SELFISHNESS: VICE OR VIRTUE?
November 15, 2011
It is imperative that the church as well as the the state both function within a moral scaffolding of laws and customs. But the church and the state support different aspects of human nature and purpose. The role of the church is to inculcate moral precepts which prepare men to interact one with another in ways that show regard for individuals as sons and daughters of Deity, and to provide an ideal model of personality, discipline, and wisdom in the image and example of God. The state’s role is to establish the conditions under which men may most liberally judge, for themselves, what to make of their lives, their liberty, and their property. When the holy church and the moral state work in conjunction, within their distinct and separate appointments, they together provide the optimal environment in which human beings may pursue their happiness.
But…God did not intend for political parties to acquire the absolutes of religion; its moral imperatives or its intractable punishments for transgression, as applied to civil discourse. Secular constructs, such as the nanny state, are, to Liberals, a moral absolute. The state must take care of its poor citizens. The state must force its citizens to change their lifestyles because “global climate change,” to the Left, is a moral absolute. These issues, to be sure, can be discussed as either beneficial or not beneficial to people, the national economy, or the stewardship of the earth. But God does not want political parties to exercise the coercive power of commandment in the secular things of government and society. And, finally, God does not intend for the bright line between His church and the state, even a supremely moral state, to become blurred in its function or rhetoric. It is fascinating that the, largely atheistic, Left will so readily adopt the language and postures of religion in its sinister misapplications of moral authority.
Selfishness is a virtue. Selfishness, in its secular context is also an economic term, not a religious one. When you consider the pursuit of one’s happiness, and the individual’s rights to life and liberty and property, it becomes obvious that these are quintessentially selfish, self-centered, and for the benefit of the self.
How is this justified by religiosity? It’s simple. The Judeo/Christian doctrines of individual worth, and the power of each son and daughter of God to exercise moral agency, are doctrines of the self; self worth and self-determination. Our miraculous Declaration of Independence provides a logical scaffolding upon which the ideas of individual, eternal worth, as well as individuality and self-determination can be realized within the safety of our God-given liberties.
Capitalism is the most moral of all economic systems because it is based upon the self-interest of the individual participants with the system. When the end of an action, whether it be trading goods or money, creating a product, or investing in a dream, is the betterment of the individual and his circumstances, that individual will, most often, conform to the rules of the system within which he functions. It is beneficial to be trusted. It is beneficial to work hard, honestly, and with the integrity of one’s word. This form of virtuous selfishness is the foundation for individual happiness, creativity, industry, and philanthropy. After all, the more one can amass, economically, the more one can give away, if he so chooses.
The conversation falls apart when the irreligious, usually Socialistic ideologues, pirate the language of religion. The Left uses the absolutes and commandments of religion to force upon the secular populace its ideas of what is politically moral. The bright line between the church and the state becomes a muddy streak in which religious guilt and judgement are imposed for transgressions against arbitrary secular rules and expectations. The Left speaks of “shared sacrifice,” which, to them means, that those who earn give of their property to support those who, for whatever reason, fail to earn. It is euphemistic for Collectivism, and because one must lose to another, with wealth being moved around but never created, this form of “sacrifice” is a lose, lose proposition. God’s definition of sacrifice is to give of one’s substance, time, adoration, and broken heart, in gestures of love and charity. Godly sacrifice is to give away something precious with the hope of receiving a greater gift in the form of blessings, an enlargement of the spirit, or a more loving heart. Economic sacrifice denotes the redistribution of property, but godly sacrifice is not an economic proposition. It is a function of sanctification.
Ideas of what is and is not moral are turned upside down when terms of religious virtue, such as “sacrifice” and “selflessness,” are applied to economic principles. God, Himself, despises the theocratic state because His higher spiritual laws may be misinterpreted, adulterated, and misapplied by political parties who seek to exert power over freemen. God’s establishment of a free nation, unencumbered by a single, ruling religion but guided by a moral Constitution, makes apparent His desire that the language of spiritual law and legal mandate are not to be mixed, one supplanting or manipulating the other, in order to enact dominion over the natural liberty of citizens. But when God inspired the Founding Fathers as they devised the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, He made it clear that there is one moral imperative upon which rests all discourse and practice of both the secular and the religious; and that is man’s divine authority to act for himself, Liberty. Liberty is the most selfish of all gifts, and it is the only possession that can prove the virtues of men.
The concept of “selfishness” as a virtuous economic principle is often extolled in the philosophy of Objectivism. This post supports the idea that selfishness, or more accurately, self-interest, can be an economic virtue, but it also cautions against the semantic mixing of economic and religious terminology.
By Marjorie Haun 11/14/2011