Individuals in Community
August 31, 2016 3 Comments
As she so often does, Jessica brings us back to our foundations. In her post yesterday, she brought forward something that we need to remember. When she says,
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female. Why? Because Christ loves each of us for the unique individual we are. He also calls us to follow him, and in doing that we are part of a community of ‘saints’, and we have a common duty to each other; we are called to love one another.
She is exactly on point. Christianity brought to us the concept of individuality. But, and this is important, it brought us the concept of individuality within a community. Often that is something we forget, that we owe a duty, we have an obligation to the others in our community, whether it is our family, our church, our town, our state, our nation, or even our world. Granted as it spreads out, it becomes rather diffuse, but it remains.
We have an obligation to those too young, or too old, to those not able to work for any reason. Frankly, I suspect we did harm to ourselves as individuals and as a community when we delegated that duty to the State. It was a better system, to my mind, anyway, when it was carried out by the family, the church, or a very local government, say the township. Almost automatically the shirkers would be told to get a job, and quit living off others, and it was a shameful thing not to carry one’s weight without reason.
But the duty remains, and it remains ours, however, we choose to carry it out. Nobody, least of all St. Paul, thought that we are all equal in abilities, interests, or anything else. We simply aren’t. Here in America, we stated long ago that we are born with equal rights and are equal before the law, that comes down from English law, of course. That doesn’t mean we are going to have equal outcomes for any of a multitude of reasons. When we try to force equal outcomes we always do injustice to someone.
Sometimes it might be the poor, other times the rich, sometimes both. And that is the perniciousness of identity politics. It comes from believing that the pie is stagnant and all we can do is change the relative portions. This is simply wrong. The pie is unmeasurably larger than it was even 70 years ago, let alone in the days when Christ walked the earth. In truth, the life that Thomas Jefferson lived had more similarity to life in Biblical times, than it does with ours. Think about that, most of human progress has happened in the last 250 years, as we built upon the shoulders of others. That also speaks to the great wisdom of our Founders that they were able to write things that were obviously true then, and are true now, and will always be true.
They (and their European, mostly British) contemporaries were able to discern mostly from their study of history, the best (or at least, least worst) ways to organize government to protect each and every one of us. Was it perfect? Of course not. To make it happen, they had to make compromises, slavery amongst them. But if you read Washington, or Jefferson, fairly, you will soon find that they detested slavery, but could not, in their day, find a solution. I’d bet that both agreed with Lincoln, they would never choose to be either a slave or a master, but they ended up as one of those things, and others ended up as their slaves. But they also thought, and I’ll not contest their thinking, that in their day, the slaves were likely better off as it was, until they could be brought to being able to function effectively in society.
You all know that here, we often celebrate the individual, and I think we are right to do so. But the individual needs to be in a community, for himself, yes, but also to benefit the community. If one reads Adam Smith, one will find that the basis of free trade is exactly that: free. Anything which impairs two people from making a deal that they think is mutually beneficial hurts one, or both, of them. Keep that in mind as you read of the various regulatory schemes that devolve more and more power away from the people involved always in favor of government regulation.