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No surpise. But WWJT

Here's the quote of the day: "We're all worried about losing our jobs," Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote. "Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it — not me.' " What else could you expect from an economic system predicated on the notion that everyone acting in their own self-interests will always lead to a win/win situation. Somehow, I wonder: WWJT. What would Jesus think? He'd think that we should put the interests of others before our own. He'd think we should put the interests of the kingdom before our own. He'd think we should live generously. He'd think we should open our homes, share our food, and care for those who can't care for themselves, and that these kinds of things should be our priorities. We've been trying to reconcile Adam Smith and unregulated economics with the gospel for a long time. Can we please stop? What's needed is a new model where the government rewards, not self-interest, but service and sacrifice. This might be an opportunity to build a new energy and technology infrastructure. Maybe America can begins producing goods again, rather than trying to live off fabricated wealth. Maybe, but I'm not sure. If Christians, who have the very words of Christ about money refuse to altar their view of self-interest economics, how will the rest of world do?


You shouldn't try to be a pastor and an economist, because you clearly don't understand economics. It is ridiculously ignorant to write that our current distress is the result of "trying to reconcile Adam Smith and unregulated economics with the gospel for a long time." Our current distress is not the result of an unregulated market, it is the result of a heavily regulated market.

It is ridiculously hypocritical for you to condemn people for not putting kingdom interests first, and then suggest some new socialist agenda that leverages the power of the state (the sword).

There is a difference between self interest and selfishness. A free market system is not opposed to living generously, opening our homes, sharing our food, and caring for those who can't care for themselves. If you honestly believe that we need a government to force us to do those things, then you clearly don't understand what the kingdom of God is.

If you insist on writing again in regards to this issue, please make sure you educate yourself first
www .

1. Was it heavy regulation that led to all those golden parachute payouts for CEOs
2. Was it heavy regulation that led to the explosion of sub-prime loans, which led to the inflation of housing prices, which led to housing bubble, which of course burst?
3. Was it heavy regulation that led to the batching of these sub-prime loans and their subsequent resale as esoteric products that, leading to further exacerbation of the housing crisis, and eventual capital crisis?

With respect every point, these policies are the result of banking industry seeking to maximize short term profit at the expense of responsible lending practices. And this irresponsibility, sir, is possible because of the heady de-regulatory shifts that have occurred in the banking industry over the past years.

I understand that a free market system isn't opposed to living generously, and caring for those who can't care for themselves, but please Brandon: at least admit that there are limits to such caring on an individual level in a world such as ours. If you need a brain scan for a suspected tumor, will your neighbor's generosity ante up for 20K? Perhaps you have insurance? Lucky you. If the 46% premium increase of the past year or some pre-existing conditions don't disqualify you from care, you are fortunate indeed. But if you're one of 50 million Americans (the majority of whom belong to households where at least one person holds a full time job) who aren't as fortunate, then you're the victim of a health care system that has been running in tandem with a banking system where everyone (doctors and insurance companies) operate in their own self-interest to the detriment of millions. Until churches can do brain surgery and provide capital for people to own homes, I'd suggest we at least have the courage to say the system needs altering.

"Until churches can do brain surgery and provide capital for people to own homes, I'd suggest we at least have the courage to say the system needs altering."

WHAT?! What system do you suggest that would guarantee everyone brain surgery and home ownership?

I'm not suggesting a system, nor was I suggesting that everyone be promised access to anything. Rather, I'm suggesting that the church can be neither a bank nor a hospital. And, I'm suggesting that, though the church is neither, we should care about both, and thus address policies that contribute to the common good, based on our convictions about what can best help bring that about. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Just as the church cannot be a bank or a hospital, neither can the state.

Also, in light of your belief that the state should provide these services, please review President Bush's speech announcing his new plan for the housing market, delivered in October 2002, and take a look at what it got us:

compare that with Ron Paul's speech on the housing market from July 2002

Which one argues for a deregulated, free market?
Which one is responsible for our current mess?

