You Call Yourself a Christian?

First there was this meme, challenging me to explain to my supposedly oppressed friends why I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton for President in 2016. A meme is that “unit of communication” invented in 1976 by the unregenerate Richard Dawkins.

Now comes another one, this time asking: “Why, when Jesus talks about feeding the poor, it’s Christianity but when a politician does it, it’s Socialism?”  (Never mind that, as with almost all memes, this one too stumbles over grammar.  Neither the word nor the concept of socialism is a proper name.  It does not need to be capitalized.  Or, to paraphrase Falkland’s maxim, which applies to the crafting of legislation but can be widely adapted: When it is not necessary to do it [capitalize], it is necessary not to do it.)

I have been challenged by variations of this meme, usually in phrasing like: “You want to separate children and parents at the border and you call yourself a Christian?” “You want to deny medical care to children and you call yourself a Christian?” “You object to feeding the hungry and yet you call yourself a Christian?”

Along the way it becomes obvious that the do-gooders in one particular political party in the U.S. have shrink-wrapped each of the party’s top issues into meme-ready non-sequiturs.

No, and No

Taking the last example above — a corollary to the first, and granting for the moment that it even deserves a response, my answers are No, and No.

No, I don’t object to feeding the hungry. And No, I don’t call myself a Christian.  Christian is your word — which is essentially what Jesus answered when Pilate asked whether he was king of the Jews: “King is your word.”

“Christian” falls within the language of collectivism — grouping people according to some contrived characteristic or one vaguely held in common. (See Groupthink and Eric Hoffer.) This expedites the mission of social do-gooders: They can elevate, exonerate, or vilify all members of the group, the better to apply group solutions to problems not all members share or apply pressure and enforce restrictions that not all members deserve.  It forces individuals, who do not perceive themselves as poor or distinguishable by skin color or harmed by derogatory epithets to line up like first-graders in the 1940s to be sprayed with the DDT of government protection.

I am a disciple of Jesus, the Christ — the Messiah presaged in the Old Covenant.  And I am a creature — an individual creation, of El-Elyon, in awe of my God.  I’ll confess straight up that Jesus deserves better disciples than I am.  I don’t, however, fit your catch-all category under the heading of “Christian.”

So, No to calling myself a Christian.  And No, I don’t think “we” should stop feeding the hungry or stop helping the poor or stop providing medical care to children.  (It’s already illegal to deny medical care to children or emergency care to anyone of any age.)

What’s this “we” bullshit, anyway?

Here is where your memes disintegrate under inspection.  There are two errors in the “we” part of your challenge.  “We” is where you bring in coercion.  And your “we” cannot answer Jesus’s challenge to me.  I cannot participate in covering for you and whatever you and your friends do can’t fulfill the call issued to me, for Jesus challenged us as individuals.

I especially can’t fulfill the call issued to me by joining a mob that is extorting money from people you and your friends are jealous of and by giving that money to a gang of lawyers who will sprinkle a trickle of that cash over the heads of a few recipients who fit the mob’s profile of a deserving group. (As we already know, according to the accusers behind the meme, Christians do not deserve assistance of any kind, only exclusion and ridicule.)  Jesus didn’t tell me to join a mob, then steal from one vilified group (rich people) and give it to a gang purporting to represent another group.

When Jesus talks about feeding the poor, he’s talking to me.  He is watching what I do — with my money and my other resources — for someone I can reach out to.  Jesus doesn’t care whether I funnel my charity through Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Jesus doesn’t call on me to first coerce someone else to open his purse so that I and my friends can redistribute the other man’s wealth. And Jesus especially doesn’t call on me to form or join some overwhelming mob/army/party/coalition and demand that others give to the poor at my mob’s behest.

 So, yes, when a politician talks about feeding the poor, it’s socialism.  It is grandstanding.  It’s telling you that, if you vote for the right politicians, who will force the rich to fork over bigger “voluntary” income taxes to the lawyers in government — if you just agree with that tactic, you, who do not have the big bucks won’t have to contribute a dime but the poor will be fed and you will have met your Christian duty — if you call yourself a Christian.

But what if “we” don’t compel the rich to contribute more? What if we little people, collectively, can’t feed the poor just on the strength of our taxes and the taxes already seized from the rich?

In this country, the United States, the top half of taxpayers pay 97% of all federal income tax. And the top one percent account for 37.3% of total income tax revenues.*  This isn’t their fair share?  And, yes, we continually hear that this or that billionaire didn’t pay a penny in taxes last year.  Really?  And they aren’t in jail?  Your trusted, innocent-eyed politicians have created the tax code.  Crucify them, not the rich guys who used the loopholes the politicians created and kept their own money.

