WHO IS MORE INCONVENIENCED, THE DETAINED OR THE DEAD?

Protesters holding signs outside terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport protest (from here)
Protesters holding signs outside terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport protest (from here)

Well, I suppose it is better late than never. It seems that the Democratic Party has once again — now that they are a minority party and the party that hates President Donald Trump — rediscovered the Constitution.  However, they have not given up on their victim hunt. So it is that when President Donald Trump decided to ban refugees and residents from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen) Democrats went predictably bonkers.

The news media, of course, went looking for victims, and so Trump had to defend his policy.

And in Iraq, a man who had risked his life working on behalf of the U.S. government bleakly wondered about his future and that of his wife and three children. Visas in hand, the family was due to fly Monday to the United States. “It’s like someone’s stabbed me in the heart with a dagger,” he said.

Trump issued a statement late Sunday afternoon that offered little clarity, even as he defended his executive order as necessary to protect the United States from terrorism.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said in the statement. “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”  (from here)

Frankly, since the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims, and those terrorists are trying to kill us in the name of Islam, it is about religion.  Nevertheless, Trump did not make it about religion.  He just picked countries countries that are hotbeds of terrorism, and he used a list provided by former President Barack Obama.

As the Left and some Republicans lose their minds over President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on immigration, let’s not forget that the list of concerned countries that the Trump administration outlined in the order is based on the one signed into law by the former Obama administration. So, it looks like the Obama White House set the groundwork (viaMic News). (continued here)

Why those seven nations? How do we vet people from nations in chaos? Who are we going to ask — which security services — whether the applicants from these nations are safe to let into our country.  When Muslim nations that are at “peace” already send us terrorists, why would we want to take refugees from nations we know are full of active and rabidly dangerous, murderous terrorists?

Anyway, I like what our new president is doing. It isn’t perfect, but it is far better than what the guy he replaced was doing.  So I am sending out this note to my elected officials.

Dear President Donald Trump (https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact)

Thank you for making a good start on your campaign promises. What a great string of executive orders!

I hope you will stand firm on your commitments. I understand that sometimes you will see that you have made a mistake and make adjustments. I also understand the need for compromise. Sometimes as President Ronald Reagan said we have to give up 20 percent of what we want to get 80 percent. Nevertheless, I pray you will have the courage, fortitude, and wisdom required to withstand the pressure from a partisan news media and your opponents in Congress. I hope our Lord will bless your efforts, and you will continue to forge ahead.

Note that I am sending this note to the elected officials who represent me in Congress.
Dear Congressman Rob Wittman (http://wittman.house.gov/contact/)

For all intents and purposes, you come across as a Conservative Republican. Yet as a famous commercial once said: “Where’s the beef?” Granted you have had excuses. First it was that the Senate was run by Democrats. Then it was that the White House was still run by Democrats.

Now the Republican Party is out of excuses. You say you are a Conservative? Well, our President could sure use some help, and he is getting more Conservative things done than anyone else. Please follow his example and help him.

Dear Senators Tim Kaine (www.kaine.senate.gov/contact) and Mark Warner (www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact)

I just wanted you guys to know that there are people out there who like what our new president is doing.

Here is a list of Trump’s Executive Orders.  Good stuff!

WHAT IS A QUALIFIED PRESIDENT?

Donald Trump, the President of the United States since January 20, 2017 (from here)
Donald Trump, the President of the United States since January 20, 2017 (from here)

insanitybytes22 has this post that left me chuckling, Okay Piper… In her post, reviews an article by John Piper, “How to Live Under an Unqualified President.” Why laugh?

Piper always seems to have this idea that our authority and leadership must always be worthy, qualified, above us, and to some extent that is true, but consider marriage for example. One could simple declare one’s spouse unworthy and unqualified, but that kind of denies the hidden truth that you chose them. It takes some humility to see it, but who really is the one with poor judgment here? And if your own judgment is so flawed, should you really be pointing fingers at someone else? As the saying goes, “don’t be too critical of your husband or wife’s choices, you were one of them.” (from here)

Since quite ably attacks the faith-based matters in her post, I decided I would consider a more practical problem here. What is a qualified president?

