Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A political parable

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

I know of a guy who decided to pursue a very important job at his company. He was opinionated and abrasive (some would say he was “plain-spoken”) and seemed like a long-shot. Several other people were interested in the position, but eventually one challenger surpassed the others and it became a two-person race. To everyone’s surprise, he won the job.

On the very day that his victory was revealed, half of his future co-workers announced that they hated him. Further, they declared that his selection was illegitimate, even though the standard procedures had been followed. They immediately announced their intention to get him fired and promised to stop at nothing.

They spent the next three years badgering him and trying to find a reason to get rid of him. For two years, they tried to prove that he had persuaded a competing company to interfere with the selection process on his behalf. That came to nothing, so they kept trying. This time, instead of casting doubt on the selection process, they would carefully scrutinize his every move, hoping to find some evidence or rumor of wrongdoing.

After another year they finally came up with a list of two things they thought he had done wrong. After dithering and stalling for a month, they took their list to the Board of Directors, demanding that they fire him.

Almost half the Board were among those who hated him and had wanted him fired from the start. Several of that faction had even launched their own efforts to get his job. But once again they were frustrated when the Board decided to keep him on.

A few of his opponents announced that they would keep trying to get him fired. Others just hurled more insults. Not being a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy, he hurled some back, which enraged them even more.

Now the hate him/fire him crowd are back at work, vowing to get rid of him and undo everything he has accomplished – while simultaneously denying that he has accomplished anything! Hatred is a terrible thing. It shrinks the heart and corrodes the mind. Unfortunately, hatred has become a major driving force in American politics.

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Liberals’ chief disability

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

All modern liberals (actually, illiberals) share a common disability: They are unable to be constrained by the wisdom of those who preceded them. They believe that, as a rule, new ideas are superior old ones and that the new ideas they personally embrace are so obviously superior that no debate is possible and no defense is necessary. The superiority of these new ideas, of course, confers on the liberals who advocate them the right to exercise power and influence.

Nowhere is this disconnect between old ideas and new more glaring than among liberals whose claim to legitimacy derives from a foundational document comprised entirely of old ideas. This disability is most conspicuous among liberal politicians and liberal Christians (leaving aside J. Gresham Machen’s well-argued assertion that Christianity and Liberalism are two entirely different religions, rendering “liberal Christian” something of an oxymoron).

Undermining the Foundations

Ultimately, all American politicians derive their power from the Constitution. It created our nation, defines its governmental structures, specifies the constraints under which the government must operate, and provides the framework for sharing power with the various United States. Liberal politicians chafe under the structure and limits imposed by the Constitution’s old ideas. They look for ways to circumvent them so they can institute a new form of virtually unlimited government – which would, coincidentally, enable them to compel the evolution of a new social order.

Christians’ foundational document is, of course, the Bible. Lacking the power of politicians, liberal Christians and their leaders nonetheless have significant impact. Sometimes they influence government (elections, legislation, and court cases) directly. More often, they shape the church’s messages to Christians and to society. Like liberal politicians, they suffer under the yoke of the Bible’s ancient ideas. They seek to create a new faith and a new church that generally mirrors the social vision of liberal politicians.

Sharing a common disregard for their respective foundational documents they employ similar means of getting around them. Here are three of them:

The One Ring Strategy

In the Lord of the Rings, there is One Ring that has power to rule all the other magic rings (all originally meant for good). It can twist the intended purposes of the other rings and use them for evil ends. The inscription inside this ring reads

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

Liberals often identify a single provision of the Constitution or a single verse in the Bible that serves a similar purpose – their One Text. The chosen text is certainly authoritative in its context, but liberals claim that the One Text is superior to its context, more authoritative than the document as a whole. The rest of the document becomes subservient to the One Text and must be interpreted only through its lens. By elevating the One Text in this way, they impose a method of interpretation that rules and overrides the original meaning of the entire document.

