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

ESTABLISHING A TRAJECTORY INTO ETERNITY

voteSince I am into politics, I get emails from the local Republican politicians and Donald Trump’s campaign. They are all screaming vote at the top of their lungs, and they each giving different reasons. Their reason are generally about the here and now, not the hereafter.

After we die, what difference does it make? Remember how Hillary Clinton asked that question.

Of course, H. Clinton wanted to get as far away from that video that she and President Obama used to explain the terrorist attack. And yet there were funerals.

So is this sort of lying why we should not vote for H. Clinton, that we should vote for Donald Trump instead? No.

Why does government exist? Why do each of us exist? We all have our own beliefs, but most of us believe that after this life somehow we will continue on into eternity. Therefore, when we vote we should be considering how our vote helps us and those we love prepare for eternity.

To prepare for eternity, what kind of government do we need? What does our Lord in heaven think about government? The Bible comes at that subject basically from two different directions (Here is a good reference for finding various verses). As this article points out, What does the Bible say about government?, we are to be obedient to the governing authorities, but obedience to God comes first. As 1 Samuel 8, illustrates quite clearly, we also have some responsibility for the type of government we choose to live under. We never want to idolize our government. We always want to put our Lord in Heaven at the forefront of our existence.

We the People empower our leaders. That’s why we get the leadership we deserve. When we choose the wrong kind of leaders, we allow the wrong kind of leaders to help us establish our trajectory into eternity.

If we want the kind of leadership that will help us, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our countrymen reach heaven in glory, then we need to choose modest and honest men and women to lead us. Big government programs won’t get us to heaven. Absurdly rosy promises from politicians won’t get anyone into heaven. What will get us into heaven is reading and studying our Bibles and practicing what it teaches. Therefore, what need from our government is a government that protects our right to live a good Christian life. What we need from our government is leadership that does not get in the way and block us when we try obey our Lord’s command to spread His Gospel.

Matthew 28:18-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The reason we should not vote for Hillary Clinton is that we cannot count upon her to defend our right to freedom of religion.

As the last article indicates, who we elect to be our president will not solve the problem of religious freedom. If we want to be a free people, we each have to be committed to protecting the God-given rights of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. We also have to pray. Jesus is our Shepherd. Without His help, we are lost.

Nevertheless, Jesus acts through us. We are His hands and feet. So make certain you pray and do your best to vote wisely.

PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT

Caption: The committee chosen to draft a declaration of independence for the 13 North American British colonies is shown at work in this 19th century engraving. The five members are, from left, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On July 1, 1776, the committee submitted their draft to the Continental Congress, which voted on July 2 for final separation, and approved and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. (© AP Images)
Caption: The committee chosen to draft a declaration of independence for the 13 North American British colonies is shown at work in this 19th century engraving. The five members are, from left, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On July 1, 1776, the committee submitted their draft to the Continental Congress, which voted on July 2 for final separation, and approved and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. (© AP Images)

We actually have as part of our heritage a document that clearly states the purpose of government, the Declaration of Independence.  Here are the key words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Unfortunately, when we take the passage above out of context, we forget why men came from all over the 13 original colonies to draft and sign the Declaration of Independence. We forget that at the risk of their lives and their fortunes they were preparing to battle to strongest military power of their age. We forget they were about to embark upon a long and miserable war, and we forget why. Instead of protecting his subjects, the government of King George III just saw the wealth of the colonies and wanted to exploit it. Hence the colonists responded forcefully: “no taxation without representation”.

Do most of us (Americans) still believe that God gives us our rights, or do we believe that government gives us our rights? Given how our government spends our money, it does not seem likely. Most of the Federal budget goes to cover “pension” expenses like Social Security and “health” expenses like Medicare (see here). Since everyone likes being taken care of for “free”, there is a huge constituency such “entitlements”.

Because nothing is free, our national debt is out of control (see here).  Yet, ironically, many of the same people who want the free “entitlements” blame the deficit on defense spending, something the Constitution actually authorizes Congress to do. Those foolish people are wrong. Defense is only 21 percent of the Federal budget (see here again).

So what is the problem? Few of us spend much time studying what the Framers of our Constitution studied.  Few of us bother to read what they wrote.

