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Marc Roby: Today we are completing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In the past thirteen sessions we have gone through the history of Marxist and neo-Marxist ideologies and have shown how these anti-Christian ideas have invaded our educational system. And today we are going to look at what is arguably the most significant manifestation of these ideas in America today, the Black Lives Matter movement. Dr. Spencer, how do you want to begin?

Dr. Spencer: By quoting Jesus. In John 8:31-32 we read, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” [1] Then, in John 14:6 we read that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Marc Roby: Those quotes will probably strike many of our listeners as a strange way to begin a session on the Black Lives Matter organization.

Dr. Spencer: But I think it is exactly the right place to begin because, as I hope to show, this organization is built on a web of lies. As Christians, we must stand for truth. As Jesus told us, he is the truth and the truth will set us free. One of the characteristics of totalitarian regimes is that they do everything possible to force people to at least outwardly agree with lies. Our society is rapidly moving in the direction of a soft totalitarianism, to borrow an expression from Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies.[2] This totalitarianism is not, at this point, one enforced by the government with physical force, it is one enforced by the social-justice-warrior mob, striking out at people by taking their jobs, harassing them in public and generally making life miserable if you dare to disagree with their ideology. And the Black Lives Matter movement is a prominent part of this soft totalitarian state.

Marc Roby: What, specifically, are you referring to when you say that the Black Lives Matter organization is founded on lies?

Dr. Spencer: First of all, there is the lie that young unarmed black men are being wantonly gunned down by racist police all over our country. On the Black Lives Matter website they continue to say that “In 2014, Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.”[3] And we often still hear people say that he was shot while holding his hands up in the air saying “Don’t shoot me.” That is a lie, plane and simple. There have been several careful investigations and all of the forensic evidence and reliable testimony agree. Michael Brown assaulted officer Wilson in his car, tried to take his gun from him and was shot in the hand while reaching into the car, he then ran from the officer, but turned and moved back toward him in a threatening way.[4] The Black Lives Matter narrative is simply a lie.

As an example of how pervasive this lie has become, let me read a quote from the United Teachers of Los Angeles regarding what conditions they think must be met before they can return to teaching students during this Covid-19 outbreak. They make an argument that funding should to be taken away from the police and given to the educational system instead. In making the argument they wrote, “Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people, and is a serious public health and moral issue.”[5]

Marc Roby: That’s amazing! They actually claim that police violence is a leading cause of death among blacks?

Dr. Spencer: Well, perhaps they would try to justify this outrageous lie by pointing out that they said it was a leading cause of “death and trauma”, which of course makes the statement strictly non-falsifiable since you can’t quantify trauma. But if they would make that argument it would be completely disingenuous nonsense. The statement is a clear lie. And this is being put out by a very large and powerful teachers union. One can only imagine what other lies these teachers promulgate in the name of social justice.

Marc Roby: But this statement fits perfectly with the information you have shown about these neo-Marxist ideologies taking over our schools.

Dr. Spencer: I’m very sorry to say that you’re right, it does fit. But let me give just a few facts to show what a monstrous lie this is.

Marc Roby: Yes, please do.

Dr. Spencer: In 2019, according to FBI statistics, there were 7,484 blacks murdered in this country.[6] Also, according to the Washington Post, when you look at the statistics for fatal police shootings over the past four years, they are amazingly consistent.[7] About 1,000 people a year are killed by police in this country, which is a surprisingly large number, but becomes much less surprising when you realize that there are on the order of 50 million interactions between police and citizens a year, so fatal shootings occur in about one out of every 50,000 interactions.

Marc Roby: Yes, that does make the number sound less awful, but it is still too many.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. But the same data from the Washington Post also show that only about four percent of these people killed by police are unarmed, so that is about 40 a year on average. The data further show that about 23% of those unarmed people are black. So, in other words, there are, on average, slightly less than 10 unarmed blacks shot and killed by police a year in this country, but there are over 7,000 blacks murdered every year. So, for every unarmed black person shot and killed by police there are more than 700 black people murdered. And FBI statistics show that of the blacks who are murdered, roughly 88% are murdered by other blacks.[8]

Now, let’s consider just one other cause of death among blacks; heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, over 93,000 blacks died of heart disease in 2011.[9] That is, of course just one of many potential causes of death, and that is almost a thousand times the number of unarmed blacks shot and killed by the police, so the idea that police violence is a leading cause of death, or even death and trauma, is utter nonsense. The LA teacher union is simply lying, and outrageously so.

Marc Roby: Those numbers are astounding. And they are completely out of line with the narrative you hear on the evening news.

Dr. Spencer: The mainstream news media in this country have blood on their hands in my opinion. Every time an unarmed black person is shot by police it is a major news item virtually independent of the circumstances. You never hear about the fact that about 46 police are killed by blacks each year in this country.[10] The careless and lopsided reported then stokes the public perception and rage against police.

Marc Roby: Which then results in greater violence against police and more burned out stores and so on.

Dr. Spencer: And those stores are predominantly in poor neighborhoods, which reduces their access to stores and raises prices. And, when the police back off on policing, as has happened in the wake of virtually every one of these publicized shootings of black men, more blacks get killed as a result of violent crime. And, as we saw, over 700 times as many blacks are murdered as are shot and killed by police each year, so we can assume that there are quite a few innocent lives lost as a result of the main-stream press, many politicians and, of course, the Black Lives Matter organization endlessly pushing this false narrative.

Marc Roby: That is entirely tragic. But what about the claim of systemic racism? The numbers of unarmed blacks killed by police are obviously not what the popular narrative would lead you to believe, but that alone doesn’t prove that racism isn’t the cause.

Dr. Spencer: No, it doesn’t. But out of the roughly 1,000 people shot and killed each year by the police, about 18 on average are unarmed white people.[11] In other words 80% more unarmed white people are killed by police each year than unarmed black people. You don’t hear that on the news and no one riots in the streets because of it.

Marc Roby: But of course, the Black Lives Matter organization and those who agree with it would say that blacks only comprise about 13% of our population, and whites are about 76% of the population[12], so you would expect more unarmed whites to be shot than unarmed blacks.

Dr. Spencer: They would say that. But the percentage of whites or blacks in the population is not the right number to use to figure out whether or not police racism is a problem. The more relevant number would be the percentage of whites or blacks who commit crimes. And, as Heather Mac Donald has reported, “blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants, 57 percent of all murder defendants, and 45 percent of all assault defendants in America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, the latest year for which such county data is available, though blacks made up only 15 percent of the population in those counties, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.”[13]

Marc Roby: Ah, but the Black Lives Matter organization and its followers would say those numbers simply prove racism yet again. Racism is why so many more blacks are arrested and tried for these crimes.

Dr. Spencer: And that is yet another lie. The fact is, that the percentages of different races arrested and tried for crimes agrees very well with the percentages based on the reports of the victims of these crimes, who are overwhelmingly black themselves.[14]

Marc Roby: Well, that shoots down that argument. Unless, of course, you want to believe that black victims lie and state that their assailants were black, when they were, in fact, white.

Dr. Spencer: And that’s the problem with all of these lies. The data are readily available to show that they are lies, and yet the mainstream press, politicians and others continue to repeat them over and over again. And people die as a result. Both police officers and innocent black citizens and others. And police shootings aren’t the only place this lie of assuming a disparity in numbers has a racist cause, shows up. It is also the lie that fuels the affirmative action programs in university admissions and also in hiring.

Marc Roby: Can you illustrate that?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely, let’s talk about my field of Electrical Engineering. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2017, there were 586 US citizens or permanent visa holders who received PhDs in Electrical Engineering in America.[15] Of those, just 19 of them were black and 323 where white. In other words, there were 17 white graduates for every black one. Therefore, the odds of being able to fill a particular faculty vacancy with a black person, as opposed to a white person, is roughly 1 in 18, or 5.5%.

Marc Roby: That’s not a very good probability.

Dr. Spencer: No, it isn’t. I can tell you for a fact that for the 25 years I served on the faculty at UC Davis, starting in 1986, we were always open to hiring any qualified black candidate. There is a lot of pressure to have a more diverse faculty. But the reality is that the pool of candidates is simply too small to allow it to happen.

Marc Roby: Of course, yet again, Black Lives Matter and its supporters would say the small number of black PhD graduates in Electrical Engineering is, of course, the result of racism.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, they would. And that would again be a lie. There aren’t enough blacks graduating with bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering, which is necessary before you can go on for a PhD. And then you go back and find there aren’t very many black students who even want to take Electrical Engineering in the first place, and there aren’t many that have good enough math and science skills coming out of high school.

Marc Roby: And, again, BLM would say this is all evidence of systemic racism.

Dr. Spencer: And that is again completely false. I’m not saying there isn’t any racism anywhere along the line, that would be stupid. But there is no evidence that it is a significant factor and there is a great deal of evidence that it isn’t a factor. Consider Asians for example.[16] The percentage of Asians in engineering is way higher than their percentage of the population, why is that? According to the Black Lives Matter view, it must be that our society is racist against whites too and is most favorable toward Asians. But that is silly.

Now, I don’t think Asians are in some way genetically superior at mathematics and science than others. I don’t know for sure the exact reasons for the difference in numbers, but it seems all but certain that a major part of the reason is that the Asian subculture in this country highly values education, so their children are expected to work hard and, in addition, that subculture highly values degrees in engineering, medicine, law and other such disciplines.

Marc Roby: That sounds reasonable.

Dr. Spencer: Because it is reasonable. The idea that a racial disparity in some outcome is always caused by racism is simply unfounded and ridiculous on the face of it. If that were the case, then the NBA should be sued for being radically racist because over 80% of the players are black.[17] But, fortunately, sports is one of the few things left in this country that is a true meritocracy.

Thomas Sowell, in his wonderful book Intellectuals and Race, points out that such differences were often incorrectly used in the early 20th century to justify believing that some races were inherently superior to others. That was wrong, and it is just as wrong now to assume that all such differences are caused by racism.[18]

Marc Roby: That’s a great point. We shouldn’t just assume the cause of any disparity without looking into the problem further and establishing real cause and effect.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. Our school system is clearly failing blacks, but the problem is not entirely the school system’s fault. The black subculture in this country not only does not value education, it actually looks down on and discourages people from working hard and succeeding. In our previous session I mentioned books by Jason Riley[19] and Candace Owens[20], they are both black and grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances, and they both tell about being teased and laughed at for wanting to do well in school, and they are far from the only ones. It is called “acting white” if you want to do well. Jason Riley makes an astute comment on this, he wrote that “A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future.”[21]

Marc Roby: That seems like quite an understatement. But, once again, I must point out that BLM and its supporters would claim that the problems in the black community are all left overs from slavery and the Jim Crow era.

Dr. Spencer: And that is yet another lie. We went over some statistics last time to show that black families were doing much better prior to the mid-1960s. They went downhill after that. So the cause cannot pre-date the 1960s. There is no doubt, of course, that slavery and Jim Crow put blacks in a bad position in this country, and doing what we can to create real opportunities for blacks, and others who are poor and disadvantaged in any way, is all well and good and Christians should be supportive of those efforts. But we have to be sure we are addressing the real problem, not an imagined one, or the proposed solutions will do no good and, in fact, will often do more harm.

Marc Roby: Yes, you obviously can’t cure the disease if you don’t know what it is.

Dr. Spencer: And the current narrative says the problem is all racism, which is simply not true. I’m sure that racism and the injustices of the past play a role, but they are not the main problem. Inner city schools are part of the problem, but there are wonderful things being done with charter schools and yet many on the left oppose them because they don’t fit their narrative and are opposed by the teacher’s unions, which overwhelmingly support leftist politicians. [22] So these wrong ideas make it impossible to really solve the problems.

I think the most reasonable probability is that the welfare state brought about by President Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s is a major factor as we discussed last week, but another factor is, without a doubt, the neo-Marxist ideologies that have been taught in our schools and pushed by many different groups since that time. These ideologies feed on finding groups of people who can be viewed as victims and then stoking hatred and bitterness toward the group labeled as an oppressor.

Marc Roby: Certainly, being labeled a victim removes hope that you can do much about the problem on your own. It puts you at the mercy of somebody else.

Dr. Spencer: And that is a serious problem. In a recent interview, Ben Carson the black former neurosurgeon and current Secretary of housing and urban development, said, “Please don’t allow yourself to be manipulated to believe that you’re a victim and that somebody else is causing all of your problems … the person who has the most to do with what happens to you is you”.[23]

Marc Roby: The LGBT movement is another example of forming groups of so-called victims.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And, by the way, the Black Lives Matter organization is very strongly tied into the whole LGBT movement, which is born out of the same hate filled neo-Marxist ideology. It is all about trying to gain power by claiming that all of your problems are caused by those in power now. One problem with Marxists and neo-Marxists of all stripes is that they are certain that their problems are not their own fault. Their problems are caused by some oppressor class.

Marc Roby: Which would be you and me; white, male, heterosexual Christians.

Dr. Spencer: You’re quite right that right. On the intersectionality scale I’m pretty sure we have a negative score. But Christians, on the other hand, correctly recognize that each individual person’s biggest problem is not someone else, it is himself. We are sinners. We need to fight against our sin and we need to be saved from our sins. Racism is not the main problem, and it is clear that the Black Lives Matter organization and others on the left know this.

Marc Roby: Now how is that clear?

Dr. Spencer: Because they don’t really want to end racism, they want power. They have defined racism in a new and completely destructive way. According to them, a black person cannot be racist. You have to be in power to be racist. And all white people are, by definition racist. That is just plain stupid, and racist. If you want to solve the problem of racism you need to first state what the objective is, in other words, what does a society without racism look like? The answer was given by Martin Luther King in his I Have Dream speech. He said he wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, and if that were completely true, it would be the end of racism.

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point. The BLM organization and the whole intersectionality, critical theory mindset says that race, sex and so on are all that matter.

Dr. Spencer: Right. If BLM and their supporters are successful in achieving their goals, you won’t have a society without racism, you will simply have a flipped power structure where whites, males and Christians are on the bottom and black women lesbians are on top. But there will still be racism and hatred. All that will have changed is which group is in power. And that doesn’t do any of us any good. We should be working to end racism and the idea that all whites are racist is not helpful. If you just met me for the first time and you notice that I am a white male, what does that tell you about me?

Marc Roby: Well, I’m pretty sure the only things I could say for sure are that you are a white male.

Dr. Spencer: That’s absolutely right. You know nothing of significance! You don’t know if I’m married or divorced or whether I have children, you don’t know what I do for a living or whether I’m a kind and generous person or a monster. You know nothing of significance. You can tell much more about me by observing how I’m dressed and groomed and how I behave than you can by knowing my color or sex. But the current neo-Marxist ideologies would have you believe that the only things that really matter are my color and sex and so on. The idea that you know anything of significance about me just by knowing my color is an extremely racist idea. The critical race theory courses being forced upon so many people these days are terrible. They foster hatred and division, they are openly racist, they make the whole situation much worse and should be thrown out. People should refuse to take them.

Marc Roby: Alright, so how should we, as Christians, respond to this whole neo-Marxist movement.

Dr. Spencer: We must reject lies and live according to the truth. Which is why I quoted Jesus at the start of this session. The Black Lives Matter organization is a Marxist organization built on lies. If they really believed that black lives matter, they would not be in favor of defunding the police, they would be in favor of more police and better training for police so that poor black communities could be safer and more prosperous. They would care more about the 7,000 plus blacks murdered every year, mostly by other blacks, than they do about a handful of unarmed blacks shot by police. Who, by the way, were criminals and would not have been shot had they cooperated with the police. If they really cared about black lives they would not be in favor of abortion, which disproportionately kills black babies, nor would they be opposed to the traditional family, which gives black children the best possible hope for a decent future.

Marc Roby: We spoke last time about how damaging it is for children to grow up without a father.

Dr. Spencer: And yet, the Black Lives Matter website used to say that “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family” and went on to talk about collective care in “villages”.[24]

Marc Roby: You said it used to say that, so it doesn’t anymore?

Dr. Spencer: No, they have changed their website to be less open about their real beliefs and goals, although it still has plenty of information to show how radical their views are and to show that their main agenda really has nothing to do with preserving black lives.

The bottom line is that black lives do matter. They matter just as much as any other lives do. And because they matter, we should not support the Black Lives Matter organization. And Christians absolutely cannot support this organization because it is a Marxist, racist, anti-family, anti-authority, anti-God, anti-Christian organization.

Marc Roby: What else must Christians do?

Dr. Spencer: We must, as the Christian Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, live not by lies.[25] In other words, we must never knowingly speak, support, agree with or in any way go along with what we know to be a lie. For example, God created man male and female. It is a lie that there are more than two genders. It is a lie that all white people are racist or that all white people have succeeded only because of white privilege. Candace Owens wrote, “Let’s face it, those born in America after the 1980s are among the most privileged human beings ever to walk the face of the planet.”[26] And she was talking about blacks as well whites and all others, and she was completely correct.

Marc Roby: I have to agree with that statement. All of us who have born in America are privileged because of it.

Dr. Spencer: I completely agree. As Christians we must never judge a person by the color of his or her skin or by any other trait over which the person has no control. But many traits are mostly, if not entirely, in each person’s control. Things like how you behave, how you dress, how hard you work, whether or not you are respectful of others and so on. It is perfectly appropriate for you to be judged based on these. And Christians must judge based on the Bible. So, for example, laziness and lying are wrong. Vulgar speech and sexual immorality are wrong. These are not just social constructs and every culture is not equally good.

And we must seek to solve the real problems plaguing our world, which are difficult. We must not give in to the all-to-easy idea that our problems, or anyone else’s problems, are someone else’s fault, even though there is sometimes some truth in that statement. We must take personal responsibility and we must respect other people enough to expect the same from them, while also doing what we can to truly help those who are at a disadvantage to help themselves. We must oppose racism and injustice of every kind. And, most importantly, in all things, at all times, we must be submitted to the Word of God and only believe, speak and do that which is in agreement with his Word.

Marc Roby: And his Word is truth.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it is, and we must speak truth when we speak. We do not have to oppose politically correct speech and actions every single time we see them, we must be as wise as serpents. But we must never speak lies ourselves just to get along. We must never give implicit or explicit approval to actions that are against the Bible. Our purpose is the glory of God, our place is that of creatures made in God’s image, and our priorities are to be set by God.

If we compare our country to utopia, then it looks pretty bad. But utopia is, quite literally, nowhere. That is what the word means. We must compare our country to the other alternatives and work to make it better, not tear it down. Utopia does not exist. Heaven, on the other hand, does exist, it is real. And it is the home of righteousness. And none of us belong there or will ever be there without radical change. We must be born again. Our sin must be removed. And so, I look forward to getting back to discussing theology in our next session.

