Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Julian Assange Rape Case

This is a follow-on to my discussion of anarchy and heinous crimes. Rape is certainly a heinous crime, and as I have expressed support for Julian Assange in the past, I think I need to do what I can to show that I do not condone either rape or fornication. And, of course, there is the question of the relationship between the rape charges and the leaks that put Mr. Assange's name in the public eye.

While I would not want my daughters to date the likes of Julian Assange, I would not hesitate to have him as an overnight house guest. From what I can tell about the situation, he is no stranger to casual sex, but if it is true that the women he is accused of raping were seen with him afterwards in cordial settings, I have a hard time believing he actually forced himself on them. If he didn't force himself on them, he is still sexually immoral, but not all sexual immorality is rape. I have no fear that the females in my family would engage in consensual sex with him, nor do I fear that he would rape any of them.

I believe that a woman has the right to say no to sex at any time. The bedroom scene from A Man and a Woman comes to mind: they're in bed naked (this was the early 1960s, so we only saw their heads and his bare shoulders, but I think the inference is reasonable) and he's on top of her and she says no. That's her right, or more properly, once she says no, he has no right to proceed with intercourse.

Again, I don't think the guys I want my daughters with need anything from them they can't get from six feet away until they've committed their lives to them, and a woman who is willingly naked in bed with a man she's not married to has already given away far too much, but I don't regard "temporary insanity due to arousal" as a legitimate reason for a man to force himself on an unwilling woman. So even if Mr. Assange climbed into bed with reasonable basis for assuming that those women were OK with him having unprotected intercourse with them, if they said at the last split second that they wanted him to use a condom or the deal was off and he went ahead unsheathed, then he has committed rape.

Let's assume the worst, that the understanding when these women went to bed with him was that he would use a condom but he forced himself on them. Now what?

As Gary North has written, the primary concern for those dealing with crimes should be the welfare of past and likely future victims of crimes. The best solution will, of course, exact restitution from the perpetrator to his victims, which include the victim of the crime itself and those involved in resolving the situation. The paragon of such a situation is the resolution of a theft by the thief paying back what he stole to the victim, plus compensation for the victim's lost time at work, damage to property, etc., as well as payment to those who tracked down the perpetrator, heard the trial, and supervised the payment of restitution.

Rape, and especially date rape, is unlike theft in that one does not damage a tangible object in the same way as one does when one, say, steals a car, sells it in pieces, and spends the money, so it is difficult to assign a monetary or other physical value to the damage. (If the victim becomes pregnant or sustains cuts, rips, or bruises, these are clearly matters of paternity and battery and should be treated as such.) But clearly the woman has been violated: how does one measure the extent of the violation?

This question cannot be answered by any government court. There are so many variables that writing, let alone passing, a law that would cover all of them would be all but impossible. To take one reasonable example: if the man says at dinner that he doesn't like condoms but the woman, unbeknownst to the man, is distracted at the moment by a passing thought and the statement doesn't register, and she is the one who offers the wine after they get to her apartment, and it isn't until after fifteen minutes of foreplay that she remembers to ask him to put on the condom, but by then he has assumed that her lack of reaction at dinner means that their sex is to be unprotected and .... How can any legislature write that down or any jury sort it out? (Good grief—who would want to?)

So how does such a victim get justice? For that matter, how does the perpetrator get justice by not being treated the same as someone who climbs in the window and rapes total strangers?

Again, only anarchism provides the answer. The victim and the perpetrator agree on an arbitrator (an individual or a group), whose decision will be final. Such an arbitrator would be known to both parties and trusted because of his ability to ask the right questions and make fair decisions. Refusal by either party to engage in arbitration or to abide by the terms of the settlement would result in that party being considered an outlaw and therefore liable to attack with impunity by the other.

