Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Religious Left

At the risk of being seen as completely self-serving, I’ll refer to a couple of my previous posts. Specifically, ones that deal with individualism and personal responsibility, as they relate to society. Primarily, the links serve as a backdrop for my take on the latest offering by Probligo, who highlights a political position piece by the New Zealand Anglican Church (along with other major sects).

Much has been made lately, in American politics at least, of the Religious Right. But in other Western countries, the Religious Left is quite prominent. Now it’s not that left-leaning Christians are non-existent in the US. One of its prominent spokesmen is the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, who has a rather interesting, albeit unorthodox theology. But anyway, here’s a bit from the NZ church(s):

In addition to [society’s] commitment to a relational view of the human person the Christian tradition maintains that human activity is characterised by an interplay between freedom and restraint. The freedom we aspire to is not the unrestrained freedom of the autonomous individual; it is freedom that learns to identify and respect certain parameters and responsibilities, including a commitment to the integrity and health of the natural world, and is utterly bound up with the wellbeing and freedom of one’s neighbour.

Moreover, as the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan suggests, we are obliged to take a broad view of who our neighbour is. This view will include the most vulnerable in our society, including the unborn; it will include those who are most different from us, including refugees and migrants; it will include the stigmatised, including welfare and sickness beneficiaries. One of the marks of a mature society is the extent to which it cares for, and upholds the dignity and worth of its most vulnerable members and refrains from indulging in politics of exclusion, which most often take the form of scapegoating certain groups for society’s ills.

A broad view of who our neighbour is will also encompass obligations to the international community. National interests will be worked out in the context of global responsibilities towards the poor and suffering in other countries, and towards environmental and climate issues that impact upon us all.
How does that differ from the typical, standard issue progressive collectivist types? Well, that philosophy is buttressed by an established “name-brand”, which is none other than Christianity. I must object. As an amateur student of theology, I'm inclined to rebut the notion that individualism is anathema to an accurate Biblical world-view.

The concept of faith is a quintessentially individual matter. To be sure, all spiritual regenerates comprise a family of sorts, but such is altogether distinct from the “brotherhood of man”. For the associative nature of those that share a common belief is completely voluntary, not unlike that of the LLP. Furthermore, the anecdote (or parable) about the “Good Samaritan” exemplifies an act of individual compassion, rather than a template for compulsory assistance.

The harsh reality is that one is not entitled to the fruits of another’s labor. Does that mean that some will fare better than others? Of course, but that simply reflects the diversity of talent, motivation, ambition, etc. of any given human population on earth. Such is true of the panoply of human history.

What I reject, out of hand, is the notion that the state ought to assume the paternalistic role, in the interest of equalizing society at the expense of Peter’s economic prudence, to compensate for Paul’s incompetence. Liberty and its consequences are two essential components of justice, which is nothing less than: “one getting what one deserves”.