WHEN WE MAKE THE SYSTEM OUR GOD

freedomconscienceWhat is the point of this post? It’s a response to a portion of a comment from scout (here). scout disagreed with my “summing up bullets” at VIRGINIA’S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DEBATE: E.W. Jackson Versus Ralph Northam.

Introduction

At VIRGINIA’S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DEBATE: E.W. Jackson Versus Ralph Northam, I identified four issues where Democrats have taken extreme positions. So scout endeavored to explain away what he called my errors or misapprehensions. Instead of trying to answer scout’s challenges directly, I think it better to first address the cause of the problem.

Ours has the misfortune of being a nation run by a legal aristocracy (see Why Lawyer Rule). What’s the problem with that? We have put the people who live off the rules in charge of making the rules. Therefore, we keep getting and more rules.  Of course, if people were good as we like to think we are, that really would not be much of a problem. The lawyers would see their mistake, laugh at themselves, and get rid of the unneeded rules. As it is, that will only happen in our dreams.

Because of our pride, we want to see ourselves as important — indispensable!  Therefore, energetic lawyers like knowing the system (the rules) and knowing how to operate the rules. Those obsessed with the rules, The System, make The System their god. That is, The System becomes their idol.

Definition of Terms

Before we proceed further, let’s define some terms.

  • What is The System? The System is the government. The government consists of the people, property, laws and regulations that cause that thing we call government to fulfill its functions. Supposedly lawyers provide the expertise that helps public officials to obey laws and regulations.
  • What is an idol? Check the dictionary, and you will find that an idol is an object of worship.  What the dictionary does not explain is why anyone would bother worshiping an idol. We worship idols because we think we can get something important to us from our idols.

Oddly, the dictionary also neglects one more important aspect of idol worship. Idols require sacrifices.

What do we sacrifice to our idols? We sacrifice what we should give the one true God. Instead loving God and our neighbors, we disobey God’s commandments, and we sacrifice our neighbors to our idols. Thus, those who adore The System feed The System their neighbor’s Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The Worship of The System

Have you ever considered that much of the Bible involves stories about kings and government officials? In fact, the ancient Jews called the Bible the Law, and parts of the Old Testament form the core of the Mosaic Code. Why would God have inspired the writers of the Bible to write so much about government? With respect to Him, I suspect He wants us to keep The System in its proper place.

What do lawyers get from The System? They get power, prestige, and wealth. Are those things important to people? Of course, they are, and because we are taught to respect our leaders we imitate them. Therefore, all of us from time-to-time try to work The System to get what we want from it, and if we are not careful, we can start rendering unto government what we owe to God. That is, to get whatever we want from The System, we may become willing sacrifice anyone and anything, including our honor.

So what about those four “summing up bullets” that scout complained about (here) at the end of VIRGINIA’S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DEBATE: E.W. Jackson Versus Ralph Northam?

  • Same-sex marriage. In his comment, scout brought up civil unions and said a civil union is not the same as a marriage. Supposedly Democrats want civil unions, not same-sex marriage. In practice, a civil union is just another name for a same-sex “marriage.” Is not a rose by any other name still a rose? Is it honest to pretend otherwise? When given the opportunity, haven’t Democrats declared same-sex “marriage” legal, even saying various state constitutions make same-sex marriage a right? What is honorable about such duplicity?
  • Abortion. Curiously, scout skips this one.
  • Gun control. Here scout quibbles about what everyone knows. Consider how that bullet begins: “The 2nd Amendment says what it says, but Democrats have no problem ignoring what it says.” In the absence of any substantive evidence that violating the 2nd Amendment would do any good, Democrats still want to ignore the 2nd Amendment. scout even offered up that argument about the militia clause, not realizing that the founders saw it as the obligation of every able-bodied man to be ready and willing to fight.

    Amendment II (from here)
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    militia (n.)

    1580s, “system of military discipline,” from Latin militia “military service, warfare,” from miles “soldier” (see military). Sense of “citizen army” (as distinct from professional soldiers) is first recorded 1690s, perhaps from a sense in French cognate milice. In U.S. history, “the whole body of men declared by law amenable to military service, without enlistment, whether armed and drilled or not” (1777).

