Saturday, May 14, 2016

Giving Up on Bathroomgate

So the president has determined that entry to bathrooms (and, I suppose, eventually shower rooms) in public schools is to be determined by the entrant's self-perception. Horrors, horrors!

What else can we expect from government?

I just flew from Kathmandu to Douala, Cameroon, via Dubai and Addis Ababa. At the government-run airport in Addis, I needed a bathroom break, but there was a cleaning lady in the entrance to the first one I went to, so I moved on. The second was clear, so in I went, did my thing, and came out of the stall to find ... you guessed 'er, Chester ... ladies mopping the floor around the guys taking leaks at the urinals.

So on to Douala and another needed bathroom break. At the entrance to the men's toilet was a well-dressed (and very pretty) lady, who kindly let me know I was in the right place and opened the door for me. I got done, came out of the stall and was greeted by that nice lady (with her hands bowled to let me know I was to tip her, for keeping me company, I guess).

So mixed-gender bathrooms are the new reality.

I remember having a crush on Rosie in seventh grade and being embarrassed at having her see me even walk into a bathroom. Never mind that for one week of that crush I saw her going into the bathroom pretty often, my view of females was that they didn't need bathrooms because they didn't do the same nasty things in them.

The new generation will grow up with no such misconceptions.

I have a friend who grew up among the Dinka of Sudan, where no one ever wears clothes (or did then, anyway). He told me, "Everyone I saw there was naked, but I never saw anyone who was immodest." I can relate. In our village in Papua New Guinea the women routinely wore outfits that would get them arrested anywhere in public in the US, but I found the atmosphere in US shopping malls, where people were clothed, much more sexually charged.

It's possible to act sexy while all the interesting parts are covered. It's also possible to be naked and make it plain that sex is off the table. Whether people choose to be sexy or not is a separate category, though it overlaps, from what people wear. Given a choice between "How I Met Your Mother," where everyone is clothed, but the humor is all about extramarital sex, and a nudist colony where the ethos is "we're at Chick Fil-A, just with no clothes," I much prefer the latter.

But that's not why I have no sympathy for evangelicals who are upset that their kids will be in bathrooms and shower rooms with the opposite sex. People who send their kids to public schools are traffickers in stolen goods, and those who vote to fund them, whether directly through school levies or indirectly through "candidates who support schools," are thieves.

If you don't want your kid in that kind of bathroom, stop taking money from others to educate them and start your own school. See if you can get Chick Fil-A or Walmart or the local Toyota dealer to sponsor it. Heck, I might even kick in some dough.

Meantime, get used to it. It won't kill you.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Nice Place to Sit Out World War III

Albert Einstein is quoted, though never firsthand that I can find, as saying that while he did not know what weapons will be used in World War III, he knew that World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.

Two possible roads from WWIII to that conclusion come to mind. The first is that WWIII will simply bomb and radiate all of humanity back to the Stone Age. The other, and perhaps the one more likely to be taken, is that those on the periphery, after watching the survivors of combatant nations envy their dead, will decide that it is better to settle issues by lot, or by soccer game, or by a one-on-one battle à la David and Goliath (1 Sam 17:9)—anything that will enable people to continue to make a living—than by an atomic version of “might makes right.”

For a G-rated version of what will be an R-rated event to which the unwilling as well as the willing will be admitted, grab some popcorn and watch the 1983 movie The Day After. (If you want to skip the introduction of the characters, start watching at about minute 40.) Is the “freedom” to subsidize ethanol, abortion, homosexual marriage, and “too big to fail” banks really so precious that you would put yourself and your neighbors through that?

I am writing this from Nepal, where I have been enjoying the company of pastors and other committed Christians who are providing resources for their countrymen who want to translate the Bible into minority languages. The dust and pollution and trash are horrific, not only in Kathmandu but even here, some miles away, around an ashram built by the Jesuits in the 1960s. Making a living is difficult for most people. And many of the men here have told me of being beaten and imprisoned for their faith, though I have also heard how they have found ingenious methods of getting the message out.

But when some of my new friends asked me yesterday if I would like to return to Nepal, I immediately said yes. The people I’ve had connections with are friendly and the food is good. However, lover of ease that I am, the reason I thought of first was that Nepal will probably not be part of World War III. Yes, I think the same God who decided that the sin of the Amorites was full and ordered their complete destruction at the hands of the Israelites, and who decided that the sin of the Judahites was full and ordered the complete destruction of their nation at the hands of the Babylonians, would be acting consistent with his nature to destroy the USA.

I thought the fall would take place at Y2K, the dawn of this century, but it didn’t happen, so I’m not going to make predictions. But the establishment darlings, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, are itching to push the button. Bernie Sanders is toast. And while Donald Trump seems to be the closest thing to a peace candidate with a shot at the White House, I remember that Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all ran as peace candidates—need I say more?

The next president will believe, as Randolph Bourne said, that “war is the health of the state.” How do I know? Because he or she will be a Keynesian, and Keynes taught that disasters like war, earthquakes, and the like are actually good for the economy because they enable governments to raise taxes and put people to work rebuilding. Keynesians credit Hitler’s and Mussolini’s massive public works projects with pulling their respective economies out of depression, Roosevelt’s projects with putting people to work and getting them through the Great Depression, as well as the wartime spending that ended the Depression for good, and Reagan’s massive increase in federal spending with ending the recession of the early 1980s.

