all appearances mature and  respectable, you will still have a good excuse to be a radical :)

Charles Eaton
2012-04-18 4:42 PM

I also think that an adress of social issues would be much more effective, and have much more authority, if it came from our centralized government rather than individual church fingers.  The only problem is, thats a lot more people to convince, people who have an interest in seeing our numbers stay steady without the fluctuation that may follow.

However, and please know I don't mean to be picky or sensitive, but I don't think how you meant your last paragraph is how I took it.  Being black means that I have a better understanding of the black struggle in this country.  But I don't think being "radical" is anything that is age or color bound.  Nor is being a young black student an excuse do do anything.  Or an old black social scientist.  There are merely some things that need to be fixed in this country, and denomination, and I don't want those things to pass by the people unaware.  I would hope that anyone and everyone who saw something that they could forsee being done better would do the same regardless of age, gender, race, or occupation.  It's all love in Christ though.

Charles Eaton
2012-04-18 4:42 PM

I also think that an adress of social issues would be much more effective, and have much more authority, if it came from our centralized government rather than individual church fingers.  The only problem is, thats a lot more people to convince, people who have an interest in seeing our numbers stay steady without the fluctuation that may follow.

However, and please know I don't mean to be picky or sensitive, but I don't think how you meant your last paragraph is how I took it.  Being black means that I have a better understanding of the black struggle in this country.  But I don't think being "radical" is anything that is age or color bound.  Nor is being a young black student an excuse do do anything.  Or an old black social scientist.  There are merely some things that need to be fixed in this country, and denomination, and I don't want those things to pass by the people unaware.  I would hope that anyone and everyone who saw something that they could forsee being done better would do the same regardless of age, gender, race, or occupation.  It's all love in Christ though.

Horace Butler
2012-04-17 8:11 PM

I believe we should take our example from what the early church did, rather than what the rest of Christendom is doing now.  We find no record of the apostles or early church members engaging in protests against the evils perpetrated by the culture in which they lived--and there were many:  slavery, gender discrimination, infanticide, etc.  What we do find are individuals like Dorcas helping out as she was able.  When the gospel message is preached as it should be, by members who are living it, it will have an impact on those with whom we come in contact.  That's how change is best effected; from the ground up, not by protests and corporate ventures.

Ellen White said, "The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence.  By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we do-operate with Him in the work of saving souls."  COL, p. 340.  And thus, society is improved.  Even those who don't like Ellen White would have to agree with her on this.

William Noel
2012-04-18 11:38 AM

Charles,

The primary reason I see for why our church is not involved in social issues is that we have such a strong historic focus on end-times and preaching about them that we have lost sight of what it means to minister God's love to our neighbors.  Over the years I've heard just about every excuse someone can give for not getting involved in either social issues or community ministry.  Yet my experiences in those areas have been some of the most educational to me and the most rewarding.

I discourage participation in such things as public protest marches because they rarely leave a positive image in the minds of observers.  Typically the public response is wondering what "those troublemakers are up to this time" that is not an issue for them.  That is why I encourage below-the-radar, one-to-one ministry that over time grows into church ministries.  By doing this we can become known as the people who love both God and their neighbors.

Horace Butler
2012-04-18 8:14 PM

"The primary reason I see for why our church is not involved in social issues is that we have such a strong historic focus on end-times and preaching about them that we have lost sight of what it means to minister God's love to our neighbors." 

I'm not convinced that that is the case.  We are counseled not to duplicate the work of the Salvation Army.  They are doing a fine work, but it's not our work.  There are plenty of Adventists who are ministering God's love to their neighbors, but they are usually unwilling to advertise the fact, preferring to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (the "below-the-radar, one-to-one ministry," you mentioned).  Just as it wasn't the primary mission of Jesus to become involved in "social issues," so it isn't our primary mission.  But we should be living in a way that those with whom we come in contact can see that we are not racist; that we do care about the poor, etc.

But any official church statements on social issues fall flat as long as our hospitals are still preforming elective abortions.

Kevin Riley
2012-04-18 10:51 PM

Only with some of the public.  Abortion is not as big an issue everywhere as it is in (parts of) the US.

William Noel
2012-06-16 2:27 PM

Horace,

You are correct that Jesus was not involved in social ministry in the modern sense.  That's because He understood an inescapable reality about human nature and society that the modern concept of "social justice" overlooks.  That reality is that society is not improved by laws or governments, but by the ministry of God's love to individuals and duplicated in such numbers that the objectives of men are overcome by the love of God.  All discussions about social issues, what our hospitals should or should not be doing, and a hundred other issues are a waste of time because God wants each of us to be ministering His love on an individual basis far more than we have ever seen or imagined. 

Kevin Riley
2012-04-18 7:44 PM

Public protest marches tend to leave a negative impression when the people involved are unknown before, and never seen again after, the march.  When the participants are known to have been involved practically in the issue for a considerable amount of time the impression can be quite different.  Our public pronouncements on issues - no matter how we choose to make them - carry more weight if we are known to be actively involved rather than just 'pontificating'.

