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

ARE YOU A CHEERFUL TAXPAYER?

taxes.pngAre you a cheerful taxpayer? I am not, but I guess some people are. My last post, GOVERNMENT, LOVE, AND CHARITY, sparked a furious debate. Stephen is quite upset with my views, and Philip Augustine added his two cents. This comment from sort of surprised me.

Those in favor of originalism of the Constitution, Enlightenment philosophers, and the natural law that speak have created idols out of the founding documents, the men that created them, and the supposed “rights” which out of the Enlightenment as promoted the ideology of self-idolization in the form of “Individualism.” Of course, one can make the argument that relativism was birthed from the Protestant Reformation, given a pedestal during the Enlightenment, and now has led to secular atheism of Western Civilization as it’s logical conclusion. No doubt, my friend you will certainly disagree, but the statement must be stated regardless. (from here)

When someone disagrees with us, we all have a tendency to see that disagreement as a sign that the person who disagrees with us is somehow defective.  That, of course, should remind us that we are all sinners, that we need to focus on the issue, not the person.

What is the issue? Should government be in the wealth redistribution business? Various people say yes, and many, such as myself, say no. People of diverse religious persuasions are on both sides of the issue. Since I am a Christian, I, however, approach the ethical aspects of this issue from a Biblical perspective.  Unlike and , I see where the Bible charges us to be personally charitable, but I don’t see support for government charity.

tried to make the case. He cited various scriptures (here), but I think his vision tends to be selective.  Consider that he cited Proverbs 3:27-28, OJB, but he only quotes the first of the two verses. Here are both verses in a more readable translation.

Proverbs 3:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

None of verses cited are anything except calls for personal charity or impartial judgement by judges.  Yet insists government must be charitable in our name. In fact, instead of saying God is love, says “God is charity”. Since charity and love do not mean the same things in our day, that’s flawed.  That is why modern translations say God is love.

Here is a verse that cited that I think we need to consider further.

1 Corinthians 10:24 English Standard Version (ESV)

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

What is good for our neighbor? Should we try to run our neighbor’s life for him, because we know what is good for him? Isn’t that the objective of the welfare state? Are you willing, supposedly for the sake of your neighbor, to let politicians run your life? Count the cost first.

1 Samuel 8 tells the story of how Israel saddled itself with a king. Through the prophet Samuel, God told them it was an awful idea. So God had Samuel appoint a couple of kings for them. First, to show them the difference between seeing a man as he appears and seeing a man’s heart, God had Samuel anoint Saul and then David as king. Still, even with David, Israel suffered.  Every man is subject to the temptations of great power. David was. Even Solomon, the wisest of men, gave into many temptations. Perhaps the worst is that he led his people to worship vile idols.

Because of our history, we don’t truly know what it means to concentrate power in government. So let’s consider what most sermons on the most popular story about Solomon’s wisdom fail to mention.

Read the passage below. Imagine that you are the one the king has ordered to divide that child in two with a sword.

1 Kings 3:16-28 New King James Version (NKJV)

Solomon’s Wise Judgment

16 Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. 17 And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.”

22 Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.”

And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.”

Thus they spoke before the king.

23 And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”

26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”

But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.

27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.”

28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

Was Solomon wise? Yes, but his trick to reveal which woman was the true mother worked only because those two women believed that the man Solomon had ordered to divide the child with a sword would obey the order.

Consider what Solomon advised with respect to obeying the king.

Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

Obedience to the King

Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.

Of course, if we are wise we avoid putting ourselves in a situation where we might be ordered to cut a baby in half. Yet those called to serve a king often have little choice in the matter.

Does the Bible say we should obey the king no matter what he orders? No. As Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, we must obey God’s commands above all. Sometime we must even become martyrs.

Consider how the power of government is expanding in our day.  Because of the welfare state, government provides for our health, education and welfare. Government decides who is treated, and who is not. Government decides what we learn. Government decides how much we earn. Because of government power, many unchristian notions that would have been immediately rejected just decades ago have become acceptable.

Imagine again. Once people accepted the idea that just because the king said so, a man had to cut a baby in half.  Is that the choice you would leave your children. What if a decade from now the law requires your child, a doctor or nurse, to participate in an abortion?

insanitybytes22 has a post that speaks about the nature of God’s justice, Riding Puking Bulls at the Alamo. Because we need the justice God has provided for us so much, ‘s post is well worth reading. It is worth considering. Is man capable of justice of that sort?

When a man has great power, when a man is a king, we hope the justice he provides will look like God’s justice. Yet no man is God. No man save Jesus ever saw what is in the heart of another. Hence, even King Solomon had to engage in trickery, trickery that left some poor fellow relieved he would not have to carry the memory of a baby he had cut in half with him for the rest of his days.

Because we are not God, we have different levels of justice. God works His perfect justice full of grace and mercy; He saves our souls. Our government, when we choose able rulers, works imperfect justice. Government maintains order by providing plain, ordinary justice. As individuals we do not provide justice in any legal sense. The best we can do is show our love for each other with grace and mercy. Even at the cost us our lives, the best we can do is just try to do what our Lord would have us do. Hence, when a king tells us to cut a baby in half, we must refuse.

