The National Church of Socialism

FrontPage Mag | Mark D. Tooley | Dec. 28, 2007

The financially and demographically struggling National Council of Churches (NCC) is mulling over a new “Social Creed for the 21st Century” that will succinctly articulate its left-leaning political activism. Many of the NCC’s heterodox officials and activist supporters could not affirm traditional Christian theological creeds. For them, political creeds are the desired alternative.

This new creed is supposed to update the Social Creed of 1908 developed by the NCC’s predecessor church council, and which focused on rights for laborers, child labor laws, and old age pensions. The NCC, and its predecessor Federal Council of Churches, were founded by religious and political progressives. Not until the1960’s did far-left radicalism began to displace the NCC’s formerly mainstream liberalism.

“It is not enough to celebrate the centennial of the 1908 social creed,” a Presbyterian drafter told the NCC’s General Assembly in November 2007. “It can strengthen the common witness of our communions on a broad range of social concerns — far broader than in 1908.” NCC officials commonly believe that their declining council can be rejuvenated by new injections of left-wing causes. But the more estranged the NCC politicized officers and staff become from the still largely conservative members of its denominations, the faster the NCC’s decline accelerates.

The recently departed NCC chief the Rev. Bob Edgar, now the new head of Common Cause, supposedly had rescued the New York-based NCC from financial ruin. Temporarily, Edgar had succeeded by gaining left-wing foundation funding for the NCC’s political programs, even as denominational money continued to decline. But eventually, the NCC’s growing addiction to secular left wing dollars could not be sustained. And even the NCC’s board was discomfited by Edgar’s high octane activism. The new NCC chief, the Rev. Michael Livingston, is taking power amid reorganization and staff reductions. According to a report by my colleague Ralph Webb, Livingston warned the NCC’s General Assembly of further turmoil: “It’s been frustrating, the tension, conflict, and we’re surely not beyond that … in the future,” while another NCC official regretted that the NCC “face[s] difficult days ahead.” The new Social Creed will not likely ignite a sufficient revival to restore the NCC to its former prestige.

Supposedly this new Social Creed responds to the “concerns of churches and peoples around our globe.” But actually, it expresses the skewed and statist fixations of left-leaning mainline Protestants in North America. The NCC explained the need for an updated Creed by asserting “some challenges seem greater [than in 1908], as the costs and consequences of war and the persistence of racism meet massive environmental degradation.” In explaining the new Creed, the NCC intoned: “Global warming threatens our very existence; and “divisions of wealth [are] etched along lines of race and gender;” and most people seem resigned to accept the “present shape of our global market system and fail to see that any alternatives may exist.” The NCC claimed that “divisions between the rich and the poor grow wider by the day,” and explained that the Creed was “written in the face of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the danger of additional war in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

The Creed itself demands “employment for all at a family-sustaining living wage, full “economic rights” that are “protected by new governance structures,” greater emphasis on public education, a “de-racialized” criminal justice system, “universal healthcare,” more effective social security, “tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor,” “equitable global trade,” “sustainable” and “alternative” energy sources, “mutual security rather than unilateral force,” a “strengthened United Nations, and a “redirection of military spending to more peaceful and productive uses.”

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8 thoughts on “The National Church of Socialism”

  1. This passage makes me positively gleeful:

    “No one has articulated the message of the religious left more effectively than Mr. Huckabee,” writes David Sanders in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. That’s right — the religious left. Huckabee, explains Sanders, believes that his faith justifies “advocating greater government involvement in just about every aspect of American life.”

    Call it crazy, this notion that Jesus might have considered the alleviation of poverty a moral imperative for government, but Huckabee appears to believe it. His victory in the Iowa caucus has plunged mainstream Republicans into a distraught tizzy

    ..Maybe Iowan evangelicals were so blinded by the light shining from that cross that they couldn’t see (or didn’t care about) his heretical economic platform. Or maybe the opposite is true — maybe the Republican punditocracy is so blind to growing economic angst and uncertainty in the United States that they simply can’t comprehend that Huckabee’s popularity might have something to do with the fact that he is the only Republican candidate (outside of, possibly, Ron Paul) who sincerely appears to care that some people are having a hard time right now.

