America Isn’t Strong Enough For Torture

Torture. Just hearing that word is enough to give one pause. It’s a bit of a superlative for pain – a word reserved for those times when “hurt”, “suffering,” and “agony” just don’t cover it. The word carries with it images of gory slasher films and whispered stories from Soviet gulags. It’s a vestige of darker times, undeserving of any place in the greatest nation in the history of the world. It’s something that is at least as universally-condemned as child molestation and cold-blooded murder.

Or was, until a few weeks ago.

With the release of classified CIA documents detailing “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by American operatives in the so-called War on Terror, a new debate has been sparked. As with every other issue that hits the headlines these days, most folks formed an opinion within milliseconds and took to social media to express it faster than you can say “Guantanamo”.

As I read the reports and articles swirling around the netscape, I was tempted to do the same. After all, it was becoming clear where the lines were forming – on one side there were traditional national-defense conservatives, and on the other side was a coalition of bleeding-heart liberals, civil libertarians, and… Ted Cruz?

In response to a related question during an appearance at the Heritage Foundation, Sen. Cruz staked out an unambiguous moral stance against torture, and so doing, may have surprisingly set himself in opposition to many within the oft-referenced moral majority of the GOP. Cruz, in fact, was essentially the only potential 2016 heavyweight to make much noise on the issue at all.

But is the moral acceptability of torturing defenseless captives something that we can afford to be silent about? If this doesn’t qualify as a defining issue for the nation founded to be the Shining City on a Hill, what does?

National defense conservatives will be quick to note that many definitions of “torture” would not include some of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed against CIA-held prisoners. They will insist that water boarding, cold detention cells, and forced rectal feeding are not worthy of comparison to the fingernail-pulling, flesh-burning, bone-breaking horrors experienced by prisoners of war and political detainees in other countries at different times between the Spanish Inquisition and the Vietnam War. And they might be right, depending on one’s own definitions. That’s a worthwhile objection, or at least an argument worth having.

But that’s not the first argument on the table.

The question at the forefront of the American moral conversation is this: if we agree that a given act is torture, is it ever morally permissible?

To say that such discussions are even going on around dining room tables and facebook threads here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is an embarrassment to our Founding Fathers, who faced existential threats just as we do, but still managed to maintain their honor. George Washington, who would have faced a traitor’s death if captured by the British during the Revolutionary War, still admonished his troops to treat captives with decency, and considered abuse of prisoners a national disgrace. In a charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force in September of 1775, he wrote,

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”

Washington was no fool. Having commanded troops in the brutal French and Indian War, he knew that torturing enemies could yield valuable strategic information that could save American lives. But he believed that the moral cost of such an action outweighed any potential benefit derived. Washington’s objection wasn’t based on some misguided chivalry, but on his absolute belief in the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, which provide for violence in self-defense, but never for abuse of the helpless.

Since that time, America has been a beacon of hope, where justice and tolerance reigned supreme, and where persecuted immigrants could find respite from the abuse they had suffered at the hands of tormentors in darker parts of the world.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to hear from a former German POW from WWII – we’ll call him Eric – who had emigrated to the United States after the war. Now a kindly, grey-headed gentlemen in his sunset years, Eric recounted the story of his capture by American forces in North Africa during Operation Torch in 1942. He said that when he was brought to the American internment camp, he was absolutely terrified. Prior to his capture, his superior officers had warned him of the brutality of the Americans: he would do well, they insisted, to take his own life if cornered – it would be a much better fate than the torture he would surely suffer if taken alive.

Eric was led to a small cell with a clean bed, and then locked in for the night. He didn’t sleep, instead sitting awake wondering what torments awaited him at the hands of his captors. The next morning the door opened and a plate of food dropped in. Not rotten, maggot-ridden scraps, but a satisfying meal, complete with a piece of real chocolate. He didn’t take the food, convinced it was poison. The next day the process was repeated, and again the terrified prisoner refused to take any comfort, believing that his captors were just trying to “soften him up” before the torture began. It never came. After two weeks of fresh food and clean sheets and no abuse, Eric finally came to the realization that “Those sons of (expletive deleted) lied to me.” His Wehrmacht officers had lied to their soldiers about the brutality of the Americans to stave off any thoughts of surrender and encourage them to fight to the last man. It was then he realized that there was something different about America, something great. After the war he returned to Germany, found his family, and came to the United States to start a new life.

While there were certainly examples of prisoner abuse by the Western Allies as well, military directives against such behavior ensured that they were the exception, not the rule. Soldiers who engaged in torture could face court-martial if their actions were discovered. We considered ourselves the moral standard-bearers in the war, and to this day still publicize stories of the mistreatment of our soldiers – including Olympic athlete and war hero Louis Zamperini, subject of the best-selling book and recently-released major motion picture Unbroken – in order to distinguish ourselves from our enemies. Things like this separated us from them. We’re Americans, we don’t torture people.

The Greatest Generation, who endured every hardship the world could throw at them, knew that America’s strength lay in our goodness, and they dare not sacrifice that moral high ground for flimsy and unreliable bits of information. While we fought from the side of right, neither German Nazism, nor Japanese Imperialism, nor Soviet Communism could destroy us.