For example, liberal politicians (and Supreme Court Justices) often argue that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is the One Text. It begins “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States….[my emphasis]” This One Text is said to overrule, among other provisions, the last section of the Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” (It’s hard to imagine why, if the Framers wanted a One Text and intended “general Welfare” to mean “virtually everything that happens in the United States”, they didn’t write a Constitution that said so. It certainly would have been less work for them and much less reading for anyone curious about what it says.)

For liberal Christians, the One Text is usually found in 1 John 4 (v. 8 or 16), “God is love”. They claim that the One Text overrules countless commands to be obedient – this despite the fact that, for example, Jesus himself himself gave several in John 14:18-14. It also overrules all commands to be holy such as Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:14-16. The liberal – and unbiblical – understanding of love is that loving someone consists mainly of wanting them to feel happy. So the One Text rules because calling someone to obedience or holiness may make them unhappy. Even churches and pastors who would not ordinarily consider themselves liberal in the political sense often exhibit this misguided behavior. 

[Note: Although the 1984 NIV is my go-to Bible, online links are to the ESV, not the readily-available 2011 NIV, for reasons given here.]

The Living Document Strategy

Liberals’ contempt for old ideas requires them to find a way to placate both fans and critics who believe that foundational documents matter. Both liberal politicians and liberal Christians often resort to the same dodge; they claim that the document from which they derive their legitimacy is a “living” document.

The argument starts with the assertion that the original document with its old ideas could not have anticipated the modern world. It follows that a “living” document with its old ideas entitles modern people liberals to derive the new ideas necessary to cope with this new, unexpected world. That the new ideas are often in direct opposition to the old ones is not surprising. After all, the whole purpose is meant to reverse an old idea that gets in the way of a liberal objective.

The long-range purpose, however, is much more grand than mere piecemeal, as-needed reversal of old ideas. The goal is to strip the foundational document of all authority, leaving everything in the hands of whoever is in charge today. Nearly all liberals believe they are or soon will be in charge. They believe that history is a force in itself, that it is marching onward toward some ideal condition, and that it will steamroll anyone who gets in its way. Since they are “on the right side of history,” the power and influence they exercise today in service of that inevitable future must be free of ideas from the old, dead past.

For example, liberal politicians and judges determined that when the 4th and 14th Amendments were written (in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively), no one had anticipated the small but politically-charged demand for abortion on demand that would appear in the 20th Century. So it was necessary for liberals to infuse the old document with new, “living” ideas to bring it up to date and enable the novel result in Roe v. Wade.

Liberal Christians often claim that “sexual orientation” was unknown to either Moses and Paul when they recorded God’s condemnation of homosexual practice. To overcome this difficulty, the One Text noted above is sometimes applied to bring the Bible’s old ideas in line with this new idea. This is necessary because the One Text assures us that God wants everyone to be happy doing what they’re doing.

Another application of this strategy applies only to the Bible. According to this argument, the Bible was written by men who were just reflecting the prejudices of their time. in this view, the obvious fact that God knew about sexual orientation is irrelevant, as proven by the One Text.

Just Do It

The previous strategies are mostly employed by thinking liberals, both politicians and Christians, who fear their respective foundational documents may be important to the people they want to control or influence (or in the case of the Supreme Court, when it is necessary to find some sort of Constitutional justification for what they have decided is the Right Thing To Do).

But not all liberals think about such things. It is much quicker to just ignore the old ideas and forge ahead with whatever plan they have concocted to implement whatever new ideas they find appealing. This can be a very successful approach if the people they are trying to control or influence are ignorant of the foundational documents that are being corrupted – or for that matter, if the target audience doesn’t think much either.

Other Opponents of Old Ideas

There is another group that is showing signs of becoming similarly disabled. While there are no true documents to constrain them, some (perhaps many) scientists operate as though the foundations of their own enterprise – the scientific method and the necessity of reproducible results – no longer matter. This usually happens when the traditional practice of science produces alarming results that threaten their political objectives.

And there are the many celebrities who share the liberal contempt for old ideas. But the celebrity industry has no foundational principles at all and no inherent claim to wisdom, so their opinions are significant only in a culture enamored of entertainment and fame. Such a culture demands no real basis for claiming power and influence and most celebrities offer none.

