Monday, June 15, 2009

Road to Serfdom

Like many people, my political views have changed over the years. I was raised by Reagan Democrats, parents who had always been Democrats, had voted for Carter, and then voted for Reagan in 1980. They became Republicans after that, part of that group of Christians who converted to Republicanism as a result of the "culture wars." I was therefore raised in a very conservative environment that equated being Christian with voting Republican. I bought it hook, line and sinker. In my mid 20s though I began to change and by the 90s I called myself a liberal. Mainly, this had to do with my reading of the Bible, and the way in which I interpreted Jesus' way of relating to people. Once again, however, I am rethinking things a bit. I have pulled out some of my old economics books dealing with things like supply-side economics and the redistribution of wealth. This is all in the news today with President Obama's economic policies. In fact I am rereading Frederick Hayek's classic The Road to Serfdom.

So, what does this mean from a faith perspective? I am not sure. I am constantly struggling with how we can relate the Bible to our contemporary situation. On one hand I believe that the church should take care of people who can't take care of themself. And yet, I also believe that in America, where freedom is important, we should not forcibly take from people who are successful and give to people who won't work. Arthur Laffer, one of the formulators of supply-side economics has recently written a new book about how raising taxes too high lowers govt. revenue (this is the main premise of supply side economics) and the inecentive that people have to work and be innovative. He makes great sense. If people have no incentive to work and make money, they are not going to work. And so once again, I find myself rethinking where I am on the spectrum.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Too Many Books, Too Little Money

I spent a couple of hours at Barnes and Noble last night waiting out a terrible thunder storm. Of course, every time I go to B&N I find more books to buy. The problem is that I don't usually have enough money. At least not if I want my family to have food, clothes, electricity, etc. Nevertheless, I found three great new books that I would like to read. One is the new book by Joe Scarborough, The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise. I love Morning Joe, and I think Scarborough understands better than almost anyone what it means to be a conservative. His thesis is that the Republican Party has been hijacked by religious ideologues on the Far Right, Neo-conservatives on the issue of foreign policy, and fiscal idiots on the issue of spending. I think he is right on track.

The second book is called the Evolution of God and it is written by Robert Wright. Although I don't share Wright's religious views, I am interested in this book. The book is about two things - first, the necessity of the world's major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) finding ways to be more hospitable to one another in the light of globalization; and secondly, the importance of reconciling religion and science.

The third book is Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision by NT Wright. Recently, Wright the Bishop of Durham and a noted Anglican NT scholar has been in a debate with John Piper, a not very tolerant Reformed Baptist pastor/scholar over the issue of Paul's understanding of justification. Piper has already written a book, and this is Wright's definitive book on the subject.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shocked Again

Once again, I find myself shocked by the way in which some Christians respond to people or positions that they disagree with. Yesterday, the president gave what I thought was a great speech. In humility and with great integrity, he spoke to the Muslim world in a way that few previous presidents have had the courage to do. Basically, this president understands that our position or our understanding of a particular situation or group of people is fallible. We are human beings who are imperfect and who often make mistakes. In light of this realization, President Obama tries to respect and understand people with whom he has disagreements. He tries to listen and then move forward based on mutual respect. What is most amazing to me is the criticism he has received concerning his desire to talk to people in an effort to solve problems. Christians, more than anyone else, should support this effort. All through the Gospels, Jesus talked about how to restore broken relationships - you talk, you forgive, you try to understand. You don't attack, or retaliate, or seek vengeance. And yet some of the most vocal critics of President Obama's foreign policy are Christians who seem to ignore the teachings of Jesus unless they coincide with their own presuppositions. Personally, I am excited about having a Christian in the White House who takes seriously the radical nature of following Jesus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Current State of Affairs

It has now been seven months since we elected our first African-American president. The jury is still out on how well our new president is handling all of the problems he inherited, but one thing is for sure. This guy is different from what I have seen from presidents in the past. He just seems to be so honest and genuine. Now this is not an endorsement of any of his policies. In fact, I have some problems with the amount of money he wants to spend, but from a character perspective, President Obama strikes me as someone who really does care about people and who wants to change the old Washington way of doing things behind closed doors and then lying to the American people in order to cover things up. I for one am excited about this breath of fresh air. For a long time, I had sort of given up on politicians because none of them seemed very trustworthy. Well, maybe things are changing. My encouragement to those Christians who are being critical of him is to give him a chance. We are never going to agree completely with any elected official, but who knows what can happen now that we have someone in office who is interested in what is best for the American people.