But America is not strong enough for torture. We can face any hardship with defiance, but we cannot face ourselves in the mirror if we become a people so desperate as to torture a pleading, unarmed captive.

We can defeat any nation that threatens our security, but we cannot defeat a national disposition so devoid of conscience that it would allow for deliberate and brutal abuse of prisoners.

We can endure any calamity, but we cannot long endure a society that calls for tormenting the helpless in the name of security.

For the cost of that security would not be measured in freedom, nor in lives, but in the very soul of the nation – without which both life and freedom perish as well.

As both a Christian and an American, I can say that if I and those I care about are incinerated by a bomb tomorrow because I refused to rip the fingernails off of a captive enemy, then so be it. I stand ready to pay that price, in order to spend what life I have left on this earth with a clear conscience. There must be lines that we are never willing to cross, believing that our actions will be judged by history and the God who writes it.

Sometimes doing the right thing will win us success, respect, and allies. But sometimes setting those boundaries will cost us. Sometimes the night will deepen and we will wish that we could act like our enemies as they close in around our Shining City on a Hill.

It is the risk that all men take, when called upon to overcome evil with good.

 

If You Believe In The Biblical Christmas Story, Don’t Read This

‘Tis the season to condemn your neighbor over Christmas terminology, and sure as sugarplums, Christians all over America have dug out the trenches in an attempt to “keep Christ in Christmas”, as secularists try to tug the knot over the Happy Holidays line on the ground. With the smell of fruitcake and litigation in the air, what better time to reexamine the meaning of the holiday and find out why people get so bent out of shape over which festive phrase is tossed across the cash register?

To start with, I want to limit my audience to only logical, critical thinkers. If you accept all that “Jesus is the reason for the season” jazz and you actually believe in the literal accuracy of the Biblical Christmas story – complete with angels, wise men, a star playing red-light-green-light, and the virgin birth, then, quite simply, I’m not talking to you.

I’m writing this to average, everyday Americans who know that the laws of science apply no matter what you believe. People who accept that there is no more proof of angels than there is of flying reindeer, and that if you’re going to believe that a Jewish baby born in a stable is going to return to earth someday and rule the world, you may as well believe in Santa Claus too.

Most of all, I’m writing to good, decent people who don’t need the threat of eternal torment or the promise of golden streets to know that things like peace, goodwill, the spirit of giving, and spending time with family and friends are important. After all, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus (I’m looking at you, Rand Paul), what matters is the warmth and fellowship that comes from being with the ones you love, celebrating old traditions or creating new ones.

Or is it?

Let’s think about this. Why do we dust off all of our favorite virtues for the last few weeks of the year, but keep them on the shelf the rest of the time? Is there some sort of objective significance to these antiquated holidays, or do we just take out of them, what we put into them? Most importantly, should a Christmas devoid of historical veracity retain any value to a modern culture intent on moving past the “primitive” notions of religion and objective morality?

The way I see it, Christmas is an all-or-nothing affair. Either it is the single most important event in the history of mankind, or it is utterly insignificant. Worse than insignificant – an outright lie, and one that has spawned a great many conflicts between families and nations for centuries.

If the Son of God was not literally born as a human baby to a virgin in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, then there is nothing “nice” or “festive” or “spiritual” or “magical” about Christmas. Nothing. If there is no God, and no Jesus, no sin, no forgiveness, no cross, no redemption, no heaven or hell, then Christmas is at best a waste of time, and at worst a dangerous delusion.

Folks who embrace the holiday as a bit of fun or a nice tradition while not believing or accepting the supernatural element within the Christmas story, are actively denying their own ideology – an ideology that says man is his own god, and that individual happiness is the ultimate good. The logical conclusion of such a belief dictates that selflessness and sacrifice have no value of their own. Giving doesn’t make sense. Peace doesn’t make sense. Purity doesn’t make sense. Thankfulness doesn’t make sense. Humility doesn’t make sense. If the Christmas story is a lie, then all of the virtues wrapped up in Christmas are worthless. If it’s not true, then we are fools to celebrate year after year, pouring ourselves glasses of high-sounding ideals from the empty bottle of tradition – as though repetition and ritual can somehow open the cultural floodgate of peace and love while denying the very truths that makes those ideals valuable.

But if the Christmas story is true – really, absolutely, and completely true – then it represents the single most important event in history. If it is true, then it is the story of the God who created everything, seeking reconciliation with a creation that had forgotten Him. If it’s true, it represents a breach in the heavenly siege of Earth, and the end of the dominion of sin and death. If it’s true, then it is the only hope for a human race drowning in violence, pain, and despair.

If it’s true that God sent his son to this world to give gifts unto men, then we should give gifts as well. If it’s true that the Son of God emptied himself of his glory and was born as a servant, then we must serve each other as well. If Christmas is true, there is reason to love, reason to believe, reason to hope, reason to endure. And if it is true, then it means that the same Jesus Christ who was born as a baby in a manger, lived among men, died on a cross, and rose from the dead, will be coming back again one day to judge the world by his righteous standard.

