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Trump’s attack on the Freedom Caucus speaks volumes

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 09:40

Following his humiliating failure with TrumpCare, his would-be replacement for ObamaCare, Trump has tried to save face by blaming the one group of Republicans in Washington that retains a semblance of principle: the Freedom Caucus. What this implies should put us all on alert.

Whom you are willing to attack, and whom you do, are always meaningful. As if foisting a joke of a bill like the AHCA—nothing less than ObamaCare-Lite, leaving most of the key elements in place—were not embarrassing enough for conservatives, blaming the only remaining representatives of anything like a Free Market simply highlights once again that Trump is the socialized pragmatist we always knew he was.

(For the record, Alan Keyes was right to say this was hardly a “betrayal” as some conservatives have cried. “Throughout his presidential campaign, it was clear that Donald Trump never abandoned his commitment to socialist goals and principles for health care in the United States. He insisted on universal coverage, subsidized as needed by federal government largesse. He told conservatives they would just have to get used to it. . . . President Trump isn’t reverting to socialism, because candidate Trump never professed to support anything else.”)

Reason.com provides the most withering criticism of this fiasco, noting especially that the Braggart-in-Chief has spent a lifetime vaunting himself as the Great Deal-Maker, yet abjectly failed to close the deal here. This came after the highest self-aggrandizement on this very issue:

We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016

Again, the fall from such a great, self-appointed precipice came for very simple reasons, which makes it all the more embarrassing:

The bill Trump backed made no attempt to balance either the policy or political interests of the legislators, influence groups, or stakeholders involved. Trump spent the week negotiating changes to the bill, but because he neither cared nor understood what was in it, and what lawmakers wanted from the bill, he couldn’t act as an effective negotiator. . . .

Trump, of course, shares some blame with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan led the drafting of the bill, and the legislative process. The bill he put together didn’t really make sense, in large part because it was never really a health policy bill. The AHCA was a setup for tax reform designed to make it easier to permanently cut taxes in a future piece of legislation.

But it was Trump who managed the negotiations. It was Trump who was expected to seal the deal. And it was Trump who ultimately couldn’t make it work.

Health policy is hard because all of the policy pieces are interconnected. The various policy pieces, meanwhile, are just as interconnected with the politics, which is just as complex. You can’t separate any of it, and adjusting any one part of the system inevitably means a cascade of additional adjustments will be necessary further down the line. It’s a system of trade-offs, and Trump didn’t know or care what those trade-offs were.

This is the danger of a president who is so disinterested in policy particulars, especially when, like Trump, he expects to maintain a central role in the process. Trump’s character—his personal style and his habits of mind—prevent him from effectively negotiating complex legislation. . . . It’s a problem that is likely to continue to haunt conservative policy goals for as long as Trump is president.

Trying to get up from his fall, while peeling the mud from his face, Trump tries hard to deflect and shift the blame. First, he blames Democrats, which is utterly stupid. Who expected a single Democrat to get behind this? Why should they? Their job from day one was simple: decry the millions of poor that this bill would kick out on the streets with no health insurance, then sit back and watch the Republican fire drill.

The ridiculousness of this attempt at blame was obvious enough even for Trump to see, so he pivoted: now it’s the fault of the Freedom Caucus, the Club for Growth, and the Heritage Foundation.

But herein lies another rub. When your position ends with decrying conservatives more consistently free-market and more principled than you, the joke might be on you. You just might be seen for attacking liberty more than anything. With such finger-pointing, Trump effectively climbs the same height from which he just fell, grabs himself by the collar, and flings himself off again.

More mud. More splat.

As Reason noted, this will be a danger going forward for a long time—every time Trump gets involved in policy negotiation. And the additional danger is even greater: if the Trump-Priebus-Ryan show repeats itself every time this happens, we will see a sustained attack on Liberty.

Of course, all the “Freedom Caucus” guys were doing was . . . their job. Granted, it’s difficult to imagine that any politician elected on a campaign of principle, free markets, and things like repealing ObamaCare would, this day and age, actually stand for those things once in Washington. That’s not how the game is played, we all know. So, it’s a real shocker when a whole group of them does it. It takes us average Americans—conditioned by so much previous experience—a moment to step back and realize that the Freedom Caucus guys are doing exactly what conservative Representatives should be doing. It’s the Trump-Ryan show that needs to change; not these guys.

The moment we do wake up to the fact, we should also realize that such guys strongly need our support and encouragement. And then, we should give it to them.

Categories: Worldview

The waning authority of Christ in the churches

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 09:43

After Pastor Garwood located this fabulous quotation from A. W. Tozer, it was but a small step for me to arrive at the following phenomenal essay as well. This was Tozer’s final essay, published only a few days after he died in 1963. It could have been written this week and rings as true today as ever.

To start with, Tozer confesses:

What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches.

I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.” Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.

So, now to the point:

Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals. . . .

The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” or “Let not your heart be troubled,” but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.

What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ. . . .

But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.

What church board consults our Lord’s words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or “a season of prayer”; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.

What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, “operations” and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.

Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.

What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn’t even have a vote.

In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.

What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?

What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools” to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.

The causes back of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two.

One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.

The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I’ll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.

Amen.

Read the full essay here.

Categories: Worldview

How you can help End Abortion in Alabama

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:52

A group working to end abortion now in Alabama argues that Alabama law already contains everything it needs to accomplish that goal: all that is needed is for the Governor to push the button. The nullification/interposition option is there, waiting for Christians to pressure the government into taking it. Here’s more on it, and how you can make a difference:

Proposal 16” says, “Now is the time. . . .”

Did you know that every governor since Roe v. Wade has had the power and obligation to defend innocent human life in Alabama and prevent the murder of Alabama babies?  Governors haven’t stepped in, either because they aren’t pro-life or they fear physical or economic reprisal from the Federal government.  No more.

Just like former President Obama refused to enforce federal marijuana law, we believe President Trump will hold back his hand from enforcing the unjust federal abortion rulings in the States.

Now is the time to send the faulty premises of Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, end the barbarous practice of abortion, allow women to be the mamas their babies need, and give every human being their God-given and constitutional right to life.

The Liberator reports,

Proposal 16, the proposed draft of the requested executive order, states that “the Executive Branch of the State of Alabama shall use all powers at its disposal to prevent the voluntary taking of life of persons in the womb, from the moment of conception”. It goes on to declare that “all past and future opinions or orders from any branch of the Federal Government that fail to protect the inalienable right to life of all human beings are null, void, and unenforceable in Alabama”.

Alabama law already defines the unborn as persons and outlaws their killing as murder, but includes an exception for mothers and their authorized representatives. Proposal 16 advocates are asking for that exception to be removed.

So far, Bentley has refused to meet with Proposal 16 representatives. “We received a two-sentence email saying the governor will not meet with us,” McClure said.

However, he added that Bentley receives between 20 and 50 calls per day asking him to implement Proposal 16, and that the governor’s office has indicated it is paying attention to how many people care about the issue.

“We are like the persistent widow that Jesus talked about,” McClure said. He asked that anyone who supports this effort reach out to Bentley by calling (334) 242-7100 and asking him to act.

The Proposal 16 Movement, as representatives refer to it, plans to hold a press rally on the steps of the capitol at noon on April 1 at which they will read a letter from pro-life leaders to send a message to the governor: “The message is, ‘Governor Bentley, you can act, you should act, we want you to act, and if you don’t act, the blood of 16 babies [per day] is on your hands,’” McClure said.

The report goes on to note that while 80 percent of Alabamans claim to be pro-life, less than 1 percent take action. If only ten percent of Christians in Alabama hounded the Governor’s office, the meeting could take place and the ball could be rolling. Imagine what a majority of the churches could do!

I recommend you read the full report and other Liberator reports on similar efforts around the country. For Alabamans, get involved by visiting the Proposal 16 website. Call the Governor, (334) 242-7100, and join the rally on April 1.

Categories: Worldview

Equivocation on “the church” and the church it’s destroyed

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 16:30

Kevin DeYoung’s brave piece “Stop the Revolution. Join the Plodders” gained considerable attention, but not nearly as much discerning pushback from Reformed folk as it should have. I need to say a few words about it, especially because it concerns a very careless, but common, fallacy that destroys the true meaning and mission of this thing called “the church.”

I want to draw your attention to a particular fallacy that surfaces multiple times in the piece. There are multiple fallacies that more discerning Reformed folk should be howling about across social media—straw men, epithets, equivocations, poisoning the well—but worst of all are the repeated examples of false dichotomy. These are worst not only for their content, but also for their presupposition. They arise from an entrenched two-kingdoms dichotomy which keeps the evangelical industrial complex going.

Remember, it was not so long ago that DeYoung got candid as to why he likes “two kingdoms” theology: it provides, in his words, “a bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.” And how does it do this? DeYoung doesn’t tell us so much as show us in this latest piece. Just witness the fallacies:

It’s sexy among young people—my generation—to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.

Notice how the two choices are structured here: either “real Christ-followers living in real community” or “the confines of the church.”

Problem: A group of “real Christ followers living in community” IS the church. In order for DeYoung’s statement to remain coherent, the implication would have to be true: anyone engaged in a more flexible ecclesiology than DeYoung’s four-walls-on-Sunday model is by definition not “the church.” Next:

What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

Notice the choices he presents: emphasize either “social justice” or “the church.”

Problem: social justice (truly conceived) is a mission of the church. It is not either-or, it is both. If the church isn’t speaking to issues of social justice, it has neglected a huge chunk of the Word. Then, only pagans will be addressing these issues, and you’ll have a pagan-raped society, which is exactly what he have thanks to the denuded, bifurcated pulpits DeYoung here represents.

The church’s failure in this area is precisely why church and society are both in such a mess, precisely why the young people leave the church in droves, and precisely why the Christians like Bono end up being the ones who have to carry the message of social change.

If, tomorrow, God gave me a choice to spend the rest of my life serving the ministry of either Bono or Kevin DeYoung, there is no question whom I would choose. Bono, at least, has shown himself capable of learning the biblical teaching on some social issues. I’d go with Bono (and I don’t even really like his music).

Social justice is a calling of the body of Christ as a community of faithful believers. If your church is not preaching, teaching, and its members are not engaged, in some work for justice, you ought to question as to whether that church even still has its lamp stand.

Next:

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church.

Notice the dichotomy: either “nameless faceless” or “globe-trotting rock star.” Only the former can be part of the church (which implies the latter are damned to hell?).

Problem: the church includes all people of all walks of life, all social classes, and many callings of varied sizes, shapes, and scopes. Setting one against the other is irresponsible, especially when membership within the body of Christ is attached to the criteria. Nameless, faceless people can still be engaged in all kinds of social issues based upon biblical law and a spiritual, God-given, “Gospel saturated” calling. DeYoung’s fallacy hides this option from his readers, and labels all such would-be Christians as egomaniacal, wannabe rock stars who are outside “the church.” Shameful.

Next:

The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration.

Likewise, “The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders.”

Notice the dichotomy: either “the church” (as DeYoung envisions it) or you must be “anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration.” Either “visible church” (DeYoung’s brand) or else you’re a boneheaded, clueless liberal in a “Che Guevara t-shirt.”

That’s the greatest problem in all of this: DeYoung’s view of “the church” is not just “visible” and “institutional,” it is a very limited, gelded, bound version of it. For him it seems that “church” in all its traditional “confines” means “church building” and “what we do between 11 and 12:30 on Sundays.” Everything else—work, government, social justice, charity, art, and apparently even Bono—is outside the church.

This is a message I have been combatting for a long time now. I even just gave two lectures in Australia and Tasmania on this very topic. I need to write more on it as well as make those lectures available soon. Let this suffice for now:

We use the word “church” in multiple ways, but more often than not we (as DeYoung here personifies) use it to mean “church building,” “church meeting on Sunday,” or possibly “church government (i.e., her officers and their decisions; i.e. the church establishment.” But these are not only highly limited views, they have grown complacent, truncated, and in some cases, corrupt. In the Bible, the most important view of “church” is that of the body of Christ made up of all believers in all times and places.

When I say that social justice is a mission of the church, I do not mean that we replace corporate worship with rallies for some social cause—although the pulpits ought to address such issues far more than they do. What I mean, however, is that the members of the body of Christ (“the church” in its fullest and most important sense) should be building and exercising their faith in such a way as to apply God’s word to every area of life. This would include business, education, social justice, criminal defense, criminal justice reform, racism, and on and on—issues that are central to God’s law and often in the early church’s mission in the book of Acts.

When DeYoung keeps bifurcating between “the church” and all these other things, he is severing the legs from the body of Christ and limiting its mission to sitting for sermons and corporate worship on Sundays (and Sunday school, “VBS,” and the other trappings of American churchianity, administered by the establishment). DeYoung says he wants plodders, but he really wants sitters. Anything else he labels a revolutionary with Che t-shirt.

It’s simply time for Christians to explode this myth. If you are a Christian, you are part of “the church” no matter where you are or what you are doing, at all times and in all places. You ought to be carrying out the great commission in obedience and teaching (where appropriate and applicable) at all times. Whenever any leader in “the church” speaks as if we must neglect all those things in order to make “the church” what it ought to be—four walls and corporate worship on Sundays—a chorus of rebuke ought to arise against that person from a million knowledgeable members of the body of Christ. Or, if you are the type who does not like the confrontation, simply ignore such a leader and get on with the 99 percent of the rest of the work of the church which they have so far neglected and destroyed.

[Photo by Jamie Carter, courtesy of Flickr]
Categories: Worldview

Putting the “free” back in free markets

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 09:16

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 7: Markets

7.3 Putting the “Free” Back in Free Markets

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to freedom is rocky, uphill, and lined with thieves lying in wait. The path to restore freedom in markets and even to arrive at a totally free marketplace is the strait and narrow way indeed. Traveling it to its end will require personal integrity, fortitude, sacrifice, patience and endurance. It will require these qualities in society—not just a few scattered individuals.

In simple terms, the road to free markets requires a personal and corporate return to the principles that headed up this chapter: non-violence to person or private property, and enforcement of contracts. We must personally embrace these principles, and discipline our lives, work, and businesses accordingly. More importantly, we have to maintain this discipline: we absolutely must refuse to depart from God’s laws even when it is more profitable, easier, and widely socially accepted to do so. Before we have a moral leg to stand on to demand the same from other people politically, we have to practice fiscal integrity ourselves. The model here is the Messiah, of whom David said:

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved (Psalm 15).

This guy refuses to do anything dishonest in all, and this includes, certainly, in his business dealings. More importantly, he “swears to his own hurt and does not change.” This does not mean he swears to his own hurt on purpose, necessarily (even though Christ did go to the cross on purpose, voluntarily), but when circumstances turn against him, he does not try to alter the promises or contracts he previously made simply to maintain profits or prevent losses. He bears the brunt of the deal and takes the sacrifice.

He will even go further. When he sees that society has departed from God’s laws—that fraud and extortion have become socially-accepted ways of life, that most people accept and even depend, and many thrive, upon coercive, rigged markets—he refuses to participate anyway. He will suffer the burdens of inconvenience, lower profits, decreased business, social stigma, and even persecution in order to remain faithful. Anyone who wants to return to freedom in the marketplace will have to embrace this level of sacrifice and commitment from the beginning.

This embrace will mean a clear application of the principle, “Don’t take the cheese.” Only now, it’s not only to avoid the trap, it’s also—perhaps more so—because it’s morally wrong, unbiblical, unethical, ungodly to take the cheese to begin with. This is not merely about personal and practical consequences, it’s more about principle. It’s about faithfulness to God’s law.

A large part of this effort will be mental and thus spiritual. People need to accept the mindset that the use of government force to gain advantage is equivalent to theft. It is an unstated—ne’er to be stated—political maxim among conservatives: socialism is bad, except when it benefits me. When the modern conservative says, “Socialism is bad,” he really means “The other guy’s socialism is bad. Mine is good, right, laudable, and necessary.” Until we get beyond this psychological hurdle, freedom is a distant goal.

Of course, getting people to do this by just stating it here is almost equivalent to asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” Getting from where we are today to the point where the biblical mindset is both widely believed and widely practiced will require the same discipline and sacrifice for many people that we have already discussed in previous chapters. And these are key: sacrifice and discipline. Both will be needed 1) to prepare a faithful remnant as a foundation and example into the future, 2) to facilitate the transition from where we are today to a free society, and 3) to maintain markets free of corruption, tyranny, and graft after a transition is effected.

Individual Examples

Before I address the best way to make an impact, let’s discuss a couple ways this commitment could change your personal lifestyle. Embracing this commitment will likely mean changing where and how you shop and do business, and likely what you buy to eat, wear, etc., including where you live and what you live in (if such a change could be made practically at this point), and what you drive. You will no longer choose the best bargains, or make simply self-interested economic decisions. Self-interest is now replaced by sacrifice and discipline to God’s law. If you don’t believe in government-funded corporations, then why would you support them through your purchases if you have other options? Even if more private options cost you a little more, why not prefer the slightly more expensive, slightly less comfortable, or slightly less prestigious principle and integrity over small personal gain?

The purist (like your author), however, who wishes ideally to live completely without supporting companies that receive government subsidies will find it very difficult. Virtually everything in our economy today is in some way, at some level, to some degree, tainted by government interference. Of course, since the entire monetary system is rigged to begin with, as we have seen, then virtually no economic decision we make will be truly free of government manipulation and intervention. No bank we use is or can be truly honest at this point. The only way to avoid this is to swear off the use of Federal Reserve money altogether, and this would mean living by barter and self-sustaining agriculture—Amish style—and even then you could not totally escape the government’s hand.1 So, in many ways we are stuck in the unfair system of bank subsidy and privilege—and that leads to unfair investment and market subsidies as well.

One market that is seeing a resurgence of resistance is the food market. Many local people and towns, as we have already seen, are fighting to establish freedom and local sovereignty over food. The fact is, nearly every aspect of agribusiness today is massively subsidized. Between 1995 and 2010, the Feds dumped more than $260 billion into agribusiness subsidies.2 Subsidized (and overproduced) corn, wheat, and soybeans find their way into almost everything sold in grocery stores in the forms of corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and soybean oil. Pick up any packaged or processed food and you will likely find at least one of these ingredients if not all. It does save you a few dimes here and there, but comes at the cost of continual government intervention, and dependence of farmers upon government handouts, not to mention the loss of nutrition in the processed foods. Why not buy as much food as you can from local growers? Why not find a local milk producer who will sell direct? Why not buy as often as possible from local farmers’ markets? Same with chicken, eggs, meat, and much more.

