Daniel Hannan on the selfishness of running a deficit and post-truth realities

In the latest Ici Londres production Dan Hannan looks at the morality of deficits.

Daniel Hannan starts by quoting Matthew 7:9-10

If the son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will you give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will you give him a serpent?

The passage goes onto to say the if you are evil, understand how to give good gifts to your children. By implication, to act for good, we must also understand how to act for the good, not just have the moral injunction.

Hannan goes onto say we do not run up large debts to bequeath to our children. Yet many impose a very different standard as voters, convincing themselves that they are being unselfish. By asking for more money from the State, whether to pay for care in old age or for a pay rise in the public sector, or remission of tuition fees, it might be a very good claim, but it is not an intrinsically unselfish claim, as they are asking for everybody else to chip in and pay for their cause. Conversely those who try to impose some fiscal discipline are deemed selfish. They are standing up for future generations. Austerity is not a random preference but a simple reality.

This is all pretty obvious stuff to anyone who understands basic morality and the slightest notion of finance. It is certainly within the understanding of anybody who has been brought up in a traditional British public school education. But I would suggest it is totally alien to the vast majority of the British public. This reason is described by a new word that entered the Oxford English Dictionary last month.

post-truth

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

The General Election campaign is a clear illustration of the domination of post-truthers in public life. There is no understanding of public finances, just mass beliefs that are not based on any moral tradition. The spread of the beliefs is on social media, driven by those who most forcefully and repeatedly express their ideas. People are wrong because they disagree with the mass beliefs and shouted down (or trolled in the electronic version) because of it.

In a post last month – General Election 2017 is a victory for the Alpha Trolls over Serving One’s Country – I concluded

It is on the issue of policy to combat climate change that there is greatest cross-party consensus, and the greatest concentration of alpha trolls. It is also where there is the clearest illustration of policy that is objectively useless and harmful to the people of this country.

Like with public finances, climate change is an where post-truthers dominate. Two examples to illustrate.

Consensus messaging

There is no clear evidence of an emerging large human-caused problem with climate and there is no prospect of action to reduce greenhouse has emissions to near zero. Instead we have a dodgy survey that claimed 97% of academic papers on an internet search matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’ expressed support (belief / assumptions) in the broadest, most banal, form of the global warming hypothesis. This was converted by Senator Bernie Sanders, in questioning Scott Pruitt, into the following:-

As you may know, some 97% of scientists who have written articles for peer-reviewed journals have concluded that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems in the US and around the world.

And

While you are not certain, the vast majority of scientists are telling us that if we do not get our act together and transform out energy system away from fossil fuel there is a real question as to the quality of the planet that we are going to be leaving our children and our grandchildren. 

The conversion from banal belief to these sweeping statements is not the fault of the Senator, though he (or his speech-writers) should have checked. Rather it is of lead author John Cook and his then PhD supervisor Cognitive Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. Post-truthers will not recognize the glaring difference between the dodgy survey and the Senator’s statements, as it is appeals to emotion and belief that are primary in evaluating political realities.

Mitigating Climate Change

Dangerous climate change is allegedly caused by human greenhouse emissions. The proposed solution is to reduce those emissions (mostly CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels) to near zero. The key for policy is that emissions are global, yet most countries, covering over 80% of the global population have no primary obligation under the 1992 Rio Declaration to reduce their emissions. These developing “non-Annex” countries have accounted for all the in emissions since 1990, as shown in this graph.

The problem can be expressed in my First Law of Climate Mitigation

To reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the aggregate reduction in countries that reduce their emissions must be greater than aggregate increase in emissions in all other countries.

All the ranting about supporting the Paris Agreement ignores this truism. As a result, countries like the UK who pursue climate mitigation will increase their energy costs and make life harder for the people, whilst not achieving the policy aims. It is the poorest in those policy countries who will bear the biggest burden and create comparative disadvantages compared to the non-policy countries. For the developing countries (shown in purple in the graph) to reduce their emissions would destroy their economic growth, thus preventing the slow climb out of extreme poverty still endured by the majority of people on this planet. In so doing we ignore the moral tradition from our Christian heritage that the primary moral concern of public policy should be the help the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalized. Ignoring the truism and pursuing bequeaths a worse future for our children and our grandchildren. This is the same for climate change as for public finances. But in both cases it is the post-truth “reality” that prevent this recognition of basic logic and wider morality.