Marc Roby: And I do as well. I want to point out that the transcript for this session has even more footnotes and references than normal because we couldn’t take the time to go over every detail in our discussion today. And, finally, let me close by reminding our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies, A Manual for Christian Dissidents, Sentinel, 2020

[3] https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/, viewed on 10/19/20

[4] See “DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REPORT REGARDING THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE SHOOTING DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN BY FERGUSON, MISSOURI POLICE OFFICER DARREN WILSON”, March 4, 2015, available at: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/doj_report_on_shooting_of_michael_brown_1.pdf

[5] UTLA, The Same Storm, but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020 21, July, 2020, pg. 11, available at: https://www.utla.net/sites/default/files/samestormdiffboats_final.pdf

[6] https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-1.xls

[7] John Sullivan, Liz Weber, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins, Four years in a row, police nationwide fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people, Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/four-years-in-a-row-police-nationwide-fatally-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2019/02/07/0cb3b098-020f-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html

[8] The FBI data only break out the race of the offender and victim for murders with a single victim and a single offender. For 2019, in 2,574 out of 2,906 cases blacks were murdered by other blacks, which is 88.6%. See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls

[9] See https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_472910.pdf

[10] According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, an average of over 55 police have been killed in firearm related incidents per year in the last four years. (Using their data for 2016 through 2019 yields 169.5 deaths a year on average [https://nleomf.org/facts-figures/officer-deaths-by-year] and their data for 2019 and 2020, that 79 out of 236, or 33.4%, of deaths are “firearms related” [https://nleomf.org/], and assuming that percentage for all four years yields 56.7 deaths a year.) And, according to Heather Mac Donald, “the Department of Justice has found that police officers are five times more likely to die at the hands of a black suspect than a white suspect.” (Heather Mac Donald, False Testimony, City Journal, Sept. 26, 2019, available at: https://www.city-journal.org/police-shootings-racial-bias) Putting these numbers together reveals that about 46 police are killed by blacks each year in this country.

[11] Using data from Sullivan et. al., (Ref. 5), roughly 40 unarmed people are shot and killed a year and 45% of them are white, which is 18.

[12] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

[13] Heather Mac Donald, False Testimony, City Journal, Sept. 26, 2019, available at: https://www.city-journal.org/police-shootings-racial-bias

[14] Ibid, “In New York … blacks were 72.6 percent of known shooting suspects in 2018, according to victim and witness identifications (those victims and witnesses being overwhelmingly black themselves).”

[15] https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19301/data

[16] Thomas Sowell shows data for Asians that clearly show their superior performance in America; is this because of racism? No. See, Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race, Basic Books, 2013, pp 4-5

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_NBA

[18] Sowell, op. cit., pg. 17

[19] Jason L. Riley, Please Stop Helping Us, Encounter Books, 2015

[20] Candace Owens, Blackout, Threshold Editions, 2020

[21] Riley, op. cit., pg. 50

[22] Riley, op. cit., pp 114-134

[23] https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/24/hud-secretary-ben-carson-warns-some-in-black-lives-matter-protests-are-being-manipulated/

[24] https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/, viewed in June, 2020

[25] Dreher, op. cit. pg. 17

[26] Owens, op. cit., pg. 94

Play

[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. We discussed capitalism in our last session. Dr. Spencer, what would you like to cover today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to talk about our obligation as Christians to help those in need. The Bible is full of commands to help others. For example, in Isaiah Chapter One we read God’s indictment of his people at that time. After saying that their offerings are meaningless, that he hates their festivals and will not listen to their prayers, we read in Isaiah 1:17 that God says, “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” [1] And, of course, at that time the fatherless and widows were among the most vulnerable people.

Marc Roby: We also have the famous passage in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells a parable about the day he will separate the righteous from the wicked. We read there in Verses 34-36 that Jesus will say to the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” And the righteous will then ask Jesus, “Lord, when did we do those things?” and he will respond, as we read in Verse 40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great passage for making the point that the Bible clearly teaches us to help those who are truly in need. And in our last session, we pointed that even though capitalism has proven to be a very successful system, there are still people who are honestly poor and in need of help. So, the question is not, “Should we help the poor?” We are commanded to help them. The right question is, “How can we best help the poor?” And the answer there is far more complicated and Christians can certainly differ in how they answer that question. But no matter how we answer it, we need to be mindful of biblical priorities. We dare not seek to do something God requires of us by ignoring other things he commands.

Marc Roby: What biblical priorities do we need to keep in mind when helping the poor?

Dr. Spencer: The sanctity of personal property to begin with. It is entirely appropriate for me to use my money to help the poor, it is completely wrong, even sinful, for me to reach into your pocket and use your money to help the poor.

Marc Roby: Well, I’m glad to hear that.

Dr. Spencer: Well, God will hold you accountable if you are greedy and refuse to help others, but it is no business of mine, or of society collectively through the government, to try and force you to do so. I can explain your biblical responsibility to you and challenge you with the word of God, but if I take what is yours, I am guilty of the sin of stealing. It doesn’t matter what I intend to do with your money, nor does it matter how much money you have. Nor does it matter whether I steal from you as an individual, or I gather together with a bunch of other people and steal from you. It is wrong no matter how it happens. It is a partial form of the idea of providing an equal division of all property.

In fact, it is interesting that James Madison mentioned this very topic in arguing in favor of a republic, as opposed to a pure democracy, in Federalist Number 10. He wrote, “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it”.[2]

Marc Roby: That is interesting. In addition to the equal division of property, Madison also listed the abolition of debts, which is another topic of great current interest. But I think I can see where this is headed.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure you can. There is a lot of talk in our country today about raising taxes on the rich. But where is the justification for doing that? What right do I, or we as a society, have to their money? The answer is obvious. So long as they came by their money honestly society has no right to take it from them.

Marc Roby: But certainly, it is biblical for the government to collect taxes. When Jesus was asked about paying taxes, he himself said, in Matthew 22:21, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Dr. Spencer: And Paul also commanded us Romans 13:7 to, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” So, paying taxes is perfectly appropriate and biblical. And, I would add, it is biblical to say that people who make less than or barely equal to what is required for subsistence living shouldn’t have to pay the same taxes. Leviticus 12:8, for example, allows a poor person to substitute two turtledoves or two pigeons, rather than a lamb, as an offering.

But we need to be careful. At some point, to have higher marginal tax rates for those who make more money is simply society stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Now perhaps some rational and moral argument can be made for slightly progressive taxes, but at some point, it clearly simply becomes theft. It is wrong. People with higher incomes already pay higher taxes even if the rates are the same, but do they receive more benefits from the government?

Marc Roby: I wouldn’t think so. In fact, I would suspect that they receive fewer benefits in general.

Dr. Spencer: I think you’re right. The main functions of government are to provide defense, infrastructure, fire protection, policing and so on.[3] The rich don’t use more of those services than others. And, in addition, there are practical reasons why progressive taxes are a bad idea, let me briefly cite two. First, it is often true that governments collect less tax revenue when tax rates are increased because corporations and individuals change their investment and spending behaviors or move away from a local high-tax area and also because higher tax rates are bad for the economy so there is less overall income.[4] I have a couple of references in the podcast transcript for those listeners who are interested in details but it isn’t important enough to go over here.

Marc Roby: Alright, what is the second practical reason you have in mind?

Dr. Spencer: That it is bad financial management for the government. California is a clear-cut example. More than half of California’s state income tax revenue comes from the top 1% of our population in terms of income.[5] And since the state also taxes investment gains, that revenue is even more volatile than normal income. For people who make that much, their income varies wildly with the stock market. As a result, California’s budget varies wildly too. In the 2009 recession, for example, California had a deficit of $39.5 billion. Now, most people’s incomes don’t vary like that, even during a recession, but since the bottom 60% of households in California only pay a total of about 2% of the state income tax, their stable incomes don’t stabilize our budget.

Marc Roby: That’s an interesting point. So extremely progressive taxes are of questionable morality and efficacy.

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. I don’t want to spend more time on this because we are interested in what the Word of God says about how Christians should live, including how they should vote. And Christians can disagree about many details of how our government is run. But, with regard to the currently in vogue idea of being able to fund all kinds of programs by taxing the rich, I think Christians need to be very thoughtful. If I steal $1,000 from Jeff Bezos, it is still theft, independent of the fact that $1,000 means next to nothing to him.

Marc Roby: That is a good point for us to think about. So, the first biblical principle we need to keep in mind while helping the poor is the sanctity of personal property. What other principles are important in this regard?

Dr. Spencer: The sanctity of labor. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 we read that “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” There is nothing wrong with helping the poor, but we should be sure that we are helping them to help themselves. It may make you feel good when you give someone money, and there are occasions when that is appropriate. But we need to ask whether or not it is good for the government to be in the business of income redistribution on a continual basis. We have to ask whether programs like welfare are good or bad for the people they are intended to help.

Marc Roby: Now I have certainly seen a number of very reasonable people argue that these programs have done significant harm.

Dr. Spencer: And so have I. In fact, if you go back to President Franklin Roosevelt, who started our Federal government’s social programs, in his annual address to Congress in January of 1935, he said, “The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers. The Federal Government must and shall quit this business of relief.”[6]

Marc Roby: That’s a great quote.

Dr. Spencer: And Candace Owens, who has first-hand experience growing up in the black community, said something similar in her book Blackout. She wrote, “Handouts absent hard work render men weak, and with depleted self-esteem; they stifle the entrepreneurial spirit, by removing our innate senses of drive and aspiration. Poverty and despair become the life of the man who is given a fish but never learns to cast his own line.”[7]

Marc Roby: Yes, that is very true. But going back to FDR’s comment, clearly the federal government did not quit the business of relief.

Dr. Spencer: No, sadly, it didn’t. In fact, since President Johnson started his war on poverty in 1965 the United States has spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs, not including social security and Medicare. Adjusted for inflation, that is more than three times what we have spent on all of our wars since the Revolution.[8] And you have to ask yourself, what have we accomplished with that huge expenditure?

Marc Roby: Unfortunately, not much, I fear.

Dr. Spencer: And your fears are right. Let me summarize some of the data from a 2018 study done by the Economic Policy Institute. This report was specifically intended to check on the progress since the launch of LBJs Great Society programs in 1968.[9] It concluded, among other things, that “African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty as whites, and the median white family has almost 10 times as much wealth as the median black family.” It also found that “In 2017 the black unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 1968, and is still roughly twice the white unemployment rate.”

Marc Roby: That’s disappointing to say the least.

Dr. Spencer: It is very disappointing. We have to remember that the definition of what it means to be “poor” is suspect, as we noted in Session 166, but the relative data are still meaningful and show that the war on poverty has not accomplished much good in spite of its monstrous cost. And, in fact, the government handouts have, on the whole, been very destructive.

What FDR said in his speech to Congress is very true. It is destructive of human nature to be given a handout over and over again. Putting people to work is good. Providing education and training to help them get better jobs is good. And providing a temporary handout in times of dire emergency is fine. But our system of welfare has been a destructive influence in this country because it violates the biblical principle of the sanctity of labor and it destroys families.

Marc Roby: Can you back that statement up?

Dr. Spencer: Very easily. Welfare is destructive because from the very beginning it provided incentives for young fathers to not stay with the mothers of their children and for young single women to have multiple children.[10] These policies were destructive to poor families and disproportionately hurt blacks. For example, according to census data, in 1963, 72% of nonwhite families were married and together, but by 2017 only 27% of black households were married. For whites, 89% of families were married and together in 1963 and that dropped to 51% in 2017.[11] That is still a large and lamentable drop, but you see that the change in black families has been much worse.

Marc Roby: And it is well known that children growing up without a father have a much higher probability of living in poverty, going to jail and so on.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, in fact, President Obama, certainly no friend of conservative ideology, made that exact point in a speech he gave on Father’s Day in 2008. He said, “We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”[12] And I would add that as of 2015, more than 70% of black children are born to unwed mothers and only 16 percent of black households are married couples with children.”[13]

Marc Roby: It’s interesting that Obama also admitted the problem has gotten worse since he was a child, which was after the Great Society programs started. The left, of course, tries to blame all of the current problems of blacks on institutional racism.

Dr. Spencer: But that explanation simply doesn’t make sense. Candace Owens cites some of the statistics I gave earlier from the Economic Policy Institute, which showed that black Americans have not seen significant improvements since 1968 and have, in fact, done worse in some ways. She also cites their result that the share of African Americans in prison or jail almost tripled from 1968 to 2016 and is more than six times the white incarceration rate. She then noted, quite correctly, that “Certainly no sane person would make the argument that America has become a more racist country since the 1960s, which gives way to the obvious truth that these disparities have little to do with systemic oppressions.”[14]

Marc Roby: Well, that certainly disagrees with the current narrative in our country.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But as we have been showing now for several months, neo-Marxist ideologies are built on conflict. They require you to view everything as a power struggle and to put everyone either into an oppressor class or an oppressed class. And, of course, most people aren’t going to go dig up all of the statistics necessary to find out that the picture portrayed by the mainstream media and the race industry in this country is, for the most part, a lie.

Ward Connerly, a black man and a former Regent of the University of California, recently wrote that “Individual racism will always exist; but in this country, the system is no longer racist.”[15]

Marc Roby: Now that’s a bold statement.

Dr. Spencer: It is, but he is far from alone among blacks in making that statement. No intelligent person is going to claim that racism doesn’t exist. It most certainly does. It always has existed and probably always will. Let me also quote the black Democrat Orlando Patterson though. He is a professor at Harvard and wrote the following in a New York Times op-ed in 1991; “The sociological truths are that America, while still flawed in its race relations and its stubborn refusal to institute a rational, universal welfare system, is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa”.[16]

Marc Roby: And he wrote that in 1991! I would think most people would say that things have gotten better since then. But he did also put in a plug for a “rational, universal welfare system”.

Dr. Spencer: And he doesn’t say anything in the article about what he meant by that, so I can’t really address the comment. But he did go on to say that “superficial liberal stereotypes of blacks as victims or bootstrap heroes are seen for what they are: a new form of racism”. I think that is a very important point that needs to be made loud and clear.

Candace Owens said something similar in her book. She wrote, “To be clear, the belief that white people are to assume all responsibility for black America’s shortcomings is a form of white power. One must believe in black inferiority to accept the thesis that black America is not responsible for any of its own shortcomings in a free society.”[17]

Marc Roby: That is a very interesting statement.

Dr. Spencer: And I think it is obviously true. The people on the left who claim to want to help blacks by lowering standards, establishing quotas, and giving them government handouts, are very condescending. They must not think that blacks are capable of doing these things for themselves. The great 19th-century orator, abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, gave a talk in 1865 to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in which he said, “Everybody has asked the question, … ‘What shall we do with the negro?’ I have but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!”[18]

Marc Roby: That is a powerful statement from a man who had himself been a slave.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. It was also quoted by Jason Riley in his book Please Stop Helping Us.[19] I hope that our interested listeners will read Riley’s book and Owens’ book. They will both give you the perspective of a black person who took responsibility for his or her own life and succeeded admirably. There are many others as well of course, and they all put the lie to the idea that our society is systemically racist and that is it all but impossible for a black person to succeed. Look at Riley, look at Owens, look at Orlando Patterson and Ward Connerly, both of whom I have quoted. Also look at Thomas Sowell, Ben Carson, Larry Elder and many, many others, some famous, and some not famous.

And Douglass’ speech does not, of course, say that we shouldn’t make every reasonable effort to provide good schools and real opportunities for blacks and others who want to help themselves. We should. But handouts and lowered standards help no one and are unbiblical. There are clear biblical mandates to love our neighbor as ourselves, to give help to those who are truly in need, and to not give preferential treatment to anyone, not the rich, or the poor.

Marc Roby: Well, we are told in Leviticus 19:15, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

Dr. Spencer: And that principle speaks against the idea of lowering standards or applying quotas to give one group an advantage even if your motive for doing so is to address some prior wrong. Children should not be punished by society for the sins of their fathers. I have never owned a slave, my father never owned a slave, even my grandfathers never owned a slave. Neither I nor my father or grandfathers ever participated in Jim Crow era discrimination against blacks. I strongly disapprove of racism. So to say that I should be discriminated against to make up for the past discrimination of others is unbiblical and wrong. And the individual person who would benefit, for example by being admitted to a university without meeting the normal admission standards, or getting a job to fill some quota, is not the one who was wronged either. And, in addition, the preferential treatment won’t help him, it will usually harm him. As with everything else in life, Christians need to think these things through from a biblical perspective, not the distorted lens provided by our modern culture with its hateful, harmful, destructive neo-Marxist ideologies.

Marc Roby: Very well, so where do we go from here in our discussion?

Dr. Spencer: In our next session I want to finally address the Black Lives Matter organization as the most important current example of a neo-Marxist organization.

Marc Roby: I really look forward to that discussion! So now, let me close by reminding our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, Vol. 43, pg. 53

[3] E.g., Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, Zondervan, 2010, pg. 275

[4] E.g., Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, 5th Ed., Basic Books, 2015, pp 426-432 and Grudem, op. cit., pp 286-289

[5] Judy Lin, The open secret about California taxes, May 8, 2018, updated, Sept. 17, 2020, viewed on Oct. 8, 2020, available at: https://calmatters.org/explainers/the-open-secret-about-california-taxes/

[6] Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Annual Message to Congress, January 4, 1935, available at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/annual-message-congress-3

[7] Candace Owens, Blackout, Threshold Editions, 2020, pg. 125

[8] See Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, The War on Poverty After 50 Years, Backgrounder 2955, The Heritage Foundation, September 15, 2014 (available at: http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2014/pdf/BG2955.pdf)

[9] Janelle Jones, John Schmitt, and Valerie Wilson, 50 years after the Kerner Commission, Feb. 26, 2018, available at https://www.epi.org/publication/50-years-after-the-kerner-commission/

[10] Owens, op. cit., pg. 50

[11] Ibid, pg. 51

[12] Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2008/06/text-of-obamas-fatherhood-speech-011094

[13] Jason L. Riley, Please Stop Helping Us, Encounter Books, 2015, pg. 37

[14] Owens, op. cit., pg. 8

[15] Ward Connerly, Systemic racism and today’s California, Fox News.com, Oct. 6, 2020, available at: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/systemic-racism-california-voters-racial-preferences-ward-connerly

[16] New York Times, Op-Ed, Oct. 20, 1991, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/20/opinion/op-ed-race-gender-and-liberal-fallacies.html

[17] Owens, op. cit. pg. 132

[18] See page 14 of the manuscript available at: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mfd.22010/?sp=14

[19] Riley, op. cit., pp 4-5

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. We finished our background on Marxism and neo-Marxist ideologies last time. Dr. Spencer, what do you want to examine today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to take a look at capitalism and, along the way, contrast it with socialism. But in order to explain why we, as Christians, should be concerned about this topic at all, and since the economic system of a country is a part of the form of government, I first want to remember a couple of things we have said about governments and the relationship Christians have to them.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 the apostle Paul wrote that “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”[1]

Marc Roby: That passage does a good job of illustrating what we have said before is the main purpose for which God ordained earthly governments; namely, to safeguard personal liberty. In other words, our ability to, as Paul wrote, “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Dr. Spencer: And the purpose for our being able to do that is to shine the light of God’s gospel into this dark world so that people will be saved. As Paul wrote, God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” And that happens as a result of the witness of Christians. When we began this special series, in Session 161, I noted that God gives us our purpose, place and priorities in life. Our purpose is to glorify God.

Marc Roby: Which mirrors God’s own purpose. We have noted a number of times that his purpose in creation is the manifestation of his own glory.

Dr. Spencer: And we glorify God by doing the work he has given us to do; first and foremost, the work of sharing the gospel. In doing that we must know our place. Which means, first, that we are creatures and, second, that we are under authority.

Marc Roby: And we have noted several times that there are three God-given spheres of authority: the family, the church and the state.

Dr. Spencer: And we, as Christians, have different roles and responsibilities in each of these spheres, and our roles change over the course of our lifetime as well. And in all of our roles, God sets the priorities. We are his adopted children. We read in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. We are, first and foremost, citizens of heaven. God alone is the ultimate King and we owe him our absolute unquestioning obedience. All earthly authorities are delegated authorities and have limited spheres of authority and limited scope of authority.