WHERE DO THE “GREAT” BUSYBODIES COME FROM? — AN UPDATE

A painting by Andre Castaigne depicting the phalanx attacking the centre during the Battle of the Hydaspes. (from here)
A painting by Andre Castaigne depicting the phalanx attacking the centre during the Battle of the Hydaspes. The Indians had 200 war elephants. (from here)

UPDATE:  This is a related post => The Word became flesh.

When I was a boy, history fascinated me. So I read biographies about “great” people.  One man I still remember reading about is Alexander the Great. Why was he great? As a conqueror, he had no equal.

Read about Alexander, and you will discover a man who had no fear of unequal contests. With far fewer soldiers (see here and here), for example, Alexander defeated the Achaemenid Empire (Persia), led by Darius III.

Unfortunately, Alexander accomplished little good. When it comes right down to it, Alexander the Great was just a great busybody.

What finally stopped Alexander’s string of bloody conquests? Alexander’s soldiers grew tired marching farther from home, fighting farther from home, and dying farther from home. Alexander’s soldiers grew tired being pawns in Alexander’s grand scheme to conquer the whole world (see Revolt of the army).

Today we still have “great” busybodies with grand schemes that promise great things. Here are a few random examples and reasons why we must revolt against the schemes of busybodies.

Our National Infrastructure

In his opinion piece, The national infrastructure dilemma, John Sitilides observes why Donald Trump’s $1 trillion national infrastructure program may fail.

Here’s the bottom line: Even if President Trump successfully persuades Congress to immediately pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, he will be frustrated by the reality that the first project wouldn’t begin, and the first job wouldn’t be created, until 2021. The real first step to a national infrastructure and job-creation solution is requiring all environmental impact statements be completed in a 12-month “one-stop” permitting process. Only then will the Trump infrastructure plan have a chance to succeed in making America great again.

To put it short and sweet, government busybodies, unconcerned about wasting other people’s money, require too much red tape, but even Sitilides fix won’t fix the basic problem.  What happens when we give our money to politicians? Do they ever figure out exactly what we need and provide it to us? Doesn’t that work about as well as stopping at the entrance of a Walmart, giving the greeter 50 dollars, and asking greeter to go inside and bring you what you need?

Why wouldn’t giving our money to the greeter work better? At least you could give that greeter a list, but what is Donald Trump going to do with 300 million lists? How much can we trust that greeter? How much can we trust Donald Trump? How much can we trust Congress?

The Public School System

In Shakin’ Up the Little Red Schoolhouse, Suzanne Fields observes that our public schools keep getting worst.  To underscore the degree of neglect she cites an old report.

The concern is not new. A loud alarm was sounded in 1983 with a report entitled “A Nation at Risk,” and Ronald Reagan held it up at a press conference, decrying the substandard performances of school children across America. The report concluded: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”

Think about Fields’ reference to the little red schoolhouse. American education began as a local enterprise. Neighbors who knew each other pooled their resources so they could hire a teacher to instruct their children. Now? Now we have four levels of government (school board, local government, state government, and Federal) sticking their noses into the education of our children. Politicians take our money and hire a grand bureaucracy, thereby rewarding teachers unions for their campaign donations.  Then, to add insult to injury they indoctrinate our children with politically correct courses and tout expensive school buildings (or classrooms in “temporary” buildings) as an improvement over the little red schoolhouse.

Is there a better alternative? What do the rich do? Don’t they send their children to private schools? Don’t we “invest” enough money in the public school system to do the same for everyone’s children? When the alternative is politicians who will reward special interests, what is wrong with parents deciding who educates children?

Political Favoritism At Our Nation’s Museum

In Clarence Thomas snubbed by Smithsonian’s new African American history museum, Washington Times reporter Bradford Richardson tells us about the blatant bias at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.

Of the 112 justices appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court since its inception, only two have been black — and the second one apparently isn’t worth consideration, as far as the new National Museum of African American History and Culture is concerned.

The Smithsonian museum still has “no plans” to include in its exhibitions a reference to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the high court’s conservative stalwarts who celebrates his 25th anniversary on the bench this year. (continued here)

I hardly think I am the only American who finds the whole idea of an African American Museum hypocritical. Don’t we all know how people would react to a White American Museum, even one funded by a private group? Yet here we have a Federally funded museum that overtly discriminates based upon race, and that’s not the story, not even in the Conservative Washington Times. Nope! The problem is that the museum is discriminating against a Conservative African American.

🙄

How stupid do we have to be to put up with this nonsense? What kind of moron thinks we can trust politicians to run a museum and not engage in political propaganda or worse? The museum is racist. Given that, what is the point in demanding that Clarence Thomas be included in the museum’s exhibition? That racist farce needs to be shut down.