As such a system came into being, people would band together with those of like minds, so both parties would likely have what Stefan Molyneux calls dispute resolution organizations (DROs) to arrange the arbitration, and the "trial" would more likely be a discussion between the organizations the parties belonged to, with the parties called on to provide their views of the facts of the case. The victim's DRO would be working to see that its customer was compensated for her hardships and would likely also provide suggestions or directives for changes in her lifestyle so she not be victimized again in the future. The perpetrator's DRO, after compensating the victim, would definitely protect its other customers by making sure that the perpetrator did not repeat his misdeed, perhaps even to the point of declaring him an outlaw and canceling his membership in the organization, thus leaving him open to execution by the victim's DRO.

To be brief, I don't know what the result of this trial under anarchism would be, but a greater mind than mine—and I'm sorry, but I don't know whose it was—has said that when the process is good, the result will be also. The means is an end in itself. Just means will yield just ends. Otherwise we are left with doing evil in the hopes that good will result, which violates a clear teaching of scripture (Ro 3:8).

The elephant in the room of the Assange case is, of course, that the women did not come forward with their accusations until after Mr. Assange was wanted by Uncle Sam for the Wikileaks. Are the women really acting on their own, or are they Uncle Sam's agents, willing or otherwise? Is this part of a plot to land Mr. Assange in the same kind of torture cell that Bradley Manning now occupies?

I don't know, but my guess is that if Mr. Assange is sent to Sweden to face rape charges, he will be incarcerated there, and once incarcerated he will be extradited to the US and tortured. I could be wrong—one could say that the British are more likely to extradite him than the Swedes—but I see the British role—and I believe the whole thing is a stage play—as that of the neutral party keeping the factions from coming to blows, at least for now. I expect them eventually to hand him over to the US directly, or if not, to the Swedes.

How much more believable the whole thing would be if an independent arbitrator, agreed to by both parties in the rape case, were to hear the arguments on both sides and render a decision. Mr. Assange could stay in Britain, the women could stay in Sweden, the hearings could take place using encrypted video conferencing software, and once the decision came down, we would find out for sure what the parties were made of by their willingness to abide by it.

As it is, the rape case is inextricable from the leaks case, and in the latter we have a small organization facing the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. And while that empire has found itself unable in the past to defeat small organizations like the Viet Cong, al-Qaeda, and numerous drug cartels, it has certainly managed to spill a lot of innocent blood in its futile attempts to do so. This does not bode well for anyone's future.

When it comes to bloodshed, nobody does it better than the state. If you want the antithesis of bloodshed, look to the antithesis of the state.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wikileaks II

(This is a response to the last comment by Anonymous to my previous post.)

I have attempted to answer your questions, but either you don't agree with my answers, which is your choice, or, if you think the substance of my answer was the Hillary Clinton comment, I'm not making clear the difference between a substantial answer and an attempt at comic relief.

So let me try again: all humans have the right to go to hell. Period. Anything more than that is grace. God has allowed us life at all by grace. He has made rules for our benefit: don't kill (i.e., violate people's bodies), steal (i.e., violate their property), commit adultery (i.e., violate their trust), or bear false witness (i.e., violate their reputations). To the degree that people do that, they will enjoy justice, peace, and prosperity according to their willingness to serve their neighbors.

The only time God allows us to suspend these prohibitions is when a person has violated them, and then only to the degree that we either force the perpetrator to make restitution or execute the perpetrator of a crime for which restitution is impossible.

Let me expand on a point I made in a response to your earlier comment and go through just one action our government has undertaken that as far as I'm concerned negates its claims to godly authority and therefore to secrecy or confidence of any kind.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Uncle Sam told us peons that if Vietnam went communist all Southeast Asia would follow and we would be either doomed or involved in an even worse war than the one we were fighting in Vietnam. A few years ago, government documents were declassified that showed that the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which Congress passed in 1968 in lieu of a constitutional declaration of war, was based on a lie: the incident that it was supposed to be a response to had never happened. Robert McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War, before his death this year said the same thing.