And one of the things that falls within the scope of authority of civil government is the economy. So with all that review in mind, I want to discuss capitalism. As Christians, we must evaluate any economic system by how well it supports God’s priorities for his creatures.

Marc Roby: Very well. Perhaps it would be good to start with a clear definition of what we mean by capitalism. According to Webster’s dictionary, capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: That’s a good definition. And we see right away that it is a system that is, at the very least, consistent with Christian principles. It affirms two important biblical principles. First, the right to private property. The definition speaks about private ownership of property, either individually or collectively through a corporation.

Marc Roby: And, as we noted before, the Bible consistently assumes and confirms the right to personal property. For example, by giving us the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.”[3]

Dr. Spencer: Right. We aren’t to steal the property of others, but as Christians we are also required to remember that God owns everything, we are really just stewards. We will talk about the implications of that in our next session. Secondly, the definition affirms human responsibility in making private decisions about what to invest in, about what to buy, and we could add that making free decisions about what we as individuals do for a living is also included. The right to make personal choices for which we can be justly held accountable is, again, a fundamental biblical principle.

Marc Roby: Yes, I recall that we quoted Deuteronomy 30:19 before, where, after going over God’s commands and his blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, Moses told the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we quoted that verse in Session 165. If we disobey, we can be subject to punishment at times in any of the three spheres of authority, the home, church or state. But ultimately, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There are many sins for which none of these three earthly spheres of authority can hold us accountable. But God is able to judge “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” as we learn from Hebrews 4:12. He can hold us accountable for example, for unkind and selfish thoughts and attitudes, for ungratefulness, greed and jealousy.

Marc Roby: All of which are things earthly authorities can only infer from outward words and actions.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. Now remember that Marx viewed the possession of personal property as the fundamental problem plaguing mankind. But that is simply wrong. Property itself isn’t the problem, sin is the problem. It is the fact that human beings are sometimes greedy, jealous, covetous and cruel, to name just a few sins. People are willing to steal and kill to gain the property of others. People are willing to take advantage of others in all sorts of ways. They cheat with dishonest scales for example.

Marc Roby: Which is something the Bible speaks against in many places. For example, we read in Deuteronomy 25:15 “You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes. God will not be pleased if a merchant has one weight to use when buying something and another weight to use when selling.

Marc Roby: Like the proverbial butcher’s thumb on the scale!

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. So, the problem with capitalism is sin, not the right to own private property. And as we saw in Session 167, sin shows up in socialist systems as well. In that case it often shows up in bribery and other types of corruption, which people use to get ahead.

Marc Roby: Well, people are always tempted to do what is best for them individually.

Dr. Spencer: They are. And if you build a system that only works when everyone is completely selfless and dedicated to working their hardest for the benefit of others, even if they get nothing in return, you are building a system that is bound to fail. You are ignoring human sin. Humans do sometimes act in selfless and generous ways, but they will not always do so.

One of the reasons that capitalism has been so successful is the incentives that it establishes. When a business or individual does what is best for the business, that is also in general what is best for the overall economy, which means it is best for the prosperity of society as a whole. Let me give just one short example.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: This is taken from Thomas Sowell’s excellent book Basic Economics. He tells of a delegation of American farmers who visited the old Soviet Union. He wrote, “They were appalled at the way various agricultural produce was shipped, carelessly packed and with spoiled fruit or vegetables left to spread the spoilage to other fruits and vegetables … American farmers had no experience with such gross carelessness and waste, which would have caused somebody to lose much money needlessly in the United States, and perhaps go bankrupt.”[4]

Marc Roby: It sounds like they needed someone to monitor what was going on.

Dr. Spencer: Well, Sowell considers that and points out that monitoring is not free, it wastes resources. In addition, the monitors would have incentive to accept bribes, so you introduce more corruption. In the end, having the farmer in charge of packing his own produce makes a much better system. His own self interest is to see that his fruit handled properly in order to maximize his own profit, but this also maximizes his output and the efficiency of the whole system, so everyone benefits.

Marc Roby: There is always the possibility of the farming going out of business though.

Dr. Spencer: Oh, that’s true. The prospect of failure, either partial loss or completely going out of business, is an important part of a capitalist system. If you have the freedom to succeed, you also necessarily have the freedom to fail. And, as a result, there will be people who need help. Their failure may or may not have been their own fault. But a capitalist society will always need some safety net.

But socialism can’t prevent crop failures due to floods, droughts, storms or whatever either. The real question we need to consider is, “Which system provides the greatest overall economic output and provides individuals with incentives to do what is right?” And the answer is that capitalism wins hands down. At each step along the line from production to purchase, the individual business has an incentive to do the job as well as possible and as efficiently as possible. The net result is much higher overall output and employment.

Marc Roby: That’s a valid point. And that explains why, for example, Communist China abandoned true socialism many years ago.

Dr. Spencer: And Sowell uses that example, among others. Mao died in 1976 and China moved away from socialism soon after that. Sowell notes that “the subsequent freeing up of prices in the marketplace led to an astonishing economic growth rate of 9 percent per year between 1978 and 1995.”[5] And he also notes that “In China, the number of people living on a dollar a day or less fell from 374 million – one third of the country’s population in 1990 – to 128 million by 2004, now just 10 percent of a growing population.”[6]

Marc Roby: That is astonishing.

Dr. Spencer: It truly is. And he gives many more examples in his book of countries like India, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where creating or doing away with free markets have produced dramatic results; always in favor of free markets.

In addition to the lack of proper incentives, there is another very serious problem with socialism, and one of the many reasons it simply doesn’t work; we don’t all want the same things. We each buy different kinds of food, clothing, cars, houses and so on.

Marc Roby: I can’t imagine anything that could be more obvious. All you have to do is look around to see the vast differences in what people want to buy.

Dr. Spencer: And yet, in a socialist economy, choice is often done away with in the interests of efficiency. There may be only one kind of bread available. Or only one kind of TV, or car, or whatever. Because the state decides what is needed, not a free market. And history has taught us very clearly that the state often gets it wrong. In fact, given the complexity of a large economy in terms of the sheer number of items produced and all of the resources that go into producing them, it is simply beyond reason to think that central planning can work. Allowing supply and demand and free-market pricing to work solves the problem without central planning. Sowell again uses the old Soviet Union as an example and quotes from some Soviet economists to make his point. But I’ll let interested listeners check the reference for that.[7]

And there is a second aspect of this same problem. Not only can central planners not determine how much of each commodity will be needed, but central planning of the economy removes individual choice in lifestyle. We don’t all value the same things. Let me illustrate that with one of my former graduate students.

Marc Roby: Alright. Please do.

Dr. Spencer: I had many graduate students who were extremely driven and competitive. They were very driven to do research that would be highly regarded and valued, finish their PhD degrees and then go to work for companies that were well known for their high-pressure, long hours, but concomitant high pay. These students liked the technical challenge, the prestige and, yes, being able to drive a really nice car and so on. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But I had others who made different choices. One in particular, who was very good and could certainly have taken the route I just described had he wanted to, chose not to go on for a PhD, but instead to graduate with a Masters degree and go to work in a manufacturing firm where he worked 8 to 5 Monday through Friday and even punched a time clock. His job was not nearly as technically demanding, he wasn’t going to a bunch of publish papers and become well known, and it didn’t pay nearly as much. But he didn’t want to work 60- to 70-hour work weeks. He wanted to have his evenings and weekends free to pursue other activities and to live in a place he thought was nice to live. His choice was just as valid as the others, but different. That kind of freedom is not available in socialist countries with planned economies.

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point. But what about all of the evils people often associate with capitalism? For example, the income gap. Some people make a great deal more money than others do, and some of them make way more money than any one person could possibly need.

Dr. Spencer: Well, that is certainly true. And before I address this issue directly, let me note that the Bible often speaks about the poor and commands us to be generous and to help those who are in need. God will hold the rich accountable for how they use their wealth. They may think the money is theirs because they worked hard to develop their knowledge and skills and then worked hard to use them and earn the money, but the reality is that God gave them their skills and opportunities. Now, it’s commendable if they did work hard and made good use of them, but ultimately, their riches come from God.

Marc Roby: As one of many examples we could quote, Proverbs 21:13 says that “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s a good verse. And, as you said, there are many more.

There is no doubt that we should help those who are poor. But there is also an issue of personal responsibility here. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, that “when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” The poor should be helped locally, not by a distant federal government who has no idea why they are poor. They should be helped with education, medical care, food, shelter and other needs, but always with an eye to getting them to be self-sufficient. And capitalism has proven itself time and time again to be the very best system for creating an economy where a person can improve him or herself by working hard.

Marc Roby: But not everyone has the ability or opportunity to be a PhD student in Electrical Engineering. So, going back to your example, not everyone has the choice your students had.

Dr. Spencer: Well, that is absolutely true. And not every one of those PhD students had the ability or opportunity to start his own company and become exceptionally wealthy either. But we have to ask, “Is there something inherently wrong with that?” I never had the ability to play professional sports or to be a professional musician either, so is it wrong that others do have that ability and make much more money than I ever did? And is there somebody who’s at fault?

There is a fundamental issue here. Call it ingratitude, or jealousy, or whatever, but if I am not happy with my lot in life, even after allowing for the ways in which I may have failed to properly make use of the abilities and opportunities I have been given, then I am, ultimately, unhappy with God. God decides what gifts and opportunities to give to each individual person. In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul was speaking to the Athenians and said that God “made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

Marc Roby: I see your point. We can’t all be the best no matter what system we have. People are not all equal in ability or how hard they work.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right, capitalism is not the problem. In fact, as we noted in Session 164, and as Sowell makes very clear in the book I quoted from earlier, capitalism has been the most successful economic system in history for bringing prosperity and freedom to the greatest number of people.

But free markets are competitive places and that competition is precisely the mechanism that makes them work so well. If I have a company, I can’t sell my products or services for more than people are willing to pay. And if I look for a job, I can’t sell my services as an employee for more than my abilities and experience will justify. An employer won’t stay in business very long if he pays me more than my labor is worth, nor will he stay in business very long if pays people too little, he won’t be able to find employees. In both cases, the selling of a product and the selling of labor, a free market says that the price will be set by supply and demand.

Marc Roby: In other words, any time there is a supply of some commodity that is larger than the demand, the price will drop. And, conversely, whenever the supply is less than the demand, that price will go up.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And that feedback loop works extremely well to regulate the markets; both for goods and for labor. Whenever governments try to control these things the net result is virtually always a poorer economy, which means that everyone suffers.

Marc Roby: Of course, in this kind of competitive system, there will always be winners and losers.

Dr. Spencer: But when someone “wins” in capitalism we all get a better product or service for a lower price or in some other way society as a whole gains.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s an important point.

Dr. Spencer: And, in addition, the “losers” aren’t punished or required to stay down. And those who start at the bottom don’t have to stay there. If, for example, I am only capable of menial labor, then there are a lot of people who can do the same work, so the supply is large and for any given demand the wages I can get will be lower. But I always have the opportunity to work hard, learn, gain experience and move up to a higher-paying job. It requires that I have the right attitude and depends on my effort. The employer is not my enemy. He isn’t trying to oppress me and get rich off of my labor, he’s also governed by supply and demand. If he pays too much, then his products will be too expensive, he won’t sell many of them, and he will go out of business and I will lose my job altogether. Sowell points out that the real minimum wage is always zero.

Marc Roby: That’s an interesting and obviously true way to look at it. But, of course, there have been situations where employers have taken advantage of employees.

Dr. Spencer: Well, of course there have. People are sinners. And so some degree of government regulation is not necessarily wrong; but it must be done very carefully and sparingly.

Marc Roby: Now I want to get back to the income gap. Isn’t that a real problem?

Dr. Spencer: Well, let me give a three-part answer to that. First, in Session 164 I gave an example of how a company can do very well and the owner, employees and customers all benefit even though the owner may benefit proportionally more. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that and, in fact, it provides an incentive for people to pursue excellence, from which we all benefit. And their motivation doesn’t have to be pure greed, it can simply be wanting to do something very well and the money is then, as a friend of mine once put it, like the grade you receive in a class. The more you make, the better you did. Now that may not be the most noble motivation in the world, but it isn’t inherently sinful either.

Marc Roby: Alright, what is the second part of your answer?

Dr. Spencer: When people talk about the income gap, the implication always is that the poor are worse off than they used to be. But in Session 166 I gave a number of statistics to show that simply isn’t the case. There are still truly poor people in this country and in other free-market nations as well of course, but capitalism has done far more to alleviate real poverty than any other economic system in history. You have to be careful how you define poverty. In general, the “poor” today are better off in many ways than the middle class was 60 years ago, and they are certainly better off than the average person was 150 years ago.

Marc Roby: Very well. What is the third part to your answer?

Dr. Spencer: That it is easy to tell a lie using statistics. All you have to do is use the wrong statistic. Sowell points this out in his book. He notes that “it is a widely publicized fact that census data show the percentage of the national income going to those in the bottom 20 percent bracket has been declining over the years, while the percentage going to those in the top 20 percent has been increasing”[8]. But you cannot conclude from that data that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer!

Marc Roby: Now, why is that conclusion invalid?

Dr. Spencer: Because people don’t stay in the same brackets. A young person may start his career in the lower 20% bracket, but then move up during his career. And a person may be in a high bracket during the peak of his career and then come down. What you need to look at is what happens to specific individuals over time, and when you do that you find the exact opposite result.

Sowell writes, “A University of Michigan study found that, among working Americans who were in the bottom 20 percent in income in 1975, approximately 95 percent had risen out of that bracket by 1991 … The largest absolute amount of increase in income between 1975 and 1991 was among those people who were initially in the bottom [20 percent] in 1975 and the least absolute increase in income was among those who were initially in the top [20 percent] in 1975.”[9]

Marc Roby: That is exactly the opposite of what you usually hear.

Dr. Spencer: And it isn’t just one study. The IRS also did a study and found similar results as did another study in Canada. Sowell also noted that “Among those Americans who were in the bottom 20 percent in 1975, 98 percent had higher real incomes in 1991 – and two-thirds had higher real incomes in 1991 than the average American had back in 1975”[10]. The bottom line is that while poverty is still a real problem, the statistics you hear about it are often wrong and capitalism is not the fundamental cause of the problem.

So, to conclude for today, capitalism is the best economic system ever developed for allowing human freedom and for providing prosperity to the largest number of people. It has built-in incentives that encourage people to do what is good, rather than what is corrupt. The problems we see with it are caused by human sin, not capitalism.

Marc Roby: That has been very enlightening. I look forward to continuing our discussion about societal issues next time, for now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Comp., 1979

[3] Exodus 20:15

[4] Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, 5th Ed., Basic Books, 2015, pg. 400

[5] Ibid, pg. 25

[6] Ibid, pg. 6

[7] Ibid, pp 16-17

[8] Ibid, pg. 204

[9] Ibid, pg. 205

[10] Ibid, pg. 204

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In our last session we showed how the K-12 public education system in this country has deteriorated dramatically over the past 50 years and how much of that can be attributed to a concerted effort by zealous Marxists like Bill Ayers and Angela Davis. Their real goal is to destroy this country from within in order to make room for a new socialist nation that can become part of a world-wide communist utopia. Dr. Spencer, you said last time that you needed to say a bit more about the history of public education in this country. What more would you like to say?

Dr. Spencer: Well, first, I think it is important for Christians to realize that this war against Christian values is not a new problem. In Ephesians 6:11-12 the apostle Paul commands us to, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Our real enemy is Satan. He uses all kinds of things to attack us and Marxist ideology and its neo-Marxist offspring are just tools in his hands. You really see this when you look at the history of public education in this country.

Marc Roby: And I remember that Whittaker Chambers said that Marxism is the second oldest religion, it dates back to Satan’s tempting Eve to sin in the Garden. But how do you see this when you look at the history of public education in America?

Dr. Spencer: Well, the neo-Marxist critical theory and its offspring are fairly new, but even prior to that public education in America has been decidedly anti-Christian for quite some time, at least in terms of the individuals most prominent in establishing and directing its course. I want to be clear that I am not speaking about the average individual teacher. Most teachers, even today, try to do the best job they can of educating our students. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take many who are zealous to indoctrinate our children into their ideology for it to have a huge impact. Good teachers know that it isn’t their job to provide the moral or religious education of their students. They freely leave that up to the parents and Sunday Schools. 

Marc Roby: And rightly so we would say. But what about the zealots and the movers and the shakers so to speak?

Dr. Spencer: Well, we need to go all the way back to the utopian socialist Robert Owen. We discussed his experimental voluntary socialist community called New Harmony in Session 165. But even before he tried that experiment, he had publicly presented his views on education. He wrote a collection of essays called A New View of Society, and then printed them and gave them out. He had a completely materialist view of man. He saw employees as nothing more than sophisticated machines that could be programmed to perform better.

Marc Roby: Which sounds very much like Karl Marx and all the communist leaders who have followed him.

Dr. Spencer: It does. They understand that communism cannot work with men the way they are. In speaking to a group of textile mill owners in the early 1800’s Owen asked them, “If then due care to the state of your inanimate machines can produce you such beneficial results, what may not be expected, if you devoted equal attention to your far more wonderfully constructed, your animate machines?”

Marc Roby: Wow. I thought maybe you were exaggerating a bit when you said he thought people were just complex machines, but that is what he actually said.

Dr. Spencer: Now to be fair, he was concerned with making changes that would make their work safer and their lives better, but of course the changes would also make them better workers and the mills more profitable. 

The real problem though, and my only point right now, is that he had a completely materialistic view of human nature. He ignored the soul and he ignored sin. Our astute listeners, with better memories than I have, may recall that when his New Harmony experiment failed, he attributed the failure to the people. In his view, they simply were not trained to have the proper mindset for a collectivist or communal living arrangement.

Marc Roby: Yes, I do remember that. I also recall that his son had a more realistic appraisal of why the experiment failed.

Dr. Spencer: He did, you’re quite right. And his son, Robert Dale Owen, was also influential in the early development of public education. According to Wikipedia, he “secured inclusion of an article in the Indiana Constitution of 1851 that provided tax-supported funding for a uniform system of free public schools, and established the position of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.” 

Marc Roby: That’s very interesting.

Dr. Spencer: Even more interesting is a man named Orestes Brownson. He was an associate of Robert Dale Owen, and later converted to Roman Catholicism and renounced his involvement in socialist utopian ideas. He had worked on public schools with Frances Wright, who was an early feminist and utopian socialist who had worked with Robert Dale Owen at New Harmony. 

In a speech he gave in 1853 he spoke about his involvement in setting up public schools and said, “The great object was to get rid of Christianity … The plan was not to make open attacks on religion, … but to establish a system of state, we said, national schools, from which all religion was to be excluded, … and to which all parents were to be compelled by law to send their children. Our complete plan was to take the children from their parents at the age of twelve or eighteen months”.

Marc Roby: That’s truly amazing, and they wanted to start with toddlers. This man Owen had a lot of influence.

Dr. Spencer: We could go into more, but that is enough for now. Education has been an important part of the socialist agenda from the very beginning. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels gave what you could call a ten-point plan for socialism, and free education for all children in public schools is the tenth point. 

Now, on its face, that may sound like a perfectly good thing. But it is clear that in communist regimes education is synonymous with indoctrination. The purpose is to create cogs to fit into the socialist machine, not to create intelligent, well-informed citizens able to think for themselves, which is usually the goal thought of in democratic systems of government.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is a huge difference.

