Redeeming Capitalism

I am very happy to be writing again. Due to my retirement, I have more time to read and think while playing golf, on the elliptical, or sitting in the steam room. It is great. I get up every morning between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM and use that time productively. This morning’s musing involved Democratic-Socialism. Why am I so against it? I like Democracy, and I like strong social programs, so what is my problem? I have read a bit about Marx, and I have also read multiple perspectives on Capitalism, but what is it that so terrifies me about Democratic-Socialism?

As I was thinking about this, I remembered something I had read. I think Marx originally said it but could not find the reference this morning. As I was searching I found quotes I had read before which have reminded me about why I am concerned. In a speech in 1917 Lenin stated, “It is the duty of the revolution to put an end to compromise and put an end to compromise means taking the path of socialist revolution.” In 1901 Lenin wrote, “To belittle socialist ideology, in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. . . Hence, our task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie and bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy.” I have other thoughts about this, but for now I realize just why I am so concerned. Capitalism, bourgeois ideology, is under attack. That is not to say that Capitalism is perfect, it is not. I do think that some of the Marxist critique of Capitalism is correct, therefore come of the negative press is justified. But unlike Socialism, Capitalism is redeemable.

The materialism, and religion is the opiate of the people philosophy, is indeed contrarian to the systematic philosophy of my faith. Barnes notes this antagonism, “Marx and Engels saw their struggle as an existential one and elevated their beliefs to doctrinal status. If one were to amend the Manifesto and replace the word State with the word God, it would constitute an acceptable example of systematic theology. Since they did not believe in God, their allegiance was instead to the cause of Global Communism, a state of social and economic harmony that would wrest by degree all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state.” AKA, Leviathan, the spirit behind an oppressive state.

This should concern us all. However, I do not think for a moment Elizabeth Warren, Kamela Harris, and Cory Booker are card carrying Communists who want to over throw the economy of the United States. Bernie, is a different story, as the youtube videos display him praising Communism. But I did mention that some of this is justified. In 1913 Lenin wrote, “Capital, created by the labor of the worker, crushes the worker, ruining small proprietors and creating an army of the unemployed.” The corporate cronyism of today is leading to the demise of small business which I think is a concern. Thus, the need to redeem Capitalism.

Max Weber, in his classic, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930), describes what he saw in his 1904 trip to the United States. He wanted to answer the question of why American Capitalism was so different than other expressions throughout the world at the time. Barnes’ opinion is that Weber, “believed that modern Capitalism was rooted in something much deeper than just socio-economic conditions; he believed that it sprang from a particular ethos that sought to align religious belief with economic activity, resulting in a kind of devotional zeal that powered the engine of wealth-creation in the United States.” The Puritan cycle was clear. Serve God by doing the best job that you can, living frugally, and seeking God first, then “all these things will be added unto you. John Wesley captured this is Sermon 50 when he said “earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can.”

To the Puritans, and Protestants for that matter, calling was important. First there was a general call to salvation. Then there was a call to a particular vocation. This concept was developed by John Calvin, and his contemporary Martin Luther. The basic concept is that if a person is doing their work as unto the Lord, “this was no less an act of worship” than being in the pulpit. In our current modern age, the idea of calling has become inconsequential. I don’t see this as the main element causing the downfall of Capitalism.

What did initiate the cracks in our economic system. I think it is a two-sided coin. One that is the result of choices business people have made, and the other one that Leviathan has initiated. In the wonderful series of discussion, The Truth Project, about modern culture, Dr. Del Tackett describes how a Christian should look at work. He notes there are seven Biblical principles that govern work and the economy. These principles were foundational to our social behavior but have lost their preeminence in both our personal interactions as well as business ones too. In my way of thinking these define what a steward is in our business sense.

