Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

In his speech for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked for New Year’s Day, Time’s most recently elected “Person of the Year” decried the “widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs.” Pope Francis, it is obvious, is hammering the same theme that he sounded a few weeks ago when he called upon the world to reject “trickle-down economics,” “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” for “such an economy,” he informed us, “kills.”  

The left is thrilled by this Pope’s remarks.  As a traditional, practicing Roman Catholic Christian and lover of liberty, I decidedly am not. 

While Pope Francis is correct to admonish us to condemn murderous economies, what he is describing doesn’t exist.  Furthermore, we must grasp that he articulates not the cardinal tenet of Christian charity, but an ideology of welfare-state socialism.     

Contrary to what many a contemporary cleric would have us think, Jesus never once—never ever—spoke about the need for His disciples to “narrow the gap” in “income” and “wealth” between “the rich” and “the poor.” He never once deplored “inequality,” for He came not in the service of an ideology of Equality, but in the service of saving humanity from its sins.  The only “economy” in which Jesus ever expressed an interest is the economy of salvation. 

Of course, this does not mean that Christians should be indifferent to the world’s affairs generally, and “economies” that “kill” in particular. What it most certainly does mean is that if it is the latter that our discipleship calls upon us to resist, then it is on just those economies, those “systems,” that we must set our sights.

And “the free market” ain’t one of them.

At a minimum, within “capitalist” orders, standards of living for all have risen to an extent that even the nobility of earlier times never could have imagined.  The poor has nowhere been better served than in such societies. At the same time, it is economies of the kind on behalf of which the Pope advocates—particularly those within which there exists an obsession with promoting greater material “equality”—that have eventuated in greater rates of suffering and death.

“Capitalism” is indeed deserving of its share of criticism.  But socialism is deserving of a significantly larger share. 

Christian charity is doubtless among the noblest, most beautiful things to have ever graced this fallen world of ours.  As much as its critics hate to admit it, the fact is that the vast majority of the planet’s charitable organizations, and all of the most influential of such organizations, are inspired by the person of Christ: charity—love—is the greatest of commandments for the disciples of Jesus.      

However, Jesus was clear that charity is not defined by material conditions. Those “in need” can and not infrequently are from all walks of life.  If being alive for more than a handful of years isn’t enough to convince people of this, then maybe some reminders of the fact that Jesus befriended, and served, the wealthy, as well as the poor, the powerful, as well as the powerless, might do the trick.  Christ, let us not forget, not only healed the servant of a Roman centurion; He commended the soldier—an agent of the Roman Empire, mind you—for having more faith than that of anyone that He had encountered up to that point in Israel. 

It is crucial to grasp that this incident with the (relatively wealthy) Roman soldier was no fluke: in spite of the sense of His fellow Jews that they were living under oppressive foreign rule, and in spite of the fact that Christ Himself was eventually executed by Rome, He never once so much as critiqued the Roman government—while He tirelessly critiqued the children of Israel.

Jesus never condemned human slavery, and even told parables featuring slaves and slave masters, parables suggesting that slave masters had authority (even if qualified by God’s authority) over their slaves.  He as well told a parable of an employer in which he clearly affirmed the employer’s right to pay his laborers just the wage that they agreed to be paid—regardless of whether he chose to pay other laborers differently, or unequally.

The point here isn’t that Jesus was an advocate for slavery, “capitalism,” or any other “ism.”  The point is that He was not an advocate of any.

Jesus was concerned not with changing “super structures,” “systems,” “states,” and/or “economies.” He was concerned with changing people’s hearts.  Perhaps He realized that focus on the former detracts from focus on the latter.

Pope Francis and people everywhere would be well served to realize this as well.     

In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death, National Review Online (NRO) published comments from several self-avowed “conservatives.”

John Boehner, for example, alludes to Mandela’s “‘long walk to freedom” while praising him as “a champion of peace and racial harmony.”  Marco Rubio went even further. Lamenting that “the world has lost one of history’s most important figures,” Rubio reassures us that just as “men and women striving for justice and fairness around the world have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela,” so his “example will live on for generations to come.”

Tim Scott lauded Mandela for being a “transformational figure, a man who truly changed the world.” Mandela, he continued, “walked a long road to freedom and embraced the fundamental human belief in equality.”  Scott insists that “all freedom-loving people mourn his passing.”

Tea Party idol Ted Cruz said of Mandela that he “will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe,” for he was a man who “stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself [.]”  “Because of his epic fight against injustice,” Cruz concluded, “an entire nation is now free.”

These judgments on the part of conservatives of a man who was an avowed “democratic socialist” and communist sympathizer, a man who was on America’s list of terrorists until as recently as 2008, reflect, at best, the height of moral confusion.  At worst, they reveal gross intellectual dishonesty.

