Tuesday 23 December 2014

Name Recognition

Slave Driver! Sixty-five years ago the name Simon Legree was synonymous with a cruel and tyrannical individual. Harriet Beecher Stowe's slave driving villain was familiar to all who had read Uncle Tom's Cabin - or heard about him in church sermons or at the local union hall. Are we loosing purchase on a cultural repertoire familiar to our grandparents' generation but virtually unknown to their great grandchildren?

WHO IS SIMON LEGREE? Sixty-five years ago just about everybody had heard the name of Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s villainous slave-owner. Nearly a hundred years may have passed since the publication of her celebrated anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but people were still reading it.
To summon up the image of a tyrannical slave-driver one had only to invoke Simon Legree’s infamous name. Which is why the vast crowd rallying in support of locked-out Auckland carpenters in February 1949 was so quick to roar its approval when the trade union leader, Jock Barnes, thundered: “We will not bend the knee to the Auckland Employers’ Federation – these upstart Simon Legrees!”

Jock Barnes could have invoked the names of any number of historical and fictional characters in front of that working-class crowd and been entirely confident of their recognition. He could have quoted from Shakespeare or Dickens; made reference to Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte; and his audience would not have wondered who or what he was talking about.
Most of all, however, he could have quoted the Bible – the book everybody knew. Had he invoked the characters of Moses and Pharaoh, and called upon the Auckland employers to “Let my people go!”, his listeners would have responded every bit as lustily.
On Christmas Day, 1814, above the bright Bay of Island’s beach of Oihi, the Reverend Samuel Marsden conducted the first ever Christian service on New Zealand soil. More than any other import from the European-dominated world, Christianity has defined the cultural evolution of New Zealand society.
It was the Christian faith which ensured that Maori and Pakeha would, eventually, come to espouse a set of common moral purposes. Its complex web of insights and values was powerful enough to restrain both the colonisers and the colonised; tempering the inevitable conflicts associated with colonisation and speeding-up the processes of reconciliation afterwards. Indeed, in the Bible’s Book of Exodus Maori prophets found a source of both inspiration and hope that, ultimately, the Pakeha Pharaoh might also be prevailed upon to “Let my people go!”
Samuel Marsden was an Anglican missionary, and his Church of England was to play a decisive historical role in Christianity’s spread throughout the North Island. The gospel of peace did not, however, spread as rapidly as the military impact of the musket. Indeed throughout the 1820s and 30s the missionaries and the musket-bearers seemed to be involved in a grim competition to discover who could reap the larger harvest.
Historians put the toll of death and displacement arising out of the Musket Wars at between twenty and thirty thousand (out of a Maori population of, at most, 150,000). By the late 1830s, as more and more tribes acquired firearms, the slaughter was slowed by the emergence of a rough balance of terror. Equally important to the cessation of hostilities, however, was the power of the Christian message of love and forgiveness. Conversion lifted the traditional burden of utu (reciprocity and restitution) from Maori shoulders. Had the tribes not converted it is difficult to say when, or even if, the killing would have stopped.
The intimate historical relationship between Maori and the Anglican Church continues into the present day in the form of the Church’s unique constitution. Inspired by the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Anglicans have accorded Maori a decisive role in the governance of their Church. Some, like Professor Whatarangi Winiata, have argued that the Church’s constitutional innovations should become the model for a reconstitution of the entire New Zealand State.
Were the whole of New Zealand as seized of Christian principles as the Anglican Church and all the other denominations, such a prospect would not sound so politically far-fetched. Since the 1970s, however, Christianity in New Zealand has been in steep decline – to the point where, in the last census, less than half the population was willing to identify as such.
Now, it might be objected that although only 49 percent of New Zealanders currently identify themselves as Christians, a much larger percentage of the population continues to subscribe to Christian values. But, in the face of what might best be described as New Zealand’s “moral restructuring” can such an optimistic view be sustained?
Between 1984 and the present, the prevailing Neoliberal ideology has waged an unceasing war against the Christian values of compassion, forgiveness, solidarity and redistribution. The New Testament’s rejection of wealth and power sits very uneasily with a system whose values are best displayed in the moral squalor of “reality television”.
In 1949 New Zealanders could still be roused to moral indignation by a reference to Simon Legree. Their easy familiarity with their society’s religious and literary traditions made them powerfully responsive to moral appeals.
Is that still true in 2014?
Sixty-five years from now, how will Kiwis answer: “Who is Jesus Christ?”
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 23 December 2014.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

