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- What Makes Christmas So Controversial?
- Jesus Was A Case Maker
- That You May Believe
- The Star of Bethlehem: An astronomer, astrophysicist, and theologian’s perspective
- Peter J. Williams lectures on the historical reliability of the gospel narratives
- 7 Things You Need to Know About the Formation of the New Testament
- Does the Bible really attest to the Deity of Jesus?
- Understanding Critical Theory and Christian Apologetics
- The BIG Words of Christianity
- Maybe Our Churches Need More Comic Books
Media reports over the last several months have trumpeted that witches in the U.S. now outnumber Presbyterians.
It’s great religious clickbait but the assertion, to the extent it’s based on anything, rests on a false comparison.
In 2014 Pew Research Center estimated that 0.4 percent of Americans, about 1 to 1.5 million people, identify as Wiccan or Pagan. This statistic, cited in all the media reports, is evidently the most recently available data, although it is four years old. But faddish stories can sometimes be ginned up based on old numbers.
Media reports have compared this number of supposed Wiccans/Pagans with 1.4 million Presbyterians, hence the provocative headlines. Witches and other adherents of natural religion outnumber a major Christian tradition in America.
Pew’s Wiccan estimate includes all persons who identify with Wiccan type beliefs. The Presbyterian number is based on the enrolled membership of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which is the largest Presbyterian denomination in America.
This comparison does not involve equals. A more accurate assessment would compare enrolled members of covens with the enrolled members of all Presbyterian denominations.
Of course, there is no registry of covens or other pagan groups. Wiccans don’t tend to have institutions with formal membership. They are mostly individualistic and, although claiming ties to ancient pagan beliefs, are very American and modern in their pursuit of their own mostly self-crated nature-based spirituality. “Wicca” as a term dates to the mid to late 20th century.
A more accurate comparison would liken total self-identified Wiccans with total self-identified Presbyterians, not just enrolled church members. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, two percent of Americans self-identify as Presbyterian, which would equal about 6.6 million Americans, or 5 times as many Wiccans.
The total number of enrolled members in Presbyterians denominations would include not just the 1.4 million of the Presbyterian Church (USA). There are also the Presbyterian Church in America with 375,000, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with 145,000, the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians with 121,000, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church with 71,000, the Korean Presbyterian Church in America with 55,000, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church with 31,000. With other smaller denominations there are maybe 2.1 or 2.2 total Presbyterian church members in America.
Far more people typically identify with a church tradition, based on their past, family ties or occasional involvement, than are actively formal members. But sometimes splashy headlines are based on false comparisons between self-identification of a non-Christian movement with formal members of a Christian denomination.
As denominationalism continues to recede, and more even active Christians identify less with traditional denominations, these comparisons will become likely even more common.
This particular story apparently began with an October 4 Quartz article headlined: “The US Witch Population Has Seen an Astronomical Rise,: mostly based on the Pew study and an even older study from Trinity College in Connecticut in 2008.
Quartz did not reference Presbyterianism. But my friend Carmen Fowler LaBerge
the article with this comment:
As mainline Protestantism continues its devolution, the U.S. witch population is rising astronomically. There may now be more Americans who identify as practicing witches, 1.5 mil, than there are members of mainline Presbyterianism (PCUSA) 1.4 mil.
An October 10 Christian Post article cited Carmen’s quote, which sparked the subsequent witch/Presbyterian comparison in other media that omitted specific reference to PCUSA membership, instead making blanket witch/Presbyterian comparisons.
On December 17, The Daily Caller ran the headline: “Witches Now Outnumber Presbyterians In The US,” declaring: “Self-identified practitioners of witchcraft in the U.S. outnumber Presbyterian Christians, thanks in part to Millennials’ embrace of New Age spirituality.” But the story in the second paragraph did specify the comparison was between Wiccan self-identification versus membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
A November 18 Newsweek article, headlined “Number Of Witches Rises Dramatically Across U.S. As Millennials Reject Christianity, claimed: “With 1.5 million potential practicing witches across the U.S., witchcraft has more followers than the 1.4 million mainline members of the Presbyterian church.”