1. It is state involvement in the market that is causing the state to issue "golden parachutes." It is not the free market. (Pointing to state intervention in the market as evidence of a problem with the free market is the first sign you don't understand what a free market is).

2. It was state involvement that caused the sub-prime loan crisis. It was a direct result of the Federal Reserve and the existence of FDIC and other programs that created the moral hazard that has led to the current collapses. The inflation of housing prices was caused directly by the Federal Reserve's manipulation of the money supply through adjustment of their interest rate.

3. Yes. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were state sponsored programs, not free market entities.

After you listened to the mp3s I linked in the first comment, please read the articles provided here to explain our current situation, since you do not understand it:

I have no problem with the fact that you don't understand what's going on, most people don't. What I have a problem with is your eagerness, in light of your ignorance, to condemn free markets and those who believe the most Biblical form of government is a limited one. We absolutely need to preach the Gospel. To exhort people to place their trust in Christ rather than in their riches. This is what you are called to do as a minister of the Word. But all of this gets lost when you start "preaching" about something you know nothing about. Stick to the text.

Yes, much of the problem is caused by banks making irresponsible loans, but this is not the result of a de-regulated market. It is the result of a state managed market that encourages such practices. It is not the result of a free market.

If you feel that the world is too big for an individual to help another, then why not call upon the body of Christ to come together to help those in need? There is absolutely no biblical warrant for dispensing "charity" by the sword of the state. Besides, Jesus' goal was never to rid the world of economic or medical ailments. He did not heal every person He encountered. His goal was the expansion of the kingdom of God.

Btw, your 50 million uninsured Americans is extremely misleading. The majority of those 50 million have no desire to be insured. And our current healthcare system is also the result of state intervention in the market. Our healthcare system is not a free market. I encourage you to read an essay delivered at ETS several years ago: "The Ehics and Economics of Health Care"

Are you not aware that churches started the first hospitals? And that state intervention in health care has led to the elimination of charity hospital work by churches?

I absolutely agree the system needs changing. The state needs to get its hands out of the market.

"Besides, Jesus' goal was never to rid the world of economic or medical ailments. He did not heal every person He encountered. His goal was the expansion of the kingdom of God."

I was just reading an article about Rick Warren's PEACE plan and wondering how in the world Christians have come to the conclusion that it is the job of the Church to rid the world of poverty. The command to feed the hungry and clothe the naked is a far cry from taking on the eradication of poverty. I believe God had very personal, individual sacrificial actions in mind; not global programs.

I applaud you for taking the time to share FACTUAL information. The busy world we live in is full of opinions. Yes, we all have the God given right to express our opinions and beliefs, it just never ceases to amaze me as a Christian how different our beliefs are. We can choose to have one opinion or another but it doesn’t change the facts, they are what they are. Thank you again for your comments and for your passion to preserve our liberties. God Bless America!

Brandon, clearly you feel very passionate about this issue, and I appreciate your willingness to take time to explain your view and provide links. This is just a suggestion, but perhaps in the future you could choose a little different tone in responding to someone who consistently provides thoughtful blogs and who, may I add, has years of experience, education, and study. It's one thing to respectfully disagree with someone, and quite another to talk down to someone because you disagree.

You make some very good points in this and subsequent responses, but I'm wondering about your conclusion that Richard "clearly [doesn't] understand economics", and "clearly [doesn't] understand what the kingdom of God is." Those are pretty strong words, ones that I'm sure were written in the heat of the moment. At least I hope they were!

We should all be passionate about what we believe, whether economic policy or Kingdom values, but I would love to see all of us conduct our conversations in a spirit of humility, mutual respect and love.

Yes they are strong words and yes I meant them. They are in response to Richard's invoking of Jesus' name to promote his flawed understanding of economics. If he simply wants to offer his personal opinion on the issue, that's one thing. But as a minister of the Gospel he is held to a higher standard in how he uses Christ's name.