First of all, the decline of Christianity could easily be seen as a good thing. Consistently, those countries that are considered to be the best places in the world to live are those with fewer religious people. The US is the only country that gets onto this list with a substantial religious majority. But it's towards the bottom. And the more religious country is, the more towards the bottom of the best countries they tend to be. So let's not romanticise Christianity or any other religion.
Secondly so-called Christian countries seem to manage to ignore the teachings of Christ quite easily. The Anglican church – the Tory party at prayer, is British, and there's only one country in the whole world that Britain hasn't at some time invaded. And in the 19th century the British fought approximately a war every 13 months. So while it would be nice if we were all cognisant of and following Christian values, it's Christians that haven't on the whole followed them.
And it's Christians, specifically fundamentalist Christians who are behind this neoliberal revival bullshit that we hate so much. Who was it tried to buy an election? How many prominent members of Roger Douglas's Kabbalah and hangers on are/were conservative Christians? A good number me thinks. So who gets to say what Christian values are? No true Scotsman fallacy not allowed :-).

jh said...

All the admonisions of preacher and unionist of yor were to groups with a common heritage. In todays context "super diversity" the "moral molecule" is missing: oxytocin is the molecule of the clan. Religion only functions if biology lets it.

Jamie said...

Hey Trotter what's an uncle tom???


Andrew said...

Unfortunately it is the Christians today who do not seem to have got the memo about the 'Christian' values you mention. American Evangelical Christianity seems to have wedded conservative Christianity to neo-liberal economic ideas and then shipped them worldwide.

In NZ politics there is a direct correlation between how overtly Christian a party's MPs are and how strongly it embraces neoliberalism. The Greens, being the most pro-redistribution and against neoliberalism, are the most overtly non-Christian - they want to abolish parliamentary prayer and voted unanimously for same-sex marriage. Whereas a majority of National MPs voted against same-sex marriage on grounds of their Christianity. The other parties form a spectrum in between, with generally how Christian their MPs profess to be correlating strongly with how right-wing the party is.

Likewise when we look internationally, we see that Reagan and Thatcher were both zealous Christians. Reagan's political victory was a result of a massive campaign aimed at galvanizing the Christian vote called the "Moral Majority". I certainly question/deny the morality of said "Moral Majority", but it was the biggest ever campaign to get Christians in the US out voting as Christians on behalf of their Christianity, and what they ended up voting into existence was Reaganomics!

It appears to me that empirically, on the whole it is generally Christians who are responsible for and align themselves with neoliberalism, and that on the whole it is generally atheists and not Christians who hold to the moral values that you label 'Christian values'! So your attempt to blame non-believers for neoliberal policies strikes me as bizarre.

Furthermore it is hard to see how cause-and-effect can work the way you want it to, since in 1984 there were a very very small number of non-believers, but that number has risen steeply (at a linear rate of 1% per year) since that time. How can a high number of non-believers in the present day cause events 30 years ago? It can't. But cause and effect certainly can and does work the other way: Christians loudly advocating immoral and evil political policies in the name of their Christianity can cause people to cease identifying as Christians... it did for me.

Brendan McNeill said...

Chris – merry Christmas!

“Between 1984 and the present, the prevailing Neoliberal ideology has waged an unceasing war against the Christian values of compassion, forgiveness, solidarity and redistribution.”

The war to one side, what are these Christian values of ‘solidarity and redistribution’ of which you speak? I’m assuming you are referring to ‘solidarity’ in a political ‘trade union’ sense. I’d be interested to see you substantiate a theology of ‘solidarity’ from the Scriptures.

And while the Bible does provide an example of wealth redistribution in the book of Acts, it was voluntary and without compulsion, unlike taxation which is mandatory and coercive. Again, I’d be interested to see you mount a theological argument for coercive wealth redistribution from Scripture, or supported by Jesus example.

The challenge today for those us who still form his ragged bunch of disciples is how to live faithfully in the light of Scripture without being conformed to the competing values of culture.

It could be argued that socialism is a human attempt to impose through the agency of the State, what God only intends through the agency of his Spirit.

pat said...

Mixing polotics and religion Chris!...have you taken leave of your senses?

Olwyn said...

Maybe I am wrong, but I think that what Chris is getting at is the importance of a widely recognised moral authority that is not based purely on might and coercion. Of course Christians leaders have regularly buddied up to the mighty, but as Chris's examples show, Christianity also contains the conceptual tools for effectively challenging them. Both the old testament prophets and Christ himself challenged the status quo of their times. To step away from Christianity per se, while sticking with the moral authority line, think of Antigone's claim that a higher authority allowed her to bury her brother, who had been refused burial as a traitor.

