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.


My Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

Thanks Gabe, for the inspiration to review my music choices over the past decade, to give some perspective on what’s to come in future years.  As a disclaimer, very few of these would I suggest as the BEST albums of the 2000s- my limited experience certainly does not qualify me to be any sort of competent music critic.  These are simply the words, rhythms, and tunes that have become inexorably tied to the last 10 years of my life, and if you haven’t checked them out, they’re worth your time to investigate.

1.Nickel Creek
     Nickel Creek (2000)

With little fanfare and only one radio release, Nickel Creek’s first album contains all aspects of the musical genius, technical excellence, and fun-loving creativity that defined the band throughout the 2000s.

2. Linkin Park
     Hybrid Theory (2000)

Linkin Park became a household name with this release, and rightly so. Dark and introspective melodies fused Chester Bennington’s powerful voice with the unmistakable flow of Mike Shinoda. The result was the birth of NuMetal, a genre that has been widely explored by other bands ever since.
 
3. PFR
     Disappear (2001)

In 2001, the members of PFR came together for one last album before disbanding again to the dismay of loyal (and hopeful) fans everywhere.  Disappear features a more mature sound and sometimes Pink Floyd-ish guitar work that departs from PFR’s more traditional music but still lets the band’s unique vocals shine on a different backdrop.
4. Evanescence
     Fallen (2003)

Lyrical heartbreak, abundant contrast and the angelic voice of Amy Lee form the backbone of Evanescence, one of few recent bands to hit it big off of a movie soundtrack.

5. Fiction Family
     Fiction Family (2009)

The most fun album of the 2000s.  Jon Forman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek come together to create an acoustic dream accented by a beautiful and complex guitar work that results in a surprisingly blue-collar sound.
    
6. The Killers
     Sam’s Town (2006)

It was refreshing to see the Killers come off of the success of Hot Fuzz with a taste for more creativity and a throwback style, rather than pandering to the lovestruck top 40 crowd.

7. Falling Up
     Dawn Escapes (2005)

The only band to make my top 10 list twice will require some introduction to many. Falling Up started on the Christian alternative charts with their first successful album, Crashings. Comparable to other Christian alt bands of the time (Hawk Nelson, Stellar Cart, etc.) they had good sound but little distinction.  I expected little more from Dawn Escapes, and was blown away by the change in their style. They embraced an intelligent but abstract approach, and the individual tracks flowed seamlessly throughout the playlist.  The depth of their vocal harmony and exchange of heavy guitar rhythm for piano and some synth sound produced a unique and captivating musical experience bested only by their following album…

8. Hawthorne Heights
     If Only You Were Lonely (2006)

Hawthorne Heights unofficially pioneered the 2000s lunge toward what has been derogatorily termed “screamo”, but their second album focuses more on harmony both in guitar and vocals. Some of the best listening for a rainy day at home.

9. Silversun Pickups
     Carnavas (2006)

While the vocals are a love ’em/ hate ’em for most people, Carnavas nonetheless shows off their excellent bass work and a sound that is difficult to categorize but still fulfilling in it’s simplicity.

10. Falling Up
     Captiva (2008)

Captiva completed Falling Up’s masterful transition from a CCM speedbump  to an artistic wellspring.  The dreamscape that trimmed the edges of Dawn Escapes came into full focus with Captiva‘s thematic mastery.  Designed as a musical escape from the ordinary, each track carries a blend of intense harmony and otherworldly lyrics, splashed on to a canvas of nearly new-age synth work with just the right touch of modern guitar mixed in.  Captiva presents a sound that teeters between beautiful and haunting, incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced in modern music.

Honorable Mention:

Anberlin – Blueprints for the Black Market  (2003)
Armor for Sleep – Smile for Them (2007)
Michelle Branch – Hotel Paper (2003)
Paramore – Riot (2007)
Plain White Tees – Every Second Counts (2006)

Pelosi Antoinette strikes again!

http://www.politico.com/blogs/thecrypt/0808/Pelosi_to_protesters_Can_we_drill_your_brains.html?showall

In other news, Medvedev scares me to death.  The Russians (and most U.S. democrats) are in complete support of his aggresive authoritarianism and warmongering.  Other than watching the world go to hell in a handbasket, life is awesome in my corner.  I finish my current project at the end of this month and I’m looking for another job.  In the meantime, though, it will be nice to have time to work on the house uninterrupted, and maybe spend some more time with the church group and my amazing girlfriend.

