Thursday, October 17, 2002

After reading others commenting on how left-wing non-religious people have taken over formerly mainstream churches in America and abroad, I looked into the political policies of the nearby Episcopal church in Santa Monica, California. The church has a newsletter with editorial and opinions that it posts on its public website.

On the website, the rector gives his convoluted definition of a "just war," which has 10 criteria that have nothing to do with religion. The associate pastor explains why church members should support a Santa Monica living wage ballot initiative that according to the most basic economics would lead to widespread unemployment. But best of all, the rector gives a socialist rant on why capitalism, Republicans, and the founding principles of America are evil.

I encourage readers to read the essay in its entire stupidity, but some the rector's best quotes are:
The American Experience, since its inception, has been shaped by an essential contradiction: the need to protect the privileges of the elite coupled with a fear of the masses in tension with the professed ideals of democracy and the proclamation of the ideology of equality. The men of means who crafted our foundational documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights) and thus who shaped our National Identity were men who were themselves formed by an 18th century English culture of hierarchal and hereditary aristocracy dependent on a "neo-feudal" exploitation of the lower classes.

To be reminded that five groups of "Americans" were not represented at the Constitutional Convention--Indians, slaves, indentured servants, women, and men without property--is not simply a matter of retrospective political correctness masked as historical critique. Rather, it is to observe that in being both excluded from the table and from the creative imaginations of those who were there, the interest of the majority of "Americans" were neither represented nor protected. This essential "design flaw" has been played out in 200+ years of American history, as a struggle to live up to the ideals of democracy and equality in the context of an economic and political system which conspires to protect corporate wealth and power and the privileges of the elite. The issue is not conservative/liberal or Republican/Democrat but one of basic paradigmatic understanding about how the world works.

Franklin Roosevelt (President from 1933-1945) did much to try to "save capitalism from the capitalist" by progressively taxing the rich. The top rate was between 91% and 94%. This tax scheme remained in place until the 1960's, it should be recalled. By 1970, the income gap had narrowed substantially, with the top 1% owning barely 20% of the wealth.

Accelerating during the Reagan/Bush revolution, the gap between rich and poor is nearing record highs again. In 1999, the top 1% owned a third of the wealth of the nation. The top fifth of all the American populations now earns 11 times more than the bottom fifth - the largest gap in the Industrial World. President Bush's efforts to repeal the mischaracterized "death tax" (a tax designed to prevent the transfer of wealth of the richest Americans to their heirs and thus prevent the establishment of an American Aristocracy similar to England) threatens to further accelerate the development of a "plutocracy," which Kevin Phillips defines as the "fusion of money and government, or a "rule by the rich."

Our American tradition, with its profession of equality for all, compels us to question a system which increasingly functions to protect the priviledge of the few to the detriment of the many. Most egregious of all is an increasingly regressive tax system for the richest individuals and corporations (including off-shore tax dodges) which provides few resources to clean up the environment, improve public education, repair and rebuild aging and decaying infrastructures in our cities, fight debilitating diseases, provide universal health care for all citizens including a prescription drug plan for seniors, adequate childcare for the working poor, long term care for the aged, insure jobs for all who are able to work, transition homes for the homeless, better mental health care and hope for the world's poor in greater charity overseas. The militarization of the U.S. economy, which continues to involve us in curiously timed foreign wars which distract us from the critical needs at home, must be reversed. Anyone recall "the peace dividend?"

I could write an entire essay on what's wrong with the rector's rant, but let me limit it to just a few points. The rector clearly is oblivious to economics and how wealth is created. He likes to blame capitalism and America's capitalist culture for the existance of the poor, but he's making the typical socialist mistake of failing to understand that everyone, including the poor, is wealthier and better off under capitalism. He gave the typical capitalism is greed routine, and he refuses to acknowledge that the entire basis of socialism is greed. The greed of expecting and taking what others have earned. Even worse, this immoral theft is backed by the coercive power of government.

The rector goes out his way to blame Republicans for everything, while cheering on Democrats. He makes a gross accusation by calling war preparation for the Middle East "curiously timed foreign wars which distract us from the critical needs at home." How original! He cites a 1999 statistic on the distribution of wealth, but blames Reagan and Bush, not Clinton who had been president for six years. He even congratulates Franklin D. Roosevelt for creating destructive income taxes with marginal rates over 90%.

But I think that the worst part is the rector uses his phony religious and moral authority to demand political actions. There's a huge difference between giving a sermon on helping the poor and demanding that the coercive power of government enforce these so-called morals of his. The rector fails to see the connection between religious freedom and economic freedom. If Americans shouldn't be free to spend and earn their money as they like, then maybe Americans shouldn't be free to pick and choose their religion as they like. The wealth created by economic freedoms are what support his and all American churches. Destroy the system that creates the wealth, and his church will simply go out of business. Unlike Europe, failing churches in America cannot be propped up by tax dollars.

The rector thinks that he's coming off as intelligent and visionary by telling us to "think outside the box." In reality, his diatribe is just one socialist cliche after another--not intelligent or original. And to use the church and bible to justify his socialism has destroyed his credibility and moral authority. It's no wonder membership at these "liberal" churches has been consistently decreasing.