And that’s where you come in. Christmas is not only the pivotal point in human history – what you believe about Christmas will also be the pivotal point in your heart and in your future. You see, that baby born in Bethlehem grew to be a man, and that man claimed to be the Son of God. As C.S. Lewis famously outlined, there are only three possibilities with respect to such a claim: Either Jesus was a liar, or a lunatic, or he was exactly who he claimed to be – the Lord. If he was a liar, then he has no moral authority and cannot be regarded as a great moral teacher. If he was a lunatic, none should heed him as a prophet. But if he is neither of those things, then one must conclude that he is who he says he is.

Likewise, if the Christmas story of the Bible is a fable, a myth passed down by superstitious cultures of old, then it has no value at all, and we would do well to discard it along with any other vestiges of religion and objective morality. After all, it is actively hindering the advancement of mankind by tying future generations to antiquated fantasies that serve only as a faulty foundation to a baseless system of ethics.

But if it’s true, then the world has forever changed, and your heart lies at the point of decision.

Don’t waste another Christmas celebrating niceties that aren’t consistent with your worldview. Life is too short to hold empty traditions. Choose you this day, whom you will serve: the confusion and contortion of the commercial culture, or the real, living, and personal Christ of Christmas.

It is my deepest hope that you will come to know that very Christ as your Savior and Lord, and that from now on you can celebrate Christmas in fullness – not only as a glorious window to miracles past, but also as a promise of his return and our redemption as sons and daughters of God.

A Merry, Merry Christmas to you, from the bottom of my heart.

The Problem with Amnesty, isn’t Amnesty

A couple weeks ago, President Obama announced that he would disregard the Constitutional process and grant executive amnesty to over five million illegal immigrants living in the states, surprising exactly no one. Equally predictable was the conservative uproar, and the ensuing accusations of racism from the Left.

Much of the conservative reaction rightly centered on President Obama’s executive end-around on Congress, but the back and forth of “you’re buying votes with American jobs!” and “you’re a racist!” are again saturating politics the way Kirk Cameron saturates Christian filmmaking.

Unfortunately, the bottom line of the immigration problem is often lost behind soundbytes and hyperbole. While I can certainly sympathize with the frustration over the President’s refusal to secure the border and his blatant breach of the separation of powers, I have to say that we as conservatives may be focusing on the wrong piece of the puzzle when we talk about the dreadful woes of the unwashed hordes of immigrants bringing drugs, disease, and Democrat votes to our country. Worse yet, it plays into the Left’s racist caricature of conservatism. When we harp on the problem of illegal immigration in terms that single out those streaming across our southern border, most Americans are able to think of the nice Mexican family down the street and immediately judge that we just hate Hispanics. And once they’ve applied the “racist” tag to us, there’s no getting that stink off. In fact, the more we protest, the more the accusation sticks in their minds.

There’s a single realization that needs to sink in with conservatives for us to begin to change the national dialogue on the topic:

The problem with amnesty, is not amnesty.

You heard me right. The fact that millions of immigrants are pouring across our southern border does not have to equal disaster for either the Republican Party or the nation as a whole. Typically, conservatives are good at winning the “everyone deserves a slice” vs “grow the pie” debate, but for some reason we’ve forsaken that argument in discussing immigration. There’s nothing wrong with calling out President Obama’s lawlessness and pointing to the problems at the border, but those arguments amount to prevent defense: it allows the other side to keep burning us with short passes like “why do you want to separate families?” and leaves us trying to deny liberal premises rather than offering a vision of real immigration reform – which is absolutely necessary in our country.

Too often we flippantly dismiss the immigration problem as though there are not real-life, heart-and-soul people affected by our backward and convoluted immigration system. Since I became involved in politics (as peripherally as it may be) the top request I’ve fielded from people in my circle of friends and family, sounds like this: “My (insert relation here) is facing deportation despite being a good person and following the law, do you know someone in government who can help?” I should also mention that in each case, this request has come from conservative Christians, not liberal Democrats.

Looking back at American history, immigration really isn’t even a close to what it used to be, and legal status used to be much easier to attain. During the height of American immigration between 1900 and 1910, almost 10 million foreign nationals poured into the US, and that’s when our total population as a nation was only about a quarter of what it is now. But somehow the influx of immigrants never ruined the economy or resulted in job shortages. Conversely, that population, amounting to nearly 10% of our total population by the year 1910, helped turn America into the economic and industrial superpower that it is today.

What happened? Why is large-scale immigration (whether legal or illegal – paperwork has little to do with economic value) such a threat to American life and business now?

In short, the New Deal happened. In the 1930s, FDR sparked life into the economic Frankenstein twins of social entitlements and the minimum wage. These two pillars of socialism were sold to an American people reeling from the Great Depression as a compassionate form of government assistance to the needy. But one of the nasty side effects of the entitlement state was that it fundamentally changed the relationship of the immigrant to the rest of the citizenry. Due to the fact that most immigrants relocate due to some form of distress in their home country, few have many assets to start off with, and many struggle to build a new life. Prior to public assistance programs, this prompted them to form tight-knit communities with their fellow-immigrants, or to work with churches and private charities here in the states. Most of all, it forced them to take work anywhere they could get it.

