That Other Statist 'Pledge'

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With a federal judge’s recent ruling that the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, much public angst has filled the airwaves and Internet. Not surprisingly, columnists from LRC have exposed the Pledge for its incipient statism and hostility to liberty.

Unfortunately, one wishes that this were the only "pledge" out there that espouses statism in the name of something else, but that is not to be. It seems that the people at Sojourners have come up with a pledge of their own, the "The Katrina Pledge: A commitment to build a new America." Signers of this particular pledge promise

…to work for sweeping change of our nation’s priorities. I will press my elected representatives to protect the common good — especially the needs of our poorest families and children — rather than supporting the twin social disasters of tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts that hurt the poor.

Having been a reader of Sojourners since its beginnings as Post-American in the early 1970s, I am quite familiar with the political and social views of its writers and editors, and have written critiques of them in the past. For the most part, they have resorted to very fancy rhetorical tricks, using the language of peace and non-violence to promote government violence and to praise some of the most murderous regimes in world history. (For years, the Chinese communists — and especially Mao — could do no wrong in Sojourners, despite the fact that Mao’s government killed more people in establishing power than any other government, including the regimes of Stalin and Lenin, had done.)

The latest "Katrina Pledge," is simply another step in the bait-and-switch direction that Sojourners has taken since its inception. For one, the promise to "build a new America" raises the question of whether (1) spending tax dollars to repair roads and bridges and to help build back the homes, churches, and businesses that were damaged or destroyed amounts to "rebuilding America," or (2) the publication is advocating yet another round of destructive social engineering that helped set up the tragedy of New Orleans in the first place. My guess is that it is pushing for the latter.

First, I am not sure why a very modest cut in marginal tax rates across-the-board is called a "disaster," unless Sojourners is advocating even more extensive amounts of confiscation of personal income. After all, even when the top rates were 70 percent up to 1981, Sojourners editorialized that the rich were not being taxed enough, so one can only imagine just what a "righteous and holy" rate of taxation would be.

Second, I continue to hear about "budget cuts that hurt the poor," but do not know what cuts of which we speak. There has been no cutback of the welfare state since the New Deal; Congress has expanded it to include nearly everyone, from farmers to large corporations, which hardly qualifies as a cutback.

The key to understanding things like the Katrina Pledge and other items from Sojourners and similar organizations is to understand that they employ the rhetoric of the Christian faith, but do not subscribe to it. For example, in November 1993, a conference names "Reimagining God" was organized by feminist groups from the mainstream protestant churches and held in Minneapolis. During the conference, attendees attacked the basic Christian doctrines of the Virgin Birth (derisively calling it "the Holy Spirit mounting Mary"), and the Atonement (which one delegate claimed was responsible "for the blood in our streets.") The conference ended with a pagan ceremony of milk and honey (to make fun of the Christian Eucharist) to their goddess, "Sophia."

It was quite clear that this was an anti-Christian conference, but Sojourners was up to the challenge, condemning anyone who might be critical of what went on. To put it another way, when faced with supporting the political left or defending the central positions of the faith held by all branches of Christianity, including Protestantism, and the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, Sojourners took the side of the left. (I checked many subsequent issues to see if editor Jim Wallis or anyone else took a contrary position, but none was found. It is clear that Wallis wants to use rhetoric to appeal to the faith of Christian conservatives, but use the "doctrines" of the irreligious left.)

To gain a better sense of the statism that encompasses Wallis and Sojourners, the publication’s recent statement on Social Security provides a clear message: God is the State; the State is God. Social Security is not a giant welfare scheme that would be illegal if privately organized, but rather "a covenant for the common good." Wallis writes:

Social Security is an expression of national values. It is about protecting the American dream, but also honoring God’s community by providing opportunity and dignity.

Thus, in "building a new America," we attempt to continue the path of statism. Of course, a "new America" will not arise from those ruins, but rather a violent political entity that stamps out liberty and imposes a ruthless, authoritarian rule.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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