Same with sugary snacks, by the way (and I am no health-food Nazi!). American sugar is subsidized—by limiting the amount that can be imported. There are only a handful of American sugar producers, and they fight to maintain special protection from many foreign competitors. Since so sweeping a program provides so great an advantage to so few producers, the subsidy is actually staggering. Analyst James Bovard writes, “Since 1980, the sugar program has cost consumers and taxpayers the equivalent of more than $3 million for each American sugar grower.” He concludes, “Some people win the lottery; other people grow sugar.”3 Since this market is so rigged, and sugar admittedly is a luxury item anyway, why not cut it from your diet as much as possible? This would eliminate your contribution to the subsidy of one sector. (Meanwhile, major candy companies have closed some operations in the U.S. and moved to Mexico where both the Sugar and labor are cheaper. And since what they import to the U.S. is a finished manufactured good—not the raw material sugar—they dodge the sugar tariff problem.)

Another consumer issue can be transportation. Here’s the best formula for personal automobiles: buy used, pay cash, drive it until the wheels fall off. This helps minimize contributions to autoworkers unions whose collective bargaining rights leverage government power to increase worker benefits of all sorts. This is especially important for automobiles manufactured in States where collective bargaining rights hold sway and workers are forced to unionize. Due to their government-rigged market, auto workers make on average about $55/hour in wages and benefits.4 That’s a six-figure package per worker compared to the median household income in the U. S. of $45,000. United Auto Workers is so proud of its accomplishments that it produces a yearly updated website listing all the automobiles its unionized workers produce. I would suggest downloading this list, reviewing it, and making decisions on what to buy and what to avoid accordingly.

Purchasing used vehicles as opposed to new compounds the power of your decisions on what to avoid. In buying used or pre-owned, you only support the local dealer, not the manufacturer necessarily. The previous buyer already paid the inflated price to the manufacturer. Of course, you will also support the financier unless you pay cash. But to make your used purchase have the greatest economic impact, drive it forever. This keeps one more customer (you) from further supporting a union-rigged market.

This type of thinking can be taken to any extent you wish, and into every facet of every market you desire. I have only included a couple examples here—food and personal transportation—to demonstrate how to think in this regard. How can you apply the same principle—avoiding companies that leverage government coercion for their profits—in every other area of your life? I leave that up to you.

Another step you can take is to support organizations which fight for the free-market principles you believe in. There are public interest law firms that specialize in all manner of property rights, free market rights, gun rights, and many others. There is, for example, a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation based in Springfield, VA.5 Firms like these are usually non-profit and can be supported via tax-deductable donations. There are certainly many more. You should search for one regionally, or one which you prefer; research it carefully; talk to staff and leaders if possible to determine a sense of their values and goals. And then, if you wish, support their cause.

But the best way you can personally impact society in regard to free markets is to start a business. Legitimate, honest businesses generate wealth, provide services to communities, and create jobs. Sure, this will not in itself decrease the number of taxes, subsidies, and regulations in society—if anything, you will discover various taxes you never knew existed. But this in turn will give you further incentive to fight for a free society. Greater Christian, ethical entrepreneurship is the key to spreading the interests of freedom in society.

Business and entrepreneurship will require education for some people. It should be an educational priority especially for your children as well. Without proper guidance, children are indoctrinated to socialistic principles from early ages. A study done years ago by John Hunter revealed no significant difference in economic worldviews between Christian and secular colleges. Thus, despite having the Ten Commandments allegedly at their base, Christians have no advantage in learning and embracing free markets. This is true not just in college but at an early age. The Nehemiah Institute has conducted extensive tests that show significant departures from biblical thinking can begin as early as fifth and sixth grade. This organization offers educational resources on biblical economics and government. There is also the similarly named but independent Nehemiah Project, which offers many training courses, books, and resources on biblical principles for entrepreneurship and business. The latter group appears to have more of a charismatic flavor.

As Christians, we must attend to more than just the economic, political, or legal aspects of free enterprise. Christian business is as much an endeavor of stewardship as it is anything else. If we are to perpetuate a free society, we must value more than just the bottom line. Indeed, in many cases, people and values should come before profits. This does not mean that we need government interventions for wage and price controls, etc.—far from it. But it does mean that God’s moral laws call us to treat workers with dignity and respect, pay them well, as well as reduce waste in executive expenses, etc. Sure, it should be left perfectly legal to do otherwise, but it’s still poor practice in God’s eyes. Businesses owners, officers, and executives that embrace such license—exploiting employees for gain, etc.—should recognize increases in government regulation and socialistic tyranny as God’s judgment against a society where such things abound. This is not by any means to defend government-labor relations or the vast body of regulations as “godly” in the way some liberal progressive “Christians” do. Rather, just as God used pagan Babylon to enslave a disobedient nation of Israel, so He today will use tyranny to punish careless, heartless business practices in society.

Corporate Examples

Some great companies have already set precedents in this regard. The Guinness brewery company spread God’s kingdom-charity through the care it showed for its workers. It has historically paid its workers much higher wages than average (thereby recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent, while helping others who might otherwise have been left poor). But this was not all. Journalist Stephen Mansfield relates the following Guinness company benefits from a 1928 company report (at the height of international corporate greed right before the Great Depression):

  • All employees with their wives and children enjoyed the services of an on-site clinic staffed by full-time doctors night and day; these doctors also made house calls.
  • Medical services included company-dedicated dentists, pharmacists, nurses, home sanitation consultants, and a masseuse.
  • Retirees received pensions, in some cases even when they never contributed to the fund. Pensions extended to widows.
  • Most funeral expenses for company families and family members were paid by the company.
  • The company had its own bank, and provided mortgages for company families.
  • The company spurred living standards with domestic skill competitions. It gave cash awards for sewing, cooking, decorating, gardening, and hat making. The same was true for crafts, trades, and sports of all kinds.
  • The company provided concerts and lectures for moral and intellectual improvement, especially for housewives.
  • Guinness paid for employees’ education:  they could advance in technical school, trades, side-businesses, or more advanced education. The company paid all and provided a library and lounges for study.
  • The company provided paid vacations including train fares and spending cash.6

Many of the workers enjoying these benefits had just fought a decade earlier in World War I, but they did not fear losing their benefits: Guinness guaranteed their jobs would be available for them when they returned.7

Yet these workers were entitled to none of these things (and the government was involved in demanding and/or requiring none in this case). No business owes anything to its workers except a fair-market compensation (and thus whatever the parties agree upon, Luke 20:1–16). All of these special benefits were private, voluntary subsidies—Christian charity distributed through regular business.8 Christian businessmen should emulate this example with their employees, in some cases above and beyond the minimum governments mandate.

Other great examples to review are the efforts at leadership and employee relations successfully revived and reformed by Christian business leaders such as Wayne Alderson. He developed the “Value of the Person” program to rescue labor management at a struggling Pittron Steel company. It was Christian-based and was highly successful. So much so that a young R. C. Sproul, Sr., wrote a book about the episode called, Stronger Than Steel. Other great conservative success stories include Lemuel R. Boulware’s awesome but unfortunately-titled book, The Truth About Boulwarism, and the wonderful private charity and leadership of William Volker, described in Mr. Anonymous by Herbert C. Cornuelle. All of these deserve greater elucidation which I plan to provide in supplemental articles and videos to this project.

Conclusion

If you really want to expand the principle of freedom, you should aim not only at the reduction of taxes and regulations, but also at the privatization of roads, bridges, ports, parks, libraries, museums, education, and every other government subsidized or owned area of life. Of course, this is a very large goal which is beyond even the capacity of some people even to imagine as feasible, let alone embrace as a practical goal. While there are workable and viable long-term plans for such goals, the general public is no more ready for them than it is for the great revival necessary to make them happen.

These more radical goals aside, the steps I have outlined here are very practical, simple, and honestly do not require that much lifestyle sacrifice. If we are serious about freedom and desire to have a return to free markets, then we should be able to start making minor adjustments to our lifestyles to begin with, and then working toward educating ourselves and others, including our representatives, on free market principles and reduction of government interference in markets—local, state, and national. Beginning of course with the education and lifestyle changes described in topics one and two of this project, these later measures fall right in place for the person committed to long-term sacrifice and discipline for the cause of liberty.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: Putting the “free” back in free markets

Notes:

  1. Study, for example, the difference between fee-simple ownership of property, and tax-free alloidal ownership which is almost non-existent and difficult to obtain.
  2. http://farm.ewg.org/. This group has a fabulous website in which you can discover farm subsidy recipients by name and amount down to the level of your local ZIP code. If you wish to avoid subsidized companies, here’s a tool. This is a great resource, and is funded through donations. Their major flaw comes in not opposing subsidy and regulation in principle, but only those they consider destructive to the environment. The group aims to continue subsidies, but merely shift them to other areas. This is not a free market solution, although they offer a powerful free-market tool.
  3. “The Great Sugar Shaft,” April 1998, http://www.fff.org/freedom/0498d.asp (accessed November 10, 2011).
  4. See “Auto Worker Salaries,” http://www.factcheck.org/2008/12/auto-worker-salaries/.
  5. http://www.nrtw.org/.)) They exist for the purpose of “defending America’s workers from the abuses of forced unionization.” There is the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento which “fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection.” ((http://www.pacificlegal.org/.)) Southeastern Legal Foundation in Marietta, GA is another. ((http://www.southeasternlegal.org/.
  6. Stephen Mansfield, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009), xix–xxii.
  7. Mansfield, xxviii.
  8. I have excerpted these comments on Guinness from my book, What Would Jesus Drink?: A Spirit-Filled Study (White Hall, VA: Tolle Lege Press, 2011), 121–123.
Categories: Worldview

The real St. Patrick: A vision of freedom and world-transformation

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:15

Sometime around AD 405, a sixteen year-old boy strolling the English seaside was attacked by pirates. They kidnapped him and sold him on the slave market to a chieftain in Northern Ireland who forced him to herd pigs. The young man endured filth, the elements, separation from family, and years of servitude.

Yet the open air and solitude gave him precious time for spiritual reflection, and he saw in his miserable condition a mirror of his own sinful soul. His nominal boyhood faith grew into a vibrant hope and a longing for freedom. After six years of bondage, he escaped. He boarded a nearby ship, but did not end up in his home country. Instead, it landed in what is today France. He came in contact with a monastery. He stayed for a while, deepening and enriching his faith. He profited so much he stayed for a few years; but he still missed his home. Eventually, he returned. There was a great celebration and he was treated as if he had risen from the dead. In a way, he had.

Around the same time, he experienced powerful dreams in which he received hundreds of letters each bearing the message, “We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk with us once more.” The young man interpreted the dreams as a call to missions, and he returned to the very same land where he had formerly been enslaved. This time, however, he would become a much different kind of shepherd. He preached the gospel that inspired his freedom. He made converts. He baptized thousands, ordained clergy, founded churches and monasteries. Eventually he converted rulers, confronted pagan Druids and witches, changed the laws of the kingdoms he influenced, and according to legend performed healings and miracles. He was often in peril: he was imprisoned several times by rival clans, and threatened with death by the pagan leaders he opposed; yet he was always rescued. The monasteries he founded trained the missionaries who would carry the gospel back to England and to much of the greater Western world.

The man died in peace, advanced in age. Tradition says it was on this day, March 17, somewhere in the latter part of the AD 400s.

His name is Maewyn, but he’s better-known as Saint Patrick.

A faith not merely private

The life of St. Patrick displays the type of faith that Christians sorely need today: a faith that is not merely private. It is a faith lived out, that has great vision, big goals, that confronts tyrants, gives hope, and transforms the world around it.

We, too, live in slavery, though ours is largely self-imposed. We, too, are surrounded by druids (often called “liberals,” but sometimes “evangelicals,” today, too) and impinged by various herds of social swine. There are plenty of pirates, pigs, and tyrants; wiccans and warlords abound. But these are not so much the problem. The greater problem is that Christians too often fear the type of confrontations necessary to drive out these demons and change society.

Patrick didn’t. He had the vision and he took the first steps for which that vision called. The rest came in history. It would be good this St. Patrick’s Day to make a commitment to yourself and to God, if you have not done so already, just to begin to change your mind-set. Just begin asking the questions: What would a Christian society look like? What would it take to get there? What am I willing to sacrifice to make it happen? That would be a good beginning. I have done this exercise in detail myself. You can start reading my outline here.

And then, Go thou and do like St. Patrick.

Categories: Worldview

Russell Moore, the SBC, and the Death of Outrage

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 07:37

 

I have been critical of both David French and of Russell Moore in the past, but the latest from French on Moore and the Southern Baptist Convention certainly deserves its props. Examining the backlash against Moore over his anti-Trump stances, French highlights what the religious right in a previous generation would have righteously referred to as the “death of outrage”—but now the righteous are to blame and, it appears, the glory may have departed.

French notes that while Moore has stood for several positions that challenge traditional Southern Baptist trends, the backlash is not so much due to these: “it’s almost certainly true that absent the rise of Donald Trump Moore wouldn’t be facing the sheer amount of incoming fire from fellow Baptists that he is.”

There was good reason for this, after all:

The core of his critique was simple: that American Christians shouldn’t excuse or rationalize sin for the sake of political victory in any single election. Moreover, the same moral standards one applies to political opponents should also apply to one’s political friends. If sexual misconduct, for example, rendered Bill Clinton unfit for office in the 1990s, how should Christians think about a thrice-married serial adulterer in 2016 — especially one who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals?

Many Evangelicals acknowledged this, yet within living memory of having openly condemned Clinton for consensual matters, not only rationalized but openly fought for Trump, dismissing his sexual offenses and defending him with a variety of measures.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard King David referenced as proof God can use an adulterous man to lead a nation. It doesn’t seem to occur to the same people David was also a cold-blooded murderer. Shall we excuse elect these next?

It also doesn’t seem to occur to the same people that David’s adultery had dire consequences not only for his immediate family, but lasting consequences in his administration. These consequences resulted in further degradation of the culture and government after only one generation, in which the entire nation was jack-booted under a tyranny, split, then crumbled into destruction. Assyrians invaded and carried away 10/12ths of the nation captive.

Lesson: no border walls can save you when the nation’s primary faults are moral.

The parallels between the sexual sins of Trump and Bill Clinton have been widely cited. From the beginning, I could not help but recall the title of a book that religious right hero (at the time) Bill Bennett wrote after the Lewinsky affair: The Death of Outrage. It was a phrase on the lips of Republicans throughout the time, as a majority of Americans seemed “meh” to the whole thing: “Where’s the outrage?”

Pulling up a New York Times Review of Books review from 1998, I was moved by the striking prophetic tone of that book:

The central point of Bennett . . . is that the public’s willingness to shrug off ”among the most corrupt” Administrations ”in the history of the republic” has dangerous consequences for the future. . . .

”In the end,” Bennett writes, ”the President’s apologists are attempting to redefine the standard of acceptable behavior for a President. Instead of upholding a high view of the office and the men who occupy it, they radically lower our expectation.”

The reviewer felt Bennett had overplayed his hand: “it does not mean that voters will be eager to elect another President who is known for his marital infidelity.”

What French’s piece tells us, however, is that not only were they eager, even many among the perceived righteous core of moral fiber—the Southern Baptists—are so eager to defend such a man that they will threaten the most drastic ecclesiastical censure known in Baptistdom: stop giving.

This is where French draws attention to something that should have some relevance to these people:

[I]n making his critiques and stating his case against Clinton and Trump, Moore was doing little more than quoting the Southern Baptist Convention back to itself. In 1998, as Bill Clinton faced impeachment for his sexual misconduct, the Convention penned a short but powerful Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials. The resolution laid out a series of key biblical truths, including truths that should prick the conscience of politically involved Christians of both parties.

You could not script a tragedy better. Southern Baptists today who want Moore’s head over Trump are acting in hypocrisy, and in defiance of the truths they once officially proclaimed in Convention:

Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment (1 Kings 16:30; Isaiah 5:18-25).

Boy, were they right. Look, now, whose consciences have become seared!

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we . . . affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders; and . . .

That we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties . . .

That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

French applies this:

Did Trump’s zealous supporters “embrace and act” on this conviction in 2016? It’s clear that Moore most certainly did. If the Baptists do fire Moore (or force his resignation), I hope they also have the integrity to revoke and rewrite their 1998 resolution. Insisting on “consistent honesty, moral purity, and the highest character” will be left to the primaries, at best. After that, it’s all partisanship, and the “lesser of two evils” will be the only moral guide that matters.

In 1998, conservatives and Christians everywhere were decrying the death of outrage. Today, if outrage is not dead among them, too, it has only been rechanneled against that which is biblical and right.

French comments, “Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the Christian role in the 2016 election was the sad absence of faith. It was as if millions of Americans believe that the government is the prime defender of the faith, not Christ, and thus compromising long-held moral positions wasn’t just a painful possibility but an urgent necessity. Yet in far more dire circumstances, believers have looked to God, not government, and God has always been faithful.”

The saddest part of all is that, apparently, Christians today have to be told that.

The good news is that National Review and the upper levels of church leadership are finally demanding biblical truth with no compromise. They’re through with the lesser of two evils slouch into tyranny and destruction. I pray they remain consistent with this over time, and expand it into ever more areas of life: education, welfare, money, executive power, police reform. The problem is, while these unlikely leaders have finally come around, too many of the people are in revolt and don’t seem to want anything to with it.

Categories: Worldview

County Rights in action Conference: “Bringing Decision Making Home”

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:52

Over the past few years since I published Restoring America One County at a Time, many people have asked me if there is anyone actually implementing the views of which I wrote. The answer to that is, yes, but the vast majority have deemed it wise to remain quiet and private, under the radar, for now for various reasons. But there is also a group putting the work together in a powerful way, with success, and is quite public about it. Best of all, this group is offering a training conference to export its successes.