On December 17, The Daily Caller (https://dailycaller.com/2018/12/17/witches-presbyterians-new-age/) ran the headline: “Witches Now Outnumber Presbyterians In The US,” declaring: “Self-identified practitioners of witchcraft in the U.S. outnumber Presbyterian Christians, thanks in part to Millennials’ embrace of New Age spirituality.” Later in the story it did reference the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Not making this distinction, Breitbart on December 22, just in time for Christmas, amplified the claim with headline: “Witchcraft Booming in America, ‘More Witches than Presbyterians.’” It read: The number of self-declared witches in the United States now exceeds the total number of Presbyterians, the Telegraph declared Friday.”
Breitbart was referencing British tabloid The Telegraph , which on December 21, under the headline, “Witchcraft moves to the mainstream in America as Christianity declines – and has Trump in its sights,” declared (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/21/witchcraft-moves-mainstream-america-christianity-declines/):
That growth trend was confirmed by the Pew Research Center in 2014, whose surveys reported that more Americans identify as Wiccan, a form of modern paganism created in England, or pagan than as Presbyterian. At the time of the surveys, there were 1.4 million American Presbyterians and about 1.5 million Wiccans.
In fact, the Pew study did not compare Wiccans with Presbyterians.
But the witches/Presbyterian story took off. Even George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a television commentator on judicial issues not typically focused on religion, blogged with the headline: “Report: Witches Now Outnumber Presbyterians in the United States.”
Turley’s news hook was President Trump’s complaints about the “witch hunt” in Washington. Other stories about the supposed surge in witchcraft noted witches had placed hexes on Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Spuriously claiming witches now outnumber Presbyterians was too delicious to avoid, along with hyperbolic assertions about Christianity’s implosion and paganism’s surge.
The headlines were cute, but the truth is more complicated. Whatever America’s challenges and problems, witches and Wiccans are likely not chief among them. Christians in America likely cause more trouble than witches.
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Amid all the world religions, only Christianity is able to proclaim the Bible’s good news that God, the Creator and Redeemer, will bring a new order into being! Indeed, that is the only good news available to a fallen race today. God has promised a new order that will be of eternal duration and infused with eternal life.
It is a promise from God of a new order to be based upon the qualities the exact opposite of mankind’s universal blight—temporality and mortality. God promises the qualities of perfection and eternity—qualities that cannot now be found anywhere on this earth.
What a prospect! …
God’s revelation says that Jesus Christ is the eternal Victor, triumphant over sin and death. That is why He is the Head of the new creation which has upon it the banner of eternity rather than of temporality and the mark of life forevermore rather than the mark of death. TRA139-140, 142
What a prospect, indeed! Thank You, Father, for the eternal victory of Jesus Christ. I worship You now and long for that day of completion. Amen. 
Who is the worst Christian of 2018?
On the surface, this seems like a foolish or even pharisaical question. The fact of the matter is that there are none worthy to stand righteous before God except his perfect son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every believer struggles with sin every day and will continue to do so until the Lord returns and raises us anew in glory. None of us are really better than another. Yet, we can still fairly ask and answer, “Who is the worst Christian of 2018?” if we consider the question in terms of an individual’s influence on the visible church at large. Who out there, among the professing, has had the most deleterious effect on the health of the body of Christ in the year 2018? Using a number of criteria and identifying candidates from a pool of nominees (obvious charlatans and the theologically heterodox) were not included in consideration. I have come up with a one professing Christian who can fairly be considered “the worst Christian of 2018”.
Nominees were as follows:
After careful consideration of the use of power, influence, responsibility, and the expression of theology, I hereby bestow the title of “Worst Christian of 2018” to Thom Rainer:
Mr. Rainer, you famously authored the best-selling book I am a Church Member. An author, leadership coach, and the long-time CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, you are held up by many as some kind of expert on church membership and church operations. Well, Mr, Rainer, I am a church member. As a church member, I can say with complete confidence that your influence on the local church is among the most harmful in all the visible church and Christian industrial complex. Upon announcing your retirement from LifeWay, you stated:
I love the local church, with all of its imperfections and idiosyncratic ways. I want to give every minute God allows me to make a difference to see churches revitalized.