1. All things belong to God (Psalm 24:1)
2. God appointed man to be the creative steward of His goods with ownership rights (Genesis 1:28)
3. Theft of another’s goods is wrong (Exodus 20:15), and coveting another’s goods is wrong (Exodus 20:17)
4. Skills and abilities to work come from God (Exodus 35:30-33)
5. Work is profitable, good, to be pursued; laziness is not (Proverbs 10:4)
6. Love God and not your goods (Matthew 6:19-24)
7. Be compassionate and generous with your goods to those in need (Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 3:17)
Our economy grew at a time when our society adhered to these principles. Don’t get me wrong there are many business people that practice these things today, an Example is Chick-Fil-A, but if we do not practice these stewardship principles then all we will do is try to accumulate all we can while exploiting our employees. I am a firm believer that if business practiced Biblical stewardship, which includes proper use of resources and paying people a good wage, then Capitalism would not be in the predicament it is today. However, since these economic principles are based on God’s word, then obviously, Leviathan wants to attack them. These seven principles have led to the United States becoming the greatest economy in the world. And if we allow greed and self-indulgence to overcome our better angels, then Capitalism will fall.

Regardless of whether one is a Christian or not, the seven principles above will have a positive impact on the common good of society. If we as business leaders practice them, Leviathan will not be able to overthrow the systems that are in place. God help us if we don’t take the necessary steps to stop Leviathan.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Who and Leviathan

While reading the collective works of Anthony De Jasay, The State, I ran across a phrase planned state monopoly capitalism (I’ll write about it soon). This phrase intrigued me, especially since in came within the context of a discussion on Marxism. This discussion began with a definition of the state from Marx, “The state is autonomous and subjects the ruling class to its own conception of its interest; it serves the bourgeoisie despite the bourgeoisie.” This particular statement has perplexed me. Standing on its own there seems to be a will behind the state that forces itself on the people it serves. I know I am really simplifying it, probably too much, but as I thought about this I began to think of the lyrics by the Who, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

The song begins with “We’ll be fighting in the streets; with our children at our feet; and the morals that they worship will be gone. And the men who spurred us on; sit in judgement of all wrong; they decide and the shotgun sings the song.” The beginning is the song of resistance, while demonstrating a trust in the new social contract. The chorus then says, “I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution; take a bow for the new revolution; smile and grin at the change all around; pick up my guitar and play; just like yesterday; then I’ll get on my knees and pray; we won’t get fooled again.” This is a desperate cry to the collective spirit that maybe, just maybe, we got it right this time.

The second verse of the song occurs as the revolution has been successful, and now the change is institutionalized. “The change, it had to come; we knew it all along; we were liberated from the fold, that is all; and the world looks just the same; and history ain’t changed; Because the banners, they are flown from the last war.” Now we see hope beginning to dissolve. The chorus is then sung again, but an added no no at the end, to emphasize the hope. The following verse begins to tell a different story, “I’ll move myself and family aside; if we happen to be left alive; I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky; Oh I know that the hypnotized never lie; do ya.” Now we begin to see despair.

The final verse demonstrates an acceptance of reality. “There’s nothing in the streets; looks any different to me; and the slogans are replaced, by the bye; And the parting on the left; is now parting on the right; and the beards have all grown overnight.” As I read these words, I am amazed at just how poignant these are. The point just may be lost on current expression of society. The chorus is sung again, but with a few differences, “I tip my hat to the new constitution; take a bow for the new revolution; smile and grin at the change all around; pick up my guitar and play; just like yesterday; then I’ll get on my knees and pray; we don’t get fooled again; don’t get fooled again; no no.” The song wants us to hope, but then takes it away, “meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” Even now as I write this it sends chills up my spine.

As you know, I have been writing about resisting the resistance. As a Christian, I worry about how the Church on the right is aligning with right wing politics, and I am worried how the Church on the left is aligning with left wing politics. In either case we are supporting what I call Leviathan (with much help from Thomas Hobbes). Republicans get the White House and become the boss, and the Democrats get the White House, and guess what, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The Leviathan only cares about itself. “The state is autonomous and subjects the ruling class to its own conception of its interest; it serves the bourgeoisie despite the bourgeoisie.”

Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 book, Leviathan, argues for a particular structure of society and legitimate government.” According to Sparks Notes, “Leviathan rigorously argues that civil peace and social unity are best achieved by the establishment of a commonwealth through social contract,” this commonwealth is best served “by a sovereign power responsible for protecting the security of the commonwealth and granted absolute authority.” This Leviathan is considered an artificial person, and as an absolute monarch the Leviathan has absolute control over the commonwealth.