Conclusion

From time to time I refer to an old post, BUSYBODYISM. When I wrote that post, I labelled the Democratic Party as the party of Busybodyism.  That’s not to say that members of the Republican Party are never busybodies. The point is that for Democrats being busybodies is ideological. Just as Alexander offered rape, pillage, and the glories of conquest to induce his soldiers to march to India, our modern political busybodies dream up schemes for spending “other people’s money”.

The government of the United States exists to preserve our freedom, not to run our lives for us. When we can do something ourselves, there is no reason to tax our neighbors and make them pay for it.  If something can be done by the local government, there is no reason for the state government to do it. If something can be done by the state government, then the Federal Government, particularly when the Constitution does not give it the authority, has no reason to get involved.

Still, there is more to Busybodyism than people sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Government busybodies don’t just stick their noses where they don’t belong; they wrest control from us. They take our money and spend it for us. They make our choices for us.  If we want to get what we want, roads where we need them, schools that work, or museums that respect the truth, then we have to make our own choices and pay for the services we use. That means tolls and user fees to pay for a decent transportation infrastructure. That means we pay for the education of our own children or at least insist upon education vouchers. That means private museums funded by the people who visit them. That means a limited government where we give busybodies the boot.

WINNING THE PEACE — A POST FOR VETERANS DAY

soldierI served in the military.  I proudly wore the uniform of the United States Air Force for many years, but I have a hard time considering myself a veteran. I served in the United States. I never saw a combat zone. The roughest duty I had was in Alaska, separated from my family, and my wife knew Alaska was my idea of a vacation spot. Even at 30-40 below zero, I enjoyed the peace and exhilaration that comes from quietly slipping down a snowy forest trail on cross-country skis.  So when I left my lady with our two little children, she could not muster any sympathy, and I did not have the nerve to ask for any.

A veteran is someone who has risked their life in the service of a great cause. A veteran is someone who has suffered for the cause.  Because war is violent and bloody, we fear it. We fear it because even the survivors come back changed by the harshness of war.

What is war? I don’t really understand it. Does anyone? My father saw combat in WWII. For him, it was unspeakable. As curious as I was, I could hardly pry anything out of him. Even though he continued to serve for decades and retired from the military, he said almost nothing about his combat experiences. Therefore, I still wonder. What did I owe him for his sacrifice? What can I do for the people who risked so much for my family, friends, neighbors, countrymen, and even for me?

Winning the peace is harder than winning the war.
Xavier Becerra (from here)

We can strive to win the peace.

When I went looking for the quote above, I was dumbfounded to find it supposedly belongs to a relatively obscure California congressman. I think the observation has to go back further than that. Nevertheless, each generation must rediscover the problem for itself.

During the Cold War, JFK put it this way.

The world has not escaped from the darkness. The long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still. But we meet today in an atmosphere of rising hope, and at a moment of comparative calm. My presence here today is not a sign of crisis, but of confidence. I am not here to report on a new threat to the peace or new signs of war. I have come to salute the United Nations and to show the support of the American people for your daily deliberations. For the value of this body’s work is not dependent on the existence of emergencies–nor can the winning of peace consist only of dramatic victories. Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on. — John F. Kennedy (from here)

We cannot completely win the peace. Until the Second Coming, we will not know peace. Still, for the sake of our family, friends, neighbors, countrymen we must strive for peace, but what does that striving mean in practice?

Consider again how JFK defined peace.

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.

When we are at peace with each other, we have found a way to live together without resorting to violence. That involves compromises, and it is difficult to work out and maintain those compromises. During the Civil War, for example, no compromise could be found. Therefore, by the end of that war, the combatants had filled our graveyards with the bodies of the fallen. The survivors became veterans.

To win the peace — to maintain the peace — requires hard work and sacrifice from each of us. We cannot rightfully sit back as an observer — enjoy the fireworks — and turn the work of building peace over to someone else. We must participate in gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, and quietly building new structures.

Consider a couple of disparate examples.

  • Donald Trump is now president. During the transition, he will begin the process of appointing his cabinet and many other government officials.  Because personnel equates to policy, we will learn from his appointments just how serious he is about his campaign promises. Contact the man any way you can. Make yourself heard in letters to the editor and in emails and phone calls to your Senators and Congressmen. Explain how you expect our elected leaders to help us — WE THE PEOPLE — make America Great Again.
  • There is a move afoot to recall Prince William County’s School Board Chairman, Mr. Ryan Sawyers. The following news article describes the effort: Committee Petitions to Recall School Board Chairman. If we agree with the petition drive and live in Prince William County, then we should make some effort to support it.

As citizens, we must carefully select, help, and monitor our elected officials. Sometimes we even have to insist that they find something else to do with their time. That is how Americans win peace among themselves and with the citizens of other nations. Striving to win and keep the peace is how we show our respect for our veterans.

When we take part in the development and execution of public policy, we can work to avoid sending good men and women to war. Because we respect the sacrifices required by war, we must strive to avoid asking anyone to make such sacrifices. However, when the only option is warfare, we must continue working for peace. Then we must do our best to support our military forces and see to it we celebrate their sacrifices on Veterans Day, not Memorial Day.