You love the local church? Either you are a liar or you are remarkably obtuse and theologically stupid. Given that you have a PhD from Southern Seminary and served as a dean there for twelve years, I not included to believe that you are obtuse or stupid. I am inclined to believe that you are greedy and love money more than you love Jesus and His local churches. When I think of you, your words, and what you sell for a profit at LifeWay, I am reminded of the words of my Lord Jesus:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
The worst thing about you, Mr. Rainer is that you do not produce heresy and false teaching, you distribute it for a profit. You do not author new-age montanist heresy unfit to drive the plot of a cheesy network sitcom, Sarah Young does. You sell Jesus Calling and the entire franchise of products which go with it. If not for your allowing the sale of such dung, I wouldn’t have had to snatch it from the hand of a fellow student at the New Orleans Baptist on-campus bookstore and warn her of its demonic content. You do not gyrate on stage, preach prosperity sermons to roaring crowds, and teach detestable Oneness Pentecostal doctrines, TD Jakes does. You sell TD Jakes’ books to people who come to a Christian store looking for godly reading material You do not write emotionally charged word-garbage disguised as Bible studies, Beth Moore does. You sell Beth Moore’s products to thousands of women who need spiritual direction. You do not write how-to-guides for creating dimly lit rock-n-roll goat shows, Andy Stanley does. You sell Andy Stanley’s leadership books to young men who desire success in the pastorate. You do not teach the heresy of universalism, William Paul Young does. You made his book, The Shack, the “Book of the Month” at LifeWay. You did not make up fanciful tales of Heaven Tourism, Colton Burpo, Don Piper, and Alex Malarkey did. Alex Malarkey admitted his book was fake. You sold it anyway. Perhaps the situation at LifeWay would be less tragic if you had no standards at all, but you do. There is actually a black list of authors you won’t sell. So it’s not as if you won’t sell anything for money, just almost anything.
Mr. Rainer, you are not unlike a drug dealer or distributor of pornography. You do not grow harmful substances out of the ground, you make it your job making it easier for people to buy them. You do not perform depraved sex acts on a set to titillate the lustful, you distribute the dirty movies to them. Not only do you act in this way, but you actually sell coaching services so that other men, specifically pastors, can learn to lead like you. Your “platinum mentoring package” comes at a price of $249.97 per month. Why someone, especially a pastor, would want to pay any amount of money for email access, training, and a video call with you is beyond me. That pastors want to learn to be CEOs like you makes me feel equal parts angry and nauseated. That you have franchised your particular and disturbing brand of churchmanship contributed greatly to your receiving this title. Your collective influence from selling sub-par Christian literature and training up the next generation to do the same has made you the worst Christian of 2018.
I pray that in 2019 you’ll abandon your plans to start a “church revitalization” business and keep your harmful influence away from Christ’s churches, with the exception of finding one local church to serve in after a period of reflection upon of repentance from your career of serving mammon. While there may be many who would justify your life of profiteering in the name of the money you raised for evangelism, I am not one of them. The ends do not justify the means. You, Thom Rainer, are the personification of religious greed. You are a modern day Teetsel. Sadly, I think you are surrounded by sycophantic wannabe yes-men who praise, want to be the next you, or at the very least want to be promoted by you. I wish more people loved you enough to adjure you to change course.
Thom Rainer, you are the worst Christian of 2018.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Whether by life or by death.
The apostle Paul didn’t know the details of God’s plan for his life, but he was confident in it, whether it meant life or death. Later he said, “I am hard–pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (vv. 23–24). Paul preferred the joy of being in Christ’s presence in heaven, but apparently he thought the Lord would let him live because he knew the Philippians needed him.
Paul rejoiced because he knew that by either his life or death Christ would be exalted. If he lived, he would be free to preach and build the church. If he died, he would be executed for Christ’s sake, and his unwavering faith would serve as a trophy of Christ’s grace. For Paul the issue was not his troubles, detractors, or even the possibility of his death, but whether the gospel was advancing and the Lord was being magnified.
Like Paul, you don’t know the specifics of God’s plan for your life. But one thing you can be sure of: in life or death you can glorify Christ.
