HOW HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

Lincoln swearing-in at the partially finished U.S. Capitol. (from here)
Lincoln swearing-in at the partially finished U.S. Capitol. (from here)

It is late, a long day.  So I reviewed the comments on WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT? with both astonishment and dismay. What should I say? I have got to go and get some sleep. Should I say anything? I decided that I would have to. Why? Why have I and others tried to make an issue limited and secular, constitutional government?

On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will become our president.

President-elect Donald Trump told “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt that he doesn’t mind Democratic members of Congress boycotting his inauguration, saying “I hope they give me their tickets.”

At least 60 Democratic members of the House of Representatives have opted to miss Friday’s ceremonies, most notably Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who said last week that he did not consider Trump a “legitimate” president.

“I think he just grandstanded, John Lewis, and then he got caught in a very bad lie, so let’s see what happens,” said Trump, referencing Lewis’ initial claim that Trump’s would be the first inauguration he’s missed – despite having previously boycotted George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration. (continued here)

What the Democrat’s boycott reminded me of was the start of the American Civil War.  How did that begin?

In the November 1860 election, Lincoln again faced Douglas, who represented the Northern faction of a heavily divided Democratic Party, as well as Breckinridge and Bell. The announcement of Lincoln’s victory signaled the secession of the Southern states, which since the beginning of the year had been publicly threatening secession if the Republicans gained the White House.

By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded, and the Confederate States of America had been formally established, with Jefferson Davis as its elected president. One month later, the American Civil War began when Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina. In 1863, as the tide turned against the Confederacy, Lincoln emancipated the slaves and in 1864 won reelection. In April 1865, he was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after the American Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. (from here)

The Democrat’s boycott of the inauguration obviously is not as serious as states seceding from the Union, but it is a clear sign we risk loosing our nation’s capacity to peacefully transfer power from one party to another. Just as the Democrats once demanded slavery, they now demand unquestioned obedience to …… to what? When it comes down to it, big government is a nebulous thing. What is it that the Democrats don’t want to control?  What is the property they refuse to give up? Who are their precious slaves now?

Where does the root of the Democratic Party’s power rest? It rest upon their ability to buy votes with other people’s money, what we call redistributing the wealth. Thus far I have been unable to convince some commenters, two in particular, that redistributing the wealth is toxic to a constitutional republic. Just calling it stealing does not seem to work. So this weekend I will write a post that uses a starkly  different approach.

Again, I thank those who commented. Interesting, to say the least.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT?

Christ among the doctors by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)
Christ among the doctors (Luke 2:41-50) by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)

I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) (from here)

Should we be able to select the one true religion? I think so, but I don’t think it is just a matter of faith. I do, however, think making the choice requires reasoning we find difficult.

  • We must admit we need God, not an idol of our own making, but our Creator. That requires humility.
  • We must believe our reasoning is sufficient to know God and that God wants us to know Him. We need that belief to give us hope.
  • We must have the courage live by our choice. That’s why faith is required. To exercise the courage to live by the choice our reasoning dictates, we must have faith in God.
  • Most of all we must believe God loves us, and we can love Him.

Still, we make such a large variety of religious choices that that quote above from Heinlein seems to prove something, but what? I expect it shows how much we need God. Without our Creator’s help, we do not make good choices. We do not make good choices about much of anything.

That’s what makes America so remarkable. Ours has for the most part been a happy, productive, and prosperous land because for the most part Americans have made good choices, far from perfect, but generally good.

Why good choices? Consider that the Bible contains wisdom revealed by our Creator. Until we choose to read the Bible and strive to understand it, we cannot know how much our Maker loves us.

Americans once cherished the Bible. They actually read it.

Why did Americans care about the Bible. America is a product of the Protestant Reformation, the lessons from bloody wars in Europe, and the English Enlightenment.  Our notions about classical liberalism and freedom of religion in particular come from those experiences.

  • The Protestant Reformation cracked the intercessory control of the Roman Catholic Church between man and God.  Prior to the Reformation, most of Europe accepted the Catholic clergy’s claim to speak for God. Subsequent to the Reformation, many Protestants believed they need no intercessor except Jesus.
  • The Protestant Reformation resulted in the multiplication of Christian sects and violent disputes over articles of faith. Therefore, in addition to the usual excesses that set off European wars, men fought and persecuted each other over their religious differences
  • The Protestant Reformation also resulted in the opportunity for people to study the Bible in their own languages. In fact, we can attribute both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment in particular to the invention of the printing press. When people studied the Bible, the Word of God, for themselves, they could not find a command from Christ Jesus to spread the Gospel by force. Instead, many agreed that Jesus commanded His disciples to forgo violence and love their enemies.