Leviathan is an entity to itself. It is a collective consciousness that can never be what we as human beings really need. Governments come and go, and the people are always left wanting. Look and Venezuela right now. The promises of Chavez have been destroyed by the policies of Maduro. Who is hurt? The people. In the United States we want what the Constitution says is our right, but what that means changes based on who is in power.

Deep within each of us is the desire to be a part of something meaningful. That was placed within us by a loving God. The picture of this meaningful organization is the invisible Church, the bride of Christ. Augustine characterized the two opposing expressions as the city of God and the city of man. Leviathan is the essence of the city of man. It will always oppress and never free people. Freedom is only found in Jesus Christ and thus be connected to His body.

It is time for the church to stop thinking Leviathan can meet those deep needs of belonging and draw close to Jesus. Then we can serve those around us demonstrating the love of Christ to a dying world. We need to engage this world, but only as a co-belligerent, not aligned with Leviathan.

And that is my thought for the day!

Mike Baxter (LMS) And Redeemed Capitalism

One of my favorite shows on TV, and the list is getting smaller every year, is Last Man Standing (LMS). I am a big Tim Allen fan, but I also enjoy Nancy Travis and the other characters that are a part of this sitcom. Friday night’s episode was very good. Ryan, the son-in-law, is a liberal from Canada. Over the years that scenario has set up very funny interchanges with the conservative head of the household, Mike Baxter (Tim Allen).

A Couple of years ago there was an episode where Mike’s dad opened a pot shop in Denver called Bud’s Buds. That in itself was very funny. But earlier this season, Bud passed away. Mike was not too sure what to do, but Ryan, the son-in-law, the liberal from Canada decided to take over the business. It appears that the business is doing well, and Ryan is making a lot of money. So much money that Ryan decided he was going to fix up the upstairs of the building to expand the business. There was a very funny interaction between Ryan and Mike where Mike calls Ryan a Capitalist. Ryan said later in the program that he did not know himself anymore, which was because he began to see government intrude into his business, making it very difficult for him to expand the business. The climax of the episode was Ryan learning that he could both make a profit and care for people.

Making a profit allows us to care about the people in our communities and workplaces. We can hire more people, we can give money to charities, and we can provide the training needed for people to have better and more fulfilling jobs. This is when Capitalism is at its best. An example of this is Kitchen Aid, which is a part of the Whirlpool Corporation.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, under the heading of Human Capital, there was the story of Jennifer Hanna. She has been an employee of Whirlpool Corporation since 1991. She manages 1000 people in the Kitchen Aid division. The relationship between Jennifer and Whirlpool has been so good, she would never leave. Whirlpool believes that its business would “fail without people.” This philosophy seems to be important in this current labor situation.

The U.S. labor market is tightening, and because of company’s lack of employee development they are having trouble maintaining a strong workforce. Some think this is due to the many baby boomers who are retiring, but John D. Stoll states you can “blame it on a wave of skilled baby boomers retiring or colleges teaching the wrong things or a lack of loyalty among younger workers.” Personally, I think you reap what you sew. Companies have treated their employees like garbage, and this new generation has listened to their parents complain and don’t see value in working for the same companies their parents did. This makes it tough on companies that need employees because their aging workforce is leaving.

Instead of seeing employee development as someone else’s problem, Whirlpool has made it a very important part of its strategy. Jennifer Hanna is a great example of that, and as a result she is a loyal employee. Jennifer started at Whirlpool in 1991, and Whirlpool’s college tuition program helped her to attend college, leading to advancement through the various ranks of management.

In my own experience the Boeing Company paid for all of my education. When I graduated from high school I attended college for one year. I dropped out and went to work. I really wanted to party. From 1969 through early 1974 I worked for McCulloch Corporation making chain saws. Eventually, I left that company, studied Machine Shop Technology, and became a Quality Inspector. In 1977 I was hired by the Boeing Company. I worked for four years and got laid off. I returned to Boeing in 1982, and the rest they say is history. I figure Boeing paid about $100,000 for my education, through a PhD. I had a very good career at Boeing, and proud of what I was able to experience there.

It turns out that Boeing and Whirlpool are not the only two companies that provide educational benefits for their employees. “88% of companies offer some type of educational assistance according to” Bright Horizons, a company I have never heard of before, is an education benefits provider. They say that “56% of workers would not pursue education without employer support.” I know that at one point in time Boeing was spending about $25 million per quarter on education benefits for its employees, but I was amazed at how much companies are spending on education. Since 2013 companies across the US have spent $440 billion on corporate training initiatives.