In the latest indication that the market is due for a rebound, buying by corporate insiders – who are best known in recent years for aggressively dumping their shares to corporate buyback programs – surged in the past two months, and according to data from the Washington Service, has outpaced insider selling by the most in eight years, or since the US downgrade in August 2011 which prompted a market-wide rout.
The last time insider buying soared as much as it has in recent months, in August 2011, the S&P 500 was in the middle of a comparable 19% retreat before staging a 10% rally in each of the next two quarters. A similar spike in insider buying took place in August 2015 during the ETFlash crash following the China currency devaluation when stocks also tumbled only to see a sharp rebound.
As Bloomberg notes, the increase in demand from companies’ highest-ranking employees will likely be seen as a vote of confidence in stocks which on Monday briefly entered a bear market, even as anxiety rises over Federal Reserve rate hikes and political turmoil in Washington.
“Insiders are pretty well informed at the micro level of their businesses,” Todd Fungard, who oversee $1.2 billion as chief investment officer of McQueen, Ball & Associates Inc., said by phone. “It’s a good sign that business leaders still see demand at their companies and feel comfortable buying their own stock despite the headline risk.”
One possibility is that insiders are telegraphing that another barrage of corporate buybacks may be imminent, as insiders generally tend to buy when they are confident that their stock will rise, and what better way to levitate stock prices than by having these same insiders announce even more buybacks. On the other hand, with IG credit spreads blowing out to 2+ year wides…
… using debt to fund such buybacks will be an increasingly precarious choice unless insiders also know something about the slowing economy (see today’s catastrophic Richmond Fed print), and are expecting, or hoping, for interest rates to decline making bond issuance more palatable again.
The president told us the troops were in Syria to fight ISIS and with ISIS nearly gone the Syrians and their allies could finish the job.
All of a sudden the Trump haters who for two years had been telling us that the president was dangerous because he might get us in a war, were telling us that the president is dangerous because he was getting us out of a war! These are the same people who have been complaining about the president’s historic efforts to help move toward peace with North Korea.
There was more than a little hypocrisy among the “never Trump” resistance over the president’s announcement. Many of the talking heads and politicians who attacked George W. Bush’s wars, then were silent for President Obama’s wars, are now attacking President Trump for actually taking steps to end some wars. It just goes to show that for many who make their living from politics and the military-industrial complex, there are seldom any real principles involved.
Among the neoconservatives, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s reaction was pretty typical. Though it seems Sen. Graham is never bothered when presidents violate the Constitution to take the US into another war without authorization, he cannot tolerate it when a president follows the Constitution and removes US troops from wars they have no business being involved in. Sen. Graham is now threatening to hold Congressional hearings in attempt to reverse the President’s decision to remove troops from Syria.
Neoconservatives are among the strongest proponents of the idea that as a “unitary executive,” the president should not be encumbered by things like the Constitution when it comes to war-making. Now all of a sudden when a president uses his actual Constitutional authority to remove troops from a war zone the neocons demand Congressional meddling to weaken the president. They get it wrong on both fronts! The president does have Constitutional authority to move US troops and to remove US troops; Congress has the power and the obligation to declare war and the power of the purse to end wars.
Most of the Washington establishment – especially the “resistance” liberals and the neocons – are complaining that by removing US troops from these two war zones President Trump has gone too far. I would disagree with them. I call President Trump’s announcement a good start. Americans are tired of being the world’s policemen. The United States does not “lose influence” by declining to get involved in disputes oceans away. We lose influence by spending more on the military than most of the rest of the world combined and meddling where we are not wanted. We will lose a whole lot more influence when their crazy spending makes us bankrupt. Is that what they want?
The Democrats’ policy of open borders or no borders is designed to open our country’s gates to a tsunami of immigrants with morals and values diametrically opposed to those of Americans.
It would require a fierce liberal skeptic to deny that open borders bring crime, disease, drugs and votes to the Democratic Party. Reprehensible as it might be, the open borders and the subsequent upsurge of refugees serve the Democratic Party’s political objectives of perpetuation of the Democratic Party rule.