Dr. Spencer: It is a critically important difference, but our schools have been moving in the direction of indoctrination for a long time. Let’s now fast-forward to the 20th century and look at John Dewey, who is a man many of our listeners have probably heard of. He is sometimes called the father of progressive education and he helped the Frankfurt school, which we have spoken about as the originator of critical theory, get established in the Teachers College at Columbia University. 

Marc Roby: I’ve certainly heard of him. He was a secular humanist as I recall.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, he was. In fact, he was strongly opposed to Christianity. He was one of the signers of the original Humanist Manifesto I in 1933. The first affirmation of that Manifesto says that “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.” And the fourteenth affirmation says that “humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible.”

Marc Roby: It is interesting that they refer to themselves as “Religious humanists”. And their socialist views are obvious from the fourteenth affirmation.

Dr. Spencer: That’s very true. And there was another humanist named Charles F. Potter, who also signed that declaration. He also founded the First Humanitarian Society of New York, and his advisory board included John Dewey and Albert Einstein. 

Marc Roby: Alright, that’s a fascinating connection. But why do you mention Potter?

Dr. Spencer: Because he wrote a book called Humanism, a New Religion. And in that book he wrote that “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

Marc Roby: Well, he lays it right out there, doesn’t he? At least in his view, the public schools were in direct opposition to Christianity. Given his comment about Sunday Schools, he obviously thought the “five-day program of humanistic teaching” was in direct opposition to them.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, he was very clear about his purposes. And remember the speech given by Orestes Brownson almost a hundred years earlier, from which I quoted a few minutes ago? He said, “The great object was to get rid of Christianity … The plan was not to make open attacks on religion, … but to establish a system of state, we said, national schools, from which all religion was to be excluded”. They all understood that if you teach children from a purely materialistic worldview, you are going to go a long way toward creating materialists! 

Now, as I noted, I don’t think that is the goal of most teachers, but even when it isn’t the goal, when the atheist’s materialistic view is assumed in science and history and all mention of God is either banned or relegated to the status of myth, there is a very strong influence exerted on young minds. And then when you throw in a few zealous teachers, the influence becomes even stronger.

Marc Roby: I think that point is abundantly clear.

Dr. Spencer: In 2013, Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote that “As Nelson Mandela says, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” 

Marc Roby: Now, that statement Duncan quoted from Mandela could certainly be taken in a very positive way, education can be a powerful tool for changing the world by improving the lives of people.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is obviously true. But, unfortunately, Duncan then added a statement that made his social agenda for the schools perfectly clear. The first thing he mentions is gender inequality …

Marc Roby: To which I would say, vive la difference!

Dr. Spencer: And I would agree with you. But, unfortunately, he wasn’t referring to the God-given differences between men and women. He then mentions reducing poverty, which can obviously be a good thing in itself, but is that the second purpose of education? It is certainly an indirect result of a good education if people put it to use, but sadly, that is again obviously not what Duncan intended. He then goes on to mention creating a sustainable planet and so on. This is a social agenda. It is not basic education. All parents, especially Christian parents, need to be in charge of their children’s education.

Marc Roby: You aren’t saying everyone should home-school their children, are you?

Dr. Spencer: No. Home schooling can be very good, but private schools and a good system of public education are both good too. Not many parents are equipped to do a good job of teaching their children the intricacies of English grammar, algebra, basic physics, history and so on, especially not all the way through high school. But public schools should not be in the business of ideological indoctrination. And parents and society should not put up with having a substantial portion of the available time taken up with the so-called social justice causes and activism. That is not the proper role for public schools.

And the social justice topics being taught now are very destructive. They produce young people who are unhappy, angry, resentful, jealous and entitled.

Marc Roby: That’s a strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: But I think it is accurate. If you are a child with black or brown skin in our public-school system you are being taught that you are oppressed, you are a victim. And implicitly you are being taught that it is hopeless for you to rise above your position as a victim except by revolution and identifying with your group. If you are white, you are being taught that you are irredeemably racist, independent of anything you have ever said or done. All that you and your family have are the result of white privilege.

In addition, you are taught that you are entitled to all sorts of things. You hear a lot these days about everyone having a “right” to a job, to health care, to a comfortable place to live, a good retirement and so on. But there is no such entitlement. Everyone should and, for the vast majority of cases, does have the opportunity to have these things in our country, that is why so many people want to come here.

Marc Roby: Well, certainly immigration reform is yet another hot topic at the moment.

Dr. Spencer: It is, and I don’t think we want to spend any time discussing that. But for those who think this country is so awful and that socialism is so good, I have one question. Why is it that countries built on a Marxist plan, like the old USSR, Communist China, North Korea and Cuba to name just four, have to restrict people to keep them in, while the United States is having discussions about how to keep people out? I don’t see a huge number of people wanting to move to China, Cuba or North Korea. They don’t have a problem with illegal immigration.

Marc Roby: That’s certainly a valid point.

Dr. Spencer: There is so much more that we could say about the history of Marxism and its massive failures with the concomitant loss of life and misery it has caused, but I think we have said enough to move on to look at some of the manifestations of Marxist and neo-Marxist ideas in our present day.

Angela Davis said that Herbert Marcuse always used to tell his students that “When truth cannot be realized within the established social order, it always appears to the latter as mere utopia.” But this statement wrongly presupposes that heaven on earth is achievable, and that Christians and other conservatives oppose these Marxist ideas simply because they would require a disruption to our existing social order. But that is absolute nonsense. We oppose these ideas because they are stupid and wicked. History has shown that they simply do not work and they produce mass suffering, that is why they are stupid. They ignore the obvious reality of human sin. And they are built on a materialist worldview that rejects God and makes man ultimate, which is why they are wicked. Christians cannot support these ideas.

Marc Roby: We don’t, of course, believe that our existing social order is perfect. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Dr. Spencer: That is obviously true. And when you listen to someone on the far left speak, they often speak about wanting things we can all agree with, like less violence, less poverty, less bigotry. The problem isn’t always with their stated goals, it is with the fact that their proposed solutions make things worse, not better, because they are built on a fundamentally flawed worldview that ignores God and ignores human sin. And as we have seen, true Marxists aren’t really concerned with incremental improvements in our nation. If we allow ourselves to be deceived by their publicly stated goals, rather than looking at their actions, we will pay a very dear price. What we are seeing in many cities in our country these past few months is, essentially, mob rule. Mob rule can never bring about meaningful change, it can only bring about revolution. No less a sage than Abraham Lincoln spoke about this very fact. 

Marc Roby: Now what did Lincoln have to say about this? 

Dr. Spencer: Well, in January of 1838, a young Lincoln gave a speech in Springfield, Illinois. It was his first known public speech and the subject was some recent mob violence that had been going on. Lincoln spoke about the fact that our government is more conducive to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any other government in the history of the world. He also spoke about the fact that prior to his time, man’s baser principles had been held in check by first, a common enemy …

Marc Roby: Which, of course, was Great Britain. The Treaty of Paris, which ended the revolutionary war, was signed in 1783, only 55 years before this speech was given.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. There were still people alive when he gave this speech who could remember the revolution. And the second thing he said kept people’s baser principles in check was, essentially, the unity of purpose in trying to make this grand experiment called the United States of America succeed. But he then said, in a way only Lincoln could, that these two checks on our baser instincts “were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we … supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason.” And then, speaking about the passions involved in the revolution, he said that “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense.”

Marc Roby: That is a wonderful statement, as one would expect from Lincoln.

Dr. Spencer: He had pondered, early in the speech, what enemy might destroy our country given our geography and other advantages. He said, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.” 

Marc Roby: That is certainly an important point. The greatest danger comes from within. In our previous session, you quoted Jesus, who in Mark 3:25 said that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And, as I noted, the main reason for Lincoln’s speech was to address mob violence. Addressing that directly, he said that “by the operation of this mobocractic spirit … the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed – I mean the attachment of the People.”

He explained that those who are prone to violent crimes will be emboldened by mob violence and those who are peace loving will soon lose their attachment for a government that is impotent to protect them. If that happens with too many people, the government will fall.

Marc Roby: Which is exactly what the Marxists want to have happen in this country.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly right. And I think Lincoln hit the nail on the head. Our government must stop this violence and we all, as a people, must have reason – cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason as our guide. We, as Christians, should lead the way. Governed by the Bible. We know God’s purpose for us, which is to live for his glory. We know our place, which is that of dependent, sinful creatures in need of forgiveness. And we know our priorities, which are given to us by the Bible. If we use our reason in submission to these biblical truths, we can be a wonderful force for good in this country. If we are naïve and lazy and fail to forcefully oppose what is going on, we may find ourselves losing the liberties we enjoy today.

And so, in the upcoming sessions I want to address specific examples of how neo-Marxist ideologies are being used to tear this country apart and what our response, as Christians, should be.

Marc Roby: Very well, I look forward to beginning that conversation next week. And now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer.

 

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Last week we showed that critical theory challenges cultural norms because it views them as part of an oppressive power structure. This anti-Christian theory has taken over our university system and our public K-12 system as well. It must be opposed by Christians. Dr. Spencer, what do you want to cover today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to begin by highlighting the seriousness of the problem. In Mark 3:25 Christ said that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Now this is a self-evidently true statement, but it gets at the root of the issue with neo-Marxist ideologies of all flavors. Their purpose is to divide and conquer. They seek to destroy this country from within.

Marc Roby: Surely that can’t be true of all the people who support these different ideologies.

Dr. Spencer: Oh, no, it isn’t. Most of the people who join with these different movements or espouse their views do so innocently enough, they have come to believe that the ideas are good for one reason or another, often because the stated goals deliberately hide the real purpose. But in each of the movements there are some number of individuals, typically those driving and guiding the movements, who are very conscious of what they are doing. They literally want to destroy this country.  

Marc Roby: That probably sounds like a right-wing conspiracy theory to many.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure it does, but there is no need for a conspiracy theory. As I have been laboring to show in these podcasts, you can read things these people published or said publicly and you can trace their connections to each other and see what they’ve done and why they’ve done it. Whether or not it meets the standard of being a “conspiracy” is another matter. 

But that is also why I pointed out that most of the people who accept or promote these neo-Marxist ideologies in one way or another are not doing so from bad motives. They simply don’t know the true motivations behind the movement. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement, which we will talk about in detail in a later session. They chose that name for a good reason. Who is going to deny the truth of the statement that black lives matter?

Marc Roby: No one that I want to associate with.

Dr. Spencer: And that is why they chose that name. Only a wicked person would deny it. But the Black Lives Matter organization is very different from their name. It is not focused on saving or improving black lives as I will clearly show later. It is a Marxist organization whose real fundamental goal is the destruction of this country in order to create the conditions necessary for communism to come in and to move us closer to a world-wide utopia. And that is what you are supporting if you have a Black Lives Matter T-shirt or lawn sign.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that discussion. 

Dr. Spencer: And so do I, but we have a little more background to cover first. I just wanted to emphasize what is at stake here. Remember back in Session 165 when we were discussing the voluntary socialist experiment of Robert Owen, called New Harmony? I mentioned that Marx and Engels had nothing but contempt for the idea that communism could be brought about by peaceful means. True communism requires that the entire world become communist, it can’t be just be one country. No truly communist nation, or group, is ever going to peacefully coexist with other forms of government, their theory demands that the whole world become communist before it is possible to reach heaven on earth. So they will always be working for the destruction of other forms of government. We need to understand that as individuals and as a nation or we are going to be taken advantage of and, eventually, destroyed because of our own naivete.  

Marc Roby: That’s a very strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. But remember that in the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote that “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. … Workingmen of all countries, unite!” 

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point about how dangerous this is. Although it does appear that not all communists disdain to conceal their views, the real motives behind much of what they are doing in this country are not openly stated.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true, although they don’t work too hard to hide them. You just have to look and you can find them. We have seen that a number of people have realized that capitalist societies like ours have become too successful for the working class to want revolution. Therefore, Marxists needed to find a way to weaken our country, and others like it, in order to create a situation in which revolution is possible. 

Marc Roby: And that is why we spent the last two sessions discussing Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse and critical theory, the theory that virtually every aspect of our culture is a part of a huge system of oppression. That theory is being used in our school systems and elsewhere to divide our country and create that revolutionary situation.

Dr. Spencer: That’s exactly right. And we are seeing the bitter fruit of that movement right now with the riots that have been plaguing many of our major cities night after night for months. 

Marc Roby: And we see it in the calls to abolish or radically reduce the police and the burning of police buildings and other symbols of authority.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. In Session 168 I noted that Gramsci was the first to publish the realization that capitalism is too successful. Working class people are able to achieve a comfortable lifestyle and don’t see the need for revolution. Gramsci called this giving them a “false consciousness.” And we noted that Marcuse built on Gramsci’s ideas. Let me quote from Marcuse’s most famous work, a book called One-Dimensional Man, which was published in 1964.

Marcuse wrote that “The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.” He then went on to write that “The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood.”

Marc Roby: That explains the phrase “false consciousness”, he is referring to the false idea that someone could become fully satisfied in life as a result of material prosperity.

Dr. Spencer: And, in a way, we would agree with this. To be materially comfortable and to think that is all that is important is to completely miss the true purpose of life. Christ himself said, in Luke 10:42, that there is only one thing needful, and he wasn’t speaking about material prosperity, he was speaking about our salvation. 

Marc Roby: Jesus also told us in the Sermon on the Mount, as we read in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Dr. Spencer: And those verses make the same point. So, we would agree with Marcuse and others that material prosperity alone cannot fully satisfy man’s needs, not even in this life. But, strangely, Marcuse should have been happy with a comfortable life if he was a truly consistent materialist. I mean, what else could really matter? You live, you die, and that’s the end of it. But we know, because God has told us, that man is not just a physical animal, he has a spirit as well. And everyone, even an avowed materialist like Marcuse, has a sense that there is more to life than the physical. That is why many novels, short stories and plays have been written in the last century about how a person can lose his or her soul by being completely consumed with material prosperity.

Marc Roby: It is certainly a common theme. Especially since the industrial revolution.

Dr. Spencer: And I personally think the reason is that society has been so successful at supplying everyone’s physical needs that people have more leisure time and are less consumed with the task of providing for their material needs. And from the perspective of a Marxist, who wants to bring about revolution, that is a problem. Marcuse wrote the following about the capitalist way of life, “It is a good way of life – much better than before – and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe.”

Marc Roby: In other words, successful people get lulled into a comfortable life that prevents them from thinking about more important things. Which is exactly what Jesus Christ warned about.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. But Marcuse saw an opportunity to attack cultures that are materially successful. He wrote in the concluding chapter of One-Dimensional Man that “The totalitarian tendencies of the one-dimensional society render the traditional ways and means of protest ineffective – perhaps even dangerous because they preserve the illusion of popular sovereignty. … However, underneath the conservative popular base is the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colors, the unemployed and the unemployable. … their opposition is revolutionary even if their consciousness is not.”

Marc Roby: Ah! So this is where the idea of needing to raise their consciousness comes from.

Dr. Spencer: Precisely. According to Marcuse, you need to take those people who are not doing well in society, and there will always be some, strip them of the idea that they are capable of working hard, living honest lives and moving up in that society, and get them to see themselves as an oppressed class. They must be convinced that they are victims. And society itself is the oppressor, so society needs to be changed. Mike Gonzales does a good job of describing this whole process in his book The Plot to Change America.

Marc Roby: That all starts to bring many of the problems we see in our country today clearly into focus. The Marxist idea of class conflict, along with neo-Marxist ideologies of race have generated an almost endless list of groups who are supposedly oppressed and in need of liberation.

Dr. Spencer: And it isn’t just in terms of race relations or work environments. The whole sexual revolution is part of this plan to destroy America as well and has generated an almost endless list of supposedly oppressed groups needing to be liberated, the LGBTQIA and on and on. 

In a second very influential work published in 1955, entitled Eros and Civilization, Marcuse argues, essentially, that sex in virtually any form should be freely used for pleasure. He concedes that this would be a reversal of what we normally think of as civilized culture, but he views it as a move forward, not backward. He wrote, “It would still be a reversal of the process of civilization, a subversion of culture – but after culture had done its work and created the mankind and the world that could be free.” He explains further, and his basic idea is that once civilization has reached the point of easily supplying our material needs, man should be freed from the constraints imposed upon him and be totally free sexually.

Marc Roby: Which is, yet again, an attack on biblical morality. God created sex and he defines the proper role of sex in human life. It is meant to be something shared only between a husband and a wife. It is the glue in a marriage and also brings about families. So this idea of total sexual freedom is really an attack on the biblical family structure, which is the core of our civilization.

Dr. Spencer: And Marcuse knew that he was attacking the family. In that same work he wrote that this change in sexual mores “would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.”

Marc Roby: Which disintegration, I assume, he viewed as a good thing.

Dr. Spencer: He did. He viewed anything that would help destroy our culture and country as good. And his student, Angela Davis, wrote in 2018 that “Marcuse’s ideas can be as valuable today as they were 50 years ago.” 

Marc Roby: And, of course, 50 years before she wrote that was 1968. The late 60’s were a time of violent student protests all over this country.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, they were. And those protests had a lot to do with the destruction of our universities. Those protests brought about the creation of a number of so-called ethnic studies departments in the universities and the creation of a number of new faculty positions to fill them. In general, these departments are really nothing more than a platform for activism. There is precious little, if any, meaningful scholarly activity in these departments. And whatever worthy scholarly activity there may be, could have already been accommodated in other, existing, programs like history, language, philosophy and so on. And these ethnic studies departments, once created, needed to make sure they had enough students, so they often pushed to have some sort of diversity requirement added to the general education requirements, which meant that all students typically had to take one or more of these courses.

Students can now get college credit, a minor and even bachelors and graduate degrees in things like Queer studies, Chicana/Chicano studies, African American and African Studies and Sexuality Studies.

Marc Roby: And what does one do with a degree in Queer studies for example?

Dr. Spencer: Well, not much useful. I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to land you a well-paying job or make a well-rounded citizen. As I said, these programs are really all about activism and trying to change, or I should really say destroy, our culture. There are college courses, for example, on pornography. Students literally get college credit for watching, or they would contend, studying pornography.

Marc Roby: That is outrageous. And all of this has made its way down into our K-12 curricula as well.

Dr. Spencer: Not in quite as blatant a form, but yes. In Thomas Sowell’s eye-opening book Inside American Education he carefully explains how our K-12 schools have been taken over by these neo-Marxist, or as they are sometimes called, cultural Marxist ideologies. In the K-12 schools they take on a psychological form, rather than an ideological form. 

Marc Roby: Now, who is Thomas Sowell?

Dr. Spencer: He is an American economist who is currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has spent many years seriously looking into our nation’s educational system and has written a number of intelligent, well-researched articles and books on the subject.

Marc Roby: And what did you mean when you said that these neo-Marxist ideologies show up in the K-12 schools in a psychological, rather than an ideological form?

Dr. Spencer: I mean that the schools focus on changing the attitudes and beliefs of our children. Chapter Three of Sowell’s book is called Classroom Brainwashing. It begins with the following statement: “A variety of courses and programs, under an even wider variety of names, have been set up in schools across the country to change the values, behavior, and beliefs of American youngsters from what they have been taught by their families, their churches, or the social groups in which they have grown up.” 

