I'm currently reading two books. I do that sometimes. And sometimes I'm amazed at how a sentence or paragraph in one book will complement or clarify a point in the other one, especially if they are two distinctly different topics. I'm currently reading The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes and The Language of God by Francis Collins. Shlaes is writing about the history of the Great Depression, and Collins is a world renown scientist explaining his belief in God. God and Democrats ... I think it's fair to describe those topics as distinctly different.
Sometimes when I'm reading, I'll pause and re-read a sentence or a paragraph either because I'm distracted or because I didn't understand it or because its just clunky. But sometimes I read it again because I need extra time to fully appreciate it and I try to connect the dots between what the author is saying and what experience has taught me. Here's a couple of snippets from each of the books mentioned above that I read more than once for that reason.
Collins, in discussing why God allows suffering in the world, writes:
For many thoughtful seekers, these rational explanations fall short of providing a justification for the pain of human existence. Why is our life more a vale of tears than a garden of delight? Much has been written about this apparent paradox, and the conclusion is not an easy one: if God is loving and wishes the best for us, then perhaps His plan is not the same as our plan. This is a hard concept, especially if we have been too regularly spoon-fed a version of God's benevolence that implies nothing more on His part than a desire for us to be perpetually happy.
I don't think there is anything especially unique there, it's a pretty standard response to the question. But when I read the following from Shlaes' book it tickled my "go back and re-read" response which helped me make a connection between the two.
Shlaes, in discussing a Roosevelt strategy session from November of 1937, writes:
At the end of November, Jackson accompanied the president on a fishing trip. Hopkins and Ickes - who at times feuded bitterly - were also aboard the Potomac, sharing a cabin. The four prepared political strategy: specifically, an assault on the wealthy. Roosevelt caught a large mackerel early on, but it was Jackson who had the biggest catch of the trip, a barracuda of more than twenty-five pounds. If any of them considered the incongruity of planning a class war on a yacht, they did not mention it.
Initially I think I connected the two passages because of the 'vale of tears' vs. 'garden of delight' phrase. The other book is about the Great Depression, which certainly qualifies as a tearful time, though FDR and friends were out enjoying the delightful garden that God provides. The details of who caught what provided by Shlaes is a nice touch since it shows they weren't all business, they had a varied agenda.
I can imagine the yacht scene with leisurely fishing and serious discussions over cocktails while safely distanced from and undistracted by the realities of the economy. This image is where I made another connection. These elite citizens, carefully planning strategy to reach their own lofty goals, and "His plan is not the same as our plan" have the similar root of arrogance.
In reading about the planned assault on the wealthy, I was trying to understand why they would consider that as a strategy, especially since FDR was in that class. I couldn't understand if it was guilt, political expediency or socialist ideology that made 'attack the rich' seem appropriate. Tearing down the wealthy to raise up the poor seemed like it evolved from the concept of 'a spoon-fed benevolent God' and I wondered, was FDR playing God? Was he trying to replace the commonly promoted benevolent God with government programs?
Then there is the suffering. In God's plan, everyone can expect adversity. In FDR's plan one group, the wealthy, will receive intentionally inflicted hardships. At first glance, FDR's plan seems more thoughtful or sensitive or morally correct ... make a few, who have plenty already, suffer for the benefit of the whole. But the idea of a targeted punishment doesn't fit with creating a world of 'perpetual happiness' and it takes us right back to the question of why God, or in this case the government, would actively promote the oppression of any group.
I don't believe that God uses suffering as punishment. I see it as a by-product of experience and self improvement; it's simply the price you pay for the benefits of living in this world. I'm not sure we can ever know FDR's true intentions for targeting the rich. You could make the case that his reasons were emotional, political, ideological or perhaps ( in some universe other than mine ) rational and practical, but I don't think you can make the case that his reasons were moral.
Some may argue that the reasons were moral, because taking from the rich was not a punishment, but necessary to improve society. Maybe Roosevelt believed that the love of money was the root of all evil and therefore the right thing to do would be to take the money away and inhibit the ability to create more. Maybe that would, eventually, change our social ideas about wealth and its accumulation.
The problem is that morals have no point unless people are free to act. If you are coerced into doing the right thing, power, not morality, is the influencing factor. It follows that if you want to enforce ( or is it inflict? ) your morality on others then you must be powerful. You need to create it, pursue it and collect it. I don't think FDR was trying to improve us by removing the temptations of wealth. I think he was simply in love with power because he needed it to remake the country to his personal specifications.
Perhaps I should summarize the connection I see for clarity's sake.
God allows free will. Democrats don't. They should quit playing God.