More later, peace all!

Dual Citizenship: The Christian’s Place in the Political Realm

     Separation of church and state. The statement immediately brings to mind recent legal battles and the rallying cry of American liberals trying to negate the influence of the fundamentalist evangelical right wing.  This notion that the Christian has no place in politics or government is embraced by some surprising groups however.  While the liberals draw on Thomas Jefferson’s letter to a Massachusetts bishop to show that the church must abstain from political involvement, many conservative Christian groups draw virtually the same conclusion from a questionable interpretation of scripture.  They hold that the Church is part of a different kingdom, a kingdom “not of this world”, and that its members should not take part in the political goings of their own civil governments.  While this may at first seem surprising to some, the idea is prevalent among many plain groups and has been held with some consistency by groups of Christians dating back to the Reformation and before.  While one can appreciate the motive behind the ideal, that of “keeping the church pure”, “separation from the world”, and living at peace with all men”, the notion that Christians should ignore such a direct route to impacting society for the good must be called into question.  That said, there are many good points on both sides of the issue, and it’s certainly not an easy one to discern.  Aside from the very different social responsibilities that each side requires, some of the heaviest theological and moral implications are also packed into this issue including such undying issues as the sovereignty of God and nonresistance.  But in the end, how a Christian responds to this issue must not be a matter of denomination, tradition or even personal preference.  Action must not be rationalized by the desire to act, neither must inaction be rationalized by disinterest.  The answers await the soul who dares to seek them, in the pages of God’s Word.  There we must search to find out in yet another modern day situation, “what would Jesus do?”

  • Christian Disengagement from Politics:           “My kingdom is not of this world”

     There are a number of reasons given by those who advocate noninvolvement in politics.  The most popular seems to be the “two kingdoms” analogy.  This argument is based on Christ’s statement to Pilate in John 18:36.  “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…”  The idea is carried throughout the New Testament, to be sure.  Hebrews 11 tells tale after tale of the people of God who “looked for a city… whose builder and maker is God.”  The NT constantly reminds the Christian that he is a “stranger and a pilgrim” in this world, and thus is not to be entangled with the affairs of this life.  (II Tim. 2:4)  Also tied in with these are the numerous admonitions to come apart and be separate from the world.  The most famous, of course is II Cor. 6:14-18.  The reasoning is that total separation from the world necessitates separation from the world system, including the corruption and abuses that so often accompany politics. Since God calls Christians out of such systems to become citizens of His kingdom, what right do we have to take part in the legal or governmental affairs of another kingdom?  Christ is our King, and we are His ambassadors.  If we are indeed ambassadors of heaven to a fallen world, then we have neither the need, nor the right, to participate in the political whirlwinds of that world.  This is just another way to be “in the world, but not of the world”

     The second step taken by the purporters of noninvolvement is to show that the Church and civil government are completely incompatible, forcing a Christian to choose between them.  After all, no man can serve two masters.  You either serve an earthly king, or a heavenly one.  The roots of this assumed contrast lie deep in the doctrine of nonresistance, and form a critical part of that teaching.  A brief summary of the doctrine of nonresistance may be in order here:

  1. Matt. 5:38-41.  “Resist not evil”  It is the Christian’s duty to allow abuses of his own rights for the cause of Christ, and resistance to evil must be on a purely spiritual level.  Follow this up with the command to “Love your enemy” and there can be no reason for the Christian to fight. 
  2. John 18:36, Matt. 26:52.  “Then would my servants fight”  The Christian, like Christ and his Disciples, must forego self-defense in submission to the will of God.  In so doing, God’s purposes are fulfilled by “overcoming evil with good”.  It can hardly be disputed that from the time of the Disciples until recently, this view has been the prevailing one in the Church as a whole.  The violence of the Reformation period, coupled with the specter of previous crusades, has all but eliminated knowledge of this important Christian doctrine.  In some ways, the teaching of political noninvolvement, mainly restricted to highly persecuted Anabaptist sects, seems to be a reaction to the Reformation period, where “Christians” sought to burn dissidents at the stake, often with the approval and/or assistance of local civil authorities.  The line between Church and state was virtually nonexistent, and the nonresistant Anabaptists were sought out for persecution by both Catholics and Protestants, as well as their various state supporters.  Before this period, however, early Church fathers taught nonresistance as a basic tenet of Christianity. After all, Christianity is a religion of peace. Historically, it has always been the blood of the martyrs, not the sword of the saints, that has maintained steady growth and purity within the body of Christ. 