What drives the qualifications we expect from our elected officials? If you were hiring an employee, how would you decide what qualifications that employee needs? Would you come up with a job description? Would you not your list the qualifications of your new employee based upon what you expect that employee to do?

So how should we come up with a job description for our president? Well, don’t we have this thing we call our constitution, The United States Constitution? Doesn’t that document describe the functions of our president?

Article II describes how we select our president and our president’s primary powers and responsibilities. Of course, whatever the president does generally requires money. Since Congress controls spending, that makes Congress the most powerful branch of government. That makes Article I, Section 8 important to the president’s job description. Article I, Section 8 lists the things that Congress has the power to make laws about, and as the head of the executive branch, the president is obligated to enforce those laws.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (from Article 11, Section 1)

Effectively, the president of the United States should be someone we trust to take that oath and fulfill it.  The man must be worthy of our trust and competent to execute the duties assigned to him by the Constitution. Is Donald Trump such a man? If not, why not? Before we select an employee, perhaps we need to qualify ourselves to select that employee.

  • Because we need them to be trustworthy, we require the president and all the officials of our government to take an oath. Are we trustworthy? Is it reasonable to expect people who are not trustworthy to select trustworthy people to lead them?
  • Because we need them to know what they are doing, we want the president and all the officials of our government to be competent people. Do we know what we are doing? Do we understand what our government is supposed to do? Is it reasonable to expect the incompetent to select competent people to lead them?

When we started this post we said we would focus on the practical problem of selecting a president. Nevertheless, because the Bible provides practical wisdom, here is a quote from it.

Matthew 7:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Do Not Judge

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

We get the leadership we deserve.  So long as we do not ask our Lord to help us remove the planks in our own eyes we will not do a good job of judging the qualifications of the people we elect.

  • We will find the promises of candidates for public office more important than their character.
  • Instead of the law of the land, we will give preference to our egos and our pocketbooks.

If we let ourselves become foolish enough, we will become the dogs and the swine who trample the pearls of God’s wisdom and tear His people to pieces.

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

HOW DID WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE?

puzzledComment threads can wind and twist. So regardless of the topic, there is no telling where they may go.  Hence my comments on Bible Hub by insanitybytes22 eventually produced this comment.

  •   David said:                                                        January 1, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    So there might be research dollars to all districts. Is this suprising or a sign of something nefarious? Who cares? What matters is who does the research, that is, how good are the scientists at the facilities. Are they doing good science? Politicians do not determine who gets an NSF or NIH or NASA grant (yes, NASA awards grants to university researchers). So, much of your concerns about politicians and research grants are unfounded and uninformed.

    Yes, the position that you have taken is an extreme one. The fact that there are private schools or that private industry conducts research is not particularly relevant to the question of whether or not the position of zero federal dollars for education or for biomedical research is an extreme one. This is not just a matter of my “private goals.” We’re talking about the hopes and goals of millions.

    Yes, there are private schools. Can everyone afford to send their children to them, especially when we are talking about universities? Historically, how did the introduction of public schools at every level change the percentage of Americans who were able to get X number of years of education? What percentage of the population recieved a college education in the days when most of the colleges were private or when there was no federal support in the form of grants and loans? How has expanding educational opportunities benefited individual Americans and the country as a whole? I understand that you don’t wish to be enslaved, but maybe a little enslavement is not such a bad idea when you consider the benefits.

    And here’s a dirty little secret. Private colleges and universities receive huge amounts of federal support, both direct and indirect. For example, scientists at private university compete for the same research dollars as those at public universities. Federal dollars enable colleges and universities to offer a lower tuition rate to poorer students. In practice, there are no private universities.