So sixty thousand US soldiers, many of whom were drafted—sent over there under threat of imprisonment if they refused to go—died violent deaths, many more were maimed, a million Vietnamese died, more were maimed and made homeless, and the land was so devastated that decades later defoliants kept crops from growing and people were being killed by leftover land mines. All this because Uncle Sam lied and people believed him. And, of course, Vietnam went communist, but the worst regime in Southeast Asia today is not communist, it's Myanmar, and we are not threatened by any children of the Viet Cong, ideological or otherwise. Daniel Ellsburg knew the situation and released the Pentagon Papers in 1970, but no one paid any attention. Had there been a Bradley Manning in the Pentagon in 1968 and people had believed him, almost all that carnage could have been avoided.

As for the present wars, media giant Dan Rather has made a rather startling admission that is probably not front-page news in the mainstream press (part of which I count Fox News): "There was a fear in every newsroom in America . . . a fear of losing your job . . . the fear of being stuck with some label, unpatriotic or otherwise." It would appear that the government and its lapdog media are lying to us today and Bradley Manning has done us a favor of allowing us to see just what lies Uncle Sam is telling us now so we can tell him we won't take it anymore.

I place the blame for most of our society's problems on our government's violations of our rights and list them in my original post. I could have added to the list the existence of nuclear and biological weapons of mass murder: what biblical justification is there for taking people's money and using it to pay scientists to develop weapons that cannot help but violate the principles of just war every time they are used? If you're going to justify the development of the weapons in the first place, you have to factor in the inevitability of those weapons eventually falling into the hands of people you don't like, and, as you say, that's not a pleasant thought.

I also answered the question about North Korea: our government has no business interfering in those negotiations. If you are so convinced that North Korean soldiers shouldn't march into South Korea's killing machines, in the name of Jesus take your own money, go there, stand in front of them, and tell them to turn around and go home. You wouldn't have a hard time convincing me to go with you. But I'm not convinced that you have the right to vote money out of my pocket to send soldiers over there, and if they choose to march and die by the millions, that's their problem, not mine.

Finally, it's not the government that's keeping VX gas away from the public. As I said, it looks to me like anyone with the prerequisite knowledge of chemistry and enough motivation could make it given information available on the Web. That goes also for primitive nuclear bombs. The important thing is the motivation. Bill Gates doesn't have the motivation to pay someone to build a nuke. And, as the incidents with the underwear bomber, the Fort Dix wannabe bombers, the Times Square wannabe bomber, the Michigan wannabe bombers, and the Portland Christmas tree wannabe bomber have all shown, what motivates them to attempt bombings is US-government-sponsored murder in Muslim lands. (All these guys but the Times Square guy were recruited by US government agents who lit their fires by talking about US actions overseas, not our wealth, freedom, or degeneracy at home; the other acted on his own, but for the same reason.)

Have I answered the question yet? Maybe you need to rephrase the question.

Friday, December 17, 2010


From a correspondent:

The [Wikileaks] have undermined the relationship between our nation and other nations, and now they aren't willing to send us confidential documents, including negotiations. Aren't we conducting sensitive negotiations in the North Korean part of the world right now? Is the Pentagon allowed to keep things secret from the people such as how to construct nuclear weaponry? VX gas? if they didn't keep secrets, we would have many more biological weapons on the streets.

You've asked a reasonable set of questions. They deserve a principled set of answers. I'll state my principles first and then apply them.

First, Christians are to do everything for the glory of God. Only God, his word, his church, and his people are eternal. Anything that gets in the way of the God's kingdom is expendable. We know we are serving his kingdom when we obey his word; there is no other test.

Second, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This means treating them the way we want to be treated. At the base, that means that we don't do to them what we don't want done to us: we leave their bodies and property alone; we don't violate them directly, by proxy, or by deceit. Again, we know we are serving our neighbors when we are obeying the word of God and not doing to them anything we would not want them to do to us.