To cut to the chase, American “conservatives” claim to prize the Constitution and the “limited government” that it enshrines.  But the vision of liberty for which the Constitution’s Framers seceded from England, a vision for which they pledged all, is antithetical to that of Mandela.  

Though few people, and even fewer public figures—regardless of their politics—will say it, the liberty bequeathed to Americans by their ancestors is seen as a species of bondage by those on the left. That is, Constitutional liberty as it was conceived by the Patriots of the 18th century can only be thought of as an obstacle to be surmounted by those who think of “liberty” in terms of a material condition that government must bring about for its citizens.

To put it even more simply, Constitutional liberty must be anathema to “democratic socialists” and other communist sympathizers, for liberty, as the residents of the Anglo world once conceived it, consists in a decentralization of authority and power, a government with many voices, so to speak, severely limited in scope.  This form of government in turn entails a robust system of private property, for only under such a system is power diffused far and wide.  

Now, Mandela was a “democratic socialist.” He was also a communist, or at minimum, a communist sympathizer.  Translation: the man who our “conservatives” are now extolling as a great apostle of liberty disdained private property, or what, in good socialist fashion, he derisively referred to as “capitalism.”  Mandela was an adamant advocate of redistribution who thought that “capitalism” was the vehicle by which whites in his country privileged their own racial and class interests.

To those self-described “conservatives” who acknowledge Mandela’s violent past while attempting to dismiss it on the grounds that he matured while in prison, there are two responses in the coming.

First, two years after he was released from prison, Mandela was captured on video—a video that can be found on YouTube—singing along with the members of his African National Congress and the South African Communist Party his organization’s anthem.  The anthem affirms the need for all members to “kill the whites.” 

Second, as Ilana Mercer notes in her excellent study of the plight of her former homeland, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, Mandela’s presidency launched his country on a trajectory that has resulted in making the new South Africa a place in which “more people are murdered in one week under African rule than died under the detention of the Afrikaner government over the course of roughly four decades.”   

None of this, of course, is to justify or even sympathize with apartheid. Mercer’s family, for example, lead by her father, a Rabbi, was anti-apartheid long before it became fashionable to be so.  Nor is to detract from the fact that Mandela was indeed a man with conviction who was willing to sacrifice all for what he believed was right.

The point here is that so-called “conservatives” contradict their own cause when they recognize in an avowed socialist, a communist sympathizer, a champion of liberty.  To see that this is so, Cruz and company should ask themselves but two questions:

Is Barack Obama a great champion of liberty?

Would the Framers of the Constitution have regarded Mandela as a great inspiration of liberty?

This past Thanksgiving, I explicitly explained to my Facebook “friends” that there was no point in extending holiday salutations to those of them who insist upon viewing the European settlers as genocidal maniacs who were intent upon exterminating America’s first peoples.  Anyone with such a view of the founding of this country and, more exactly, the occasion and the people that gave rise to the American tradition of Thanksgiving couldn’t conceivably be interested in commemorating this event.

Given the extent to which professors of the so-called “genocidal” origins of America and Thanksgiving took offense, I began to suspect that they can’t really believe what they say.  

Consider, if the first settlers were genocidal, then they were, in essence, no different from, say, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or any of history’s genocidal murderers.  And if this is so, then it would be as obscene to celebrate, to give thanks for, the legacy—the country—that they’ve bequeathed to us as it would be obscene for anyone to celebrate, to give thanks for, the legacy of Hitler and company. And if the Indians really were the peace-loving, nature-loving pacifists that the Genocide Truthers make them out to be, then the crime of which the settlers are accused is that much more horrific, as horrific as that of the Nazis marching off scores of docile innocents to their deaths.

A more straightforward example makes the point that much more effectively: A decent person convinced that a grave injustice had occurred wouldn’t so much as entertain the possibility of accepting millions from someone who he knew murdered an innocent to obtain the fortune in the first place.  A good person who was initially unaware of the injustice, but who learned of it later, would seek to rid himself of its poisonous fruits.  No decent person would willingly accept “blood money.”

Similarly, no decent person would willingly accept a “blood country.”     

Yet those who scream loudest about the “genocide” perpetrated by the settlers not only continue living off of the legacy of their ancestors; they actually take offense from, of all things, a person’s refusal to extend to them a simple Thanksgiving greeting.

If their deeds are any indication of their beliefs, they cannot really believe the nonsense they spout regarding genocide.

That injustices were inflicted by Europeans against some of the indigenous peoples of the lands that would later be called “the Americas” is undeniable.  However, for anyone remotely familiar with the complexities of the historical record, it is equally undeniable that Europeans most certainly did not perpetrate anything at all on the order of a systematic “genocide.”