He goes on to explain how tactics that are  mild versions of the brain-washing techniques developed in China under Mao are used in these courses. I don’t want to spend much time on this, interested listeners are encouraged to read his book, but as just one simple example, it is common in grade schools to give assignments where the students are asked to write about family problems and other personal issues and to not tell their parents about the assignment, which produces a feeling of isolation in the student and makes him more susceptible to the teacher’s ideas, even if they contradict what he is being taught at home.

Marc Roby: That’s frightening, and an obvious attempt to undermine the family.

Dr. Spencer: It is. There has been a real shift in our schools away from the idea of educating students by providing them with basic skills like reading, writing, mathematics and science, and to focus instead on indoctrination. The results are astonishing. For example, Sowell wrote, “the results of an international study of 13-year-olds … found that Koreans ranked first in mathematics and Americans last. When asked if they thought they were ‘good at mathematics,’ only 23 percent of the Korean youngsters said ‘yes’—compared to 68 percent of American 13-year-olds.” So we are creating young people who are confident, but wrong.

And look at the currently popular NY Times 1619 project. It is an ideological pack of lies about our country’s founding that is being adopted by a number of public schools. I could quote all kinds of results that are very depressing, but I don’t think there is much point. Anyone who is really interested can find the data easily. Sowell’s book is a good place to start. But I would like to read one more statement to show that this problem has been growing for a long time.

Marc Roby: Alright, what statement is that?

Dr. Spencer: I want to quote from the famous 1983 report of the U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education, entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. In that report they said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”

Marc Roby: Wow. That’s an amazingly strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: And it led to a nation-wide movement to reform our schools. But, unfortunately, that reform movement was led by the very people we have been talking about. People like Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the 1960’s violent revolutionary group called the Weather Underground, which was responsible for numerous bombings in this country and is famous for declaring war on “AmeriKKKa” – spelled with three capital K’s – in 1969. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Teachers College that we noted before as the center of the critical theory movement. He is a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and formerly held the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. 

As just one indication of his wide influence, if you look at a Teachers College Press catalog from 2019-2020, you will find some of his books for sale and you will also see that he is the editor of “The Teaching for Social Justice Series” of books.

Marc Roby: That’s incredible.

Dr. Spencer: If you look through that catalogue you will be shocked. Let me just quickly give three examples. You can buy a book entitled Same as It Never Was: Notes on a Teacher’s Return to the Classroom and we read that “this book invites readers into an award-winning teacher’s classroom as he struggles to teach toward equity and justice.” We can also get a book called Letting Go of Literary Whiteness and we are told the book will “challenge us to develop racial literacy in our students through the teaching of literature.” And finally, we all need a copy of Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction, which “includes examples of student activism from across the United States”.

Marc Roby: Now that is truly shocking. I’m willing to bet that most of our listeners thought K-12 education was mostly about reading, writing, math, science, history and so on. Not about teaching equity and justice, racial literacy or student activism.

Dr. Spencer: I certainly hope you’re right. But the fact that our schools are failing at teaching our children reading, history, math, science and so on, as noted by the 1983 report A Nation at Risk is far from the worst part of the story. Remember that the report said that if this had been the activity of an unfriendly foreign power we might have considered it an act of war?

Marc Roby: Yes, I remember that statement.

Dr. Spencer: And remember that Bill Ayer’s group, the Weather Underground, declared war on America? 

Marc Roby: Yes.

Dr. Spencer: Well, he and a lot of others, like Angela Davis, have followed through on that declaration of war by their long march through the institutions. The worst part of the failure of our public schools is the indoctrination that takes place instead of education. 

Sowell gives a number of examples in his book of how the schools teach our children to hate the United States of America and to hate the Judeo-Christian values on which our nation was built. As just one example, so-called sex education curricula are used to push LGBTQ values. And this problem is dramatically worse now than it was when he published Inside American Education in 1993. Any student who is bold enough to disagree with these modern views and espouse a Christian view of sex and marriage is in for a very rough time in our public schools.

Marc Roby: That’s a sad statement. But I’ve seen enough examples to know that it is true.

Dr. Spencer: And I encourage all Christian parents, in fact all parents, who have children in the public-school system to be extremely vigilant. Find out what is being taught. I think you’ll be shocked. But be prepared to have dig a bit, these programs use deceptive names and really don’t want parents to know what is being taught. The parents are often viewed as the enemy.

Marc Roby: That is again very sad.

Dr. Spencer: Very sad indeed. But the anti-Christian bias in our schools is not new. We don’t have time to go through the whole history, but in our next session I will begin with a very brief and selected sketch of that history because it will be useful to make one final point before we move on to examine the modern problems that are, in large measure, a result of this war on America. 

Marc Roby: Very well, I look forward to that. And now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In our session last week, we began a discussion about how Marxist ideologies have become so prevalent in our culture today. We looked at Angela Davis, a 60’s radical who became a professor in the University of California as an example. She spoke about decades of work, by herself and others, coming to fruition in all of the riots we see happening in our country today. 

Dr. Spencer, you pointed out that she was a student of Herbert Marcuse, a member of the so-called Frankfurt school, which developed critical theory. I had asked you to tell us what critical theory is, and you began with a digression to talk about the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. He developed the idea that the bourgeoisie use their cultural narrative – in other words, their history and system of values – as a tool of oppression. Therefore, whenever a worker adopts the so-called hegemonic narrative, he is participating in his own oppression. Are you now ready to define what critical theory is?

Dr. Spencer: Yes. Let me begin, somewhat surprisingly, by quoting the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on critical theory. It says, “Critical theory is a social philosophy pertaining to the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures.” That is a good short definition. And it makes clear that the theory is Marxist in its origin. 

Remember that Marx viewed all of human history in terms of the conflict between oppressors and oppressed. In other words, in terms of a power structure. Marx, of course, was focused on economic systems, but critical theory broadens the scope of his focus on conflict to include any type of human interaction. The different movements spawned by this broadening of Marx’s ideas are sometimes referred to as neo-Marxist. And note that the definition says the purpose of critical theory is to “reveal and challenge” these power structures.

Marc Roby: In other words, question authority!

Dr. Spencer: That’s it exactly. So, critical theory criticizes, if you will, every authority structure because it views every power structure as inherently oppressive or exploitive. Which immediately puts it at odds with a Christian worldview. The fifth commandment tells us, as we read in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” And, as we have discussed before, the Bible tells us that God has given us three realms of delegated authority in this life; the family, the church and the state. We are not just called to honor our parents, we are also commanded to honor authority in the church and the state.

Marc Roby: And, of course, the classic verse about obeying church leaders is Hebrews 13:17, where we read, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Dr. Spencer: And it is important to notice that that verse says those in authority must give an account, which means, of course, an account to God. He is the ultimate source of all authority and anyone in a position of delegated authority will have to answer to God for how they have used it. Authority is supposed to be used for the benefit of those who are under that authority.

Marc Roby: And that biblical view obviously contradicts the idea that all authority is exploitive or oppressive.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. Although, because human beings are sinners, it is, in fact, common to see authority abused. But it does not follow that authority is inherently wrong. The problem is sin.

Marc Roby: Alright. And with regard to the civil government, the classic verse is Romans 13:1 where the apostle Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” And the context is clearly here, civil government.

Dr. Spencer: And you can also look, for example, at 1 Peter 2:13-14, where we are commanded, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

We have discussed authority in these three realms at length before, so I don’t want to repeat that now. My present point is simply that while there are strict limits imposed on authority, properly administered authority is good. It is ordained by God for the good of those who are under that authority. It is simply unbiblical, and I would add empirically untrue, to say that all authority is oppressive or exploitive.

Marc Roby: Yes, that certainly makes sense.

Dr. Spencer: There is one more very important point that I want to make about critical theory before we move on.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: If it were true that our cultural narrative is nothing more than a tool of oppression and it can be rationally opposed in its totality, then it would necessarily follow that there is no absolute truth.  

Marc Roby: I’m not sure that conclusion is obvious. 

Dr. Spencer: No, it isn’t obvious at all, you have to think it through. Any cultural narrative is going to contain statements that purport to be factual, in other words, they claim to be true. So, for example, the statement that honoring your mother and father is good and will lead to blessing. Or that marriage should be a life-long commitment between one man and one woman. 

Now, if these statements are mere cultural norms and there can be other, equally true, cultural norms that contradict these, then there is no absolute truth. Truth would, in that case, just be a cultural convention, which is what both critical theory and postmodernism irrationally believe.

Marc Roby: And, further, God would be a liar, because he says that those statements are true.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. We again see that this whole Marxist ideological framework is radically opposed to biblical Christianity. There is no such thing as a Christian Marxist. Let me say that again differently to make it absolutely clear, because this is an important point. If you are a Christian, you must be opposed to Marxism and all neo-Marxist ideologies because Marxism is opposed to Christianity. You cannot support the enemies of your Lord and Savior. The psalmist declared in Psalm 139:21-22, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Marc Roby: Those verses probably need some explaining. I’m sure at least some of our listeners immediately thought to themselves, “Now wait a minute, Jesus Christ told us, in Matthew 5:44, to love our enemies. So how can it be good to hate them?”

Dr. Spencer: Well, that is a great question. And the best answer I’ve ever seen was given by the great 19th-century English theologian and preacher Charles Spurgeon. In his famous work, the Treasury of David, he wrote the following about Verse 21: “To love all men with benevolence is our duty; but to love any wicked man with complacency would be a crime. To hate a man for his own sake, or for any evil done to us, would be wrong; but to hate a man because he is the foe of all goodness and the enemy of all righteousness, is nothing more nor less than an obligation.” 

Marc Roby: There is a lot packed into that short statement.

Dr. Spencer: I agree, so let me explain it further. We are to want what is best for all men, including our enemies, which of course ultimately means that we are to share the gospel and pray for their salvation; that is to love all men with benevolence. But we cannot love anyone with complacence. If someone has made himself an enemy of God by opposing God and his righteous Word, he is to be our enemy and we are to hate him. Now, to be clear, this is not a hatred that would delight in seeing harm come to him, that would be vengeful sin; we are still to love him with benevolence, meaning that we want to see him saved. But it is hatred in the sense that we oppose him with all our might and would see it as perfectly just if God chose to destroy him. God tells us in Deuteronomy 32:35, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” These two senses are not contradictory, so with the proper meaning attached to the terms, we can simultaneously love and hate someone.

Marc Roby: That is a great explanation of how to reconcile the paradox of being commanded both to love our enemies and to hate those who hate and oppose God. And that verse from Deuteronomy is a frightening statement about God’s judgment, which we all truly deserve.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. We have all sinned, but, praise God, we can repent, trust in Christ and be saved. But if we have truly done that, then Jesus Christ is our Lord. His enemies are our enemies. We cannot join with them in opposing him, and to join in any Marxist or neo-Marxist ideology is to oppose Christ. And critical theory, or perhaps we should say theories because it comes in many flavors, is absolutely and irreconcilably opposed to Christ. 

Marc Roby: Now you said last week that Angela Davis is a great example of how these theories have become so common. As a student of Marcuse, she put the idea of the long march through the institutions into practice. She became a professor and then used that position to influence many people.

Dr. Spencer: And it is very instructive to see how it is that these far-left ideologies have taken over the universities in this country. And they absolutely have done so, there can be no doubt about that. One recent study found that the ratio of registered democrats to republicans in top universities is greater than eleven to one, and in some fields it is much higher. That is obviously only one indication of the left-leaning nature of academia, but there are many others. 

My own experience as a professor for 25 years certainly bears this out. I was in the college of engineering, which doesn’t lean as far to the left as the college of letters and science, but it was still overwhelmingly left. And when I served on campus-wide committees with colleagues from other colleges, I was frequently shocked at how far left almost all of them were. If you held a conservative view on just about anything, you would be well advised to keep it quiet.

Marc Roby: And I thought the far-left prided itself on being tolerant and inclusive.

Dr. Spencer: Ah, but they attach a very different meaning to those terms. Marcuse dealt with this in a way that is instructive of how the far-left abuses language and is often the exact opposite of what they claim to be. According to Roger Kimball, “Marcuse came up with several names for the idea that freedom is a form of tyranny. The most famous was ‘repressive tolerance’ … He even offered a simple formula for distinguishing between, on the one hand, the ‘repressive tolerance’ that expresses itself in such phenomena as freedom of assembly and free speech and, on the other, the ‘liberating tolerance’ he recommends. ‘Liberating tolerance,’ he wrote, ‘would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.’”

Marc Roby: That is an amazing example of how to pervert language. According to his definition, you can be “tolerant” by only tolerating those views you agree with. 

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is pretty amazing. Kimball goes on to say that “The usual name for this sort of attitude, of course, is intolerance, but no doubt it would be terribly intolerant to insist on such a repressive if elementary point.” 

Marc Roby: I like that. We need to point out when people make completely ridiculous statements.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. But now I’d like to give just one example of how the far-left has taken over the university system. It comes from a very eye-opening and downright scary book written in 2006 by David Horowitz, called The Professors. In his introduction he talks about visiting the University of Delaware in 2001 and asking a senior member of the history department, who was the only conservative in the department, how that imbalance came about. The professor related how he had not been allowed to sit on a search committee since 1985, even though he had been chair of the committee in that year and they had hired a Marxist, which tells you that he didn’t apply any kind of ideological litmus test during the hiring process. But many people on the left are not only willing to apply a litmus test, they think it is their duty. People like Angela Davis.

Marc Roby: In other words, you’re saying they won’t hire even a qualified candidate if the person is conservative?

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. This professor went on to tell Horowitz that in the very same year they were speaking, which was 2001, his department had an opening for someone in Asian history. The best qualified candidate was a man from Stanford, but he didn’t get the job. Wondering why, this professor went and talked to the chair of the search committee, who told him, “Oh, you’re absolutely right. He was far and away the most qualified candidate and we had a terrific interview about his area of expertise. But then we went to lunch and he let out that he was for school vouchers. And that killed it.”

Marc Roby: OK, what in the world does your view of school vouchers have to do with teaching Asian history?

Dr. Spencer: Well, obviously, not a thing in the world. But to a dedicated member of the far-left, it is a sign of someone having a conservative attitude and, therefore, the candidate is unqualified to teach at the university because he won’t join in your program of indoctrinating the students into your far-left, Marxist ideologies.  

Marc Roby: That’s ridiculous.

Dr. Spencer: Quite literally so. But it is also common. That is how faculties came to be nearly 100% far left in the space of one generation. I could give you many examples of how extreme some faculty members are, but one will suffice. 

After the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, published an essay entitled Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, in which he said the following about the people who died in the World Trade Center: “If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.”  

Marc Roby: That’s unbelievable. He actually equated the civilian employees working in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, one of the Nazi officers in charge of the holocaust? 

Dr. Spencer: It is completely irrational, not to mention wicked. And the rest of the essay is just as bad or, possibly, worse. You wonder what world this man inhabits. It certainly isn’t the world of reality. He twists and distorts absolutely everything. His comments on World War II make it sound like the United States was the aggressor and that we launched unprovoked attacks on the peace-loving countries of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And yet, I must again point out that his views, while admittedly extreme, are not that extreme in academia. If you want to read about a lot of other perhaps slightly less frightening individuals, read Horowitz’s book.

Marc Roby: What kinds of comments were made on the UC campus here in Davis after the attacks of 9/11?

Dr. Spencer: I would say the most common view by far in the college of letters and science was to be wringing your hands and thinking, “oh my, we are such bad people, what do we need to do to change so that people won’t hate us so much.” People literally seemed to think that the attacks were justified.

Marc Roby: That’s a little hard to stomach.

Dr. Spencer: But it illustrates how far left the campus environment is from the rest of the country. My own campus, the University of California here in Davis, also has a faculty member, Professor Joshua Clover, who is a professor of English, who has openly advocated the killing of police for a number of years. As just one example, in a 2015 interview with SFWeekly magazine, he said, “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.”

He has been given multiple opportunities to apologize or recant or soften his statements and has doubled down on his repugnant views every time. The university declared that it can’t discipline him because his views are protected by the First Amendment, although the chancellor did say that his views are “offensive and abhorrent”, which is good, but they went no further.

Marc Roby: That’s very disappointing.

Dr. Spencer: I’ve been disappointed with the University of California many times. They also now have an ideological litmus test that all faculty applicants must pass. They, of course, deny that this is the purpose. But every candidate for a faculty position has to present a “Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” in his package. This simply provides the university with a way of throwing out faculty applicants who don’t agree with its commitment to these far-left neo-Marxist ideologies, independent of how good the person is in his or her field of expertise. And faculty members now have to supply a similar statement every time they go up for a promotion.

Marc Roby: In other words, the university has set a tone that clearly indicates that conformity to its far-left ideologies is more important that excellence in your field.

Dr. Spencer: Well, they would, of course, very strongly deny that. But it is hard to conclude otherwise when you look at how the system works. To be fair, these rules are applied differently in different departments and colleges, but even when they are not considered the most important thing, they are still part of constant barrage of left-wing ideas which are presented not as ideas for your consideration, but as statements of fact. For example, it is common to require faculty members on search committees to go through implicit bias training and other similar things that are based on completely false premises. These are not optional.

Marc Roby: And, of course, this kind of indoctrination doesn’t stop with the universities.

Dr. Spencer: No, unfortunately, it does not. In fact, the education departments are among the most radically left of all departments, and they are responsible for training our K-12 teachers and most of the people who work in the education area in government, overseeing the curricula for example. These extreme far-left neo-Marxist ideas have been pushed for well over 30 years. In 1990, Roger Kimball wrote that “It is no secret that the academic study of the humanities in this country is in a state of crisis. Proponents of deconstruction, feminist studies, and other politically motivated challenges to the traditional tenets of humanistic study have by now become the dominant voice in the humanities departments of many of our best colleges and universities.”

Marc Roby: And now these views have filtered down into the K-12 system.

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. A friend of mine who teaches in the public schools and who wants to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, wrote that “What the children are exposed to is sickening. I would not recommend that anyone send their kids to public schools. Even ‘good’ teachers and administrators are often at best small islands in a sea of foolishness, falsehood, and filth.”

Marc Roby: That’s a strong statement. But then again, there have been a number of troubling things in the news lately. For example, three years ago there was a report about kindergartners in our area being taught from a book affirming transgender ideas. 

Dr. Spencer: And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The nonsense about students being allowed to use locker rooms and bathrooms that agree with their “gender identity” rather than their biological sex and many other things like that are all completely crazy. But they all stem from the same source, a rejection of our culture. And, ultimately, a rejection of God. As we saw at the beginning of this session, critical theory is anti-authority, which is, ultimately, anti-God. 

The real motivating influence and power behind this movement is Satan. As Whittaker Chambers noted, when Satan tempted Eve by saying “you shall be like God”, he created the second oldest religion. It is a religion that is, at its core, anti-God. That is why it opposes the biblical truth that God created man male and female. That is why it opposes the family. That is why it opposes individual responsibility and accountability. That is why it opposes truth, and so on.

Marc Roby: I’m sure there is a lot more for us to discuss, but it will have to wait for next time. For now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer you.

 

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Dr. Spencer, at the end of our session last week, you said you wanted to examine how Marxist ideology has become so common in our society today.