Jim Carlson of the Kansas Natural Resources Coalition (KNRC) has been fighting and advocating for local government and local principles for the past few years now. He is leading a coalition of over twenty counties (and growing) in western Kansas. They learn, seek, train, and plan together, and engage the federal and state governments to confine them to their limits, stop intrusions, and fight in court when necessary.

Jim has succeeded well enough so far that he is now in a position to start exporting his models and methods around the country. I recall the phrase “cookie cutter” being used, as some of what he is doing can be applied and work anywhere else, albeit on whatever particular local issues there may be. He seeks to train other local officials and leaders who are interested.

Toward this end, KNRC is hosting a conference in Dodge City, KS, March 28–30, 2017, entitled, “Bringing Decision-Making Home.” Read the brochure. Speakers will include Jim Carlson himself, as well as a variety of well-seasoned attorneys specializing in land rights, local rights, natural resource rights, and more, many of whom have long records of battling the EPA and many other Federal agencies in court. You can read their credentials in the brochure. I will have the privilege of joining these warriors on a Q&A Panel, and will have a book table throughout the event.

I will readily say this is not a general conference, not a conference for everyone. It is intended for local officials and community leaders who seek nuts-and-bolts training as well as networking with likeminded peers. Talks will probably include some legalese and technical detail. That said, there will also be much that is generally informative, eye-opening, on the common level, and applicable in many ways to many places. There may well be many potential community leaders, even activists, media personalities, and ministers, who could benefit from the inspiration, networking, learning, and training offered here. If you are in any such position and wish to see the “County Rights” ideal actually implemented in your area, you may consider registering to attend.

Contact KNRC for further info if you have questions.

Categories: Worldview

Is Trump really a fascist?

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 12:43

We hear a lot of people tossing around the word “fascist” today, particularly in regard to the new Trump administration. For most people—like this girl—this is probably an unthinking pejorative. Others may be better educated, but less serious. Still others maybe be both knowledgeable and deadly serious. Whatever is behind it, “fascism” sounds like a very serious charge, so I’d like to consider it seriously. Is Trump really a fascist?

Before we can answer such a question, we need to define our terms. If we don’t we could suffer the “If by whisky” fallacy. You know that one right? It’s a fallacy of equivocation, once made famous in a speech by a Mississippi politician during a time when the state still prohibited alcohol:

You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If, when you say “whiskey,” you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

You see, depending on what you actually mean by a term, you could end up a staunch supporter or a fierce opponent. So let’s define terms, shall we? What exactly is fascism, after all?

The word “fascism” itself simply, literally, means a bundle of sticks or rods. It has from ancient times been a symbol of strength through unity, just as a bundle of sticks together is far stronger than any single stick alone. The symbol of a bundle of sticks is actually depicted upon the walls of our own Congress, symbolizing that we are stronger united than separated.

That’s fine as a general idea, but when used to denominate a specific political philosophy or form of government, it takes on much more detail, and that’s where things need sorting out.

Turns out, there is no single agreed-upon definition that makes everyone happy. This problem of course can fall across degrees. For some, “fascism” simply conjures up images of Hitler, Jews in concentration camps, WWII, and the like. But none of this is essential to what fascism really is. For others, there may be a demand for certain technical criteria, like state ownership of certain means of production. Again, I think this is not necessary either, although strong state regulation is. So what are the generally agreed-upon points?

Wikipedia has a good rundown of things here. I would generally agree with its summary of key elements, which I term these:

  1. Nationalism
  2. State Corporatism
  3. Reactionary
  4. Show of strength

Without writing a treatise here, let’s consider these. Nationalism is what most people mistake for patriotism. If not over the line already, it is usually on the verge of making your nation-state into a golden calf. You cannot criticize the nation itself, its historical heroes, its military, police, or laws (with the exceptions which will appear in point three below) without drawing a series glowers, name calling, shouts, arguments, and possibly even threats from a nationalist.

This species of nationalism usually rallies around a great leader and great slogans. If you can imagine such a fantastic, super, great American leader who promises we will make it all great again, you get the picture. It is focused primarily, if not solely, upon the greatness of itself: it builds walls to keep others out, it deports others, it taxes imports to protect jobs at home. This crosses over into the second point.

Second, fascism is marked by a strongly state-regulated economy with national corporatism. It may not run into full socialism, or it may, but it will have a strong national grip on all areas of corporate life and regulations will run deep roots into all of it.

Such an economy will also be highly protectionist: aiming to promote American jobs, American products, American, etc., etc. It will shy away from a trade war in order to promote this ideal, or at least the appearance of such an ideal.

Also, fascism tends to be highly reactionary, even if to a limited number of things. As such, it will appear to be marked more by things it’s against than what it’s for. It will be anti-liberalism, anti-globalism, anti-multi-culturalism. In fact, its purported nationalism and stated goals to make everything great again may be shaped almost exclusively by what it’s against: get rid of illegals, stop China, get rid of this, or that. Granted, there are always bad things to get rid of, so we shouldn’t get too carried away here.

Finally, fascism is usually marked by great chest-swelling. Line up and march, fly over the jets, display the missiles and guns, show military strength, rattle the sabers, send a strong message. There will be an emphasis on strong, masculine, charismatic leadership, as well as an emphasis on vigorous athletics, masculine strength, even celebrations of combat and violence. Our move in this direction as a culture deserves an article of is own.

In this vein, fascism tends very strongly toward authoritarianism: it wants “strong leadership.” It overrules, leads by command, forces change by law, negotiates only from a position of power, and says things like, “If you don’t love it, leave it.” This is why most truly fascist nations in history have been led by dictators.

I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that by these general criteria, Trump is at least very close to a fascist, if not one. He’s not a dead-ringer on every single minute description, but certainly on enough of them. But here’s the catch: he’s hardly alone.

Virtually every American president and much of our government since the Constitution actually fit these descriptors. We have always been a nation at war, and always gloried in it. Our national anthem is literally about warfare. We have always had national corporatism since at least George Washington’s first state of the union address. This certainly includes every president since the great American Fascist, Theodore Roosevelt, who set the mold for it. But there were many lesser fascist lights before him, too.

In short, yes, Trump is a fascist, but by the technical definitions of fascism, America has always been to some degree fascist.

Now, I know saying that will provoke strong reactions from all those who, like me, love America and our history, etc. They will think I am bashing it. But this is really only because of the particular emotive connotations attached to the word “fascist.” If we divest ourselves of the popular nonsense about it, and learn what it actually means, we will be forced to confront ourselves with an inconvenient truth.

Then maybe we could actually do something about it. Maybe we could start judging our laws and national behaviors according to biblical principles. We really could spread freedom, free up the markets, get the government out of healthcare, education, and everything else it’s not supposed to be in. We really could address race relations and “fix” our inner cities. We really could get rid of prisons, reform criminal justice, and implement true biblical justice, and let it roll.

There is so much we could really do if we would be honest with ourselves. We would remove the blindfolds of nationalism and unfold a vision of liberty of which most Americans do not know and cannot even conceive. Making America great is a great thing, but we must be careful about where we get our ideas of what greatness is.

Categories: Worldview

Study on false confessions shocker: why the innocent should not talk to police

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 09:18

A frightening study published a couple years ago was recently brought to my attention: researchers were themselves startled to learn how frighteningly easy it is for people to be convinced, through interrogation, that they committed a crime. They can then easily end up confessing to having committed a crime, with details of a case, all of which never happened.

The study, entitled “Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing Crime,” was profiled in a must-read article by the Association for Psychological Science. It relates,

“Our findings show that false memories of committing crime with police contact can be surprisingly easy to generate, and can have all the same kinds of complex details as real memories,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Julia Shaw of the University of Bedfordshire in the UK.

“All participants need to generate a richly detailed false memory is three hours in a friendly interview environment, where the interviewer introduces a few wrong details and uses poor memory-retrieval techniques.”

The study interviewed 60 perfectly innocent people with no criminal past. Through a series of information gathering, a handful of true facts (non-incriminating though), and a series of false accusations, suggestions, statements, etc., interrogators were able to create false confessions at an alarming rate, and in just a few hours of interviews.

The results were truly surprising.

Of the 30 participants who were told they had committed a crime as a teenager, 21 (71%) were classified as having developed a false memory of the crime; of the 20 who were told about an assault of some kind (with or without a weapon), 11 reported elaborate false memory details of their exact dealings with the police.

A similar proportion of students (76.67%) formed false memories of the emotional event they were told about.

Intriguingly, the criminal false events seemed to be just as believable as the emotional ones. Students tended to provide the same number of details, and reported similar levels of confidence, vividness, and sensory detail for the two types of event. . . .

“In such circumstances, inherently fallible and reconstructive memory processes can quite readily generate false recollections with astonishing realism,” says Shaw. “In these sessions we had some participants recalling incredibly vivid details and re-enacting crimes they never committed.”

In a famous Supreme Court opinion, Watts v. Indiana (1949), Justice Robert Jackson famously stated,

To subject one without counsel to questioning which may and is intended to convict him, is a real peril to individual freedom. To bring in a lawyer means a real peril to solution of the crime because, under our adversary system, he deems that his sole duty is to protect his client — guilty or innocent — and that, in such a capacity, he owes no duty whatever to help society solve its crime problem. Under this conception of criminal procedure, any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.

This problem of false confession and the Judge’s resulting dictum are the very bedrock of our Fifth Amendment, and it grows directly out of biblical laws against false witness. Every Christian needs to understand and embrace this principle to the fullest extent possible.

It is important to remember that the exercise of Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent, etc., is a biblical principle. Exercising it and emphasizing it is not “anti-police.” Rather, it is pro-law and order. Without it, we do not have the rule of law, but a tyranny foisted upon submissive, unsuspecting sheep.

It is for this reason that James Duane, Christian law professor at Regent University crusades vociferously on the topic, “Don’t talk to the police.” A recent article of his begins,

Someday soon, when you least expect it, a police officer may receive mistaken information from a confused eyewitness or a liar, or circum­stantial evidence that helps persuade him that you might be guilty of a very serious crime. When confronted with police officers and other government agents who suddenly arrive with a bunch of questions, most innocent people mistakenly think to themselves, “Why not talk? I haven’t done anything. I have nothing to hide. What could pos­sibly go wrong?”

Well, among other things, you could end up confessing to a crime you didn’t commit. The problem of false confessions is not an urban legend. It is a documented fact. Indeed, research suggests that the innocent may be more susceptible than the culpable to deceptive police interrogation tactics, because they tragically assume that somehow “truth and justice will prevail” later even if they falsely admit their guilt. Nobody knows for sure how often innocent people make false confessions, but as Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski recently observed, “Innocent interrogation subjects confess with surprising frequency.”

No one knows, but we do know there are hundreds of such confession that have later proven false, and we know some of the reasons why such confessions are made, as Duane’s article goes on to say.

With the “Rich False Memories” study, we now know one more reason they can happen, and it is so startlingly easy and common it is truly frightening.

For these reasons, American Vision makes a point of offer another unparalleled resource, Christian lawyer and scholar Brent Allan Winters’s booklet, Don’t Talk to the Police. I encourage you all not only to read the articles linked here, but also to get a copy of Brent’s book to learn the biblical truths and historical pedigree behind this great Right. Don’t wait until you learn the hard way. Don’t think, “It’ll never happen to me.” Be prepared for yourself, your family, and to help others by learning the whole truth.

Categories: Worldview

“Repeal and replace” is the fraud we always knew it would be

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 12:02

I think I finally get it. Conservatives are all about conserving stuff, so that means in the American political charade, Conservatives are all about conserving what Democrats put in place last go-round.

At least, that’s what I take from reading the specs on this American Healthcare Act, allegedly designed to repeal and replace Obamacare. Well, I guess it’s technically correct if what they meant is, repeal Obamacare and replace it with Obamacare.

Make no mistake, this is Obamacare lite, and Paul Ryan is Nancy Pelosi lite, bragging, “We kept our promise.”

Probably the worst provision in the new bill is the sleight of hand move that erases the tax penalties for not having insurance. Yay! you say. But the bill turns right around and gives the same power to the insurance companies—to raise your premiums by 30 percent. So, it removes the penalty from under one shell and places it under another: but it’s still there. They can brag that they got rid of “the mandate,” but the stick is still there.

Now, think about it: this is one of the unpopular features of Obamacare. If they’re essentially finding a way to keep that while hiding it, they are quite open about keeping the “popular” provisions: the pass for preexisting conditions, the ban on lifetime coverage caps, and that “children” can stay on their parents’ plan until they’re twenty-six years old. All of these things costs taxpayers dearly.

Likewise, the once-dreaded Obamacare “exchanges” will stay. Then more sleight of hand: while pretending to do away with Obamacare “subsidies,” the bill provides a whopping $100 billion over ten years for States to use in any of a few creative ways to bail out patients or insurers in high-risk or burdened cases. There’s a word for that: subsidy.

With deceptive nonsense like this, it’s no wonder Jim Jordan (R-OH) ripped the bill as “Obamacare in a different form.”

He’s right, and he’s not the only one to notice. The left has, too. The far-left liberals over at Vox even make a bullet-point of it:

  • The bill looks a lot more like Obamacare than previous drafts. A curious thing has happened to the Republican replacement plan as it has evolved through multiple drafts: it has begun to look more and more like Obamacare itself. . . .

With hundred-billion dollar subsidies, health care exchanges, and mandate-penalties under a different name, and liberals all-but cheering, there’s yet one more key indicator how poor this replacement is. By all accounts, the big test to come is how the Congressional Budget Office will score its cost for American taxpayers.

Think about that: the fact that the cost-factor is even remotely a question for a bill that is supposed to repeal the behemoth Obamacare is very telling. It should be a slam-dunk. Repeal it, and save $1.2 Trillion over ten years. How hard is that? How could any even substantial replacement bill come anywhere near that mark? Yet for the AHCA, it is a question. It is so much a question that liberals like Nancy Pelosi are using it as a point of criticism: we don’t know how much this replacement bill will cost taxpayers. Gasp!

Since when did such Democrats ever care about the cost of subsidies? Since Republicans were dumb enough to give them the ammunition, that’s when. But moreover, this problem just shows how close the replacement is to the original.

Everything about this bill speaks of one underlying phenomenon: establishment Republicans in moderate districts and states want to get reelected. If they took a stand on principle and supported a bill that “deprived millions of people of health care,” and beset millennials from mama’s insurance, they are absolutely terrified the left will get energized and have the leverage to defeat them in the next election.

But they’ve got a promise to keep. So, they’re taking their chances that their conservative constituencies are either naïve, not paying attention, or as compromised as they are. They stand behind the lectern boasting, “We kept our promise,” when they have done nothing anywhere near the sort. It is a lie, and conservative voters need to hold them accountable for it. They’re gambling that conservatives will give them a pass and reelect them once again anyway, holding their nose. Throw the social conservatives a bone with “Defund Planned Parenthood,” and it’s a cinch.

These compromisers are unlike the liberal lawmakers. Obama asked them point-blank to stand on their principle and take the fall, knowing their support for Obamacare would cost them reelection. And they did. We need more of the guys claiming to be on our side willing to sacrifice for our principles. We need more guys to mimic the Democrats’ sacrificial courage instead of their policies.

Now, granted, the Speaker’s propaganda page says this is a “stable transition to a patient-centered system” so “no one has the rug pulled out from under them.” I don’t buy it, but if this is true, the bill needs to be amended to include what the end-game is and exactly the steps to get there. End the exchanges over 5 years. End the penalties step-by-step over 5 years. End the subsidies over 5-years. If they won’t agree to include such provisions in a purported “transition” bill, they’re not serious about it. It is a “transition” to nowhere, and we’ll still have socialized health care.

Voters and conservative lawmakers need to fight hard against this. We need to thunder in town halls every bit as much as we did when Obamacare was the issue, only let our own guys hear it this time. For conservative lawmakers, if your establishment colleagues won’t at the very least amend the bill as just mentioned, then vote against it. The establishment guys are an embarrassment to conservatism. Refuse your consent. Don’t be part of the embarrassment.

For further reading:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/07/conservatives-push-back-on-obamacare-repeal-bill-vow-to-introduce-their-own.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/07/519001659/7-things-to-watch-in-the-gops-american-health-care-act

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/affordable-care-act-obamacare-health.html

http://www.vox.com/2017/3/6/14829526/american-health-care-act-gop-replacement

Categories: Worldview

The Christian and the “rule of law”

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 15:53

While the “rule of law” is necessary for a free and just society, it can also devolve into the means of tyranny and oppression. The moment the law in this rule of law does not reflect God’s law, that same moment you will begin to see tyranny: whether through the legally-protected oppression of one man against another, one group over another, or of the state against man. Here’s how it can happen:

Abortion activist Jason Sanchez was passing out Abolish Abortion literature in Huntingdon Beach, CA. Naturally, someone called the cops. When they showed up, a cordial conversation ensued, and the police protected the Abolitionists’ right to free speech. But things got a little uncomfortable when Jason began exhorting these officers—at least one a professing Christian—to know their biblical role as lesser magistrates who should interpose to help stop injustice, including abortion.

God’s law must come first for the Christian, right? Sure! But the officer began to waffle:

JS: “We ask that law enforcement officers interpose on behalf of those that are being downtrodden.”

Officer: “Well, we can only enforce the laws that are on the books, and that’s it.”

JS: “But as a Christian, you are held to a higher standard—God’s law. And abortion’s murder.”

Officer: “I got to pay for my health insurance, and my wife, and my kids, and my mortgage.”

Watch the interaction:

There’s a fundamental problem when the sacred “rule of law” is used as a screen to exonerate oneself from responsibility—indeed, Christian duty. While the rule of law is absolutely necessary for peace and freedom, it is nevertheless the means of tyranny the very moment the laws don’t reflect God’s law. At that point, “rule of law” can be nothing but dishonoring to God and robbing humanity of basic rights.

In this particular case, it is the unborn who suffer, while our magistrates hide behind, “it’s the law.” At the same time, they reveal that their ultimate concern is their own paycheck.

