We need not agree on each other's choices of ethical systems to acknowledge the fact that one's code of ethics informs one's political ideology profoundly. The Leftists are starting to realize this. Their new strategy is to create a religious imperative for (they hope,) inducing religiously-inclined conservatives to embrace collectivist political policies, or at minimum to blunt conservatives' anti-government activism - out of guilt, confusion or both. They correctly believe that if they can leverage the moral code to which the broadest swath of their opposition subscribes - Judeo-Christianity - they can drive a wedge between those deeply-held religious beliefs and the political advocacy of core Constitutional Republicanism. The deeper philosophical debate aside (the issue of egoism vs. altruism as the proper foundation for human rights and liberty,) the neo-collectivists' religious arguments depend on a massive equivocation: Choice vs. compulsion. It is essential that Judeo-Christians and other religious-minded people within our ranks understand, expect, and have a ready answer to this leftwing strategy.
What brought this tactic into sharp focus is something a vestigial-left relative on Facebook linked with approval recently. It's an article titled "Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus?" from a leftwing group calling itself "Red Letter Christians": http://www.redletterchristians.org/hating-poor-loving-jesus/
The article's author, Craig Watts, begins with a harmless and valid point: He condemns a reflexive disdain for poor people based solely on their physical appearance. Well yes, the old phrase about "not judging a book by its cover" is a valid admonition against hasty and potentially unjust generalizations: people can be, and frequently are, far more complex than their circumstances and surface appearances may indicate.
But that's not Watts' message. It's only a plausible sounding lead-in to a breathtaking leap of logic: Our opposition to Marxian/Keynesian government welfare programs becomes... "hatred" for poor people themselves. (?) That is a massive, in-your-face intellectual fraud that any first-semester logic student could pin down blindfolded, one hand tied behind his back, and stone drunk - a combination of the classic ad hominem and straw man.
The author's strategy in the ad hominem of "hater" and the straw man of "your demand for an end to welfare is just hatred of poor people," is to instill shame in anyone who opposes welfare, and instill guilt via the implication of hypocrisy in anyone who opposes welfare and also espouses religious beliefs.
The intellectual fraud involved here is in the Left's attempt to erase the distinction between two opposites:
1. The entirely voluntary, personal choice to contribute to charities - whatever they may be and on whatever motives;
2. The government's current practice of forcing people, at gunpoint, to furnish money to fund elected officials' favorite charities.
The distinction they're hoping you don't see is the distinction between the polar opposites of freedom vs. force, of choice vs. compulsion. When government sticks a gun into your face and says, "We're taking the property you have earned so we can give it to our favorite charities," it is not an instance of you engaging in charitable giving. It is an instance of you complying with the law, on pain of criminal prosecution if you don't.
Similarly, if you're one of the people who approve of and vote for such programs, the only moral aspect of your action is negative: You are endorsing the coercive enslavement of yourself and others, at gunpoint. Which is of course: Ethically evil, in total. This point is something we can use on offense too - whenever we encounter a pro-socialist trying to wrap himself in virtue for advocating... charity at gunpoint. The ends have never justified the means, and never will. (This is particularly true when those "ends" do not "help the poor" in any case - something I will cover in a future post.)
And if "at gunpoint" sounds like hyperbole, ask yourself what would happen if you were to refuse to pay your taxes on a consistent basis over an extended period. Paraphrasing economist George Reisman: Eventually armed sheriff's deputies would show up at your door and escort you, under force of arms, to a courtroom - where you would appear before a judge who would have the power to fine you and/or lock you in a cage. That is the core substance of government-coerced "charity."
So to recap: The practice of government forcing you to contribute to something it calls "helping the poor," is entirely distinct from the personal choice to dig into your own wallet and give to a charity of your own choice, independently of government - or more to the point, independently of other people's money.
That is the distinction these new "religious socialists" are hoping you won't make. So make it.
From the perspective of America's Founding, all that Craig Watts' Red Letter Christians - and similar Religious Left groups - have given us are eloquent reaffirmations of the propriety of the separation of church and state.