One of the key scriptures used to develop this type of contrast between Church and civil government is Romans 12-13.  It is held that Romans chapter 12 puts forth the responsibilities of the believer in this world.  As enumerated in the chapter, these include:

  • be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • Abhor evil, cling to good.
  • kindly affectionate, preferring one another.
  • Bless them which persecute you.
  • recompense to no man evil for evil.
  • live peaceably with all men.
  • do good to your enemies.

All these must be characteristic of a Christian’s daily walk.  Romans 13, on the other hand, outlines the duties of the civil government, which are quite different.

  • a terror to evil works.
  • for praise of good.
  • minister of God to execute wrath, “beareth the sword”.
  • collect tribute to accomplish God’s purposes.

It is drawn from these scriptures that the Christian cannot fulfill both Romans 12 and 13 when in a civil office.  How can one recompense no man evil for evil, if he is called on in civil government to “bear the sword” as God’s revenger?  Extended, this means that Christians cannot vote or seek to place others in a political office; because it would be immorral to ask another to do a job that one feels is wrong to do himself.  In addition to the constant highlighting of this contrast, much is drawn from what is not said about the place of Christians in relation to government.  Christian duties toward government are given not only in Rom. 13, but also in Peter’s epistles, Titus 3, and in Christ’s monologue on tribute.  The point usually offered is that since the NT does not directly speak of Christians being politically involved, it is likely that Christians had adopted a policy of noninvolvement (several important assumptions there).

     Another key to this position is reliance on the sovereignty of God to control the affairs of Government.  Rom. 13 tells us that the powers that be are ordained of God.  Proverbs 21:1 states, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth is withersoever he will.”  Since it is clear that God raises up and puts down rulers, whatever He needs accomplished by way of laws and public policy, he does not require our help to do. 

     The position can be summed up by saying that seperation from worldly politics is just another way of obeying the call to “come out from among them, and be ye seperate, sayeth the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (II Cor. 6:17)

 

  • The Christian in Politics:                            “I sought for a man…to stand in the gap”

 

     Now that the noninvolvement position is outlined, there are serious concerns with this position that must be addressed.  First, let’s examine this contrast between the Church and the State.  The position supporting Christian involvement in politics has never held that the Church and the State are synonymous, or even that they are to set common goals.  The job of the Church is to expand Christ’s kingdom by preaching the Gospel, and to “do good to all mankind”.  Natually, the role of civil government is to punish evil and praise good. But within that very goal statement lies an even deeper purpose of government:  to preserve freedom.  Any moral code or guideline must be preceded by the assumption that A PERSON IS FREE TO CHOOSE THE ALTERNATIVE.  Without freedom of choice, a moral code becomes irrelevant.  A law against what we cannot do is pointless.  Similarly, government application of law (praise of good and punishment of evil) serves the purpose of protecting the freedom of some men to do good, from the freedom of other men to do evil.  The government is called upon to maintain a balance, between right and wrong, freedom and responsibility.  Thus, while the government is not commissioned to PERFORM the work of the Church, in order to be a valid government its actions must FACILITATE the work of the Church by protecting the rights of Christians to spread the gospel and do good. 

     Government is the art of compromise, and there must be some compromise for any people to live together in peace.  A Christian in government will be called on at some point to compromise, but compromise involves GOOD as well as BAD.  It involves a bringing up of the lowest denominator, as well as the bringing down of the highest.  For example, while a Christian legislator may have to vote to send men to a war that he disagrees with, he also has the opportunity to advance peace in a host of ways.  He may be forced to vote to allow evolution into schools, but also have the chance to guarantee homeschooling rights to parents.  There may be times where the lesser of two evils is the only option, but bear in mind that the GREATEST evil would be ignoring the decision.  A position within civil government holds both opportunity and responsibility.  Thus, abdication of the responsibility to make difficult decisions that God (who does rule the affairs of Government) has brought to you, equates to negligence.  James tells us, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  With this in mind, a Christian placed by God into a position of leadership does not have the option of abdicating his responsibility.  The tough choices are his to make, and burying his head in the sand will only increase his guilt.  Paul tells us in I Cor. 7 “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”  Servants are specifially told to stay subject to their masters, and masters are never told to abdicate or to release their slaves, rather, they are commanded to treat them with decency and love. (Eph. 6:9)  Whether we find ourselves in the position of the ruler or the ruled, we have responsibilities before God. 