William Noel
2012-04-19 9:53 AM

Kevin,

How many of us are actively involved?  What does it mean to be "actively involved" in issues.  Are you involved?

William Noel
2012-04-19 2:16 PM


Kevin,

If you have to ask those first two questions, you aren't involved the way God wants you to be.  Still, here are a few thought questions to give you some measurements.

1. You are so passionate about it that you would rather be doing it than be at your paying job earning a living.  (I tell people that I work for a paycheck but my passion is my ministry.  My co-workers regularly hear my reports about what God is doing through my ministry.)
2. You spend some multiple more time doing it than you spend in church, prayer meeting, etc.  (Some weeks for me the multiple is 3X or greater.)
3. You see God working through you to make things happen that you are not normally be capable of doing.  (I've seen God do this so many times that I'm writing a book about it.)
4. You see God working ahead of you to provide resources for exactly when you need them.  (Ditto for the book.)

Getting involved in gift-based ministry has transformed my relationship with God and has made serving him a great source of joy and reward.  I LOVE my ministry.  I lead a team that has come to be called the "Angel Team" because of how many times people have declared that we had to be angels because of what we did for them.  We add muscle, tools and some know-how to help people with home repair/maintenance projects.  The first result of every one of Jesus' miracles was an improvement in their life, so our motto is "Improving lives by improving living."  It has had an amazing impact on our church by building fellowship.  Today I am far closer to others in my church than I ever was before.  Sometimes my labors come back to me, like a couple weeks ago when I was sick and needed help with a large springtime garden project.  Six people came to help when I had only enough strength to sit and watch them work.  With joy they did as much work in two hours as I could have done in twenty or more working alone. 

Jeff Boyd
2012-04-21 6:33 PM

Good conversation. I've added this to a list of SDA articles on social ethics/action -- http://advactivism.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/sda-articles-2/. Peace, Jeff

Ella M
2012-04-23 9:39 PM

  Charles:  I agree with the following--I also think that an address of social issues would be much more effective, and have much more authority, if it came from our centralized government rather than individual church fingers. 
  Unfortunately a lot of our members and former members believe the administration of the church failed us during the civil rights movement.  Maybe individual Adventists want to take part in protests--I hope some have--but I don't see that as goal for most.  Some sort of statement should have come from the church as an organization, and they should have demanded full equality in its facilities.
   I also believe that the 28 fundamentals should  include a belief in the equality of all persons. To have not included that was a major mistake that has helped play out in Rwanda and other places. In WW II the church failed us and continues to do so in this area (including gender).  All the protests in the world aren't going to help as long as the organization treats women and minorities differently; as long as we have separate conferences.  Each one needs to befriend those not of their group as well.  (Why do we have a separate college?)  I also don't believe the prejudices are all on the side of one race.  What do you think, Charles?  (Why is Zimmerman called white when he is half Hispanic, yet our president called black when he is half white?  just some interesting questions.)  Why do we use these labels?

Kevin Riley
2012-04-24 8:32 PM

The church as come a long way.  If you look at the GC website, we have made a lot of statements on social issues.  Usually those that aren't contentious in SDA circles, and at times I wish we had taken a different view, but at least there has been progress.  As a world church, we have usually been aware of the adverse affect some statements woulg have on believers in certain areas.  But there are times when we really should be braver in speaking out on fundamental issues that the Bible is clear on.  If you think racial identity can be confusing, I was reading the other day of a Hispanic man who was refused permission to marry an African-American woman under the miscegenation laws because she was classed as 'white' and he wasn't.  Some of us would end up with so many hyphenated terms that racial identity would be meaningless.  As someone with enough of a foot in more than one camp to hear unguarded speech, I can assure you that the prejudice in any situation are not all on one side

Ella M
2012-04-24 9:43 PM

   I have just read a news report that even the Mormon church is facing the issue of gay Mormons, yet our church refuses to face the truth that this is not a choice. 

Kevin Riley
2012-04-25 9:00 PM

Some things are a lost cause - this is one of them.  Having seen how most pastors and administrators use - and misuse - social science data, perhaps we are all better off if they stay away from it.  I do make an exception for a couple of well-known SDA pastors who are trained in sociology.

William Noel
2012-05-02 10:18 AM

Kevin,

In advising people about how to discover what ministry the Holy Spirit wants them to perform, I advise people to follow the Holy Spirit because His calling is also His promise of empowerment to do what He is asking.  I further advise people to NOT seek permission from the church because they already have permission from a far higher authority.  I also advise them to run away fom anyone who tries to exert "church authority" over them because that claimed authority will quickly conflict with what God is wanting them to do.  Instead, the church board should be asking individuals what direction they have received from God, watch to see how God blesses that ministry and then support where they see God working. 

As for people trained in sociology, forget it.  God doesn't ask for our training, only our willingness to serve.  If you've seen someone doing something well that is totally outside their area of professional training or skill (like a nurse who had never cut a board in her life reading a tape measure and accurately cutting 2X8s to length) then you'll know what I see on a regular basis in my ministry.