Dr. Spencer: And I’d like to begin by quoting the first line from Joshua Muravchik’s book Heaven on Earth, from which we have quoted frequently. He grew up in a staunchly socialist home and he began his prologue, which is entitled “Changing Faiths”, by writing, “SOCIALISM WAS THE FAITH IN WHICH I WAS RAISED.”[1] (emphasis in the original)

Marc Roby: That’s a surprising statement to most people I think, and a strange way to begin talking about how Marxist ideology has become so common today. But it agrees with the quote you gave last time from Whittaker Chambers, who called communism “man’s second oldest faith. … the great alternative faith of mankind.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: Yes, Chambers made that point quite powerfully. And while this might at first blush seem like a strange way to begin talking about how Marxist ideology became so common, it actually makes a lot of sense, because if socialism is, in fact, a religion, that says a lot about how important it is to those who truly believe it. By the way, the terms socialism and communism, while there are distinctions between them in Marx’s theory, are often taken to be roughly synonymous. Chambers and Muravchik are speaking about the same ideology, which is Marxist, independent of the fact that they use different words.

Marc Roby: Alright. But whether or not we can call socialism a religion obviously depends on the definition of religion.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. And I freely admit that most people think of religion as being a belief in a supernatural being of some sort; that is clearly the most common definition. But I would argue that it is not the most useful definition. God himself told us in the first commandment, which we read in Exodus 20:3, that “You shall have no other gods before me.” [3] And he wasn’t saying that there really are other gods, in Jeremiah 10:10 we read that “the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.” In other words, God is the only true and living God. All other so-called gods are figments of men’s imaginations. And those figments of men’s imaginations don’t necessarily have to be supernatural beings, men can give their full allegiance to atheistic ideologies as well, in which case they function as a religion for all practical purposes.

Marc Roby: OK, I’ll grant you that. And it is a relatively common expression to say that someone is “religious” about a particular activity, so the word certainly admits of a broader definition than just belief in a supernatural being.

Dr. Spencer: It absolutely does. Therefore, let’s look at the second definition given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary; it says that a religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices” [4], and the fourth definition given is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”.[5]

I would argue, based on these definitions, that materialism, as expressed in Marxism, is a religion. It is a worldview, a system of beliefs, which attempts to explain what is real and provides a basis for making statements about everything. And it is held to with ardor and faith.

Marc Roby: We have noted before that everyone has a worldview and that our worldview affects how we view everything. It determines which questions we deem appropriate to ask and how we evaluate and internalize every experience or thought that we encounter.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And every worldview says something about the existence of God as well. Materialism, of course, simply denies that there is such a being as God. For all practical purposes, that is a religion. Most materialists don’t go to some kind of special building, like a church, on a regular basis, but in every other meaningful way, it is a religion. Now most materialists, like most professing Christians, aren’t all that zealous about it, but those who are fervent believers in materialism can be very zealous indeed.

Marc Roby: As anyone who has ever had an encounter with a committed member of the campus atheist club knows! Alright, even if our listeners don’t agree with this definition, they at least know what definition you are using. So let’s go on to see the point you want to make about Marxist ideology.

Dr. Spencer: Well, as we have noted before, any worldview must try to explain where we came from, what is wrong with the world, and how we can fix what is wrong. In Christian terms, those three things are creation, fall and redemption. And as we pointed out in Session 163, Marxism essentially denies the idea of creation. Either the universe popped into existence out of nothing or it has always been here, but it was not created. The material universe, or multiverse, simply exists. With regard to the fall, Marxism views the creation of private property as the problem, rather than sin, and it views the solution, or redemption, as consisting in a progression from capitalism to socialism to communism and, finally, to the government simply withering away, because, as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.”[6] Therefore, in their view, when all the classes have dissolved, so will organized political power. At that point mankind will supposedly have arrived at utopia; I’m tempted to say nirvana, but that would be mixing religions.

Marc Roby: Although there are some interesting parallels between the Buddhist view of nirvana and the Marxist view of utopia, they both view the individual as somehow getting lost, if you will, in a collective identity. It never ceases to amaze me how naïve it is to believe that human beings will arrive at this utopian vision without a fundamental change in character.

Dr. Spencer: It is only surprising if you understand that all men are sinners by nature, which is part of the Christian worldview. But if you start with a materialist worldview and deny the universal existence of sin, then I suppose it becomes more believable. Although I think you have to constantly ignore a mountain of evidence that daily argues against your worldview, both evidence from without and from within. But, given their materialist view of man, Marxists believe that they can create a new man by proper indoctrination. According to their view we are, after all, only automatons and we can, therefore, be re-programmed.

Marc Roby: Believing that requires more faith than I possess, and giving anyone enough power to do that is extremely dangerous.

Dr. Spencer: I agree completely. But if someone is a true believer in Marxist ideology, this materialist view of man is a foundational principle. And we certainly don’t criticize Marxists, or anyone else, for wanting to make this world a better place. Most, if not all, people desire this world to be a better place than it currently is. Therefore, if you are zealous Marxist, you are going to devote your life to trying to achieve heaven on earth. You may well think it won’t happen in your lifetime, but it is nonetheless a compelling motivation and you will dedicate your life to it. The problem is that it will never work because your worldview is wrong.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s make good sense. And I remember from our last session that Whittaker Chambers spoke about devoting your life to a cause, he wrote that “Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die – to bear witness – for its faith.”[7]

Dr. Spencer: He did write that. He also wrote that “The revolutionary heart of Communism is … a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: ‘Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.’”[8]

And given that statement, I want to read a statement made by Angela Davis in an interview that was just published last month in a special edition of Vanity Fair. She said, about her life’s work, “We do this work because we want to change the world.”[9]

Marc Roby: I don’t know if she was consciously quoting Marx, but that is perfect. But I suspect that our younger listeners in particular may not know who Angela Davis is, so perhaps it would be good to provide some background.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. And I chose that quote from her not just because it was so perfect, and timely, but also because Angela Davis will come up again soon; she is a perfect example of how and why Marxist ideology has become so prevalent in our society today.

Angela Davis retired from being a professor and the director of the Feminist Studies program at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 2008.[10] She was a member of the Communist Party in the United States until 1991 when she was expelled from the party for opposing the coup against Gorbachev.[11]

Marc Roby: Certainly, those of us who are old enough and lived in California in 1970 also remember that she was charged with murder in the Marin County courthouse shootings in 1970.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. She purchased the shotgun that was used to kill Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, who had been taken captive along with others, and the other guns used in the case were also registered to her. In all, there were four people killed and two wounded. She was, however, acquitted of all charges due to insufficient evidence.

Independent of the fact she was acquitted though, there was more than enough evidence to make it clear in my mind that she was involved; not only did she purchase the guns, but the purpose of taking the hostages was to get other prisoners released, including Angela Davis’ lover. In addition, she fled and used aliases and disguises to elude authorities for two months.

In addition to the Marin County courthouse shoot-out, she was affiliated with the Black Panther organization, which was responsible for a number of criminal acts, including murders.

Marc Roby: It does seem strange that such a person should have landed a position as a professor at the University of California.

Dr. Spencer: Strange to say the least. She has never made any serious contribution to scholarship of any kind, she is merely famous for her work as a revolutionary, and a violent one at that. She has advocated for the abolishment of prisons and is extremely critical of our legal system, although she certainly profited from our system’s bending over backwards to be fair to the accused.

Angela Davis is also not alone, as we will see, there is a large number of former 1960’s revolutionaries who have gone on to prominent and influential positions. And as a way of transitioning to that topic, I’d like to look at another interesting comment Davis made in the interview.

Marc Roby: What’s that?

Dr. Spencer: She was commenting on the fact that the current Covid-19 pandemic and the George Floyd killing presented an unusual opportunity for the kind of riots we have seen erupt around the country – she didn’t say riots by the way, that’s my word. What she did say was that “The protests offered people an opportunity to join in this collective demand to bring about deep change, radical change. Defund the police, abolish policing as we know it now. These are the same arguments that we’ve been making for such a long time about the prison system and the whole criminal justice system. It was as if all of these decades of work by so many people, who received no credit at all, came to fruition.”[12]

Marc Roby: OK, she talks about decades of work coming to fruition and she used the plural pronoun we. What, and who, is she talking about?

Dr. Spencer: She’s talking about what has been called the long march through the institutions. And there have been a number of people involved.

Marc Roby: I suspect a number of our listeners have heard that phrase – the long march – but I doubt that many know exactly where it comes from and what it means.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure you’re right about that. The phrase comes from a German Marxist sociologist named Rudi Dutschke.[13] To quote from Roger Kimball’s book The Long March, this phrase “signified – in the words of Herbert Marcuse – ‘working against the established institutions while working in them.’”[14] The phrase was meant to harken back to Mao Zedong’s Communist Red Army’s long march in 1934-35, but that march isn’t germane to our topic today so we aren’t going to discuss it, I just point the fact out as an example of the communist thinking and sympathies of these people.

Marc Roby: OK, so how did this idea of working against the established institutions while working in them play out?

Dr. Spencer: Well, there were a large number of leftists, including Angela Davis, who discovered that the violent tactics of the Black Panthers, the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen and other groups of 1960’s revolutionaries didn’t work. They realized that they could bring about radical change to this country by taking over the educational institutions instead. They could then use that platform to indoctrinate young people into their anti-American, anti-Christian, Marxist ideologies. That is why Davis spoke about decades of work by so many people coming to fruition. And it is important to note that she was a student of Herbert Marcuse.

Marc Roby: Who was Herbert Marcuse?

Dr. Spencer: He was, like Dutschke, a German Marxist who studied the philosopher Hegel. Our listeners may remember that Marx was a disciple of Hegel as well. In any event, Marcuse was a part of what is called the Frankfurt School; a group of leftist scholars who developed and promoted a mix of Freud and Marx called critical theory. This group, which contained a lot of secular Jews, fled Nazi Germany before World War II and finally ended up at Columbia University. This idea of theirs, critical theory, is at the heart of much of what is going on in America today.

Marc Roby: OK, and what is critical theory?

Dr. Spencer: Well, in order to answer that question, we need to go back one step. We need to go back to Europe in the early part of the 20th-century. We’ve briefly mentioned the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, led by Lenin, but there were communist movements in other countries as well. In Germany and Italy however, these communist movements lost to fascism. Now, we need to remember that true Marxist communism envisions a final utopian condition where there is no need for government and so it just dissolves away. In other words, true communism is not nationalistic, it thinks of the world as a whole. Fascism, on the other hand, while still being socialist, is strongly nationalistic. Remember that the official name of the Nazi party in Germany was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Therefore, there was very strong antagonism between the fascists and the communists.

Marc Roby: Well, that’s all interesting history, but what does it have to do with critical theory?

Dr. Spencer: Well, there was an Italian communist by the name of Antonio Gramsci who played a very important role. He was born in 1891 in Italy. In 1913, he became an activist in the Italian Socialist Party, or PSI. Some of his writings were praised by Lenin and Gramsci eventually left the PSI to help found the Communist Party of Italy. At one point he even spent two years in Moscow. He became a member of the Italian parliament and when his party was outlawed by the fascist Mussolini, Gramsci was arrested and then sent to prison in 1928. He was released in April, 1937, only a few days before his death.[15]

Marc Roby: And how then did he become so influential?

Dr. Spencer: While he was in prison, he thought about why socialism had been unable to succeed in countries outside of Russia. Remember that we discussed Eduard Bernstein in Session 166. He had noted the failure of Marx and Engel’s ideas in England. The problem was, put simply, that capitalism was successful and a middle class developed that was comfortable and didn’t see a need for revolutionary change. But let me quote from Mike Gonzales’ book The Plot to Change America, he wrote that “Gramsci came up with a useful meta-explanation. The bourgeoisie had acculturated the working man to do his bidding, giving him ‘false consciousness.’”[16]

Marc Roby: What does that mean? What is this “false consciousness”?

Dr. Spencer: It means that the workers had accepted the “hegemonic narrative”. In other words, as Marx had already posited, Gramsci viewed all social institutions and even histories as being constructs by which the ruling class enslaves the workers. So, when workers buy into the cultural norms, they are participating in their own subjugation. Let’s look at this in terms of what has gone on in this country since the end of World War II.

Marc Roby: Alright, that would be very helpful.

Dr. Spencer: At the end of World War II and on up into the early 1960’s, when the so-called Baby Boom generation was born, the average middle-class American accepted as true certain basic principles. For example, that hard work, honesty, being on time, telling the truth, getting married before having children, avoiding substance abuse and so on, were good things. Gramsci would say, however, that these are all part of the hegemonic narrative, or script, by which the ruling class subjugated the workers.

Marc Roby: And yet, everything you just named could be backed up as being a biblical norm, which Christians are duty-bound to accept and practice.

Dr. Spencer: You’re right. And that is part of why this whole critical theory idea is irreconcilably anti-Christian. And just in case some of our listeners have been too busy just living their lives as decent, hard-working citizens and are unaware of how much things have changed in the universities and the intellectual centers of our country, let me give just one example.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: In 2017, two law professors, Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law, published an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that caused quite a stir. It was entitled Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.[17]

They noted a number of problems plaguing our society, like drug abuse, unemployment, crime, single-parent families and so on, and they said, “The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

“That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Marc Roby: That doesn’t sound very divisive or controversial to me.

Dr. Spencer: That’s because you, like me, are of a “certain age” …

Marc Roby: OK, that’s unnecessarily cruel.

Dr. Spencer: And you are a Christian, which makes you and me part of the problem in the eyes of those on the far left. We are the oppressors who have created this hegemonic narrative, or script, as a part of our plan for oppressing others.

Marc Roby: And here I thought it was simply God’s Word regarding how we are to live lives that give him glory and lead to the most joy and peace here on earth. And that has been around, without change, for 2,000 years.

Dr. Spencer: And you are right in that view. But, and this was big eye-opener for me when I first read about this article, it generated an amazingly harsh backlash. For example, the dean of the Penn law school, Ted Ruger, published an op-ed in the student newspaper, which suggested that Professor Wax’s views were “divisive, even noxious.” And half of her law-faculty colleagues signed an open letter denouncing her piece. There was a similarly harsh response at the University of San Diego, even though it is a Catholic university. The dean of the law school, Stephen Ferruolo, put out a memo repudiating the piece.[18]

Marc Roby: That is simply incredible. One wonders what these people think good values are. Lying? Being lazy? Getting drunk?

Dr. Spencer: It does make you wonder. And Professors Wax and Alexander were careful to state that they were not claiming that things were perfect back in the 1950’s. They recognized that many problems and hypocrisy existed. They were simply making the case, which is absolutely forbidden in academic and intellectual circles today, that these biblical values are good and proper and lead to better outcomes for everyone in society.

Marc Roby: So, Gramsci decided that the culture itself was somehow oppressive and had to be changed, and that has led to the harsh reception this opinion piece received.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. To quote Gonzales again, “The cure, Gramsci thought, was to carry out a ‘consciousness raising’ indoctrination campaign that would convince the proletariat of his having been duped by tradition, religion, the family, the education system, and all the cultural trappings of society.”[19] And that idea has led to the organized efforts we are seeing now to destroy our culture and our country. It is the result of the long march through the institutions and is part of what real believers on the far left view as a necessary revolution on the way to establishing heaven on earth.

Marc Roby: Well, I very much look forward to continuing this discussion but we are out of time, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.


[1] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. xi

[2] Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Regenery History, 2014 (republication – original was 1952), pg. xxxix

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion

[5] Ibid

[6] Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, Vol. 50, pg. 429

[7] Whittaker Chambers, op. cit., pp xxxix

[8] Ibid, pg. xxxviii

[9] Ava Duvernay, Ava Duvernay Interviews Angela Davis on This Moment – and What Came Before, Vanity Fair, Special Issue, August 26, 2020 (https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2020/08/angela-davis-and-ava-duvernay-in-conversation)

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Davis

[11] David Horowitz, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Regnery Publishing Inc., 2006, pp 115-119

[12] Duvernay, op. cit.

[13] Roger Kimball, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Encounter Books, 2000, pp 14-15 (also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudi_Dutschke)

[14] Ibid, pg. 15

[15] Mike Gonzales, The Plot to Change America, Encounter Books, 2020, pg. 123

[16] Ibid, pg. 117

[17] Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 2017, available at https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/commentary/paying-the-price-for-breakdown-of-the-countrys-bourgeois-culture-20170809.html

[18] See Heather Mac Donald, Higher Ed’s Latest Taboo Is ‘Bourgeois Norms’, Wall-Street Journal, September 19, 2017, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/higher-eds-latest-taboo-is-bourgeois-norms-1505774818

[19] Gonzales, op. cit., pg. 117

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Last week we looked at the founding of the former Soviet Union and we noted that true Marxists believe that the ends justify the means. In their view, they are working to establish heaven on earth and whatever price has to be paid is acceptable. Dr. Spencer, how would you like to proceed today?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I want to remind our listeners of our discussion in Session 165, where we pointed out that according to the Bible, the most important function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. The Bible teaches us that human freedom and human responsibility are important. This view of government is fundamentally irreconcilable with the Marxist idea of having the government be a vehicle for creating heaven here on earth.

Marc Roby: And we have also noted that the goal of creating heaven on earth is impossible in light of the fact that men are all sinners. Heaven is not possible unless our sin is removed, and only God can do that.

Dr. Spencer: That is the key problem. Because Marxism is based on a materialist worldview, it is bound to be wrong. Unfortunately, it also brings out the very worst in human nature. Let me read a quote from Louis Fischer. He was an American journalist who lived in Russia for some time and was, initially, very much in favor of what was going on, which is why he moved there. But even though he liked the theory, he became very disillusioned with the reality. He wrote that the Communist Party and the government “both bred sycophants, cynics and cowards. In the highest rank as well as in the lowest, fear rather than thought, self-interest rather than public welfare was the father of every word and deed. Anybody who had uttered a dissenting view in the past or whose independence and originality might some day nurture unorthodoxy received a 2 A.M. visit from the secret police and soon joined the involuntary ‘builders of Socialism’ in Siberia and the Arctic wastes.”[1]

Marc Roby: That is frightening, but it also sounds like our politically correct cancel culture on steroids.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. As we saw last time, Lenin was absolutely ruthless. And he was followed by Stalin, who was just as ruthless, if not worse. And most other communist leaders have not been any better. Think of all the people who suffered or died in Mao’s China, or in Fidel’s Cuba, or now in Venezuela. And even the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini is a close cousin to communism, it is also a socialist ideology and both communism and fascism require a totalitarian state.

As we noted before, it is estimated that over one hundred million people have been murdered by socialist regimes since 1917.[2] People will do amazingly terrible things when they think they are working for a goal as wonderful as world-wide peace and affluence, in other words, heaven on earth.

Marc Roby: We are told in Proverbs 14:12 that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [3]

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and just in case we don’t recognize how important that statement is, it is repeated for us in Proverbs 16:25. As Christians, we need to look at what God says, not what man says. God is truth and his Word is truth. If we stand on that truth, proclaim it, and make it the basis for our own thinking, we will be doing what is best. Not just best for ourselves, but best for everyone, even non-Christians.

Marc Roby: Of course, you’re not suggesting that we put in laws that require everyone to go to church on Sunday, for example, or to join in public prayers or to read their Bible every day.

Dr. Spencer: No, of course not. Christianity never teaches that we should try and force others to live like Christians. It isn’t possible for them to do so anyway; it requires Holy Spirit power to live the Christian life. But it is perfectly proper for us, as Christians, to influence society to the best of our ability to have a government and laws that reflect the law of God. So, for example, human life is sacred because God says it is sacred, and we should push for laws that reflect that fact.