     So just where do we find ourselves in America today?  What responsibilities does the Christian have?  Romans says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”  Peter tells us, “Fear God, honor the king.”  In that time, it was clear who the higher power was: “the king”, or Caesar.  During Peter’s time, the ruthless Nero held the throne, and his word was law.  The Roman Senate had long since been devoid of real power, and Nero had become an absolute dictator.  There was no written law that could keep him in check, no balance of power, and no accountability to the people.  Herein lies the most critical difference between the Christian’s responsibility in Nero’s Rome and the United States today.  We live in America, a nation founded on Christian principles, including the belief that “all men are created equal”.  Our government mirrors this belief, and is built on the assumption that all equal under the law.  The only difference between the President and his cheauffer is four years and an election.  Never before in the history of the world has there been such a government as ours, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  In America, we, the people, are THE HIGHST POWER.  Every elected official is responsible to us, and every law is subject to our scrutiny.  Even our Constitution, the highest law in the land, can be revised by a convention of the people. 

     Anyone who is a citizen of the United States is part of the civil government, like it or not.  Citizenship on Earth is a reality.  Though we may by choice become citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we are still by birth citizens of an earthly realm as well.  After seeing Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul still claimed Roman citizenship, and used the privileges associated with it (i.e. fair trial).  Since we are certain that he did not at that time renouce his heavenly status, we must assume that Paul was claiming DUAL CITIZENSHIP.  (Also note reference to “they of Caesar’s household”, Christians who probably had more rank than anyone else in the kingdom.)  Citizenship comes with both priveleges and responsibilities.  As stated before, the most basic responsibility of government is maintaining a balance of freedom.  Key to maintianing this in our democracy is ensuring that benefits are coupled with responsibilities, taxation with representation, etc.  Anyone who enjoys the benefits this nation offers, freedom, safety, public services, social security, or driving priveleges, must also take part of the responsibilities of civil government.  In our country it is the cost of citizenship.  Jesus’ monologue on taxes in Mark 12 tells us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  From the changing face of currency we can gather that this saying did not only apply to taxes.  A debt is owed to any agency providing benefits.  The benefits afforded by our nation come with a cost.  Certainly taxes are part of the cost we pay in this country, but taxes pay for physical benefits.  How do we pay for things like freedom?  How do we pay for the sacrifices of lives to bring us this freedom?  Andrew Jackson, in his farewell address, reminded America, “you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.  It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.”  Eternal vigilance is the cost of freedom.  Every citizen who enjoys liberty in this country is subject to this burden, this privilege, of maintaining the liberties he enjoys.  As part of this great country, we are given this responsibility by none other than God Himself.  If God raises up rulers, and the people are the ultimate rulers in this nation, then one can only conclude that God brought each and every person in America to this constitutional democracy according to His purpose, and that every Christian citizen with the opportunity to effect civil change has been brought to the United States, “for such a time as this”.  This quote from Mordecai harks back to the political involvement of God’s people at a critical time in the history of the Jewish nation… a great launch pad for the next point.

  •     God’s People in Politics: A Scriptural Precedent

 

      Lets take a moment to examine the scriptures with relation to political involvement.  It might be good to start this discussion in Hebrews 11’s “hall of faith”, where we find the people who God declared to be “looking for a city… whose builder and maker is God,” and “seekers of a heavenly country.”  Clearly, the men and women mentioned in this chapter are citizens of the heavenly kingdom.  Oddly enough, though, many of them were also civil rulers in an Earthly kingdom as well.  Take these examples:

  • Joseph became ruler over Egypt, and effectively used his office to preserve his nation and his family, and to consolidate power within the Egyptian nation.  His policies resulted in the nation becoming servants to Pharoah.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this policy later allowed the Pharoah to become a dictator who oppressed the children of Israel.  Nevertheless, God had placed Joseph in this position, and he realized his responsibility to use it to the best of his ability.