Kevin Marshall

 

Australian Climate Science Opinion Survey – Confirming Prejudices?*

This survey I took in June is not the one used in the recent Lewandowsky et al paper. The one I took at “Watching the Deniers” is a development that 2010 survey. There are less questions on conspiracy theories (but “NASA faked the moon landing”, along with Diana, JFK and MLK assassinations are are still in) along with exactly the same questions on Free markets v Environmentalism. But the new survey has more on political beliefs (a good thing in my view) along with new sections on religious beliefs and GM foods. It seems to be directed beyond the free-marketeers, to other groups like the American Religious Right.

The Psychology Department of the University of Western Australia, under psychology research assistant Charles Hanich is conducting a short questionnaire on Science and Society.

UPDATE – The survey questions are available here.

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

This study explores people’s beliefs about a wide range of topics, ranging from scientific propositions to claims made in the media and on the internet. In addition, the survey is interested in your attitudes towards your own life and issues confronting modern societies at the moment.

The questions all have five options – Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree and Strongly Agree.

The questions are from both perspectives, so that people who are anything but totally neutral will have to agree with some questions and disagree with others.

The sections as follows (My headings)

  1. Climate Change – 5 questions
  2. Genetically Modified Foods – 5 questions
  3. Vaccines – Benefits and harms – 5 questions
  4. Position of the Conservative / Liberal perspective (US definitions) – 7 questions
  5. Select neutral (check of the software, or check for spam?) – 1 questions
  6. Free market system v social justice / environment / sustainability – 5 questions
  7. Conspiracy theories (political) – 6 questions
  8. Conspiracy theories (scientific) – 6 questions
  9. Personal Spirituality & Religion – 8 questions
  10. Evolution – views upon – 7 questions
  11. Corporations – 13 questions
  12. Personal emotional outlook – 6 questions

That is 74 questions in total. Like a lot of surveys, it understates the questions (“about 40”) and the time taken.

Climate Change Questions

  1. I believe that the climate is always changing and what we are currently observing is just natural fluctuation.
  2. I believe that most of the warming over the last 50 years is due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.
  3. I believe that the burning of fossil fuels over the last 50 years has caused serious damage to the planet’s climate.
  4. Human CO2 emissions cause climate change.
  5. Humans are too insignificant to have an appreciable impact on global temperature.

There is a complete absence of questions about future projections of warming; whether that warming is catastrophic or benign; of the strength of the science or the uncertainties; our trust in what scientists are telling us; nor of the ability of policy to do anything successfully combat it. These are the questions that many sceptics, including myself, are grappling with.

Genetically Modified Foods
Questions

  1. I believe that genetic modification is an important and viable contribution to help feed the world’s rapidly growing population.
  2. I believe genetically engineered foods have already damaged the environment.
  3. The consequences of genetic modification have been tested exhaustively in the lab, and only foods that have been found safe will be made available to the public.
  4. I believe that because there are so many unknowns, that it is dangerous to manipulate the natural genetic material of foods.
  5. Genetic modification of foods is a safe and reliable technology.

In contrast these are questions do look at the benefits and costs of the science; the current impacts and future impacts; along with the strength of the science and the uncertainties.

NB the vaccines section follows more on the model of GM foods section rather than climate change.

The political spectrum questions I will leave for others to comment upon. It seems to be written by an American-influenced “liberal” who lacks knowledge of the full spectrum of political thought.

Free Markets v social justice / environment / sustainability

  1. An economic system based on free markets unrestrained by government interference automatically works best to meet human needs.
  2. The free market system may be efficient for resource allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice.
  3. The preservation of the free market system is more important than localized environmental concerns.
  4. Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development.
  5. The free market system is likely to promote unsustainable consumption.

It is based on a notion of free-market anarchy against on the beneficial utopian society. No mention of awkward facts, like the worst environmental disasters and social injustices in the last century occurred in authoritarian regimes of left and right.