Marc Roby: And God even gives us the reason it is sacred. Capital punishment for murder was commanded by God in Genesis 9:6 where we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very important point and provides a good illustration of why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. While being deliberately cruel to animals is undoubtably wrong, you don’t put someone to death for killing an animal because animals are not made in God’s image. But men and women are. Therefore, anyone who willfully takes the life of another human being, except in very special circumstances like self-defense, has sinned tremendously against God and God himself commands that society put that person to death. And the prohibition against murder applies to all human beings, the unborn just as much as a healthy adult.

Marc Roby: You aren’t suggesting that we should have the death penalty for abortion providers are you?

Dr. Spencer: Well, not while abortion is legal, no. But we should work to make abortion illegal and, if that were to happen, then deliberately taking the life of an unborn child should be treated no differently than deliberately taking the life of anyone else. Notice that our laws already reflect this idea in some ways. In the California penal code murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”[4] Now that section of the penal code also carves out an exception for the fetus when it is killed with the mother’s consent, but the simple fact it is worded this way reveals that everyone knows the truth; abortion is legalized murder, our society has simply decided that a mother has a right to murder her unborn child.

Marc Roby: That’s an accurate, but I’m sure controversial, way to put it. But you said this illustrates why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. I doubt those who support abortion rights would agree, so what is your argument?

Dr. Spencer: When you stop considering all human life to be sacred, as we have in this country, you open a Pandora’s box and you devalue all human life. You no longer have a clear rational basis for saying murder is wrong. You allow it for unborn children, so long as the mother approves, so why not also allow it for newborns with the mother’s approval for example? Infanticide has been practiced in many cultures throughout history for various reasons and has been proposed quite seriously in this country by Peter Singer and others. He is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Although, to be fair, he does write that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide …”.

Marc Roby: Whoa … I’m glad to hear he at least thinks there should be limits!

Dr. Spencer: Well, his limits aren’t all that meaningful, I didn’t finish the sentence. Let me read the whole sentence, along with the one that follows it. He wrote that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide; but these restrictions should owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant. Obviously, in most cases, to kill an infant is to inflict a terrible loss on those who love and cherish the child.”[5]

Marc Roby: Now wait a minute, a terrible loss to those who love and cherish the child? What about the child himself, or herself? That’s frightening.

Dr. Spencer: Well, I don’t want to get into his justification for this abhorrent view, I just want to use it to finish my example. In the transcript for this podcast, which is available on our website – whatdoesthewordsay.org, I cite an excellent article to read for those who are interested.[6]

But let me finish up this example. When you don’t have a clear-cut reason for the sanctity of human life, it becomes a very malleable phrase – it can mean whatever you want it to mean and you can justify abortion, infanticide and senicide, which is the killing of people who get to be too old to be useful. It is very difficult to argue against these evils without a clear-cut, independent moral position that is defensible, and the Bible gives us that position. All human beings are made in the image of God.

Marc Roby: OK, I see your point.

Dr. Spencer: So, as Christians, we must base our reasoning on the Bible, even when we are reasoning about forms of government and the laws in our nation. God is infinitely wiser and more knowledgeable than we are, and if we stick with what he says, it will be good for us, and for the society we live in.

Marc Roby: That does make sense. And so, getting back to our discussion of socialism, the goal of government should also be set by the Bible, not by man.

Dr. Spencer: And that is exactly my point. The government is not the absolute authority. Our rights as human beings are not something the government doles out, they are given to us by God. That is why our Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And the Declaration goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”[7] Men create governments and grant them certain limited powers, not the other way around. We have gotten away from that idea in this country.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is obviously true. Some people act as if they think the government is some infinite reservoir of benefits.

Dr. Spencer: That’s quite true. Many people seem have the view that government should be there to provide for our needs from the cradle to the grave, and many people in government are all too happy to encourage this view because it keeps them in power and increases their power.

But you need to think carefully if you think that that sounds good, because it means that the government will have to be so large and powerful that your rights as an individual can be trampled at any moment. Our founding fathers were very concerned about this and the system of government they put in place is an amazing compromise that demonstrates great wisdom. It balances the idea of democracy, that is majority rule, with the need to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And significant changes to the form of that government have to be agreed to by a supermajority of the citizens.

Marc Roby: It is incredible to go back and study the founding documents and the debates that consumed people as they worked out the details.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. Now, this country is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a great country. It is currently fashionable on the left to view this country as some kind of imperial power, but that is unjustifiable given the facts. For example, this country only achieved a significant degree of global hegemony after World War II. And any fair reading of that history has to recognize three major facts about it.

Marc Roby: What are those?

Dr. Spencer: First, that we were dragged into World War II against our will. There is no doubt that there were some who wanted us to join much before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but that was certainly not the majority view. Now, it is also true that it was in our own best interests to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but that leads to the second thing any fair history has to recognize.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: That we didn’t try to permanently stay as an occupier in the territories after we conquered them! And, by the way, I’m not ignoring our allies, we didn’t do it alone. But no rational person would argue that we were not the dominant force. And so my point stands, we were not in World War II for the purpose of extending our empire, which by definition puts the lie to the idea that this country is some horrid imperial power. Not only did we not try to permanently occupy Germany, Japan and other territories that we and our allies conquered, we spent a phenomenal amount of money to build them back up after the war so that they would have functioning economies. That has never been done by any other victorious nation to the best of my knowledge.

Marc Roby: Well, the Marshall Plan was an incredible success to say the least. Unlike the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and made World War II almost certain given its harsh treatment of Germany, we poured enormous resources into rebuilding Europe after World War II, including Germany.

Dr. Spencer: And, to be honest, that was again in our own best interest given that Russia was much closer to those countries and would probably have taken over Europe had we simply left, but just because it was also in our interest does not negate the fact that it was a very generous act that benefitted our European allies immensely. And we did much the same in Japan.

Marc Roby: OK, what is the third major fact you said has to be recognized?

Dr. Spencer: That, as far as I am aware, the United States is the only country in the history of the world to ever gain any significant degree of hegemony without it being a part of a conscious plan to rule the world or at least a large portion of it. Nor was it done primarily for our own benefit. We were not seeking to conquer territory in order to add it to our country or to steal natural resources or subjugate people. And we weren’t primarily defending our homeland either, the continental United States was never seriously threatened. We would have been happy to stay out of the war entirely, but we chose not to.

Marc Roby: That’s a great point.

Dr. Spencer: When you put that together with the phenomenal success of our free-market based economy to improve the lives of almost all people, we have a lot we can justifiably be proud of in this country.

Marc Roby: Although we must also admit we do have things to be ashamed of as well, and we have a lot of things that can be improved upon.

Dr. Spencer: And both of those points are obviously true. We should be ashamed of having slavery up until the time of the thirteenth amendment, and we should be ashamed as a nation for the Jim Crow era that followed. But the United States is far from unique in terms of slavery.

Slavery has been a part of human history for as long as we have records. And racial discrimination has been, and still is, a common problem virtually everywhere. These are simply the result of the fact that human beings are sinners. But, as we noted in Session 161, God gives us our purpose, place and priorities. So long as we keep that in mind and seek a government that is consistent with our purpose, which is to glorify God, and our place, which is that we are finite creatures, wholly dependent on our Creator, and which seeks to implement the priorities God gives us for our lives, then we will be doing what is right and best for everyone.

Marc Roby: And socialism fails in all three of those areas. Because it is built on a materialist, atheist worldview, it completely misses the purpose of human life, in fact it rejects that there is any purpose – we are just cosmic accidents. It doesn’t even recognize that there is a God, let alone that our chief end is to glorify him. It also doesn’t see that we are mere creatures, entirely dependent on our Creator, so it gets our place wrong. It thinks we are the ultimate beings. And, finally, its priorities are wrong since it ignores God’s revelation.

Dr. Spencer: One of the most poignant things I have ever read about this was written by Whittaker Chambers.

Marc Roby: Most of our listeners will probably not know who he was, so let me provide some very brief background. Whittaker Chambers was an American writer who was a communist and worked as a spy in the Soviet underground in this country in the 1930’s. He later defected from communism and, most famously, was the primary witness in the Alger Hiss case in the late 40’s.

Dr. Spencer: And Alger Hiss was an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis Sayre in the FDR administration, participated in the Yalta Conference with FDR, Winston Churchill and Stalin, and was heavily involved in drafting the charter for the United Nations. He was convicted of perjury, rather than espionage, because the statute of limitations had run out on the espionage charges. He proclaimed his innocence right up to his death in 1996 and the case is still somewhat controversial, although I think the evidence that has come out after his death makes it quite clear that he was a Soviet spy.

Marc Roby: And Whittaker Chambers wrote a very famous account of his life and the trial, called Witness.[8]

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And the reason I bring this up is that he wrote what he called a “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children” that is one of the most poignant and amazing things I’ve ever read. His burden was to explain to his children how he could ever have been involved with something as evil as the Soviet Union.

Marc Roby: And it would be good to note that he became a confessing Christian.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, let me quote from his forward, he wrote that “I date my break [with communism] from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment … My daughter was in her high chair. … My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear … The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’”[9]

Marc Roby: Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of God using the shape of a human ear to bring someone to faith, but it makes perfect sense!

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But the thing I really wanted to read is his answer to a question he posed. And you have to remember that this forward is in the form of a letter to his children. He wrote, “I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists?” [10]

Marc Roby: That’s a great question, how does he answer it?

Dr. Spencer: It takes him a couple of pages, so I’m going to give excerpts from his answer. He wrote that “Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.” Then he goes on to say first what communism is not. He says it is not “just the writings of Marx and Lenin, … the Red Army, secret police, labor camps” and so on. He also says, “The revolutionary heart of Communism is not the theatrical appeal: ‘Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain.’ It is a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: ‘Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.’”[11]

Marc Roby: You’ve spoken several times about the Marxist idea of needing to create a new man.

Dr. Spencer: And that’s the idea. But now let me finish by reading the really critical part of his answer. He wrote, “The tie that binds [communists] … in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor … even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world. … Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die – to bear witness – for its faith. And it is a simple, rational faith that inspires men to live or die for it. It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. … It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world.”[12]

Marc Roby: Wow, that is powerful. And he was quoting from Genesis 3 of course, when Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in spite of the fact God had warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from it. Satan contradicted God and said, as we read in Verses 4 and 5, “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Dr. Spencer: That is the key to why all forms of Marxism – socialism, communism, fascism – or whatever, are absolutely incompatible with biblical Christianity. They are based on materialism, a rejection of God. They come from Satan, the father of lies. Chambers hit the nail on the head, the origin of Marxism was in the garden when Satan called God a liar and told man that he could be like God.

Marc Roby: That is a profound realization. Where do we go from here?

Dr. Spencer: We will soon begin to look at other modern manifestations Marxist ideology, things like the Black Lives Matter organization. But we first need to see how it is that Marxist ideology has become so common in our society today.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that discussion, and this is a great place to finish for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer.

[1] Louis Fischer, from The God That Failed, six studies in communism, Hamish Hamilton, 1950, pg. 214

[2] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. 359

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] See Section 187 of the California Penal Code

[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 3rd Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2011, pg. 154

[6] Scott Klusendorf, Peter Singer’s Bold Defense of Infanticide, Christian Research

Journal, Vol. 23, No. 3, available at equip.org/article/peter-singers-bold-defense-of-infanticide/

[7] From a transcript of the Declaration of Independence, available at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

[8] Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Regenery History, 2014 (republication – original was 1952)

[9] Ibid, pg. xlv

[10] Ibid, pg. xxxvii

[11] Ibid, pg. xxxviii

[12] Ibid, pp xxxviii-xxxix

Play


[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In our previous session we noted that history has proven Marx’s theory to be wrong; capitalism did not cause societies to fail and then convert to socialism. We also looked at the idea of voluntary socialism, where a group of people get together to form a socialist community, and we discovered that these also have all failed. We ended by noting that socialist countries have not done any better than voluntary communities. Dr. Spencer, how do you want to pursue this topic further today?

Dr. Spencer: Well, we need a little more background about the failure of Marx’s theory in order to understand how people tried to implement socialism at the level of a country, rather than a small voluntary community. The background we need is to note that by the end of the 1800’s, which was about 50 years after the publication of Marx’s ideas, it was already evident even to one of his key disciples that the theory was wrong.

Marc Roby: Who was that disciple?

Dr. Spencer: Eduard Bernstein. To be accurate, he was more a disciple of Engels than Marx, but that is a distinction without a difference. In fact, to show how close he was it is useful to note that he was one of only four people, including Engels, who scattered Marx’s ashes at sea as Marx had specified in his will.[1]

In any event, Bernstein, who was German, was living in exile in England and what he observed happening in England in the latter half of the nineteenth century did not agree with Marx’s theory. So he began to publish a series of articles in 1896 entitled “Problems of Socialism”.[2]

Marc Roby: I’m sure that didn’t endear him to Engels or other followers of Marx.

Dr. Spencer: No, it didn’t. Bernstein pointed out that trade unions had made a large difference and had, along with other means, made capitalism more tolerable. Quoting from Joshua Muravchik’s outstanding book Heaven on Earth, “What Bernstein was suggesting was that it was possible to fight for the well-being of workers … without envisioning a new society.”[3]

Marc Roby: And that suggestion certainly made him an enemy of Engels and many other Marxists who believed in violent revolution as we noted in our last session.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. But Bernstein was reacting intelligently to the evidence he saw in England. To quote Muravchik again, “More than fifty years had passed since Marx and Engels formulated their sociological forecast that the rich would become fewer, the poor poorer and the middle classes negligible. Bernstein observed that something nearly opposite had occurred: the rich were more numerous, as were the middle classes, and the poor were better off.”[4]

Marc Roby: That is certainly an inconvenient truth for Marxists to deal with. Facts can be really annoying when they don’t agree with your theory. And capitalism has produced great progress for the poor in this country as well, even during my lifetime.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it has. Independent of the constant protestations of the progressives that our system only works for the very wealthy, the poor in this country are way better off than they were 50 years ago, and immensely better off than they were 100 or 150 years ago. The comparison is often relative to the steadily increasing standard of living, rather than to any meaningful standard of real poverty. In fact, one study performed in 2011 and based on government surveys, shows that “As a rule of thumb, poor households [as defined by the Census Bureau] tend to obtain modern conveniences [that is, things like computers, cell phones, big-screen TV’s and so on] about a dozen years after the middle class.”[5]

Marc Roby: I suspect that most people think of poor as meaning that a person has a hard time providing food, clothing, transportation, housing and health care for their family, not big-screen TV’s.

Dr. Spencer: I’m quite sure you’re right about that. And 150 years ago it was certainly true that poor people were concerned about the bare necessities of life, not luxuries. But the way the Census Bureau defines poverty, it ignores all government subsidies and focuses purely on income, not on living conditions. And yet, in 2014 it was reported that the average poor family spent $2.40 for every $1.00 of reported income, so the subsidies are very significant[6]. As a result, the same 2011 study I noted before found that “Some 70 percent of poor households report that during the course of the past year, they were able to meet ‘all essential expenses,’ including mortgage, rent, utility bills, and important medical care.”[7]

Marc Roby: In other words, 70 percent of the supposedly poor households were not truly poor in the sense most people understand that term.

Dr. Spencer: That’s a fair statement. And if you read the report, even the other 30% are mostly not wanting for the basic necessities either.  Most of the “poor,” for example, live in reasonable dwellings that are in reasonable condition and the average “poor” family in America has considerably more living space than the average family in Europe – not the average poor family in Europe, the average family.[8]

Marc Roby: That’s eye opening.

Dr. Spencer: It is. But we must, of course, say that this is not universally true. No one is claiming that we don’t have people in this country living in terrible conditions. But that is not true of most of those who are called poor by the Census Bureau, which is, of course, the number always used by politicians and left-leaning news sources pushing when they are pushing for more social programs. According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of people in our country who are poor has fluctuated between about 12% and 15% of the population since around 1970. But the number of people struggling to put food on the table is a small fraction of those, over 92% of those listed as poor said that they never had trouble getting enough food in the past year.[9] That means that just over 1% of the population, which is still too many, had at least occasional trouble putting enough food on the table. But the bottom line is that capitalism has been extremely successful in raising the standard of living for almost all Americans.

Marc Roby: And for many other people as well we might add.

Dr. Spencer: That’s very true, but now I want to get back to Marx and in light of the fact that capitalism has been immensely successful in helping the poor, as noted by Bernstein and the data we just quickly reviewed, I want to look at what has happened when Marx’s ideas were implemented at the level of a country, rather than a small voluntary community.

The truth is that, because, as Bernstein noted, the problems with capitalism can be fixed without a complete change in society, the only way socialism can be implemented on a grand scale is either by agreement, or by revolution.

Marc Roby: And, of course, socialism, or at least partial socialism if I can use that phrase, has been tried voluntarily at the country level. For example, in England after world war two.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, the English experiment is very important. It wasn’t full-blown socialism, but they did nationalize a number of industries and services and it was, by all accounts, a massive failure. The system was in place from 1945, when Clement Attlee became Prime Minister, until 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Thatcher said that “No theory of government was ever given a fairer test or a more prolonged experiment in a democratic country than democratic socialism received in Britain. Far from reversing the … decline of Britain … it accelerated it.”[10]

I don’t think it is worth our while to discuss the British experiment further, Muravchik discusses it in his book for those who are interested. The important thing is that it failed badly enough that the country voluntarily went back to capitalism.

Marc Roby: Alright, but there are other examples of democratic socialism that are frequently cited, most commonly Sweden.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, Sweden is often cited, but there are two problems with that example. First, Sweden is not really socialist, their economy is market-based capitalism. And, I might add, has a much lower corporate tax rate, 20.6%, than we had in the United States prior to 2017 when President Trump lowered the rate from 35% to 21%.[11]

Sweden is a welfare state. They have huge taxes on everyone, including the middle class and lower income, and then they offer a wide range of generous government-funded social programs. But their taxes on middle- and lower-income people are much higher than here in the US. For example, there is a value-added tax of 25% on most products in Sweden, that’s like having a 25% national sales tax! In order to compare taxes, we must remember that gross-domestic-product, or GDP, is a measure of a countries total production. The overall tax-to-GDP ratio in Sweden is 43.9%, compared to 24.3% in the United States.[12] And the other Scandinavian countries are all similar.

Marc Roby: That’s a lot of tax. You noted two problems with using Sweden as an example, what is the other one?

Dr. Spencer: That they are demographically very different than the United States. There is a much greater degree of homogeneity in Sweden and in the other Scandinavian countries than we have.  Gert Tinggaard, a professor of political science at Denmark’s Aarhus University explained that “The Nordic welfare state works due to trust. You have to trust that people work and pay taxes when they are able to do so. The second condition is that you also have to trust the politicians. You get a bang for your buck.”[13] Now I don’t think that kind of trust exists in this country, and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. And even Sweden is having a lot of trouble with it now since they have more immigrants than before.

Therefore, this kind of welfare state simply won’t work here. Not to mention the fact that the politicians in this country who promote the Scandinavian model ignore the incredible price tag. They pretend it can be paid by just taxing the rich, which is, first, simply not possible and, secondly, I would argue, not moral either. But we’ll get to that in a later podcast.

Marc Roby: Well, I certainly agree that the trust this professor spoke of does not exist in this country. There is too much diversity and, at this point in time, too much animosity.

Dr. Spencer: And that animosity, as we will also see in a later podcast, is made dramatically worse by neo-Marxist ideologies. But let’s get back to socialist countries. For true socialism, in other words, not including the welfare state, or partial solutions like England tried, the only way to achieve it is by violent revolution.

Marc Roby: Now, why do you say that?