     

  • Living Constitution. Here scout offers several arguments all at once. His arguments include: (1) the everyone does argument (i.e., both Democrats and Republicans sin), (2) on some parts of the Constitution Democrats are actually more Conservative than Republicans, and (3) it is inappropriate to call judges liars.  To deal with that hodgepodge, let’s add one more section.

The Constitution And The Welfare State

Check out the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 lists the powers of Congress. Look carefully at how Article 1, Section 8 begins.

The Congress shall have Power To

Consider also the Tenth Amendment.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution does not mention setting up a welfare state, not even in the most general terms. Because Article 1, Section 8 says what Congress can do, not what it cannot do, Article 1, Section 8 does not empower Congress to set up a massive welfare state. The Founders obviously did not want the Federal Government to run welfare programs. Yet Democrats — and yes, some Republicans — have promoted such programs.

Our leaders just began setting up a welfare state because we let them. If that is how the Constitution is suppose to work, then the document serves no purpose. When we allow our laws to become just a matter of self-serving interpretation (i.e., a living constitution), then we have fallen back from the rule of law to the rule of powerful men.

Why didn’t the Supreme Court stop Congress? Why didn’t the Supreme Court rule Obamacare unconstitutional, for example? Why do men do that which they should not do? The Apostle Paul considered that question better than I (Romans 7:14-25). When we do not put our faith in God, when we take our eyes off Christ, we sin.

So Does scout Worship The System?

I doubt scout thinks he worships The System, and I have nothing to gain by saying anyone in particular worships The System. Besides, is scout saying anything that unusual?

I think it more important to observe that many of us have to chosen to compartmentalize our private and public lives. In private, we believe in and worship God. In public, we live secular lives. Because our religious beliefs help us to live as God would have us live, we should never set them aside. With respect to love of God and neighbor, there is no private religion. God is everywhere. In both our private and public lives, we live and work with our fellow human beings. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we must set love of God and neighbor as our highest priorities.

11 thoughts on “WHEN WE MAKE THE SYSTEM OUR GOD

  1. Goodness, Tom. Very bizarre.

    I won’t wade into all of that. I nonetheless am perpetually astounded at how predictably you associate certain secular political issues with “Sin”, in a Pauline sense. Most of these issues are not issues affecting the relationship of man and God. They are, instead, issues of this world affecting man’s relationship to other men in this Republic.

    I also separate myself from your world view in your tendency to speak of “Democrats” as if there is a cookie cutter somewhere that makes Democrats and that there is no differentiation in opinion between any of them. I know a great many Democrats and am very much aware of as many different opinions on the issues of the day as are afoot among those of us who are Republicans. I frankly don’t know any Democrats who would agree with you that Democrats regard abortion as a “right”. I do know many Democrats (and quite a few Republicans) who, while having varying views about the religious implications of abortion, simply do not want local, state, or national governments making decisions about reproductive issues for them. I view this as a very libertarian, anti-statist, conservative attitude (although I have strong anti-abortion views myself).

    Your constitutional knowledge strikes me as fairly rudimentary, and I will not respond to your repetition of discredited ideas with my repetition of refutation of some of these notions. I will say this about your Tenth Amendment interpretations: If each state were to set up a massive welfare system, would you, under your Tenth Amendment philosophy, be content with a (to use an example) Virginia-administered overweening welfare state?

    I sometimes sense that, either subliminally or overtly, you’re trying to tell your readers that, “alas, poor Scout [or insert name of someone who has a different view that faithful CT] has strayed from God’s clear political message that virtuous men are Republicans and believe everything CT believes. Of course, Scout is flirting with perdition, whilst those who vote the way I do in the next General Assembly election will have everlasting life.” I realize that this is a bit of a paraphrase of your views, but I find a recurring patter of reversion to cliched religious bathos when we are talking about worldly policy issues. At first it was a bit amusing, but as it repeats itself in every possible context, I get concerned that you unintentionally are dragging God through the public square in ways that diminishes both religion and governance.