    If some portion of Huckabee’s support does come from evangelicals who are comfortable with the thought that Jesus might care about the environment, poverty, and hunger, or that, as Huckabee said in August, “we can’t ignore that there are kids every day in this country that literally don’t have enough food and adequate drinking water in America,” then Republicans are faced with a great paradox. The GOP long ago made its bed with Jesus Christ. But there’s nothing in the Bible that equates belief in the savior with a belief in small government and tax cuts for the rich. By selling its soul to Christian conservatives, the GOP may have surrendered its own ability to define the conservative economic platform.

    Hee hee hee

  2. Dean come on. As you say “But there’s nothing in the Bible that equates belief in the savior with a belief in small government and tax cuts for the rich.” Neither is there anything in the Bible that equates salvation with massive government intervention and wealth transfer in the name of “equality”.

    Huckabee is likely just another secularist Christian. Why does this make you happy? Because you take glee in bashing folks who don’t swallow the leftist ideology as being non-Christian?

    Do we have to be subjected to yet another round of rationalizing ideology in the name of Christ (left or right)? Please no. God save us from such blasphemy.

  3. Michael:

    What made me happy was the fact that Christian voters demonstrated that they refuse to be exploited and taken for granted any longer. Christian voters in 2008 are not an easily manipulated voting bloc with a narrow range of priorities, but a diverse, thoughtful group of voters with a broad range of moral concerns. I certainly would include you in the broader group, and not the narrow group.

    Secondly, I would be happy if some of Huckabee’s populist rhetoric did in fact resonate with Christian voters as well. While I don’t support Huckabee for President I think he did tap into the economic anxieties increasingly felt throughout the middle-class. It’s easy to be a values-only voter when times are good. When the price of food and gasoline rise sharply and you are worried about keeping your job and paying your mortgage, priorities tend to shift.

    Times are changing and people are even many conservatives are realizing that there is no tax cut for the rich that is going to lift our nation out of this latest recession now.

    On Saturday, conservative commentator David Brooks wrote in the NY Times:

    Supply-side economics had a good run, but continual tax cuts can no longer be the centerpiece of Republican economic policy. The demographics have changed. The U.S. is an aging society. We have made expensive promises to our seniors. We can’t keep those promises at the current tax levels, let alone at reduced ones. As David Frum writes in “Comeback,” his indispensable new book: “In the face of such a huge fiscal gap, the days of broad, across-the-board, middle-class tax cutting are over.”

    The political situation has changed, too. Republicans used to appeal to the investor class with economic policies and the working class with values, crime and welfare policies. But that formula has broken down. The workers are walking away from the G.O.P., and the only way to win them back is by listening to their economic concerns.

    Middle-Class Capitalists, NY Times, Jan. 12, 2008

    That’s a positive development and something that will make Republicans more competitive with Democrats in long-run.

  4. Dean, The comment: “supply-side economics had a good run” shows a remarkable ignorance of reality. ALL economics are Supply-Side economics! It is the people and companies that spend and risk their money and resources to create jobs and products/services and then pay the taxes that the government then uses to spend on its programs. Money (value) does not magically appear in the government coffers for it to spend. People and companies have to produce it or invest and risk existing value in order to create more of it, so new value can be taxed and revenues collected. Governments do not create value, they simply confiscate, reallocate, or waste it.

  5. Chris, as economically sound as your explanation may be, something is missing. I can only describe the missing component as the non-rational dimension. Most economic theory makes the assumption that people decide on how to create and exchange value for rational reasons. It ain’t so Magee! In fact, the more we accede to the fantasy that empirical and “scientific” ideas and data are sufficient to understand human behavior, the more irrational and superstitious we become.

    The non-rational component is the submerged part of the iceberg when it comes to economic decisions. That is why Harvey Mackay in his book, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” advised not to sign anything in a room with a chandelier.

    Your description of government actually shows the non-rational component to your own supposedly rational economic description. To you, government is Grendal. No, not necessarily. The taxes we pay should meet the same standards of exchange for value as any other economic transaction. They don’t, but that is not the fault of some separate entity called “government”, but the result of our own desire to have something for nothing.

    Everybody desires government services but few bother to understand the cost of those services. Not just the monetary cost, but the social cost as well. Just knowledge can be difficult to acquire in part because the politicians we elect make it difficult, but mostly because we prefer to be ignorant so we don’t have to be responsible. Often ideology replaces knowledge. Such ignorance prevents a fair, rational transaction when it comes to government services. Our laziness, greed, ignorance and, at times, desperation become the fodder for a corrupt and corrupting political culture that has abandoned real government.