I'd written a response Brandon, but it either got lost in cyberspace or unpublished. I'll try one last time -

1. It isn't just 'ignorant pastors' who disagree with the libertarianism of Ron Paul, and/or the Austrian Business Cycle Theory. Friedman, Krugman, and Tullock all economists by vocation, and all with training in economics far beyond me, or possibly you, disagree with the theory you espouse. Perhaps this article by a professor of economics at George Mason University will help you see that not everyone who disagrees with you is 'ignorant'. Thoughtful discourse among people is needed. Blanket accusations are simply not helpful. Here's the article:

2. You warn us in your referenced article that socialized health care is rationed health care. Fair enough. What you fail to point out is that the United States ranks 42 in the world in lifespan, behind countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and France, all of which have nationalized health care. In each case, the cost per capita for health care is less than in the United States.

3. If you're pro-life, as I am, then you no doubt favor a government intervention for the purpose of protecting life in the womb. What continues to confound me is the libertarians insistence that such protection end as soon as a child is born. Yes, this new child is protected from murder by the gun, but not from death by malnutrition, not from poverty that ensues due to a lack of access to education, not from sickness resulting from polluted water tables. These maladies are simply the part and parcel of living in the midst of a system where economic powers are allowed to prey on the weak. The libertarian, though, doesn't seem to mind if prejudice, the abuse of power due to monopolies, or the abuse of the environment as a means of maximizing profit continue unabated, at great cost to the very 'least of these' of which Jesus speaks.

4. There are many good Christians who, like myself, have a high view of scripture, and believe that the same checks and balances that our founding fathers put in place in order to prevent unrestricted power in the government, need to also be in place in the economic world because the human heart doesn't somehow become golden when it leaves office and enters the marketplace.

We can disagree Brandon. We can discuss disagreements civilly. But I hope you can perhaps see that good people of faith who disagree with you might not be ignorant - instead, they might simply have come to different conclusions. This is why conversant is a good place for dialogue and disagreement. Iron sharpens Iron.

I have to laugh...Brandon is really brave to come on this site and say what he's saying. It's so far to the left, I'm surprised he's even willing to spend his time here. Stan, come on... the "Watch your tone"comment? This coming from a site that unabashedly makes fun of other Christians, talks smack about President Bush, in some cases degrades the pro-capitalism position, and finally throws in a little profanity, presumably to make sure it still comes across as "hip" and not as one of those crazy fundy sites.

Let me say that as someone who disagrees with Dahlstrom's point of view, it is insulting to even read the subtle implication that those who hold to a free-market economic system are "rewarding self-interest," not "sharing our food" or "caring for those who can't care for themselves"--essentially it comes across as Dahlstrom saying that those who disagree with his socialist philosophy are not taking to heart Christ's mandates. And that is just as judgmental, though perhaps more so subtle, as anything Brandon said.

It would be really nice if this site actually promoted open conversation, but it doesn't. It doesn't make anyone who holds a different viewpoint want to comment. I feel that the site has become more dedicated to promoting the political ideology of the vast majority of its contributors than to expressing the good news of Jesus Christ. If you're really about promoting conversation, prove it by getting some bloggers who hold a different (read: conservative) point of view.

On another note, more related to the topic at hand...It WAS government regulation that got us into this sorry situation! Back in the Clinton years, the administration (read: the government) decided that it was up to them to ensure that people who otherwise couldn't qualify for loans/mortgages could use such things as welfare money and food stamps to qualify for them (YES--- you read that stamps and welfare money!) So, the government stepped in, told banks they had to lend to people who otherwise couldn't qualify for a mortgage, and thereby ensured banks would lend to people who obviously would never be able to pay them back (not to mention lend to illegal aliens...but that's a whole different can of worms). This was all applauded at the time, and was done in the name of helping minorities and low-income folks buy houses. Now, conservatives are all for getting people into houses (contrary to popular opinion, they do not delight in oppressing poor people and clubbing baby seals for fun on the weekends). But they advocate a different approach--one that isn't doomed to collapse as the socialized approach obviously was. (Also, make no mistake---Wall Street definitely took advantage of the situation...there is definitely some blame to go around!)