The idea is that a widely recognised moral authority, to which even the mighty are answerable, has an important social role. Without it, there is nothing but might asserting itself, answerable only to greater might.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Olwyn.

Thank you so much, Olwyn, for confirming that there are some among Bowalley Road's readers who do actually grasp the ideas I am trying to convey.

You have expressed the purpose of the essay with considerably more force - and succinctness - than its author.

To: Brendan.

I could, Brendan, quote any number of passages from the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate God's, the Prophets' and Jesus's commitment to standing up against oppression and persecution, and advancing the claims of the poor.

But, really, what would be the point?

You do not, and I suspect you never will, understand the message of the carpenter and his father. Mammon corrupted your heart long, long ago, and you have been serving his diabolical master ever since.

The Devil's voice is never more wicked than when convincing sinners they are listening to God.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Okay Brendan, I'll bite – while I'm not interested in creating a theology – didn't "render unto Caesar...." Refer to taxes? What the hell else did Caesar get out of the Middle East taxes in one form or another.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jamie, you must stop reading bullshit sites. And you/they seem to forget that the mad guy that shot the 2 policemen also shot his ex-girlfriend, a black woman. When policemen are as out-of-control as they seem to be in America, and when the mechanisms for oversight and punishment of police that go above and beyond their powers fail, then people will react one way or another. I suppose we should give thanks that the guy that shot the policemen was a Christian, otherwise you be coming up with even more Muslim conspiracy theories :-).

Damn you AutoCorrect – that should be cabal not Kabbalah :-). Not writing about Madonna here.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Olwyn, it's not that we necessarily missed the point. Christianity might contain the conceptual tools for a moral authority not based on force but there are a couple of objections, some of which have been raised. Firstly Christianity also contains a moral authority that can be used for evil, aligned with force. And has been particularly in the United States although Tony Blair was also a fundamentalist of some sort. The problem with most holy books is that you can cherrypick any sort of moral authority from them. And of course people do. I suspect that you choose from religion what suits your character and upbringing rather than the other way round.
Secondly – of course there is no moral authority that doesn't ultimately spring from the barrel of a gun. Mao was right about that all though of course he said political power, but it's much the same thing. People, human nature being what it is, will always break the rules - at least if there are large numbers of them. In any large enough group there are people who need to be kept in line, and moral authority without force to back it up is not particularly good at it. So it's a nice thought, but not remotely practical.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

Ah, yes my corrupt heart, which I freely acknowledge. That's why I need a Saviour.

You wrote:

"I could, Brendan, quote any number of passages from the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate God's, the Prophets' and Jesus's commitment to standing up against oppression and persecution, and advancing the claims of the poor."

I'm sure you could - we both could, but that's not what you said in your article. You said "...the Christian values of ... solidarity and redistribution.”"

I challenged you to justify your claim that these were 'Christian values' from Scripture and / or from Jesus example, and you have avoided the question, presumably because you know your claim cannot be supported?

Mixing a little poison in with the truth to make the entire brew deadly is also one of the Devil's favourite activities. (since you raise the subject).

Peace. :-)

Joe Robinson said...

Nice article Chris. To those who think that Christianity is all neo-liberalism and fundamentalism, check out Walter Rauschenbusch, the South American base communities, and even (the horror!) what Catholic social teaching has to say on todays´s financial system. Even if one is an atheist, I think it should be a concern to see some core Christian concepts (esp. reconciliation and harmonious universal peace and justice) disappearing from the collective memory and imagination.
Merry Christmas.

Victor said...


"there's only one country in the whole world that Britain hasn't at some time invaded"

Please cite evidence for this rather large claim.

It's certainly true that Britain has invaded a lot of places. But so have others.

It's just that, if you're a land based power, you tend to more easily absorb your neighbours and, a few generations later, what once seemed like an invasion becomes viewed through patriotically rose-tinted spectacles as part of a process of national integration.

That's how, for example, Russia, China and the United States all became so big. You may have noticed that not many people care anymore about the Principality of Novgorod, the Eastern Wu Kingdom or the Iroquois confederacy.

Small island states, like Britain, by contrast, always look like invaders, however long their forces stay anywhere.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Brendan.