Who settled America? Some came to America for riches and glory, but more came just for the hope they could live as they chose. Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others came so they could practice their religious beliefs in peace. Others came to just avoid debtors prisons.  Still, those who came were generally Christians, just different kinds of Christians. In the vast land of America, these different kinds Christians separated themselves into different communities, focused on their local governments, and experimented in new ways of governing.

Eventually, the American colonists tired of the rule of a faraway tyrannical king. Eventually, the American colonists decided that self-defense and the regulation of commerce required a federal government, but what kind of government? What would be the proper goals of an American government? To answer those questions, the American colonials considered the fruit of their experiments and turned to a political ideology we now call Classical Liberalism.

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. (continued here)

Why a limited government that values individual freedom? Because they had diverse societies, the American colonials did not share exactly the same beliefs or  worldview. That is, they had limited set of shared values. Therefore, particularly with respect to the Federal Government, the colonials thought it best to limited the scope of government powers. Even then, because they feared Federal powers would be abused, the colonials insisted upon a Bill of Rights.

Consider the first words of the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Because we are are Christian nation, we have some shared values, but we also have huge differences. What is Christianity? Some people — not all — say Christianity is what the Bible says it is.  However, the Bible is a large work. So even Christians who uphold the Bible as the inerrant Word of God emphasize different parts. Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide  for everyone else what God would have us do?  Hence, the First Amendment says religion is a matter the Federal Government should leave to the states and the people.

Because of the First Amendment, we now have something that prior to the rise of the United States as a world power was almost unheard of, a secular state. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans did not want the government to establish a religion or to interfere in the free exercise of religion (see Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise of Religion at heritage.org).

Unfortunately, the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution no longer works quite the way the framers of the Constitution intended. That’s because:

  • We no longer have a limited government. When the government has so much power, power mad politicians and the religious sects they represent find it tempting to impose their own beliefs.  Currently, various manifestations of Human Secularism have combined to pose the greatest threat to religious freedom. Thus, the budget for health, education, and welfare programs has exploded, and Christians, even though the Bible says no such thing, are suppose to support health, education, and welfare programs because its what Jesus would do.
  • The 14th Amendment requires the application of the Bill of Rights to state governments. As originally envisioned, all the Bill of Rights did was keep the Federal Government from sticking its nose where it did not belong. The 14th Amendment, however, allows the Federal Government to impose “religious freedom” upon the states. That added complexity has made it possible for Human Secularists to twist the law. So now many insist we equate the free exercise of religion with freedom of worship. That is, to keep the freedom from religion people happy, we are supposed keep our religion to ourselves and let the state indoctrinate our children in various “isms” including Human Secularism. Then we are supposed to loudly proclaim we still live in the land of the free.

There is an old bit of wisdom any good doctor knows.

Do no harm. — (contracted form of the Hippocratic oath, from here)

When we try to engineer our society to “fix” it, we are effectively trying to heal other people (if our motives are good). The problem is that the operation of a society is quite complex, and we are not qualified to play God. Hence, we must respect the right of our fellow citizens to make decisions that more appropriately belong to them. That’s why for any people who want to remain free limited government is not optional.

Other Views

Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church!

Pastor Randy of “Kingdom Pastor” has an excellent series going, 10 thoughtful posts on what is killing our Savior’s church in America. I have read items 10 – 7 and look forward to taking the time this weekend to finish reading the rest of his series. If you care about the state of the Christian Church in our nation, you may wish to do the same.

Note that we, including Pastor Randy I suspect, tend to think of the Christian Church as a phenomenon of the West, that is, the Americas and Europe. In truth the Christ’s Church is declining in the United States and Western Europe, but that’s is not the case elsewhere. That’s why I say Pastor Randy’s series is about the Christian Church in America. It’s the church we know, and it is that part of the church our Savior gave to us to fulfill His Great Commission.

Kingdom Pastor

top-10-ppc

This morning I had another one of my moments of random thoughts.  It is a condition I am afflicted with regularly and I am learning to use it in ways that would be both inspiring and challenging.  This morning’s random thought came out of a conversation I had in 2016 with someone at church.  Our conversation emerged from that Sunday’s message that was about the question of human sexuality.  If you are a member of or are following the news in our Tribe, it is a hot topic button.  My point was that God calls us to love and care about others and that homosexuality is not the worst sin, and we needed to stop treating it that way.  We need to bear witness to the truth of Jesus through our lives and give the Spirit the opportunity to change whatever needs to be changed in our life.

This member…

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