Our nation having just observed Memorial Day, I thought it fitting to keep the cost of our freedom before us. Up to, but not including the Global War on Terror (2001), there were a total of 41,892,128 Servicemembers who served in our armed forces and a corresponding total Battle Deaths of 651,550 (with an additional 539,054 non-battle deaths and 1,430,290 Woundings (source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)). It is obvious, then, that freedom is not free. Our war memorial in front of the Goshen County Court House states it well: All gave some…Some gave all.
But I’m asking us to look at another kind of war. In case you haven’t noticed, we are experiencing a push toward socialism. What has changed? ANSWER: I believe many Americans (mostly our youth) are re-evaluating JUSTICE. The gap between the rich and poor reflects an ever-growing problem in our society. For the sake of this article, I am going to assume a measure of truth here: the gap is widening and is not good.
What is the solution? Bernie Sanders and others are becoming more and more comfortable with the notion of Democratic Socialism. If my critical skills are operational, I assume that those who want Democratic Socialism do so, in part, because they want to see the gap narrowed. They want more people sharing the fruit of our prosperity. They want MORE justice. They believe so long as we FREELY VOTE for RE-distribution of wealth, we can create a more JUST world for ourselves and our children.
Back in 1895, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania (Robert Ellis Thompson), addressed the issue of economics at its most crucial point: JUSTICE. He wrote a book entitled: Political Economy for “High Schools and Academies.” His vast teaching experience of well over 25 years enabled him to write to younger students, “without insulting their intelligence by “talking down” to them.” The greatness of this little book stems from his willingness to acknowledge our economic problems. He pulls no punches. Our economic problems stem from too much wealth and privilege at the top and too much hardship and sorrow at the bottom. In other words: selfishness and greed. The candor in his willingness to own our problems is only exceeded by his solution. I leave you with his penetrating analysis:
“All this is true [wealth inequality], but it is not the fruit of our industrial system, but of the low morality of some of those who are in control of the system. Nor will progress of society be achieved by abolishing the possibility of wrong-doing, for that cannot be done without also abolishing the possibility of free right-doing. You cannot take away from men the opportunity of being selfish, without also taking away the opportunity of showing themselves unselfish. True progress must be found in carrying social opinion forward to the point at which men will find more happiness in unselfish kindness than in selfish gain. Socialism means moral despair of any such future for the race.”
How do we do that? How do we instill a happiness for unselfish kindness rather than selfish gain? From a Christian standpoint, such will come only by a radical reorientation. A sixteenth-century monk, Martin Luther, was fond of the phrase “homo incurvatus in se” – which translated means: “humanity curved in on itself.” He was fond of it because it highlighted sin’s most basic effect: self-absorption (bad pride). Something must break this orientation; something must replace this destructive curve inward. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:24). The corruption within our capitalistic system stems from the heart, i.e., we deny we are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9), and it is this heart of selfishness that must be changed if capitalism is to survive. We must learn to love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:30-31). In the wise words of the professor:
“You cannot take away from men the opportunity of being selfish, without also taking away the opportunity of showing themselves unselfish.”
If you are looking for a true counter-culture movement that has the power to free us from false pride (selfishness), so that we may restore true pride (love of neighbor), then look no further than Jesus. He alone can change the human heart.