With the US economy headed for hospice, godless (and, alas, “godly”) Americans expect their Führer “Do something—anything!” So the next president will need to take drastic action to increase public spending. What better action than war? War in Syria! War in Ukraine! War in Nepal!

Oops.

The fact is that if God wants me to go through World War III, there will be no place to get away from it. And the American survivors of World War III are no less (though no more) deserving of a chance to hear the gospel than are the Nepalis. Beatings and jail time are not the only way for us to show the world that God’s “grace is sufficient” for us.

I see no way I could live here without being a burden to someone. Furthermore, the work to which God has called my wife is tied to a suburb of Philadelphia. And there is much to be done there before the dark days come when no one can work.

My prayer for the Nepali church is that she will not make the same mistake we have made in the West of trying to use the world’s means—political power—to accomplish kingdom ends. May Nepali believers take Jesus’ command not to be like the kings of the Gentiles seriously and so to please the Lord, to show themselves to be the children of God, and to allow God time to make their enemies into not only their friends but his friends.

And after World War III, may they know how to make peace without resort even to sticks and stones.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Trumpster’s Job Monstrosity

Part of what makes Trump a monster, and the centerpiece of his appeal, is his stand on immigration and jobs: “Foreigners [or manufacturers] are stealing American jobs!”

My question: can anyone really own a job?

Linguists call some nouns in some languages obligatorily possessed because they describe a relationship and so cannot exist apart from that relationship. A father is a father because he has a child, so the words for father and son and daughter are all marked for possession: “my father,” “his father,” “my son,” etc. Same with husband, wife, cousin, grandfather, et cetera. This is how it worked in the language my wife and I learned in Papua New Guinea:

my _____ your (singular) _____ his _____
wife naka apäki ntaka säpa kanka kayäpa
father naka äpo ntaka sän kanka kän
grandfather naka täito ntaka säwo kanka kayäwo
mother’s brother naka aamo ntaka saamo kanka kayaamo


A given tree may or may not be owned, so trees, rocks, and the like had no such markings, nor did things like houses or clothes, though it’s not impossible that a language somewhere would mark manufactured items as obligatorily possessed.

But what about a job? Can a job ever really be possessed?

If I can speak of “my job,” it’s only because someone has asked me to do something with the understanding that I will somehow be better off (or suffer less) if I engage in a specified activity than I would if I did not. Implicit in that relationship is that the other person is the one who determines whether I “have a job” or not. One could say that our language expresses the idea backward from the reality: if anyone truly possesses a job, truly controls the situation, it’s not the person who does the work; rather, it’s the person who gives the job, the one who pays the salary (or, in the case of prison administrators, lessens the punishment).

So to say “the corporations are stealing American jobs and sending them overseas” is nonsense. They are taking what in reality and in every aspect except language are their jobs and giving them to whom they please.

Americans bitch about the “unlivable” wages paid by Walmart, but when people much worse off economically than we are jump at the chance to earn those “unlivable” wages, we need to consider the possibility, however remote, that part of “American exceptionalism” includes a worldview that is backward from reality.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Does Anyone Want The Federal Beast to Survive?

I listened to Alex Jones’s interview with Donald Trump last night. The Donald Trump I saw there bears little resemblance to the guy who was on stage in Houston last week, at least in mannerisms. He’s polite, he makes sense – and he’s a monster.

He wants to “make America great again.” He wants to make America rich (again?). Who could object to that?

He wants to “build up our military.” We already spend more on our military than almost the rest of the world combined. What’s to build up? But you go to an airport to get on a plane, and you see that even that military has failed to make us (feel) safe.

Certainly our politicians and diplomats are abject failures when it comes to enabling us to be a nation at peace. I heard precious little about diplomacy.

He wants to take ISIS’s oil. Using the military. (Have we heard that before?) What about the people whose land the oil is on? Well, “we” (meaning Exxon-Mobil) take it over using eminent domain.

What about property rights for the rest of us? Um, no. If the state needs it for “progress,” it goes to the state, and the state determines how (or if) the (former) owner gets compensated.

How will he deal with the deficit? “Waste, fraud, and abuse! Waste, fraud, and abuse!” This is an original idea? Isn’t it the mantra chanted by all fiscal conservative wannabes? Wasn’t it Reagan’s mantra? (Trump considers Reagan the best of the presidents since Lincoln.) Yet Reagan was the one who presided over the hockey-stick increase in federal deficit spending. I’m not reassured.

Now I consider Trump to be the least monstrous of the five leading candidates. He is no more militaristic than the others and seems to be less eager to go to war. With the exception of Cruz’s opposition to the ethanol subsidy, he is no less a foe of the welfare state. But he’s still a monster.

