My post regarding Dave Ramsey's dismissiveness to me and the poor has blown up. I never expected such a response. I've had a welcome amount of agreement along with a surprising amount of "I've been there". It seems to me as if Dave and his team make a habit out of closing off disagree-ers by blocking them on social media platforms. As you can imagine, this is both comforting and frustrating for me.
I've also had a fair amount of criticism. That's fair because when I put something in the public sphere, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. The criticism can be separated into three categories as best I see it. Rather than responding to each and every comment or thread, I thought this post might help. The main critiques are:
- I shouldn't have put such a thing on social media to begin with (either the blog or the original tweet).
- Dave Ramsey is immensely generous because of his wealth and most churches turn to rich people first in order to accomplish their calling in helping the poor.
- Capitalism is not bad and has been proven to be far more successful than socialism in this world.
I'll attempt to briefly address each critique. I think these critiques suffer from some presumptions that are American in nature and not, in my view, Christian in nature.
I shouldn't have put such an argument on social media. This isn't the first time I've heard such and argument. That's ok. I think the world is still experimenting with what is appropriate in a social forum like the internet and those lines have been both defined and blurred throughout time. For all who say that this conversation is inappropriate to have on the internet, I've got a ton of people who say they appreciate reading this stuff via the same medium. It's both a win win and lose lose situation and as long as I'm willing to put up with the consequences, I'm ok riding that line.
Anyone familiar with Dave Ramsey should be familiar with the amount of money he makes. He makes it clear within Financial Peace University that he's a multimillionaire and that he advocates giving as a part of being a financially peaceful. I'll go as far as to commend him for a line he often tells callers on his radio show: giving isn't about percentages or anything else, giving is about giving with a giving heart. Dave advocates giving, especially when you've developed wealth.
But this is a fundamentally American view of wealth. After all, if there were no rich, who would support our moralistic endeavors? This is American in nature because it presumes free market capitalism and few Christian virtues. Funny enough, Dave presents this theory under the guise of scriptural authority in FPU. He quotes Proverbs 21 saying that wise people store up food and oil, fools gulp theirs down. You can only be of help to the world if you have money saved up.
What type of scriptural authority is it though, if it ignores perhaps the most famous exchange about riches in Scripture? The gospel writers tell us that when a rich man was asking the very question of salvation (inheriting the Kingdom of God), Jesus quoted off some laws he must follow. When the man said that he had followed all those laws, Jesus introduced him to one more idea: sell everything you have and give the money to the poor. After that, he said, come follow me. I don't think Jesus is strictly saying here that you can't have money and be a Christian, but I do think he's making a point: you can't love your possessions more than following Jesus. Christianity does not function under the assumption that we need rich people. Christianity functions under a devotion to the lordship of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This is a fundamental difference between American views of wealth and Christian views of discipleship.
My argument against capitalism isn't that it's unsuccessful. Financially speaking, capitalism makes more rich people. My argument is that socialism helps us equally value each and every member of society based on their worth as a human, not only off their work ethic or success in business. I don't think the United States could ever move to a socialistic form of government or economics (and I don't think Obama is moving in that direction--I think that's largely rhetoric), but as a Christian I can see how socialism mirrors the way God looks at all God's children. I can at least see the holiness in it. The US could not move to to socialistic values for precisely that reason: it values things Christianity does not.
I greatly appreciate everyone's interest in my original post. I reiterate that I find Dave's general principles helpful but that his outlook and general despise for socialism for no other reason than love of money hurts his Christian witness.