Redistribution: Redistribution of income and redistribution of wealth are respectively the transfer of income and of wealth (including physical property) from some individuals to others by means of a social mechanism such as taxation, monetary policies, welfare, land reform, charity, divorce or tort law.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Mark 19: 21-25

Solidarity: unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1:10

The examples could be multiplied endlessly, Brendan. But, as I said, what would be the point?

pat said...

since we are to persist with the notion that a common recognition of religious values will somehow temper the wrongdoings of man (who will consider the wrath of a superior being should they not) I offer the following which is the basis of Christian , Muslim , Buddhist and virtually any belief system you wish to name....do unto others as you would have done to yourself.
...and further note the chance of this occurring in the future is as likely as in past.

Davo Stevens said...

"Ah, yes my corrupt heart, which I freely acknowledge. That's why I need a Saviour."
Brendan you were born with an inner sense of right and wrong. It's moulded by one's upbringing so you ar quite capable of changing your behaviour yourself. You have no need of a "saviour", that's just shifting the cause onto some-one else.

"You said ...the Christian values of ... solidarity and redistribution.”
These values go back a long time before Christianity and simply mean that people work together to better their lives and the lives of others. Islam, Judaism, Hindu and Bhuddism all have the same values.

"I challenged you to justify your claim that these were 'Christian values' from Scripture and / or from Jesus example, and you have avoided the question, presumably because you know your claim cannot be supported?"
According the the "Scriptures" Jesus preached that Christians should look after the poor and the sick and Christianity has no real claim on that. It' a copy of an edict by Hammerabi, the Sumerian King, long before Christianity ever existed.
As for taxes: well, I am reminded of the saying; 'Each to what they can afford and each to their needs'. Taxes pay for the roads you use, the railways that bring the goods and food you eat, the Police who protect us and guard our property. Taxes pay for the gaols that you want to put more and more people in. Taxes pay so that people can survive when the rich pricks find it profitable to lay workers off. Taxes pay for the hospitals where you go when you are very sick.
No, voluntary donations have never in modern history, alleviated poverty nor has business ever solved un-employment.

Olwyn said...

@Guerrilla Surgeon: The point was that political power and moral authority are not the same thing. To quote from Zygmunt Bauman's book, "Modernity and the Holocaust,"

"The lesson of the Holocaust is the facility with which most people, put into a situation that does not contain a good choice, or renders such a good choice very costly, argue themselves away from the issue of moral duty...adopting instead the precepts of rational interest and self-preservation..."


"...putting self-preservation above moral duty is in no way predetermined, inevitable and inescapable. One can be pressed to do it, but one cannot be forced to do it...Evil is not all powerful. It can be resisted. The testimony of the few who did resist shatters the authority of the logic of self-preservation."

I use this example because it is one in which political power and moral authority are far from being the same thing.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Goodness me, are you 2 going to cherrypick your way through the Bible now? :-) Just like duelling banjos :-). Merry Christmas!

Brendan McNeill said...


Thank you for your gracious and Scriptural response. I think if we were to engage simply to score points of each other, there would be no point, which I suspect was your point?

On the other hand, if in a spirit of humility and mutual respect we were to have an exchange of views over perhaps two or at the most three responses we may both gain a better understanding of the others perspective and demonstrate that those with different views can still engage honestly and respectfully.

If I may respond in that vein, it does seem to me that you are perhaps too ready to conflate the individual and the collective in your reading of Scripture. In the reading of Matthew 18:21 which you quote, Jesus is addressing his comments to one individual, the rich young ruler, and not necessarily to all of mankind. His instruction was that he give his wealth away because it prevented him from entering the Kingdom.

This was an instruction from Jesus that he was free to follow, or not. He chose not to obey.

Jesus did not impose any earthy sanction on him for that decision, nor did he revile him for his apparent lack of compassion for the poor. He respected his humanity and his freedom to choose, even though he chose poorly.

It is difficult therefore to infer from this passage a justification for the coercive redistributive state complete with all of its sanctions.

Furthermore, the Bible does not condemn the wealthy or the possession of wealth. In the book of Timothy we read:

1 Timothy 6:17-19 New International Version (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The Biblical obligation upon the wealthy therefore is generosity, which again is a free choice, not a mandate from the collective overseen by the coercive State, or indeed by Church leadership.

As to your next passage, I agree that Corinthians 1:10 is an appeal for unity, but the context is a call to unity within the Christian Church amongst fellow believers. This is not a call for unity between believers or unbelievers, or between employees in the marketplace.