But since the advent of the welfare state, immigrants are increasingly viewed as a threat, due to the fact that many have learned to work the entitlement system to their advantage.

In the absence of entitlements and a government-mandated minimum wage, the private sector moves to absorb this new labor force, which then helps reduce the cost of production, thereby lowering prices for everyone. If we would remove the incentive to stay at home and collect a check while not producing any economic movement, immigrants – whether legal or illegal – would find a much warmer welcome waiting for them. But our current wage and entitlement policies hurt both the immigrants themselves and the American businesses waiting to hire them, and, as Milton Friedman so astutely pointed out, the minimum wage also subsidizes discrimination for those who are legitimately disposed toward it.

Take Joe Immigrant, who comes across the pond with nothing but the shirt on his back. Joe has few relationships, few skills, little education, and barely speaks English (despite his remarkably normal, English-sounding name). Joe sets about looking for work and runs into Mary Business-Owner, who happens to need someone to clean her store, but has little money to spare. In a free market, Mary has two options: continue cleaning the store herself, which cuts into her time and takes her away from more important duties, or offer to hire Joe at an agreed-upon wage. Any wage. Even $4/hr. From her perspective, that’s what a store-cleaner is worth – if she had to pay more, she may as well do it herself. From Joe’s perspective, $4/hr is far better than $0/hr, and he’s excited to take the chance to sustain himself while he learns skills, establishes relationships, and begins acclimating to his new home.

However, in the government-manipulated market we have today, Mary has no choice. She can’t afford to pay the required $7.25/hr, and therefore must tell him to keep moving as she continues cleaning the store herself. Worse yet, if Joe had to compete against Johnny Local applying for the same job, the minimum wage ensures that Joe has no chance of landing it. If he was able to offer his services at a lower rate than his competitor, Joe would force Mary to choose between her predisposition toward local, English-speaking workers, and her business’s bottom line. But if the law forces Mary to pay either worker the same rate, she will hire the worker whose attributes are more immediately valuable to her, 10 times out of 10. Poor Joe never stands a chance.

Which leaves him with only one option to sustain himself: welfare.

Now both Mary and Johnny find that they dislike and have become suspicious of Joe Immigrant. After all, they heard that he was living on handouts. They spend most of their time talking to each other in the store about how wrong it is that Joe gets to sit at home all day long and draw a paycheck, while they break their backs at work so that they can pay Joe’s bills.

Joe, tired of being treated like a slob and a thief, forms an immigrant-rights group and starts calling Mary and Johnny racists.

Sound familiar?

The immigration debate provides a unique opportunity for conservatives to challenge the liberal sacred cow of economic inequality, while at the same time pivoting away from the pointless and stupid discussion of whether or not conservatives are all racists. This is a discussion that deserves more time and attention than “turn off the magnet” quotables – it’s the root cause of the burgeoning racial and economic tension that the American Left continues to feed. As long as John Boehner and Co. have to deflect accusations of racism and bigotry, they’re never going to take up the mantle of the Gingrich-led ’94 Republicans and go on the attack against the welfare state that is unraveling the nation one impoverished household at a time.

It’s up to GOP leadership in the House and Senate to push the policies that conservatives want to see moved forward, but it’s up to us to frame the debate in such a way that Team Red can actually do more than hunker down behind denials and apologies.

The immigration issue is a more important issue than either the Left or the Right supposes, and far too important to become just another part of the old, tired, and rhetorically-abused debate over race relations. Not only is immigration integral to our history as a nation, it’s also integral to the growth of our nation – now more than ever.

America is still a cultural melting pot that offers opportunity to every hopeful who sets foot on our shores. Over Thanksgiving, I was blessed to spend time with some of my older relatives and hear the story of my great-grandfather, who fled Lithuania to escape the advance of Soviet troops in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. His decision to come to America is the reason I can sit behind this computer and exercise my first amendment rights all over the blogosphere. My fathers didn’t come here for free health care, free education, free food or free housing. They came for freedom. Let’s make sure future generations of immigrants to our country can say the same.

We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.

Dear Oatmeal, Net Neutrality Just Isn’t Fair

Dear Oatmeal,

As I was scrolling through my social media news feed yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice a letter you wrote to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Your letter, in response to Mr. Cruz referring to Net Neutrality as “Obamacare for the Internet”, portended to explain to the Senator just how Net Neutrality works.

I am not Ted Cruz, but I do happen to write for a couple of reputable online publications and put a considerable amount of thought into current events and policy issues. As I read your letter, two concerns formed in my mind:

1) I’m not sure you’ve really thought through the ramifications of the Net Neutrality standards that you’re attempting to justify.

2) I’m also not sure you have even a cursory understanding of some really important concepts surrounding the whole debate – free association, free enterprise, and heck, even freedom itself.

