NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: a preview of The Olasky Interview.
This week WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky talks with theologian and scholar Ron Sider.
Sider earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. from Yale. He is also the founder of “Evangelicals for Social Action.” He’s known as one of the nation’s leading evangelicals on the political left.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: In this preview of their conversation, Ron Sider explains how he derives his public policy principles.
RON SIDER: Any issue that I try to deal with, I try to start with a Biblical framework. I think for any issue of public policy, every person thinks about it, whether they’re conscious or not, start with some kind of normative framework. And I want to start with a biblically informed normative framework.
I like to say that my basic definition of economic justice comes from going back to the Old Testament and agricultural society, looking at what happens to the land.
What you have is every family getting its own land. The fundamentally decentralized economic system. And then the prophets shout and scream in the time of the kings when a few powerful people are—sometimes by legal trickery, sometimes just in other ways—but they’re getting the land and the poor people don’t have the resources, and the prophets say the country’s going to go into captivity because of this economic oppression.
So my principle out of that, my brief definition of economic justice, is that God wants every family and every person to have access to the productive resources so that if they act responsibly, they can earn their own way and be dignified members of their community.
OLASKY: Let’s say a farmer has a 275-acre farm and biblically instructed, he and his employees do not get every last crop. They leave the corners of the field there for people to come and glean. A system like that encourages charity in the part of the landowner. He isn’t maximizing his economic advantage. He’s leaving some for people to work and glean.
Isn’t that a better situation where you might have a cheerful giver and a cheerful recipient rather than a grumpy taxpayer and a recipient who is annoyed that he has to actually, perhaps, work to get something?
SIDER: Yeah. Well, I mean you talk about that in your Tragedy of American Compassion. And I think you’re half right that, you know, the side that you just talked about is really important. And I think it’s better for private programs helping poor people to require work, some kind of contribution. It’s better for their dignity and it’s better for their own sense of not falling into dependency.