But fiction is simpler than fact, the few principles of an ideology much easier to master than the nuances and intricacies of real history. And the fictions of an ideology are obviously more amenable to the crusade on behalf of which the ideology exists in the first place.

The “Genocide Truthers” are ideologues—whether they realize it or not. In contending that America is rooted in the systematic annihilation of the peaceful peoples of a pristine paradise, they imply that their country’s institutions are soaked in blood. This in turn further implies the need for a program, not of reform, but of a fundamental transformation.  And the latter is simply another way of saying that America as it has always been constituted since its founding needs to die.  The slate needs to be cleansed and a new country needs to be constructed from the ground up.

America is not now nor has she ever been the equivalent of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.  If she was, she would deserve as much as these tyrannical regimes deserved to perish from the Earth.  And America’s founders were not the equivalent of the monsters of the 20th century.

To admit this, however, we must abandon once and for all the invidious fiction that America’s settlers were genocidal murderers.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given that the entire planet seems to be of one voice in both mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela and celebrating his life, most will find it inconceivable that anyone would think to so much as suggest that Mandela was anything less than the saint that his admirers are working tirelessly to depict him as.  

But truth is truth and Mandela was no saint.

Mandela was a proponent of “democratic socialism” who, along with the South African Communist Party, unleashed a torrent of violence against his political opponents that included the bombing of government sites. He was convicted of “sabotage” and attempting to overthrow the government—charges to which he openly confessed at his trial.  And in spite of having been released from prison in 1990 after serving 27 years and eventually becoming South Africa’s first black president, he remained on the United States Terror Watch list until as recently as 2008.  The late Margaret Thatcher characterized Mandela’s African National Congress as a “typical terrorist organization.”

Ilana Mercer is a writer and former resident of South Africa who knows all too well about Mandela and his legacy.  One of her books, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, includes a chapter chock full of interesting, but inconvenient, facts regarding the man who is now being lauded as never before. 

Mercer informs us that long before apartheid came crumbling down, the government of South Africa offered to release Mandela from jail as long as he promised to renounce violence.  Mandela, though, “refused to do any such thing [.]”  Mercer adds that Mandela’s “TV smile has won out over his political philosophy, founded as it is on energetic income redistribution in the neo-Marxist tradition, on ‘land reform’ in the same tradition, and on ethnic animosity toward the Afrikaner.” 

In 1992, two years after Mandela was set free, he was videoed at an event surrounded by members of the South African Communist Party, his own African National Congress (ANC), and “the ANC’s terrorist arm, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which Mandela led.”  Courtesy of YouTube, all with eyes to see could now witness “Mandela’s fist…clenched in a black power salute” as the members of MK sang their anthem, a little song according to which they reaffirm their pledge to “‘kill them—kill the whites.’”

Mandela remained a socialist to the last, Mercer assures us, even though he cleverly—but transparently—“rebranded” it. Mandela’s was a racial socialism, a point established beyond doubt by the remarks he made in 1997.  Mercer quotes Mandela insisting that “the future of humanity” cannot be “surrendered to the so-called free market, with government denied the right to intervene [.]”  Mandela also declared the need for the “ownership and management” of the South African economy to reflect “the racial composition of our society” and criticized “the…capitalist system” in South Africa for elevating to “the highest pedestal the promotion of the material interests of the white minority.” 

For the conceit of those Westerners who assume that Mandela’s thought is a justified response to the evils of apartheid, Mercer has just the treatment. She reminds us that Mandela and his ANC “had never concealed that they were as tight as thieves with communist and terrorist regimes—Castro, Gaddafi, Arafat, North Korea and Iran’s cankered Khameneis.”  Mercer further reminds us that in addition to once cheering, “‘Long live Comrade Fidel Castro!’” Mandela referred to Gaddafi as “‘my brother leader” and Arafat as “‘a comrade in arms.’” 

Moreover, though awarded by President George W. Bush in 2003 with the Medal of Freedom Award, Mercer observes that Mandela couldn’t resist issuing the harshest of indictments against America.  “‘If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world,’” Mandela said, “’it is the United States of America.’” He added that “‘they,” meaning Americans, presumably, “don’t like human beings.’”

And what is Mandela’s legacy to his native South Africa?  It is the purpose of Mercer’s book to show that it is nothing to write home about.  “Since he [Mandela] came to power in 1994, approximately 300,000 people have been murdered.”  “Bit by barbaric bit,” she writes, “South Africa is being dismantled by official racial socialism, obscene levels of crime—organized and disorganized—AIDS, corruption, and an accreting kleptocracy.” 

Mercer’s book is a rarity inasmuch as it supplies us with a brutally frank account of the real South Africa that Nelson Mandela helped to bequeath to the world. While the rest of the world is busy singing hosannas to Mandela over the next few days, those of us who are interested in truth would be well served to visit it.