I don't need to tell you that North Korea does not live by these principles, but I may need to remind you that Uncle Sam also violates them: he takes your tax money and uses it to facilitate abortions; he touches the genitals and other private parts of men, women, and young children at airports; he has taken the capital that businessmen who could otherwise have hired a certain intelligent graduate of an exclusive Christian college and given it to some of the richest people the world has ever known, first through loan guarantees and then through bailouts; he has destroyed the doctor–patient relationship that was the mainstay of community health through fascist and now socialized medicine, as well as the cohesion of the family through Social Security and "public" schools. He has arrogated to himself the right to determine what you may and may not (under penalty of jail) put in your body or look at or read. He tortures people accused—not convicted—of crimes. He reads your e-mail, and he keeps track of every Web site you visit, everywhere you go, and every purchase you make.

(To the last of which you no doubt say, "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear." To which I say, if Uncle Sam has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to fear from Bradley Manning.)

Does he do this for the glory of God? Or is it more likely that he's looking out for himself and those in his inner circle? Do we not agree that to ask that question is to answer it?

So why is he negotiating with North Korea? What business is it of ours what North Korea does? Is Uncle Sam about to bring the kingdom of God to North Korea?

It's a little-known fact that when US soldiers first went to Korea in 1945—years before what we think of as the Korean War—they were resisted forcibly by South Koreans. Needless to say, those Koreans didn't live to tell their side of the story.

And that was over 50 years ago. Why are US soldiers still there? South Korea has a world-class economy; North Korea is a well-armed pauper. Why don't we leave the Koreans to sort out their differences? "South Korea might go communist." So what? Vietnam went communist, but that didn't stop me from having a Vietnamese guest for dinner a while back or wearing shoes made in Vietnam today.

What good would it do North Korea to bomb us? If they come here under the banner of "what's yours is yours; let's make a deal," they would be as welcome as immigrants were a century or so ago (and, as anti-immigration politicians who get caught hiring illegals demonstrate, still are today), and they wouldn't have to hide in a fortress to keep from being IED'd by "insurgents."

Why would they invade if there were, as Yamamoto put it, "an armed American behind every blade of grass"? "Ah, but Americans aren't all armed." Could that have anything to do with Uncle Sam's ban on private citizens owning heavy arms?

"But if we could own combat weapons, America would become a war zone." Only if America is the dirt under our feet: America is the idea that people have the right to life, liberty, and property, and Americans don't use weapons offensively. If the US were to become a war zone, it's because the church hasn't done its job to convince people that God's ways are best, even for nonbelievers. And Uncle Sam certainly isn't putting that word out.

Uncle Sam is not doing what the Torah says he should be doing—forcing those who violate others' bodies and property to make restitution to their victimvs, and executing those for whose crimes restitution is impossible (and yes, I'm leaving aside for the moment my claim that the Torah does not allow for what we know as a state)—and he is doing a lot of things he shouldn't be doing. In fact, if we knew more of what he's doing but keeping secret from us, we might be motivated enough to tell the emperor he has no clothes and laugh so hard at his nakedness that he beats a retreat. If only we had someone with access to his secrets....

As for the building of nuclear weapons and development of VX gas, use of both of those weapons systems necessarily violates the just war theory requirement that noncombatants not be targeted. If A fears B and so acts in such a way that may or may not stop B but will certainly kill C, who is otherwise not involved, he is a murderer. I assume you didn't vote for Obama, so this should make my point: If the Iranians were to fear Obama and so engage in a pre-emptive that cost you your eyesight, wouldn't you cry out for God to hold them morally accountable? That's what Uncle Sam has done to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, at least 70 percent of those who have gone through the hell of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.

If Germany had had a Bradley Manning in 1938, there might not have been an Auschwitz. For that matter, if there had been a Bradley Manning in Wilson's White House in 1917, the US might not have gotten involved in the War to End All Wars, and there might not have been a Hitler to begin with.

