Friday, April 9, 2010

It's already Friday.

I generally don't think that I am a person with a lot of pet peeves, but today, I discovered one capable of bringing about an immediate and fiery response. While in a political discussion (which I generally try to avoid, being the only Socialist in the office), one of my coworkers said "Ah, you're never going to change."

Seems simple enough, right? He said this because I made a statement about how I would never vote Republican (again). I've had a two friends say this about me before as well, and it always gets under my skin. While I would normally think that maybe this is a good indication to look at one's self and wonder if, perhaps, they're right about you, I'm just calling bullshit.

First off, what they really mean is "You should agree with me, and I'm unable to convince you to." Your inability to make a concrete case for your position actually says nothing about my inability to change mine. I think it's an even more ridiculous thing to say about me when I think about how much changing I've done over the years and how many people I know that I've never known to change their position on anything.
2000- I was a fundamentalist Christian. I thought it was wrong to intermarry races. I thought homosexuality was a choice and a sin. I thought George W. Bush would be a great president. I thought evolution was a lie. I was convinced that Michael Jackson was a pedophile. Militantly pro-life.
2003- I became a liberal Christian. Realized how ridiculous racism is. Began to understand homosexuality. Thought George Bush mishandled war. Realized there is probably no scientific conspiracy regarding origins of life. Remained convinced of Michael Jackson's guilt. Still pro-life, but not militant.
2009- Realized I could not find a good reason to consider myself Christian at all. Joined Socialist Party. Proponent of equal marriage rights. Evolutionist. Think's Michael Jackson was probably innocent. Not a fan of abortion, but pro-choice.

Those all seem like pretty big changes to me. So when I say I'm never voting Republican again, it's because I have before. If I don't switch to your side, it doesn't mean I'm stubborn, it just means I don't agree with you. I'm very capable of change and before you accuse me of being hard headed, perhaps you should wonder if your case is as solid as you think it is.

Anyway, that's annoying.

Side note: I think it's weird that more Christians aren't Socialists.


  1. Which socialist party did you join? Did you do it officially? There are actually quite a few in the states, so that's why I wonder. When we moved to Portland we started hanging out with the ISO, (we love the magazine) but discovered that the problem with the far left is that they don't want to unite with people they have more in common with than not--the ISO, for example, wants to be THE socialist party, the ONLY one, and be the leaders of a new movement, instead of joining their forces with another party. They actually broke away from the SWP when the Battle for Seattle was going on--the ISO didn't want to give support for what was CLEARLY a Socialist movement, and in doing so, showed that they're most concerned about themselves. So, hopefully, it's not the ISO. We're still Socialists, but don't really align with one particular brand of socialism over the other, we just basically believe in being nice and helping people and having public options and paying taxes to support public schools even if your kid doesn't go to them. We're also sort of Buddhist, but don't believe Buddha is any kind of...divine leader, and don't go to a temple of any kind, but we are pacifists and enjoy many of the tenants of Buddhism.

    Do you read Naomi Klein at all? I think you would like her.

    And also, I hate the change argument--we're always dealing with people telling us we're not growing up because we continue to believe in what we believe in. I'm not sure what defines an adult, but I don't think it has to be the put me-and-mine-and-our-money-and-our-Jesus first mentality that a LOT of conservatives/christians/etc. I know have.

    Also, this "I thought it was wrong to intermarry races." completely blows my mind. The fact that this mentality still exists...just stuns me. I forget about that.

    AND, finally, I'm 100% with you--I can't believe more Christians are socialists, because Jesus...was pretty socialist. You know. If I had to pick one for him.

    April 9, 2010 9:17 AM

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  2. Also, I would like to mention, mostly for any potential ISO people, this was our impression made after attending a conference and hanging out with an ISO branch for 8 months. It could have just been that one group.

  3. My timeline looks about the same with a few differences in the beliefs area (I never believed that interracial marriage was wrong, though a lot of my family did). It is frustrating when people say things like that about you changing because they can't seem to get that: Hey - I've already been where you are. I've already had all those thoughts and, over a 9-10 year period, I have decided to reject them. Thanks anyway. Why don't you take a second and actually try to see things from my perspective? I stepped outside of my box, how about you step outside of yours?