The same problem occurs when you have bad laws actively enforced. Consider this incident from a few years ago. A group of libertarian activists protested a wave of incidents in which police shut down lemonade stands run by children in small town neighborhoods, due to excessive regulations, zoning ordinances, etc. The group protested by holding a very loud lemonade sale on the White House lawn, making a show of it until the police hauled them off in handcuffs.

Whatever your judgment of the stunt itself, out of it came a gem in regard to the mindset of “rule of law” and “just doing my job” policing. One of the officers, an African American, seen near the end of the video was engaged concerning why he would enforce obviously tyrannical laws. One of the activists asked him,

“Segregation was around in the 50s. Would you enforce that law?”

The black officer shrugged it off at first, “Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be a officer back then at that time. . . .”

But then the shock came, as he continued: “If I was, I would enforce it, though.”

“You would enforce it?”

“Absolutely.”

“You would enforce the segregation laws?”

“I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them, sir. Your squabble is not with the police; it’s with the lawmakers.”

Again, watch it:

When the mindset of our officers—and indeed of people in general—is that the law must enforced at all costs, no matter what, unquestioningly, then we have lost a vital part of what it means to be Christians, and even historically Americans.

When we elevate obedience to the law and enforcement of the law to this blind, unquestioning level, we have made it an idol. This idolatry of “the rule of law” leaves Christians in every age vulnerable to approving holocausts, unjust wars, chattel slavery, racism, and much more. In our own day, we have seen Christians standing idly by watching—and even actively encouraging—police brutality against abortion protesters (Operation Rescue). John MacArthur had a key role in this (more on that later).

Instead, Christians ought to be the first to judge every law (i.e. “all things”—1 Cor. 2:15) against God’s law and determine whether it is just or not. If it is not, then it becomes a question of whether obeying it will violate God’s law or conscience.

For the Christian, the “rule of law” must be the rule of God’s law. Christian magistrates and officials will be held to higher standards in this regard as well: for them, the enforcement of law ought to comply with God’s law as well. If imposing the law would violate God’s law, or would protect those who do, a set of tough decisions needs to be made. Either get out of the job, or refuse to perform that part of it upon pains of whatever consequence may be.

Whatever you do, don’t hide behind “just doing my job” as a justification for violating God’s law, imposing violence unnecessarily, or protecting those who do.

Categories: Worldview

Reformation tactics for Reformation 500 and beyond

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 17:49

This year, as many have already noted, marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Thesis, the generally-accepted official start to the Reformation. But for this monumental anniversary, let’s look at some of the most important—and almost always overlooked—factors that allowed the Reformation happen. Let’s not give Luther all the credit, though he certainly deserves a lot. Let’s look at the great supporting casts in the markets, trades, and town halls that made it all possible.

You’ve probably never considered the Reformation from this angle, but without these means, the Reformation would not have happened. For Reformation 500, let’s credit the entrepreneurs, businessmen, and social networks, for they are just as important and vital for the next Reformation as well.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Perhaps the greatest impact for all of the Reformation came in the work of a man who had no training at all in divinity or theology, who wrote nothing as far as we know, and made no contribution to the theological debates. His monumental contribution was purely material. The man was Johannes Gutenberg. His advance was the introduction to Europe of movable type and of the printing press.

By Luther’s time, at least 3 to 4 percent of the population could read. While that doesn’t sound like much, it was enough when one person could read out loud to a room full, and especially when the nobles and people whose estates and money were at stake were the first to be educated to read. Luther wrote his 95 Theses in Latin for debate among his fellow clergy, but he translated the Bible into German, and he wrote several tracts and pamphlets in German, and the people read and heard them all. The tracts got copied, and copied, and copied, etc. “More books were printed in the forty years between 1460 and 1500 than had been produced by scribes and monks throughout the entire Middle Ages.”[1] By Luther’s time there were printing presses in sixty-two cities in Germany alone. In the mere three years between the posting of the Theses and 1520, Luther wrote thirty tracts which printers turned out into 300,000 copies.[2] The printing press was the internet of the day, getting vital information and new ideas about Christian freedom and responsibility out to millions of people globally.

This was accomplished, not because someone decided to increase his quiet time by ten minutes in the morning, not because he built a church with a rock climbing wall and Play Stations and built-in Starbucks, not through yet one more sermon series on obeisance to sermons and contributing to the building fund, but through genuine business entrepreneurship. Gutenberg did not have in mind lofty ideas of spirituality or reforming the church at all. He was a goldsmith and an inventor; he was what today some leftist would call a greedy capitalist: he was trying to find a way to print more stuff faster and make more money—which is perfectly, biblically sound as long as it is done within the realm of God’s law. He used his skills as a goldsmith working with metals to create moveable type; he put these together with a screw-press to do the printing. Along with advances others had made in production of paper and oil-based ink, he created the Facebook of his era and revolutionized human communication. He did this not from within the walls of the church, but from the workrooms and offices of business. The people who reprinted Luther’s pamphlets hundreds of thousands of times may have done so less out of a concern for piety than for profit, but in doing so they “ran the race,” and I suspect a good number of those among them today sit among the great cloud of witnesses.

We should not fear to gain business savvy. William Tyndale, for example, was as much a businessman as a theologian. He encountered great opposition with his English translation of the New Testament, especially in England where it really counted because they spoke English. The account of his first edition runs thusly:

A curious tale is related of how he contrived to turn the devices of his foes to advantage. The Archbishop of Canterbury [Whalem at the time] was buying up his translations for burning and commissioned a certain Packington to scour the continent for more. The man went straight to Tyndale himself and informed him that he had discovered a merchant who would clean out his stock.

“Who is this merchant?” said Tyndale.

“The bishop of London,” said Packington.

“Oh, that is because he will burn them,” said Tyndale.

“Yea, marry,” quoth Packington.

“I am the gladder,” said Tyndale, “for these two benefits will come of it: I shall get money from him for these books and bring myself out of debt, and the whole world shall cry out on the burning of God’s Word, and the overplus of the money shall make me more studious to correct the said New Testament, and so newly to imprint the same once again; and I trust the second will much better like you that ever did the first.”

And the account concludes: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.”[3]

The work of translation itself did not go without an ironic legacy: after Tyndale was betrayed and executed in the Netherlands, the King of England ordered the Bible to be translated into English for the churches. He assigned this task to Myles Coverdale who was not proficient in Greek and Hebrew, nor did he have time to meet the strict deadline the king put on him. As a result, Coverdale essentially copied most of Tyndale’s translation. In the heritage of the English Bible that followed, Tyndale’s laid the foundation of Coverdale’s, Rogers’ “Matthews” Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, and the King James. The Chicago Divinity professor E. J. Goodspeed writing in 1925 said, “None of these is more than a revision of Tyndale,” for which Tyndale contributed “more than all others combined. He has shaped the religious vocabulary of the English-speaking world.”[4]

Small group solidarity, resistance, and social change

One of the least talked-about aspects of the spread of the Reformation is the role played by the orders of monks originating within the Roman church. The bonds built between brothers within these orders were often in reality stronger than allegiances to pope or prince. This is because they were real human relationships, shared commitments, shared sacrifices, emotions, and lives. These things transcend other relationships, and that’s why God has structured society from the bottom-up, placing the family as the nuclear unit of dominion, then the church, then community, and state. Relationships built through the family, local business, and church should serve as the glue of all else.

Luther himself belonged to the order of Augustinians, or Austin Friars as they were called in England. When the controversy around Luther broke out in Germany, the people who gave him the readiest hearing in England—even at the risk of angering the king—were the Austin Friars. Some of the greatest names of the Reformation either belonged to the Austin Friars at Cambridge or had associations with them: Thomas Bilney, Hugh Latimer (the Oxford Matyr), Robert Barnes, William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, and Thomas Cranmer (later Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the English Book of Common Prayer).[5] Many of these men went to school together, ministered together, and met regularly at a tavern called the The White Horse Inn (the real one). Over beer they talked, discussed, and debated. They had fellowship, they had community, and they developed deep personal bonds that, for the gospel and the work of God’s Kingdom, flowed naturally and effectively. In short, they developed a community solidarity which helped them work together, resist evil, and forge ahead.

Solidarity

Perhaps nowhere in modern history has the theme of community solidarity (of members uniting as one group and gaining strength thereby) appeared more prominently to the Church than in Poland under Communistic rule in 1980. A strongly Roman Catholic country by tradition, Poland was suffering food and supply shortages in the waning decade of Communism. In 1978, during this time of state atheism and suppression of religion, the Roman Catholic Church elected Karol Wojtyla, Bishop of Krakow, as the first ever Polish Pope. Renamed John Paul II, the new Pope quickly traveled to speak in Poland in 1979 and was cheered by millions. In defiance of the official atheism and oppressive conditions, he preached for freedom of religion, human rights, and an end to violence. He inspired the nation—as well as much of Eastern Europe and the rest of the world—to believe that something bigger than Communism was on their side. They only needed the bravery to stand together in faith.

Within a year, after the government vaulted meat prices during an already acute shortage, self-organized strikes broke out all over Poland. The price hikes came on July 1. Meanwhile, the government was plundering supplies to send to Moscow for the 1980 Olympics which were scheduled to begin on July 19. In an fateful twist, a rail worker in the city of Lublin was poking around some freight cars that sat waiting for shipment to Moscow. Spying the cars full of paint cans, the worker curiously popped one open. To his surprise he found it packed with choice meats.[6] More cans revealed more scarce goods. The news spread. The workers immediately made the connection. Hoards of food were being diverted to Moscow to make the failing Soviet Union appear prosperous as nations and media flooded in from around the world for the Olympics.

People were furious. Strikes spread like wildfire. The rail workers welded the train’s wheels to the rails and distributed the meat and food to the people.[7] A month later, support was so strong that a non-governmental trade-union named “Solidarity” was created and forced the government to begin to back down.

The communist State immediately reacted, however, enforcing martial law and outlawing the Solidarity union. But the attempt to destroy the union failed, only driving the united movement underground. In 1983, another visit from the Pope provided a stage for massive regathering and rallying of Solidarity with hopes and expressions of eventual victory.[8] His message to the Poles remained constant from 1979 until the Communist State ultimately fell: “Fear not.”[9] Pope John Paul II’s efforts at toppling Communism reached far beyond his 1979 visit to Poland. He had lived through dictatorship himself, worked with underground churches throughout the Eastern Bloc in direct defiance of Communist rule. His leadership among the Poles is now widely accepted as one key factor leading to the end of Soviet rule.[10]

The lesson of Solidarity is that when individuals unite  around a legitimate God-honoring purpose, they gain a strength that can overcome the greatest of enemies. Had the Poles remained as disassociated individuals, or even in associated but complacent churches, they would likely never have had the strength to oppose that enemy. Despite whatever individual skill they had, they need the strengths that community provides in order to advance the cause.

As part of the work Reformation, we must join in such fellowship with each other, support each other, and then look for ways to bring others into a working community of Reformation-minded believers. Truth is, outside of the Body of Christ, there is no genuine community; but within it, truth, justice, and solidarity transcend the walls of every institution. We need to strengthen that community amongst ourselves, and then offer others a way in that is more appealing to freedom and prosperity than any of the inflated promises that corrupt governments or central banks can offer. In doing so, we will strengthen our shared commitments to Christ, to the faith, and to overcoming the adversities that lie before us in the way.

Conclusion

In other words, we need both the one and the many: we need pervasive individual effort in business and entrepreneurship, as well as networking efforts to unite the strengths and aims of the Christian body as a whole. If we lack focused and faithful individual efforts, the community will be like a herd of thoughtless cattle, weak before the forces of political propaganda, easily herded into the corrals of tyranny. But if we have only individual efforts and no focused community, we will be more like a herd of cats: everyone self-willed, independent, disorganized, and not able to be organized; each distracted chasing their own rat, after their own prize, hissing at the next when they get too close. We must have dedication to both goals, individual output and concentration on community. But the focuses must not only be on the modes of organization, but on the means: business, work, capital, savings, stewardship, fellowship, mission, cause, small group, activism, justice. With these goals, the members of the church, as the Body of Christ, will thrive, and Reformation can spread once again.

Notes:

[1] Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), 199.

[2] Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–1550, 199.

[3] See Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston, MA: The Beacon Press, 1952), 195–6.

[4] Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Making of the English New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1925), 13.

[5] Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (London: Penguin Books, 1972), 113–4.

[6] Imanuel Geiss, Zukunft als Geschichte: Historisch-politische Analysen und Prognosen zum Untergang des Sowjetkommunismus, 1980-1991 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998), 101.

[7] Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago,” Human Events, September 26, 2005; available at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1492257/posts, accessed December 1, 2008.

[8] Andrew Nagorski, “After Pope John Paul II: Look to Home,” The New Republic, April 18, 2005; available at http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/JPII/nag.html, accessed December 1, 2008.

[9] Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago.”

[10] Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago.”

Categories: Worldview

How to avoid the fake “racial reconciliation” in our churches

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 07:27

The New Standard

There is apparently a new standard for congregations all over America. Despite the context you live in, and because of the current climate in America with racism, if your congregation is predominantly “white” or “black,” then according to some modern evangelicals, you are not fulfilling the biblical mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Clearly we do see the mandate in scripture that we are to take to Gospel everywhere to all people, which includes all types of people. We also see in Revelation amongst other places in scripture that heaven will include people from all nations (Rev 5:9, Rev 7:9–10). Surprisingly, modern evangelicals who typically reject apply God’s law to every area of social affairs, nevertheless believe we should desire to see heaven reflected “here and now” (according to Matthew 6:10) when speaking of “race.” Unfortunately, due to “white guilt” imposed by many blacks as well as whites—who at many times are genuinely trying to help heal an obvious divide—many end up equating a congregation with a good mixture of black and white people as this desired resemblance of heaven. Therefore, the end goal of “racial reconciliation” becomes to make your congregation as mixed as possible. But does your congregation really have to look like heaven in this way?

There are many problems with this ideology. I will attempt to address a few here.

One problem with this line of thinking is the fact that heaven is not just made up of black and white people. Surely, no one is claiming that. However, it seems that by the statements of many Pastors, whether black or white, that their conscience is at rest because on Sunday morning they had five families from a different ethnicity than the majority at their church show up and a mixed couple. Therefore, racial reconciliation has been accomplished, and now there church “looks like heaven.” Unfortunately, reconciliation is not accomplished by going to the same building every Sunday for worship.

There can be two extremes when dealing with the issue of “race.” One extreme is a so-called “color blindness” because we “find our identity in Christ.” This extreme is an attempt to promote our union in Christ at the expense of unique characteristics God himself has given individuals. This seems to be a contradiction to the whole mission of creating a diverse church. This whole line of thinking seems schizophrenic, as in one sense you are intentionally building a congregation that is diverse in skin color and on the other hand you seek to dismiss skin color in the name of Christ. The Scriptures obviously do not call us to have our lives hidden in our skin color, but rather in Christ. However, the Scriptures also do not promote the idea that our skin color has nothing to do with our identity either.

Then there is the extreme that gets lost in the social fiction of “race.” Clearly, all nations came from one man: that is Adam. There is no such thing as “race.” There are, however, different people groups, whether categorized by nation or ethnicity. Even those amongst the same skin color can have vast differences in culture. So even within a congregation that consists of nothing but dark-skinned folk, people can be diverse. God created us as individuals in a unique way for his own glory, and we are not to shun one inch of it.

The Kingdom and our neighborhood

Many people recognize heaven obviously does not consist only black and white people, and so expand their view to think their congregation looking like heaven means black, white, Asian, and Hispanic. Unfortunately, although this may be a glimpse, it still falls very short of the standard of diversity. You would need about 5,000 different ethnic groups to meet that requirement.

I think it is strange that in one aspect, when dealing with the so called “racial reconciliation,” many Pastors say “just preach the Gospel,” yet they are seeking pragmatic programs to make their churches artificially “look like heaven.” If churches were “just preaching the Gospel” (which many are), then their churches would look . . . well . . . like they look today. That is because people are generally preaching the Gospel in the context in which they live. In one respect, this is a good thing, because I believe our congregations should look like the neighborhoods in which we live and minister. The “look like heaven” mantra is so strong today, some may think this sentiment is borderline blasphemy, but let me explain.

The call of the Gospel is not that his kingdom comes to the building in which we meet only on Sundays, Saturdays, or whatever day we corporately gather. Rather, the call of the Gospel is that his Kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, the issue we have in America is not how our “churches” look, but how our communities look. There is no standard that you must worship in the community you live in; however, doing so is a vital part of building real relationships.

We must remember first why our congregations are segregated in the first place. Most of what I read and hear from pastors on racial reconciliation is not truly “Gospel Centered.” It is self-centered and self-serving. It is all about how this white and this black pastor came together to bring two segregated congregations together that live on totally opposite sides of town. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that bringing blacks and whites together can be a start if there are real intentions to get uncomfortable—not just to come together and sing Kumbaya like everything is alright. Many think if our congregations look diverse on the outside it is going to unify the world. We see this is not the case, as many denominations have sought to diversify themselves and we are still talking about the same issues we were 100 years ago. Many times, all we are doing is creating whitewashed tombs. Different types of people are fellowshipping together, yet are not still unified on issues dealing with “race” in our country. Many black pastors and writers fail to address real problems and end up going on an emotional trail of how our feelings are hurt, which does not help the situation. Many white pastors feel like black Christians who are complaining are just tripping and imagining injustices where none exist.

What is “racial reconciliation”?

If racial reconciliation consisted only of black people and white people congregating with one another, then there was nothing wrong when white slave masters brought their black slaves to church with them on Sunday, beat them, worked them restlessly, and fed them like dogs Monday through Saturday. You may say “who is beating and enslaving their brother with whom they congregate?” Those who did not own slaves, yet ignored the injustices and congregated with them, were just as guilty as slave masters. Likewise, those who work in the so-called justice system here in America, and partake in the injustices of African Americans, are just as guilty as the old slave masters. Simply put, those who ignore the inequalities that their darker skinned brothers and sisters suffer remain guilty. “Multi-ethnic church” and “racial reconciliation” have become clichés, idols of celebrity ministries, and no one gives a clear answer to the issues at hand. This is because “reconciliation” is not something that necessarily needs to happen exclusively in what is today called “church,” or inside of the four walls of “churches.”

