28 July 2006

Reader "Jane Doe" writes:

Hello,…I have tried talking to other conservative bloggers, but all they do is try to make me look like an idiot and  refuse to answer my questions.

First off, I'm a teenage Christian and I have liberal views, unlike most Christians I guess. However, I am strongly against abortion and gay marriage, and I believe in a stricter justice system (but not capital punishment, because I think it’s still murder).  So I think of myself as being more center than you, who call yourself a right of center Christian democrat.

It seems to me that you're completely supportive of Bush, but also pro life like me. So, what’s the difference between killing a baby, and killing a whole generation of Iraqi people?

How can you possiblye see a difference?  Don’t you think that in God's eyes, murder is murder, and no matter who you kill it's still a sin. I just don't understand how you can claim to be close to God when you  support a war for profit, which is completely against God's Word.  Jesus was a pacifist, wasn’t he?  Why should Christians be exempt from the duty of pacifism? We won’t solve the problem of terrorism by having more wars and death and violence.

Secondly, Jesus taught us to help the poor and needy. Conservative values are all about helping themselves.  They don’t care about the poor.  They seem to be saying, “Who cares about the poor! They should get a job anyway!” Conservatives believe in lower taxes, which in turn lowers social programs that help people at the bottom rung of the ladder. How can you possibly say that it is moral to prevent children from going to school and getting the proper healthcare just because they can't pay for it?   You people tell a single mother of two to get a job, but who will take care of her kids? How can Christians be conservative and adopt the  selfish and greedy values of making more money, getting more power, helping only yourself when it's obvious that God wants everyone to have a chance at living a happy, healthy life.

The reason I'm strongly religious is because I believe in God. We were put on this Earth to do good. I can't say that I know the Bible by heart, nor can I quote many scriptures, but I know that we show our true love to God when we are good people and we help others, rather than one-up them either by bombing their countries or by keeping the necessities of life all to ourselves and not sharing it with the needy.  If that’s true, how can you be so conservative?  It doesn’t make sense.


Dear Jane,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct your understanding of conservatism, economics, theology, and Scripture—just to keep the list short.  I’ll just take each of your points, or questions, in turn.

I don’t think it very accurate to say that we are killing an entire generation of Iraqis.  Those who are being killed fall into two classes: combatants and non-combatants.  The combatants are being killed because they are combatants.  Babies, to my knowledge, are not combatants.  That’s the difference Jane, the difference between killing those who will kill you when they get the opportunity and not killing a baby.  And, since we probably won’t kill all of the combatants or all of the non-cambatants, I think it’s fair to say we’re not killing any entire generation of Iraqis.

Now, you’re correct when you say that in God’s eyes murder is murder.  But I think what you were trying to say is that in God’s eyes all killing is murder.  I can assure you that it isn’t.  How?  Because the same God who said “Thou shalt not murder” also commanded that murderers be put to death.  Murder just is not simply taking a life; it has to be taking a life outside of the bounds which God has provided for taking life.  Two of those bounds are murderers and combatants in war.  Sorry.  In this matter you were, as Jesus once told some Sadduccees, “mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures.”  Furthermore, any support I have for this war is predicated upon my belief that profit making, while it may happen, is not the purpose for the war, as you seem to believe.  (The fact that someone is making a profit off of something related to this war doesn’t prove that the war is all about profit.  That would be like saying that the purpose of eating is excrement, or that the purpose of the automobile is to produce carbon monoxide.)

I’m afraid that Jesus was not a pacifist.  As a Catholic, you no doubt believe in the Trinity, which means that you believe that Jesus is a member of the Godhead (i.e., the second Person of the Trinity).  As you read the Scriptures pay attention, in the Old Testament, to all the wars that the Godhead (which includes The Son) commanded.  (In the New Testament, in may interest you to know that the Revelation of John depicts Jesus as returning, dressed for battle, to do battle with his enemies.)  Now unless you are going to assert that The Son disagreed with the other members of the Trinity about all those wars, you’re just going to have discard the idea that Jesus was a pacificist.  (It may interest you to know that neither Jesus, nor any of the Apostles or early Church Fathers, made soldiers leave the military.  I mean Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant, of all things.)

Yes, Jesus taught us to help the poor and needy. But you are out of line to say that conservative values are “the selfish and greedy values of making more money” and that they don’t care about the poor.  As you grow up it will be well if you learn not to attribute evil motives to people who happen not to agree with you about how to solve problems.  It will also be helpful if you will learn to summarize positions, rather than caricature them.  For example, I could caricature your position by that liberals believe that our God-given duty to the poor is fulfilled simply by paying our taxes—like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The fact that conservatives do not believe that the State is an effective charitable instutition in no way supports your claim that they do not care about the poor.  Many, like myself, give to charities.  Jesus wants you and I to care for the poor.  The difference between you and I isn’t that you (a liberal) care for more about the poor than I (a conservative).  The real difference is that your care doesn’t cost you much of your own money, and my concern costs me twice: once when I pay my taxes and again when I give to the charities I support.  Looks like I care more than you do; all you have to do is pay taxes—if you even do that at this point in your life.  (After you have looked at the tax returns of all conservatives, then maybe you will be entitled to talk about how little they care for the poor.)

You have said that Jesus wants us to care for the poor.  Fine.  If you want to do charity, Jane, go and do charity.  But don’t use the State to take a man’s money to give it to another and call that your charity.  Jesus did not command that.  Your charity for the poor ought to cost you, not your neighbor.  Your neighbor, whether you think he pays too little in taxes or not, may be doing his own charitable acts.  But even if he isn’t, Jesus didn’t give you the authority to do your neighbor’s charity for him.

Now, about those taxes.  I don’t know who explained taxes to you, but he or she did a poor job.  Conservatives don’t believe in lower taxes.  We believe in lower tax rates.  Lowering tax rates doesn’t lower tax revenues.  This is because any tax is a tax on economic activity.  Because you will get less of what you tax the higher the rate of taxation, the lower the rate of economic  growth.  Lowering tax rates (i.e., the percentage of a person’s income which will be taken) increases economic activity, which increases income, which actually produces more tax revenues, even the percentage is lower.  Look at it this way:  10-percent is less than 20-percent, right?  But would you rather have 10-percent of  $10,000.00 or 20-percent of $500.00?  It isn’t enough to ask just by what percentage someones taxes were decreased.  You also have to look at by what percentage his income increased.  If his income increased, then, even if his tax rate goes from 20 to 10 percent the amount he actually pays in taxes may go up.  And this isn’t guessing, Jane, this is empirically verifiable.  I’m not talking about what we conservatives wish would happen to revenues; I’m talking about what really does happen.  More to the point, now that the numbers are in, I’m talking about what is presently happening to tax revenues. (Actually, nothing is empirically verifiable, but this would involve an explanation  of  the difference between verifiability and falsifiablilty.  Maybe you can ask your science teacher about that.)

Well, I think I have fairly answered your questions.  But I have a word of caution for you.  When you are confronting a view with which you disagree, you should seek to summarize the view, rather than caricature the view, as you have done in your email.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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