JaNe
2012-06-13 11:49 PM

Politics or the Everlasting Gospel? Hmmmm....let me see....

Jean Corbeau
2012-06-14 6:43 AM

I've come to the conclusion that "social justice" is just the socialism of the left, repackaged in a way that is designed to get churches on board.

Kevin Riley
2012-06-14 7:30 AM

Or perhaps it is churches paying attention to God's demand for justice?  I have never understood why conservatives are so afraid of justice.  Or of socialism, for that matter.  It seem sto be closer to what God calls us to than capitalism built on greed and every man for himself.  The early church seemed to see more sense in sharing everything than in trying to make each person rich.

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-14 11:27 AM

Is there someone who wishes to live where there is no justice--of any kind?  Social justice has brought us freedom from slavery--it was certainly justice for former slaves; social justice has brought us women's suffrage--it was certainly justice for women to become equal at the voting booth; it was certainly social justice for blacks to have equal access to facilities formerly denied.

What part of social justice should people be denied?  If "social justice" is such a terrible concept, please explain how and why.

Jean Corbeau
2012-06-14 12:31 PM

I suppose it depends on who is defining the term.  When I hear the term in today's context I don't think of freedom from slavery or women's suffrage, which should have been dealt with long before they were.  What I get from it is the concept of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, and even property redistribution.  If find those ideas frightening in a free society.

William Noel
2012-06-14 2:50 PM

Elaine,

Please go back a couple issue of the AT print magazine and read my article on the topic. 

In a nutshell, justice is a purely legal term with specific meanings.  Justice can (and often does) have social results, but the concept of "social justice" is a socialist construct used to justify nebulous concepts such as "fairness" and "equality" that are actually justifications for stealing from one to "redistribute" to others.  It is a concept totally contrary to the Biblical models of justice, charity and respect for your fellow man.

Kevin Riley
2012-06-14 8:52 PM

Does it make a difference that many of us live in societies where paying taxes is part of the 'social contract' and we expect those taxes to be used to enhance fairness and justice?  Surely there is no stealing involved when people enter into these arrangements voluntarily because they believe in them?  The US may have been set up so that government involvement in social welfare was intended to be limited, but that is not true of many western societies.  Many of the social democrat parties in teh British and European tradtions were started by Christians who did not see a conflict between social democracy and Christianity and obviously read the Bible differently to what you do.  I thought central to the Hebrew economy were the ideas of a tithe for the poor and the return of property every 50 years.  I don't think free-market capitalism would have worked too well in ancient Israel. 

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-14 6:26 PM

Michael Sandel, Harvard Universty professor has written a seminal book:  Justice:  What's the Right Thing to Do? which should be a primer for all discussions of justice.

He traces the history of this concept, showing that even in medieval times, philosophers and theologians believed that the exchange of goods should be governed by a "just price," determined by tradition or the intrinsic value of things."

In an economy that rewards both greed and failure, as in the bank bailouts, justice has become both blind and deaf.  Today, middle income workers have lost nearly 40% of former incomes while the top 1% have seen great increases. 
In 2008 Forbes stated that:

"the richest 1% of Americans possess over a third of the country's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90% of American families.  The top  10% of American households take in 42% of all income and hold 71% of all wealth."

It is impossible to defend such disparity.  The wealthy financiers on Wall Street contribute little or nothing to the GDP; they produce no products or services; teach no children; treat no sick; administer nothing but wealth created by shifting paper wealth back and forth, and they certainly cannot be called "Job Creators."  They privatize gain and socialize failure:  When they make money, it is theirs; when the lose money, we the taxpayers are given the bill. 

If one seeks to find social justice, one could begin with the enormous defense industry here in the U.S. and the rewarding or billion dollar contracts, often without any bidding, while thousands of unemployed are eager to find work; or while millions are unable to afford proper preventive medical care.

If we  accept the false definition that "fairness and equality" are justifications for stealing from one to 'redistribute' to others, we will naturally reject that idea.  Paying one's rightful taxes that are used to benefit the entire community is neither stealing in order to benefit others.  This idea is certainly not commended in the Golden Rule; nor is advocated in being your brother's keeper.  It has no part of "Social Justice" but it is a false concept propagated by those who are against all taxation.  When such individuals are asked if they are willing to dismiss all public school teachers; all public health workers; all policemen; all firemen; all food inspectors, etc., they balk.  Yet these are all paid by our taxes. 

There were no hospitals, no public schools, and none of the many services we take for granted today in Jesus' time.  To define "social justice" as "stealing and redistributing" as contrary to Biblical models is a fallacy.  How is charity shown either in Bible times or today?  

 

This is not the America of which we should be proud today.  We may never achieve the ideal social justice, but without defining it and seeking to "do the right thing" we may become the land of less bread and more circuses.



 


William Noel
2012-06-14 7:53 PM

Elaine,

To know the "right thing to do" you need to know first what the Bible teaches on the topic.  If you did, you would understand what I was describing and see the lies being taught and perpetuated today by so many.  That is why I suggested you should read my article.

