By Jonathon Van Maren
It is strange, the late Charles Krauthammer noted some time ago, that a decade or two after the idea of socialism was bankrupted and abandoned by all but a few intellectuals holed up in their airtight ivory towers, socialism’s popularity should rise so suddenly and so meteorically.
Indeed, the upstart Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nearly growled his way to an upset of Hillary Clinton’s nomination during the 2016 election, with tens of thousands of people—especially young people—pouring out of their hipster coffee shops and taking breaks from live-tweeting their oppression on expensive iPads to hear him speak. His message—a fairly simple socialist, collectivist we’re all in this together mantra—seems to have had an enormous appeal to an enormous number of people.
The reason I find this so interesting is because in my work as a pro-life activist, I spend my time fighting the other ideology that has conquered our culture, one that seems to be at complete odds with the socialism so many left-wingers claim to admire: hyper-individualism. On nearly every major life issue, secular progressives promptly abandon their collectivist croonings and with an abrupt grinding of gears announce that issues such as abortion and assisted suicide are personal matters of choice.
Suddenly, all the syrupy speeches lauding our duty to assist one another to the greatest extent of our ability, to help the poor and the weak and the vulnerable, are replaced with a harsh manifesto to selfishness. Apparently the socialist spirit only extends to relieving wealthy business owners of their earnings, but does not involve any condemnation of the violent barbarism abortion inflicts on society’s weakest members. Suicide activists are pushing to make suicide a universal human right, indicating that the harmony the progressives assure us will come with socialism does not preclude Grandma being put to sleep like a household pet.
This is all really very strange. The idea that someone can choose such a thing as death without impacting everything and everybody else is delusional. It also an idea with a profoundly dismal view of the value of individual human lives. We’re all in this together, it seems, until we’re not. Business owners wanting to keep more of the money they earned are selfish money-grubbers, but killing a baby in the womb is just good feminism in practice.
So on one hand, socialism and collectivism are the prevailing political tropes. On the other hand, autonomy and individualism are dominating social policy, as seen in the rise of assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and no-fault divorce even for parents with children.
These policies, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you inhabit, are destroying the most precious human bonds we have: husbands and wives, parents and children, children and parents. These relationships are rupturing under the weight of the secular selfishness that demands sacrifice only from certain people, and for certain things.
I suppose this makes sense in a way. Once the family structure has been destroyed and all natural bonds of affection have been poisoned, the government has to step in with massive social programs and socialist policies simply because the once-prevailing safety nets of the immediate family, the extended family, and the church community will have been eliminated. Millions of people are then one missing paycheck away from poverty. Promoting radical autonomy and unmitigated self-determination for individuals and imposing socialism on the broken society that remains once the fallout is complete is really quite clever. Perhaps the secular progressives realized quite some time ago that if they could just convince everyone to live thoroughly selfish lives in pursuit of what made them happy, then the state would have to step in to curate the remaining rubble. The rich could pay for everything, of course. Those reluctant to pay higher taxes would simply have to stop being so selfish.
It is simply impossible to take socialists seriously in the light of their transparent hypocrisy. Even so-called Christian socialists are often willing to go wobbly on the murder of children in the womb in order to back left-wing political candidates that they claim, in direct contravention of the evidence, will solve the economic circumstances that lead to abortion in the first place. Being pro-life means being pro-whole-life, they explain condescendingly – as if they would be making the same argument if it were instead thousands of adults being decapitated, dismembered, and disemboweled each day. Do you think for one moment that they would vote for a candidate who endorsed the execution of three hundred adults each day based on the fact that said candidate had so many other compassionate policies? I think not.
Underlying their arguments, as well-intended as they might be, is the same fundamental disregard for children in the womb and the same belief that the state can fix the brokenness we have brought on ourselves that is shared by their secular progressive comrades. Secularists pretend Karl Marx wasn’t an utter failure, and Christian socialists pretend that the commands of Jesus to “love our neighbor” actually refer to endorsements of government policy rather than our duty to love and care for those around us. Christian socialism, as sweet as it often sounds, is simply a cheap way of avoiding the messy, complex reality of our actual Christian duty: to stand up and care for our neighbors ourselves. Having the government take money from other people to fund social programs is not what Jesus had in mind when He exhorted us to love our neighbors. Christian socialists sound as if their concern for the poor is acute while actually proposing, in effect, that we pass the buck to the state. The phrase “champagne socialists” comes to mind.