The Rachel Held Evans Conversation: Why I am a Conservative

Rachel Held Evans’ readers ask all kinds of hard questions.  As in really hard questions.

There’s are thoughts on several topics there that may be unfamiliar to Mere-O readers, as the Iraq War comes up, the meaning of “pro-life” gets kicked around, and…..well, read for yourself:

What’s more, I don’t think wealth inequality is unjust per se.  Bill Gates deserves a whole lot more money than I do, given the sorts of things we’ve built respectively and the role they’ve played in the world.  The disparity in our resources isn’t unjust.  Instead, injustice occurs if people are disenfranchised and not allowed to participate in the political process.  We should have real concerns (and I do) about that, and we should be concerned about how wealthy people use political power to create “hedges” around themselves and their businesses so that they keep wealth.  But those critiques should be made carefully (I forget who first pointed it out, but we should remember that Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party had the same objection to “crony capitalism”).

Thanks to Rachel and her readers for the really invigorating discussion.  I thoroughly enjoy Q&A, probably more than any other format I speak or write in.  So the opportunity really was a joy.

And if you are coming from Rachel’s and didn’t get your question answered, drop it in the comments below and I’ll get to it as soon as possible .

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  • tokniffin

    Matt, as always nice work on giving full throated, thoughtful responses to xn conservatism.

    But I’ve got a quibble. I asked you a question about inequality on a Relevant blog and you gave largely the same answer you’re giving here. My problem is that I think you are dodging the question (perhaps inadvertently).

    For a guy who wrote a book on the spirituality of the material, I find your answers on the spirituality of wealthy distribution quite unsatisfying.

    Perhaps the problem is the problem is not laid out precisely enough. So let’s put down a few facts:
    -wealth distribution is more unequal in the US now than at any time in its history, including pre-Great Depression. executives now are paid 100s of times more than their employees, whereas just a few decades ago it was a tiny fraction of that. 40% of the US’s wealth is in the hands of 1%. The top 400 earners make as much as the bottom 1/3 of the country… yadayadayada
    -wealth inequality is bad for democracy: as disparity grows, the concerns of the two ends become disparate as isolated.
    -wealth inequality is bad socially: as it grows, people live much much different lives. The wealthy live in tiny isolated hovels of gated communities, private schools and private subcultures
    -wealth inequality is bad economics: as disparity grows, it hurts our GDP because there are less people able to buy products at affordable rates. Our economy is best with a strong middle class, but wealth disparity hollows out the middle class.
    -wealth inequality is bad THEOLOGY: 1/5 of the Bible’s verses deal with money, and a good portion of it talks about the negative effects of the disparity of the wealthy and the poor. Shalom entails some sort of shared community life.

    For all those reasons and more, I don’t think you’re dealing squarely with the issue when you say “I don’t have a problem with wealth inequality.” Neither do I; I think you can make a sound theological argument for certain people earning more than someone else.

    What I have a problem with is when the two ends of the spectrum become so disparate that you need bodyguards and gated communities because the two sides are so unequal. It’s a problem of degree, then; not fact. There is a BIG gap between socialism and where we are today, and I’m asking you to address that.

    Thanks again, Matt. I appreciate your writing.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Anderson

      tokniffin,

      Thanks for the pushback. Sorry I missed the comment at Relevant, and I’ll take a stab at this sometime next week.

      Sorry–it would be today, but I just got done overseeing a conference of 350 people at my church and I am wasted.

      matt