A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, March 02, 2009

What Has Happened to the Idea of National Sacrifice?

One of the disappointing messages sent to the American people from its leaders in the days after 9/11 was that the best way to defeat terrorism was to continue to live life as usual. Rudy Giuliani told New Yorkers to go to the the movies and George W. Bush encouraged us to go shopping. Our enemies must have cowered at the thought of the family of four braving the movie theater in order to see the latest flick and the upper crust of Manhattan feasting on expensive delicacies at the local five star restaurant. The patriotic duty before all Americans, we were told, was to continue to be good consumers. No sacrifice was necessary.

Last week when President Obama gave his address before both Houses of Congress, he outlined an expensive and ambitious plan that, if implemented, would indeed transform the social structures of the United States. Did the President call on the American people to sacrifice in order to pay for his social agenda of universal health care and green energy? Not at all-- in fact, the President promised that 98% of the American people would receive a tax cut (even those who pay no taxes) while the government spends record sums of money. So, who will sacrifice to pay for the trillions we are going to spend over the next few years? The wealthiest 2% will fund government's grand giveaway. The political philosophy is obvious: only the few we envy the most have to sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us, who will benefit from what they have paid so that the rest of us can, not only live life as usual, but reap even more benefits without having to lift a finger on our own behalf.

This post is not about the benefits or the lack thereof of massive government spending. That is another post for another time. What this is about is the inability of our leaders to inspire us to give of ourselves for the sake of others. We can defeat terrorism by nourishing our selfishness and we can have everything we want from the government's "candy store" by feeding the envy we feel for those who have more than we do.

When CEOs receive fat bonuses and golden parachutes for running their companies into the ground, that is socialism on stilts. When the government runs up massive debt the likes of which no one has ever seen with no way to pay for it except by the forced sacrifice of the few, that too is socialism on stilts. Both types of behavior are doubtfully Christian.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Richard Hall said...

>> "When CEOs receive fat bonuses and golden parachutes for running their companies into the ground, that is socialism on stilts"

Whatever you might call the behaviour of the fat cats, it surely has nothing whatsoever to do with socialism Allan. Words lose their meaning if we use them like this.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with leaders protecting our interests, as far as our "way of life". Terrorists want to intimidate and control our "life", which is evil. So, what is wrong with our leaders encouraging us to do "whatever we are usually, doing"? I think, nothing!

CEO's are not behaving socialistically by recieving from their responsibilities, but it is wrong if they play upon the ignorance of those who work for them by keeping the corporation's bankruptcy to themselves...knowing that things are bad and taking advantage of the situation, by getting all they can before the company goes under!

My husband is a colonel in the Army and he would have chosen a career in the services, but that did not work out. He is presently active Reserve status. I enjoy, as does he, the interaction we have had in the military. The defense of our country is a high call and one that we both appreciate in the sacrifice of those who do...in active duty...

Allan R. Bevere said...


As one who also thinks words matter, I share your concern for words not losing their meaning. But terminology used with nuance can also clarify behaviors and practices.

Of course, you are correct that the practice of giving CEOs bonuses in spite of their failures is technically not socialism; that is why I referred to it as socialism "on stilts." In the end socialism has the practical effect of discouraging the pursuit of excellence. Excellence and hard work are not rewarded, so everyone is only encouraged to reach the highest level of individual medocrity. I have actually seen this in certain workplaces where raises are given, not based on merit, but only on cost of living. Sooner or later the hardest workers quit "busting their tails" because their mediocre co-workers get the same reward for less output.

In the same way, when Wall Street executives are given bonuses and know they will receive bonuses even though they destroy their company and the employment of those who work so hard for the company, there is no incentive to pursue fair, honest, competent, and excellent business practices. Come hell or high water, they will be sitting on easy street with their golden parachute. The practical effect is reward regardless of result. That is socialism on stilts.

Allan R. Bevere said...


The root cause of our current financial crisis is greed which is selfishness-- selfishness on the part of government, the private sector, and the average consumer. So, yes, there is something wrong with our leaders telling us to continue to feed our greed and live as if nothing has changed, and that we will finance our continued desire for more by sticking to the few. To do so is to deny reality.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Is your focus on sacrifice for economic or political reasons?

If for the former, then you are right in suggesting that we do deserve pay for what we do, and it doesn't necessarily mean for effort put forth but for the "market value" of our expertise (since you believe in the free market and free enterprise).

On the other, if your focus of sacrifice is for political reasons, then I don't understand why you would disagree with what I suggested.

I agree that government, corporations, excutives, and individuals cannot live a life of greed, as the end of their life, but unfortunately, this is the "market system". It rewards those who are profiting off of others. This is why the unions began, but how does one do "global unions", if one believes that foreign workers deserve also a better way of life? Can we believe that a socialistic or re-distribution of wealth will add value to life, if life is not to be a responsible one?

Responsibility should be rewarded, and this is why our culture is misguided in its values of paying the most to those whose service is expendable and denying pay raises to those who are benefitting society to a larger extent.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Your dichotomy between the economic and political is unteneble. While the two are not synonymous, neither can they be so neatly separated. And, yes, political sacrifice is just as necessary and as moral as economic sacrifice.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The political, I realize, is where one chooses to "make thier livlihood", which is the economic realm, but, the two have to be separate, otherwise, you do have a socialistic or communistic system of government where the political determines the economic. Whereas, the economic system will flourish if people are allowed to follow their own dreams, or ideals, whether that includes sacrifice or not, as I don't think there is anything particularly moral about sacrifice for its own sake.

Hard work is usually done most effectively and efficiently by those who are choosing their particular job "ideal", otherwise it is slave labor. Slave labor is not what our democracy is about, as we do have means of protecting the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So, though sacrifice is a "good", it is not necessarily the "best good", as it depends on what one values, where one wants to commit and what priorities are of most importance. Freedom is one that I value most, as otherwise, there will be injustice to human rights, and abuses of power.

Anonymous said...

While envy is a horrible and inefficient form of seeking unity, it is used by recent governments in an even more disingenuous manner. Costs will be paid by diluting the value of the dollar (inflation), a hidden tax that effects everyone.

The bailout of the banksters and their ilk will be taken from our lifestyles today, and from our children's lifestyles in the future.

As Herbert Hoover said: "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."

Anonymous said...

I guess I should have left my full name on the above comment, since having two Allan R.s dilutes the meaning of the name.