The Democratic scheme is to change the country’s demographic with an emphasis on open borders and relaxation of the immigration laws, thus ensuring a continuous inflow of Latinos and Muslims to the U.S. The central premise of this strategy is to entice the immigrants with welfare benefits, free health care, free education of children, and eventual citizenship in order to vote Democratic and ultimately to bring this country in conformity with the socialist principles.
Therefore, a border wall with Mexico would create a serious hurdle to the implementation of this strategy.
Mick Mulvaney recently said “We don’t understand why the Democrats are so wholeheartedly against it… They voted for it in 2006, then-Senator Obama voted for it. Senator Schumer voted for, Senator Clinton voted for it. So, I don’t understand why Democrats apply in politics just because Donald Trump is in office.”
Mulvaney seems to emphasizing the obvious over the important. The important is that this Democratic rebellion against building the wall has little to do with the mixture of disdain and fear of Donald Trump. This is a fight of two bitterly opposed and ideologically hostile, irreconcilable camps for the future of this country. In a broader ideological sense, the current brinkmanship is another chapter in the epic struggle between socialism and freedom. There can be no stalemate and no compromise is possible; this struggle can only end up in total victory or total defeat.
For decades the Democrats successfully deceived the country and Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush by professing their support for the border security and building the wall while at the same time refining procrastination into a high art without assuming responsibility for the consequences. The political landscape had been steadily shifting in their direction until the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s statements about border security touched on the conservative argument no borders — no sovereignty. It mobilized the Republican Party and brought the issue to the top of his agenda.
When it became apparent to the Democrats that they had failed to deceive Donald Trump, they dropped the charade when Chuck Schumer exposed the party’s duplicity and openly declared, “Trump will not get his Wall.”
As we know from history, the building of socialism is an organized and disruptive artificial process associated with ideological polarization, cultural and political confrontations, and violation of the existing moral order.
Being aware of voters’ discontent with socialist policies, the Democrats proceeded to dismantle the established constitutional order by offering suffrage to foreigners. Backing up this malicious concept, the state of California began to automatically register illegal aliens to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license. It is only a matter of time before other states under Democratic leadership adopt this election model. This massive legalized election fraud requires a constant influx of foreigners.
Since not all of Mexico, Central, and South America have crossed our open borders into Texas, Arizona, and California, and those states are not yet annexed to the possession of Mexico or Honduras, any notion of closing the borders or restricting emigrants’ flow into this country will be met with fierce opposition by the Democrats.
If the speeches of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and other leading Democrats are any indication, it is becoming exceedingly obvious that despite dreadful consequences, the Democrats exhibit a greater hatred for capitalism than for terrorism, drugs, and crimes which makes them inherently incapable or rather unwilling of safeguarding this country.
Indeed, the road to socialism is soaked with blood of millions who could not appreciate the fairness of economic equality; hence, a few hundred or even a few thousand deaths from the hands of “poor immigrants” should be a relatively small price to pay for the “bright future.”
The Democrats’ policy of open borders or no borders is designed to open our country’s gates to a tsunami of immigrants with morals and values diametrically opposed to those of Americans, promoting resentment instead of assimilation, polarization instead of unification, and ultimately making the United States of America not united, not states, and not even American.
Alexander G. Markovsky is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think hosted at King’s College, New York City, which examines national security, energy, risk-analysis and other public policy issues, He is the author of Anatomy of a Bolshevik and Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It. He is the owner and CEO of Litwin Management Services, LLC.
The total control of all of life was the great fear of advanced societies in the twentieth century. World War II and the Cold War were fought to prevent movements bent on this objective. Since the end of the Cold War, it has remained in mainstream consciousness, punctuated by such events as the defection of National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to Russia, his revelations of the NSA’s global surveillance of domestic targets, recent censorship of conservative sources by Twitter and Facebook, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s admission in Congressional testimony of Silicon Valley’s left wing bias.
But the ability of the United States government, other western governments, a leftist mass media, or the postulated “deep state” of leftist officials in Washington to actually put a totalitarian system in place is limited by still effective legal guarantees of free speech and privacy, and the vigilance of a public focused on the dangers of centrally controlled society, facilitated by rapid technological development.