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Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Update: A related view from Daniel O. Conkle, professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

The Indiana legislature has passed the Religious Freedom Restoration act, producing the expected mass hysteria among Democrats and other anti-religious progressives. The bill is substantially the same as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law in 1993 by that well-known conservative Republican bigot, Bill Clinton. It is worth noting that the Republic has endured and gay activism has flourished in the 21 years since the federal law was enacted.

What the law prohibits

Except as provided in subsection (b) [next paragraph], a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest

In short, governmental entities in Indiana are now compelled to conform to the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion. Indiana courts must now apply the same legal test required in the RFRA, providing essentially the same protection at the state level.

It’s interesting – but hardly surprising – that the same people who attack state definitions of “marriage” in federal courts think states should be empowered to deny related rights guaranteed by the same federal courts.

A “disgusting” law

I was recently told by a friend that this law is “disgusting”. This got me thinking about the mindset of the law’s emotional but not especially reasonable opponents. Why is the guarantee of a cherished right – one that predated the Constitution and is embodied in it – so offensive?

From what I’ve observed in discussions with such people – including my disgusted friend – they seem to be mostly agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, or people with vague Oprah-like spiritual urges. Some have a loose association with orthodox Christianity or another religious tradition which they neither believe in nor practice. Still others identify with a religion but practice only the agreeable parts – usually the parts that don’t get in the way of sexual license or other earthly pleasures.

Whatever ones philosophical framework or world view, we all possess some sort of ethical structure based on it. That ethical structure provides motivation, justification, and evaluative criteria for the choices we make and the things we do or decline to do.

It’s obvious that opponents’ ethical structures do not include respect for the needs and motivations of people with deeply held, systematic religious belief or a moral system derived from that belief. It clearly does not include space to allow religious people to exercise their faith when to do so appears in opposition to the opinions or principles of the opponents.

They also seem to have no systematic approach to balancing compelling public needs and private rights. Or if they do, they are just biased in favor of public needs that don’t bother them personally and don’t interfere what they think are their rights.

This is nothing new, of course. This tension has existed throughout human history, sometimes worse on one side, sometimes worse on the other. The problem was well-known when the Constitution was being written. The First Amendment exists because its authors understood both the tyranny of the King and the tyranny of the majority.

In short, they saw a need to protect people like me from people like the law’s opponents.

The purpose of constitutions 

The Constitution’s writers attempted to solve the problem by differentiating between the public person – that sphere of each citizen’s life subject to the coercive force of government, and the private person – protected from that coercive force administered on behalf of an electoral majority. [This idea was originally articulated by John Schaar.] Constitutions exist for the purpose of delineating the public person, leaving the remainder – whatever it may consist of – to the control of the private person.

Indeed, one of the original objections to the Bill of Rights was that it attempted to specify parts of this remainder that must be reserved for the private person. The fear was that proponents of a powerful national government would claim that a right not specified in the Constitution was not protected and could be trampled at will. But that’s not a problem here where the free exercise of religion is specifically named in the first article of the Bill of Rights.

Our Constitution could be said to do nothing more than to establish a political system with sufficient power to preserve the nation – the sum of all the public persons – while paradoxically guarding the sovereignty and natural rights of each private person. As noted, it explicitly places the free exercise of religion in the realm of the private person. Its authors intended – and, until recently, courts have agreed – that the diminution of the private person is permissible only if it can be shown that leaving the private person intact would impose a heavy and unreasonable burden on the public (i.e., a hardship on the majority of public persons); that is the essence of this disgusting new law’s legal test.

The Constitutional crisis of the past 70 years or so has resulted from the national government’s insatiable lust to expand the public person and correspondingly shrink the private person. The Framers anticipated this force and took what steps they could to frustrate it. They were naive enough to believe that future generations would grasp the nature and purposes of the Constitution’s protections and would demand their preservation. They did not anticipate the fatal combination of voters who neither know nor value what they have been given and the collusion of well-educated cynics who see the political tide flowing their way and are prepared to toss away permanently any barriers to that temporary flow.