As for income and wealth inequality, what's wrong with it?  A person can see the difference between a rich person and themself and be motivated to improve their earning capacity in hopes of one day being just as prosperous.  Or, we can be envious of the prosperity of others and use the force of law to take it from them.  Which of those approaches is contrary to God's law?


Stephen Foster
2012-06-14 10:36 PM

William,
 
The assumptions you make about those whom you term the “prosperous” and those who are not, are fallacious, at best.
 
This is perhaps why you erroneously think it is contrary of God’s law for man’s government (“Caesar”) to tax the “prosperous” and to use some of those revenues to subsidize housing for the poor, and to provide health services for indigent children and the elderly, and to assist those who demonstrate the need for food assistance, and with energy costs, among other things.
 
To what assumptions do I refer? That the poor are largely insufficiently motivated to do what the “prosperous” have done to acquire their wealth, and that the “prosperous” have largely acquired their wealth because of some level of moral superiority, ipso facto the poor are largely morally inferior to the “prosperous,” that the poor and/or those who advocate for them are envious of the “prosperous” and that all legislation which has been crafted to assist those who are needy is rooted in this envy.
 
This is what happens when political ideology is confused and conflated with tortured theology.

William Noel
2012-06-15 11:01 AM

Stephen,

"This is what happens when political ideology is confused and conflated with tortured theology." 


Really?  What do you see as the scriptural basis for a government taking ever-increasing amounts from the propserous in the name of giving it to the poor?  Please provide specific references detailing God's commands on the topic.  (So far no one has been able to answer this challenge with scripture alone.  Maybe you'll be the first.)

Stephen Foster
2012-06-15 11:39 AM

William,
You gotta be kiddin', right? This is some serious inductive reasoning. LOL
 
There is no scriptural basis for a government to pass laws against drug trafficking, or for war making, or against child labor. God has commanded none of this legislation.
 
God never commanded that taxes be raised to build roads, or fund the Central Intelligence Agency or the FBI, or NASA.
 
On the other hand, read Psalm 82.

William Noel
2012-06-19 11:48 AM

Stephen,

You have avoided my question, so let me re-state it: What is the scriptural basis forChristians to support such government control of charity instead of following God's instructions for individual ministry of His love through one-to-one acts of charity?  

Governments do a lot of things that God never directed.  That provides zero evidence of Divine endorsement.  If you study the model for charity that God gave to the Children of Israel you will find that it is on an individual basis and person-to-person with government never involved.  Moving into the New Testament, we who claim to be believers are supposed to be working under the authority of God as directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The US Government never makes a decision based on Divine instruction and, as evidenced recently in dramatic fashion, actively works against those who minister based on spiritual principles. So to support government control of charity means those who claim to be believers in God are actually working against God.  I am not willing to risk trying to justify such hypocrisy in the Judgement. 

Stephen Foster
2012-06-20 5:05 AM

I did not intend to avoid your question William. To the contrary, I actually intended to confront it and “examine” it.

Your question “What do you see as the scriptural basis for a government taking ever-increasing amounts from the prosperous in the name of giving it to the poor?” assumes that there is a need for there to be a scriptural basis for the government doing anything that it does.

That’s why I have pointed out to you that there is also no scriptural basis for the government to build and maintain roads, or fund the CIA or the FBI, or NASA, or the CDC. The question is a non sequitur, William.

So, now you acknowledge that “governments do a lot of things that God never directed.” This reality, in and of itself, does not make all or any of these things (necessarily) sinful, wrong, or evil. (If that were the case, then federal funds for highways, etc. would be sinful.)

Your re-stated question “What is the scriptural basis for Christians to support such government control of charity instead of following God's instructions for individual ministry of His love through one-to-one acts of charity?” makes even less sense.

Taxation does not constitute “government control of charity” and does not prohibit “following God’s instructions for individual ministry of His love through one-to-one acts of charity.” You hereby present a prototypical false choice. The government’s assistance to the poor does not prevent Christians from practicing charitable benevolence.

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-14 11:59 PM

This is the faulty reasoning pervasive through the minds of the wealth(ier).
  Only someone who already has it made would write this way.  For someone who perhaps had an unfortunate accident and was no longer able to work; or was tying to pay for children in college and stretch his meager income, this is far from comforting.

"A person can see the difference between a rich person and themself and be motivated to improve their earning capacity in hopes of one day being just as prosperous."

It's all so simple:  choose your favorite rich person (could that be a wealthy drug dealer?) and emulate him and voila!  you will suddenly find you are also prosperous.

Actually that has been the basis for the American Dream since this country was settled:  a chance to become wealthy--which is the dream of every red-blooded American.

If it were so simple, all those who worked hard, got a good education and prosperity is ensured.  Why hasn't it worked?  Is it because no one has worked hard enough?  Tell that to the millions of unemployed today who once were in that group holding good jobs and are now in the unemployment lines.

The Jews in Jesus' time believed this philosophy:  if one was wealthy and prosperous it was because he was good and kept the commandments.  Jesus rebuked such thinking and we should reject it, too.