Emanuel D. Williams, a friend and pastor from Chicago, once posted the following:

Race is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the bread we eat. Until we, as Christians can wrap our minds around the depth that this social construction of race has diseased EVERYTHING (our identity, theology, imagination, etc.) we will not be able to live as Christ has called us. It seems modernity’s construction of identity was entirely built upon the “sovereignty” or “dominance” of the white Christian male.

For example, to be white is to above, better than, sovereign over, black people. To be black is to be less than, submissive to, less “civilized” than white people. To be male is to be better than, sovereign over, the head of women. To be female is to be submissive to, less than, subordinate to men. This form of identification is a diseased and not how Christ meant for identity to be. Christ meant for us to find identity in Him and delight in one another; through our differences knowing more deeply ourselves and God. Christ did not mean for our identity to be formed around our perceived “sovereignty” over others bodies.

Even if you may think some of these expression are a bit extreme, the issues expressed are very real and would make a good starting point for the types of discussion that could start to bring real racial reconciliation. We live in the same nation, but two different worlds, and recognizing and acknowledging that will be key.

Sadly, however, when discussing “race” issues, it goes straight over many white and even black brothers’ heads. They want to give you a theology lesson on how we are all one race. This is important, but it does not address the issues head on. It’s stating the obvious. It’s like a wife complaining her husband is beating her and the pastor is trying to explain to her how they are both made in God’s image and they are co-heirs with Christ. She obviously is the one who recognizes this, and it is the husband who is failing to grasp this concept in practice. So, it is the job of the elders to address the criminal (the husband) not the victim (the wife) of his injustices. The wife can be prayed for and encouraged in Christ but not at the expense of ignoring her complaint. Also, other wives are not to suppress or ignore what is happening to her because it is not happening to them directly. In our culture, women have been degraded generally even in churches. The bible has been and is abused to justify mistreatments and manipulation from men. Unfortunately, many women even in the church will tell women who complain that they are not being submissive and they are being influenced by feminism. They may acknowledge their suffering, and tell them to just keep their eyes on Christ and the Gospel. This is exactly how many black Christians sound when they deny systemic injustice or fail to deal with it biblically.

General lessons won’t cut it at this point. If many of the denominations of the pastors stressing “one race” today would have taught that in the past to slave owners and Jim Crow advocates, we would not be having this conversation. But we not only have that history, but its legacy now to deal with.

In D. A. Horton’s article on “Ethnic Conciliation,” he states “racial reconciliation” assumes two things: “It assumes there’s more than one race on earth—I personally disagree and side with anthropologists & scientist who classify humans as being of one race with many ethnicities.” Likewise, “It assumes at some point in American history conciliation has taken place—I personally know of no time or event and see the opposite reality reflected today.” I agree with D. A. Horton on this. Although many attempts of conciliation have been tried, we still are having the same conversations.

I will say that many of my white brothers and sisters have sacrificed their lives, careers, reputations for the sake of their black brothers all throughout history and even today. However, the body of Christ has never been unified in its response to systemic injustice. Some pastors still justify the chattel slavery that occurred in this country. According to many of them, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and others were all rebels and should have just submitted under their circumstances. Yet the same people think the revolt for American Independence was divine. The puritans refused to submit to tyranny, yet their rebellion was holy. This line of thinking is consistent with statements which show insensitivity towards issues of injustice that still occur today. No wonder many African Americans do not want anything to do with the church anymore. Racial reconciliation involves at least recognizing and acknowledging these insensitivities, and then working to overcome them.

Is saying sorry enough?

Some pastors and even whole denominations do recognize the injustices that occurred during slavery and segregation, and they do praise people such as Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. They will even go to the extent of apologizing for what happened and for their denomination’s involvement or apathy during those times. This is a good starting point. Saying we are sorry about the past, however, does not bring complete healing. Forgiveness is a sign of a Christian, obviously, but if denominations are repenting of what was condoned and ignored in the past, yet do not feel obligated to stand against the injustices of our present time, it actually seems self-righteous. It’s like saying we apologize for “what they did,” but now we need to just move forward. This is ignoring the fact that they are apologizing for what someone else did in the past and assuming themselves guiltless while ignoring similar things presently. Continued behavior like this is like a repeated slap in the face. It is discouraging. It is hard to ignore, and harder to forgive.

Further, how can one acknowledge injustices of the past inflicted on African-Americans, but then deny that oppression had any lasting, ill effects, and criticize the current state of the black community as all their own fault? I agree with individual responsibility, but am at the same time aware of the social construct which plagued individuals of a certain ethic group. The residue of oppression remains today, and although there has been progress in different areas, the fight is not over. Even with the progress we have seen, we also see that there have been more crafty ways created to oppress African Americans.

Recent injustices in the past few years, with the help of social media, have brought this conversation about “race” to the front in the Church. For many, everything seemed fine as long as we were agreeing on the Doctrines of Grace, but these incidents exposed ignorance, and it exposed what people really believe about the black community. Many blacks did not mind assimilating to white culture until they found out the assimilation came with a denial of the reality they live, or their family members and friends live, on a daily basis. Hearing their white brothers tell them “just preach the gospel” were the same sentiments in which the Apostle James rejects, “Go in peace, be warm and filled” (James 2:16).  James rejects this so-called faith, because if their brother is hungry and they did not feed them, then it is not true religion. How is it true religion when one says he has faith, and sees oppression, but refuses to seek justice? It’s hard enough when you already have to explain to some that African Americans are not imagining injustice.

What do you want us to do?

Once you have people who are willing to listen, and agree there is injustice, the question then becomes “well what do you want us to do?” But that is never a question when we talk about abortion. The answer all African Americans should give, is “be as creative and energetic as you are when fighting against the murder of those in the womb.” Awareness is not enough. Preaching through Ephesians about how the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles was broken down through Christ will not suffice either. We don’t need to have a thousand conferences about “racial reconciliation” that do little more than fatten a few people’s pockets. Money needs to be spent mobilizing people in their communities to fight against the endless injustices, whether they be environmental or judicial.

Although we do not have legal segregation any longer, we have had redlining, and still have gentrification and “white flight.” Even though segregation is no longer legal, there are ways in which people including Christians perpetuate segregation in their neighborhoods and work places. These are the root issues of why many churches are still segregated. Typically, in areas where the community is diverse, you may have a church that is diverse as well. The church can still be divided when diverse as I stated before, but with leadership that is willing to get dirty, there is hope. You also have many diverse communities which are still segregated on Sunday. It is interesting that it is considered a noble thing to seek outward diversity in the pews to resemble what we wait for in eternity, yet it is a “social gospel” when we desire to work for oppression actually to cease. This mental and theological divide must end. I do believe one step in the direction of restoring relationships between these two ethnic groups is when we see the church as whole unified in this fight against injustice. When churches stop neglecting communities by withholding the Gospel and justice from them, we will truly start to see a church that looks more like heaven.

What does heaven look like?

So, must your congregation look like heaven? Yes, your congregation must look like people who are advancing the kingdom of righteousness. Your congregations must look like people who are doing the will of the Father. Whether that congregation consists of a diverse group of people of different skin colors or languages, or if it is all white; if you are doing God’s will, the influence of your ministry will extend to all peoples and nations. In this way, the Church already looks like heaven in the aspect of diversity. The church is universal, and your local congregation is just a part of all the nations of the earth that worship God, as the Gospel is being advanced. To be more kingdom minded, we must begin to act like we are part of the body of Christ which is universal rather than just our local congregation or denomination.

In the beginning of the book of Isaiah, we see Isaiah rebuking the nation of Israel as they had begun to prosper materially but had forgotten that the cause of their abundance was not of their own doing but of God. Not only had they begin to serve other idols while still offering sacrifice to him, they had neglected to do justice to others. They were still coming into his presence to worship while neglecting to do justice towards others. Interestingly, in the KJV it says to relieve the oppressed (Isa. 1:17). When you read that on the surface, you may feel that by doing good to the oppressed, or doing kind things directly to them, you are obeying. You may think that doing things such as feeding them or clothing them that you would be fulfilling your duty. Those things are good, but in this verse the action is not directly towards the oppressed but the oppressor. God is calling people of privilege to defend those without.  He calls people who can be heard to speak for those who have no voice so that your hands may not be full of blood.

Barnes’s commentary on this verse says, “Relieve – – אשׁרוּ ‘asherû – literally, make straight, Or right (margin, righten). The root – אשׁר ‘âshar – means to proceed, to walk forward in a direct line; and bears a relation to ישׁר yâshar to be straight. Hence, it often means to be successful or prosperous – to go straight forward to success. In Piel, which is the form used here, it means to cause to go straight; and hence, applied to leaders, judges, and guides, to conduct those under their care in a straight path, and not in the devices and crooked Ways of sin; Proverbs 23:19” (emphasis added).

That is why some translations say “defend the oppressed” or better yet “correct the oppressor.” We see God is not interested in cowards offering sacrifices to him. He is interested in those who will stand up against oppressors for the sake of the oppressed.

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
“Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
“I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow (Isa. 1:11–17).

Categories: Worldview

Must your congregation “look like heaven”? The so-called “racial reconciliation”

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 16:44

 

The New Standard

There is apparently a new standard for congregations all over America. Despite the context you live in, and because of the current climate in America with racism, if your congregation is predominantly “white” or “black,” then according to some modern evangelicals, you are not fulfilling the biblical mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Clearly we do see the mandate in scripture that we are to take to Gospel everywhere to all people, which includes all types of people. We also see in Revelation amongst other places in scripture that heaven will include people from all nations (Rev 5:9, Rev 7:9–10). Surprisingly, modern evangelicals who typically reject apply God’s law to every area of social affairs, nevertheless believe we should desire to see heaven reflected “here and now” (according to Matthew 6:10) when speaking of “race.” Unfortunately, due to “white guilt” imposed by many blacks as well as whites—who at many times are genuinely trying to help heal an obvious divide—many end up equating a congregation with a good mixture of black and white people as this desired resemblance of heaven. Therefore, the end goal of “racial reconciliation” becomes to make your congregation as mixed as possible. But does your congregation really have to look like heaven in this way?

There are many problems with this ideology. I will attempt to address a few here.

One problem with this line of thinking is the fact that heaven is not just made up of black and white people. Surely, no one is claiming that. However, it seems that by the statements of many Pastors, whether black or white, that their conscience is at rest because on Sunday morning they had five families from a different ethnicity than the majority at their church show up and a mixed couple. Therefore, racial reconciliation has been accomplished, and now there church “looks like heaven.” Unfortunately, reconciliation is not accomplished by going to the same building every Sunday for worship.

There can be two extremes when dealing with the issue of “race.” One extreme is a so-called “color blindness” because we “find our identity in Christ.” This extreme is an attempt to promote our union in Christ at the expense of unique characteristics God himself has given individuals. This seems to be a contradiction to the whole mission of creating a diverse church. This whole line of thinking seems schizophrenic, as in one sense you are intentionally building a congregation that is diverse in skin color and on the other hand you seek to dismiss skin color in the name of Christ. The Scriptures obviously do not call us to have our lives hidden in our skin color, but rather in Christ. However, the Scriptures also do not promote the idea that our skin color has nothing to do with our identity either.

Then there is the extreme that gets lost in the social fiction of “race.” Clearly, all nations came from one man: that is Adam. There is no such thing as “race.” There are, however, different people groups, whether categorized by nation or ethnicity. Even those amongst the same skin color can have vast differences in culture. So even within a congregation that consists of nothing but dark-skinned folk, people can be diverse. God created us as individuals in a unique way for his own glory, and we are not to shun one inch of it.

The Kingdom and our neighborhood

Many people recognize heaven obviously does not consist only black and white people, and so expand their view to think their congregation looking like heaven means black, white, Asian, and Hispanic. Unfortunately, although this may be a glimpse, it still falls very short of the standard of diversity. You would need about 5,000 different ethnic groups to meet that requirement.

I think it is strange that in one aspect, when dealing with the so called “racial reconciliation,” many Pastors say “just preach the Gospel,” yet they are seeking pragmatic programs to make their churches artificially “look like heaven.” If churches were “just preaching the Gospel” (which many are), then their churches would look . . . well . . . like they look today. That is because people are generally preaching the Gospel in the context in which they live. In one respect, this is a good thing, because I believe our congregations should look like the neighborhoods in which we live and minister. The “look like heaven” mantra is so strong today, some may think this sentiment is borderline blasphemy, but let me explain.

The call of the Gospel is not that his kingdom comes to the building in which we meet only on Sundays, Saturdays, or whatever day we corporately gather. Rather, the call of the Gospel is that his Kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, the issue we have in America is not how our “churches” look, but how our community look. There is no standard that you must worship in the community you live in; however, doing so is a vital part of building real relationships.

We must remember first why our congregations are segregated in the first place. Most of what I read and hear from pastors on racial reconciliation is not truly “Gospel Centered.” It is self-centered and self-serving. It is all about how this white and this black pastor came together to bring two segregated congregations together that live on totally opposite sides of town. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that bringing blacks and whites together can be a start if there are real intentions to get uncomfortable—not just to come together and sing Kumbaya like everything is alright. Many think if our congregations look diverse on the outside it is going to unify the world. We see this is not the case, as many denominations have sought to diversify themselves and we are still talking about the same issues that we were 100 years ago. Many times, all we are doing is creating whitewashed tombs. Different types of people are fellowshipping together, yet are not still unified on issues dealing with “race” in our country. Many black pastors and writers fail to address real problems and end up going on an emotional trail of how our feelings are hurt, which does not help the situation. Many white pastors feel like black Christians who are complaining are just tripping and imagining injustices where none exist.

What is “racial reconciliation”?

If racial reconciliation consisted only of black people and white people congregating with one another, then there was nothing wrong when white slave masters brought their black slaves to church with them on Sunday, beat them, worked them restlessly, and fed them like dogs Monday through Saturday. You may say “who is beating and enslaving their brother with whom they congregate?” Those who did not own slaves, yet ignored the injustices and congregated with them, were just as guilty as slave masters. Likewise, those who work in the so-called justice system here in America, and partake in the injustices of African Americans, are just as guilty as the old slave masters. Simply put, those who ignore the inequalities that their darker skinned brothers and sisters suffer remain guilty. “Multi-ethnic church” and “racial reconciliation” have become clichés, idols of celebrity ministries, and no one gives a clear answer to the issues at hand. This is because “reconciliation” is not something that necessarily needs to happen exclusively in what is today called “church,” or inside of the four walls of “churches.”

Emanuel D. Williams, a friend and pastor from Chicago, once posted the following:

Race is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the bread we eat. Until we, as Christians can wrap our minds around the depth that this social construction of race has diseased EVERYTHING (our identity, theology, imagination, etc.) we will not be able to live as Christ has called us. It seems modernity’s construction of identity was entirely built upon the “sovereignty” or “dominance” of the white Christian male.

For example, to be white is to above, better than, sovereign over, black people. To be black is to be less than, submissive to, less “civilized” than white people. To be male is to be better than, sovereign over, the head of women. To be female is to be submissive to, less than, subordinate to men. This form of identification is a diseased and not how Christ meant for identity to be. Christ meant for us to find identity in Him and delight in one another; through our differences knowing more deeply ourselves and God. Christ did not mean for our identity to be formed around our perceived “sovereignty” over others bodies.

Even if you may think some of these expression are a bit extreme, the issues expressed are very real and would make a good starting point for the types of discussion that could start to bring real racial reconciliation. We live in the same nation, but two different worlds, and recognizing and acknowledging that will be key.

Sadly, however, when discussing “race” issues, it goes straight over many white and even black brothers’ heads. They want to give you a theology lesson on how we are all one race. This is important, but it does not address the issues head on. It’s stating the obvious. It’s like a wife complaining her husband is beating her and the pastor is trying to explain to her how they are both made in God’s image and they are co-heirs with Christ. She obviously is the one who recognizes this, and it is the husband who is failing to grasp this concept in practice. So, it is the job of the elders to address the criminal (the husband) not the victim (the wife) of his injustices. The wife can be prayed for and encouraged in Christ but not at the expense of ignoring her complaint. Also, other wives are not to suppress or ignore what is happening to her because it is not happening to them directly. In our culture, women have been degraded generally even in churches. The bible has been and is abused to justify mistreatments and manipulation from men. Unfortunately, many women even in the church will tell women who complain that they are not being submissive and they are being influenced by feminism. They may acknowledge their suffering, and tell them to just keep their eyes on Christ and the Gospel. This is exactly how many black Christians sound when they deny systemic injustice or fail to deal with it biblically.

General lessons won’t cut it at this point. If many of the denominations of the pastors stressing “one race” today would have taught that in the past to slave owners and Jim Crow advocates, we would not be having this conversation. But we not only have that history, but its legacy now to deal with.

In D. A. Horton’s article on “Ethnic Conciliation,” he states “racial reconciliation” assumes two things: “It assumes there’s more than one race on earth—I personally disagree and side with anthropologists & scientist who classify humans as being of one race with many ethnicities.” Likewise, “It assumes at some point in American history conciliation has taken place—I personally know of no time or event and see the opposite reality reflected today.” I agree with D. A. Horton on this. Although many attempts of conciliation have been tried, we still are having the same conversations.

I will say that many of my white brothers and sisters have sacrificed their lives, careers, reputations for the sake of their black brothers all throughout history and even today. However, the body of Christ has never been unified in its response to systemic injustice. Some pastors still justify the chattel slavery that occurred in this country. According to many of them, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and others were all rebels and should have just submitted under their circumstances. Yet the same people think the revolt for American Independence was divine. The puritans refused to submit to tyranny, yet their rebellion was holy. This line of thinking is consistent with statements which show insensitivity towards issues of injustice that still occur today. No wonder many African Americans do not want anything to do with the church anymore. Racial reconciliation involves at least recognizing and acknowledging these insensitivities, and then working to overcome them.

Is saying sorry enough?