Look at the other federal government names that come to mind: Barack Obama, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Harry Reid, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Janet Yellen, John Roberts. These are the people at the top. Would you want any of them to see their dreams for you come true? And we expect the entity beneath them to work for our good, or for the good of anyone not in the inner circle? Why would anyone want this behemoth to survive? Wouldn’t life be better without any of it?

If the federal government disappeared tomorrow, Pennsylvania, where I live, would still be one of the top economies in the world. To say nothing of Texas or Tennessee or California. We are paying the federal government to make us enemies of each other – tell me the Republicans and the Democrats on the street don’t hate each other – and enemies abroad for all of us. We need people to do that “for” us?

How would Pennsylvania deal with ISIS or Iran or Russia or Mexian immigrants, or Social Security or Medicare? I don’t know. But my guess is that we wouldn’t have to, at least not much more than Costa Rica or Panama or Cuba do. I suspect we would see some kind of confederations spring up. I don’t expect to see slavery reinstanted.

But I would suspect the Amish would continue to be the Amish, and other nonconformist groups to try to live out their visions. Not all will succeed, but that’s life.

The church might have the resources to start the schools, hospitals, and orphanages for which it was once famous and respected.

The Iowans might continue to produce ethanol. Fine: if I don’t have to subsidize the production or pay for it at the pump, it’s not my concern.

We might dissolve into squabbles between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, collectivists and individualists. Some of those squabbles might turn nasty. State police have proven to be as nasty as the feds in enforcing bad laws. But the distance between here and somewhere better could be reduced if there’s enough good neighborliness left among the little guys. And if there’s not, then there is literally no hope for the people, nation or no nation.

In the end, what will save the people – and it’s the people, not the abstraction represented by Old Glory, who are important – will be grace. Long term, it is the grace of God through Jesus. For this there is no substitute. Shorter term, however, it’s the common grace of voluntary service: we consider people and their property sacred, and we get ahead by meeting their felt needs with goods and services they are willing to pay for.

Some regions of what is now the US are more amenable to that mentality than others. It’s time for the church in those areas to realize that our nationalism is crippling our efforts to live it out, and we need to look for peaceful, God-honoring ways of demonstrating and providing an alternative. And praying that the behemoth dies peacefully, and soon. And we need to do all that decently and in order.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Progressive Government Cannot Not Be Corrupt

Progressivism, whether liberal or conservative, is the idea that if we just put the right people in charge, they will be able to concoct the proper mixture of a fair and prudent tax code, expenditures on bread and circuses, and “regulation” of private and pubic life, and we will all live happily ever after. As the idea that if the godless are set free to make up their own rules the result will be anything approaching the justice, prosperity, and peacewe all hope for is thoroughly unbiblical, Christians should have rejected it out of hand. However, the church in the United States, having been taught to be properly grateful for a nation that has granted its residents freedoms undreamed of in most places and at most times in our history, has failed to notice that that nation no longer values the freedoms it once granted and has drunk as deeply of Progressivism as the population at large.

I hereby attempt to provide a remedy for this turn of events. Having demolished the idea that there is some ideal tax system in which “everyone pays their fair share, I now turn to the second leg of the Progressive stool, the possibility that funds garnered through taxation can be disbursed justly and prudently.

When Progressive governments fail, the charge is usually “corruption,” a catch-all term that encompasses incompetence, mismanagement, and various forms of embezzlement and theft. The solution proposed, usually around election time, never varies from the Progressive mantra of “We just need to put the right people in charge!” The fact that we put these crooks in charge to undo the damage done by the last group of crooks we put in charge doesn’t seem to register.

But to show you that even if there were some right people to put in charge the job would not be done correctly, I’ll put you in the driver’s seat and let you see for yourself that even the right person cannot not crash the car.

You’re the head of the education department in the state of Bruhaha. A good Progressive, you consider your job to be assuring a quality education for all the children in Bruhaha, especially the poor, and you are doing your best.

For a long time you have been wishing there were money to build a new school in Ton County, the poorest county in your state, and one day money does come up for just that purpose. After much serious consultation, the decision about where to build the school has boiled down to a choice between Upton and Downton. The communities are about the same size, but folks in Upton have more money than those in Downton because there is a factory in Upton run by a Mr. Jenrus.

Because Downtonian children do not have the advantageous home life of those in Upton, you are leaning toward locating the school in Downton so it can become a sort of community center for all Downtonians, as well as serving the Uptonians, who seem to be able to afford their own community amenities, from a distance.

One day you get a call from Mr. Jenrus, whom you know to be a man of his word. He also happens to have three children who will be attending the new school. He has heard that you want to locate the school in Downton and would like you to reconsider your decision. He offers to add at his own expense needed classroom space and equipment to the school, to add an extra twenty percent to the teachers’ salaries so better teachers can be recruited, to buy a bus, and to make sure the bus and the road between Downton and Upton are maintained for years to come so that the Downtonian children will be able to get to the school quickly whenever it is open – all this if only you will build the school in Upton. If you insist on building the school in Downton, then because he is concerned about the welfare of his children – who so far have been privately tutored and sent to boarding school and whom he does not want to spend the extra time on the bus – he will not only not put his money into the school, he will sell his factory to the highest bidder and move somewhere he can guarantee a good education for them.