So in the spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding (and because I consider myself a good sport), I’d like to help you out with an explanation of these concepts.

Imagine that you good folks at The Oatmeal decide to start a web hosting service. So you take out a loan, buy a bunch of server space, hire some tech geeks and graphic design hipsters, and launch your web service. Now imagine that the KKK applies for access to your web service. Or a group called “People for Torturing Puppies.” Or a competing business who plans to put up a page called “OatmealSucks.com”

Of course, since you’re providing a service at cost to yourself, you have the right to
turn down any or all of these people, for any of the above reasons – or pretty
much any other reason in the world.

Now imagine that those groups got upset at being turned down, and sued OatmealWebHosting.com for discrimination – claiming that it wasn’t
fair of you to allow others to use your services, while denying them. After all, we all have a right to internet service, just like the air we breathe.

Only, really expensive air. With wires. And towers. And routers. And devices. And maintenance. And security. And tech support call centers in other countries.

That lawsuit would be fundamentally unjust. You started the service, you created the terms of service, you’re providing the service, and you have the right to decide who you do and do not wish to conduct business with. 

That important right is called free association. And that’s the concept that the internet was founded upon – not some hippy mumbo jumbo about having a “right” to products and services provided by someone else.

Because despite the fact that it looks little like it did when a bunch of dudes with muskets fought off guys who for some reason wore bright red targets to battle almost 250 years ago, this is still America. And part of what makes America, America, is the fact that we can decide what we want to buy and sell, and from whom we want to buy and sell, for whatever reason we want.

People can decide to buy burgers from Wendy’s because they like redheads. Best Buy can decide to stop selling Apple products because they’re tired of attracting the condescending hipster crowd. Wal-Mart can move all their factories to the US and double their prices on everything so that they can raise their starting wage to $15/hr.

image004Paranoid rednecks can decide to buy large, scary assault rifles to hunt, or they can buy
them just to carry into Chipotle and piss people off.

And then Chipotle can choose to reject their future business.

These transactions, and others like them, are generally referred to as free-market transactions, because nobody tells people who to do business with or how to conduct it.

Wendy’s decides what products it carries, based on what they think people will buy. Wal-Mart decides how much it will pay for employees based on how productive they think those employees will be. Chipotle decides whether it would rather sell to suburban soccer moms or redneck Rambos, based on what they want their business model to attract.

And here’s the important part to remember about the free market: All
businesses in a free market, whether Wal-Mart, Comcast, Mediacom, or Chipotle,
owe you exactly JACK. image006

These businesses were not started to make your life easier, or to give poor people jobs, or because their founders thought it was just cool to build and sell things in their free time. They were started for one reason and one reason only, despite what cute stories show up on the TV ads or the back of the cereal box: to make a profit.

And profit, despite Michael Moore’s sanctimonious condemnation, is not a dirty word. Profit is the lifeblood of companies – both of awesome companies like Tesla Motors (which is also currently trying to fight back the government’s “fairness” regulations), and really, terribly, God-awful businesses like, say, the Oakland Raiders. Without profit, pretty much all the goods and services you enjoy on a day-to-day basis go buh-bye.

See there’s a real logical problem in your equating of “fairness” to “freedom”. They’re not the
same thing. Let me illustrate. Let’s imagine that you’re in a college Sociology class. You love the class, you get along with the teacher, and you study hard every day of the week (except Saturday, which you mostly spend hungover and exhausted, eating leftover pizza and playing Minecraft because resolution is irrelevant when the room is shaking). The midterm
approaches and you notice that you’re the only one studying for the test. So you take the test, and you ace it – even nail the extra credit essay question on Marx – but the rest of the class fails miserably. The next week when the scores are released, you find out that everyone in the class got a B on the test. Everyone.

See the problem? Everybody there had the freedom to apply themselves and study, but only some made use of that opportunity. So by failing to discriminate, the teacher is actually being unfair. You worked hard and prepared, you deserved an A. Similarly, some internet content agencies are easy to get along with, and require little from broadband providers. And some are difficult, and require a lot more. Reclassification under expanded Net Neutrality rules is actually completely unfair to those providing the services, but totally popular with the consumers waiting for what they think will be a free ride to high speed awesomeness.


But here’s how it will end up working:

Fair doesn’t mean everyone getting the same thing. Fair means everyone getting what they deserve.

That’s why fairness isn’t the same as freedom. We’re all free to pursue happiness, but only those who pursue it, attain it. You don’t enter into a legally-binding contract with a provider, and then insist that they change their end of the bargain to suit you. That’s not how freedom works.

image010

Nobody forced you to buy from Comcast, just like nobody forces you to buy burgers from Wendy’s or burritos from Chipotle. But you (and Netflix, incidentally) bought from them because you shopped around, liked their offers, agreed to their terms and contracted for their services. And now that those services aren’t up to your expectations, rather than finding a service that fits your needs, you’d rather sic government on them to force them to provide what you want (which is determined by your situation and preferences), rather than what you paid for (which is determined by those itty-bitty words in the contract you signed when you accepted service from your ISP).