Some pastors and even whole denominations do recognize the injustices that occurred during slavery and segregation, and they do praise people such as Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. They will even go to the extent of apologizing for what happened and for their denomination’s involvement or apathy during those times. This is a good starting point. Saying we are sorry about the past, however, does not bring complete healing. Forgiveness is a sign of a Christian, obviously, but if denominations are repenting of what was condoned and ignored in the past, yet do not feel obligated to stand against the injustices of our present time, it actually seems self-righteous. It’s like saying we apologize for “what they did,” but now we need to just move forward. This is ignoring the fact that they are apologizing for what someone else did in the past and assuming themselves guiltless while ignoring similar things presently. Continued behavior like this is like a repeated slap in the face. It is discouraging. It is hard to ignore, and harder to forgive.

Further, how can one acknowledge injustices of the past inflicted on African-Americans, but then deny that oppression had any lasting, ill effects, and criticize the current state of the black community as all their own fault? I agree with individual responsibility, but am at the same time aware of the social construct which plagued individuals of a certain ethic group. The residue of oppression remains today, and although there has been progress in different areas, the fight is not over. Even with the progress we have seen, we also see that there have been more crafty ways created to oppress African Americans.

Recent injustices in the past few years, with the help of social media, have brought this conversation about “race” to the front in the Church. For many, everything seemed fine as long as we were agreeing on the Doctrines of Grace, but these incidents exposed ignorance, and it exposed what people really believe about the black community. Many blacks did not mind assimilating to white culture until they found out the assimilation came with a denial of the reality they live, or their family members and friends live, on a daily basis. Hearing their white brothers tell them “just preach the gospel” were the same sentiments in which the Apostle James rejects, “Go in peace, be warm and filled” (James 2:16).  James rejects this so-called faith, because if their brother is hungry and they did not feed them, then it is not true religion. How is it true religion when one says he has faith, and sees oppression, but refuses to seek justice? It’s hard enough when you already have to explain to some that African Americans are not imagining injustice.

What do you want us to do?

Once you have people who are willing to listen, and agree there is injustice, the question then becomes “well what do you want us to do?” But that is never a question when we talk about abortion. The answer all African Americans should give, is “be as creative and energetic as you are when fighting against the murder of those in the womb.” Awareness is not enough. Preaching through Ephesians about how the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles was broken down through Christ will not suffice either. We don’t need to have a thousand conferences about “racial reconciliation” that do little more than fatten a few people’s pockets. Money needs to be spent mobilizing people in their communities to fight against the endless injustices, whether they be environmental or judicial.

Although we do not have legal segregation any longer, we have had redlining, and still have gentrification and “white flight.” Even though segregation is no longer legal, there are ways in which people including Christians perpetuate segregation in their neighborhoods and work places. These are the root issues of why many churches are still segregated. Typically, in areas where the community is diverse, you may have a church that is diverse as well. The church can still be divided when diverse as I stated before, but with leadership that is willing to get dirty, there is hope. You also have many diverse communities which are still segregated on Sunday. It is interesting that it is considered a noble thing to seek outward diversity in the pews to resemble what we wait for in eternity, yet it is a “social gospel” when we desire to work for oppression actually to cease. This mental and theological divide must end. I do believe one step in the direction of restoring relationships between these two ethnic groups is when we see the church as whole unified in this fight against injustice. When churches stop neglecting communities by withholding the Gospel and justice from them, we will truly start to see a church that looks more like heaven.

What does heaven look like?

So, must your congregation look like heaven? Yes, your congregation must look like people who are advancing the kingdom of righteousness. Your congregations must look like people who are doing the will of the Father. Whether that congregation consists of a diverse group of people of different skin colors or languages, or if it is all white; if you are doing God’s will, the influence of your ministry will extend to all peoples and nations. In this way, the Church already looks like heaven in the aspect of diversity. The church is universal, and your local congregation is just a part of all the nations of the earth that worship God, as the Gospel is being advanced. To be more kingdom minded, we must begin to act like we are part of the body of Christ which is universal rather than just our local congregation or denomination.

In the beginning of the book of Isaiah, we see Isaiah rebuking the nation of Israel as they had begun to prosper materially but had forgotten that the cause of their abundance was not of their own doing but of God. Not only had they begin to serve other idols while still offering sacrifice to him, they had neglected to do justice to others. They were still coming into his presence to worship while neglecting to do justice towards others. Interestingly, in the KJV it says to relieve the oppressed (Isa. 1:17). When you read that on the surface, you may feel that by doing good to the oppressed, or doing kind things directly to them, you are obeying. You may think that doing things such as feeding them or clothing them that you would be fulfilling your duty. Those things are good, but in this verse the action is not directly towards the oppressed but the oppressor. God is calling people of privilege to defend those without.  He calls people who can be heard to speak for those who have no voice so that your hands may not be full of blood.

Barnes’s commentary on this verse says, “Relieve – – אשׁרוּ ‘asherû – literally, make straight, Or right (margin, righten). The root – אשׁר ‘âshar – means to proceed, to walk forward in a direct line; and bears a relation to ישׁר yâshar to be straight. Hence, it often means to be successful or prosperous – to go straight forward to success. In Piel, which is the form used here, it means to cause to go straight; and hence, applied to leaders, judges, and guides, to conduct those under their care in a straight path, and not in the devices and crooked Ways of sin; Proverbs 23:19” (emphasis added).

That is why some translations say “defend the oppressed” or better yet “correct the oppressor.” We see God is not interested in cowards offering sacrifices to him. He is interested in those who will stand up against oppressors for the sake of the oppressed.

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
“Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
“I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow (Isa. 1:11–17).

Categories: Worldview

America’s “free” markets (the startling historical truth)

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 07:01

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 7: Markets

7.2 America’s Not-So-Free Markets

Much like topics in previous chapters, to talk about “the loss of freedom” in regard to markets is not quite accurate. Although they have often been much freer than they are today, America has never had truly free markets. The causes for this are multiple—everything from ideology to graft, war and crisis, socialistic schemes and bank fraud, big business and big government. The list really is endless, but could be boiled down to covetousness and greed armed with the guns of government.

Mistakes abounded from day one. The first pilgrim colony attempted to enforce a communistic society. In months the communistic storehouse was strained. It did not take long for some to learn they could slack in working and yet received the same amount of rationed victuals; meanwhile, those who did work hard to produce more also received the same amount while those who slacked ate of the extra fruits of the labors of those who worked harder. Soon, everyone slacked and the storehouse was empty. Half of the settlers died in the first winter. The governors learned the hard way, though slowly; it took three years into the settlement when they finally took the advice of the farmers who were doing the work: land was divided into private plots. Greater prosperity soon followed. The story is well known. What is lesser known is that many elements of this quickly-privatized property economy remained under common ownership and government control. This only improved after 1675.1

The path toward great wealth in colonial America was often through State-sanctioned monopoly. In fact, many of the colonies were founded—as we have discussed—as land-grant charters from the English crown. These in themselves were meant to be monopolistic sources of wealth: ports were controlled, tariffs imposed, and merchants depended upon the crown to protect them from competitors in every way. This State-Big business alliance is called mercantilism and in many ways still exists today. It was criticized by Adam Smith, who published his The Wealth of Nations in the same year America declared independence.

Despite the ascendancy of Smith’s views of freer economics, many early Americans favored the British model of mercantilism—not the least of which were Hamilton, Washington and the Federalist/Nationalist party. Indeed, as we saw earlier under the topic of States’ rights, Washington, Hamilton, and Madison, among others, colluded to establish corporate welfare—essentially a form of mercantilism in which a few businesses get the special monopolistic favor and subsidy of government—as the rule in the new nationalized government. In the first-ever State of the Union address, Washington favored, as we noted, the establishment of a State-funded military-industrial complex during peacetime, manufacturing, Indian suppression, agriculture, commerce, transportation, postal services, science and education, as well as public finance. Here are his words:

The advancement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement [that is, money], as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home; and of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our country, by a due attention to the post office and post roads.

Nor am I less persuaded that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of Government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in ours, it is proportionably essential. . . .

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established; by the institution of a national university; or by any other expedients—will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the Legislature.

And Washington finished his speech with a propagandistic nod to the common good which any modern liberal can love:

The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed; and I shall derive great satisfaction from a co-operation with you, in the pleasing, though arduous task, of ensuring to our fellow-citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal Government.

Thus was the precedent of America as a Welfare-Warfare State solidified in her infancy—although the welfare at this point was mainly corporate welfare, early neo-mercantilism.

These beginnings were mild compared to what would come, but represented the very same principle in action. The principle of subsidizing certain endeavors was gradually expanded to cover more special interest groups. After all, how many things can be justified under the “great object” of the “welfare of our country”? If a little funding for education is a good thing here, then why not a whole lot of it? Why not compulsory government education? If a little funding for postal roads is a good thing, then why not for transportation in general? Especially since the promotion of “commerce” was established already in general, why not extend that principle to cover more convenient transportation of goods for those subsidized groups. Indeed this is exactly what happened: roads, bridges, canals, locks, dams, and eventually the mother of all public-private schemes of the nineteenth century, railroads.

Both major parties embraced such schemes from early on. Jefferson’s treasury secretary proposed a system of tax funded waterways, and nationalists like Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams favored a whole system of internal improvements including transportation in general.2 Early turnpike projects gained State charters, and in some cases State funding. The Eerie canal was built based on State bonds floated under the persuasion of DeWitt Clinton.3 Chamberlain concludes candidly that

the American people, though they had resented British mercantilism, were not averse to government help when it came to getting goods to market. . . . As in Britain, the pertinacity of businessmen seeking a profit contributed significantly to what modern economists choose to call the “public sector” of the economy.4

And again, this was often if not almost always justified by some appeal to the common good or the welfare of the nation. Well, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The sayers, however, have neglected to mention that the pavers are government employees, and that those “good” intentions are funded via hell’s most egregious abuse, the public treasury.

The Destructive Power of the Commerce Clause

No area of American life displays this abuse more systematically than the progressive tyranny that has ratcheted up from the Commerce Clause of the U. S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3). The Article empowers Congress “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The abuse has grown most particularly in regard to commerce “among the several States.” Throughout American history, Congress has employed this Clause gradually to expand Federal control over every area of life. For the most part, the Courts have approved.

We have said quite a bit already about John Marshall legislating Hamilton’s (and the Federalists’ in general) agenda from the bench and how this included centralized control over State power in courts, banking, taxation, and many other issues, including commerce. The Constitutional issue came to the fore in a 1995 Supreme Court case which rehearsed a decent amount of the history in this regard. The case was United States v. Lopez (1995). Sure enough, the history begins with Marshall.

It was Marshall who vehemently upheld Congress’ right to regulate Interstate Commerce. In 1824 he decided Gibbons v. Ogden. This landmark case confirmed that control of commerce was a primary motive of the centralizing instrument, the Constitution. Earlier we reviewed Madison’s comments in regard to New York and the real purposes of the Constitution: “which was among other things to take from that State the important power over its commerce.” In Gibbons v. Ogden we hear Marshall summarizing the same sentiment:

Few things were better known, than the immediate causes which led to the adoption of the present constitution; and he [the plaintiff, on the nationalist side of the case] thought nothing clearer, than that the prevailing motive was to regulate commerce. . . . The great objects were commerce and revenue; and they were objects indissolubly connected.

Again, “In the history of the times, it was accordingly found, that the great topic, urged on all occasions, as showing the necessity of a new and different government, was the state of trade and commerce.” Marshall reviews historical evidence backing this claim and concludes,

We do not find, in the history of the formation and adoption of the constitution, that any man speaks of a general concurrent power, in the regulation of foreign and domestic trade, as still residing in the States. The very object intended, more than any other, was to take away such power.

Such quotations are multiplied throughout the decision. Marshall saw it important to solidify national control in this area, and specifically to limit the role of individual States. For States to share in the power, Marshall concluded, “is insidious and dangerous.” He warned of a slippery slope: “If it be admitted, no one can say where it will stop.”

Of course, slippery slopes may run both ways. The same argument can be put against Marshall’s centralized system: once Congress begins to regulate this and regulate that aspect of commerce, no one can say where it will stop. It’s one thing to strike down shipping monopolies one State grants to cargo ships travelling interstate waters (the subject in dispute in Gibbons). It’s quite another thing to argue that the federal government can intrude into local schools based on defining “education” as “commerce,” declaring potential crime in schools as a threat to the insurance industry (commerce), and the idea that any threat to education is a threat to the economy in general. Yet this latter is exactly what the government argued in 1995 in U. S. v. Lopez. Thankfully, the Supreme Court acknowledged, finally, that there has to be some limit on the federal power; the government had gone too far in regard to interstate commerce in this case, and the Court decided against the U. S.

Nevertheless, Marshall himself had expressed that this power is unlimited: “This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution.”  The Lopez decision rehearses the long train of compromises, abuses, and usurpations which have grown up upon the Constitutional power since Marshall’s 1824 decision:

For nearly a century thereafter, the Court’s Commerce Clause decisions dealt but rarely with the extent of Congress’ power, and almost entirely with the Commerce Clause as a limit on state legislation that discriminated against interstate commerce. . . .

In 1887, Congress enacted the Interstate Commerce Act, and in 1890, Congress enacted the Sherman Antitrust Act, as amended. These laws ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce power. When cases involving these laws first reached this Court, we imported from our negative Commerce Clause cases the approach that Congress could not regulate activities such as “production,” “manufacturing,” and “mining.”5

In other words, even though this legislation increased tyranny, it still formally retained a view of limits upon Congress’ power. But it was the first step toward serious compromise:

Simultaneously, however, the Court held that, where the interstate and intrastate aspects of commerce were so mingled together that full regulation of interstate commerce required incidental regulation of intrastate commerce, the Commerce Clause authorized such regulation.

This arrangement lasted only until FDR’s New Deal legislation moved to enforce labor and wage laws, and another new era was in view. The Courts at first struck these down:

In A. L. A. Schecter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935), the Court struck down regulations that fixed the hours and wages of individuals employed by an intrastate business because the activity being regulated related to interstate commerce only indirectly. . . . Activities that affected interstate commerce directly were within Congress’ power; activities that affected interstate commerce indirectly were beyond Congress’ reach. . . . The justification for this formal distinction was rooted in the fear that otherwise “there would be virtually no limit to the federal power and for all practical purposes we should have a completely centralized government.”

This decision was actually a death blow to FDR’s New Deal legislation, for a moment. FDR and the progressive tyrants had no use for “limit to the federal power” in any way; this is when his great pressure on the Courts began. Sadly, the same Court that rejected the Deal as unconstitutional in 1935 melted enough under pressure by 1937 to allow for radical reinterpretation:

Two years later, in the watershed case of NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937), the Court upheld the National Labor Relations Act against a Commerce Clause challenge, and in the process, departed from the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” effects on interstate commerce. . . . The Court held that intrastate activities that “have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens and obstructions” are within Congress’ power to regulate. . . . [Emphasis added.]

The dikes were thus exploded, and thus came the flood:

In United States v. Darby (1941), the Court upheld the Fair Labor Standards Act, stating:

“The power of Congress over interstate commerce is not confined to the regulation of commerce among the states. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce or the exercise of the power of Congress over it as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the exercise of the granted power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.” . . .

See also United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co. (1942) (the commerce power “extends to those intrastate activities which in a substantial way interfere with or obstruct the exercise of the granted power”).

In Wickard v. Filburn, the Court upheld the application of amendments to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 to the production and consumption of home-grown wheat. The Wickard Court explicitly rejected earlier distinctions between direct and indirect effects on interstate commerce, stating:

“[E]ven if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect.’”

[In other words, the New Deal Court completely ignored judicial precedent.]

The Wickard Court emphasized that although Filburn’s own contribution to the demand for wheat may have been trivial by itself, that was not “enough to remove him from the scope of federal regulation where, as here, his contribution, taken together with that of many others similarly situated, is far from trivial.”

Jones & Laughlin Steel, Darby, and Wickard ushered in an era of Commerce Clause jurisprudence that greatly expanded the previously defined authority of Congress under that Clause. In part, this was a recognition of the great changes that had occurred in the way business was carried on in this country. Enterprises that had once been local or at most regional in nature had become national in scope. But the doctrinal change also reflected a view that earlier Commerce Clause cases artificially had constrained the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

Thus the Commerce Clause has provided us the avenue to tyranny, a highway to hell. And sure enough, Marshall’s grant of unlimited power was based upon the same allegedly good intention: “the only remedy has been applied which the case admits of; that of a frank and candid co-operation for the general good.”

As Gabriel Kolko’s book The Triumph of Conservatism (by “Conservatism” he means big-business-big-government partnership) makes clear, it was the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans, etc., who used Interstate Commerce regulation to secure fat business contracts and monopolies at the expense of tax payers and small businesses, all in the name of trust-busting, stabilization, and controlling costs. During this era,

The federal government, rather than being a source of negative opposition, always represented a potential source of economic gain. The railroads, of course, had used the federal and local governments for subsidies and land grants. But various other industries appreciated the desirability of proper tariffs, direct subsidies in a few instances, government-owned natural resources, or monopolistic privileges possible in certain federal charters or regulations. . . .

It was perfectly logical that industrialists who had spent years attempting to solve their economic problems by centralization should have been willing to resort to political centralization as well.6

This is exactly what they did. Beginning with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1887 (as the Lopez case also noted above), the big-business magnates used government regulation to squeeze out smaller competitors.

Once the bureaucracies were in place, it made little difference who or what party took office. Thus, when the conservative Democrat Grover Cleveland took office, Andrew Carnegie’s partner Henry Clay Frick glossed, “I am very sorry for President Harrison . . . but I cannot see that our interests are going to be affected one way or the other by the change in administration.”7

Kolko notes the resilience of free enterprise despite increasing encroachments from the big-corporate-big finance-state alliance. After surveying the industries of iron and steel, oil, automobiles, agricultural machinery, telephones, copper, and meat packing up until 1890, he is able to conclude that decentralized competition ruled the day despite efforts of major financiers to consolidate and monopolize the trades:

The failure of the merger movement to attain control over the economic conditions in the various industries was brought about by the inability of the consolidated firms to attain sufficient technological advantages or economies of size over their smaller competitors—contrary to common belief and the promises of promoters.8

The big financiers—J. P. Morgan & Co., etc.—would not give up their quests for total domination simply because they could not win fairly in a free marketplace. They had no qualms at all about turning to government intervention and regulation. Thus, in the period immediately following the failed merger movement—the beginning of the twentieth century—we saw a rise in Progressive government domination. Indeed, “The dominant fact of American political life at the beginning of this century was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy.”9 So we return to our earlier statement about covetousness and greed armed with the guns of government. Big business interests simply have used government coercion as a means of gaining market advantage and forcing out smaller competitors.