Also, isn't it a bit intellectually arrogant to suggest that "we need a new model of government"? and leave it at that? We live in the most prosperous nation in history and now we need a new system?...that begs for a much more lengthy explanation than was given. At least Brandon was willing to logically lay out his thoughts and provide some links of support for his arguments. That takes a lot of time and thought, and encourages people to be truly conversant, that is, to converse knowledgeably.

Liz, thanks for contributing to the conversation. Seriously, I really appreciate your taking time to articulate your views on and the topic at hand (the economy). As to your comment about this being a liberal site, I actually had to smile. Along with bloggers like Richard, we have some wonderful conservative bloggers in the form of Nick Bogardus, tamb, John Mark Reynolds, and Sean McDowell. The great thing is that there's room for everyone, whether they are blogging or commenting.

And don't you love it that people like Sean are in ongoing conversations with people like Tony Jones? We have to keep talking with one another. Otherwise we won't learn as much as we should.

Getting back to you for a moment, I appreciate that you took time to articulate your own position in a very respectful way. You went after Richards' position, not Richard himself. That was my only concern with Brandon's "tone." Hey, I love Brandon. I read his stuff in Undiscovered, and I agree with much of what he says. I hope I didn't come across as dressing Brandon down, and if that's the way my comment came across, I apologize. I was simply calling for conversation that stays above questioning someone else's character. I actually thought Brandon's response to my comment was very thoughtful, exactly what I would expect from him.

Again, I hope you continue to interact with the bloggers and commenters on We need your energy and passion!

Hey Stan,
I am glad you mentioned the McDowell/ Jones exhange. I actually meant to say how much I have enjoyed that in the past and forgot to include it in my post. I actually haven't read any of Bogardus. I haven't seen anything overtly conservative by tamb. I'll do more digging into the content you mentioned, but I do feel strongly that this site comes across as leaning very left.

I understand there are some conservative voices represented (I did notice John Mark Reynolds), but when I've come to this this site in the past, I haven't seen those much at all. What I have seen is a lot of promotion of something called Give a D*mn, and a lot of posts similar to the one I commented on today. Bottom line: The leftist commentary is dominating.

I'm willing to concede that perhaps I haven't seen all conservative content, but the feeling I'm getting from the site is very anti-establishment, anti-traditional church, and anti-conservative values. This is hard to qualify, because I'm sharing my impression, which is necessarily subjective. But, given your warm response to my earlier thoughts, I feel you might be interested in what I have to say.

Part of why the sites seems to be very leftist to me is that the views I've seen so far have been pretty FAR to the left--more towards the socialism side than even moderate or traditional democratic positions (like a Lieberman position, e.g.). Also, the site seems quite politically charged, like politics/ news commentary is almost the focal point. Heck, even Dahlstrom is listed as a blogger in "spirituality." So, picture me, Conservative Liz, thinking "I'm tired of all this liberal content...I want to hear something about the Bible where at least everyone can hopefully have some agreement..." Then I head over to the spirituality bloggers and encounter this post by Dahlstrom. Come on now, you can't argue that his commentary hasn't been heavy on the political side!

All that said, I don't have anything against hearing liberal viewpoints. What becomes irritating is when it's implied that if I don't vote a certain way, then I'm somehow not following Christ's mandate to care for the needs of the poor, or worse-- not caring about them. Dahlstrom's post today, and others like it (Detweiler comes to this week's post) come across that way. I've had friends e-mail me articles from this site who feel this way, too, by the way.

I truly believe the best way to bring balance to a discussion is to represent differing points of view well. Bottom line: I haven't seen the conservative point of view represented well. When a site comes across as dominated by one way of thinking, people are intimidated and feel loathe to comment. Why bother?

What do you think? Could there be room for improvement here?