William Noel
2012-06-15 11:12 AM

Elaine,

By what standard are you measuring to reach your conclusion?  Satisfaction with one's level of prosperity is a personal measurement and not necessarily a monetary one.  But since the measure is so often made in monetary terms, let's consider a curious factoid from the annual survey of the world's richest people done by Forbes Magazine: the vast majority are self-made and were raised in homes with limited incomes or where they compared their level of prosperity to what they saw and desired better.   

Yes, emulation of the prosperous can be a major factor in a person's success.  Fortunately there are a lot of such role models besides drug dealers. 

True, it was all so simple and worked.  But that was before the government usurped the responsibility of the individual to provide for themselves and to be charitable to others in ways encouraging independence.  Every nation in history where the government has done this has collapsed (or is in great danger of collapse), not in the face of any invader, but from within. 

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-15 6:27 PM

William,

I lived during the Great Depression and have no trouble remembering the many men who were unemployed, riding the rails and stopped at my mother's house and she always gave them something, usually a sandwich.  Was is their fault for the entire crash?  FDR was a very wealthy man, but a pragmatist and he introduced the WPA, the CCC, and Social Security so that never again would such a financial crash have such an effect on a large part of the population.

To blame the victim is nothing less than cruel.  Before Medicare and Social Security, if someone were terribly injured, either on the job or elsewhere and was unable to work, he would not have to stand on the street corner and sell apples or pencils (yes, I remember seeing many doing just that.).  Elderly, sick poor folk were sent to the "Poor House" where they eked out a miserable existence.  Anyone want to see their parents in such a place? 

There were veteran camps on the lawn of the White House seeking to receive the bonuses they were promised.  What about the many unemployed veterans with us today?
Just tell them to "go get a job"?

You speak of history where governments have collapsed because of helping its citizens.  The recent financial collapse in the U.S. was not at all caused by helping citizens but by the greedy hedge fund managers who used the people's money for private gain
  
What part of Social Security or Medicare or you willing to forego and take care of your own needs?  What part of aid to dependent children would you vote to be eliminated?  If you answer in the affirmative, then you might be believed. 

William Noel
2012-06-15 9:26 PM

Elaine,

I do not blame the victim.  But I vigorously dispute the social concepts that government knows best and that social welfare systems are helping people get out of poverty because the first is a horrible lie and the second a brutal deception, the costs of which are about to crash our national economy with the risk of rendering everyone as poor as the folks you remember from your childhood.

Rudy Good
2012-06-15 11:20 PM

William,

I understand your distrust of the government, but I think you are way over simplifying the issue to believe there is a relatively simple solution.

Folks in our culture who have cultural advantages often take them for granted and often don't even realize the success they attribute to their work ethic and striving has a great deal with having opportunities. Opportunities that not everyone has. So it's easy to feel superior to those who appear ready to take a handout instead of work for their benefits.

Spend some time thinking about how many jobs there are that pay menial wages and are not very rewarding. Now imagine you had to live that life. No doubt, you will say, you would just work hard and get ahead of the curve. Well, for some lucky amd hard working folk it comes out that way. An their success is presumed to be proof that if you are willing to work you can always overcome. But, statistically that just isn't true.

There are millions of jobs that pay a pittance and it doesn't matter how hard people work, we do not value every the contribution of millions to pay a living wage.

During the post WWII boom the American economy expanded (aided it some part by people in developing countries providing us cheap goods and services). In more recent years the rise of some many Americans is starting come at the expense of other Americans in low paying jobs. 

It might be true that we are bankrupting our country trying to maintain certain lifestyle for many of our citizens. But, the reason we are in this situation is that so many who have adequate resources don't care that others who are not lazy and work just as hard barely make it because we all want all we can get even if means someone else doesn't get reasonable share.

For many years now our desire for for more has forced a portion of our society to live with less than others. Now that spiraling pessure is starting drive down the wages of the middle class.

It is true that ther are immigrants who quickly soak up some of those jobs. They are more motivated because they did not grow up feeling deprived because their work contribution was poorly valued. Most of them come from highly repressed economies. So, they feel they are doing well. Some flourish and raise their income and others do not. In the next generation many of them face the same motivational issues of those as others who see some Americans paid well for their contribution, while they are paid a pittance.

It is grat to talk about the American dream and how those who work hard can always get ahead. But, statistically it is not true. There are millions of jobs that are necessary for society to function, but we are not willing to pay a living wage for the work. Those are the available jobs and unless we are creating jobs hand over fist someone will have to take those jobs. As long as you are not one of those it is easy to sit back comfortably and claim our problems are providing too many benefits.

Just spend some time and evaluate the healthcare situation. The cost and manner in which healthcare is provided leaves in affordable to mor an more Americans. More and more industrious people are forced to look for help to cover healthcare costs. It may be true that we cannot afford all the healthcare that is expected, but it is silly to believe that inequitable solutions proposed by the tight fisted who have adequate resources will not eventually end in chaos.

We are no longer living in the middle ages where a few can hold the weaponry and power to economically repress the masses. We are not far from the masses arming themselves and creating anarchy. 