The Constitution has great value, both to the religious and the non-religious, and even to the militantly anti-religious. It created a remarkable country, a nation that despite its flaws and errors has been a beacon of freedom to the entire world for most of its existence. But the light is fading, being slowly snuffed out by the ignorance, pragmatism, and selfishness of its citizens and by the cancerous growth of the government they have chosen to have rule them

A Christian’s temptation

Naturally, there is a part of me that would like to see an orthodox Christian President, Congress, and Supreme Court running the national government with all its newly-acquired power, running it as passionately and ruthlessly as those who usurped that power do now. There is a part of me that would enjoy the squealing of people suddenly feeling the unfamiliar weight of the over-bearing government they had created. There is a part of me that would smirk while they appealed to a Constitution they had rendered impotent, hoping that it could now somehow restore the lost private person and relieve the pain of being the public person the government suddenly requires them to be.

But that part of me is the very part that Jesus wants to root out and destroy. The vengeance of such a government – and the schadenfreude of a Christian who reveled in it – would destroy the best of what he wants of his disciples, not the worst. Jesus ran no government, coerced no one, levied no taxes, sought no earthly kingdom. All he did was die for everyone who would accept his authority over all earthly powers – including themselves.

In the long run, Christians don’t require political protections, including this law. Christianity flourishes where it is most ruthlessly oppressed, whether in ancient Rome or modern China. It offers freedom that no government can guarantee, no matter how liberal (in the classic sense) or well-intended it may have been.

No, the value of this law is not that it may occasionally protect Christians who choose obedience to their consciences. The value is that protects a fundamental right that ultimately profits every citizen.

Yes, it offends me that opponents of this law often endorse – and practice – political and social bullying of Christians and other people of faith. It occasionally surprises me that the bullies can be so lacking in self-awareness that they can’t see the hypocrisy of demanding tolerance while refusing to extend it. But what offends me most is our society’s willingness to abandon its heritage and leave its children to the whim of whatever party comes to power or to the boundless ambition of the next charismatic leader who promises to singlehandedly “transform America”.

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California colors

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

I follow the Real Science blog. The pseudonymous author, “Steven Goddard”, is skeptical, abrasive, iconoclastic, environmentally savvy, and thinks like the engineer he is. A couple of recent posts got me thinking about a state I lived in for a while and most recently visited last year.

I’ve long had mixed feelings about California. It is both a place of astonishing natural beauty and a monument to the hubris of its residents. Messing with Mother Nature has been a way of life for Californians for a hundred years. They seem to honestly believe that there is no feature of the natural world they can’t overcome with enough other peoples’ money, technology, and willful blindness. But at what cost?

Condors and the early days of the Sierra Club aside, California has long been a center of environmental destruction in the U.S. Most of the state is semi-arid, a region where droughts and wildfires have always been common. Yet recent droughts (severe but far from record-breaking) have been trotted out in support of the global warming hoax.

It’s silly to look at the myth of global warming to find the ongoing effects of human activity on the environment. Just look at what humans have done – and continue to do – to transform California into the "golden state". And for all this destruction, they pride themselves on being "green".

Well, yes; gold and green are the colors of money.

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Prayer request: Islamic butchers of ISIS

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I received this prayer request this morning; I’ve redacted names lest anyone be placed in even greater danger.

Prayer Request from [redacted] missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS are asking to be showered in prayer. ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called them for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, they are begging for prayers for courage to live out their vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if they are called to do so.  These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.

One missionary was able to talk to her brother briefly by phone. She didn’t say it, but I believe she believes it will be their last conversation. Pray for her too. She said he just kept asking her to help him know what to do and do it. She told him to tell the families we ARE praying for them and they are not alone or forgotten — no matter what.  Please keep them all in your prayers.
This came this morning… [source redacted] "We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. … ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of [redacted]. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated its staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!" Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians across this region.