So you have a choice between a better-financed school in Upton, one that would arguably serve the people of Downton better than a less-expensive school in Downton, or a lesser school in Downton that would be closer to those whose needs are greater than those in Upton and the possibility that the factory in Upton would close or be sold to someone with nothing close to a heart for the community.

If you figure that your idea of a community center is more important than the extra classroom space and higher-paid teachers, then you’ll go with Downton. And if you’re wrong about that – the community center never comes about – not only will the people in Upton have your hide, so will those in Downton who disagreed with you from the beginning.

If you go with Upton, you will be de facto and by definition following the money, which goes against the stated Progressive goal of slanting the playing field so the disadvantaged are less so. And, of course, Mr. Jenrus will probably want to show his appreciation to you. This appreciation might take the form of a thank-you note, an invitation to a dinner party, or a twenty-percent discount on all Jenrus Factory products, or two weeks for you and your family on the Riviera. Or it might be a generous contribution to your campaign when you decide to run for governor.

In any case, how do you know if Mr. Jenrus is being corrupt or properly grateful? After all, he didn’t say anything up front about feathering your nest if you decided to take him up on his offer. And many people besides Mr. Jenrus have benefited from your decision, so he would probably not be the only one showing his appreciation for you in tangible ways.

But now the precedent has been set. Given that the human heart is deceptive, desperately wicked, and therefore unknowable, how can you – let alone the population at large – know the next time a similar decision needs to be made whether you are deciding the issue on the merits of the case or “in the best interests of the community,” which just happens to benefit you and your friends? How much of the decision-making process will involve keeping people from thinking you are simply responding to bribes, whether explicit or implicit?

And remember – you’re spending other people’s tax money, presumably including some from New Upton and New Downton.

This lose-lose moral hazard faces every official in tax-funded institutions. But it doesn’t face leaders of voluntary institutions, as you’ll see if you climb into this car over here.

You’re C. Truitt Cathy. You want to build Chick Fil-A High School in New Ton County. For a site you have a choice between New Upton and New Downton. You’re leaning toward New Downton because you want to glorify God by helping those who are poorer, but Colonel Sanders has offered to give the school an appreciable boost only if it’s built in New Upton.

You’re spending your own money for subsidy either way, so it’s not a question of you making a profit or either community suffering a net loss. In fact, it’s a win-win situation, the only question being which way yields the better result over the long term.

But you know that the tangible gratitude of the New Uptonians if you build in New Upton will exceed that of the New Downtonians if you build in New Downton. You want to be a good steward before God so that he will receive the glory and the thanksgiving, but you also know you can’t please everyone no matter what you do. Will the New Downtonians benefit long-term more from a better-funded school or from a shorter commute? Is a better-funded school even necessarily a better school?

You scratch your head for a while and decide on ….

(I didn’t hear a crash. Did you?)

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Pope and The Donald

“The action is the reaction.” - Saul Alinsky

I wonder if the Pope was knowingly putting Alinsky’s law into practice when he told the crowd in Mexico that Donald Trump is not a Christian. He’s a liberation theologian, liberation theology being revolutionary leftism using Christian jargon, and Alinsky was a leftist, so I’m sure the Pope is familiar with Alinsky, at least second hand. He must have known that Trump’s reaction and the reaction of American evangelicalism would be much more important than his own words. If so, he was right.

Jerry Falwell Jr. jumped in to claim Trump is a Christian, and there’s even a picture of “the hedge fund priest” blessing Trump.

If Trump had just said, “So I’m not a Christian. So what? What’s it to ya?” life would be fine. But he didn’t, and I bet the Pope knew he wouldn’t. What a great way to drive a wedge right down the middle of US evangelicalism.

Donald Trump the serial polygamist a Christian? Really? What church is he a member of? What creed does he subscribe to? Could he become a member of your church?

So we have the warmongering evangelicals backing Cruz who, I gather, could pass muster with theologically fastidious churches, and those sick of the war overseas and the war on drugs rather reluctantly backing a nonbeliever, which is fine, but one who muddies the punch bowl by claiming to be a Christian.

I just saw the cover of a book called The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church. Add number seven: The Donald.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Quill Pig for President!

I’ve decided it’s time to announce my candidacy for president. I have a hard time believing that my failures could be any worse than Hillary’s, Bernie’s, Donald’s, Ted’s, or Marco’s successes.

I don’t plan to run. I’ll leave running to the guys with money. I’ll just stand and let God bring the office to me. The chances of that happening are infinitessimal but still greater than zero.

So it’s up to you, dear reader, to get me into the White House. It won’t cost you anything. All you need to do is Like this post, get two of your friends to Like it, and remember to write my name in in November. I figure after I’ve got 100 million Likes, I can think about a running mate, and with that many votes, the gatekeepers can’t not give me the election.

So, here’s my platform. This will not only make America great again, it will make living here great again!

  • On my first day in office, I will rescind all executive orders.

  • I will veto all legislation until the Federal Reserve is abolished.

  • I will veto any legislation that includes off-budget expenses. All government expenditures will be on budget.