Conspiracy theories (political)

  1. A powerful and secretive group known as the New World Order is planning to eventually rule the world through an autonomous world government which would replace sovereign governments.
  2. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was the result of an organized conspiracy by U.S. government agencies such as the CIA and FBI.
  3. The Apollo moon landings never happened and were staged in a Hollywood film studio.
  4. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was not committed by the lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald but was rather a detailed organized conspiracy to kill the President.
  5. The U.S. government allowed the 9-11 attacks to take place so that it would have an excuse to achieve foreign (e.g., wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) and domestic (e.g., attacks on civil liberties) goals that had been determined prior to the attacks.
  6. Princess Diana’s death was not an accident but rather an organised assassination by members of the British royal family who disliked her.

Basically, if you read the communiques and the proclamations coming out of annual meeting like Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban that say we must have a strong global organization to impose climate change, you should consider yourself as much a crank or nutter as those who think George Bush was capable of the phenomenally detailed planning required to stage the 9-11 attacks (but totally failed to successfully bring peace through conquest in Iraq or Afghanistan).

Conspiracy theories (Scientific)

  1. The claim that the climate is changing due to emissions from fossil fuels is a hoax perpetrated by corrupt scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate research.
  2. U.S. agencies intentionally created the AIDS epidemic and administered it to Black and gay men in the 1970s.
  3. The alleged link between second-hand tobacco smoke and ill health is based on bogus science and is an attempt by a corrupt cartel of medical researchers to replace rational science with dogma.
  4. The HIV virus causes AIDS.
  5. Smoking causes lung cancer.
  6. Lead in drinking water poses a serious long-term health risk.

The questions on climate and second-hand tobacco smoke lump two concepts together; a lot of money wasted for very little output along with the alleged motives of those practicing their research. In between is a particularly distasteful conspiracy theory, the very idea of which would be repellent to most people. The other three questions are simple statements of well-established science. There is no loading or controversy.

Religion and Evolution.

  1. God is important in my life
  2. I believe there is a life after death
  3. I get comfort or strength from religion
  4. There is no proof of God: if there is a God, he would have shown himself by now
  5. I think of myself as a religious person
  6. I have made a personal commitment to live my life for God
  7. I have had an experience of spiritual worship that was very moving and powerful
  8. I have experienced a definite answer to prayer or specific guidance from God
  9. Modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes that have occurred over millions of years
  10. The theory of evolution is based on speculation and not valid scientific observation and testing
  11. Most scientists accept evolutionary theory to be a scientifically valid theory
  12. There is a significant body of data that supports evolutionary theory
  13. Humans exist today in essentially the same form in which they always have
  14. Evolution is a scientifically valid theory
  15. Current evolutionary theory is the result of sound scientific research and methodology

This is meant to distinguish between the US bible-belt evangelical Christians and the atheistic scientific community. It does so in a non-partisan way, so that Muslims could answer as well. However, it does not take into account the more nuanced, earnest, balanced and thoughtful approaches to the interactions of hard science and the timeless spiritual truths, as typified, is not caricatured, by Dr Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury.

Corporations

  1. Corporations are not respectful of laws
  2. Corporations do not accept accountability for their actions
  3. People who run corporations will lie if doing so will increase company profits
  4. Corporations do not care about acting ethically
  5. Corporations will break laws if they can make more money from it
  6. Corporations put their own interests above the public’s interests
  7. Corporations are driven by greed
  8. Corporations care only about money
  9. Corporations want power at any cost
  10. Corporations take a lot more than they give
  11. Corporations intentionally deceive the public
  12. Corporations do not consider the needs of their employees when making business decisions
  13. Corporations exploit their workers

Any notion of balance goes completely out of the window. It is by far the largest section in a questionnaire on “Science and Society”. There is no switching between good points of corporations – such as technological breakthroughs, or much of our phenomenal prosperity. That includes the “Eco” technologies and the must-have gadgets from a fruity American 70s start-up. It is almost as if they want the more moderate participants to give up in disgust. Do avoid permanent psychological damage, they questionnaire end with a few personal questions about things in life you are thankful for, and people that you are grateful to.