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Mandela: The whole man

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Nelson Mandela deservedly received much of the credit for ridding South Africa of the scourge of Apartheid.  Yet, on the night of his death, I am reminded of the “Masterpiece Theater” series based on R. F. Delderfield’s novel about an English boys’ school, To Serve Them All My Days.  When Alcock, the widely despised headmaster of the Bamfylde School, dies, the masters who suffered under his authoritarian regime gather in the day room to prepare for a respectful farewell.  All, that is, except his bitterest foe, the crusty science master (dare I say curmudgeon?), Carter.  When asked if he wouldn’t join the others, he replied that he would not indulge in “a sentimental regard for the dead simply because they are dead.”

I don’t think we honor a complex, determined, pragmatic realist like Nelson Mandela by indulging ourselves in sentimentality that ignores all but the warm, cuddly parts.  Tonight, the endless tributes are paying homage to half a man.  Let us acknowledge – even if we can’t praise – the whole man.

Mandela was sympathetic to Communists within and without South Africa; he especially admired Fidel Castro.  He led the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe [link updated], (the “Spear of the Nation”), the terrorist arm of the African National Congress in South Africa.  He often expressed solidarity with the Libyan sponsor of terrorism, Muammar Gadhafi, who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 113 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  He was an admirer of the author of Palestinian terrorism, Yasser Arafat, who introduced such innovations as armed assaults on Israeli school children.

I admire Mandela’s single-minded pursuit of racial justice and equality in South Africa.  That nation, and the world, are better places because of his determined efforts.  But I cannot ignore the end-justifies-the-means mentality that he endorsed, that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians at the hands of the Umkhonto we Sizwe and like-minded terror organizations all around the world.  Mandela did great good.  Along the way, he did great evil.

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Lies, damned lies, and Presidential lies

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Presidents lie.  Sometimes they lie during the campaign (“Read my lips – no new taxes”, George H. W. Bush).  Sometimes they lie to avoid impeachment (“I am not a crook”, Richard Nixon).  Sometimes they lie to achieve some international objective (the Bay of Tonkin – Lyndon Johnson).

Sometimes they lie to try to rescue their tattered image – Bill Clinton pointed his index finger at the American people and declared “I did not have sex with that woman”.

But it’s another thing entirely to extend your middle finger to the American people and say “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.”  0bama uttered and repeated this deliberate lie to prop up waning public support for his assault on private health care and, ultimately, on the American economy (a war he is largely winning with help from some Republicans).

We know that the lie was deliberate and that it was part of his plan all along.  When he told the lie, many private insurance policies would have survived the attack of 0bamacare.  But he went on to ensure that HHS would add more restrictions that would keep more and more existing policies from being grandfathered.  The result was exactly what he wanted – cancellation of millions of policies and forcing millions of people into his vision of socialized medicine.

When the employer mandate (which 0bama unilaterally and illegally suspended to satisfy his corporate sycophants) goes into effect next year, millions more will be driven into the loving, suffocating arms of 0bama’s nanny state.

The Culpability of the Democrats

Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is justly reviled for saying that it was necessary to pass 0bamacare to find out what was in it.  Yet, in a twisted and revealing way, she was right.

The “Affordable” Care Act was written at the direction of the newly-elected Democrat President.  It was written by unelected Democrat staffers and lobbyists, its 1000+ pages unread by most Democrat Representatives and Senators.  It passed into law by the Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress.  With great fanfare, it was signed by the Democrat President who got exactly what he wanted.

It was not until the 11,000+ pages of regulations written at the direction of Democrat cabinet secretaries and lower-level Democrat appointees that the full scope of the disaster was known.

To their everlasting shame, Democrats in Congress, only now cognizant of the monster they had created, supported and defended every provision.  They have cravenly repeated every lie this President has told – about 0bamacare, about Benghazi, about Fast and Furious, about IRS targeting of political opponents.

Why?  Because every one of them is far more interested in protecting their own prerogatives and their fellow Democrat 0bama than they are in protecting the American people or even their own constituents.

Disclaimer:  I am not a Republican and vote for Republicans only when it is utterly impractical to do otherwise – i.e. when the only alternative is a Democrat.

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