  • I will veto any budget that exceeds 80% of the previous year’s tax revenue and taxes individuals more than 80% of their previous year’s tax assessment.

  • I will veto any spending for the War on Drugs.

  • As commander in chief I will withdraw the US military from foreign soil and authorize only operations that directly defend the territory within our borders.

There it is. Short. Sweet. Perfect.

But it might need some explanation. It is, after all, not what one would expect from an anarchist.

The president was never meant to be a king, and executive orders are easily abused. So I’ll scrap the whole institution by rescinding all previous executive orders, and of course I will use the power of the veto, not executive orders, to accomplish my own goals. If Congress overrides my vetoes, I will abide by the legislative process, but I will not strike deals that let them off easy.

Ever since the Federal Reserve has had control of the money supply, America has been involved in deficit spending that would have been impossible, spending that has financed needless, useless wars in Europe, Vietnam, and the Middle East, and foisted debt on three generations of the unborn, including the two Ponzi schemes of Medicare and Social Security. The moral hazard of fiat money is too strong for rational beings to resist. I will do everything in my power to put it out of existence.

Another symptom of the fiat money system is the ability of the government to fund secret and crony activities off the budget. And again, rational beings can be expected to be better at obtaining such funds than at discerning the “common good” (whatever that is). I will do everything I can to veto federally sanctioned fiat money.

The government has gone rogue because it has the money to go rogue. Even without deficit spending, it has too much spending power. As a result, social life begins at the federal level and trickles down to the local level. It’s time to end the failed experiment of top-down, command-and-control governance and return political power to the states. After eight years of 20% reductions in the budget, the federal budget will be one-sixth its present size, and total government expenditures will be even less than one-sixth what they are today.

As a result, the states will cease to be de facto provinces and become once again what the Declaration of Independence called “free and independent States” like “the State of Great Britain.” The eight-year transition period will allow the states to determine how or even whether they will replace the newly defunded federal programs, how they will handle immigration, how much water people may have in their toilet tanks, and countless other issues currently mishandled by the feds. Some states will become socialist paradises with their own fiat currencies; others may approximate free markets with private or other currencies.

The War on Drugs is a war on freedom, and it has spawned abominations like RICO asset forfeiture and laws against possession of cash, as well as providing fertile soil for the growth of criminal gangs far worse than those that grew up as a result of alcohol prohibition. I will veto all legislation with funding for the War on Drugs.

Finally, the purpose of the US military is to protect the United States, not Ukraine, Israel, Japan, or South Korea. This task does not require a military that costs as much as the rest of the world’s armed forces combined. Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto warned against invading the US because “there will be an armed American behind every blade of grass,” and things have not changed for the worse on that score. With the federal budget reduced, it will be up to the states to decide how they will defend their own interests alone and in bottom-up partnership with other states.

So there you have it.

Do you want your life back, or would you rather have Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Ted, or Marco run it for you? If you think you can do a better job than they can, you know what to do: Like this page on Facebook, and get your friends to follow suit.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

“The Kings of the Earth”: Mao versus Cathy

The Bible gives us an interesting story line regarding the future of government on earth. On the one hand, we have government-led rebellion against God:

The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. (Ps 2:2)

My loyal readers will recognize this as my default view of all government. But those whose default view is Romans 13 like to come back with another, equally biblical, assertion, that the future holds the prospect of government-led submission to Jesus:

The [new Jerusalem, the eternal city of God ruled by Jesus, the Lamb of God] has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations of the earth will walk in its light, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it. (Rev 21:24)

So how do we get from the former to the latter? Some folks say the only hope is for Jesus to come back bodily and blow those baddies to hell:

“You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Ps 2:9)

Those who hold any hope for human agency to play a part in the transformation would say that we pray that God will give us godly rulers who will lead our society in righteous ways that allow the church to carry out its mandate to disciple the nations. Such folks don’t seem to find “Um, how’s it working for you?” a question worth answering.

The Quill Pig model is to withdraw – ever so respectfully and politely, but firmly – our tangible and intangible loyalty from rulers who plot against the Lord and give it to those who bring their glory into Jesus’ kingdom. One reason for this is that it’s the only way for the kings of the earth to bring into Jesus’ kingdom glory that is worth having.

To look at what this means, let’s begin with the prototypical king of the earth, Mao Zedong. If anyone has ever prepared for battle against Jesus, it is Mao. He began as a local guerrilla, which is to say, a the run-of-the-mill thieving, murdering, lying, hypocritical politician on steroids.

For those of you who don’t understand guerrilla war, this is how it works: in the name of empowering the little guy with health, education, and welfare, guerrillas show up in a village and tell the little guys there, “Give us food [or whatever] or die.” Now the little guys may or may not believe that the guerrillas can bring them a better life, but they do want to see at least one more sunset, so they give the guerrillas what they ask for. Then, after the guerrillas leave, the government shows up and punishes the little guys for “aiding and abetting the enemy.”

There is every reason to believe that this, in addition to raids on government supply depots and outright aid from the Soviet Union, is how Mao got his start. He eventually killed off most of his opponents and drove the rest out of the country. Once he had established himself as “the powers that be … ordained of God,” he headed a regime that killed more innocent people than any on record and enforced atheism at gunpoint.