 

  • Moses, though he forsook the high office of Egyptian nobility, went on to become the executive and judicial head for an entire nation.  While God provided the laws, there is no evidence that God made day to day decisions in civil disputes.  This responsibility, left to Moses, eventually overwhelmed him (Ex.18:13-27), and he appointed men to judge under him.  While surely God could have empowered his prophet Moses to handle the civil affairs alone, He allowed even the great Moses to take the counsel of another and appoint faithful men to handle the civil affairs of Israel.

 

  • Samuel, Israel’s last judge, was not only placed by God to lead Israel against the Philistines, but also to assume civil responsibilities for the nation.  I Sam. 7:15-17 tells us that Samuel served as the first Circuit Court of Appeals!

 

  • David was annointed king of Israel by Samuel, when he was still a shepherd boy.  This young man went on to become a warrior, yet God called him “a man after my own heart”.  II Sam. 8:15 states “And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.”  Again, David did not try to govern the whole nation alone, by divine authority, but sought out wise counselors and appointed officials in many offices.  These people, though not directly annointed by God, were ready to leave their various occupations and take up the responsibility of directly serving a nation.  

 

  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra.  These rulers over secular provinces were not only used by God, but CHOSE to be used by him.  It was no coincidence that Mordecai placed Esther in the running for queen of Persia.  His statement to her “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” is exemplary of the lives of each person listed here.  These people, whose steps were directed by God, found themselves in a position of power, and believed that position to be a DIVINE MANDATE to use that power to benefit God’s people.  Each one realized that God would not stoop down and manaully direct the affairs of government.  Rather, God’s direction of civil government WAS THROUGH HIS PEOPLE.  Daniel, placed in the evil regime of a heathen king, could have either abdicated his responsibilities in an effort to “separate” himself from this system, or perhaps simply avoided contact with the king and other rulers in an effort to remain invisible.  Rather, because he proctively used the gifts and talents that God had given him, he was advanced above all the other governers in Babylon, and was able to directly influence the policies of the king.  Many have speculated that the exploits of Ezra and Nehemiah would not have been possible had it not been for the work of Daniel, Esther, and the Three Hebrew Children.   

 

  • The Prophets, some of whom carried civil responsibilities (priests, scribes) sent one of the most important messages to the people of Israel when they cried out, “Bring no more vain oblations…learn to do well, seek JUDGEMENT, relieve the oppressed judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:13-17)  Throughout the prophets, God calls men to get involved, not pray and sacrifice, and wait for God to fix all the societal ills.  The entire nation was handed the guilt for the pollutions and innocent blood shed by the rulers.  Why?  Because the people were responsible for their political officials.  The nation had “corporate guilt” for the actions of its rulers, because the rulers represented the people, whether directly or indirectly.  Surely God could have reached down and struck the evil king Manasseh from the throne and replaced him with a Godly ruler.  But rather, he called on men to right the wrong, to cleanse the land. Throughout the Bible, there have been times where the people were called upon to rise up against evil rulers, even though they were the annointed of God.  While David was just for not slaying Saul, Jehu was equally just in slaying the entire ruling families of Israel and Judah.  God cries out against oppression, and calls on men to seek justice, even if it means opposing established authority.

     There is a link in all these examples: Judgement.  God calls believers to judgement, just as he did his people in the OT.  In the New Testament, Christ tells us “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” perhaps one of the most oft-quoted scriptures of all time.  However, the same Christ commands Christians to “judge righteous judgement” in John 7:24.  Paul says in Phi. 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and in all JUDGEMENT.”  Paul also encourages believers to judge civil matters in I Cor. 6:1-6.  “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels?  How much more things that pertain to this life?”  Further, Jesus condemned the pharisees in Matt. 23:23 for neglecting the “weightier matters” of judgement and mercy.  In modern language, we could say the pharisees tithed, went to church regularly, spent much time in prayer, went to the “ends of the world” to preach… and yet Christ condemned them for neglecting matters of justice and mercy.  In other words, MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE REAL WORLD.  All the prayer and tithing and preaching in the world will not make a difference if believers are not willing to get their hands dirty and change society.  Christian life is composed of two parts, James tells us: faith and works.  in James 2:14-26, he reminds us that faith must have real life application to be of any use or substance.  The “spiritual kingdom” to which we belong, must have a physical outreach.  This is true by extention to a national level.  A spiritual renewal as described by II Chron. 7:14 is completely unsubstantial without a cultural renovation to mirror it.  In other words, if God’s people will humble themselves and pray, etc., then they will follow that repentance with ACTION, not only on a personal level, but nationally as well. As the nation experiences revival, God’s people will begin to fill public offices, whether by ascention or conversion while in office.  Inexorably, public policy will change to reflect the condition of the people’s hearts.  This works faster in some governments than others, but brings into sharp contrast the opportunity we have in a representative republic.  Keep in mind that civil judgement and Christian activism are not mutually exclusive.  A man trying to affect public policy for the good, can still hold as his goal preaching the gospel, and changing the nation from the bottom up.  in fact, it is often the case that people who are willing to get involved in fighting for the good in the nitty gritty world of politics, are all the more willing to spread the good news on a personal level as well.  

