During the recent US presidential election campaign, former House Representative Ron Paul made a controversial statement: That the social conservative message was a "loser".
The comment alienated some that other less principled campaigners courted for votes. They courted in vain as the message in practice ended up a vote loser. But the point of principle is that he said it as a family man married for over 55 years; as a committed Christian; as a medical doctor having delivered over 4000 babies into the world; and as an uncompromising pro-life defender of the unborn.
Yet the statement was absolutely right, for one primary reason:
Looking to the state to clean up society is like giving it a bath in a sewer. Superficially, it looks like cleaning up, but in the end, the filth and stench are far worse.
Hitler was a social conservative. J. Edgar Hoover was a social conservative. The worst enemies of Jesus — the Pharisees — were hard core social conservatives. Yet many Christians have thought that to be a Christian meant to be a social conservative.
In reality, the philosophy is a moral masquerade and inevitably hypocritical — or in even plainer words, devilish and anti-Christian. Look at this from the Bible:
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for [this] has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ “
According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, that was the last great temptation of three that Jesus had to resist, before finally ordering the devil to go. But today and throughout much of history, the craving for government power is a temptation many Christians have yielded to with little or no resistance. Very often, it has been in ignorance and delusion rather than a wilful commitment to evil. But ignorance is not bliss:
Hitler was aggressively socially conservative to the point of imprisoning homosexuals. Yet, recent history books confirm that he himself was a homosexual — frequently sodomising his assistant in the trenches of World War 1. In order to gain power and to consolidate support, Hitler needed a bone to throw to religious conservatives. As a personal bonus, he and his fellows in the echelons of the Third Reich, benefited from a captive selection of as much fresh meat as they desired.
J. Edgar Hoover was the same. Collecting porn with all the secret police power of the state behind him made him look like a paragon to gullible conservatives. But in fact, he used the material both to entertain himself and his fellow elites, and as a tool of blackmail for even more power. Recently the story emerged of a 17 year old boy who was offered release and a plane ticket home in return for having his orifice/s sexually traumatized by J. Edgar and a henchman.
Then there were those Pharisees: The ones who were so quick to launch a public prosecution against an adulterous woman, were just as quick to slink off in the face of whatever secrets Jesus exposed by writing in the dust.
In fact, there are several characteristics exhibited by the Pharisees, which are also common to all hard-core social conservatives, including a number of Christians today.
Socially Conservative Pharisees
One characteristic is hypocrisy or, "play acting": The desire to look good and appear to be upright leaders, above others and with a greater wisdom to justify their urge for control.
To achieve this, they may sweep their own shortcomings under the rug completely. Or else, minimize their significance by focusing on other vices more obvious in others.
Or, shift the moral goal posts entirely in order to overshadow their own serious flaws in the "light" of a new moral code. Usually the code is a fad, a product of either invention or distortion. Invariably, they then try to attribute their code to God, to justify authoritarian measures — more on this in a moment.
Another characteristic is "making up" for secret vices by forcibly cleaning up others. This seems to give them the confidence that although slightly imperfect, they are doing God's work by attacking those whose particular shortcomings are somehow less understandable.
CS Lewis put it well:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
There is nothing more evil than an authoritarian with a lust for power and prestige, convinced with religious zeal that they are "right". Technically, at a secondary level, sometimes they may be. But such people then leverage this to then violate more primary principles with a "clear" conscience.
In line with this, we read of the Pharisees claiming to be defenders of the family while, in the words of Jesus, "consuming widow's houses" to enrich themselves. Also, of taking money that should go to needy parents by claiming themselves to be God's representatives. Jesus warned them sternly that this came under the then capital offence of dishonouring parents.
How is this any different from either today's right-wing "faith-based" tax-and-spend social conservatives or of left-wing "social justice" welfare statists? In either case, state bureaucracies or approved insider beneficiary groups receive money stolen by government force from ordinary families to impose their own grand moral plans.
Pet Moral Codes
Today, we have various new moral codes — usually disputable or fads found nowhere in scripture, and yet which unify social and religious conservatives politically:
Recently, attacking gambling has come back into vogue, especially on the internet. Not a word about this ancient entertainment can be found in the Old or New Testaments. Nevertheless, a few gamblers do not control themselves, become addicted, and so serve as a convenient excuse for moral busybodies whose interests coincide with those who want economic central control. The end result: Internet surveillance, financial surveillance, more taxation.
Prohibition of alcohol was once a big favourite, but as a miserable failure it was then abandoned in favour of drugs — with similar results. Parental discipline or personal responsibility is undermined while the state takes control, whether or not anyone has actually been harmed. The Rush Limbaughs of this world would use violence against other drug users even while taking drugs themselves. End result: Violations of property; militarization of police; massive prison populations; a controlled market for CIA-run trafficking profits; and state monitoring of financial transactions.