Jesus didn’t forbid us to contribute to organizations that we know are effectively helping people in need — a rare disease research foundation, the Soupman, the Red Cross — you can name several of your own. Jesus didn’t forbid us to work together to express our love for our neighbors, through a church, a local American Legion post, Habitat for Humanity, an ad hoc local committee to help a family who lost their home to a fire. For some generous people, a group effort is the most effective way to use their time, talent, and treasure. There is a chasm of difference between banding together voluntarily to help someone in need, and banding together to coerce others to pay for what you don’t want to pay for yourself.

Poverty in America

It seems to me that, before the welfare state was conceived and implemented in its modern form, there were the rich, there were the average folk, and there were the poor.  It seems to me, also, that in the ninety or so years of continuous and lavishly-funded welfare in the western world, there are still the rich, the average folk, and the poor — in about the same proportions.

In the first 50 years of the federal War on Poverty, 1964 to 2013, taxpayers provided $22 trillion to be redistributed to poor people, adjusted for 2012 dollars.** (When the program began, a dollar was defined as 0.925 of an ounce of silver. That definition was rescinded with the coinage of 1965.) You can do the math on how much that $22 trillion amounts to per poor person who has lived during that period.

The big difference is the general state of poverty.  What is now called poverty would have been pretty comfortable living conditions in this country a century ago. What was “middle class” (another collectivist term) when I was a kid is abject poverty today.  It’s a matter of perspective.  It’s not that the poor today lack food, although the truly poor do, and it’s not so much that those under today’s definition of poverty can’t meet the cost of rent plus other necessities, although the truly poor can’t.  The state of poverty today in the United States is hugely a matter of community living conditions.

People who have been herded into victim groups and corralled in ghettos by the political system, and cheated of learning by the education system, are culturally, more than financially, deprived.  The “solutions” arising from the instinct for collectivist intervention have solved nothing.

Public education suppresses individual inquiry.  Labor law suppressed individual enterprise.  Government funding of government-approved “arts” suppresses individual expression.  And you wonder why people have not escaped the ghettos.

Before I listen to your argument that there isn’t enough money among us average folk to feed the poor in our individual, non-governmental efforts, I’ll wait for you to look into where all the money the rich are already contributing in taxes is going. I’ll wait for you to explain how nearly $42,000 per year per poor household of three, in food and subsidies and extra government services, did not make a dent in poverty in 50 years.***

In the novel, Cold Morning Shadow, one character points out that governments nowadays expend great sums to extract gold from the ground only to bury it back underground.  It may as well not exist, he argues. It certainly does not exist for those of us who are supposedly in charge of our own government but can neither touch our gold or know where it is hidden.

Maybe we need to take the same attitude toward the ridiculously rich.  Ninety-seven percent of our tax revenue comes from the richest half of the population.  Maybe we just have to regard the rest of their money as we do our national hoard of gold — it’s beyond our reach.  Treat it as if it doesn’t exist.  Let them have it.  (Never mind, for the moment, that it is actually what sustains our economy by sustaining the industries and jobs which provide further tax revenue; that’s Economics 101 and is evidently beyond the comprehension of most Americans, thanks to public education.)

I am a child of God and a disciple of Christ.  I’ve been challenged by Jesus to look after others in need.  I’m not called to tell other people what to do. I’m not called to join with dozens or thousands or millions of my friends to make other people do something I think they ought to do. I’m not in a position to judge that the rich aren’t doing enough. Jesus can judge them if he wants to, and I won’t criticize him if he doesn’t.

I don’t know what any particular rich person is doing beyond the lens of public scrutiny.  I don’t expect the government (id est, you or me and millions of friends), under the leadership of self-righteous do-gooders, to steal from other people and do my duty for me.  I have no influence in the world anyway except in two small ways: I may, on my own, relieve someone else’s pressing need from day to day, and I may, just may, improve the world by improving the one human unit over which I have control: myself.

Examine your sanctimonious memes before you wave them in front of me.  I’m through responding to them.

=David A. Woodbury=


*Citation for tax information based on 2018 federal income tax returns: https://www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2019/05/26/the-not-so-secret-reason-the-wealthiest-pay-the-most-in-income-taxes/?sh=781a4a49153a

**Citation for War on Poverty information: https://www.heritage.org/poverty-and-inequality/report/the-war-poverty-after-50-years

***Using 1989 figures from https://usafacts.org as the mean between 1964 and 2014: Mean U.S. population – 246,819,230, percentage in poverty – 12.8% (31,592,862), mean War on Poverty spending per year – $440,000,000,000.

We Are a Conquered People

UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED WE CRUMBLE.

The states of America which became united in one federation still exist in name and with regional eccentricities that each takes pride in. People in every state still entertain the delusion that they are separately-governed entities, voluntarily united into one country.

Most of us have accepted the reality that the states are, in fact, cemented like stones in a chimney. A geologist might think of a kind of rock called conglomerate, or another called porphyry.