Switching gears, I did not in any way take your comment as dressing Brandon down. What surprised me was that you would say anything about it at all. Let me explain.

When I visit a site a regurlarly see profanity, extremely liberal views, even people having a difficult time answering a simple question like "Is Jesus the only way to heaven" with a strong "yes" (interestingly enough, this question, from the Q&A section, was answered by tamb), it makes me feel that it's just a free-for-all. I have seen no other Christian site on the internet that is quite so lenient with what it allows in terms of content. Why? Why push the envelope so much? So then, imagine my surprise when I saw your response. I'm comparing the "tone" of the site as I see it (which I've described already) with Brandon's "tone." Somehow Brandon's tone merited a response, but everything I've mentioned does not? That is what surprised me. I actually agree with what you said--calling someone ignorant isn't appropriate or helpful to the discussion. But I was surprised to see you intervene.

Unfortunately, I've often left the site feeling frustrated in the few times I have recently visited. That's what I haven't commented in quite some time. I would imagine that others who lean more towards a conservative/traditional opinion would feel the same.

I agree- we should not question or attack Richard's character as part of a discussion. But when I read commentary suggesting that I'm not dedicated enough to "social justice," or I'm not following Jesus' example because I don't see eye-to-eye with someone else's political philosophy, then I feel that another believer is questioning MY character. And it is very hard to want to participate in a discussion when I feel my values and opinion have been pre-judged.

Anyway, thank you for reading what I have to say. I truly hope to see good come out of this discussion. Christians need unity in spirit now more than ever!

Thanks, Liz. Appreciate your perspective. You made a very good point about more blogs that deal with strictly spiritual topics (although I would say that everything--money, politics, the arts, etc.) has a spiritual dimension.

By the way, I don't know if you've checked out any of the books, but we have a number of books that deal with deeply spiritual issues, including an excellent book by Richard Dahlstrom entitled "O2."

Keep reading and keep commenting!

I absolutely agree that every topic is spiritual, but her point is than when she turns to the "spirituality" section, as opposed to the "entertainment", "social issues", "global concerns" sections she should expect to find posts that are not better categorized under one of those other categories. You don't turn to the sports section in a newspaper to read about the global economy.

If you truly believe that every topic is spiritual, then why do you have a separate tab for "spirituality"?

Brandon, great point. We're actually rethinking the topic of "Spirituality." It is pretty broad, so we may divide it into at least two different topics. Any suggestions?

Perhaps something along the lines of "theology" and then "sanctification" or "spiritual growth" maybe?

Thanks for the suggestions. "Theology" was actually one of the categories we were considering.

Hey Stan,
well, I was hoping to see what you thought about some of the issues I raised...but I understand this is only one post, only one day. :o) I guess I'd have to say I wouldn't really be interested in checking out the book based on what I've seen...not that I don't appreciate Richard's opinion as a pastor. It's more the political commentary mixed with the spiritual that makes me uneasy.

You say "keep reading and keep commenting!" but give me a reason to do so...make me feel like this site does have a place for me, does represent me, and you can be sure I'll be on here every day!

jcubed...first of all, nice to hear from you! Great insights here. Maybe I was too quick to come to Richard's "defense." It's one of my weaknesses! Actually, I think he has been very gracious--direct, certainly, but gracious--in his replies.

I guess I feel the need to weigh in on the "profanity" issue. Liz referred to the micro site for "Give a Damn?" as the example. And I know that in one instance Rob (the atheist half of that project) used some profane language. But he told us who he was, and so while the language may have been offensive, it was coming from a guy who was intentionally doing it for shock value. Honestly, we debated whether or not to allow it, but decided that in the context of the larger project, to let it go. I know you have checked out the project and have even offered some supporting comments. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, you responded to Rob in a very loving and gracious manner. Aside from that project, which has great value in the global concerns arena, I'm not aware of our bloggers using profanity. I try to read everything, and maybe I missed something, but I wouldn't agree that use of profanity is widespread.