The missing sections

No not the political spectrum one. The missing questions that a more balanced questionnaire might ask.

  1. General trust in climate science.
  2. Trust in carefully presented evidence, with questions respectively answered, as against the dogma of “scientists agree”.
  3. Questions for the Australian people, of whether carbon tax policies are worthwhile
  4. Questions on trust in government; the motives of politicians; the ability to deliver on promises. In relation to both Western democracies and tyrannies past and present.
  5. The importance of tackling climate change relative to other issues like unemployment and prospective financial meltdown in parts of Europe.

Conclusion

When devising a questionnaire, one must always try to eliminate bias, and avoid emotionally loaded the questions that will prejudice the answers. Neither should it contain multiple issues in a question. This survey does just the opposite. It is started off being deliberately designed to elicit certain polarized responses, ending up showing the deeply prejudiced and politically extreme position of the author.

*Please note. I am not aware of any copyright restrictions on reposting the questions. I accessed this from “Watching the Deniers” website, where there was no mention of copyright material. Neither was there any mention of copyright on the introductory front page. The doing a search I only came across a link to a 2010 survey. Neither could I find a link within The University of Western Australia Website, though it is on their servers.

Evangelical Christians and Climate Change Skepticism

Wm Briggs reports on a “forthcoming Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society paper “Making the climate a part of the human world”, in which University of British Columbia geographer Simon Donner argues that religion is the cause of global warming denial. ” (Pre-publication copy here)

Simon Donner’s Views

Donner’s Summary is

“Ongoing public uncertainty about climate change is rooted in a perceived conflict between the scientific evidence for a human role in the climate and a common belief that the weather and climate are controlled by higher powers.”

This is backed up by a number of studies of religions, both ancient and primitive religions from various parts of the world. This includes from Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I can find no reference to the major religions of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism. There is only one biblical reference, from the Old Testament book of Job, but none from the New Testament – the stories about Jesus and his disciples. Neither is there a distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism, nor a split between evangelical and liberal protestants.

The Religious Sceptics in USA

The majority of the religious sceptics in the USA are the Protestant Evangelicals. Their type of Christianity is centred on biblical study, both individually and corporately, to perceive the revealed word of God and the interpretation for current circumstances. There are the specialists – the ordained pastors – who provide interpretations through sermons. However, this is just the lead for personal study and reflection.

Collectively, these evangelicals are not unified body theologically. For instance, a quick comparison of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God websites will quickly demonstrate the point. Nor are there strong ecumenical links between the major churches, as found in Britain.

This bible-based view of Christianity comes directly from the Reformation. In medieval Europe the Bible was handwritten and only available in Latin. With most people illiterate, reading of the Bible was limited to a few dedicated scholars, with interpretation highly centralised and strictly controlled. Any deviation was treated as heresy, often punishable by death. A combination of the advent of printing and translation into the vernacular suddenly made the word of God accessible to a much wider population. It soon became evident that the established religious orthodoxy was, in many places, unsupported from the sacred text and in some cases fundamentally at odds with that text. It was this need to study that changed public worship so dramatically, with teaching replacing the Mass as the centrepiece.

Politically, access to the Bible democratised understanding and the questioning of authority and centralised power. This gave a scholarly impetus to the development of modern science, and also the Liberal political philosophy of John Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment that in turn heavily influenced the Founding Fathers.

An Alternative Thesis

Evangelicals have as their primary resource the Bible and the interpretation of God’s purpose from within their local congregation. Your average church member will have quite a detailed knowledge of the Bible, being able to quote much of the primary doctrine and some major passages. Generally they also “cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches.
(Southern Baptist Convention). The scepticism towards climate change comes from its presentation. It comes across as a core doctrine that is agreed upon by a consensus of leading scientists. But the truth cannot be perceived by the lay person, but only revealed by impenetrable computer models to scientific experts. Any deviation or questioning of core doctrine is treated with contempt and as a heresy. Yet the high scientific standards that these experts are supposed to follow has been found wanting. There are two areas where this is demonstrated most.