“But,” you might say, “There are only a handful of broadband providers in the country – there aren’t any options that I like!” Now you’ve touched on the REAL problem – a problem that Net Neutrality cannot fix, but the free market can: a lack of competition. And that’s a problem to lay squarely at the feet of the government you’re so anxious to hand the reins over to. See it’s really hard to start a new ISP, and the reason is that the providers have worked hard to make sure that government regulates any potential competition to death.

But don’t worry.

I’m sure that Net Neutrality legislation won’t be influenced in any way by these companies that it is about to deputize as functional internet utilities… Just like Obamacare wasn’t influenced in any way by the big insurance companies whose products are
now mandatory despite much higher premiums
.

And I’m also sure that the FCC (which will be the sole enforcement mechanism for any Net Neutrality standards introduced) doesn’t have anything in common with the other federal agencies who so frequently and unapologetically trample on the Bill of Rights. In fact, I’ll bet none of them are anything like the people who recently got caught spying on millions of innocent
Americans by striking lucrative deals
 with cell phone providers. Nah, that could never happen.

I’m also sure that expanding government regulation of the internet couldn’t eventually result in either an internet tax (thanks for the heads-up on that, Sen. Cruz) or outright censorship. After all, corporate/government partnerships like those proposed under the reclassification always work out well – just ask Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the U.S. Postal Service. image012

See you’re right, Oatmeal, the internet should be free; but free of state coercion, not free of cost or competition. Giving control to government is a one-way street. If you don’t like Comcast, you can switch to Cox. If you don’t like Washington, you’re pretty much just out of luck.

So, my fiber-rich friends, I and many other blog-trolling, multiplayer-gaming, music-streaming internet enthusiasts would like to challenge you to reconsider your view of Net Neutrality, and ultimately your view of freedom as well.

image014I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite tech nerds from the 18th Century, Thomas Jefferson. Okay, maybe not exactly a tech nerd, but he did invent the moldboard of least resistance, and he had some pretty cool ideas about freedom, too. TJ, who also happened to author the Declaration of Independence, recognized that freedom, unregulated and unfettered by government, would be a hassle. But being the thoughtful, tyrant-defying, wig-sporting boss that he was, he also decided the following:

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”

So let’s drop gub’ment controlled Net Neutrality, give the free market a chance to solve the minor problems attending our technological liberties, and watch the internet change history.

All my best wishes, with cinnamon and raisins on top,

 -Joel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Father, Who Art in Heaven: How Christians who surrender on corporal punishment are impugning the character of God

In the last couple weeks I have received a lot of response to my article on Adrian Peterson’s disciplinary controversy.  Throughout the heated debates, I consistently asked for – and did not receive – answers to these two very direct questions:

1) On what moral, scriptural, or historical basis do you declare all marks to be abusive?

2) By what authority do you claim the right to govern how another raises their child before threat to life or limb is established?

That’s all I’m looking for.  Just two simple answers.  Since posting, I’ve had all the guns brought to bear on me and my wife, from a wide range of people. I wasn’t really surprised at the reaction of the unbelieving world – after all, if you don’t accept the authority of scripture, how could you accept its admonitions on something as intimately personal as the upbringing of your children?  But I confess I wasn’t entirely prepared for the venom and vitriol unleashed on us by some of our fellow Christians. I’m still trying to figure out why.

It struck me that this might be an example of the Akin effect – rush to discredit the extremist in an attempt to distinguish your softer views from his radical ones.  But if that is indeed the motive, then the tragic irony is that those who claim to support biblical discipline while calling AP’s actions criminal are signing their own cultural death warrant:

In a culture so hostile to faith that many already equate religious teaching with child abuse, how long can you realistically expect to be allowed to practice any discipline at all without government and society’s approval?

The other alternative motive is the “better to be the right hand of the devil, than in his path” mentality. People who adopt this approach often avoid picking unpopular fights because they’re looking to secure their own permissions and concessions from a system that they oppose as a whole.  This is the mindset of honest business owners who start fishing for special treatment from government because their competition already has. It’s the attitude of pro-life activists who lead off with a compromise and end in defeat, rather than standing on principle and forcing a compromise. It’s the intentional walk with the bases loaded.  In this situation, it’s characterized by folks who vocally condemn the switching of Adrian Peterson’s son and call all who defend his right to do so monsters, without stopping to take measure of the cultural repercussions of admitting that parents don’t have the right to switch their own children.

I suppose it could be a little bit of both.  Or it could be that Christians have adapted our view of God and his commandments to the moral climate of our times, rather than challenging the moral climate with the truth of scripture.  Whatever the reason, the irrefutably logical arguments I’ve received thus far in response are as follows:

“You’re sick!”

“Nobody should have to tell you why you shouldn’t hit a kid, you should just know!”

“AP should never be allowed around children again until he has some serious therapy.”

“You are mentally disturbed!”

“A switch might as well be barbed wire!”

“It’s a living creature and therefore deserves respect on those grounds alone!”

“Jesus said don’t hit people!”

“This is bad and you are bad for writing it!”

