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The problem with moderates

By Ross Reitz

America was formed from a philosophical ideal. Most countries are built around a common race or geography, but we were founded on ideas — ideas of freedom and checks and balances.

Because we are a philosophical nation, we run our politics on ideals. It’s easier for a politician to say, “I believe in capitalism” or “I believe in socialism” than, “We should reduce regulation of this, but we need more oversight over here.” Blanket philosophies are easier for voters to comprehend, and once they commit to an all-or-nothing philosophy, it’s easier to defend it. Soon, anything that doesn’t fit our philosophy becomes the opposite of our philosophy. Some get to the point they believe any government regulation is socialism.

But what if we ran farming like politics? A candidate could say, “I believe in watering plants.” Well, don’t we all believe in watering plants? This candidate could get great support because he could show how bad it is to never water our plants.

But what if we watered our plants all the time? Another candidate might explain there are times to water plants, and times to stop watering. However, the Watering Party candidate would point out that our wishy-washy, sometimes-watering candidate can’t give a firm answer about plant watering, and could point out this other candidate is calling for regulation of watering — government interference. If we ran farming like politics, most of us would agree we should water plants when they need water, but we would probably divide up between the party who waters plants all the time and the party who never waters them — because it takes more work to explain how much water plants need.

Blindly following a political philosophy is also problematic because, while philosophies may contain some truth, they eventually counteract Biblical teaching. I have heard many sermons about free market capitalism. Jesus taught more about money than anything else, and he never taught that we should amass greater wealth, that it’s wrong to share with the poor because sharing encourages laziness, or that we should give the rich a tax cut instead of rebuilding infrastructure.

God created Adam and Eve in a garden — not a forest. There are almost no flowers, fruits or vegetables in a forest. In a forest, large trees block the sun, killing smaller plants. The only natural way to grow sustainable food in a forest is for fires to wipe out an entire area to let in the sun.

Likewise — even before sin occurred — God gave Adam and Eve the task of watching out for the little guy. Even the tomato that would not make it unless the garden was maintained and the forest controlled. Throughout the Bible, God reiterates His plan of caring for those in need. God commanded the Israelites to use their tithe to help widows, orphans and immigrants, and God said no one is allowed to charge the poor interest. The New Testament church shared their wealth even beyond this law.

Yet, we’ve let an extreme interpretation of a philosophy erase Biblical teaching. After the last economic crisis, Congress established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which helped average people who were illegally being charged exorbitant interest to get their money back from large banks. But, currently this agency has stopped helping anyone who is illegally being charged excessive interest. The same man who dismantled the CFPB has now stopped the plans for rebuilding our infrastructure. Instead of a modest tax increase that allows us to vote in the people who will control the money, we are pushing for toll roads across America. These “public-private partnerships” keep out government regulation, but instead our roads will be controlled by private companies whose tolls make us spend more money than we would in taxes — and tolls return the money only to the rich.

As Christians, we believe in a merciful but powerful God. We believe God forgives sin, but also punishes sin. Will God continue to allow us to preach philosophies that directly contradict His teachings? I pray God gives us courage to stand up and tend our economic gardens instead of letting the trees grow over us until He sends a forest fire.

Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.