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Barry Goldwater

A rational person supports the Union of these states, as indeed I do. There are several things that half or more of us throughout the country have not accepted, however, even though we are individually powerless to resist:

  • that the three constitutional branches of the federal government and the fourth unconstitutional (unelected regulatory/bureaucratic) branch have, since at least 1912, conspired together to created a massive federal monster
  • that real money has been replaced, fifty years ago by promises to pay (federal reserve notes) and lately by digital “currency,” all of this to serve the banking “industry” and its shadowy controllers (not meaning comptrollers) as well as to serve the Internal Revenue Service’s oversight of virtually all transactions and savings
  • that insulting the political elite — “calling a spade a spade” or naming the white elephant in the room — results in public shaming, on-line surveillance, and punishment by the IRS
  • that it has become “subversive” to say or publish anything calling into question the motives of those who love and control our colossal, smothering, unsustainable federal government
  • that freedom, last experienced in this country in the 1960s, has become but a memory for those of us who experienced it and a dream for those who can only imagine it
  • that almost all electronic and “broadcast” media are political organs of the now-dominant political party, making them no more objective than Izvestia and Pravda in the old U.S.S.R.
  • that we who believe in and support the ideals that this country originally stood for are now branded as racists, extremists, and radicals by those who are the true racists, extremists, and radicals

I REMEMBER FREEDOM. I WAS AN ADULT IN THE 1960s.

There are those within the population, younger than I, who have been schooled in liberty as I was and who understand it more as an ideal than an experience. And there are many, both younger and older than I, who have given it little thought until recently, when the loss of freedom in one form or another has come around to affect them personally, and that more or less unexpectedly.

The mounting threats to personal possession of “weapons of war” is an example of that. By contrast with today’s hysteria over guns, my first firearm was a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned when I was ten years old by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio. I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective. I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun. It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up. I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

The growth of government is in direct proportion to the erosion of our liberties.

State governments have necessarily become monsters in step with the fattening of the federal government.

Few Americans younger than I have a perspective on the growth of the federal behemoth or have any idea of the origins of each component of its growth. They don’t know the politics behind each growth spurt.

I remember the debates about “revenue sharing” during President Nixon’s first term. The federal government identified a problem that we didn’t know we had and enacted a fix that we didn’t need. Some states, poorly managed for many years and dominated by vocal, indignant politicians, complained that other states had more money per capita to spend — for whatever reason — perhaps, even, because they were better managed.

Someone put before Nixon (who was a student of Keynes, remember?) what he and Congress deemed was a great idea: Force all states to contribute to a special federal fund more or less in proportion to population, and the federal government would then return that revenue — all of it, they promised — by sharing it with those states where it was most needed for specific purposes.

Most states bought into the plan, because it was tailored to assure that those jurisdictions in need of seaport development, for instance, would receive special grants for that purpose while other states needing irrigation for agriculture would make out better than they would without federal “sharing.” From this came the common theme today that, whenever a bond issue is floated it describes the federal matching funds which — Hey, listen up! — is money we can’t turn down!

That is how state governments have been forced, financially, to mimic the growth of the federal monster and is but one example from my adult lifetime. As with the Social Security program and everything else, the promises made to get it past suspicious voters or suspicious representatives in Congress were honored for about the duration of one president’s administration and then abandoned as the program sank into the muck of government control.

With each such program, of course, come requirements unrelated to the purpose for which the money is distributed. Highway funds include mandates that apply to public schools, agricultural grants include mandates affecting medical care for the elderly, and so on.

Resistance is Futile.

For those who want to participate in a revolution against the burgeoning totalitarian regime, it would be wrong for the “foot soldiers” of the revolution to confront the government’s grunts — the local police, the National Guard, the professional military. For the most part, the police, the Guard, the standing army are us — our neighbors, our cousins, our children, our personal friends. Any rabble in arms, in a confrontation with such professional force, doesn’t stand a chance.

I think it has been folly for foot soldiers in any army in any country in any epoch to participate in a clash of front-line troops. The people at the top are your enemy. They will fight a war of attrition using the soldiers at their command. An army with any sense would try to storm the residences of the powerful, not the front lines of their protectors.

Don’t fight in the streets. The real enemy is at the top. But Washington, D.C., is off limits. Any attack there is too costly. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, said that deception and trickery are the highest and most effective strategies against an opponent. Guess what; those tactics have already been employed against the United States from within. They have already won.

For the next generation or two, half the people across the 50 states will blame the country’s rot on all that came before 2021. The other half will blame it on all that happened since.

It’s My Fault.

I blame it on us. Since the 1970s we’ve accepted the lust for egalitarian results over the uncertainties attending equal opportunity. We’ve opted for indoctrination in the dream of fairness over education in reality. We haven’t understood what we have been voting for, what — not who — we have chosen in our elections. We have chosen unrealistic expectations of fluffy lives and guarantees of happiness. We have vilified the very idea of individual responsibility and pursued rights by group — rights to things and conditions that have a cost but not a cost that those in the group must pay.

