We are all familiar with the student who goes off to college and comes home alter the first year spouting liberal nonsense that he learned in the classroom. This phenomenon has been around since the days of classical Greece. Aristophanes wrote a comedy about such a youth: Clouds. A young man goes off to Socrates’ academy and comes home a know-it-all jerk. Students usually get over this phase by age 30 unless they go to graduate school. In grad school, the damage to both common sense and moral sense can become permanent.
The Christian version is the youth who comes home spouting nonsense and quoting the Bible out of context to defend his views. He does things like quote Israel’s jubilee law (Lev. 25) as a model of State-directed wealth-redistribution. No one told him that the jubilee’s legal basis was genocide: the destruction of an entire civilization by the Israelites, i.e., wealth-distribution by military conquest. No one told him that the same jubilee law authorized the permanent enslavement of foreigners and their children (Lev. 25:44-46).
He insists that he is still a Christian, but he declares that a Christian can be a liberal: an in-your-face, in-your-wallet, tax-collector’s-gun-in-your belly kind of liberal. He announces, in so many words, “You’ll have to pay; government gets to spend the money on the poor (after skimming off 50% for handling); and it’s all in the name of Jesus.”
With the publication of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study in 1977, Ronald J. Sider became the Moses of the American Protestant evangelicals’ version of this kind of liberal. (John R. Stott had already begun serving this role in England.) Sider led them in a unique kind of exodus out of the fundamentalist prayer closets of their youth. “Free at last; free at last!” Dressed in tweed jackets with the obligatory leather patches on the elbows, an army of Christian college and seminary professors followed him into the wilderness of liberation theology.
They thought they were on the cutting edge of a new, caring kind of Christianity. They imagined that they were headed into the Promised Land of social relevance and political influence. They believed that their students would follow them. The students did, too, for about three years. Then they changed their minds, voted for Ronald Reagan, and went into real estate development or the brokerage business. (This, too, shall pass, but that is another story.)
Two decades later, their leader announced it was all a big mistake. Ron Sider became a card-carrying capitalist.
In mid-1997, the 20th anniversary edition of Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger appeared. On the cover, it proclaims: “Over 350,000 copies in print.” Most of these copies were the first edition. The second edition was forced on Sider in 1984 by David Chilton’s book, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (1981), which I hired Chilton to write and which ICE published. Sider prudently refused to mention Chilton in that second edition . . . also in the third edition and the latest edition. The original publishers surrendered control over it in 1990, when Word Books picked it up. Publishers do not surrender books that are still selling well.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)