It would be a considerable stretch to suggest that this was justification for collective action in the workplace to improve bargaining power against an employer in an environment of contention.

I’m not opposed to Unions; just the aspect of compulsion, which I think is a true reflection of the Biblical narrative.

And this really is the heart of the matter. You will not find a narrative of compulsion applied either individually or collectively with respect to the use of money, wealth, power or authority in Scripture. Neither will you find compulsion in respect to relationships. A voluntary obligation before God and towards our fellow man yes, but compulsion, no.

This is also the heart of my objection to the socialist narrative. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper, but we cannot produce the Kingdom of God here on earth through coercion. To do so would violate the heart of the gospel that depends upon grace and truth animated by the Spirit of God alone to accomplish its ends.

Even then, there is no suggestion in Scripture that we will see the Kingdom of God fully revealed on earth prior to Christ’s return. To think otherwise is a utopian vision, and one that demands we cross a sea of blood to implement, and even then fail to reach the desired destination.

Anonymous said...

Oh my name it ain't nothin', my age it means less
The country I come from is called the Midwest
I was taught and brought up there, all the laws to abide
And that land that I live in has God on its side

Oh the history books tell it, they tell it so well
The cavalries charged and the Indians fell
The cavalries charged and the Indians died
Oh the country was young with God on its side

Oh the Spanish-American war had its day
And the civil war too was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes I was made to memorize
With guns in their hands and God on their side

The first world war, boys, it came and it went
The reason for fighting I never could get
But I learned to accept it, accept it with pride
Now you don't count the dead when God's on your side

But now we got weapons of a chemical dust
If fire 'em were forced to then fire them we must
One push of the button and a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions when God's on your side

In a many dark hour I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you, you'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side

So now as I'm leavin', I'm weary as hell
The confusion I'm feelin' ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head and they fall to the floor
And if God is on our side, He'll stop the next war

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" but we cannot produce the Kingdom of God here on earth through coercion. "

We'd rather just let people starve?

Davo Stevens said...

@ Surgeon; Merry Christmas to you and yours my friend. And to all responders too, on all sides of the spectrum.

I look forward to reading your responses in the New Year.

Keep up that acerbic wit!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thank you Davo :-). Everyone should have a Merry Christmas :-). As it is, I've just developed a taste for waking teenagers up early on Christmas Day to get the presents. Having been woken up at sparrow fart every Christmas morning when they were small :-). And having done that I'm pretty tired. But I'd just like to ask Brendan one question.
Assuming we can't bring in God's whatever on earth Brendan, how do we deal with poverty? Private charity? Perhaps you could give as some links to evidence about countries where they just leave that to private charity and perhaps some evidence as to how if at all, it works?

manfred said...

To Brendan - As we know from our pre-welfare state experience, private charity is utterly ineffective at dealing with poverty.

More babies are taken care of, mothers are housed and poor people are fed when charity and care for our fellow man is elevated to the level of state policy.

I defy you to explain logically how suffering is reduced by removing government support for the poor.

You glorify voluntary charity in a sentimental way but how does it deliver better outcomes?

You do care about outcomes, right Brendan?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Heck fire, the Elizabethans knew that private charity didn't work which is why they began to bring in the alleviation of poverty by the state. Primitive and parsimonious though it was :-). They also despised and more importantly, feared the poor, just as Brendan seems to, but their experience showed them that private charity simply couldn't cope.

manfred said...

I just don't understand Brendan's logic.

I assume as a Christian, that you approve of the idea of charity.

To make charity more effective and to reach more people, why not use the resources of the state?

It simply gives more muscle to the task of preventing extreme poverty.

And there is no denying it makes a big difference.

How can you as a Christian oppose something that is clearly helping people?

And on your point that trying to remedy the injustices of the world necessitates rivers of blood...

- Do you think Willy Brandt, Olof Palme, Michael Joseph Savage, Clement Atlee, Norman Kirk and many many such leaders in democratic, free and anticommunist societies were interested in rivers of blood?

To conflate their ideas with the crimes of Stalinism is fallacious to the level of absurdity.

Most people in Western societies already want to have some sort of government based charity, it's not a question of forcing people to do anything. It's not a question of overriding people's natural instincts.

Why, as a believer, would you not want to encourage the majority of people's support for such a effective instrument of reducing extreme poverty?

Yes, you can say it causes idleness. You can say it causes dependence. You can say it causes lack of resourcesfullness.

But so does charity. Government welfare is simply a more reliable and committed form of charity.