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    1. scout – Thank you for the comment.

      I don’t think how we run the government is a strictly secular issue. Nonetheless, many people have that attitude. Why? Those who want to secularize our society have largely succeeded in shaming Christians from expressing their beliefs in the public sphere.

      With respect to the operation of government, why is stifling the expression of religious belief a mistake? Consider how government operates and what it does. Government finances itself by extorting money (the polite word is taxation) from the citizenry. Government enforces criminal and civil laws, regulates commerce, and promotes order. Government also raises military forces to fight wars. On such things we should not bring our religious beliefs to bear? Isn’t the problem obvious? Without strong and well-formed consciences, how likely is it that public officials will abuse their powers?

      Consider the issue of slavery. Was that a strictly secular issue? The Democrats strove to make it so. Because the difference between right and wrong is not a secular issue, Republicans insisted otherwise.

      Should we have a secular government? In the sense we should not use government to establish a state religion, the answer is yes. However, if we want leaders with strong and well-formed consciences, we cannot expect them to leave their religious beliefs at home in a closet. Otherwise, of what worth is their oath of office?

      Scout, you seem to be concerned that I have stereotyped Democrats. I have spoken to specific issues. And both the Democratic Party’s and the candidate’s positions are known. Well-known? That could be a problem, but I am doing what little I can to change that.

      You also seemed to be concerned that I have somehow belittled you. That is not my intention, but I have quite firmly disagreed with you on certain specific issues. Therefore, I have presented arguments in support of my beliefs. You are welcome to agree or disagree, and I encourage you to correct what you see as my errors.

      Are you flirting with perdition? I hope not, but that is between you and God. I have said what I think is right and wrong, but I am not qualified to look into another man’s heart and judge his soul. I most certainly do not think voting my way will get anyone into heaven. 😆

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  2. CT: How is it even vaguely possible, in the United States of America, that a Christian could be “shamed” [your word choice] from expressing a belief in public. There is absolutely no prohibition in this country on the profession of religious belief. This land is wide open on that front. I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about when you say that religious expression is “stifled” here.

    Re your tendency to over-generalize: I happen to be a conservative Republican. But I know people from both parties (and a lot of folks who don’t really identify with either) who are all over the map on an array of issues. I think you would prefer to keep things very simple (Manichean, they would say in the Academy). But life in a big, vibrant, democracy isn’t like that.

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    1. I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about when you say that religious expression is “stifled” here.

      What is funny is that you probably don’t have any idea what I am talking about, but did you read your first comment on this post? Look at this statement.

      I nonetheless am perpetually astounded at how predictably you associate certain secular political issues with “Sin”, in a Pauline sense. Most of these issues are not issues affecting the relationship of man and God. They are, instead, issues of this world affecting man’s relationship to other men in this Republic.

      If I don’t define what is secular your way, you are astounded. 🙄

      Then you move on to even greater ridicule.

      Have you considered the possibility that your definition of secularism is a religious belief? When people impose their idea of secularism onto other people, they are not freeing their victims from an irrational religion. They are just imposing their own religious beliefs upon other people. That’s why the Constitution only prohibits the establishment of religion. There is simply no way to divorce issues of right and wrong from religious belief.

      Consider how the media and Terry McAuliffe are attacking Ken Cuccinelli.
      Here are a few of the more extreme blogs.
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/09/09/republican-ken-cuccinelli-gets-straight-fs-on-secular-coalition-for-americas-virginia-governors-race-scorecard/.

      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/02/1234855/-Why-Ken-Cuccinelli-is-creepy#

      http://thinkprogress.org/education/2013/08/14/2465791/ken-cuccinelli-education-vouchers/

      Here is the corporate media.
      http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/09/19/terry_mcauliffe_says_ken_cuccinelli_s_divorce_policy_is_bad_for_women_he.html

      http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-04/local/41744743_1_ken-cuccinelli-terry-mcauliffe-no-fault-divorce

      http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/virginia-governor-debate-2013-ken-cuccinelli-terry-mcauliffe-97379.html

      The news media and the Democrats are pushing what are essentially religious beliefs (but calling them secular) that just decades ago would have been consider radically absurd, and they are calling their opponents extreme. How did we get to this point? We are so smart? No. We are so indoctrinated by the news media and our education system. We are ignorant of our Christian heritage.