Pornography may be evidence of actual adultery or abuse, but that is not the concern of pornography politics. The end is only to legitimise government control over what we watch and read. Even actual child abusers are treated gently by the "therapeutic" state which is often itself infested with them. A continuous threat to children is also needed to maximise fear in order to help justify the kind of internet surveillance, government monitoring, registration and identification, Hitler and J. Edgar Hoover could only dream of.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for claiming their ancestry from Abraham made them better men than others. True to form, racial "purity" doctrines were once quite widespread amongst social conservatives, but today the need for a purer and better "us" versus the despised "them" concept is fulfilled by "illegal" aliens:
Social conservatives would violently dispossess them all, holding them guilty by default, unless they too are numbered, registered, robbed of income, and fully submitted to "Caesar" like them. Rather than local resident property owners deciding who can come, go, and settle down, the state is considered the sole rightful arbiter. That is despite the fact that the same governments are responsible in the first place for disproportionately attracting undesirables through welfare handouts. In fact, "illegals" are far less likely to go on welfare than state approved "legals".
The most extreme example of the better "us" versus the despised "them" concept is in the complete dehumanising of the people of the Middle East. Their innocent men, women and children have been destroyed, maimed or tortured in untold numbers with a blind self-righteous and religious zeal, at the slightest real or imaginary risk to Western Christians or to Israel.
The one common factor among all these favoured moral causes is not any kind of judicial resolution or restitution of wrongs between parties. In that case, all that would be required is a simple hearing before a judge.
Instead, it is about the imposition of massive state control and the justification of internal or external violence and wars. Even where the superficial appeal is to some valid moral concern, such as marriage and the family, the implementation always focuses on this.
The Pharisees used the name of God and their rightful limited priestly and judicial function as a cover for state control. They had King Herod's backing and the backing of Caesar — and their real allegiance was to him not God. They were a murderous armed governmental force. No wonder they hated the Christ so much, who exposed their authoritarian hypocrisy with such devastating words.
Jesus was not an angry condemning enemy threatening to call Caesar down on the heads of ordinary sinners. Yet, his moral instruction was without compromise and has changed the world forever.
There are social "liberals" who want to call Caesar down on the heads of those who simply speak out in opposition to ungodly lifestyles. But in countering this, Christians have often reacted with the methods, or "leaven" as Jesus put it, of the Pharisees and the Herodians.
The fact is, in the civil, social and foreign policy realms, social conservatives consider the violence of the state as the supreme arm of God. This belief is an altogether unholy and illegitimate substitute for the transforming power of the gospel through the Christian church, which is the true arm and "body of Christ".
Listen to the words of the Pharisees and hear them echoing from the lips of today's hard line anti-immigrant, anti-drug, anti-gambling, anti-porn, pro-war, pro-police-state social conservatives:
"Crucify him! …We have no king but Caesar!"
Except today, instead of the call for crucifixion, the name of Christ is used in vain by the power hungry and his teaching distorted to glorify the modern Caesars.
The moral masquerade of the social conservatives has always been a bane to freedom. Its hypocrisy has provoked equally evil social countertrends and helped form the out of control social welfare state — to the point that family life is now under threat from social engineers.
At the same time, for churches and Christians, the message of the rightful authority of the family structure and of sexual self-control must not be compromised. Social contracts are real — not just quaint personal "religious sentiment" or the product of a self righteous busybody attitude:
The sexual act initiates new life, for which secure social and economic provision for years to come should already be in place. In addition, there can be enormous third party consequences. The result can be either highly beneficial, by multiplying the numbers of a free society, or highly destructive by violating multiple third party rights — and paving the way to an un-free society.
Human shortcomings in this area are inevitable, and should be discouraged primarily by moral re-education. But as long as the state retains a near monopoly on education of the young, the promotion of family life — a competing authority institution — is never going to happen.
In some cases and as a last resort, a judicial resolution for victims of broken social contracts is legitimate. But as long as the state retains control of the judicial system, it will never properly enforce social contracts. State power is maintained and resistance muted through mass dependency on the social welfare state — which exists and expands only through broken social contracts.
Government recognition of unnatural forms of marriage union is now a real concern. Legal endorsement will inevitably be used by the state to restrict free speech, to impose values upon the young in its clutches, and to actively sponsor alternative lifestyles.
But it is religious social conservatives who, with misplaced faith have glorified, empowered and bowed down to the state as a divine instrument for imposing morality.
In doing so, they have helped create a rod for their own backs. Now, the masquerade is being lifted to reveal the raw tyranny of the secular state. This was always the end result of the social conservative message and why it is and always has been a losing message.
It is high time for Christians to get back to their real task — offering the Good News, teaching and demonstrating the love of God, and offering the light of liberty to a world in tyranny.
Paul Green [send him mail] supplies security and privacy services to clients worldwide.