Not so in China, where the Chinese communist government has no limit on its power. Powering the drive to achieve complete control of life possible to a government with unlimited authority is the traditional Chinese belief that state power and authoritarian social relations are necessary to avoid chaos, as discussed by this writer in the spring. Added to this is China’s rapid economic and technological development resulting from the post-Maoist reforms of the late twentieth century.
What has attracted much deserved attention in recent weeks is China’s developing Social Credit System, which the government hopes to be fully functional by 2020. It is a seeming outgrowth of anticorruption drives, which have been an important part of the state’s effort at an ordered society. Begun with blacklists of debtors by the Supreme People’s Court, and proposed as a joint public-private endeavor, it will use electronic surveillance and data analysis to collect information and assess the overall economic and social reputation of every person in China. This comprehensive assessment is then used to control the access a person has to most of what anyone receives from society: jobs, promotions, financial credit, access to better schools, permission to travel, ability to book lodging, ability to disseminate information and opinion electronically, and seemingly any other kind of public service.
ScienceAlert reports that China currently has 200 million closed-circuit TV cameras (with three times as many hoped for in the next 18 months) to monitor its populace, and that “the idea is these ever-watchful eyes will be hooked up to facial recognition systems, and cross-checked with financial, medical records, and legal records – with the whole apparatus regulated and interpreted by advanced, big-data-crunching AI networks.”
In a widely disseminated video presentation from the Australian Broadcasting Company, the electronic monitoring of a young woman in China is shown, with all her daily activities on the street and in the market captured for analysis. But the Australian network and LifeSiteNews also note that anything recorded electronically, such as Internet browsing (such as what was viewed and the duration of video gaming), telephone conversations (perhaps cued by key words), and purchases on the Internet or at market will be part of each person’s “social credit. As the network reports “those … with top ‘citizen scores’ get VIP treatment at hotels and airports, cheap loans and a fast track to the best universities and jobs … Those at the bottom can be locked out of society and banned from travel, or barred from getting credit or government jobs.” It is “probably the largest social engineering project ever attempted, a way to control and coerce more than a billion people … The system will be ‘live’ … [to people and] will update in real time.”
But it is not only one’s self who is affected by one’s behavior in day to day life, but family and friends as well. As the network notes, “social credit will be affected by more than just internet browsing and shopping decisions. Who your friends and family are will affect your score. If your best friend or your dad says something negative about the government, you’ll lose points too.”
Such a detailed analysis of a person’s life gives those with who set standards enormous power to craft a society according to their own values. An important researcher into the social credit project is Roger Creemers of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who focuses on Chinese law. Creemers maintains that the goal of the social credit system “is ‘cybernetic’ behavioral control, allowing individuals to be monitored and immediately confronted with the consequences of their actions.”
Creemers is careful to point out there is not now a single social credit system. It is still being developed and implemented and consists of many different monitoring systems in various parts of the country which record behavior. He says that “blacklists—and ‘redlists’—form the backbone of the Social Credit System, not a much-debated ‘social credit score.’ Blacklists punish negative behavior while redlists reward positive. According to the planning outline released by the State Council — China’s cabinet — in mid-2014, the system’s objective is to encourage individuals to be trustworthy under the law and dissuade against breaking trust, in order to promote a ‘sincerity culture.’”
Much of the social credit idea might seem appealing to social conservatives, because its principle focus appears to be character as exemplified by behavior. The desirability of a high degree of social control and personal responsibility were the touchstone of Confucian ethics, and are key to the idea of social credit. The article from LifeSiteNews cited above identifies this as the value of “xinyong, a ‘core tenet of Confucian ethics.’ Originally meaning ‘honesty’ and ‘trustworthiness,’ xinyong now denotes ‘financial creditworthiness’ as well.” But the impulse to evaluate people seems to have expanded since the time the “social credit” idea was first advanced in 2007 to include such things as “personal habits, opinions and friendships.” The article goes on the quote Asian expert Steve Mosher that “a lot of people in China don’t use money anymore … they use their phones. The Chinese government monitors all phones, everything electronic.” Because the Chinese have now grown fond of online activity, Lifesite says that people are “’self-reporting’ on where they go, what they buy, and–on social media–who they know and what they think.” In particular, according to Mosher “your social [credit] score goes up if you say good things about the regime … Your social score goes down if you say bad things about the regime.”
