Asheville Daily Planet, October 15 2020

“The left wants to…take us into socialism.  [They] will…close the Church down in many places.  We see right now because of COVID, the government trying to tell the Church that they cannot meet.”

This was Franklin Graham earlier this year.  Who is the “left” he’s warning about?  Who?  The Democratic Party in the United States, people who share most of his values. 

James Dobson goes farther: “Socialism, at its core, is a secular framework that installs government as ‘god.’  It has no use for faith, freedom, or the will of the people.”

This is all in the context of politics, Trump versus Biden.  Graham said: “I am just asking that God would spare this country, for another four years, to give us a little bit more time to do the work before the storm hits.”

Hold it.  Is there anything in Joe Biden’s past or present that hints he will shut down churches?  Of course not.  He’s a devout Christian.    

So why this fierce attack on him?  Nobody can judge another man’s mind and motives.  But well, it sure looks like a scare tactic to get evangelicals to the polls.  And I also feel a niggle that these men might cherish  being near the president. 

The gloomiest forecast I’ve seen is from Graham: Our country is deteriorating.  We are in a nosedive.  If God doesn’t save us, there is no hope.”

I can understand if he’s thinking politically.  But not spiritually.   American culture is certainly becoming more secular.  It is.  But at the same time, more and more, Americans are incorporating into their lives, from many sources, the powerful ideas that C.S. Lewis called “the sole source of all value judgments.” 

I look around me, at Christians and non-Christians, and I see improvement – my children’s generation over mine.  We’ve learned about good parenting.  It’s not unusual when minorities succeed in every field of endeavor.  We don’t tolerate sexual harassment.  

Columnist David Brooks wrote on this topic: “The decline in family violence is part of a whole web of positive, mutually reinforcing social trends. To put it in old-fashioned terms, America is becoming more virtuous. Americans today hurt each other less….They are more likely to resist selfish and shortsighted impulses….A result is an improvement in social order across a range of behaviors.” 

And socialism?  Socialism is not, as many evangelical leaders teach, the enemy of Christianity.  The Dobsons of America use the word “socialism” as a bin to hold all the frightful things they disapprove of.  It’s their private brand of socialism.    

Honestly or deceptively, they seem to confuse socialism with Twentieth-Century communism, which did persecute Christians.  Socialism is a system of policies – how government taxes (more) and spends (providing support to citizens).

Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine reported a study that ranked 156 countries on their level of “happiness,” based on how their citizens feel.  In top-ranked countries – Finland, Switzerland and Australia, for example – socialism and capitalism coexist and complement each other.  None is communist.    The U.S. is ranked 18th.

Previous studies explained good happiness rankings as “peace of mind that people experience from government support.”  To me, that’s something to be desired.

The study cited in Forbes included pandemic relevance: “A high-trust society quite naturally looks for and finds cooperative ways to work together to repair the damage and rebuild better lives. This has led sometimes to surprising increases in happiness in the wake of what might otherwise seem to be…the face of disasters.  People are pleasantly surprised by the willingness of their neighbors and their institutions to work in harness to help each other.  This delivers a heightened sense of belonging, and pride in what they have been able to achieve.”

A high-trust society.  Let that sink in.  It’s exactly what we don’t have.  And much of our discord comes from our leaders, political and spiritual, who zealously encourage distrust of those with differing views.  It’s clear, I think, that America has performed poorly in the pandemic because we don’t “work in harness” with one another.

The days ahead will test us.  May we perform well.!