And the big business was not shy about admitting their agenda clearly. For example, J. P. Morgan owned the agricultural machine company International Harvester. After Teddy Roosevelt established the Bureau of Corporations—designed allegedly to investigate and expose any monopolistic powers on the part of big-corporations—IH came under suspicion and an investigation was ordered. The matter was a joke, for IH already had a back-room deal with the administration that an informal warning would give time to correct any “illegal” activity in the mean time. Indeed, IH’s lawyer told the administration that the company welcomed exposure showing actual losses on the Company’s behalf, “for then they would have just ground for raising American prices.”10 The Company was quite serious, for the sanction from the federal Bureau’s reports enabled the company to raise prices and yet “to prevent attacks from less friendly parties, and as a general shield.”11

Noticeable also in this respect were the massive railroad companies. Not only had they used “federal and local governments for subsidies and land grants” from early on, but “railroads themselves had been the leading advocates of extended federal legislation after 1887.”12 Indeed, the railroads wanted to use federal authority to guarantee their pooling agreements and thus free them from the disruptive pressures and temptations of the market.”13 The railroad-State alliance alone needs its own detailed study in this regard.

What has been said so far is a large part of the reason it is such a joke when leftists today rail against free market principles as the cause of historic inequality, class warfare, and all our economic woes. There has been very little “free market” to begin with; this country hasn’t had free markets very often at all, historically speaking. And the “capitalism” of the big bank-government collusion that we have today is hardly free-market capitalism. It’s rigged state capitalism, which is to say it’s socialistic to a large degree.

This arrangement extends into every industry and trade from finance to agriculture. Far from basic biblical protection of private property and enforcement of contracts, our governments have too often redistributed property in various ways (sometimes under the guise of free-market capitalism) and led the way in ignoring contracts. We have seen here only a smidgeon of how American governments have done so.

The solution is not what the leftists say—it’s not more government control and wealth redistribution. We’ve had enough of that already. Leftists just want to change the recipients of State welfare from the corporations to the masses. Nor is this to say big corporations are inherently evil in themselves—they are not of necessity. Proponents of the free market, however, want to establish true private property and abolish the state-enforced welfare scheme altogether—for the masses and the pet businesses. We’ll discuss a little more about that in the next section.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: Putting the “free” back in free markets

Notes:

  1. See Gary North, Puritan Economic Experiments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), 5–9.
  2. John Chamberlain, The Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 63–6.
  3. Chamberlain, 67–8.
  4. Chamberlain, 64–5.
  5. Emphasis added.
  6. Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916 (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1963), 59–60.
  7. Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916, 62.
  8. Kolko, 55.
  9. Kolko, 57–8.
  10. See Kolko, 119–120.
  11. Kolko, 120.
  12. Kolko, 59.
  13. Stephen Skowronek, Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877–1920 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 129.
Categories: Worldview

Report from the Abolish Human Abortion Texas Conference and Rally

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 13:28

If you are not aware of what the Abortion Abolitionist movement is doing, you need to be. This is a seed that has grown into a sapling and has potential to bear fruit for life and the healing of the nations in the Kingdom. There is much work to be done, but this is a great start.

I left my house at 4am last Friday, and arrived back home at 12:30am this morning, all in support of Texas HB 948, to Abolish Human Abortion in total, now.

During this mission to the Abolish Human Abortion Texas conference and rally, a large group of Abortion Abolitionists marched 2.3 miles through downtown Austin chanting, “Equal Justice, Equal Protection; We the people demand abolition,” among other things, handing out tracts and cards along the way. Hundreds of heads turned and smartphones were held aloft all along the way, while shouts of support competed with rabid feminist taunts of “my body” and middle fingers.

As we arrived at the capitol building, we entered an even larger throng of Abolitionists chanting the haunting song “A Voice as Strong as Thunder,” while a shofar blew in the distance, applause and cheers ascended, and tears were being shed. About 1,000 serious souls sent up war cries, praise, and prayer, creating a mixture of solemn silence and loud anticipation.

For the next hour or so, several people, leaders, and supporters, as well as the seven co-authors of the Bill, spoke and rallied at the capitol building. We learned that this bill was just referred to the State Affairs Committee, and that the next action step is to pressure the Chairman of that Committee to give it a hearing. Learn about that here.

The pro-infanticide, pro-abort, pro-murder forces have already arrayed against this. While the early reports are that calls coming into the capitol are overwhelmingly against the bill, the secretary also added that most of those calls are from out of state. In-state calls are supported, but are being drowned out by organized out-of-state pro-abort forces. We need to fight back. Even if you’re not in Texas, you can counteract the nationwide cult of death by calling into the Texas State Affairs Committee in support of HB 948.

Why would you want to do this? First, because you are a Christian. You love your neighbors—the Abolitionists fighting and the unborn ones.

Second, because it will help end abortion in your state, too. The Abolish Human Abortion movement is built on a radically decentralized model that focuses on individual, local, and state level efforts. I have written about the power and viability of this model in Restoring America One County at a Time. In short, what’s being exercised in Texas right now (and also in Idaho and other places), can and will be exported to every State in this nation in order to Abolish Human Abortion totally and End Abortion Now. Your help and participation in supporting others’ state efforts now is key to building the momentum toward similar efforts around the country.

Third, because the “traditional” pro-life movement has utterly failed. It has failed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because “incrementalism” is a method which generally only works for evil causes, not righteous ones. While that may sound shocking to many of you, I explain a little bit of why in the brief exhortation I gave the conference yesterday, called “Crumbs, Dust, and Trigger Words.” Watch what was captured of it (most) below.

Fourth, you should do it because, as Bojidar Marinov shared with us, the biblical message and mission is one of optimism: the future is ours. The only sure way to fail is not to try. The only way to win is to be involved. Get involved.

Spend a little time today scrolling the Abolish Human Abortion Facebook page, watch most of the several talks at this weekend’s conference (all great and inspiring!), and make sure to call the Committee in Texas. Get involved, then look for an Abolitionist group in your area.

(Apologies: the first few minutes were beset by technical difficulties. Also, the background noise near the end was the rythmic praise and worship from a church meeting in the next conference room—but the timing was perfect

Categories: Worldview

Why facts don’t matter (and why you’re probably to blame, too)

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:35

We’ve all experienced it: that intellectual zombie who persists doggedly in their obvious error no matter how many facts you show to them. No matter how much reason, logic, truth, and evidence you may place right before their eyes, they are impervious. In fact, it seems they only entrench themselves further. Facts don’t seem to matter.

Whether in the area of politics, religion, economics, history, law, sports, music, art, social issues, racism—you name it—we’ve all experienced this, and probably in more than one, in not all, of these areas. What’s up with some people?

The truth is, it’s not just “some” people, it is virtually all.

Yesterday, I began reading series of articles and studies on “confirmation bias” that, quite frankly, I think should be part of every homeschool curriculum (and every other curricula, including seminaries). These studies began in the mid-1970s. A recent article in The New Yorker outlines some of them well:

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. (This, it turned out, was also a deception.) Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and how many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student—even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.

“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

In a second study, students were given very limited profiles of two firefighters and asked to form judgements about them. They did. Upon being told, however, that the information given them was totally false, the students still persisted in holding the same judgments they had formed about firefighters. The article relates the study’s conclusion:

Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.

If it were but a few studies from the 70s, we might think little of it. But even beyond our own experiences, these studies have now been replicated thousands of times in controlled and peer-reviewed settings:

Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now.

Honestly, it doesn’t take any psychology or grad study. It just takes about four minutes on Facebook.

The problem with the studies and the articles (this one in particular) is that they default to evolutionary explanations. We were once brute beasts and tribal-clan hunter-gatherers. Reason and logic did not evolve for reasons of independent thinking and intellectual analysis of principle, but only for surviving in collaborative groups on the African savannah.

Of course, we know this has the cart ahead of horse, along with all the other problems of presupposed secular humanism, naturalism, etc. God created mankind in His image, endowed with reason and logic precisely for purposes of distinction and discernment. The first command assumes this: of any tree in the garden you may eat, but not of that tree.

The refusal to exercise reason and logic with evidence, or more particularly, to pervert them with reference to glorifying the self and becoming like God, was the foundation of the fall of man. The fallen nature with which we all now struggle is a wicked combination of selfishness and self-loathing, predation and self-victimization, abuse and self-pity, self-worship and misanthropy, recklessness and fear, blame and self-righteousness, rebellion and conformity, autonomy and socialism, false witness and hypersensitivity to criticism . . . we could go on. Even Christians struggle with this nature after conversion—we are prone and liable to the problem like anyone else.

In this condition, virtually any and every disagreement devolves into taking sides. Minds get made up in a number of fallacious ways, and without intense self-control and humility, for the vast majority of people, facts don’t matter. What matters is that their mind has been made up already—no matter how, or how wrongly.

At this point, the only way to win arguments—and don’t think for a moment that just because facts don’t matter, we don’t still want desperately to win arguments—is by demonizing the other side. We call names, create straw men, even lie outright.

Thus for some Arminians, Calvinists are one step away from being sadistic, psychopathic murderers, just like Calvin. For Calvinists, Arminians are one-step-removed humanists who put themselves in the place of God. Fundamentalists think Reformed folk are all liberals, or will be soon, who blindly baptize unregenerate babies; Reformed folk think of themselves more as Fundamentalists who got an education and wear shoes. Each maintains an exalted sense of self, and a warped sense of the other.

In fact, some of you may be a little rankled right now because you’re a Baptist, and you think I just took a little harsher shot at Baptists than I did at Presbyterians. Unfair!

Trump probably really could gun someone down in broad daylight and lose no support. Facts don’t matter. No matter how many times he gaffes and even lies and is exposed across the new media, he’s Jesus to some people, and debunking him only makes them love him more. No matter how many times Hillary or Obama—or every other politician (Ron Paul excepted)—was proven a liar, con artist, swindler, and subversive, facts don’t matter. Allegiance does. Exposing them only makes their masses love them more and hate you more greatly.

Likewise on social issues. The mind made up is impervious to facts about racism, immigration, economics, education, and a thousand other issues. Take ten minutes and watch this clip: watch a libertarian totally eviscerate a statist conservative on immigration using reputable stats, facts, reason, and logic while the interviewer stutters and is reduced to ridicule based on no evidence and personal prejudice. His mind is made up: facts don’t matter. No matter how many facts disprove his theory, he will not concede, but instead entrenches himself and demonizes the more informed man as superstitious, untrue, devoted to error, oblivious, unwilling to admit. After all, he’s a L-L-Libertarian. Loser!

Nationalists and others opposed to immigration will view this and say I’m a loon. My analysis of who won the argument is clearly biased and I am living in a libertarian la-la-land where butthurt snowflakes go to escape the harsh reality of the real world where real men with a pair fight like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator.

Some readers will be so intensely beset by the phenomenon that they will only take away from this article my exception of Ron Paul as a glaring example of my own bias. Paulbot! More proof that I’m an incorrigible, closet Libertarian. Such readers will see nothing of themselves in any of this.

When thinking of such things, I am always reminded of a quotation from an essay by a young John Adams:

Let me conclude, by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked [Jer. 17:9]. Let them consider how extremely addicted they are to magnify and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others. They ought, therefore, to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions and prejudices and interests are concerned, to desire to judge for themselves in their own causes, and to take their own satisfactions for wrongs and injuries of any kind.1

That this phenomenon, as it is, exists is problem enough. What’s worse, though, is that when we don’t look into our own hearts, we end up creating whole cliques, movements, groups, and even cultures based upon this aspect of our fallen nature and its polarizing, demonizing tendencies.

Thus, a simple set of personal grievances, or disagreements, can be blown into a whole series of myths and lies about another movement or ministry. Once minds are made up—it does not matter how or on what false witness—no amount of facts can prevail. The warped mind will always find that tiny sliver of yet-unproven real estate, against forty acres of facts, in order to justify its warp. When even that sliver erodes, the warped will resort to name calling, projection, and whatever else it can get away with.

In society and politics, it manifests in polarized sides repeating their mantras to their loyal followings ad infinitum. It won’t matter how much they get exposed as liars or biased bloats, their following is content to rail all critics as liars, frauds, and fruit loops. Facts don’t matter.

What results is collections of news agencies pointing fingers at each other calling each other “Fake News.” It is left to the masses to determine who the real fake news is, and they decide largely based on their predetermined loyalties, or merely default opposite the side they hate.

There is no news reporting any more. It’s all fake news now. The truth is, it always was.

The greatest and most discouraging angle, however, is, what we might call deep fake news. That’s right. This is the world of purposeful propaganda. Elites and movers-and-shakers have known about this phenomenon for ages, and they try purposefully to control and exploit it. Just listen to Machiavelli:

[M]en judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on.

It behooves a would-be ruler (or would-be leader in any capacity) to use the biases of the masses, and especially the power of this phenomenon of “confirmation bias,” in his favor. By means of the “opinion of the many,” he can insulate himself against criticism, and even marginalize and destroy his critics, or at least render them a laughingstock.

The problem is, when he lets such ends justify such means, it is not only critics but truth that gets squashed. Such a man may successfully insulate himself from other men, but not from God.

There is no quick remedy for this save the Holy Spirit himself. As day-to-day Christians, though, it is incumbent upon us to live as resurrected saints, mortifying the fallen nature and the works of the flesh. This means we must become and remain mindful of our propensities in this area, and dare to discover how we, too, have behaved in this way: believing falsehoods and even outright lies on little-no-no evidence, or interpreting evidence only in a biased way that confirms our suspicions, refusing to let facts change our minds, refusing to make difficult decisions due to old loyalties, affections, or allegiances.

We also need to find ways to address conflicts among ourselves that don’t resort to name-calling, degrading memes, slander, projecting, and other polarizing affronts.

We also need to check our motives. Why, after all, are we even engaged? Maybe controlling the narrative becomes a consuming focus, it has become the contest itself, and this is not just allowing the end to justify the means, it is making the means itself an end. I am not sure what good can come of that. At best, it is a waste of valuable time and resources.

But mostly we need to check our hearts, and open our minds to correction. At the very least, open your mind to information. There are a great many things we need to learn. Unfortunately, in a polarized, paranoid world full of confirmation bias, most people read in order to refute, not to learn, not even with the possibility of learning. Most people don’t listen; they are formulating their statement, rebuttal, refutation while you are speaking to them. They didn’t hear a word you said because they’re crafting how to say what you said was wrong.

This is not the way it is intended to be. It is the way fallen men have made it.

Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices (Eccl. 7:29).

Part of our job as Christians is meekness and self-control. To me, these are among the greatest bravery and manliness of our time. They will lead us into great new frontiers if we will exercise them. You just have to be brave enough to challenge yourself and to change your mind along the way.

  1. John Adams, in The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, ed. C. Bradley Thompson (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2000), 17.
Categories: Worldview

Freedom in the marketplace

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:57

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 7: Markets

7.1 True Freedom in the Marketplace

The biblical prescription for markets and business is very simple: non-violence, enforcement of property rights, and enforcement of contracts. These principles are, of course, directly derived from three of the Ten Commandments: you shall not murder, you shall not steal, and you shall not bear false witness. Not only are they among the Ten, they all come from the second table of the law which is man’s “kingly” duty—laws that primarily relate to man’s relationship to man in society.1 In brief, a biblical civil society is one in which people are legally free to engage in business and commerce in any way that does not violate their neighbor’s person or property—life, liberty, or estate. Conversely, this means that individuals have a fundamental right to be free from coercion by others in these same areas. These are basics of God’s law.

The general right to freedom from coercion forbids State coercion as well.2 Civil government should not be in the business of coercing markets: supporting some or all businesses through subsidies, taxation, protections, price controls, or any of the other various loopholes or exceptions that may exist. Civil government “bears the sword” because it is “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). It is thus an agency of the use of force to punish crime— “crime” being defined primarily as certain incarnate infractions of the three commandments mentioned already.3  Civil government should be involved only in this endeavor, and not in the promotion of favored businesses, corporations, the regulation of markets, etc. Individuals and businesses alike have a fundamental right to be free from the coercion of the State in all legitimate business and market matters.

The moment the State engages in manipulating the markets, it infuses a moral evil into society. This almost always produces negative practical results as well; these can be seen as God’s judgment on a society which departs from His law. But such results are not the main reason to keep markets free—this would be a merely pragmatic argument. The main reason is because God has created and commanded men to be free: to own property, to engage in production and exchange, to reap the fruits and rewards of these efforts, or, should it be the case, to bear the consequences of those efforts. Individual responsibility goes both ways: no one else has a legal right to the fruit of your labor, you have no legal right to anyone else’s, and no one else has a legal obligation to subsidize your failures or shortcomings. Legally speaking, “free markets” is the biblical view of markets. Anything short of this is evil—even the slightest regulation.

This means, further, that no level of civil government should be able to tell you whom you can or can’t hire, how you must compensate them, what benefits you must provide them, to whom you must provide goods or services, where you may or may not build or operate, or things of this nature. Nor should civil government be allowed to use public funds to enter into the markets—either directly through ownership and operation, or indirectly through planning and contracts. This includes all construction, engineering, architecture, utilities, inspection services, legal services, financing services, and of course, education, as well as anything else. The moment the government enters the markets with public money, with regulation, the markets become distorted and can certainly no longer be called free. Instead, they must be admitted, at that point, to be to some degree rigged markets.

Taxation and the Market

We should back up a step at this point: in truth, the moment the government appropriates funds via taxation (by whatever name), the fundamental distortion has already been committed. This takes money from the economy in one area, to be used in another area as determined by the government. This has some negative effects: first, it reduces freedom in that money which is taken through government coercion would otherwise have been used freely by the individual or corporation. The individual now has no (or very little) say over how their money will be spent. Further, the individual also loses any interest he or she would otherwise have earned should they have chosen to invest that money. Also, the reduction of liberty has an attendant increase in coercion. Not only is a central agency now forcing you to spend money in ways you don’t determine and with which you may not agree, but the whole process can only begin when the government takes your money to begin with. This taking is a form of violence. Worse yet, this sets a social precedent for how any given agenda or project may in fact succeed: through the initial and sustained violence committed by government agents.