This is a very tangible way to redeem Capitalism. All businesses, whether large or small, should recognize the importance of its employees. In his classic book Competitive Advantage Through People, Jeffry Pfeffer states, “The constraints of the environment, the legacy of history, old ways of thinking, and internal resistance are all real and potent factors. Some firms overcome these forces and find a more effective way of operating, and others do not.. . However, recall that if making changes to achieve competitive advantage through people were easy, everyone would do it and the advantage would neither be as large nor as sustainable as it presently seems to be” (1995, p. 223). This just may not be an option anymore.

Throughout our nation many young people are looking to dangerous ideologies thinking that these have the answers. They don’t realize just how destructive they can be. However, when people are struggling with putting food on the table, medical costs, or the cost of getting an education, which leads them to feel like they are drowning, they will seek answers that give them relief. It is now time for business to give back. If a live wage will take 1% of your bottom line, and employees become more productive, that 1% can be replaced with additional revenue. It needs to be done because it is the right thing to do.

Some people think Capitalism needs to go away. I say it just needs to work the way it is supposed to work providing opportunities for all. Those who are in leadership roles should make sure the people that work for them are cared for. That is what Mike Baxter did. He built Outdoor man from nothing, but never forgot the people who worked with him along the way. I know that is just a TV show, but there are people who are doing that is real life. We just need more companies to do that.

And that is my thought for the day!

Forget The Language Of Revolution And Embrace the Language Of The Puritans

Peggy Noonan’s February 16th Op-Ed was titled Republicans Need to Save Capitalism. It was a headline that caught my attention. She stated, “The Democratic Party is going hard left. There will be stops and starts but it’s the general trajectory and will be for the foreseeable future.” With people like Warren, Harris, Booker, and Bernie, I cannot see it going any other way. Especially with so many Democrats signing on to the extremist Green New Deal.

As I stated in a previous blog the language of revolution includes a single message that demonizes the other. Just today the news is reporting how a conservative on the Berkley campus was attacked. The headline was “Conservative activist pummeled at Cal-Berkley.” The only acceptable message is the one expressed by the academy and other entities of the left, and as Noonan argues, “Millennials, the biggest voting bloc in America, are left of the generations before them.” Millennials are a product of an academic system that hates Capitalism, and that hatred has been fed by a market system that has become less fair and more unequal.

Noonan says, and I agree, “I’ll go whole hog here. We need to clean up Capitalism. We need a cleaned-up Capitalism, not a weary, sighing, acceptance-of-man’s fallen nature Capitalism.” In 1976 Margret Thatcher said, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” Churchill once said, “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Both Thatcher and Churchill caught the reality of what we are seeing in Venezuela.

The Institute For Faith, Work and Economics on February 4th highlighted Bono’s comments on Capitalism. In 2013 Bono spoke at Georgetown University and said, “A Rockstar preaches Capitalism. . . Wow . . . sometimes I hear myself, and I just can’t believe it.” Why was Bono praising Capitalism? Because it works. Recently he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. At this event he stated, “Capitalism is not immoral – it’s amoral. It requires our instruction. Capitalism has taken more people out of poverty than any other ism. But it is a wild beast, and, if not tamed, it can chew up a lot of people along the way.” I agree with this.

A while back, I read about Millennial goals created by the UN. One in particular caught my eye. “Target 1.A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 per day.” This goal was met five years ahead of schedule due to economic development throughout the world. Hugh Whelchel writes, “The positive impact of Capitalism is not just a famous activist’s opinion but a historical fact. The World Bank reported last Fall that the number of people in extreme poverty dropped to under 750 million for the first time since 1990. . . In fact, over the last 25 years, more than one billion people around the world have been raised out of extreme poverty – defined by living on less than $1.90 a day.”

Someone recently said that Democratic-Socialism is the more Biblical expression. The Institute of Faith and Economics states, “As Christians, we need to look at this debate from a Biblical perspective. We are called to live out our lives based on God’s design and desire, not what is popular. . . The Bible has over two thousand passages that speak to the principles of work and economics.” I would agree with this. Even the verses that Socialists use to support their position presuppose the ownership of property. Also, the Ten Commandments, specifically Thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not covet, demonstrate private property rights. But what the verses in the Book of Acts and other places demonstrate is the need for those who have to choose to share with others who have need.