You only have to look at Africa and India to see what the absence of a welfare state and public health care system does.

People simply die. There is no libertarian Calvinistic sophistry that can sweep that fact under the carpet.

As I said in my previous post, your stance on this Brendan simply lacks logic.

It's based on a subjective personal distaste on giving people something that they haven't worked for (although the vast majority of welfare recipients have already previously paid a large amount of tax).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan doesn't seem to like the element of compulsion. I guess in this he is a libertarian of some sort. Though not a true libertarian obviously because he's religious. However right wing people seem to be fine with compulsion in some areas rather than others. Still - waiting for his reply/replies on the Charity questions though :-). Not holding my breath.

Fern said...

Chris, when you wrote “Their easy familiarity with their society’s religious and literary traditions…” I was reminded of the interview with Benedict Cumberbatch in the latest Listener (Jan 3-9 issue) in which he is quoted as saying: “If you look at newsreels of the time (1930s-40s), everyone had an extraordinary verbal capacity. People spoke clearly in grammatically sensible sentences and often very fast. It didn’t matter what class or education they’d had or were from. People just spoke with a lot more verve and engagement.”
There’s a lot of food for thought in that quote.

Victor said...

As the sun's shining and I'm on holiday, I'll chicken out and leave the vexed debate on religious beliefs to one side this time around.

But I think it's worth pondering what will remain of our civilization, our legal system or our forms of government, as cultural memory becomes eroded.

This is not just an issue for societies such as New Zealand, where much cultural memory has been imported from the far side of the planet and which have experienced large-scale, culturally-diverse immigration over recent decades.

It's also an issue that more homogeneous and long-established societies face, as a result of technological change, perhaps more harried lives, shortening attention spans and the decline in interest in such sources of cultural continuity as the novel, narrative histories and participation in elections.

If all we are is consumers, then the only things we will have to pass on will be outdated patterns of consumption.

Brendan McNeill said...

I have held off responding to this debate because who knows, maybe interest will have passed, however I’d like to quote Jesus on his one parable relating to redistribution. Matthew 25:14- 30.

You can read it on-line but I’ll quote the key verse for you:

28“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him [who has one bag] and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Not a hint of socialism there, the reverse in fact. This was my original point, that the Bible does not support [socialist] redistribution or ‘solidarity’ as Chris claimed.

Of course one also has to read on further in verses 31 – 46 where our personal responsibility to the poor, the sick, and those in prison and the naked are highlighted.

Friends what happens to the poor if the State does not intervene? This is the challenge you have put to me, which is entirely fair.

Guess what, the natural family has to step up and meet their familial obligations to their brothers, sisters, children, parents and cousins. This has the unintended consequence of strengthening the family, and causing parents to teach their children that they have responsibilities as well as rights.

It also has the unintended consequence of producing obedient children; they know that they are dependent upon their parents and extended family for their social and economic wellbeing.

In the UK today, more 16 year olds have smart phones than have live in fathers. That’s what 100 years of socialist welfare does to the family.


I hope you are all proud of what the socialist state has achieved.

aberfoyle said...

Christ,god is their any such animal,even Christ his existence is debated.For the Christian it is all about belief,and that belief like all religions, some, who can claim our deity did live and die, belief is their tenet,same as the mystery of Christianity and for most how inhuman their tenet abuses those not like theirs.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

So making families support their poorer members is going to solve all our poverty problems Brendan? As I said, it's been tried and found wanting. If you look at places that have little or no social welfare, and rely on families, the standard of living tends to be low, and people don't get enough to eat. Though perhaps you can give us an example as I asked before, of somewhere where it works? I was rather hoping for something a little more specific, but you never fail to disappoint me on that.
And am I proud of what socialist policies have produced – hell yes! Until your friend Roger Douglas started pulling things apart we had an egalitarian society with bugger all poverty. A certain amount of 'inefficiency' perhaps, but lots of effectiveness. It's not socialism that has produced the crap we have to put up with in modern times, it's unregulated capitalism.

Charles E said...

Jesus was Jewish, not Christian and his preaching was to his people, not to non Jews.
So the so-called Christian values, that Christians and socialists and even some atheists like me laud at times, aren't. They are Jewish values, meant for Jews to stick to, to keep them on track: Their God's track. And it has largely.
Christians & Muslims adopted them and imposed them on others, often with force. The former have largely given up that arrogance at last, with maturity. But the latter have not and are getting more violent unfortunately.
You can be the judge of how successful that has been so far.