Frankly, I am sick and tired of that group of Americans who want to keep their money and not to give such a large share of it in taxes. A distorted economy has allowed them a descent wage and they could care less if wages in society are equitable. The truth is that the origin of many government handouts is really a way to appease those who are forced to work for low wages and live deprived lives in comparison to other Americans.

Are there lazy people? Yes, of course. Is spending too much giving people handouts a disaster in the making? Probably. Is that our fundamental economic problem? No, it is our greediness as a society. And I am ashamed to admit that I am one of the guilty ones who has taken my fairly generous share with little concern about the impact on those not as fortunate as I.

William Noel
2012-06-16 3:07 PM

Rudy,

I've had enough trouble typing messages on my phone that I can only imagine how poorly I would do with an I-phone! :-)

The entire national discussion about taxation and "social justice" has become so confused that there are no obvious or simple solutions short of the entire mess being ended, either by a national concensus that radical change is required or the collapse of the entire system.  Since there does not appear to be any national concensus toward the former, the latter is becoming inevitable.

Regarding the taxation of the rich, I refer you to some lessons from history. 

First, the nation of Israel fell apart after the reign or Solomon ended because the people were so tired of paying the high taxes he imposed on them to support his large household and high lifestyle.  It was a tax revolt, an event that has led to the overthrow of numerous leaders through history and the collapse of many nations from within. 

Second, the "great depression" of the 1930s was the direct result of high taxation on the rich.  Each time taxes were raised for the purpose of paying for new social initiatives, the economy slowed.  The highest unemployment came after the taxes on capital gains were raised to 93%.  It was not the start of World War II that revived the economy, but the reduction in tax rates (capital gains taxes, in particular) required so the nation would have enough revenue to pay for the war. 

Third, every time taxes have been reduced (both in general and on the rich, in particular) unemployment has gone down, the number of people on welfare dropped, average household income rose, and revenues to the government grew.  The greatest increases in general prosperity and tax revenues in America came after the Reagan, Clinton and Bush tax cuts. 

Fourth, raising taxes does not increase tax revenues, it reduces them.  The least productive tax increases target the rich because they have the greatest ability to relocate to places where taxes are lower.  New York City used to be a haven for the very rich, but today as a direct result of high taxes you don't need all your fingers to count the number of millionaires still living in the city limits.  Tax revenues to the state of Maryland from the "millionaires tax" have dropped to a tiny fraction of what was projected because so many of them have moved away.  Similar results are being seen in Illinois, California, Rhode Island, New York and several other states. 

Prosperity is not created by government, but is eventually destroyed by gpvernment when tax rates exceed what is necessary to provide basic public services. 

Rudy Good
2012-06-18 11:20 AM

William,

Doesn't appear  you are responding to much of what I said. You are pretty fixated on the tax issue. I don't think it is an issue that can be dealt in isolation from other issues.

You may be cherry picking your historical examples and stretching them a bit also. Over taxation is not the same issue as trying to decide an appropriate tax rate for the wealthy. If your 93% captial gains is historically accurate it is a poor comparison to anything currently under consideration. Your claim that reducing the taxes of rich produces prosperity is not really substantiated by the general reduction in taxes. Also, the Bush tax breaks are still in effect so where is the prosperity. The issue is not as simple as you are suggesting.

Taxation is not the only thing that has caused revolt and anarchy. So, has the lack of food and enconomies that allowed a few to garner most of the wealth. The government and our taxes provide all infrastructure that allows commerce to flourish even in these difficult days.  Even in times when the government is inflated and ineffecient, it is the wealthy who benefit the most. They receive all the benefits of the average or typical citizen and in addition the opportunity to accrue wealth is directly dependent on the legal and economic protects provided by the government.

I suggest when we spend more energy ensuring that our system provides the opportunity for working people to earn a living wage., taxation will cease to be the huge issue and quandry that it seems to be according to people like yourself.

William Noel
2012-06-23 1:00 PM

Rudy,

Let's dissect some of Obama's statements.

"The rich should pay their fair share."  He has never defined what "fair share" is or how it can be measured, only that the rich should pay more.  Fairness requires that something be applied the same to you as to me and everyone else.  So, is it fair when the top 10% of taxpayers pay 39% of all income taxes and 50% of the population pays no income tax?  How is increasing taxes on the rich "fair?"  Obama's political objective (straight out of the "Communist Manifesto") is to take everything from the rich so that no one is more prosperous than anyone else.  Every nation where this has been done has disappeared due to economic collapse and every country where it has been tried is rushing toward that same collapse.   

"I'm here to make sure everyone has an equal chance."  What is an "equal chance?"  He hasn't defined it.  Neither has anyone been able to define or measure it.  Methods of measurement have been proposed, but they measure outcomes, not opportunity, as evidence of progress toward a social objective.  The classic example of this is affirmative action in college admissions where a graduation rate by black students lower than their respective percent of the population has been claimed as proof of lack of opportunity.  The problem with that method of measurement is that it fails to consider the variables that influence the outcome.  Opportunity to achieve is just the beginning.  Achieving depends on individual choices, desire and the work that is put into doing what is required to earn a degree. 