First, the poster hockey stick of a decade ago – showing global temperatures were dramatically higher than at an time in the last millennium – was investigated by the Steve McIntyre. He showed the results were as a result of a number of elements including cherry picking data; giving undue weighting to favourable results; excluding some unfavourable data points; failing to apply proper statistical tests. A book charting this episode is found here, and my comparison of an exchange following a savage book review is here.

Second is the Climategate email release, which showed that the core scientists were a fairly small group, that they viewed the science as far from settled, and they adhered to lower standards of scholarship than was the public perception.

The Inferences from the Donner Paper

Donner has either little understanding of mainstream Christianity in the USA, or he deliberately misrepresents what it stands for. In so doing, he not only completely misses the point of why religious Americans are sceptical but does so in such a way that will make them more antagonistic. The fact that peer review should allow through a paper that clearly does not have proper argument to support the thesis shows a failure to of that process. That a person with no qualifications or prior publishing record in the field of sociology or theology should be allowed to publish on the subject in a journal specialising in the weather shows how far climate science is straying beyond its area of competency. For Christians who unsure of the global warming arguments, clear evidence that a climate scientist not knowing what they are talking about will make them more sceptical. They will be more likely to accept the sceptical comments that the science is flawed, whether the theory, the computer models or the statistics.

Sir John Houghton to Clarify Climate Change

For those who reside in the North-West of England, I would like to direct them to what may be a very informative event on 7th May. Sir John Houghton, ex-IPCC Chair, will be talking about climate change in Rawtenstall on 7th May. Also speaking will be Dave Bookless – author, theologian and director of Christian environmental charity A Rocha and Paul Cook, Advocacy Director of Tearfund, the aid charity of the UK Evangelical Alliance.



It is something that I would like to attend, as this might help clarify some of my own questions.

  1. How can small changes in air temperature or air pressure influence the pressures and temperatures many times greater at 10km to 30km beneath the Earth’s surface?
  2. How do we distinguish the true scientific forecasts from false prophecies, such as the Himalayan Glaciers, the Amazon Rainforests, or extreme sea level rise?
  3. Within a Christian context, should those who know the truth about climate change being reaching out to those who live in denial rather than marginalising them?

Jesus, the Samaritan Woman and Climate Change

Bishophill draws attention to Thought for the Day on Radio 4 on 25th March

The talk is confusing because it is, perhaps deliberately, ambiguous. Consider the last words of the talk

“all the knowledge in the world is worthless to us without the right perspective”

It speaks and encourages anyone who believes that “the right perspective” is on their side, believer or sceptic. Now modern theological perspective is to consider the Bible in the context of the times. For instance, John 4, where Jesus talks to a foreigner, divorcee woman appears normal in modern times, breaking multiple social conventions 2000 years ago. Furthermore, Jesus reveals more about his nature than he had in John 3 to Nicodemus a leading Rabbi.

As Bishophill has found out, the BBC now has a deliberate, but secret, policy of not giving equal airtime and treatment to alarmists and sceptics. The debate is settled and the science is in. Those who doubt the truth of global warming are cranks, in the pay of big business, or plain evil. Therefore, in the context of our times, any deliberately ambiguous or coded statements are more likely to be from a sceptical rather than a consensus viewpoint. In the context of our times, where orthodoxy is only the permissible theology, neutrality on climate change is a mark of dissent.

Baptist Times – Supporting Global Warming in the Extreme Cold

The front page of the Baptist Times of 10th December has two articles. One on churches helping those affected by the extreme cold snap. The other by Christian Campaigners urging tougher policies at Cancun to counter global warming. Here is my response.

Sir,

There is a distinct contrast in your two articles on the front of the BT of 10th Dec. The major article is of Baptist Churches opening their doors to help those affected by the cold weather. In central England it was the second coldest start to December in the last 350 years. This cold winter is explained by the combination of two natural factors – La Nina and low levels of solar activity.

The secondary article – “Standing up for Creation” – calls for the rich west and emerging India and China, to sacrifice their carbon-fuelled growth and prosperity to stop the global warming and thereby destabilising the climate. In the rich west it means paying more for fuel, something that will hit the poor hardest. In the China & India – with 2 out of 5 of the World’s population – it means preventing tens of millions breaking out of subsistence poverty every year. The policy outcome of Cancun will be more people in this country in fuel poverty, with a near-zero effect on climate change.