     …Which brings us to the conclusion of the matter.  Consider these calls of God to men throughout the ages:

  • Mic. 6:8 ~  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
  • Ez. 22:27-31~ “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.  The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.  And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.  Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.”   
  • Ez. 45:9 ~ “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.”
  • Ps. 82:2-4 ~ ” How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”
  • Pr. 21:3 ~ “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”  
  • Gal. 6:10 ~ “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”   

     The call is clear.  Don’t let faith stop at faith!  Don’t let our Spiritual kingdom go without a physical outreach!  Here in America we have so many opportunities to “do good to all men,” both in private life and in the public arena.  Consider the huge amount of missions and ministries that have been possible across the world because of Christian men in political office.  Think of all the evils that have been struck down.  What about slavery?  Slavery never disappeared.  It would still be in America today were it not for the brave outcries of Christian men and women who believed that ALL men are created equal by God.  In America, we find ourselves in a position of authority, simply by virtue of God choosing this nation as our birthplace.  Such opportunity to effect good!  We must never forget, though, that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48)  And much is required of Christians today.  The task before us in this nation is not for the weak or fearful.  We are indeed sent forth as sheep among wolves in a world that hates us.  The world has been calling forever for the Christianity to leave the public arena.  Nothing infuriates them more than Christian policymakers who believe in national standards based upon absolute morality.  But the fact that we face such opposition should cause us to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12).  We can rejoice because in the cushy world of modern Christianity, we have found a cross.  A cross not easy to bear.  A cross of ridicule, and scorn, and derision from a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to any absolute morality.  For the Christian to enter the political scene means that he will be opposed in a host of ways, have his name slandered, and subject all his friends and relatives to the ridicule of a cynical world.  But God calls the believer to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)  The first step is to follow the II Chron. 7:14 path to revival.  We must come together as believers to humble ourselves and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from our wickedness.  Only when this is done, can we recieve grace and strength for the healing of our land.  But God does not heal nations by magical rain showers or Angels in the outfield; He heals lands with His own hands and feet, the Church of Jesus Christ.  Our mission, while strangers and pilgrims in this land, is to be the Light of the world, a City on a Hill.  Even as Christ gives us this calling in Matthew 5:14, he follows it with an interesting command in verse 16.  He tells us what light men will see in our lives.  Not faith, not preaching, but concrete works.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  May God help us to put our faith to action, and use every opportunity He gives us to change our community, our nation, and our world.

Dave Barry

Dad forwarded me this article – it’s way too funny not to post.  A CHAINSAW!?!?!?  Wow….

 

A real giving kind of guy

Posted on Sun, Aug. 03, 2008

BY DAVE BARRY

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published April 15, 2001.)

The other day, my son and I were talking, and the subject of women came up, and I realized that it was time he and I had a Serious Talk. It’s a talk every father should have with his son; and yet, far too often, we fathers avoid the subject, because it’s so awkward. The subject I’m referring to is: buying gifts for women.

This is an area where many men do not have a clue. Exhibit A was my father, who was a very thoughtful man, but who once gave my mother, on their anniversary, the following token of his love, his commitment, and — yes — his passion for her: an electric blanket. He honestly could not understand why, when she opened the box, she gave him that look (you veteran men know the look I mean). Another example: I once worked with a guy named George who, for Christmas, gave his wife, for her big gift — and I am not making this gift up — a chain saw. (As he later explained: ”Hey, we NEEDED a chain saw.” ) Fortunately, the saw was not operational when his wife unwrapped it.

The mistake that George and my dad made, and that many guys make, was thinking that when you choose a gift for a woman, it should do something useful. Wrong! The first rule of buying gifts for women is: THE GIFT SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING, OR, IF IT DOES, IT SHOULD DO IT BADLY.