Dr. Spencer: Because there will always to be a sizable number of people who are not willing to voluntarily give up all of their property to the government. And to have true socialism, the government must own everything.

Marc Roby: I certainly can’t imagine that happening here in the United States without a massive use of force.

Dr. Spencer: Nor can I. I don’t think it can happen anywhere peacefully. That is why it has been brought about by force in the countries that have tried some form of full-blown socialism. Muravchik goes through a number of examples in his book. For today, I just want to discuss the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, or often just called the Soviet Union. It was the first truly Socialist country.

Marc Roby: Which, of course, no longer exists.

Dr. Spencer: And the reason it doesn’t is that socialism was a massive failure. The history is long and sordid and we aren’t going to go through it in any detail, that would take way too long. But let’s take a quick look at it and let’s begin by looking at a man named Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. He was born to a reasonably well-to-do Russian family in 1870. When he was 17, his beloved older brother, Alexander, was hanged for his involvement in a plot to kill the tsar.

Alexander had been strongly influenced by a novel called What is to be Done? And after his death, Lenin also read the novel and said that it “completely transformed my outlook.”[14]

Marc Roby: Now that’s a strong statement. What was this novel about?

Dr. Spencer: Well, the author of the novel had been influenced by Owen, whose utopian experiment we discussed in our session last week, and the novel presented a utopian vision. Let me quote from Muravchik, he says that “The heroes of What Is to Be Done? Were a class of ‘New Men.’ This was an unmistakable euphemism for ‘revolutionaries,’ coined, as were many code words of the time, to dodge the censor. The New Men are ‘courageous, unwavering, unyielding’ and utterly devoted to the ‘common cause.’ Their destiny is to rescue society.”[15]

Marc Roby: You can see how such a grand idea – to rescue society – might capture the imagination of a young man, especially one whose older brother had been hanged for attempting to murder the leader of the government.

Dr. Spencer: It is understandable to a degree, but I don’t want to get into speculating about motives. Let’s just say that many of the things Lenin went on to do are completely indefensible in terms of any reasonable code of moral conduct. His revolution was far different from the American revolution.  But let me get back to the story.

Marc Roby: OK. Please do.

Dr. Spencer: Lenin got involved in some insurrectionist activities and was jailed and then exiled to southern Siberia. The conditions of his exile were not harsh however, he was even allowed to live with his girlfriend, although the authorities made them get married, which they were opposed to, but they agreed so they could be together.

During his exile, Lenin became aware of the work of Bernstein and the effect it was having on some Russian socialists who were turning away from the idea of revolution and were thinking that the workers could peacefully push for better wages and conditions.[16]

Marc Roby: There goes that fickle proletariat again. As we saw with Marx last time, they simply don’t always appreciate what these revolutionaries want to do for them.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, Lenin said that “not a single Marxist has understood Marx!”[17] He was speaking about Marx’s single-minded devotion to revolution. Muravchik wrote, “For neither Lenin nor Marx was the revolution the answer to the question: what can be done for the proletariat? Rather the proletariat was the answer to the question: what can be done for the revolution?”[18]

Marc Roby: That’s an interesting observation. And it certainly tempts one to speculate about the motives of these men, and others like them.

Dr. Spencer: But we will resist that temptation and move on. This idea that the proletariat is prone to be satisfied with reforms that make their lives comfortable is a consistent theme. Lenin wrote, “The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness.”[19] Which he clearly meant in a derogatory way. Lenin went on to say, thinking of Marx and Engels, that “The theory of socialism … grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals.”[20]

Marc Roby: OK, Lenin obviously held the proletariat in utter contempt. It is hypocritical for someone who claimed to want a classless society to so obviously think that a higher class of people are needed to tell the working class what they need.

Dr. Spencer: It is hypocritical, and it is also common among Marxists. They often think they are superior to the people they claim to want to help. And they are almost never working-class people themselves.

Marc Roby: Yes, an interesting observation, but one that I have found to be true in my reading as well.

Dr. Spencer: And it’s because it is almost universally true. Marx, for example, never supported himself or his family. He mooched off of his parents and, when they stopped providing for him, he was supported by friends, mostly Engels. But, getting back to Lenin, who also never worked for a living in a normal sense, the revolution he masterminded in Russia is notable for its absolute brutality and criminality.

Marc Roby: Can you give us some examples?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. Starting around 1906 Lenin’s organization used armed robbery, sometimes including murder, to fund their operations. Stalin was good at this type of criminal activity, which is how he first came to Lenin’s attention.[21]

The second example I would give is how Lenin seized power in the first place. World War I broke out in 1914 and Lenin welcomed it because he thought, correctly as it turns out, that it would help his cause. Then during the war, in 1917, there was a revolution in Russia, which led to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. This led to the creation of a provisional government, which then subsequently fell to the Bolsheviks, which was Lenin’s party, in the October revolution in 1917. There was then a period of civil war prior to the formation of the USSR in 1922.

Marc Roby: It is certainly a very messy period in Russian history.

Dr. Spencer: Messy in more ways than one. Lenin was absolutely ruthless. He killed virtually anyone who stood in his way. He self-consciously modeled his efforts after the reign of terror in the French Revolution.[22] He used force of arms to overrule election results[23] and he violently oppressed even the peasants he claimed to want to help. The ones who were at all successful and who didn’t want to voluntarily give up all of their possessions he called kulaks. They were treated mercilessly as enemies of the state both under Lenin and, later, under Stalin. They were murdered and their property taken.

Muravchick notes that “Russia’s autocracy had long been notorious in Europe for its cruelty, but no tsar had ever shed blood so freely. Then again, no tsar ever had such lofty aims. ‘How could they … act otherwise,’ asked former Yugoslav Communist leader Milovan Djilas of the Bolsheviks, ‘when they ha[d] been named by … history to establish the Kingdom of Heaven in this sinful world?’”[24]

Marc Roby: That’s incredible. In other words, the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, actually believed that the end justified the means.

Dr. Spencer: That is absolutely true. And notice the end, this is nothing less than their view of heaven on earth. This was Marx’s vision as well, although he didn’t use that language. Remember from Session 163 that he thought the final state of society was communism, where each person would contribute according to his ability and consume only according to his needs.

Marc Roby: If we’re not careful in our thinking, we could imagine that this is what the Bible teaches.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, but the problem is that a true state of bliss requires a change in human nature. It requires the eradication of sin. And only God can do that. In Isaiah 45:22 God tells us, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” [25] The failure of socialism is, fundamentally, that it is trying to play God. It is using the state to try and create, by force, a situation that men have decided is best. I’d rather wait for heaven.

Marc Roby: And so would I. And I very much look forward to continuing this discussion, but we are out of time for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] J. Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. 95

[2] Ibid, pg. 102

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, pg. 106

[5] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?, Backgrounder 2575, The Heritage Foundation, July 18, 2011, see footnote 8 for a list of the surveys (available at: http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2011/pdf/bg2575.pdf)

[6] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, The War on Poverty after 50 Years, Backgrounder 2955, The Heritage Foundation, September 15, 2014, (available at: http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2014/pdf/BG2955.pdf)

[7] Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox, op. cit.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Muravchik, op. cit., pg. 317

[11] For Sweden see https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2018/06/european-tax-sweden-country-profile.html, for the US see https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-does-corporate-income-tax-work

[12] See https://taxfoundation.org/bernie-sanders-scandinavian-countries-taxes/

[13] Alister Doyle and Simon Johnson, Not in my backyard? Mainstream Scandinavia warily eyes record immigration, Reuters, February 15, 2016, available at https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-nordics-insight/not-in-my-backyard-mainstream-scandinavia-warily-eyes-record-immigration-idUKKCN0VP0IX

[14] Muravchik, op. cit., pg. 112

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid, pg. 108

[17] Ibid, pg. 115

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid, pg. 117

[20] Ibid

[21] Ibid, pg. 129

[22] Ibid, pg. 139

[23] Ibid, pg. 137

[24] Ibid, pg. 136

[25] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In our last session we noted that we have had 150 years to prove that Karl Marx’s theory of history was wrong. Dr. Spencer, what do you want to examine today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to begin by looking at what the proper role of government is according to the Bible. That will establish a framework within which we can then look at some specific examples of the failure of Marx’s ideas.

In his book Politics According to the Bible, Wayne Grudem argues that the first and most important role of government is to safeguard human liberty.

Marc Roby: How does he support that contention?

Dr. Spencer: He writes that “The Bible consistently places a high value on individual human freedom and responsibility to choose one’s actions.”[1] For example, at the very beginning, we read in Genesis 2:16-17 that “the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”[2] Notice that this statement shows both freedom and responsibility. God gave man the freedom to choose, but then he also gave him a prohibition and told him what the penalty would be if he violated that prohibition. Adam was a free moral agent who was accountable to God for the choice he made.

Marc Roby: In other words, while the Bible puts a high value on our freedom, that freedom is never absolute.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. We are made in God’s image and make real choices, but we are creatures and so, unlike God, our freedom is not absolute.

Marc Roby: That Creator/creature distinction just keeps cropping up.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. And the fundamental failure of all Marxist ideologies is that they deny this biblical principle. They think man is absolute and not accountable to anyone.

But, returning to the proper role of government, in the famous passage about government in Romans Chapter 13 we read, in Verse 4, that the ruler, “is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” That clearly supports the idea that the government is there to serve the people, it is to do us good, which certainly includes protecting the individual rights enumerated in the Bible, including the right to own private property.

Marc Roby: And in order to do good to its subjects, the government must have the power both to defend its citizens from outside aggression and to punish those in the society who do evil.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that power is necessary because people are sinners. In Federalist Number 51, either Hamilton or Madison famously wrote that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”[3]

Marc Roby: If men were like angels, we’d be in heaven.

Dr. Spencer: That is only true in heaven, you’re right. On the flip side, the statement in Federalist 51 went on to add that “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”[4]

Marc Roby: But, unfortunately, we don’t have angels to govern us right now.

Dr. Spencer: No, we don’t. And so some controls are necessary as we will discuss in a later session. But now, to cite just one more verse about the main purpose of government, Grudem also uses Deuteronomy Chapter 30, where Moses was speaking to the people on the plains of Moab prior to their entering the Promised Land. For those who don’t know the context, God had delivered his people from bondage in Egypt, but had then consigned them to wandering in the desert for forty years because of their disobedience. Moses was speaking to the children of those who had died in the desert and had just finished telling them the blessings that God promised for obedience and the curses that he threatened for disobedience and he then says to them, in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”.

Marc Roby: And again we see liberty, but liberty fenced in by responsibility. People can choose whether or not to obey God, but there are blessings and curses set before them, and their choice determines which they will receive.

Dr. Spencer: And that is a reasonable pattern for civil government to follow as well. People have a God-given right to personal liberty, but there must be laws that bring punishment if they do things that are harmful to others in the society. This isn’t the time to talk about what those laws should be, but the key point is that government’s main role is to provide a structure that protects each citizen’s liberties or rights from being infringed by others—whether by individuals or by the government itself.

Marc Roby: That sounds suspiciously like our Declaration of Independence, right after the famous line that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.[5]

Dr. Spencer: And we are very privileged to live in a country that was founded on that principle. But there have also been a number of attempts over the years at founding societies on socialist principles.

The first one I want to mention was founded by a man named Robert Owen. He was a Welsh textile manufacturer who became wealthy and decided to start a voluntary community of people who would own everything collectively. It was Owen and his supporters who came up with the name “socialism” to describe such an arrangement.[6] He founded a famous experiment, called New Harmony, on the bank of the Wabash River in Indiana in 1825.

Marc Roby: I remember from Muravchik’s book that Marx’s and Engels’ views of Owen, and others who tried similar experiments, were somewhat disparaging. They called the approaches “utopian”, and meant that in a pejorative sense.[7]

Dr. Spencer: That’s very true. Even though Marx believed that communism was inevitable, he had come to the conclusion that the best way to bring it about was by violent revolution. He was afraid, for very good reason as history has shown, that the proletariat might be satisfied by just having good jobs and good lives and might not see their need for a complete revolution.

Marc Roby: That’s awfully ungrateful of those proletarians, not recognizing what wonderful things Marx wanted to do for them and being satisfied with simply achieving a comfortable life.

Dr. Spencer: Marx would certainly have thought so. In his address to the Central Committee of the Communist League in 1850, Marx argued that “the workers must counteract … the bourgeois endeavors to allay the storm, and must compel the democrats to carry out their present terrorist phrases. Their actions must be so aimed as to prevent the direct revolutionary excitement from being suppressed … instances of popular revenge against hated individuals or public buildings … must not only be tolerated but the leadership of them taken in hand.”[8]

Marc Roby: Alright, that’s downright frightening. And it sounds very much like what is going on right now in Portland, Seattle and elsewhere.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, Marx and Engels were also clear about their goals in the Communist Manifesto. They wrote that “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”[9]

Marc Roby: That is very different from the ideas of Owen.

Dr. Spencer: Very different indeed. Owen thought that socialism would simply be so successful that it would attract people from all over the world to adopt it. But getting back to Marx and Engels, even though they had contempt for the peaceful means used by Owen and others, they acknowledged Owen’s influence. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the New Harmony experiment, it was a complete failure. Interested listeners can look in Muravchik’s book for the details. But I do want to mention three things.

First, Owen believed that no human “is responsible for his will and his own actions” because “his whole character – physical, mental, and moral – is formed independently of himself.”[10]

Marc Roby: Well, we at least have to admire him for being a consistent materialist. As we have noted before in these podcasts[11], if the physical universe is all that exists, then there is no free will. Human beings are reduced to being nothing more than sophisticated biological machines.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. And because Owen thought human behavior is entirely controlled by physical nature and external circumstances, he believed that you could create a new man, perfectly suited for the socialist life, by educating him properly.

Marc Roby: It might be more accurate to say indoctrinating him properly.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. But, in any event, he envisioned three five-year stages of education, beginning at birth, and he thought that the result, at age fifteen, would be “men and women of a new race, physically intellectually and morally; beings far superior to any yet known to have lived upon the earth.”[12]

Marc Roby: It’s interesting that he lists morals even though he thought we are all basically automatons.

Dr. Spencer: Well, its hard, if not impossible, to be 100% consistent as a materialist. But Muravchik makes a very important point about this, he wrote that “the idea of a new man, dimly foreseen by Babeuf but sketched sharply by Owen, became the enduring centerpiece of the socialist vision.”[13] We will see in a future podcast that education, or indoctrination, plays a large role in what is going on in this country now too.

And, much like the vision Marx and Engels sketched of all conflict somehow miraculously ending, Owen said that with this new man, “There will be no cruelty in man’s nature”[14]. In fact, he even thought that the animal world would somehow completely change in character.

Marc Roby: That’s incredible. To summarize, the first thing you wanted to note about the New Harmony experiment is essentially that Owen thought he could create a new race of people through education. What else did you want to point out?

Dr. Spencer: The second thing I want to mention is how completely hostile to God Owen was, which is what you might expect from an ardent materialist. Owen said that “There is no sacrifice … which I … would not have … willingly and joyously made to terminate the existence of religion on earth”.[15]

Marc Roby: Wow. I would say that describing that as hostile is accurate.

Dr. Spencer: And there is a connection with Marx and Engels. Engels attended the so-called “Hall of Science” in Manchester, England in 1843, which was a venue for spreading Owen’s socialist ideas that held Sunday services very much like a church.[16] Engels reported that in the meetings “frequently … Christianity is directly attacked and Christians are called ‘our enemies.’”[17]

Marc Roby: Well, one certainly couldn’t accuse them of trying to hide their hostility toward Christianity.

Dr. Spencer: No, you can’t. And Owen openly espoused a number of ideas that are fundamentally opposed to biblical Christianity. For example, speaking about the New Harmony community again, and quoting from Muravchik, “[Owen’s] critics charged him with advocating free love, and he gave them basis for the charge. Owen argued that the institution of marriage was ‘unnatural’ and ‘rendered prostitution unavoidable.’”[18]

Marc Roby: That is irreconcilably opposed to the biblical view that God created man male and female, established marriage and family in the garden, and said that marriage was for life.

Dr. Spencer: It is absolutely opposed to God’s plan and opposition to the traditional nuclear family is still part of communist beliefs. And Owen’s position went even further. Muravchik notes that “Owen’s design for ‘villages of unity and cooperation’ had been criticized for their proposal that boys and girls share common dormitories in their teen years. … Owen asserted that in the new moral world ‘celibacy, beyond the period plainly indicated for its termination by nature … will be known … to be a great crime.’”[19]

Marc Roby: It sounds like Owen would have been right at home in the 1960’s in this country.

Dr. Spencer: Well, we’ll get to the 1960’s in a later podcast, but they bear a remarkable similarity to these socialist ideas for a very good reason. But let me get to the third and final thing I want to say about New Harmony.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: Why it failed. Owen, of course, had his own view. He said that it failed because people who had not been trained as socialists lacked the proper “characteristics of forbearance and charity necessary”.[20] But that explanation really doesn’t make a lot of sense since the people who joined the experiment were self-selected, they were people who thought it was a good idea. So, I’d like to read how Owen’s son explained the failure of the experiment, he was a bit more objective.

Marc Roby: Very well. What did his son say?

Dr. Spencer: Well, his son, Robert Dale Owen, who went on to become a member of the US House of Representatives and to push through the legislation that created the Smithsonian Institution[21], wrote that the most potent factor in the failure was that “All cooperative schemes which provide equal remuneration to the skilled and industrious and the ignorant and idle, must work their own downfall, for by this unjust plan of remuneration they must of necessity eliminate the valuable members – who find their services reaped by the indigent – and retain only the improvident, unskilled, and vicious members.”[22]

Marc Roby: Ouch! That’s brutal. In other words, socialism doesn’t take into account human nature.

Dr. Spencer: True. But he was speaking particularly about voluntary communities of people. The same problem manifests itself in different ways when people do not have the freedom to quit the cooperative arrangement as we’ll see later.

We don’t have time to go into more examples of voluntary communities in any detail, but if people read Muravchik’s book, they will learn of other similar experiments both before and after Marx. The most recent, and – how shall I put this – least of a failure? Is the Kibbutz movement in Israel. In the 20th century there were hundreds of kibbutzim, but by early in the 21st century they had all voluntarily abandoned communal living. It simply doesn’t work, even with people who are passionate about trying to make it work.

Marc Roby: But, of course, most of the experiments in socialism have not been voluntary groups of individuals.

Dr. Spencer: No, unfortunately, they have not. And the history of socialism among countries is much sadder than the failure of the voluntary communities. There has not been a single solitary example of a socialist or communist nation that has been successful in providing a good standard of living and freedom for its people.

Marc Roby: And I look forward to examining that topic further next time, but we are out of time for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer you.

 

[1] W. Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, Zondervan, 2010, pg. 91

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, Vol. 43, pg. 163, also available at https://guides.loc.gov/federalist-papers/text-51-60

[4] Ibid

[5] From a transcript of the Declaration of Independence, available at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

[6] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. 28

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid, pg. 75

[9] Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, Vol. 50, pg. 434, also available at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

[10] Muravchik, op. cit., pg. 33

[11] See Session 1 page 4 and Session 102 page 6

[12] Muravchik, op. cit., pg. 34

[13] Ibid, pg. 35

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid, pg. 33

[16] Ibid, pg. 57, and also see https://radicalmanchester.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/the-hall-of-science/

[17] Ibid, pg. 58

[18] Ibid, pg. 45

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibid, pg. 47

[21] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dale_Owen

[22] Muravchik, op. cit., pp 48-49

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