    And there is no guaranteeing that someone will change after taking a real examined look at the other side, but at least they were open. I think people are too afraid that they would change, or that they would at least see the need to change if they started questioning, doubting, examining, etc. Thus they stay in their safety zones, keeping hands & feet inside the white lines at all times. And I do get that - it is scary and at times heartbreaking to realize that maybe you don’t believe what you thought you always believed. I’ve been going through a few serious changes over the last two years and I still get emotional about it. In fact, I cried about it last night. So there. People don’t seem to get that you don’t always choose to believe something because it feels good, but rather because you can’t escape the truth of it. It takes a lot of courage to change-something my boyfriend has to remind me of all the time.

    Socialism gets a bad rap. People don’t really know anything about it but the people on the TV told them it was bad and would ruin their life so they rail against it.

    Also, my boyfriend told me the other night that he is sure that a scientific case could be made to prove, irrefutably, that Lady Gaga sucks.

  4. Stephanie - It is weird that there are so many differnent socialist sects. I didn't "join" any particular one, though I threw in with the Socialist Party USA on Facebook. I just meant that I started considering myself Socialist at that time. I didn't know that you guys were as well, but if you were here I'd give you a fist bump of solidarity.

    Lindsey - both you and your boyfriend seem like smart people to me.

  5. I wouldn't consider myself seeking after socialism, but being a liberal christian i do think theocracy is what christians should strive for. i think the bible is pretty straight forward on how we should care for the poor, widows and orphans. i think the conservative christians are just pissed because the government is exposing the weakness of not caring for our fellow man. i like people enough to want to help them in their time of need, even if it means i may not profit from it. but lets be honest, straight greed is the center of people being against socialism. i love you taylor.

  6. "I think it's weird that more Christians aren't Socialists."

    agreed. the fact that my husband and i are political outsiders at our church makes no sense to me.

  7. There were groups of Christians in the early church and in the left wing of the Reformation that believed in something that looked vaguely like socialism... but even then it wasn't really the same thing at all.
    I don't really think there is anything close to a strong biblical case for socialism... and I wonder why you (and the people in the comments above) seem to think so.... Why is that?
    I guess I should also say that there isn't a strong biblical case for the political views of many evangelicals on the religious right either... But I think it's a little silly to say that greed is the underlaying motivation for resisting socialism. Because of what she believes about human beings, a Christian will always be suspicious of any human group, individual, or institution in a disproportionate place of authority. We don't think people can be trusted with power. Socialism centralizes power in such a way that encourages it to be applied illegitimately, ineptly, and immorally.
    Christians certainly should be, and historically have been interested in charity, in serving and living for others, in giving away great portions of their own wealth and for seeking social justice. But to think that this is best achieved through Socialism is just nuts.
    Why do you think Christian's should be working toward a theocracy? Are you using that word in an unusual way? ... If your a Protestant, anyway, you should worry about theocracy for the same reason you should worry about socialism.

  8. I don't believe that Jesus came to instill Socialism, but I also can't believe that, if he existed, he wouldn't think that Capitalism is a good thing. The sermon on the mount seems to me to promote many of the tenants of the Socialist Party today, and that's why I said that. Capitalism is based on the concept of everyone watching out for #1, whereas Socialism is based on the concept of "we're all in this together." If government is supposed to be representative of its people, and most of its people prescribe to some form of Christianity or Abrahamic religion (which all claim to be about loving your neighbor and whatnot), shouldn't the government and economy look like one who's citizens are most interested in taking care of each other?
    That all being said, I don't think the Bible lays out any kind of ground work for any political ideal. I just think that the teachings of Jesus are far more conducive to Socialism than Capitalism. This is one of the reasons that, if I believed in a silly thing like the Anti-Christ, I would think that it was Joel Osteen.
    Also, I should clarify that I'm certainly not, and I don't think anyone is, arguing for a pure system. I think that pure Socialism, just like pure capitalism, is a utopian pipe dream. When I argue for Socialism, what I'm really arguing is that there are things that Socialism has to offer that would greatly benefit the way we run our country.
    Also, if you don't think greed is inherent in Capitalism, more than any other form of economy, you are simply deluding yourself.
    Also, socialism isn't charity. It is worker controlled democracy.
    Also, Curtis, theocracy....really?
    Also, a pretty solid case can be made that the early church that the disciples set up was straight communistic.