Even ISIS is probably more humane than Mao was. Today everyone who is not ISIS considers ISIS’s policy of “convert, leave, or die” (with “leave” and sometimes even “convert” not always an option) as the epitome of barbarity, but if Mao took his predecessor Stalin as a role model, he preferred the even greater barbarism of torturing his victims into forced confessions to killing them outright. (See the account of Stalin’s treatment of Kamenev near the bottom of this.)

Whether we like it or not, he did provide every child in China with a school, a hospital, and future job security, so he can justly claim to have delivered on his promises, thus fulfilling the definition of government given in Romans 13 at least as well as did the government Paul had in mind when he wrote the epistle. If we take the Romans 13 view of government as the default, it is kings like Mao who will bring their glory into the new Jerusalem.

One wonders, however, what would cause a man who hates God as much as Mao did to turn his hard-won booty over to his, shall we say, behated. Will he do it because Jesus comes with legions of angels who can’t be machine gunned or blown up and waterboards him until he hands over the goods? Is this what is meant by the knowledge of the glory of the Lord filling the earth like the waters cover the seas? Or will he chicken out before it gets that far the way we do at tax time, sending in the tax forms before the IRS sends out its SWAT teams to roust us at two in the morning and haul us off to the Big House?

Or is God less interested in physical treasures than in true appreciation of his goodness, an appreciation that will manifest itself in voluntary, heartfelt giving before the threat of heavenly retribution comes over the horizon?

If so, I think he can get it from another king, one unlike Mao: C. Truett Cathy, head of Chick Fil-A.

Before I continue, I may need to head off a couple of objections. One might be that he underpays his employees. I actually don’t know what he pays compared to Walmart or McDonald’s – I suspect he pays less than Goldman Sachs – but I do know that I have been to Chick Fil-A a dozen or so times, and the employees all seem to personify the old Boy Scout Law: trustworthy, loyal, honest, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. They look to me like they enjoy coming to work and consider making us customers glad we chose to spend our money there. I would expect them to be working to move on to more lucrative pursuits as soon as possible, of course, but my guess is that any HR person who sees a long tenure at a Chick Fil-A on a résumé expects the applicant to know how to make both the customers and his employer happy.

Another objection might be that fast food is a blight on the world’s landscape, the haunt of second-class people. That may be, but it is also true that fast food places provide a place for people of modest means to be served – “For once I get to tell someone else what I want and expect to get what I ask for” – and to get out from under the labor of preparing meals. They can turn their toddlers loose on a playground where there are no friendly strangers in black sedans and eat food designed to make them want to come back for more some other time. Places like Chick Fil-A are meeting the needs, if only the felt needs, of the little guy.

And finally, I don’t know how happy their chickens are. I would like all chicken to be free range and organic, but I can’t afford it at home, let alone at a fast food place. If you’re a Vegan or from PETA, give yourself a point.

For all his faults, perceived or otherwise, C. Truett Cathy is a king bringing his treasure into the new Jerusalem. His most overt attempt to do so is the well-known policy of not opening on Sunday. This is an attempt to honor God’s words: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:9-10a).

(I emphasize “attempt” because the degree of success is open to question. Sunday is the first day of the week, not the seventh, and unless he uses neither electricity nor items made with steel or other materials produced by factories open on the Sabbath, he violates a strict interpretation of Ex 20:10b: “neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” But that the attempt is sincere is not open to question.)

I think Truett Cathy is trying to show the world what it means to be a Christian, and I would argue that it is the glory of the Truett Cathys of the world that God is after. It is that kind of glory that will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. If Jesus values the few coppers contributed by a poor widow more than the many shekels contributed by the rich, even if that money was earned honestly, how much more is he interested in treasures voluntarily given in exchange for high-quality service than in booty extorted by revenue agents?

Imagine a Truett Cathy paying his bills – and, infinitely more importantly, earning a hearing for the gospel – by educating disadvantaged children or providing health care or caring for the unemployed or the superannuated. Compare that with how Mao educated children and provided health care and cared for the unemployed and superannuated. Imagine how – and why – a Truett Cathy would protect homes from burglars and catch murderers and repair roads and deal with wannabe invaders. Compare that with our local police and highway departments and the diplomats who so arrogantly claim that they “serve and protect” us.

My prediction is that the fulfillment of the prophecy that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the new Jerusalem will be preceded by the withering away of the state as we know it and the emergence of “kings” who act more like Truett Cathy than like Mao or any US president.

Why would anyone want it to be otherwise?

And if it’s not otherwise, how is the best way to get from here to there? Is it by joining or even encouraging the armed forces of the Mao wannabes or the cadres of the Truett Cathys?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Liberwhat?