I am not saying that God is a Capitalist, nor am I affirming He is a Socialist. The kingdom of God is different than the kingdom of Man. Our isms are not supported by His desire. However, I do agree with Dr. Art Lindsey who stated, “The Biblical respect for the property and possessions of others has been key in establishing human well-being throughout the modern world, and societies that have heeded these principles have been one step closer to experiencing prosperity and growth for all.”

As well meaning as the language of Revolution is, it is an attempt to create a modern tower of Babel. But, the language of the Puritans just might be where we can experience equality and inclusion. Kenneth Barnes wrote in Redeeming Capitalism, “When Capitalism emerged from the primordial ooze of feudalism and mercantilism, it was rooted in a religiously inspired ethic.” This ethic has been called by many, including Max Weber, the Puritan Work Ethic.

The Puritan, or Protestant, Work Ethic is a theological and sociological concept that emerged from Calvinism. Max Weber in his classic “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” demonstrated how this ethic emphasized work as a natural part of life, “something that could be enjoyed, and something that pleased God if conducted with the right attitude.” Hard work and generosity are characteristics of this ethic. As Barnes notes this ethic morphed “over time into the postmodern Capitalism devoid of a moral compass and resistant if not impervious to ethical constraint.”

Revolutionists and Resisters, I resist you! Peggy it is not the Republicans who need to save Capitalism, it is all of us recognizing the opportunities that are found in Capitalism. “Marred as Capitalism can be when uprooted from a religious and moral foundation, it has still proven to be vastly more conducive to spreading prosperity than its alternatives.” Churchill once said that Capitalism is the worst system, except for all the others.

Bono is right Capitalism needs a moral rudder, but so does our society as a whole. I am a believer in the free market. And as I tell my students, the only way we can afford needed social programs is a vibrant free market. The Language of Revolution won’t get us there, but a Puritan Work ethic, anchored in a religious moral rudder, we just might be able to improve our society.

And that is my thought for the day!

Socialism And Crony Capitalism: Both Are Losers

I am reading several books right now. One is titled “The State,” by Anthony de Jasay. I am not that far into it, but it defines the state as an entity, different than the natural state, that emerged either violently or by social contract. As I began reading this book I thought a good companion read would be “Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity.” So, I decided to reread it. That was a good choice, especially in light of recent news.

Zingale, the author of Capitalism, was an Italian economist who did not like Capitalism until he moved to the United States and saw how it could work. In his book he warns how Socialism and Crony Capitalism lead to the same end. “In a socialist economy, the political system controls business; in a crony capitalist system. . . business controls the political process. The difference is slim: either way, competition is absent and freedom shrinks” (p. 29). I think this is a true statement. Either Socialism or Crony Capitalism will lead to less efficiency in the market. Two recent events are great examples.

Airbus, Boeing’s main competitor, launched its A380 in 2000. It is a very large airplane that holds 555 people. It has been described as the “eighth wonder of the world.” Leave to the Europeans to embellish one’s importance. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Airbus has sunk at least $17 billion into the project yet sold less than the half of the 750 superjumbo jetliners it promised to deliver by the end of this year.” Last week Airbus announced that it would cease production by 2021. As Holman Jenkins argues it is a lesson for young Socialists.

Jenkins states, “Socialism is currently in vogue. If the word means anything in today’s context, it means projects of unusual government ambition.” I remember when the A380 was being developed. I was a Boeing employee, and we discussed the pros and cons of a very large airplane. Based upon market analysis Boeing felt that smaller, more fuel-efficient airplanes that go point-to-point were what people wanted. They moved away from the very large airplane and built the 787. The rest so they say is history.

Airbus, instead, with government underwriting via massive subsidies ignored the market to create this behemoth. Jenkins asks the question, “what went wrong?” The governments involved with Airbus wanted to override the invisible hand of the market. As Jenkins states, “They would have to overrule the preference of business travelers for frequent departures,” and “they would have to overrule the public’s appetite for lower fares.” Add to this the amount of time it takes to load and unload 555 people, Airbus, and Socialism in general, created a loser. As Jenkins rightly points out, “Enough Socialism could be mobilized to get the plane built, but not enough to make it commercially viable.”