  9. Theocracy is bad for religion. I was at a conference recently where Azar NAfisi was speaking on the topic of the state-imposed veil wearing in Iran and she made some really great points about how that is NOT Islam- the religion has been co-opted and destroyed, used for political control in place of religious devotion.

    The worst thing that can happen to a religion is theocracy. If the state imposes religion then there is no way to display your faith genuinely if it is mandated.

    Also, I would hate to live in a theocracy. God has never been able to make his will clear to me, so how on earth could he run our country?

    Also, I wish I could have the optimism to beleive in socialism. I think some of the best things About civilized life are the socialized parts.

  10. "Because of what she believes about human beings, a Christian will always be suspicious of any human group, individual, or institution in a disproportionate place of authority"

    Has anyone told the thousands/millions of people who belong to mega churches that have God-king pastors & lay pastors & elders this?

    95% of the pastors I have know, and I have known a lot of them, were in a "disproportionate place of authority". Some of them abused it & some of them didn't, but I don't believe that a Christian is more likely to distrust someone based on that alone. In fact, I think if that person validates what a Christian believes/feels/thinks - they are more likely to trust them than not.

  11. Lindserannie,
    It's true what you say about the attitude toward pastors in 'mega-churches'. When I talk about a 'Christian' I'm referring to the person who has a view of authority and human beings informed by the Bible. In other words if a Christian is consistent, she will be suspicious of people in a place of authority. If she is inconsistent, as too many of us Christians are (no doubt including myself), she will believe any manner of things.

  12. Taylor,
    Christ's sermon on the mount certainly is the most clear and important explication of Christian ethics in the Bible, but I still don't think it argues for what you think it does. The sermon on the mount is meant to outlay the character of God's people, and how we are to conduct ourselves as individuals. This will certainly inform how Christians are to think about political and economic issues, but it cannot legitimately be extrapolated to argue for how a state should operate.
    I agree with you about Joel Olsteen, but for different reasons I guess. My problem with him is that he presents Christian ethics as a self-help guide to more 'successful living'. While I do think that Christian ethics is good for all of us, it's wildly misleading to say that living a Christian life will make you 'more successful'. Christ's and St. Paul's attitudes seem to be exactly the opposite. They argued that really being a Christian nearly always involves being persecuted, martyred (in one way or another), and dying to the world. Not exactly successful living.
    I really appreciate the sentiment that you find appealing in an idea of socialism: that of human solidarity and 'being in it together'. I just think that that attitude toward your fellow man has to be cultivated from the inside, not imposed from above by a centralized governing force. If it is done in the second way, I think it ceases to be an expression of love and equality, and actually becomes an oppressive, unjust expression of power.
    A few questions:
    1) Do you think there is a significant difference between greed and ‘enlightened self-interest’? If so, what would the pursuit of proper self-interest look like in a socialist state?
    2) Most theories of natural rights defend what are called ‘negative’ rights whereby the government cannot interfere with the life and certain freedoms of individuals. But socialism presupposes the existence of positive natural rights (like wealth, and therefore the labor of individuals for the sake of other individuals). How do you make that jump?
    3) For what purposes may the government legitimately take an individual’s wealth?

  13. No, Travis, it looks like we dislike Osteen for the same reasons.
    The Beatitudes encourage the kind of mindset that I think, if believers really took it seriously, would make people want to take care of the less fortunate. Maybe there's a logical jump that I'm making between the two that doesn't feel natural to you. Perhaps you're seeing Socialism as a way to force kindness and I'm seeing it as a way to protect the meek from unadulterated greed.
    But as I said before, pure Socialism, like pure Capitalism, is a utopian pipe dream and could only work if we could count on everyone agreeing on how big a role government should play in our lives, which isn't going to happen. Which is not to say that there aren't lessons to be learned from it.
    1)I don't think there's anything wrong with self-interest. I think it becomes greed when the well being of others becomes secondary to your monetary gain, or when the method of your gain becomes oppressive to the well being of others. I would like to see more businesses be worker owned and democratically run. It has proven to be a profitable, beneficial way to run a company and I think it would be great for the economy to have more of that going on.
    2) I'm not sure I understand this question, so I will abstain.
    3) I generally think that things that everyone uses, everyone should own, so, roads, police, fire department, public schools, healthcare, national defense, etc. However, I will say that I think that, with most social programs, the smaller the better. By which I mean, we need more power in our local governments and to rely less on our federal government.