      You want a society that cherishes freedom? Then work to limit the size of government and let your neighbors take responsibility for running their own lives. Of course, that would be extreme.

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  3. If you’re point is that not everyone in this country is a member of the same religion, and/or that there are people in this country who are not particularly religious, I guess that’s an obvious point with which I would agree. I think I would also agree that people of different religions, or no religions, have different points of view about the degree to which they are comfortable with government officials dragging religion through the public square (some of the most devout people I know regard a lot of open political declamations in campaigns about religion to be a debasement of religion, not an elevation of it).

    But you use words like “shame” and “stifle” and I very much doubt that there’s any of that going on in this country. I know of no place else on the face of the earth where it is more possible to express a public religious view without threat of arrest or official silencing. If you expect there never to be disagreement in a polyglot country such as this, you will always be a bit frustrated, I fear.

    I define “secular” as “other than religious”. Not sure what the controversy is there. And, no, I have never considered my definition of secular to be a religious belief. I am a Christian, and nowhere in the doctrine of my belief does it say anything about “secular” issues being a “religion”. In fact, in the Scriptures there are several references indicating that Jesus and the early church fathers thought it wise to let secular issues stay in their own sphere, as the message of the Christ was not, at its core, of this world, but the next.

    And, of course, I ridiculed no one.

    And, of course, I have always worked to limit the size of government and to let my neighbours take responsibility for running their own lives. I suggest that my equanimity about my neighbours having dissimilar religious views to mine, or no religious views at all, suggests that I am less likely to interfere with their liberties than some folks who consider it appalling that we have such diversity in our country.

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    1. scout – Very few people go through life without trying to get something out of it. Some may ignore the question of origin, may not care about what is right or wrong, and pretend they will never die; but almost everyone is determined to find meaning of some sort. When we choose to know no better, we devote our lives to the worship our self.

      Consider the irony of atheism. When someone is a devout atheist, they are just about as religious as they can get. Even though such may fervently preach secularism, they bring their own faith noisily into the the public sphere. When we cannot prove God does not exist, doesn’t the belief there is no God require faith? Doesn’t the demand that others not offend you with their God demand an arrogant disposition?

      Even though we have large numbers of secularists, people determined to drive the belief in God out of the public sphere, I admit we still have relatively few devout atheists. So what motivates most secularists? I cannot point to any particular organized creed or thing. All I can do is point to history and the fallen nature of man. In our natural state, we will happily abuse our neighbors.

      To love ones neighbor as we love our self requires considerable faith. Thus, instead of protecting their neighbor’s rights, men prefer use the power of government to exploit their neighbors in the service of their own pride. However, when men abuse the power of government in a nation where Christians practice their faith, they must drive Christian belief out of the public sphere. That’s because the Bible speaks of our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      So it is that secularists have taken Thomas Jefferson’s words and twisted them, misrepresenting what Jefferson said to drive religious expression out of the public sphere. See https://citizentom.com/2011/12/13/why-we-cannot-separate-state-from-church-a-few-more-thoughts/.

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  4. I think your fear of “secularists” is utter nonsense, Tom. Religion is as much in the public square as religious people want it to be in this country. What we prohibit (in order to protect religion) is government imposed religion. I can walk to the middle of the village green in my hometown and pray all day, quietly or out loud without any fear of government persecution or prosecution. What I can’t do make the mayor of the town say prayers for my religion. I can pray my heart out in the classroom, or say rosaries (as long as I do it quietly and don’t bother my fellow students) or chant a mantra, or recite passages from the Qu’uran. Religion is far more protected here than anywhere on earth outside of theocratic states like Iran or the Vatican. Of course, in those states, only one religion gets protection. Here we protect all religions.