If we want to continue to look at the failures of Socialism look no further than the California bullet train. Billions of dollars were wasted on a train to nowhere. The current Governor of California initially canceled the program, but according to some may be waffling. We shall see. Don’t get me wrong there are some things that government can do well, but there are many things it can’t do well.

The next example of inefficiency is Crony Capitalism. When the business system moves from a competitive free-market to favors from a government we have an asymmetric system that rewards insiders. This creates a system seen as unfair, seen the greatest concern for the modern expression of Capitalism. People are fine with competing if there is a level playing field. So, when businesses become so big and powerful it becomes problematic.

I would never say I agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on anything, but I worry when companies the size of Amazon, which is a Leviathan, get government favors. Of course, New York City stated that Amazon would not have gotten any incentives without creating the jobs promised, but I worry about this type of activity. On the other hand, I agree with Amazon choosing to take its ball and go to another state.

Once again, I agree with Holman Jenkins. “Slathering on tax abatements and infrastructure promises to lure new development may be irresistible for communities, but it is always a second-best idea. For New York it is especially unnecessary given all the city’s attractions.” It is not the best thing for communities to lure big business via incentives, leaving small business in its shadows.

When a free market is encouraged and supported, and people have the freedom to choose what they purchase and what they sell, we have economic growth. But when there is government overreach and business greed the market suffers. Jenkins says it well, “In a pungent statement on the governor’s [New York] own website, Mr. Cuomo not only acknowledged New York’s fiscal unattractiveness and the reality of tax competition with other states. He skewered the disingenuous and just plain dumb critics who portrayed his Amazon deal as a net giveaway when Amazon would have brought New York $9 in tax revenue for every $1 in tax relief it enjoyed.”

If I lived in the area where Amazon was going to locate, and would have had the opportunity to get a good paying job, I would be pretty upset. Some of the interviews I saw online were examples of that. I don’t know if the Amazon event would have been a good deal in reality, but I always worry when business and the state get too chummy.

When we have a free market, the players have to behave. “In a competitive market, individuals who want to discriminate against others, refusing to trade with them, wind up worse off themselves.” The invisible hand controls the process. This is what had made the American system the best in the world. When our systems move us away from a free market model, we the people will suffer.

And that is my thought for the day!

Don’t Be Fooled By The Language of Revolution

I haven’t written anything for a while, so it seems like today is a good time to restart. With all of the craziness going on in our nation, I think it is time to re-engage in the discussion of Capitalism versus Socialism. Capitalism seems to be under attack in our nation, some of the critiques are justified, and some are a part of a concerted effort to undermine our systems. I choose those words very carefully.

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal my favorite editorialist wrote how Republicans need to save Capitalism. Her point was that “Democrats have gone left, so they will not do it,” which I will write more about this later, but today’s blog is more of a spiritual offering. In 413AD a man named Augustine wrote a seminal book on the city of God and the city of man. It was a book written in response to people who blamed Christians for the fall of Rome. According to Spark’s notes, “These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state.” The first ten chapters of Augustine’s work “refute the charges that Christian’s brought about the fall of Rome.”

Augustine’s work described the “four essential elements” of his historical philosophy, which I think we in the Church need to remember today. The four include the Church, the State, City of Heaven, and the City of the World. Spark’s notes state, “the church is divinely established and leads humankind to eternal goodness, which is God. The state adheres to the virtues of politics and of the mind, formulating a political community. Both of these societies are visible and seek to do good. Mirroring these are two invisible societies: the city of Heaven for those predestined for salvation, and the city of the world for those given eternal damnation.” Those words of predestination and eternal damnation are strong and inflammatory, but they are so on purpose.

This is in line with my thoughts concerning the Bible narrative of the Tower of Babel. I believe this event actually happened, so when I use the phrase metaphor, I am following Augustine’s line of thinking about the visible and invisible. The Tower of Babel is the attempt to create a state or world system devoid of the need for God. This is contrarian to the kingdom of heaven whose leader is God. The Tower of Babel is an example of the state devoid of God. The tension between these two entities goes on. This is an age-old battle, that if you have read the Revelation you know how it ends and who is victorious. But, we live in an age where many people have either not heard the message, outright rejected it, or have left it. Regardless of how we feel about this battle, it is reality.