Second, this practice feeds and breeds of a class of opportunists who rely heavily on government grants and contracts for their market livelihood. On one level, it leads to the rise of such a class which otherwise would not have had as many market opportunities had not the government provided them through coercive means. This means a class of businesses will thrive and grow which otherwise might have remained much smaller, while other types of businesses that may have arisen in a free market will never appear or will be squeezed out. On another level, since most “government projects” are large-scale, only larger companies even within the same industry will qualify to compete for the contracts. This subsidizes “big” business and withholds opportunities from the little guy to which he may otherwise have had access. Thus, government contracts tend to prosper not only certain businesses as opposed to others, but often certain big businesses as opposed to smaller.

With the rise of such big parasites comes a great moral hazard—the risk of a system of graft becoming self-perpetuating. When such a company grows largely due to infusions of tax money through government contracts, then the only way it will often be able to sustain its operations is through similar contracts in the future. In short, once created, monsters have big appetites. And more often than not, the monster will not sit and wait, but will go hunt to find its own food. Big government-contracted businesses then have an incentive to promote projects, suggest projects, foster conditions in which new public projects become “necessary” or “in the public interest,” and possibly even instigate crises—all by which their companies may grab new contracts to feed the beast.

Such moral hazard also breeds political problems. Large companies often employ large numbers of people. Thus, not providing more government contracts would mean potentially laying off thousands of people. Now you have a graft problem supported by a political obstacle. Thus do large voting blocks grow dependent upon tax-funded projects, and become special interests which sway elections.

Murray Rothbard relates some of the mane ways government market interventions have affected our society:

Urban planning has controlled and regulated the cities. Zoning laws have ringed housing and land use with innumerable restrictions. Property taxes have crippled urban development and forced abandonment of houses. Building codes have restricted housing construction and made it more costly. Urban renewal has provided massive subsidies to real estate developers, forced the bulldozing of apartments and rental stores, lowered the supply of housing, and intensified racial discrimination. Extensive government loans have generated overbuilding in the suburbs. Rent controls have created apartment shortages and reduced the supply of residential housing.4

All of these represent destructions of liberty and property. And all of this starts with one initial act of violence—coercive taxation—on the part of the civil government. As they say, violence begets violence.

All of this is to say that not only is government manipulation of markets unbiblical in principle, but it also has adverse pragmatic effects as the principle of entitlement through violence becomes the norm for society.

Markets in America

How have free markets thrived historically in America? Much like we discussed with the topics of taxation and money, America has never had truly free markets, at least not across the board. Of course, since both taxation and money and banking lie at the heart of commerce, any lack of integrity in those areas will reflect in direct proportion to the lack of freedom in markets. But just as we saw with those areas, markets have at least been much freer in many ways than they are today.

Perhaps the best single study of business development and entrepreneurship in American history is John Chamberlain’s The Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States.5 Chamberlain takes the story from colonial times up through World War II and a little past. He wrote specifically to fill a void in American historiography at the time: to confront the old, and more often than not false, leftist caricature of American entrepreneurs and businessmen as “robber barons.” Chamberlain rather more properly provides “a history that which would treat business as a prime creative force” in society.6

As we have discussed earlier, most of early America was settled as land grants from the crown. The governors and trustees of these grants then surveyed and allotted smaller grants of local lands to settlers who would cultivate the land, oftentimes using enticements of free land or property tax exemptions for several years to entice settlers to come. There were certainly also more ambitious types with visions of town planning, and leveraging port cities as centers of trade.7 Merchant classes arose, as did other forms of middle class achievement.

In early America, two famous examples will serve as good illustrations—though with a little bit of the “warts and all” we encountered earlier. The classic self-made boot-strapper is Benjamin Franklin. One of seventeen children born to a Puritan immigrant family, Franklin started with next to nothing and built himself into perhaps the most famous man in the western world before the Revolution. He started with an apprenticeship in his brother’s printing business, went through several rocky perambulations, and ended with his own printing business as well as scientific advancements, discoveries, and inventions (not to mention his vast political works). And yet what is commonly not stressed is that Franklin never missed an opportunity to leverage government power to tilt the markets in his favor. His business’s first major achievement was publically to shame the existing “public printer” in Philadelphia and swipe away that company’s lucrative post. He then entered the political arena for his own benefit: he published a tract on the hot issue of a new inflation of paper money in Pennsylvania (1729). The tract was in favor of inflation and was key to getting the measure through the Assembly. Not ironically, the contract to print the new paper money was immediately given to Franklin’s company. Franklin called it “a very profitable job and a great help to me.”8 Franklin and government power are rarely seen apart for the rest of his life.

On the other hand is the early life of our second example—the later arch-nationalist and nemesis from earlier chapters, Alexander Hamilton. As we mentioned before, he was an illegitimate child who was subsequently orphaned by age twelve. Whereas Franklin at least had sound if meager beginnings, the odds were totally stacked against Hamilton. Like Franklin, he was largely self-educated through voracious reading, and gifted with an enormous intellect. He was surely destined for greatness in the merchant classes, but as we saw, grew bored of accounting. Having read the classics, he lusted for military and stately fame. He got the whole classic shebang—including an ending straight out of a Greek tragedy.

In both of these great figures we see the ability to start with nothing and work one’s way to success—the classic American dream. In the case of each, ambition and lust for fame drove them to chase State power for themselves and their agendas. And yet, in regard to the original achievement of success in the marketplace, neither man needed nor profited from the intervention of the State. This is especially true for Hamilton who could have used a State-run welfare system at one time, but instead profited greatly by the private charity of the merchants who took him in without having to do so.

Through American history, you will find essentially three attitudes towards the market. There are actually only two, but one side breaks into two more. You have noninterventionists and two varieties of interventionists—left and right. Chamberlain captures the image of the early self-sufficient, non-interventionist types of American lore:

The mystery—and  miracle—of early America is that people went to places before there was any way to get there—and took care of their transportation and marketing needs afterward. They followed Boone’s old trace to the Cumberland Gap and moved by Indian trails to the open “streets” trampled by the buffalo. They clawed their way over the Alleghenies, following the ridges above the tributaries of the  Susquehanna and the Monongahela—and when they couldn’t find a way of getting their corn or wheat to market because of its bulk, they distilled it into whisky and shipped it back to civilization by pack horse. Pioneers settled in Marietta and Cincinnati (once called Columbia ) on the Ohio River somehow—and once in the West, and presumably “cut off” from their old homes, they made seagoing ships that actually sailed all the way back to the Atlantic by way of the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. In less exalted fashion they used crude flatboats to get their produce to New Orleans, returning overland by the Natchez Trace, a devious wilderness road where they risked losing the profits of their husbandry to a new breed of land pirate that infested the gloomy woods and canebrakes.9

The other two groups we have already essentially discussed—their decedents became the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. In promise, they each offer only relative improvements upon the other, and in practice, both resorted to centralization and leveraging of government power to subsidized favored industries, impose tariffs, taxes, deficit spending, etc. Neither side, despite any lip service to liberty or free trade, stood on principle in the area of free markets.

Nevertheless, two great successes for market freedom occurred in that founding era. The first came with the Constitution, and the other came with the rise of industry. First, the Constitution created the largest free-trade zone in the world. This is perhaps the most important advance in the western world next to the optimistic Christian worldview which made it possible. By unifying interstate commerce and eliminating potential trade wars and turf wars between States, the Constitution achieved this goal.

This was a consequence of the Constitution; however, we should note that it certainly would not have required the imposition of the whole Constitutional settlement to bring it to pass, and in fact we shall see how that whole fabric has actually abetted the gradual centralization of commerce that has occurred since. It would have only necessitated at the most a tweak of the Articles of Confederation, or else a Congressionally approved treaty signed by any State that wished to participate (and few would have declined, all else being equal) to bring about the desired results. In fact, an early attempt at solving some of these issues more locally could have been a successful model: the 1785 Mt. Vernon Compact was an agreement reached between a few representatives of Maryland and Virginia during a meeting at George Washington’s house. It was essentially a free trade agreement between the states and agreed to share the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers. It could not have been a legal treaty, of course, since the Articles forbid interstate treaties not approved by Congress; but the proposal and the agreement were certainly a model for success. But instead of pursuing this route which would remained uncoupled with greater political centralization, the gentlemen involved decided to have a bigger, better version of the Conference with all the States. This occurred the following year at Annapolis but was largely a failure due to low attendance from several States. A bigger, better Conference yet was pushed for by a small group of men, and achieved. This led to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, but by now the nationalist coup was tightly in control. Out of this came the Constitution and the system we have today. We will discuss more about this later.

The second major event was the industrial revolution. Vast increases in technology, manufacturing, transportation, and communications in a short period of time totally transformed production, lowered prices on consumer goods, and increased standards of living. Chamberlain provides a great example in one vignette:

The year is 1803, and Terry, the teacher of a long line of Yankee clockmakers, is already making clocks in his Naugatuck Valley [CT] factory for which he has no storage space. With four clocks ready for sale Terry has to tear himself away from his mill, load the clocks into saddlebags, and take off over the hills toward “York State,” walking beside his horse because the load is too heavy to permit a passenger. The clocks are offered at $25 each on the installment plan; when cash is entirely lacking they are “sold” for corn meal, beeswax, sailcloth, or woven cloth, commodities that can be bartered on the way home or passed on to workmen in lieu of cash wages. Four years later Terry has a bigger mill—and has adopted the full Eli Whitney technique of punching out standardized and interchangeable wheels and clock faces. He is now prepared to sell a clock for $5. . . .10

Thus in a mere four years did production techniques drop his product price by 80 percent. As soon as transportation caught up with the revolution—better roads, canals, the steam boat—sales would increase heavily.

Of course, the process of developing these roads, canals, etc., as well as many other big ventures, was hardly left to free markets alone. In many, many cases, companies took loans and grants from the government, secured monopolies and thus profits based on government intervention. But even in an atmosphere of rigged markets, the free market was always close, ready and often successful with competition and alternatives. Chamberlain relates this throughout American history:

Monopolies—oil was the most notorious of them—waxed fat only to recede into the pack, sometimes pursued by antitrust laws, as later arrivals came on the scene. Meanwhile new products and processes continually rose to compete with the old. Aluminum, even when there was only one company in the field, had to fight it out with wood at one extreme and steel at the other. Du Pont artificial fibers freed the textile business from dependence on cotton, silk, and wool. The railroads were controlled more effectively by competition from automobile and truck and airplane than they were by the ICC. From telephones to television, the electrical revolution leaped from dependence on wires to dependence on wave lengths in God’s free ether. Came, too, the supermarkets and consumer credit, washing machines, home freezers, and the split-level ranchhouse which never looked upon a longhorn steer.11

With successes such as these, both left and right interventionists have always been able to speak in favor of free market, but it’s always been largely an illusion on their part. Free markets persist in many ways not because of either major party, but mainly despite their various interventions. We can, however, say with confidence that the free market has historically prevailed more here in America than anywhere else. This is what has made her great and wealthy, and this is what has created the lasting reputation of America as a land of opportunity. The idea has been trampled many times, but it does shine through the cracks of the government superstructure that has so often overshadowed our greatest resource: the law of God, the belief in protecting private property, liberty, and life.

As well, we can say with confidence that average Americans once understood this and sought to practice it—private property, enforcement of contracts—beginning with their own bare hands. And when allowed to remain free, free markets have indeed worked and worked well. It took the efforts of many centralizers to railroad America into economic tyranny. We’ll tell that story in the next section.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: America’s “free” markets: the startling historical truth

Notes:

  1. This is distinguished from the first, or “priestly,” table which delineates man’s duty primarily to God. Thus Jesus said all of the law is summed up in the two greatest commandments: love the Lord you God with all your heart, etc. (priestly duty), and love your neighbor as yourself (civil duty) (Matt. 22:37–40).
  2. Excepting of course cases of punishment for crimes.
  3. And as specifically revealed in Scripture as punishable offenses.
  4. Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, 2nd Ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006), 93.
  5. 1961. Reprint, Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991.
  6. Chamberlain, xvii.
  7. See John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969).
  8. See Murray N. Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Volume 2, “Salutary Neglect”: The American Colonies in the First Half of the 18th Century (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers, 1975), 65–66.
  9. Chamberlain, 63.
  10. Chamberlain, 64.
  11. Chamberlain, The Enterprising Americans, xxii–xxiii.
Categories: Worldview

This is how you get a dictator

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:17

Way back in 2010, I predicted the TEA party would fail, and why. I was right (pat, pat). The same year, I posted an article called “Five Truths Republicans Hate.” The basic thread running through each of these wake-up calls is this: Republicans shout “socialism” when the left does its thing, but too many of them shout “more” when their own side does the same type of things. This, friends, is not only why we can’t have nice things—like freedom—it’s also how we get a dictator.

So, for example, when Obama brags about his “pen and phone,” Republicans shout “dictator!” “Tyrant!” But when Trump rules by fiat, too many of them beat their chests and shout, “hoorah!”

The move toward dictatorship creeps slowly. One side has power for a while, and gradually ratchets up power, gradually pushes the envelope of extraconstitutional powers, gradually accrues to the Executive greater breadth of power, gradually sets new precedents of tyranny. During this time, those who are partisan to the side in power work diligently to excuse, justify, and uphold all such actions as necessary, just, and right. They may even take the time to manufacture reasons why the extraconstitutional is actually constitutional—such has been the “wax nose” version of constitutional interpretation since Marshall and Hamilton.

During the same span, those opposed to the party in power will protest and flame the airwaves with shouts of “socialism,” “tyranny,” “dictator,” “out of control,” “Tenth Amendment,” “Constitution,” and maybe even an insincere flirt with “secession!”

But this will only last so long. When the sides flip at the next election, the roles almost immediately reverse. Two years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think that average liberals would have the words “Tenth Amendment,” “nullify,” and “secession” on their lips, but behold, “Calexit” is a real thing. Simultaneously, the Alt-Right emerged from the ashes of the TEA Party—and many more inglorious places—and is now playing the role of cheerleader to the new Demander in Chief. The new one, by the way, always has as his starting point the extraconstitutional precedents set by the old one—and he will springboard from them for his own agenda. If and when it is suggested he may be acting like the last dictator, or even worse, his actions are justified as “within the bounds of the law,” “law and order,” and “necessary to restore order.”

During his campaign, Trump famously bragged that his supporters were so loyal, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and gun someone down in cold blood—and they would still support him.

Many people accepted this as a joke. It was not a joke. And while I don’t think we have to worry about finding out whether they would actually support a Trump who committed murder (although every new president will now still be supported after their extra-judicial drone strikes), we will see this mind-numbingly irrational loyalty as they justify every step he will take trampling the Constitution in the name of “necessity” and “law and order.”

In fact, you don’t have to wait. After I wrote about Trump’s mindless, uninformed encouragement of police to ramp up civil asset forfeiture, I was utterly shocked by the people falling over each other not only to support him, but shrugging at the constitution, and even openly supporting the idea of having a dictator to “restore the republic.”

I am sorry that I do not have the time to sit here and type out the infinite number of exclamation points appropriate to punctuate that last sentence—but it needs them.

Here are a few examples of the sentiments expressed by such people who now feel empowered behind the wheel:

The problem is, sir, that this country has gotten SO bad, that the ONLY way to correct it, would [be] to get a dictator in there to do the job. Never again… I hope. But we are still going in the right direct now.

That sentiment is obvious: the leftists ruined the country so badly that we now need and should want a dictator to fix it! Of course, he’ll be a good dictator and just restore everything to the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. And since he’s so good, we shouldn’t mind letting him suspend the Constitution for the time being in order to get back to the Constitution.

I’d rather be gunned down by Trump in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

I have many times criticized the Right for its implicit practice of “My socialism is OK.” Now it has progressed to, “My dictator is OK.”

Another commenter made the same point, if only by implication:

It seems that the Soros financed thugs are doing everything to necessitate a police state. How on earth do you deal with drugged up incoherent violent protestors who never stop? Combined that with the eight year push for open boarders and refugee invasion from Muslim countries to the western world, BLM calling for violence against police and white people, and a growing population of mind controlled youth, how is a conservative president expected to uphold the law and insure the protection of law abiding CITIZENS and legal residents?

So we can excuse our dictator’s actions by blaming the resulting police state on a necessity created by the other side. “Don’t blame me for ramming Trump down your throat. You made it necessary.”

Similar justifications roll:

[E]verything he’s doing/done has been for the benefit of law-abiding Americans, not butt-hurt snowflakes, perverts, degenerates, illegals and the like.

Got that, a major justification comes in whom the president’s actions help. If it’s my side—only the “law abiding,” of course!—it’s good!

Such polarized mindsets can often sound well-justified, but sometimes the racialism and racial phobias peak through:

[T]he only person of about 22 possible people who could have been the next president in summer 2015 who was willing to even talk about how whites are being civilly genocided via immigration got elected. . . . If the liberals’ “changing demographics” keeps up, you’ll be worried about a hell of a lot more than asset forfeiture.

Get that: this person is convinced whites are being “civilly genocided.” In order to counteract this freak tactic of the left, we must be ready to submit to tyrannies like civil asset forfeiture, for the alternative is so much worse!

Folks, do you want a dictator? Because that’s how you get a dictator.

This is a form of government called “The end justifies the means.” While this phrase is often associated with Machiavelli—rightfully, even though he never said it in those terms—it has been on the lips of every tyrant from ancient times unto today. Were its proponents candid on the front end—as some of our commenters above have been—they would say,

Who cares about the rule of law, as long as I get my way in the end?

This is how dictators think. It is also how criminals think. Both usually think they can get away with it, but dictators usually have more help from the public.

This is the path to tyranny and totalitarianism, because it will willingly sets aside the rule of law in order to achieve the points of a partisan agenda. If you think the path to restoring the Constitutional rule of law is the set aside the Constitutional rule of law, I cannot imagine a more fitting conclusion.

Categories: Worldview

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