    Yes, private industry does research. But private companies are severely constrained by the need to turn a profit. In addition, the discoveries of scientist working in private industry are private or proprietary. This is not good for science. And where and how do you suppose the scientist in private industry get their initial training as scientists? Guess. Further, there is no way that the private sector can match the amount of money that is provided by federal sources for research. No chance.

    Bottom line, in any many areas, the federal government really can do much more than the private sector. But then again, I don’t want to be enslaving you.

    Not trying to bludgeon anyone with my father’s dead body. Just trying to remind you that there real human beings who genuinely benefit when we are not wedded to purity. (And he’d be happy to be disturbed just to have a chance to chat with you.)

What are and I debating that causes us to fling so much sarcasm back and forth? Several years ago I wrote WHAT IS JUST ENOUGH GOVERNMENT? The topic of that old post, I think, is the subject of our debate.

It seems that David would like to believe that I am some kind of selfish, ignorant hog who doesn’t want to pay his fair share of taxes. However, as Milton Friedman points out in the video in WHAT IS JUST ENOUGH GOVERNMENT?, there is a good reason politicians and civil servants waste our money. They are spending somebody else’s money on someone else.

When politicians tax us and spend our money, they deprive us of the opportunity to use resources that belong to us — that we earned — for our own designs. Human nature, being what it is, drives them to remake the world into what they think it ought to be. Hence, politicians seize every opportunity to spend all they can, including other people’s money, to suit themselves and their designs. Thus, even those monies that politicians ostensibly acquired for one purpose, to build roads, for example, can find their way into unrelated social engineering schemes, health, education, and welfare programs.

Of course, those scheming politicians will have lots of help. They can always count upon needy and politically active government union workers who want all they can get of that big pile of other people’ money to fund their programs.

The mere existence of the public education system exemplifies the magnitude of the lust for power and money. If the public funding of education were just about the children, then we would just give the parents of poor children education vouchers. Then those parents could send their children to a decent school of their own choice. Instead, because our rulers insist upon having control, we have government-run schools, expensive schools that at best instill knowledge without wisdom. At worst, public schools instill beliefs in children contrary to those of their parents, clearly a violation of the freedom of religion and parental rights.

Anyway, as I tried to point out to , I don’t think this debate should be about me or about ‘s father. I also don’t think this debate should be about the poor, the needy, the children, the aged, the endless hopes of dreamers and so forth.  What is important is what is good for our country.  As that old post explains, WHAT IS JUST ENOUGH GOVERNMENT?, we all need a good government. Because everyone suffers horribly under a bad government, good government is just too important to jeopardize by using it to redistribute the wealth.

When we put a huge pile of money in front of our leaders and ourselves — when we try to use the Federal treasury as a piggy bank to fund our personal dreams — we don’t realize our dreams. We just fight and claw over a big pile of money, and who gets that money? Ironically, it is those who need it least. As points out, for example.

And here’s a dirty little secret. Private colleges and universities receive huge amounts of federal support, both direct and indirect. For example, scientists at private university compete for the same research dollars as those at public universities. Federal dollars enable colleges and universities to offer a lower tuition rate to poorer students. In practice, there are no private universities.

Our great private colleges, the Ivy League universities, had their beginnings as seminaries. Over the years those schools have become some of the most secularized institutions in the world. Why? Well, they do get lots and lots of government funding. Would government funding of our education system have anything to do with their increasing disinterest in Jesus’ Great Commission? Doesn’t power corrupt?

Doesn’t greed corrupt? Look at that last election. Did our leaders strive to unite us, or did they pit us against each other any way they could?  When the votes were counted, did they — did we — show we want what is best for our people, or did we just prove how much we want and want and want…..

When we vote, it is our own motives that matter most, not the candidate’s or the other party’s. “Why am I voting for this candidate? Is it about my pocketbook or my country? What is my interest in that big, huge pile of taxpayer monies?”