“You and your wife need counseling, I’m scared for your child!”

“I’ll be waving at you from the right side of history!”

 

Okay, so maybe not irrefutably logical, but at least creative.

So, since those who take exception to my conclusions have not provided any objectively ethical basis for their claims, I’m going to lay my cards on the table, and let people decide for themselves.

I believe the Bible.  I believe it start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, and because I believe it is the single highest moral authority to which we can appeal, I choose to pattern my life and choices to the dictates of scripture. If I did not accept the authority of scripture, I don’t think I would discipline my children at all – It’s far easier to merely be friends and avoid the difficulties of training, or to ignore discipline and just wait for them to move out.  Many parents choose one or both of these routes.

But because I accept the Bible as truth, I believe that God created every child ever to grow into an adult and become a parent, and I believe that He knows better than we do what a child needs. And since I accept those truths, I do not have the luxury of settling for the easy path with my family.

My wife is carrying our first child, and that child will be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, which will sometimes include the rod of correction. It will also include provision, protection, self-sacrifice, love, patience, disappointment, and joy.  We will strive to always act in love and not anger, and  to teach our child about character and integrity, action and consequence.  When we make mistakes, we will ask forgiveness in humility and repent to God and to each other.  And then we will get back up and keep following the path laid out for us by scripture.

And since we will require grace in our parenting, we will extend that same grace to other parents – even those we deem to be less than ideal. What we certainly won’t do, is call the police on our neighbors if we see a welt on their child’s leg.  We might approach them and discuss our concerns – like friends and neighbors used to do – and we will be the first to intervene if we see children in danger (or anyone in danger, for that matter).  But we also won’t appoint ourselves judge and jury and insert ourselves between parents and children not our own.

If you disagree with corporal punishment, or presume to set artificial limitations on people, that God never set in the Bible (and he REALLY dislikes that – Deut 12:32, Matt 15:3), you really aren’t disagreeing with me – I’m just the messenger.

Ultimately, you are calling into question the character and commandments of God. What you’re really saying is that God condones child abuse.  You’re saying that the loving Christ who died for our sins, take pleasure in seeing little kids cry and therefore encourages parents to beat them.  You’re saying that you know better than the Creator, and that the childrearing techniques of the last few decades (that have resulted in the most morally decadent period in our nation’s history) are not only acceptable, but constitute the only permissible standard of discipline.

This fight was never about me, my article, or my childrearing ideals.

It’s about a culture at war with absolutes, at war with truth; and Christians who have decided to hitch a ride with it rather than getting run over by it.

Meditate on these scriptures, and if you still think that corporal punishment is wrong, cruel, or abusive, then you may need to spend some time wrestling with the Word of God, not with an insignificant blogger from Iowa.

 

 

Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Hell. – Proverbs 23:13-14

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. – Proverbs 29:15

Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts. – Proverbs 20:30

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. – Ecclesiastes 8:11

Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death. – Proverbs 19:18*

*this verse refers to the urgency of correcting a rebellious child before Mosaic law required that they be put to death. If you find that appalling and cruel, you may want to re-evaluate your view of the character and nature of God.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:7-11

Although he (Jesus) was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. – Hebrews 5:8

 

I understand that scripture is so flexible these days that we’ve managed to bend it around every unpleasant truth and difficult command in the Bible, but it’s tough to sidestep the straightforward and precise admonitions to literal, physical discipline shown above. And lest you think this is something that God takes lightly, he made it clear in both testaments that he considers godly childrearing to be integral to a life of holiness: In the book of I Samuel, we’re told that Eli’s entire family line was cursed because he refused to restrain his sons (I Sam 2:29, 3:13); and in the New Testament, Paul wrote that a man without his children “in subjection with all gravity” (I Tim 3:4 KJV) was disqualified for church leadership. Conversely, you will not find a single rebuke anywhere in the Bible to anyone for being too harsh with their children – though undoubtedly there was abuse then as there is now.

The point is that God doesn’t waste space in the Bible telling us to do things we are already inclined toward. He commands us to do things that our nature hates – self-control, thanksgiving, generosity, chastity, and forgiveness. The reason he insists that parents physically discipline their children, is that it is not in our nature to do so. In fact, scripture clearly says that parent who refuses to use the rod of correction, hates their child.

I have no standing, no title, and no credentials, to make me worthy of opposition. You could probably find a thousand pastors, teachers, and experts to argue me into the ground. But I defer to the scriptures, and upon them I stand. Think what you want of me, but please, seek the Lord on these things.  There could be a lot more at stake for you and your family than you know, both now and for eternity.

Rand Paul’s Plan “A”

Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.

– Sun Tzu


Last week, Kentucky Senator and likely presidential candidate Rand Paul got in a highly-publicized spat with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council over the Senator’s answer to a question on abortion and contraceptives.

Paul – a medical doctor – was asked directly whether the Plan B pill should be legal, to which he responded, “Plan B is taking birth control… I am not against birth control, and I don’t know many Republicans who would be indicating that they are against birth control.”