I have thought long and hard about why I cannot adhere to the language of the left, and the right for that matter. I fear that many of us who are believers have fallen into the trap of leaving the City of God to create a tower of Babel connected with the state thinking that we are bringing in the kingdom of God. As Francis Schaeffer once said, we can be co-belligerent, but “we must be careful that our co-belligerence does not communicate to a watching world the possibility of neutrality and the dilution of the exclusivity of Christ and the gospel.” This is my fear, that we in the Church have done exactly that. We have forgotten about the warfare that is occurring between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world.

As I was thinking about this, I thought about how our language of resistance models the language of previous revolutions, specifically the Bolshevik revolution.

According to the Investor’s Business Daily there were six principles used by Lenin to consolidate power: The ends justify the means, firstest with the moistest, never let a crisis go to waste, demonization, propaganda of example, and blame your predecessor.

Lenin used promises to get the people behind his movement. His promise of increased land ownership is the most relevant to today. He promised one thing and delivered complete state ownership of property. The promise of free stuff must always be suspect, and those who have the power to give free stuff, also have the power to take it away. This occurs because the end justifies the means.

The firstest with the mostest is interesting, and not just because of the rough language. As Lenin took over he began to create the idea of the other. He used terms like Bolsheviks, good, or “majoritarians, and the term Mensheviks, bad, or minoritarians.” He then attached terms like Red to the Bolsheviks to signify their importance to the revolution, and the term white to link them to the Czarist dynasty, thus linking them to corruption and greed. He did this to create the in-crowd, which excluded the out-crowd.

The third involves never letting a crisis go to waste. To do this they created a closed system of information. All means of communication belonged to the Bolsheviks. They could create a narrative that if one disagreed they would be ostracized. Fourth, involved demonization. As the Investor’s Business Daily states, “In denouncing opponents, Lenin was obsessive, virulent and personal, calling them bloodsuckers, insects, spiders leeches, and vampires.”

Fifth, propaganda of example. Public hangings and other means of terror were used. “We must execute not only the guilty. Execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more” (Lenin’s commissar for Justice). Sixth, blame your predecessor. Lenin was famous “for his propensity to blame his predecessor the Czar.”

As I look at these characteristics I see them being used today by both the left and the right. The false promises of politicians to get power is nauseating. Both the left and the right will promise anything to get the seat of power in the US. The hatred assigned to the other is just incredible today. I worry about the left and how it has acquired almost all means of communication in this country. The news media, academic elite, and the entertainment industry all lean to the left. But I worry just as much about the crying of wolf, or fake news, fake news. It has gotten to the point we gravitate to those informational elements that support our position and ignore those we disagree with.

When it comes to denouncing opponents, it seems like our current President is the best at that activity. During the Bolshevik revolution public hangings were used to control the crowds, today we use figurative public hangings to control the narrative. Say something online that is against the flow of culture and watch the public hanging. We have seen many examples of that impacting young and old alike. Lastly, blaming the predecessor is just as prominent today as during this chaotic time in history.

Why do I bring this up, remember when I stated that Augustine argued for a visible and indivisible expression of history? The Church today represents the City of God. That visible expression is under attack much like the Bolsheviks attacked the people of Russia. And the state is working hard to create another tower of Babel. This was attempted in Russia and I think it is now emerging in the United States. And we in the Church are falling for it. We are forgetting the ultimate power behind the scenes that drives the world system. Instead we look at each other as the only culprit.

Those of us who are on the right, think that if we just support the Republicans then everything will be alright. Those of us who gravitate to the left, think if we just support the Democrats everything will improve. We are only fooling ourselves. The state is the state it is not the kingdom of God and it will never be the kingdom of God. The Church is the kingdom of God’s physical representative on earth today. And as the Revelation tells us it is a diverse inclusive body of people who stand before the throne crying Holy Holy Holy.

We are not a perfect group, and we have made business decisions that often hurt people. But the time now is to repent and stand with God in these final days. Give up the language of revolution and return to the language used in the City of God. “Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being build up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

And that is my thought for the day!