LIBERTARIAN PARTY: PRO-CHOICE ON EVERYTHING proclaims the banner in the picture at the top of Bruce Ashford’s column on "The (Religious) Problem with Libertarianism. The site on which it appears is “a project of the ethics and religious liberty commission” of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ashford is a professor at an SBC seminary, so we’re talking major-league respectable here. His point is, of course, that that banner says all that needs to be said about libertarianism: the average evangelical equates “pro choice” with “anti-life,” so libertarianism is therefore anti life. His confusion, innocent or otherwise, is such that he never uses the word libertinism in the column, so it is obvious that does not know the difference between libertarianism and libertinism.
Embedded in the fine print is the note that it is only “some libertarians” who believe that “taking the life of unborn babies is wrong,” but by that point the damage has been done. In earlier sentences, Ashford strongly implies that libertarianism is the belief in “removing every possible restriction,” that “What I want must reign supreme,” and that it “deifies freedom, giving it a sort of autonomy that God alone should have.”
This follows another well-respected evangelical leader’s declaration in a public forum, “I am a libertarian at heart.” As I had only ever heard him call himself conservative, I was tempted to be pleasantly surprised until he went on to say, “I want what I want when I want it.”
Seriously? You know at least two libertarians who are in positions of responsibility in their respective churches, you attended a seminary founded by a libertarian, and this is what you think we believe?
(I have heard that Ashford has confessed to doing little research before writing his column, but I don’t expect ever to see anything resembling a public retraction or even correction or clarification. Nor would I expect any kind of public retraction or correction from the latter leader.)
Let’s get this straight (again), beginning with perhaps the best aspect of Ashford’s article, his quote from the conservative Karl Hess, who defines libertarianism as
the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit; that all social actions should be voluntary; and respect for every other man’s similar and equal ownership of life and, by extension, property and fruits of that life, is the ethical basis of a humane and open society. In this view, the only function of law or government is to provide the sort of self-defense against violence that an individual, if he were powerful enough, would provide for himself. (The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia)
To which I say, “And the problem is … ?”
Well, OK, Christians will have trouble with the first relative clause because we know that we and all we own ultimately belong to God. But since not every conservative would qualify for membership in an evangelical church and so evangelical conservatives have to make adjustments to their conservatism if they are to conform it to their faith (assuming that they are not actually conforming their faith to fit their conservatism), I have no problem saying that a libertarian evangelical is within his rights to swap out the idea of self-ownership, which is clearly not biblical, and swap in the idea of stewardship, which clearly is.
Further, if we are not to judge our fellow servants because that is God’s prerogative (“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” [Rom 14:4]), it follows that I am to treat those things over which God has made you steward as though they were your property. I am not to expropriate them even if I think I have some morally better use for them, whether I’m Donald Trump taking them to “make America great again” or Bernie Sanders taking them to be “compassionate.”
If words mean anything at all, the pledge of the same Libertarian Party that is “pro-choice on everything” – “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals” – is the exact opposite of “removing every possible restriction,” and “What I want must reign supreme.”
Evangelical libertarians have the same job of educating secularist libertarians that the unborn are human that libertarian evangelicals have of educating statist evangelicals that libertarianism is not libertinism.
Perhaps we can begin with the second-best part of Ashford’s article, a quote from Abraham Kuyper, the father of Progressive evangelicalism and no friend of libertarianism: “Can it be denied that the centralizing State grows more and more into a gigantic monster over against which every citizen is finally powerless?”
Those evangelicals never consider that maybe they are the libertines, taxing libertarian home educators to support godless public schools that have succeeded in wooing the young away from the church, taxing libertarians who save for their own retirement to support those who don’t, taxing peace-loving libertarians to fight useless wars abroad and at home that not only do not accomplish their stated military goals but kill, maim, and dispossess the innocent by the thousands and millions, shrugging off the carnage and denying responsibility because, after all, they didn’t make the laws.
Freedom to do as one sees fit to one’s neighbor without taking responsibility. If that isn’t libertinism, what is?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Life at Conception Act

Senator Rand Paul has introduced the Life at Conception Act (henceforth LCA) in what I take to be a sincere attempt to end the practice of abortion in the US. I have not read the act, but I’m reasonably sure the title captures the essence: human life begins at conception, therefore to term abortion “the elimination of a product of conception” is simply an attempt to deny that a human is being murdered by using obfuscatory language to deny the personhood of the victim.

This is all well and good so far. Contrary to the willful ignorance of some, libertarians in both small-government and anarchist camps do care about life and want to see murderers brought to justice. This goes (or should go) double for Christians, who want to please God in all aspects of life and who know that God has special concern for the defenseless.

The act is not without its problems, however. The one I want to concentrate on is the lack of the definition of conception. “The Medical Definition of conceptionat merriam-webster.com says that it is “the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both.” Read it again. Do you see the illogic? How can one “become pregnant” in any meaningful sense without both fertilization and implantation (the latter requiring fertilization)? If one cannot be pregnant without implantation, then fertilization by itself does not conception make. If one can become pregnant without implantation, why is it mentioned as an alternative? Is implantation required or not? I don’t see that the question is answered.

The good folks at study.com define conception as fertilization alone, and that’s fine, but they are not the household name that Merriam-Webster is.

My point is that the experts don’t seem to agree on what conception is. I assume the LCA defines conception as fertilization.

By doing so it will arouse opposition from those who would include implantation in the definition of conception. It will also arouse opposition from those who in the light of Lev 17:11 (“The life of a creature is in the blood; cf. 17:12-13) and Deut 12:23 (“Be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat”) believe that only those beings with blood are alive.