If you can't define "fairness" and "equal chance" and provide a clear description of how to measure them, you're promoting an objective that can never be achieved or delivered.  What is so bad about these claims is that they are used to promote social objectives that diminish liberty by enforcing inequality.  Growing government attention to such objectives turns us from citizens into subjects and eventually serfs suffering through an existence at the greatest levels of deprivation.  Every nation that has tried it has either collapsed or is rapidly approaching collapse. 

Stephen Foster
2012-06-18 12:37 PM

Your analysis of recent American economic history and its relationship to taxation is interesting in that you somehow ignore the fact that in 1993 Bill Clinton signed into law a large income tax increase—exclusively on the wealthiest 1.2% of Americans—which was immediately followed by the best economy in history, and a balanced federal budget.

William Noel
2012-06-18 2:20 PM

Stephen,

That is true if you only want to consider only one tiny portion of the story and ignore the results of that action.  The economic downturn at the end of the Bush 41 presidency was the direct result of a democrat-controlled congress increasing taxes and regulations.  The Clinton tax increase in 1993 was a continuation of that effort in cooperation with the liberal leadership in the congress.  The economy immediately began slowing, which was a major factor driving the Republic sweep to control of both the House and Senate in the next election.  They reversed that tax increase and overrode Clinton's veto of it.  They followed with other tax and regulatory cuts with the immediate result of the economy regaining the previous vigor that had been lost.  One of the resultswas allowing Clinton to claim credit for the economic upturn, which contributed significantly to his re-election.   

Stephen Foster
2012-06-18 3:46 PM

William,
 
Where you get your information from is undoubtedly a great mystery; and of course you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.
 
The U.S. did not experience an economic downturn in the wake of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which was signed by Clinton on August 10, 1993.
 
The United States GDP Growth rate averaged 2.4% in 1993 (based on quarterly percentage growth rates of Q1-Q4 of 4.3, 0.7, 2.6, and 2.1) and 4.4% in 1994 (based on quarterly percentage growth rates in Q1-Q4 of 5.4, 4.0, 5.6, and 2.6), the year the Republicans regained congressional majorities.
 
So, they certainly didn’t come to power as a result of an economic downturn.
 
(Clinton as you may recall, instituted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military; and tried—and failed—to pass health care reform legislation during his first two years in office, leading to the Republican takeover in November, 1994.)
 
Furthermore the Congress never reversed the Act during Clinton’s Administration and did not override any veto of it; because there was no such reversal and no such veto.
 
With all respect my brother, you can’t make up your own convenient history; although I know this is “done” on radio.

William Noel
2012-06-18 9:30 PM

Stephen,

You need to check the Congressional Record.  Clinton had more congressional overrides than any other president in the 20th century.  He also was a much smarter politician than the current resident of the White House because he recognized when the political winds had changed.  Where he had come into office vowing to undo many or the changes made by the Reagan administration, he decided to go along with the Republican majority in congress.  One of the results was the greatest reduction in the number of people receiving public assistance in the entire history of such federal programs.  In contrast, the cumulative effect of liberal economic policies, enhanced by Obama's idealism, has put more people onto welfare than at any other time in history. 

Stephen Foster
2012-06-19 9:05 PM

William,
 
It is disingenuous of you to suggest that I check the Congressional Record instead of simply admitting that you are making up things that are easily verifiable.
 
Harry Truman and Gerald Ford both had the most vetoes overridden in the 20th century, tying with 12. Bill Clinton only had a total of two vetoes overridden.
 
Instead of admitting that you were “mistaken” about Congress reversing the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993—which they never did during his two terms—or that you were “mistaken” about them having done so by overriding a Clinton veto, you doubled down by making up the veto “fact.”
 
This is why I suggested that you simply stick with testimonies about your personal ministry: because your credibility, even about that, is jeopardized when you fabricate things that never happened and state them as fact.

William Noel
2012-06-20 12:05 AM

Stephen,

I must confess that you caught me on the number of presidential overrides.  I've got to be more careful to write my research notes more legibly.  Honestly, I'm totally surprised that you did a fact check because such a data search is so inconsistent with the unwillingness you have demonstrated to test and confirm the social and economic philosophies you promote.

Stephen Foster
2012-06-20 4:53 AM

William,
 
You should now also admit that you made up the false assertion that an economic downturn in ’93-’94 precipitated the Republican congressional takeover, and that you made up the assertion that the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act was overturned by Congress during Clinton’s Administration, and that you made up the false assertion that they did so by overriding Clinton’s veto of same.
 
This is important William, because you repeatedly claim to be Spirit-led in other areas. Your credibility—and thus your witness—have been compromised because you are hesitant and even resistant to admitting fabricating false information.
 
Instead of claiming that your “research notes” have been written illegibly, you should simply admit to having made up false information.
 
This is different than just being mistaken. It is too late to make that claim. Too many specific assertions were made for it to have been that simple.