His comments sent a shockwave of indignation throughout the virtual world, as pro-life conservatives took to social media to chastise Rand for “selling out” on life  – very reminiscent, in fact, of the shockwave that followed Rand’s “thousands of exceptions” gaffe last year.

As I watched the predictable and useless “I’m more pro-life than you” chest-beating erupt among conservatives, I realized that in Rand’s latest futile attempt to walk the tightrope of public opinion, he had exposed a critical flaw in the pro-life community’s mindset: we’ve been defensive for so long, we don’t know how to go on offense anymore.

In fact, if pro-lifers knew how to go on offense, we would be Rand Paul’s biggest fans.  As an expectant father and someone who believes absolutely in the right to life from the moment of conception, I have really, really high standards for politicians on the issue of abortion.  Since he took office, Rand has been the loudest, most consistent voice for the life of the unborn in either house of Congress.  His Life at Conception Act, far from the fetal pain or partial birth half-measures debated by other legislatures, has raised the bar for the entire abortion debate and fundamentally changed the legal ground on which the battle is taking place. Due in no small part to Rand’s leadership on this issue, Personhood has continued to gain momentum and national recognition, and proponents of abortion on demand have been forced to change their terminology and play the birth control game (a huge victory in itself – more on that later).

Rand, whose presidential aspirations are well-known, could have easily stayed in the middle of the road and avoided the troublesome social issue of abortion while trying to solidify his more libertarian base and expand his support into traditionally democratic demographics.  But he has chosen to make Personhood a centerpiece for his campaign, and to some extent has tied his political future to the success of the pro-life movement – a movement that now seems almost eager to cannibalize him.

It’s hard to blame pro-lifers for being suspicious of everyone – we’ve been played by every turn by moderate Republican turncoats who view unborn children as political poker chips.  As a devotee of principled lifelong underdog Ron Paul, I have great respect for people who maintain ideological purity – but only so far as that purity does not become something to hide behind. The pro-life message has been stuck in a rut for years, and is just now starting to crest the hilltop of public opinion. We’ve become so adept at defending our positions that we are generally prepared to shoot anyone and anything that doesn’t fit our particular style of rhetoric. It’s fairly easy to stay in this pose, and wait for the pro-aborts to exhaust themselves against the mounting scientific evidence of fetal personhood. But victories aren’t won in foxholes; there has to be a time to charge.

And I think that time is now.

For years, America has been trending in a pro-life direction, and right now less than 30% of all Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all circumstances.  Even more telling, though, is the migration of the pro-abortion arguments from loudly, proudly defending a woman’s so-called right to choose, to a sniveling, semi-apologetic discussion of birth control – something only peripherally attached to any part of the abortion issue. Liberals recognize, perhaps better than we do, that as prenatal science sheds more light on the miracle of pregnancy and birth, their precious moral grey area is shrinking.  So much so, in fact, that at least one far-left author is now encouraging the pro-abortion crowd to abandon the “choice” façade entirely and embrace abortion as a moral good.

But regrettably, even the best pro-life politicians seem unable to resist the media’s bait. Our guys continue to dive into the perpetually unwinnable exceptions-and-birth-control debate, allowing the Left to obfuscate the moral clarity surrounding the life issue and maintain their flimsy and obsolete arguments.

Just once, I want to hear one of our conservative leaders turn the exceptions question around on their inquisitors and say something like, “I will no longer debate hypothetical exceptions with you, because they are just your attempt to invalidate the rule. Once we as a culture establish the rule that life is sacred and to be protected from conception to natural death, then we can debate your exceptions.”

Just once, I want someone in Congress to field a question on criminalization by saying, “Your question is disingenuous and irrelevant. As a legislator, it is not my job to preempt every conceivable legal question that might arise.  It’s my job to define murder as a crime. Our judicial system is then tasked with determining when a person has been deliberately murdered, and what penalty should be imposed.”

I take that back, I don’t want to hear it just once.  Or twice. Or three times.  I want to hear every single pro-life politician and activist defy the Exceptions Police and force the conversation back to what they – and most of America – already know: that life begins at conception, and that unborn children have an inalienable right to life.

It’s not dodging the question, it’s actually staying planted firmly on the fundamental question asked 40 years ago in the United States Supreme Court – is an unborn child a person?  And one positive and immediate side-effect of such a rhetorical spearhead is that it will force the media into a defensive posture: after being blistered by a few fearless conservatives on the other end of the microphone, reporters will either drastically change their questions on abortion, or just stop asking.

We need to stop insisting that demonstrably pro-life politicians walk the plank on abortion.  Not every conservative is going to answer the same way. But those who have consistently earned our trust by walking the walk, should also earn some breathing room when talking the talk.

There’s still a battle on for the lives of the unborn, and few leaders have emerged with a plan to capitalize on the success of the pro-life movement – to go on offense with our message and start moving the laws in the direction that society is already going.

Rand Paul believes that standing for Personhood is not only the best means of restoring a culture that celebrates life, but believes it so strongly that he is willing to tie his personal success to it as well.

Maybe before dismantling Rand Paul’s plan B, we should consider following him with plan A.