As for getting some more "conservative" bloggers, you guys all raise a very good point. We do want to represent the whole spectrum of the faith/culture conversation.

By the way, jcubed, did you like the videos we created? They kind of speak to this issue we're all talking about (in a crazy kind of way).

Was there any purpose in Paul Hebblethwaite's title "*** Christ & Creative Integrity" besides shock value? I know that I cringed every time I happened across it!

In general, I would have to agree with many of Brandon and Liz's observations. I, too, was somewhat taken aback by your initial response to Brandon even as it confirmed some of my overall impressions of this site. The ensuing conversation, though, has been worthwhile!

It is the title of the artwork. His selection of the title was and continues to be provocative. The blog was a discussion about how Christians can respond to those in the contemporary art world, focusing not on the obvious issue but other ways to address artistic license and responsibility.

I appreciate Conversant's willingness to live with a certain degree of tension. I can say that there are many times that I disagree with some of the views expressed on this site, but I continue to engage in the conversation.

I agree with Stan's approach to assessing the context of more controversial language.

Okay, I got the obvious -- that you were using the title of the piece as shock value to draw attention to your blog. My question is this -- what value is there in furthering the scope of blasphemy? Was God glorified? Was anyone uplifted in any way by being exposed to either the title or the "artwork"? I assume that you and ConversantLife believe that something instructive would come from it -- what was that rationale?

Maybe the relevance of this particular post will come into sharper focus with a more in-depth engagement with contemporary art.

And that answer exemplifies why some of us are frustrated w/ ConversantLife. So much for the conversation.............

Jesus frustrated his audience and continues to do so. From the parable of the wages to his sabbath breaking crop gleaning. The bible has a lot to say about economics, from the application of Jubilee to complex debates concerning competing values (ie being anointed with costly perfume that have been sold to benefit the poor).

I believe your post was a call for this discussion. What is the best way to incorporate God's values into economics? Is it through political process or through shaping culture?

I am grateful to see a pastor reaching for a vision of a society and economic system that reflects the values of the gospel. Obviously, in four paragraphs there is a lot to be filled in, and has been a little more through this thread. The political process in this country includes a tug of war between the private and public sector. It is a healthy search for the right balance concerning what should be commercialized and what shouldn't. Christians fill in the full spectrum of economic opinion, and I am glad Conversantlife is a reflection of this diversity.

Jesus did not break the Sabbath.

Hi Paul,
Guess I should have addressed the above question to you as well. Nothing like talking right past a person. ;-)

I think there may be 'more to the story' in what you are saying Richard. For starters - the State is incapable of forcing people not to act in their self-interest (Unless you are advocating Tyranny - which of course, you are not). Acting in ones self-interest is an issue of human nature and thus, falls into the jurisdiction of Religion (here: Christianity), rather than government (as Brandon points out). However - as you mentioned Richard - I'm with you as far as the government providing enough incentive that it would actually become in ones self-interest to help others, etc. However this is accomplished, it cannot take the form of government mandated 'do-goodery,' as it would in a Socialized system, because - as I mentioned, this is in direct conflict with Liberty.

One thing I cannot understand though, is how you can look at the current finical debacle - brought on by government - not necessarily free markets*, and think that they will responsibly manage our healthcare system? I mean - ultimately - Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all going in the same direction that this housing crisis has. How has government earned the 'street cred' to be able to handle something as massive and vital as the health care industry (nearly 1/6 of the entire U.S. economy)?

In my book - socialism ultimately results in handing massive amounts of power to the State. Government simply hasn't proven that it is capable or responsible enough to be able to handle that much power. The more decisions remain in the hands of individuals (the backbone of the free market) the better, in my opinion.

I want to also take a quick tack and rebound off of a couple thoughts that Liz and Brandon are making about this sort of blending of Christ/social justice/government. It seems common today to make arguments that Christ was for some certain thing -(sharing food, opening homes, caring for others) - and thus we should implement His desires through government. I take serious issue with this idea because I think it is fundamentally a misunderstanding of the purpose of Jesus' mission, as well as a threat to religious freedom.

