In a rather lopsided discussion with mockery versus sincerity Bill Maher loses sight of what’s important to Christians in both rhetoric and value. Ralph Reed a Pentecostal asserts that national debt, welfare (even social security and Medicare), and the greater difficulties of children from single-parent families could be resolved by faith. What Reed is really saying here is the forced endurance of a permanent familial relationship is the best means of preventing government support on near all levels. Though I presume huge costs for the military (even if only defense) would still be required. I also wonder how he would support infrastructure but I would guess he would say that would be done by volunteered charity.
What so many miss in these conversations is the family unit has never been very stable. Even when societies were agrarian physical mobility was essential. Only by technological improvement was agriculture able to increase productivity such that land produced more with the same amount of labor. Otherwise, and this occurred often since productivity improvements are not linear, children had to leave the land to begin anew elsewhere. Often to other countries and outlying areas taken either by discovery or conquest. It’s a small world now.
Often primogeniture laws or customs were supported to prevent land from being divided by giving the entire amount to a single child, typically the oldest male. This breakup of families means oral and familial traditions are not easily passed from generation to generation. The loss of parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents requires outside traditions, laws, and support to preserve wisdom, knowledge, and labor between generations.
Industrial ages haven’t done much better. Factories and manufacturing centers might arise with surrounding communities but as changes in efficiency and market endurance occur these communities move or die, dissolving families and intergenerational traditions and support.
With productivity exceeding consumption ability, exacerbated by the constant pressure to reduce wages due to increasing competition, forcing lower profit margins, family members have to work more to keep up. Without extended support families aren’t able to provide basic sustenance on their own. Servants and institutions are paid less in the hopes that thee wage differences will offset the loss of labor at home.
With an increasing labor surplus, forcing both parents to work, families have to extend themselves beyond their nuclear core. When well paid work that could pay for this additional support requires one parent having a great job and another having any job, because an area cannot support enough well paying jobs, couples split and move on. Chid labor laws, and schools, prevent their indenture and added income as well.
This process has nothing to do with moral turpitude or fidelity. it is the economics of productivity and the variance in wages. Reed’s hope that a covenant that forces a family to remain together will ensure prosperity falls apart. The reality of wage disparity makes it impossible for a local community to support its members equally or even toe subsistence levels. With the loss of land it is impossible to live off the land as the last, desperate, level of familial independence.
Another problem is the questionable need for couples and families to remain together when abuse is present. When families, nuclear and extended, could remain near by, geographically, it was far more easy to ensure continuity and support in relationships as they changed. It’s no longer possible to provide psychological and emotional support by family members who must leave. Monetary support is important but what Reed values is much more than that, as do must of us.
The only effective way to compensate for these difficulties are schools, child-care centers, and community support for those who can’t possibly make enough. If a parent, grandparent, or sibling is absent, outside support must replace that familial resource on all levels. Schools are not just for education but to cache children so more adults can work.
Few want to talk about the issue of labor surplus and resource shortage driving families apart, negating the utility of faith covenants, but that’s the issue.
Reed’s second goal is the use of the bible to provide a personal relationship with god through Jesus. While admitting that he doesn’t think it is about rules and regulations he is clear that covenants are essential. Rules don’t get much stronger than this essentialist contract.
Reed’s hope, trust, that a personal relationship with god and Jesus will create appropriate information to do the right thing is far more dependent on the details of that informing than he admits. Trusting faith does not ensure that right information and desires are passed along. So called natural laws may inform many, naturally, but natural disobedience does the same. Some sort of specific laws and mores must be codified that can be followed without simple faith.
Reed does admit that nonbelievers can be good but also asserts that everyone has fallen. But why and how to remedy? More and more specific laws are required to meet growing demand for certainty and diversity. We all can’t be farmers, capitalists, laborers, or foragers. The expansion of products and consumption means the division of labor becomes more specific, and diverse, requiring greater mobility and not less. Moral laws work the same way. They are another product. Being charitable or kind must change its expression to meet more diverse needs and desires.
A simple example of this is in the old testament, assuming one uses the old testament. Thou shalt not kill. This usually means thou shalt not murder wantonly for no good reason. What about about abusive relations where it’s not murder but physical damage? What about those who can’t do unto others because they are self abusive and would be fine passing that along? What about people and companies that do harm, even murder, in blindness? There are reasons why the old testament has 10-800 laws. The new testament isn’t specific enough for people to follow without more information and support. And Reed is clear that the rules and regulations of the old testament are antiquated and mostly useless. Even being kind has its issues. Is it Ok to beat children to make them behave? Will a pacifist Quaker harm an intruder attacking their family?
The issue of patriarchy is so embedded in both testaments no one can read them in any fashionable hermeneutics and not be tainted.
Catholics created a hierarchy to met this need. Protestants rely on direct, individual, intuition or local pastors. Pentecostals depend on direct intuition. But what holds these pastors together in some sort of coherence that doesn’t create dissonance as people move around as they must? They have to deal with often vast culture and moral changes and the moral compass does’t know where to swing because true North has changed.
The video is below and somewhat disturbing.
Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com