    I have never seen the slightest evidence of religion being driven out of the public square in this country. I have seen a lot of people, some misguided, some quite cynical and maneuvering for their own political advancement, trying to drag religion into the public square.

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    1. Consider what the Bill of Rights actually says.

      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.

      What you described is freedom of worship. Freedom of religion, which includes the freedom to live in accordance with ones conscience, requires the liberty to do so. In a free nation, we would only limit each others liberty to protect each other from those who would abuse their liberty.

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  5. And your point, in relation to the real world, is what?

    Do you disagree with me that the United States is the safest, most tolerant society in the world with regard to religious practices for the greatest number of religions?

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    1. Real world? In the real world there is a way to quantify what constitutes the safest, most tolerant society? Is it not more realistic that some politicians will say whatever it is they think the people want to hear?

      In this world — real or not — we have President Barack Obama and a bunch of Democrats fixated spending as much of our money as they can, and they use social issues to unite their party and divide their opposition. That approach to governing raises some uncomfortable questions.

      What if you are a baby in the womb?
      What if you are a businessman who does not want to pay for his employees’ abortions?
      What if you do not want to be forced to respect same-sex “marriages”?
      What if you do not want to be taxed to pay for abortions and sex change operations?
      What if you do not want to pay twice so you can keep you children out of schools that teach beliefs contrary to your own?
      What if you are a member of a socially Conservative organization, and the IRS wants additional information?

      In the real world, to remain safe and tolerated, do we have to avoid raising such questions?

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  6. Focus, Tom, focus. Are you aware of any country in the world that is more tolerant than this one of a wide range of religious expression? I think that was my question.

    I don’t think any businessman should be forced to pay for any health care. The biggest flaw in Obamacare and the previous system is that we have laid off that responsibility on employers. The pre-existing system had that flaw. Obamacare continued it with no relief. It’s the worst of all possible worlds for all participants. But, if you’re a businessman who agrees with you and me that this is not optimal, work in the political system to put that burden back on the People themselves, through their government.

    No one forces you or me to respect same-sex marriages. If you don’t respect them, don’t respect them. No one can “force” you to respect them.

    The political process affords those of us who are anti-abortion with means to protect pre-born babies. In the meantime, the government does not force abortions on people.

    The public schools are a societal good that we all pay for because we all benefit. No one forces us to use them, any more than we are forced to use the roads we pay taxes for. If you don’t like public schools, don’t send your kids to them. But don’t try to get something for nothing (we’ve been through this before). If you don’t like the roads, don’t use them. But you still get benefits from them whether you use them or not. And by the way, you only pay once for the public education system.

    If you don’t want tax dollars going to sex-change procedures and abortions (seems reasonable to me that a lot of us would not be comfortable with that), ask Congress to exclude them from public funding. I think that has been done in the past, at least with respect to abortions. If not, then go to work getting Congress to change it. But there is no law against espousing that view.

    The IRS is perfectly correct to obtain information enough to determine whether tax exempt status is appropriate. They should take pains to gather that in ways that does not create the impression that they are more skeptical of one set of exempt organisations over another. But it’s their job to ensure that the exemptions are correctly applied (By the way, there are far too many exemptions and the better approach would be to get rid of most, if not all, of these exemptions. They have metastasized like crab grass and need to be cranked back).

    In the real world, one has to realize that these are policy issues on which there are different points of view. But you are far from “stifled” or suppressed in raising your concerns. In fact, you have been doing so for some time without retribution. I don’t think that’s surprising. There are a lot of controversial issues banging about in this cacophonous society. But drop the persecution meme. It really is completely counter-factual. It cheapens the plight of religious persons in countries where one really can end up in jail (or worse) for embracing a particular faith. We have it very easy here, comparatively.

    And stop acting like this is all about evil “Democrats”. In my many years of association with the Republican Party, I have found that we are not without Rs “who use social issues to unite their party and divide their opposition” [to use your words directly]

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