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

THE TRADE-OFFS WE MAKE WITH GOVERNMENT

A Grand Prix motorcyclist leaning in a turn (from here)
A Grand Prix motorcyclist leaning in a turn (from here)

In my last post, 2016 POST ELECTION STRATEGY AND TACTICS – PART 2, we considered the problem of controlling government from a religious perspective. Here we will look at the problem of government from a technical perceptive. That is, what are the basic things that government does that can get out of control? Since this subject has already been addressed numerous times by better authors, I will just refer you to one of them. Here is an excellent summation from Ken Cuccinelli.

We are all familiar with the law of gravity. It is a law of nature, and thankfully, the law of gravity is not considered to be open to debate.

There are other laws of nature — immutable truths that cannot be avoided but that are not as well known.

Among these is the principle that when a government derives its power from the people, such as in a constitutional republic like the United States, every expansion in the role and power of the government automatically results in a reduction in the power and freedom of the people. This law of liberty is as unavoidable as the law of gravity.

There are three ways that government increases its power: raising taxes, increasing spending, and creating more regulation.

It’s easy to see how taxes increase government power and reduce our freedom. The more of our earnings the government takes from us for its own purposes, the less we have left to spend on ourselves and our families, and the fewer choices we have in our lives. Fewer choices means less liberty.

Because the federal government’s spending is not tied to its taxing power (it historically spends more than it collects), spending is not directly related to taxes.

Therefore, the more things our government attempts to do — i.e., the more money it spends — the less there is for us to do. This crowding out of citizens means less freedom for them.

The third part in the law of liberty is perhaps even more nefarious, because it tends to be subtler. More regulations means the government is ordering us to do something or restricting us from what we are otherwise allowed to do. (continued here)

Why the picture of the motorcycle? Whenever we do anything, we have to make trade-offs. When a motorcyclist takes a turn, he must anticipate the trade-offs. He can lean into the turn to compensate for the fact that turning increases the forces throwing him outward, but how much he can lean into the turn depends upon the his tires and the friction provided by the road surface. That means the faster he goes the greater the risk of slipping and sliding. Therefore, the motorcyclist seeks an optimum speed, one that allows him to win without sliding out of control.

As Cuccinelli observed, increased taxes, increased spending, and increased regulation forces us to make trade-offs. Where is the optimum? How much should our government tax us? How much should our government spend? Where should we draw the line and say we have enough regulations? Since government uses force or the threat of force to collect taxes, spend our money, and regulate us, I think the answer is a moral one, not just a technical one.

When we call government taxation, spending, and regulation moral issues, what does that mean in practice? It means we must make certain we know exactly what it is that we need our government to do and why government must do it instead of public-spirited, charitable private entities. Is what we want the government to do actually worth throwing some of our neighbors in jail?

A READING RECOMMENDATION ON THE ELECTION

vote for americaYesterday I got an email from Delegate Bob Marshall that included a reading recommendation. The subject of Marshall’s email was : America’s Moral Status, November 8th.  Here is what Marshall had to say.

Dear Friends,

Please read this very profound article by Reverend George Rutler and share with friends who may not vote on November 8th.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Delegate Bob Marshall

Here is how Reverend George Rutler’s article begins.

On the Election

Exactly eight years ago I wrote a column titled “The One We Were Waiting For” in which I referred to a book by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, The Lord of the World. That dystopian novel has been cited by Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis said he has read it several times. The protagonist, if one can apply that term to an Anti-Christ, imposed a new world religion with Man himself as god.  His one foe was Christianity, which he thwarted in part by using “compromised Catholics and compliant priests to persuade timid Catholics.

Since then, that program has been realized in our time, to an extent beyond the warnings of the most dire pessimists. Our federal government has intimidated religious orders and churches, challenging religious freedom. The institution of the family has been re-defined, and sexual identity has been Gnosticized to the point of mocking biology. Assisted suicide is spreading, abortions since 1973 have reached a total equal to the population of Italy, and sexually transmitted diseases are at a record high. Objective journalism has died, justice has been corrupted, racial bitterness ruins cities, entertainment is degraded, knowledge of the liberal arts spirals downwards, and authentically Catholic universities have all but vanished. A weak and confused foreign policy has encouraged aggressor nations and terrorism, while metastasized immigration is destroying remnant western cultures, and genocide is slaughtering Christian populations. The cynical promise of economic prosperity is mocked by the lowest rate of labor participation in forty years, an unprecedented number of people on food stamps and welfare assistance, and the largest disparity in wealth in over a century. (continued here)

What the Reverend Rutler goes on to say is that we have a choice on Tuesday, and one of the choices is evil. We have a duty to vote and oppose that evil.