Consider this webpage, The Purposes of Government. That webpage never mentions the Declaration of Independence. Instead, the author focuses upon the evolution of government. Then he describes our present state.

In more recent years, government responsibilities have extended to the economy and public service. An early principle of capitalism dictates that markets should be free from government control. But when economies spun out of control during the 1930s, and countries sank into great depressions, governments acted. The United States Congress created the Federal Reserve System in the early twentieth century to ward off inflation and monitor the value of the dollar. Franklin Roosevelt and his “Brain Trust” devised New Deal programs to shock the country into prosperity. (from here)

The economies just spun out of control?  Don’t economies spin out of control when people are encouraged to borrow recklessly, nations put up trade barriers, and government taxing and spending saps the strength of the economy? That is the fault of capitalism spun out of control?

Similarly, http://www.cliffsnotes.com provide a lame answer, What is the purpose of government, and how does a bill become law?

When you try to figure out the purpose of government, you can easily get bogged down in all of the many things a government does or should do — from defending the people to managing the federal budget. And if you ask a dozen people what the purpose of government is, you’d probably get a dozen different answers, depending on individual point of view.

That’s because everyone — and I mean everyone — has a different view of what a government should and shouldn’t do. Some think the government should control everything, while others think government should have a limited role in people’s lives. Some think that the government should be run by one person, as in a dictatorship, while others think the people should have the right to elect their representatives and leaders, as in a democracy. In fact, the purpose of government has been at the root of philosophical and political debates for many hundreds of years. Just think of any presidential debate you’ve seen: If you boil down what the candidates say, you basically end up with their views on the purpose of government. And, of course, their views usually differ quite a bit! (continued here)

What about the perspective of a journalist of renown?

Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold with the ancient Greeks who said government has only one purpose, to improve the lives of citizens. If it doesn’t, there is no reason for it, no reason at all, which is why I was a little surprised that with the nation at war, our intelligence services in a complete mess, as we just heard, the deficit soaring and jobs going overseas, the Senate decided the most important thing it needed to do was debate a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The House will soon follow.  (from here)

Bob Schieffer provided that back in 2004. That was back when the mass media had just begun to work up to a full-throated roar for “same-sex marriage”.

Still, we began as a nation with an answer. We knew the purpose of government. At least, we once did. So with some effort we can still find websites that speak to that purpose.

So what about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?  What I suggest is clicking on the links in their names and visiting their websites. Then read the quote below.

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51

Which candidate do you think would most concern James Madison? Which candidate is more concerned with the acquisition of power? Which candidate is most interested in protecting our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Which candidate causes you to fear more for the sake of your children?

Previous Posts In This Series

PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Here is the second installment in a series.  The first was this => PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: IDENTITY POLITICS

The subject here is freedom of religion.

Hillary Clinton

Some people have taken an extract of the video above to demonstrate that H. Clinton is an enemy of religious freedom. Here is an example.

The video clip raised the ire of Snopes.com, of course. So their post, Twist of Faith, rated clips of this sort as “False”, claiming they were taken out of context.  Is Snopes.com correct? No. TheDailyCaller.com provides a counterpoint here, Hillary Lets The Veil Slip: Religion Is A Problem To Be Disposed Of.

Think about H. Clinton means when she says this.

And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.

Doesn’t H. Clinton mean she is going to use the force of government to shove her beliefs upon the rest of us? Where is there any indication in H. Clinton’s career that she would let the Constitution stand in her way?