Because the Bible does not define conception scientifically, I think we need to be very careful about taking scientific definitions as God given. The Bible was written to people who knew they were pregnant only when implantation had long since occurred. The product of conception had blood and therefore was a human being with all the rights and privileges thereof by any possible biblical definition, and killing that human being would be at best a self-defense measure and otherwise murder.

But let’s go with conception as fertilization. What can we look forward to as the LCA is enforced? I will assume here – though I don’t for a moment believe it – that there will be no problem enforcing the law against abortions performed on beings with blood. I want to concentrate on the vast majority of killings of products of conception: those accomplished using IUDs, in which term I include drugs and any other technology that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting.

I want to address specifically how this law will impact privacy. We agree that murderers have no right to privacy. The question before us is now much privacy nonperpetrators have, and I address the following to those who support the LCA and the definition of conception as fertilization.

If the LCA defines life as beginning at fertilization, that makes IUDs implements of murder, right? At least with a firearm you can say it’s to shoot burglars. I don’t see any use for an IUD besides keeping fertilized eggs from implanting.

How do you make sure women don’t have IUDs? After all, if you outlaw IUDs in the US, those who want them can go to China or Canada (or to an underground IUD dealer) and get one. Bootleg web sites will give downloadable instructions on how to 3D print them. People smarter than I am will come up with even more, shall we say, effective ideas.

Do you force all women to undergo random X-rays? Do you monitor their menstrual cycles and force them to take pregnancy tests if their period comes X days late? In short, does the US become a giant airport where women have to go through the equivalent of a TSA frisk every month to prove that they are not murderers?

With a regular murder you have a corpse to show that a death has occurred and some procedure to determine if the death was caused by foul play. I’m sure it is possible to determine if a woman has prevented the implantation of a fertilized egg, but do you want all women of childbearing age in the US to go through that procedure, and if so, how often? Otherwise, how do you know the murder has occurred?

These are not nitpicky questions. If you’re serious about enforcing that law, you’d better prepare for a fight from those who disagree with your definition of when life begins. If you’re going to make X a crime, you need to decide how you’re going to enforce the law. How much in the way of money and intangibles are you willing to spend? What cost does God want you to impose on those who disagree with you but are not themselves guilty of murder by IUD?

The Mafia and the police state are unintended (at least by sincere prohibitionists) consequences of alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition, respectively. What unintended consequences might we expect from a war on IUDs?

It used to be that missionaries went to places like New Guinea knowing that the people there were murderers by any definition. (Don Richardson’s Peace Child and Lords of the Earth are two well-known biographies of such missionaries.) They didn’t go with guns to arrest, try, and execute murderers. They went with the gospel to try to persuade them to settle their disputes peacefully. Some of those missionaries ended up being murdered.

I would suggest that the US is closer to heathen New Guinea than to the kind of Christian commonwealth that would support the LCA. We need to approach our neighbors as sojourners, ambassadors of a foreign king, not as expecting the culture as a whole to regard us as “the powers that be … ordained as God.” We begin by taking disputable activities off the table and concentrate on the general truth that all are rebels against God. After all, if we can’t get unbelievers to accept that general idea, they will never see their need for Jesus to clean up those specific areas of their lives.

The issue of abortion, and IUDs in particular, is secondary. The pro-abortion viewpoint will be well represented in hell, as will the sexually immoral in general, but so many people who consider IUDs murder and were virgins before their one marriage to a member of the opposite sex. Yes, we want to see people agree with God about IUDs, abortion in general, and sexuality in general, but who Jesus is and what he has done and our need for a savior because of our rebellion against God in every aspect of life is even more important.

Our hope – our sure hope – is that those who come to Christ will turn away from sexual immorality, but if someone is convinced that his sex life is moral no matter what the Bible says, I would suggest that a would-be evangelist agree to disagree on that point for a while and look for places in his target’s life that they agree he falls short of God’s standards in. Once he agrees in principle, we can trust God to work on him with the specifics. I’m living proof that what seems like a good idea one day can be not only regretted but considered repugnant in time.

Maybe there’s a place for appealing to the government to enforce laws on the books, like Paul did when he challenged the Roman guards who were about to scourge him (Acts 22:5; but compare that with Acts 14:19). But I think we need to think twice before we try to get laws that most people disagree with passed, especially when the root of the problem is out of reach of the law, as the human heart is.

At least for now, I think the watchword is “’Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’” I can’t stop abortion in China and other countries where it is even more prevalent than it is in the US. If abortion were outlawed in Pennsylvania today, I wouldn’t be able to stop it in California. I can’t stop Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other in the Middle East, nor Pakistanis and Indians from killing each other in Kashmir. I would love the opportunity to talk to the perpetrators in every case and try to persuade them to desist, but until God opens that door, I have to leave dealing with those people to him.

If he were to open the door, I would expect to go through it unarmed, not to punish but with the assignment of appealing to them to be reconciled to God. No act of Congress is going to open that door, and if the door is open, no act of Congress is needed.