The Wives of Others: Covetousness and Social Liberalism
There was a time, before I was a Christian, when I met a young Midwestern blonde in college. I spent my time between classes trying to get her attention, eventually getting her number and being invited to many of her parties. But despite my concentrated efforts, there was always one thing which stood between us: she was married, to a marine who was on tour.
At the time, it mattered little to me that she was taken, and perhaps even less that she was married. And though I did not know the man (I cannot even remember his name), nor did I ever see his face, I was determined to take something precious from him without a moment's consideration of how he might be harmed. I was determined to take his wife.
I failed, of course, much to my present joy. But what continues to disturb me so much about the event is how heartless I was -- how, in my spoiled, consumptive state, I was not content with the hundreds of other girls available at the college, but was more interested in taking what so preciously belonged to another.
This problem of heartless covetousness is not new, nor is it confined to any fringe of socially liberal miscreants. There once was a great penalty attached to wrecking a home -- a firm reminder that man's tendency is oftentimes to steal what is not his without concern for the suffering of others. Today, on the other hand, stealing someone's wife is not even a misdemeanor in many states. Having no legal recourse to defend the honor of his home with the support of law, possessing in matrimony little to no contract rights, and incapable of directing a moderated form of physical violence against intruders, man is left helpless, depending solely upon an ever-depreciating social standard for the constitution of those things so crucial to his well-being. It is almost as though a man must simply tolerate having his most precious possessions taken away from him while he hangs his head in desperate silence, forced into victimhood. For American society simply no longer believes that one's very spouse belongs to him (or, conversely, he to her) and therefore refuses to acknowledge in almost any way that another may infringe upon his right. Society has declared by its inaction that a man's wife, in most respects, could very well belong to anybody.
The indefensible marriage may alone drive some to despair, but in Western society, the reach of covetousness does not stop at wives and husbands. It concerns everything men may physically possess, from property to status to employment, the wandering eye of an ever-degenerating citizenry rarely content, roaming for any temporal inequality and jealously insisting that all mountains and valleys be made level. But though perhaps the many kinds of covetousness and their offspring, thievery, in all their forms, may not always inspire the outrage which the adulterer deserves, they are not any less evil. "Thou shalt not commit adultery" and "thou shalt not steal," though justice may demand different approaches to both, are really the result of the same problem: man's refusal to acknowledge the boundaries of belonging, he being therefore willing to harm another in an act of kinetic jealousy.
To this, men must without timidity ask what covetousness is. Does it exist in the patriot, who wishes employment to remain not in the hands of the illegal immigrant, but in the hands of his countrymen? Does it exist in the man who, without employment, steals to feed his family? May we call a man covetous when he is angered because he cannot own property without being enslaved, for a great portion of his lifetime, to the banker? Should it be considered covetousness for taxation to be levied for the construction of roads and stop signs? Does it exist in the man whose wife has been stolen, when he, with a jealous glance, observes her new lover?
To these questions, social liberalism provides no real answer. For when there is no objective standard of property, there is no true covetousness, the line between thievery and taxation is blurred, and men become dependent not upon what is actually right, but upon whichever sentiment prevails, upon the will of the majority. Thus, men may pretend that one man's cultural "opinion" about covetousness is simply an opinion, but when greed, that malignant cancer, is being defined, whether for purposes personal or of state redistribution, it cannot be approached with timidity or a spirit of tolerance. It must be confronted -- not just the act, but the sentiment -- for what it is. It must be derided and publicly detested. It must place upon its holder the stamp of the thief, the banner of piracy, reducing him in the public's eye to the enemy of that for which civilized society conglomerates in the first place. If men are to band together for the protection of life, liberty, and property, not only must they first conclude that such things as life and liberty and property exist, but they must then come to a correct definition of these terms. And neither can be produced by debate, nor by constitutions, nor by simple majority. These principles so dear to the heart of a liberated republic must be so far beyond man's definition, so that when man intolerably violates them -- whether by the consent of the legislature or not -- it is within the power of the governed to resist.
Now, in rejection of a non-establishment of property rights, one must consider social liberalism's greatest enemy, biblical conservatism. When the last of the Ten Commandments relates not to a behavior, but rather to a thought, "thou shalt not covet," it places upon men a responsibility to know, without any sort of indecision or moral murkiness, what exactly belongs to one, what belongs to another, how those are legitimately transferred, and under which circumstances these rights may be morally suspended. It is, in essence, a confirmation that property rights of all sorts are not a matter of opinion, but instead extend in absolute and unwavering dedication from the highest of possessions to the lowest. It declares not that social justice is another ideology, but that it is corruption and robbery, and it negatively declares not that graduated taxes are another form of taxation, but that they are a form of plunder and inequality. It says that citizens have a right to property apart from the interference of the usurer, that a starving man has a right to labor for his food -- but not to sit on his couch while collecting a check, in able condition. It says that all citizens must pay taxes, that non-citizens must obey the law, and that if public infrastructure is to be built, every person within its sphere of taxation must contribute the same amount, to keep politicians accountable for their spending.
No longer can Americans afford, with spiraling debts and crushing taxes being laid upon their infants and their infants after them, to simply consider acts of state or personal covetousness to continue. To continue is neither charity nor liberty, but plunder; and like a man who steals the wife of another while the husband is away, so are those who with the violence of the state rob their neighbors for that after which they lust. The question of whether patriots will stand firm, reversing the tragedy of American decline, or whether they will buckle under the weight of a million invalid opinions, will be their decision. But one thing is certain, and it is that proceeding under a Godless social liberalism will result in the latter.
Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.