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-15 11:09 PM

William, you enjoy being prophetic, but you didn't answer my questions.  Your comments are general, but how about the personal effect you would experience without Medicare or Social Security?

William Noel
2012-06-16 3:09 PM

Elaine,

I've been through enough difficult times in my life where I had no health insurance and extremely low income that I have learned to trust God to provide my needs.  So I am not concerned about the potential loss of Medicare or Social Security.  I am more concerned about how I will minister God's love during the social unrest that will result when others lose their Medicare and Social Security. 

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-16 5:42 PM

William,

There are millions now who are still in the uninsured condition.  Had you needed immediate medical care, it would not have been God, but the ER and taxpayers who would have provided those needs. 

 

If you need medical care, you could be unable minister God's love.  Does God expect us to not supply for our future needs?  Those who don't supply for their families are infidels, but maybe if it's you alone you can choose to forego the benefits the government provides.  It may not be in the Bible, but I believe that the Lord helps those who also help themselves; otherwise they cannot be of use for others.

You appear to be very opposed to government supports for the needy, yet what alternative is offered?  Is it possible for any church to supply all the needs of those today?  They do an admirable job, but it would ten times worse if there were no government support.  Are you against Meals on Wheels or WIC or even food stamps?  That sounds awfully Darwinian (to use a common term):  survival of the fittest?


William Noel
2012-06-18 9:18 AM

Elaine,

Times come in life when all you have left is your faith in God, if you have chosen to hang onto it.  Your resources are gone, so God is your only source of help.  I've been there.  God provides in a surprising number of ways we have not before imagined.  My salvation is secure so the trials of this life are temporary.  My view has been shaped by that experience. 

Anyone who suggests in the slightest that I am against charity simply does not know me.  I am deeply involved in charitable work and a great supporter of it.  The specific ministry God has given me to do has been such a blessing to me that I would rather be doing it than being at the job providing my paycheck.  God has given me many amazing and blessing-filled experiences that have left me utterly addicted!

God intended that acts of charity would build the body of believers by demonstrating His love in action.  Government is incapable of doing this because it is not spiritually-based and has become an open opponent of anything overtly spiritual.  God's plan is to empower each believer with the Holy Spirit to do His work as He directs.  That empowerment includes such things as healing the sick.  How many times have you seen God heal someone, remove their depression, or help them walk after a disabling injury? That was the power God gave to the early church and promises to us today.  While God has given me a different ministry I am seeing Him do those things through others. 

Consider what God is offering us.  The God who created this world by simply speaking is offering each believer His power to heal the sick, raise the dead and feed the hungry.  I've been touched by that power.  So I'm actually looking forward to the collapse of government programs that draw attention away from God and now openly work against anything spiritual because it will be the greatest opportunity for gift-based ministry in two thousand years! 

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-18 8:16 PM

If all those receiving Medicare and Social Security feel as you do, who would care for the millions who depend on them for their very existence?  Personal opinion cannot be extrapolated for all.

Would you suggest that those sick and elderly among us depend on God and prayer for their existence?  Where is the Christian belief that we are our brother's keeper and should only be concerned about ourselves?

William Noel
2012-06-18 9:33 PM

Elaine,

Would I suggest that people depend on God?  Absolutely!  There is no better situation.  Does not imply that we should only be caring for ourselves?  Absolutely not!  In fact, that will give us opportunities for ministry that we have never imagined. 

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-18 10:13 PM

For those who have no families as dependents, this may work.  If someone has children who depend on a breadwinner, having no insurance or security for them, Paul calls them infidels--who do not provide for their families.


William Noel
2012-06-19 11:21 AM

Elaine,

The root issue here is your relationship with God and whether or not it gives you the confidence to depend on Him for everything.  Do you have such a trust relationship with God?  Or, are you depending on human devices?  All human devices will fail, so if you are not trusting completely and totally on God for everything, I want to encourage you to discover greater depths of His love and caring for you.  When you do, all these other discussions will be rendered moot.

Rudy Good
2012-06-19 11:25 AM

Agree with pretty much all your points you are making on this blog, but this may not be best application of scripture. There was no insurance or Medicare in Paul's day, so it may not be reasonable to make the assumption that a Godly provider is expected to provide this benefit / security. Certainly, it should be assumed that Paul's rather passionate statement implies the provider should do everything within their power to take care of the needs. Nor do I suspect that Paul was negating the idea he expresses elsewhere that followers of Christ should depend on Him for all things. I do not think Paul's comments are intended on informing the society as a whole regarding their responsiblity toward the needy.

On the otherhand, certainly Paul's comments should inform the position of Christians who have a voice in the democratic government. If only infidels neglect the material needs of their family then we should promote a society that reflects those values. My argument is that a society that does not attempt to provide equal access to these kinds of benefits (since they are available to many in this modern society) if failing at basic justice and Christians should have no hesitation to step up and be heard regarding that injustice.

Personally, I think that begins with doing our best to ensure that people who work earn reasonable wage. I don't believe that will be easily achieved and it might be difficult to even define democratically compatible strategies to effect that, but we will not make any progress unless we adopt the goal at the national level.

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