While the Chinese system seems focused on personal character, with family and social connections and political loyalty seemingly (although ominously) added on, North Korea has had, for several decades, a somewhat similar system focusing largely on political loyalty. The “Songbun” system categorizes the North Korean population into three classes: “core,” “wavering,” and “hostile.” This system originated in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch, by identifying “landowners, businessmen, intellectuals, and Koreans who worked for the [Japanese] colonial administrators … those who had opposed [North Korean dictator] Kim[-il Sung’s] ascent to power or collaborated with South Korea” during the Korean War, and also “North Koreans who had enjoyed high status under Japanese rule, from landowners and intellectuals to religious leaders and aristocrats.” These people became the “hostile” underclass, forced to assume the position of the “peasants, laborers, and workers” who now joined the “core” upper class, together with “people closest to Kim, their relatives, and anti-Japanese resistance fighters.”
As with China’s nascent system, North Korea’s system taints relatives of people with bad classifications with lower status. Indeed, any single act interpreted by a government functionary as hostile to the state can taint one’s children and grandchildren. In a Brookings Institution report of the early 2000s, Asian expert Kongdan Oh report that “an individual’s political loyalty is likely to be re-examined anytime he or she comes to the attention of the authorities, for example when being considered for a job, housing, or travel permit. One’s political classification is not a matter of public knowledge, nor is it known to the individual, but it is recorded in the personal record that follows every North Korean throughout life, and of course becomes part of the record of that person’s children and relatives as well.”
Thus the focus of the Chinese and North Korean system are somewhat different, with China’s still developing system based on many generally desirable character traits such as honesty and financial responsibility, with political loyalty added on, while North Korea’s is based on largely or entirely on perceived loyalty to the state. But both seek to reward and penalize with goods and services that one needs or desires, and both taint relatives and associates of a person with low rating with (at least some) of that person’s low rating.
Western societies are far removed from the personal, status-based, ideological allocation of resources practiced or planned in China and North Korea. The availability of resources is instead based on highly impersonal money, which can be used by anyone who has money to spend. But the logic of leftist ideology in our society is indeed to reward and penalize people according to their political, ideological and moral commitments. We need only think of Christian educational institutions threatened with loss of state aid, tax exemption, or accreditation (and thus ability to continue to function) due to the sexual standards they maintain over a strictly voluntary clientele, or the economic warfare threatened or practiced against Indiana in 2015 after the passage of a religious freedom law allowing businesses to conduct their activities in line with their religious commitments, which ultimately pressured that state’s Republican governor and legislature to gut the law to prohibit conscientious objection from homosexual behavior. Indeed the very idea of socialism or communism is to minimize or eliminate money or property in favor of ideology.
Any realistic attempt to put in place something like the ultimately ideological systems of social control found in China or North Korea in the West must be put in place piecemeal. This is indeed being done, above all with the increasing number of antidiscrimination categories restricting the personal decisions that people can make in public, human rights commissions staffed by leftists responsive to the complaints of feminist, LGBT, or Islamist activists, and the regulations and policies of private organizations such as corporations, colleges and universities, professional associations, and broadcasting and social media organizations staffed by leftist leadership trained by the nation’s overwhelmingly leftist academy.
There is no magic formula to resist totalitarianism. But crucial to resisting it is courage, and what the Social Credit System professes to advance, character, whenever the state endeavors to require people to violate their consciences or restrict their activities based on its own ideology. Victories (and defeats) may seem small, but together, they are quite important. They add up to a free system, or a totalitarian system.
As we bid farewell to another year, it looks like we’ll also be saying goodbye to some iconic pieces of cultural history along with it. Songs, fairy tales, hand gestures; for the PC-police, nothing has been off limits in 2018.
Here’s a look at some of the things we’ll miss as we trudge wearily on toward a heavily-sanitized world where nobody ever feels offended again.