    Keep in mind that capitalist ideology is just as destructive to our humanity as communist ideology.

  6. Michael, You are quite wrong about this observation: “Keep in mind that capitalist ideology is just as destructive to our humanity as communist ideology.” That is absolutely false and shows a misunderstanding of both. True capitalism is a reflection of reality and describes how human beings interact in the real world. Capitalism expresses the voluntary exchange of work for value between free individuals. Capitalism is morally neutral and respects the freedom and voluntary acts of individuals. It’s not an artificial construct and corrupt and deadly atheistic ideology (the greatest Christian heresy) dreamed up by bored, rich boys, which communism really is. You are falling into same trap as most leftists and liberals by using the unethical and criminal conduct of some individuals and corporations to blame capitalism for their abusive and non-capitalistic conduct. That’s moral equivalence pure and simple.

  7. Chris, the key word in my post is ideology. Ideological capitalism has the capacity for turning the sacred into mere things and turning human labor into just another form of capital. That is just as destructive to the soul as communism. The difference is that captialism does not have to be ideological, it can be a tool and a method that allows for a better use of both the non-sentient creatation and a means for valuing human labor and creativity that includes the sacred. You describe some of the reasons accurately.

    However, capitalism can be just as infected with materialism and the concomitant need to tyrannize as communism. The difference once again is that communism is inherently destructive, capitalism need not be. That does not mean that capitalism is morally or ethically neutral however. IMO, that is an impossiblity. Capitialism has certain assumptions about the nature of man built into it that allow it to tend toward freedom. However, it also has certain assumptions that allow it to tend toward license as long as money is made. If capitalism were morally and ethically netural it would not be, as it has proved to be, effective in ameliorating tyranny and oppression. Modern capitalism came out of the Protestant revolt and the subsequent de-sacraliaztion and secularism. Because of that, I refuse to put it on a pedestal for to do so risks becoming just as much of an economic determinist as the communists just in a different direction, atomizing rather than collectivisng.

    It seems you describe such activity as non-capitalist and perhaps you are correct. I just use different words to discriminate. Unfortunately the ‘social sciences”, of which modern captalistic economics is a part, support the trend toward dehumaization in favor of a false empiricism (the other theme in my post).

    As to your charge of moral relativism:

    You drastically understate the malice of communism in your description of its formation as an ideology. Communism is demonic in origin, not simply the idol dreamings of some bored and disaffected intellegentsia. It is the political and economic arm of the nilhist assault against humanity and Christianity as Darwinism is the scientistic arm. I obviously did not make the distinction clear enough in my first post. Part of that was intentional as I knew it would tweak you a little, please forgive me for that.

    However, I think you over-reacted. You have to realize that I am opposed to all forms of ideology because ideology is merely an excuse to stop thinking. Once we stop thinking, we become the pawns of the power hungry manipulators whether they be liberal, conservative, liberatarian or ecclesial.

  8. Michael, Capitalism is really not an ideology. It simply describes reality, like mathematics and economics describe reality. It’s a word that explains how free human beings interact voluntarily with one another to exchange value and how they invest the excess of the fruits of their labors to produce more or gain more value. It is value and morally neutral.

    You are positing your argument from the Marxist and leftist ideological point of view that made up this bogeyman they called “capitalism” as if it was some alien force dreamed up by rich to oppress the poor. That is a lie. You should know better than that.

    On the other hand you are right that materialism is a moral failure, but that is the fault of the moral choice of individuals and groups, not the fault of capitalism. That’s like saying that it’s the fault of mathematics when someone does a wrong addition or multiplication, or the fault of accounting when someone embezzles money from their employer and writes down the incorrect cash register total.

    When man deposits his money in a bank and requires interest payments, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he buys food, clothing, furniture, medicine, etc.. from someone who produced it, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he expects to be paid a fair salary for the work that he’s doing, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he is the beneficiary of any retirement or pension fund, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he buys property and hopes value will increase, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he lends money to someone else and wants interest in return, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he invents something new and unique and wants to sell it to someone else for a profit, he is practicing capitalism!

    When he is the beneficiary of any government program providing social assistance, he directly benefits from others who practiced capitalism and created the profits the gov’t can now use and distribute to those in need!

    When Churches and Synagogues get donations from people who first had to work and earn it, they are the beneficiaries of capitalism.

    Even communists and socialists rely on capitalism to actually produce anything of value and generate the value and returns that fund and fuel their governments.

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