  • Watch the top video carefully. What H. Clinton preaches to her fellow women is that government is their messiah. Instead of asking women to put their faith in God, she offers herself as the deliverer of government handouts. Of course, she makes it sounds like the ladies deserve all the goodies she offers, but they don’t. Nobody does. Besides being too costly, H. Clinton’s Utopia just won’t work. What has proven to work perfectly? Nothing in this life. However, where people honor a Christian code of ethics — revere their relationships with God, their spouses, their children, and their friends and neighbors — they live blessed communities. It is much more efficient for us to rely on each other than it is to rely on government handouts.
  • The first video includes a reference by H. Clinton to the Hobby Lobby case. H. Clinton stated she did not like the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The judges decided that Hobby Lobby did not have to provide a health insurance plan for its employees that included four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices. Since the law violated the religious convictions of the owners of Hobby Lobby, the judges decided the government had no right to force them to pay severe fines.
  • H. Clinton is a huge advocate for so-called homosexual rights. See her own web page => LGBT rights and equality. When there were none to be found, judges found homosexual rights in our Federal and in many state constitutions. Is there any doubt H. Clinton would appoint more such judges? Do we really want H. Clinton, a so-called women’s rights advocate, to force us to allow transgender men into the ladies room? What kind of government would even want to do that?
  • H. Clinton is The Teacher’s Candidate (Slate), that is, teachers unions. School choice is a religious issue, and the teachers unions hate it. Many parents see what is happening in the public schools, and they do not want to expose their children to the values being taught there.  Check out Hillary Clinton’s web site. She will enlarge the role of the Federal Government in education, from early childhood through K-12 and college. If you think the indoctrination is bad now…..
National Review is no fan of Donald Trump, but they choked at the thought of H. Clinton as a fan of religious freedom => The Hillary Clinton Is No Champion of Religious Freedom. Conservative Review considered her record as Secretary of State => Hillary Clinton is a great defender of religious freedom … for Islamic Supremacists.

Donald Trump

What pops up when we search the Internet on “Donald Trump” and “religious freedom”? One of the search engines will spew out a series of articles from National Review. That’s a Conservative publication that does not much like Trump. Therefore, we see articles like these.

Did this article, Senator Lee Introduces a Bill to Protect Religious Liberty, represent a change of heart National Review? Whose got time to figure that out?

On his website Trump does not feature religious freedom as a big issue. Instead, he has Constitution and Second Amendment web page. Here is how that begins.

DONALD J. TRUMP’S VISION

Constitution

Appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who will uphold our laws and our Constitution. The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

  • Defend the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States. Nobody is above the law.
  • Uphold our freedoms, constitutional values and principles that our country was founded on.
  • Protect our Constitutional liberties.
  • Protect and defend the bill of rights, including the freedom of religion, speech, press and right to bear arms.

View Donald J. Trump’s list of Supreme Court Justice Picks, here

(continued here)

Trump rightly views his judicial picks as a freedom of religion issue, and that is most certainly true. He has given us a list of judges. He has offered us a bargain. We vote for him we get his judges. We vote for H. Clinton we get her judges, and we don’t have to be told what that means.

Here are a couple other interesting items from Trump’s website.

Trump has made no secret of the fact he wants the vote of Conservative Christians. He has asked for it, and has offered us a prized plum, Conservative judges on the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, Trump will work to repeal the Johnson amendment, Donald Trump’s push to repeal Johnson Amendment buoys religious freedom advocates. That is, Trump will fight to revoke legislation that prevents churches from participating in the political process.

LifeNews.com seems relatively happy with Trump.

The basic trouble with Trump is that he is hardly what anyone would call a model Christian. However, as some have observed he seems to realize that.

Mr. Trump frequently touts his support from evangelicals but jokes that he might not be the ideal model of piety. In his RNC speech, he said he is not sure he totally deserves the support he has received from the community. (from here)

Who would have thought that running for president just might — might — teach Donald Trump a little humility?

With respect to freedom of religion, what is the biggest complaint about Donald Trump? Here is an example:  Trump’s Attack on Freedom of Religion. Trump is suspicious of radical Islamic terrorists. The obvious fact that they kill people bothers him. So he does not want to allow immigrants into our country from nations with lots of Islamic terrorists.

Look into our history. When we established freedom of religion in the United States, what were people worried about? They did not want the national government to establish an official church of the United States, like England had done. The framers of the Constitution were worried about rivalry between different Christian denominations. They had no notion whatsoever of inviting hundreds of thousands of Muslims into our country, and they gave Congress the power to absolutely control who is allowed to immigrate to this country. If Congress wants to prohibit the immigration of Muslims, the Constitution says they can.

The Democrats invented the crazy notion of open borders so they could get more cheap labor for their rich donors and register more reliably Democrat voters. What the Democrats are doing is an attack on religious freedom. What about the Americans already here? How does it benefit us to invites hordes of people into our country who don’t want to assimilate our culture? Why would we risk the chaos of bringing terrorists of any kind into our country, particularly terrorists who kill Christians? If we know that the majority of terrorists these days claim to be followers of Islam, that just makes it a little easier to identify them. Only dummies throw away clues like that.