February 10, 2005

Peej Blogging

When I'm feeling under the weather, I go into hermit mode. All I want is to be left alone with a good book and a pot of tea.

Well, over the past couple weeks, I've done a lot of reading. One of the books that I cantered through yet again was P.J. O'Rourke's Eat the Rich. The thing I admire the most about Peej is that while he is being as flip and funny as only a boozy Irishman can be, he's also lofting home runs into the upper deck in deep left center field. (I disagree with some of his points, but then you can't expect a Tory and a Libertarian to see eye to eye on everything, now can you?)

Anyhoo, I was nodding in agreement again with his arguments concerning why the creation of wealth is actually a good thing from a moral standpoint when a little bell went off in my head. Ya see, my Church discussion group has been talking about rich and poor lately and has been serving up the usual redistributionist guff based on their readings of the Gospel. And you can certainly make a prima facie case that Jesus was some kind of proto-socialist if you want to.

But consider this: Jesus was living at a time and in a place where the principles of economics were barely functioning. There was no rule of law. There was no private property for the vast majority of people. Education was nearly unheard of. Middle class? Fuggedaboutit. What wealth there was was accumulated by a combination of cronyism and brute force and held by an extremely small cadre of people. The rest of the populace lived and died at their whim. Enough to turn anyone into a redistributionist, I would think.

Now in a lot of other ways the Church is very busy reinterpreting Biblical teachings to fit modern society. Fair enough, I suppose, provided it doesn't get out of hand. But what made my brain go "bing!" was this: Why doesn't it do the same thing in the area of economics? Jesus lived in a backwards top-down agrarian economy. What would he make of Adam Smith? Of the Industrial Revolution? Of the unimaginable rise in living standards not just for the money-lenders and tax-gatherers, but for damn' near everybody in the Free World? What would he have to say if you explained to him that wealth is not something obtained, but something created? And that the energy of that creation benefits not just the creator himself, but society as a whole? Wouldn't he embrace principles -unknowable in his own time - that truly benefit the downtrodden? I would certainly think so.

Peej makes a very funny point about the Old Testament Commandment warning us not to covet our neighbor's stuff. But it strikes me that the New Testament Commandment to love thy neighbor and to do unto others can also be read to encompass the promotion of that golden triad that has been proven empirically to benefit all members of a society that adheres to it:

-Rule of Law

-Protection of Private Property


But show me a clergyman who would take this line. Anybody?....Anybody?.... Bueller? Nope, instead it's the same ol' "How can you drive an SUV while millions in Africa starve?"

I think I'm going to start bringing a copy of Peej's book to my meetings. At the first sign of someone breaking into this kind of mush, I'm going to whap them upside the head with it.

(Speaking of Peej, anyone read this? Any thoughts?)

UPDATE: Sweet Baby Jesus! Dr. Rusty runs the Sandcrawler over one of the more virulent version of the Our-Profits-Are-The-Death-Of-Their-Babies Crowd, stops and then backs up. Frankly, there ain't that much difference between filth like Ward Churchill and the Limosine Libs that I want to dope-slap, except in terms of degree. Gun that puppy again, Prof!

Posted by Robert at February 10, 2005 12:00 PM

I could kiss you full on the mouth for writing this...ya know, and interpret the Bible such that it's okay.

The church I attend is mostly made up of old Charlottesville. High number of millionaires who have little to do but participate in group thumb-suck, berating the current administration for the creation of wealth, drinking their $4 lattes and driving away in their Volvos after church on Sundays.

And, no, our clergy would never take the line that Jesus might support that golden triad. But I'm glad you did!

Posted by: Vic Barry (former regional rock star) at February 10, 2005 12:45 PM

Um, thanks....

Re the Churchs - that's the most frustrating thing about it. My parish is similarly stocked with a good chunk of NoVA's limosine liberals, many of whom have got the stuff in sackfuls. These are people who should know better.

Posted by: Robert the LB at February 10, 2005 12:56 PM

My P.J. O'Rourke reading has been limited to older stuff -- Parliament of Whores, Holidays in Hell, Give War a Chance.

All good reads.

He is, like me, a member of the "more guns and whiskey" school of Republicanism.

Posted by: The Colossus at February 10, 2005 01:23 PM

I can tell you guys must be old school Protestants because those of us who grew fat (not lean and fit, that is) on the restoration movement ("No creed but the cross"), frontier-shaped faith of "non-denominational" denominations (read Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone) back democracy and the American way 100%, that and quote "He who doesn't eat, neither shall he work" while we direct the drifter down the street to the sheriff's office to fill out a form, then over to the DFS to make sure they aren't already getting the congregants tax dollars, and then after jumping safely through those hoops, we have them go through a counseling session, fill out forms for us, then check to see if we've used up our budgeted $200 (less than 1% of the annual budget) for benevolence.

That said, I left that ill-formed theology, but the social thoughts remained somehow. I do think that churches in general are spending way too much money on ornate buildings and programs, and then directing the poor down the street to the DFS office. I can't help but wonder how much has been lost by handing over the care and feeding of the poor with our own hands by leaving it up to the government to do so. But I do like my air-conditioning in the summer, and my fresh bagels on Sunday morning....

Posted by: Rae at February 10, 2005 01:30 PM

Just not a theological problem we Jooooos have to worry about.

Posted by: Eric at February 10, 2005 01:54 PM


I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a pass on the camping trip idea....

Posted by: Steve the LB at February 10, 2005 02:21 PM

I would actually agree with the proto-socia1ist theology of a lot of mainline Prods. The problem with socia1ists is that they are really Marxists, only with smaller nads and less of a stomach for gulags.

In my book Marx would classify Jebus as a "Utopian Socia1ist" who, as you know, Marx hated. The difference between Jebus and Marx is that Jebus (at least if the Apostles got him right in the Acts) wanted VOLUNTARY redistribution of wealth.

It seems to me that the very moral act of giving to the poor becomes so perverted by Marxism, because of the use of force, that it becomes evil.

Of course voluntary redistribution of wealth also must be underpinned by the rule of law and property rights......

Posted by: Rusty at February 10, 2005 02:39 PM

Steve- lmao. Ummm, yeah, afraid that you would wake up with a little occurrence of osculation going on?

Heheh. That was soooooo funny, Steve.

Posted by: Rae at February 10, 2005 02:52 PM

But Jesus' voluntary sharing idea still is based, IMHO, on the notion of limited wealth - If I don't give you a slice of the pizza, you'll have to eat the box. And while charity remains important, my point is that I would think he - and the Church - would get firmly behind an economic idea that results in more pizza being made for more people. Jesus didn't because no such economic system existed in the world in his day. The Church has no such excuse.

Posted by: Robert the LB at February 10, 2005 02:57 PM

Wait, when did we start talking about pizza??

Mmmmmmmmmm, pizza..........

Posted by: Rusty at February 10, 2005 04:19 PM

These are the same theological gits who claim Jesus was a pacifist. What, then, was Simon Peter doing with a sword in Gethsemane? Not to mention it doesn't seem as if he thought Jesus would mind him drawing it. And Jesus's rebuke was not "give peace a chance" but, "this isn't the time".

You're absolutely spot-on about the zero-sum game of economics in the ancient world. Same goes for the acceptance of slavery. I don't think it was Jesus's intent to start an uprising a la Spartacus, hence the "masters, obey your slaves" verse. However, it's hard to look at the rest of his teachings and say that he'd approve of slavery being incorporated into an economic system when there are other alternatives.

Posted by: John at February 11, 2005 09:24 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?