In short, Christ's mission was to redeem individual souls, not to right societal ills - even though, societal changes may result from individuals coming to Christ. Unfortunately -as Liz was pointing out- I see many people extending the teachings of Jesus to fit their view of government and social causes. (Note that I am not accusing you, Richard, of doing this - but I question some of your arguments as they sound like they may have basis in this thought.) In the past - this phenomenon was stereotyped as something only inherent to the right, but this is simply not the case as we are seeing with the social justice movement from the left. Pardon the shameless self-promotion, but I wrote about this in greater length as a response to Don Miller's prayer at the DNC which I thought was an adulteration of the cause of Christ (Essentially - why didn't he just pray that Democrats would win and Republicans would be defeated...?).

My basic point is that - while we, as Christians, strive to become more like Christ and spread His message of grace and salvation - we shouldn't make the mistake of taking Jesus teachings (directed at individual hearts) and try to fashion them into state mandated social policy (currently under the moniker: Social Justice).

I hope that kind of makes sense.

*There is plenty of blame to go around in the current financial crisis: Government essentially strong-armed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into financial affirmative action -perverting sound financial practices somehow into something about class and race - giving credit to people who clearly didn't deserve it. Thus - more demand for houses - thus house values driven up (creating the housing bubble), all based on sub-prime loans that the government swore it would back up through Freddie and Fannie. Some on Wall Street took advantage of this as well, so I am not trying to argue for their total innocence. However - the root problem can be traced back to government (as both Liz and Brandon point out) requiring businesses to make un-sound business decisions. Why else would any financial institution (in their right mind) lend money to someone who clearly has no means of paying it back - unless 1) they were forced to by government, and 2) they were promised that the government would back them up?

Wow all....! I had no idea such a brief post would engender such strong responses. thanks for the dialogue.

Liz - your critique is absolutely fair. After writing this post, I nearly slotted it into business as the proper category and then thought, 'Nope - since I'm in the spirituality category as a blogger, I'll leave it there'. I'll take that to heart in the future and be more thoughtful in placing my posts.

On another subject Liz, I find myself in the strange position of being theologically conservative, holding to a high view of scripture, believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and also believing that caring for the least of these includes addressing unjust social structures (read: government and business practices) no matter their form, (socialist, capitalist, libertarian) as part of my responsibility to care for those in distress (James 1). This puts me in the strange space of being too conservative for some, and too liberal for others. (I suppose we're all in that camp). In no way do I mean to imply that you need to vote a certain way if you're a Christian. I understand that we all look at different data, have different histories, and interpret that data of history differently - thus we're going to come different conclusions. But we desperately need the dialogue, amongst ourselves, so that we can all continue to grow.

Brandon (and Liz too, if you're interested), I won't carry the debate point by point any farther (at least for now). I will try to reiterate that the calling of the believer is to stand apart from the systems of this world, socialist, capitalist, libertarian, communist, totalitarian, and seek to be what we are called to be: the presence of the resurrected Jesus in this broken world. Because of a calling to care for the poor and marginalized, and because the kingdom of God is a place of justice not oppression, and a place of satisfaction, not hunger, we who live in America need to wrestle with how best to help embody that in our setting. I believe that embodying this entails, not only personal generosity and charity (commendable and important as that is), but also challenging the powers of commerce and industry when they trample others.