We have turned the original idea that every individual has affirmative rights — the right to do whatever one might decide to do without interference from others or the government (id est, those same others) so long as what I do doesn’t infringe on the rights of the next guy — into a body of negative rights — the right to be free from something rather than free to do something. In this body of negative rights, we would have the right to be free from illness, free from insult, free from hunger, cold, heat, inconvenience of any sort. I would have the right to be free from restrictions on my personal expression even when my personal expression forces you to stand aside or participate in it or pay for it.

Conquest In Various Forms

The American continents were simply overrun by outsiders in the latter half of the Second Millennium — overwhelmed by a population supplied with superior tools, weapons, and governmental imperative. In the novel, Cold Morning Shadow, the 20th-Centtury American Indian, Henry Clay Comosh, acknowledges that fact, echoing an earlier comment by a Japanese survivor of World War II: We are a conquered people.

There are various summations of the rules for destroying a country, available by searching the internet. Look up Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, Mao Tse-Tung, and of course Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. These demons in Satan’s service well understood how to transform a country from within by changing the people’s expectations and not so much with weapons of war, although a little of that is needed to set the populace on edge.

You Mean, Do Nothing?

While I think it is folly to attack the federal monster by shooting guns in the streets with the hope of changing things back to the way they were in , 1960, 1900, 1840, or 1780, I also think it is useless for an individual like me to try to topple the people at the top, even though that is the appropriate target and the way to reduce casualties. A few hundred years ago a ruler could surround himself with some protection, but he was necessarily far more exposed, while traveling, for instance, than today. Even though the ones at the top are the symbols of political power and that is who presumably must be removed and replaced (with whom…?), I think it is practically impossible now to do it.

I also think those in top political office do not, in fact, possess much power. They are manipulated by the ones literally in the shadows who run the political parties and who control the money. There is plenty of speculation out there, not to mention evidence, around who those people are; I don’t need to name anyone.

It is most sad that any “revolution” against the collectivist powers in the federal government, even should it succeed in supplanting the body of the monster, will be a devolution into a comparable monster. This is made plain in Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, discussed in detail at this page. and at this Farnam Street site. A revolution based on good ideas needs to generate fervor in the masses. The masses need leaders. People interested in becoming revolutionary leaders have their own self-interest at heart more than the ideals that brought them to power.

Ave, Don Quixote!

The Washington, D.C., of tour books and picture post cards was built upon a swamp, we’re told, an exceedingly accurate representation of the government that has since formed within the slime and the goo. President Trump was elected to clean it out.

That swamp, though, is smeared across a bedrock of limestone hardness — a deep state which no swamp-cleaning can touch. Donald Trump wasn’t able to expose, much less scratch the veneer of that mantle. Its retribution for his presumption to hammer at its surface was so ferocious and so frightening to his close allies that he was left standing alone in tatters and bewilderment. Ave, Don Quixote, and God bless you. You’re the bravest man ever to hold public office in the United States of America.

R.I.P. U.S.A.

In the movie, “Catch-22,” after the Italian brothel has been destroyed, Captain Yossarian finds an old man sitting in the rubble. The gist of the old Italian’s comment to the American is that Italy has been conquered, so now he must direct his loyalty to the conquerors.

Unlike the old Italian in the movie, I am not going to feign loyalty to the powers that will rule the United States for the rest of my lifetime. But for my own peace I acknowledge that we are a conquered people. It happened just as the patron saints of collectivism said it would.

This isn’t surrender on my part. This isn’t capitulation. It’s marking time. Yes, some of us can rise up and resist. I pray that, for those who participate in any uprising, it will be a smart resistance and not some goofiness about masks and vaccines. I fear that much of the energy needed to rescue the United States from the conquerors has been dissipated in useless squabbles over the virus.

My own days of guerrilla fighting are over. I wore sergeant’s stripes in the Army during the Vietnam non-war and I’m now in my eighth decade. My mission henceforth is, as Albert Jay Nock argued: to document, edify, and exhort — to do exactly what you see here.

Restoring any semblance of the country I was born into will truly take a war of ideas. The opposing sides are individualism against collectivism, “Truth forever on the threshold, Wrong forever on the throne.”* The idea of freedom needs to take hold once more. That won’t occur in my lifetime. For the rest of my life, though, I’m keeping my guns, cleaned, loaded, and unregistered.

=David A. Woodbury= 18 January 2021

*James Russell Lowell in the poem “The Present Crisis” — 1845. The hymnal of the Episcopal church included a hymn based on Lowell’s poem, beginning with the line, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide…” The hymn was purged when an updated hymnal was published in 1982.