For example, let’s consider two possible gifts, both of which, theoretically, perform the same function:

GIFT ONE: A state-of-the-art gasoline-powered lantern, with electronic ignition and dual mantles capable of generating 1,200 lumens of light for 10 hours on a single tank of fuel.

GIFT TWO: A scented beeswax candle, containing visible particles of bee poop and providing roughly the same illumination as a lukewarm corn dog.

Now to a guy, Gift One is clearly superior, because you could use it to see in the dark. Whereas to a woman, Gift Two is MUCH better, because women love to sit around in the gloom with reeking, sputtering candles, and don’t ask ME why. I also don’t know why a woman would be ticked off if you gave her a 56-piece socket-wrench set with a 72-tooth reversible ratchet, but thrilled if you give her a tiny, very expensive vial of liquid with a name like ”L’essence de Nooquie Eau de Parfum de Cologne de Toilette de Bidet,” which, to the naked male nostril, does not smell any better than a stick of Juicy Fruit. All I’m saying is that this is the kind of thing women want. (That’s why the ultimate gift is jewelry; it’s totally useless.)

The second rule of buying gifts for women is: YOU ARE NEVER FINISHED. This is the scary part, the part that my son and his friends are just discovering. If you have a girlfriend, she will give you, at MINIMUM, a birthday gift, an anniversary gift, a Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa gift and a Valentine’s Day gift, and every one of these gifts will be nicely wrapped AND accompanied by a thoughtful card. When she gives you this gift, YOU HAVE TO GIVE HER ONE BACK. You can’t just open your wallet and say, “Here’s, let’s see … 17 dollars!”

And, as I told my son, it only gets worse. Looming ahead are bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, Mother’s Day and other Mandatory Gift Occasions that would not even EXIST if men, as is alleged, really ran the world. Women observe ALL of these occasions, and MORE. My wife will buy gifts for NO REASON. She’ll go into one of those gift stores at the mall that men never enter, and she’ll find something, maybe a tiny cute box that could not hold anything larger than a molecule, and is therefore useless, and she’ll buy it, PLUS a thoughtful card, and SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHO THE RECIPIENT IS YET.

Millions of other women are out doing the same thing, getting further and further ahead, while we guys are home watching instant replays. We have no chance of winning this war.

That’s what I told my son. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was time he knew the truth. Some day, when he is older and stronger, we’ll tackle an even more difficult issue, namely, what to do when a woman asks: ”Do these pants make me look fat?” (Answer: Flee the country.)

 

Yes, it’s about a girl… If you don’t want to hear it, go back to youtube.

I’m realizing how wrong I was, one day at a time.  What I thought would work, what I thought I could make happen, what I wanted… was not only unfair and unreasonable, but just flat-out unworkable.  Worlds apart, I just keep thinking. 

Maybe I lack faith, maybe I lack trust.

Once again I’m drawn into my unending discussion of choice…

I still have to wonder how much of this was God and how much was our own doing.  I haven’t believed in fate since… the 2nd Terminator movie I think.  Never bought into this “oh, God has somebody for you and when the time is right he’ll bring them into your life”.  Any two people – ANY – who have Christ first in their lives and are pursuing him above all else can make a lasting relationship.  I think that’s the beauty of it.  We get to pick what set of personality and character colors we want to add to the mural of our life.  Without the element of choice, God’s whole plan becomes of little significance.  It’s only BECAUSE of choice that divine guidance IS significant.  Obedience, hope, courage, love, all our better angels spring from choice, as do our worst.

The problem, then, becomes choosing good, right, and ultimately, life. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a hard verse for me to swallow, but leading is God’s offer to blend chance and choice into a masterpiece, eternally adorning the walls of heaven with the brilliance of a life well lived.

But we make art of each other as well.  My choices have affected others, and not always for the better.

I hate when the abstract sears its way into the tangible. 

 

 

I still question one choice…

I still worry about her.  She’s my friend, my ally.

She’s the ‘not’ that has been, and ever will be.  I wonder if she’ll ever find it again.

We held something precious and fragile in our hands, only to let it fall to the ground. 

What if it WAS our choice?

 

No complaints, no regrets.  Just a little concern, and the constant wish that I could heal it for us both.

 

Ecclesiastes 3

 1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

 10I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

 11He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

 12I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

 13And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.