Brandon, you obviously think that a libertarian approach is the most biblical. We appeal to the same passages bro' - Romans 13 (I assume), but come to different conclusions. I believe that 'curbing evil' often requires government intervention because people, left to themselves, will oppress. Of course, the government, if left to itself will also oppress (and of course, does oppress, and has oppressed) But, thank God, our founding fathers created a system of checks balances so that no office is left to autonomy. This system of checks and balances has worked remarkably well down through the centuries, as the government has intervened in order to secure the rights of people who would otherwise have continued to live on the margins:
1. the 13th ammendment ended slavery
2. the 14th ammendment granted citizenship rights to former slaves - this eventually led to gthe dismantling of many forms of segregation in America
3. the 15th ammendment granted prevented voter discrimination on the basis of race
4. industry has a rich history of abusing the environment, and would, in many instances, continue to do so, were it not for the intervention of government. If you'd like me to document instances of ground water pollution coming at the hands of free market industrialists, i can provide you with a list. I for one am grateful that we have a government that intervenes.
5. Perhaps you've traveled? I've been in Nepal and when I left one restaurant for a moment, heading outside to the outhouse behind the establishment, I encountered a woman doing the dishes, in a basin, in the dirt, with cold water and no soap. I for one am grateful for the intervention of public health officials in America because I've seen unregulated food service, unregulated construction practices.

If we travel overseas, we can see the positive effects of government intervention in the history of Great Britain where it was government intervention that put an end to child labor. Granted, child labor might well be the best way to produce the most goods for the cheapest price, but it came at the cost of the health and well being of children (as still happens throughout the world today). The same thing can be said of slavery, or could be at least, until William Wilberforce brought the implication of the gospel to bear on the economics of Great Britain. The result was the end of slavery.

I'm certainly not deifying any form of government, socialist or otherwise. Nor am I advocating a certain way of voting. I'm independent. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment that the government is culpable in the current financial crisis as much as anyone (though I'm not willing to lay all the blame there as I know firsthand, some of the internal greed of the investment banking industry, granted unprecedented freedom in recent years to pursue reckless lending and investment pracitces). Rather, I'm simply declaring my belief that the government, flawed though it is, has a role to play in intervening in capitalist society because industrialists are capable of high crimes just as much as government officials.

We can argue about how much of a role, but when we do so, please remember Brandon, that to not agree with you or your source's conclusions or interpretations of history doesn't necessarily imply ignorance - just disagreement.

I appeal to all of Scripture in forming my political philosophy, not just Romans 13.

The same founding fathers that you praise for understanding the evil of man and thus creating a system of government with checks and balances, for the same reason created a limited government, one that was not designed to be involved the market.

I don't deny that people harm the environment. I deny that the state can create a cleaner environment than the free market. For an expansion of this statement, please refer to the 5 part video series I linked above. You have to remember that we do not live in a free market, so pointing to current examples of abuse of the environment is not evidence of the evil of the free market. You continue to make this mistake.

Do you seriously need a law to prevent you from eating at an unsanitary restaurant? Perhaps next time you will check first. The fact that you are so eager to enact laws simply shows you have no respect for personal responsibility. Go eat somewhere else if it's too dirty. The market will provide you with a restaurant to your satisfaction. The intervention of public health officials is not the cause of America's clean restaurants. Our robust, free economy is the cause of great restaurants. You continue to commit fallacies by not comparing apples to apples.

Child labor was ended by capitalism, not legislation

And I have no problem with legislation that respects the liberty of the individual, be he black or white, rather than classifying him as property. That's very libertarian.

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment that the government is culpable in the current financial crisis as much as anyone

This is certainly a change in perspective then, because you have earlier said it is the result of a free, deregulated market. Yes, many business men are greedy, but in a free market, making poor investments will lead to bankruptcy. The FDIC and other organizations interfered in the free market and created a moral hazard that prevented the market from "checking" such greed.

Rather, I'm simply declaring my belief that the government, flawed though it is, has a role to play in intervening in capitalist society

I know you are. But you should be declaring the Gospel. That's your job.

can we all just stop dressing down people. I'd feel much more comfortable talking about this with everyone's clothes on.

My fiance just read the post and after she read the following:

What's needed is a new model where the government rewards, not self-interest, but service and sacrifice.

She asked me, "Isn't that self-defeating?"

Yes. It is.

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The sunny days are fine because clarity allows for freedom of movement, and depth of vision. But don't forget the mist, where waters bless the parched soul, saturating us with grace and truth, providing needed sustenance for the journey.