History will show that the climate consensus has overestimated our ability to change the climate, both for worse or better. The prophesies of catastrophe will be shown to be as misguided as past prophesies of Armageddon from selective reading of scripture.  We need a more balanced approach.

To compare Environmentalists to Baptists is to insult Baptists

The THES, directed at a British audience, compares BP and environmentalists to bootleggers and Baptists – they have common cause.

However, some British Baptists may take deep offence at environmentalists being likened to them as (from the mainstream viewpoint of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) the following tends to be true.

1)      Each person should read the Bible (their data) and come to their own conclusions. They try not to overstate their case, but to come to conclusions after reflection and prayer.

2)      They are proud of their history as non-conformists and dissenters. As such they believe in religious liberty.

3)      The understanding of theology is not settled, and there are quite valid differences of opinion. There is room for doubt.

4)      Resolution of debate is not by a few experts handing down an opinion. It is from discussion and mutual understanding at the local level, to which all believers can contribute.

5)      You will not find these British Baptists looking for signs of the end times in every minor event, or proclaiming that those of other denominations or faiths are agents of the Devil.

6)      When studying their religion, contemporary theology tries to put meaning of the text in the context of what has gone before and after. Also, they look in the context of the time and place when the passage was written. Further, they would look at the original text in Hebrew or Greek. The antithesis would be to cherry-pick a few juicy quotes, mistranslate from the Hebrew and Greek, add in some unsupported assertions, add a good dash of sensationalism and proclaim loudly.

Found via Bishop Hill

A few Baptist blogs to demonstrate the point are Baptist Bookworm, Nah then, Andy Goodliff and Sean the Baptist.

Please Pray for Gordon Brown

After the events of last week (see here, here and here), I feel quite sorry for there appears to be a divergence between the public and private face of Gordon Brown. Christians attempt to reconcile these differences in their own lives through prayer, studying the bible, public worship and seeking God’s unconditional forgiveness for when they have made mistakes, or erred in the smallest way. The Labour doctrine of spin, I would suggest, tries to fudge, evade and deliberately obscure anything that contradicts their message. When there are is strong underlying growth and charismatic leaders to promote populist policies, then this spin doctrine can carry people along. But when the main thrust of future policy is recognized to be inflicting hardship then it becomes quite difficult to constantly put out positive messages. Instead Labour have chosen to maintain the upper ground by a constant barrage of negative, exaggerated or misleading statements about their major rivals.

            Whilst many would recognise the impact the slogan of “Labour Investment verses Tory Cuts” has had on delaying recognition of the crisis in the public finances many months, what is not recognised is the impact on those in the party. If they put a slant on policy that is fundamentally at odds with what they believe – genuine public service – it will eventually be personally damaging. Maybe some, like Ed Balls and Peter Mandleson, who are more thick-skinned and less ideologically-motivated, the conflict between the good of the party and the greater good of the nation does not seriously trouble them. But Gordon Brown is committed to serving the country and has always believed he is the most able to lead it. Until the downturn this justified his ruthlessness in the pursuit of the top job. He is also astute enough to realise that not only did he get bank regulation wrong, but that his justification of structural deficits (see here) has left the government finances in their most wretched state for over 30 years. In so doing he knows that public services will have to be cut and then constrained for a generation.

            So when you hear of Gordon Brown’s throwing Nokias, or calling a straight-talking pensioner a bigot under his breath, please pray for him. Pray that he may know Christ’s love and forgiveness, and turn away from the lust for power and the love of spin. Most of all pray that he may have time for rest and reflection.

ManicBeancounter Elsewhere

Commenting at

Mark Reckons on Nigel Farage on Drugs Policy.

– Why mainstream politicians will not back an open discussion.

John Redwood on Can Labour End it’s War on Business?

–         Not without Labour imploding, as it’s involvement

Burning Our Money on Bashing the Rich Bankers

–         As a way of diverting from Labour’s involvement in the current crisis.

John Redwood on Are Christian Country?

– Christ dying so that we might be forgiven is the central message. Watered-down implication is that we recognize our mistakes, say sorry and move on.

