Over a the Huffington Post, a writer named Mike Lux (whom I’ve never read before) had a curious post about liberalism and Jesus. The name of the post is “How Do Christians Become Conservative” and in it, he attempts to equate Progressive politics with being a “good Christian”. Here’s a short excerpt:
The most fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives is that question of which side you are on. Conservatives believe that the rich and powerful got that way because they deserve to be, that society owes its prosperity to the prosperous, and that government’s job when they have to make choices is to side with those businesspeople who are doing well, because all good things trickle down from them. Progressives, on the other hand, believe it is the poor and those who are ill-treated who need the most help from their government, and that prosperity comes from all of us — the worker as well as the employer, the consumer as well as the seller, the struggling entrepreneur trying to make it as well as the wealthy who already have.
Usually, I might spend my time arguing which of those worldviews gives us better policy outcomes, or which is better politics, but in this post I want to focus on something else: which side the God of the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition is on.
Between Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories about Christian social justice (Since Communists and Nazis both used the words “social” and “justice,” sometimes even together, the phrase must be bad along with other words they used a lot like the, and, one, thank you, please, today, tonight, and tomorrow), Sarah Palin’s “spiritual warfare,” and my very fun e-mail debates with a much-beloved but sadly misguided conservative Christian relative, I have been thinking a lot about Christians and political ideology of late. As those of you who read me a lot know, I was raised in a church-oriented home, and I write about religion a fair amount. This isn’t because I am conventionally religious: I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people.
Hmmm… very interesting. There appears to be 2 major flaws in Mr. Lux’s premise, at least to my conservative Christian way of thinking.
First of all, Mr. Lux defines the argument for the reader this way: Conservative = BIG BUSINESS and Liberals = poor helpless victims. That’s not exactly how I would have framed the debate of Conservative vs. Liberal ideals! I see it this way: Conservatives believe in individual liberty while Liberals prefer to defer to “Community Rule” (i.e. – government rule or consensus).
Think of it in these terms: “one person can make a difference” vs. “it takes a village”. You see, Mr. Lux’s argument does sound convincing because there is a degree of truth it. Conservatives do appreciate successful entrepreneurs. An individual willing to take risks should reap the rewards of those ventures. Bill Gates developed DOS and Windows. He quit college to pursue his business dreams, and he was successful in doing so — Congratulations! Warren Buffett took Bershire Hathaway from a nearly defunct company to one of America’s great success stories. Oprah Winfrey was able to move from personal and economic hardship in her youth, to fantastic success in her media career. All of these people are examples of individual success stories. All of these people are also examples of “Big Business” and Progressive Democrats. If individual success is good enough for rich Democrats, shouldn’t it be good enough for “Joe the Plumber” and John Q. Public?
In terms of helping the poor, Conservatives believe individuals should help the needy through personal, or perhaps even church-led, charitable works. It seems to me that is what Jesus did. President Obama (current head of the Progressive movement) believes executives should be limited in their earning capacity (thorough taxation or forced salary reduction) in order to help those less fortunate. Yet, in doing so, we’re setting up yet another inefficient governmental organization to take from the rich and give to the poor. Didn’t Jesus separate politics and spirituality? I seem to remember his saying “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. Let’s look again at Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Both men have pledged to give a vast majority of their wealth to the needy. Isn’t that what Jesus wanted? For wealthy men to spread the wealth? I don’t recall Jesus preaching that Pilate should tax the rich man until he could get that “camel to fit through the eye of a needle”… no, he wanted to change people’s hearts through personal contacts. Spreading the Good News (Jesus’ teachings were about God and Love) was a very personal undertaking, not a governmental mandate!
Let’s look at it from yet another angle — if you’re a Progressive and you believe in Community Rule (the “it takes a village” philosophy), then a big central government decides what is good for the planet and good for the people (ostensibly through consensus, but in actuality through an elite ruling class). You like the concept of “it takes a village” because we should all care about one another. Time and time again, I see governmental committees (admittedly, most of my experience has been through higher education, which is different than elected governmental attitudes) trying to “do the right thing” all while making sure to “CYA” — you see, it’s easy to be on a big committee because if the outcome of the decision is good, you can claim to have been in the majority opinion, but if the outcome is bad, you can claim to have been in silent opposition to the decision…
The problem with consensus governing by an elite group of people (our professional politicians) is that the little guy often gets “left behind”. Do you remember being in school and being chosen for teams? If you were the band geek, or the egg head, or the fat kid, or heaven-forbid, the child with a handicap, then being chosen last wasn’t so fun…. chances are, if you’re different in some way — if you have individual needs – then you don’t conveniently fall into one of the “groups” defined by the ruling class (in school, the ruling class were the popular kids; in government, it’s the elite professional politicians), so your needs get addressed last, if at all.
Conservatives see individuals as all being worthy of the same respect and given the same opportunities to succeed. Since I’m most familiar with higher education, I’ll use it to illustrate a point: A hundred years ago, white men were overwhelming picked for admissions into the our major Universities. Women and Americans of color were generally denied admissions because they were seen as inferior or under-qualified in some way. Then the Progressives led the Affirmative Action push, which caused admissions decisions to be made (and still are being made) which bias the process toward minorities. Quotas were (and still are) used to try to bring about “equity”.
The problem is that highly qualified white males were denied access. You see, basing your decision on skin color is wrong, regardless of which skin color you choose. Admissions decisions need to be made without knowledge of race, gender or ethnicity. In order to encourage struggling students, perhaps we would want to set aside 10-20% of the admissions for under-performing students who show exceptional promise, and perhaps another 5-10% for athletes (because for better or worse, athletics is a part of higher education now) who might not make the academic entrance requirements. That’s the conservative promise — individual opportunity, not collective outcome.
Thus far, I’ve focused on Mr. Lux’s faulty premise defining Conservatives vs. Progressives. The other major flaw is his view of Christianity. According to Mr. Lux:
I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people.
I’m no Biblical scholar, but I’m fairly confident that’s NOT the point of Jesus’ teachings… that’s not even being spiritual! In fact, it sounds incredibly selfish to me.
The conclusion? Mr. Lux is not, by his own admission, a Christian nor a Conservative, so it’s no wonder he’s wrong on both counts.
FYI, here is Mr. Lux’s Bio from The Huffington Post:
Michael Lux is the co-founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, L.L.C., a political consulting firm founded in 1999, focused on strategic political consulting for non-profits, labor unions, PACs and progressive donors. Previously, he was Senior Vice President for Political Action at People For the American Way (PFAW), and the PFAW Foundation, and served at the White House from January 1993 to mid-1995 as a Special Assistant to the President for Public Liaison. While at Progressive Strategies, Lux has founded, and currently chairs a number of new organizations and projects, including American Family Voices, the Progressive Donor Network, and BushRecall.org. Lux serves on the boards of several other organizations including the Arca Foundation, Americans United for Change, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Center for Progressive Leadership, Democratic Strategist, Grassroots Democrats, Progressive Majority and Women’s Voices/Women Vote.
In November of 2008, Mike was named to the Obama-Biden Transition Team. In that role, he served as an advisor to the Public Liaison on dealings with the progressive community and has helped shape the office of Public Liaison based on his past experience working on the Clinton-Gore Transition, as well as in the White House.