John Redwood on Cutting Spending Abroad

Perhaps the biggest risk we are facing is with the foreign purchase of our National Debt. The resulting high value of the pound would further erode the ability of our exporters to compete. Also, if the deficit is not brought under control we may not only have to pay higher interest rates, but issue debt in other currencies, to protect the lenders against any weakness in the pound. Then we will be like the emerging economies in the 1980s and 1990s.

Jesus a Lefty-Liberal, Guardian reader? Not likely

Dizzy thinks, but wrongly, about the political leanings of Jesus. He may have a point through the modern liberal Church of England.

Dizzy’s posting on Jesus being a lefty-liberal is wide of the mark. He says

Seriously, if Jesus was alive today (a man’s who’s existence at least is not I think in dispute) he would be a Guardian reader. Yet, he would of course be pilloried for believing that he was the Son of an unprovable God, no doubt ridiculed for being a bit mad (oh the irony given the average Guardian readers hatred of prejudice towards the mentally ill), and his core beliefs about non-violence, turning the other cheek, forgiveness and the like would be dismissed out of hand.

I realise this is the second post in as many days where the subject of faith has come up, but honestly, I just don’t comprehend the sheer hypocrisy of those on the so-called “Liberal Left” when they display so much hatred for a faith that is essentially in keeping with their values, all, so it seems because of the bit about God.

If a kid is brought up with the liberal moral teachings of Christianity but also believes in God is it really “evil”?

Apologies for labouring the point here, but politically speaking, if you look at the New Testament, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth known as Jesus was essentially preaching a message that today would be seen as incredibly left wing. He was a little man standing up against an Imperial oppressor, he was preaching the evils of capitalism, and extolling the virtues of the weak and meek over the the rich.

Pardon my blasphemy for those that have an issue with it, but: Jesus Christ! Is it not patently absurd that Guardian readers should hate something so in line with their own beliefs just because it’s not secular?

My reply (in three sections) was as follows.

You are correct if you follow the Rowan Williams School of theology. An alternative line is to quote Jesus on the important bits. Take Matthew 23:40. After saying the two greatest commandments are love of God and love of your neighbour as yourself. Jesus says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. Jesus was establishing a principles-based religion. If the law conflicted with this, then it was the law that had to give. So if someone needed healing on the Sabbath, they should be healed, despite the Jewish law saying you should not work. In Matthew’s gospel, the holy men who went around proclaiming they are superior because they uphold the law better than others Jesus calls “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers”, as they were more concerned with appearances than the substance of faith in God.

Another aspect is forgiveness of sins. Human beings are fallible, despite their best efforts. They can leave the past behind without guilt and get on with being good.

Jesus today would have strong words for New Labour. For them the solution to every problem is more laws, more complexity and wads of cash. Political appearances are more important than substance. Principles are transitory – remember the need to balance the budget over the course of the business cycle? It was first re-defined then ditched. What would he have to say of the science of climate change, with any none-believers labeled deniers (the modern-day equivalent of heretics?). Jesus would probably quote the first commandment of Moses about “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)

In these respects, Jesus was a Pre-Hayekian, though more dogmatic, and less diplomatic in his language.

 Finally on the subject of Jesus was anything but someone who stood up to the Roman oppressors. For many Jews he was anything but the expected Messiah. They thought he would be like what Muhammad turned out a few hundred years later. A prophet-cum-military conqueror who would drive the Roman’s into the sea. In fact Jesus studiously avoided the direct conflict with the military occupation. About paying taxes he said “give to Caesar what it is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17)

 I realise that proper theologians will disagree with my analysis that Jesus was more a classical-liberal in the tradition of Adam Smith and Fredrich Hayek than a Socialist. But what is without doubt in the non-conformist tradition is that Jesus was against putting appearances over form, and that the Love of God and Love of one’s neighbour take precedence over religious traditions and rules. Furthermore, is the doctrine that we all sin, no matter how hard we try, but through the sacrifice of Jesus we are forgiven and can move on. This is hardly the attitudes of those politicians who claim to have all the answers, decry others are being always wrong (with ulterior motives), and never admit to their own falliability.