As Crovelli put it, if the system from Manning's immediate superiors to the White House is involved in murder and cover-up, where should he have gone with the information he had? Isn't the biblical course of action to bring these things to light (Pr 24:12; Ep 5:12-14)?

What is Uncle Sam using all those secrets to protect us from?

Communism? With Obama in the White House and the GOP preaching Obamunism Lite, what do we lose if we lose that we haven't already lost?

Are you afraid you'll have to wear a burqa? I like grokking cleavages at least as much as the next guy, but I'm not proud to say it. Maybe burqas would make life easier for me. I'm not a woman, but I think I'd prefer wearing a burqa to being felt up at the airport. Oh, I forgot: they feel up women in burqas, too.

Bankruptcy? Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the debt alone will cost as much as the entire federal budget before long.

Back to principles: Are we spreading the kingdom of God by supporting Uncle Sam's activities? Or are we spreading the predations of a government run amok? Does Uncle Sam treat our neighbors the way we would want to be treated?

I say no, yes, and no. If you disagree, rejoice! You're in the majority (Mt 7:13). I just hope that when your heroes get their way they don't decide I'm more valuable to them alive than dead, because I think that when that day comes the living will envy the dead (Re 9:6). I gather that Bradley Manning already does.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Changing My Name

I got called a name the other day by a very intelligent, decent human being. I don't take personal offense at it, but it has reminded me that the labels people wear can cause confusion; we can't know what people stand for just by looking at what they call themselves.

In this case, a coworker was expressing frustration at the resistance he was getting to his efforts to promote recycling in the office. After living for almost two decades in a village where we could drink from the streams, I'm appalled to live where the water is polluted. And even Penn and Teller admit that some recycling (notably aluminum cans) is effective, so I wanted to help my coworker's case for a cleaner environment by laying blame for the sheer volume of unnecessary trash our society produces at the door of the perverse incentives that result from government subsidies for trash disposal. I noted that the trash collection system we're subject to is fascist—i.e., government sweetheart deals for private corporations—denounced it, and encouraged my coworker to keep at his efforts.

Well, my coworker lost no time in distancing himself from "Henry's right-wing agenda." To which I replied, "Since when is someone who opposes censorship, corporate welfare, and imperialist war right wing?" (How could I not have included the war on drugs?) His reply was that libertarians are the "most rightwing of social democrats."

So I was treated to a self-confessing anti-establishment left winger distancing himself from my denunciation of "right wing" fascism! Why? Because he didn't like my "implication that government services promote sloth." So he would prefer a fascist system (or perhaps a socialist system, with government employees picking up the trash), the fight against the negative results of which he has found somewhat frustrating, to a free market that eliminates the incentives to produce needless trash.

My point isn't to belittle my coworker, who, as I said, is intelligent and trying hard to do what is right. Rather, I'm noting that I wear a label that people don't understand. Eric Peters has addressed the issue of left, right, and libertarian quite well, but I wonder if it isn't time for people like me to find a new label. has come up with "anarcho-capitalist," a term coined by Murray Rothbard, but both anarchism and capitalism are so misunderstood that combining them can only compound the problem. My coworker could be forgiven for thinking our fascist trash system is capitalist, given that so many "capitalists" have no trouble receiving corporate welfare. And the original anarchists, those of the Bakunin stripe, did not believe in private property. So as much as I like what Rockwell and friends mean by it, I don't find the term helpful.

I've come up with the term neighborist, but I don't expect it to go anywhere. It certainly describes the view Rothbardians—I suspect that Rothbard, as was Martin Luther, would be appalled to have his name attached to a movement—hold: all people are equal, bodies and property are not to be violated, and no one has the right to do to others anything those others cannot do in return. It follows that we don't acknowledge the legitimacy of the state, the fiction that gives some people privileges that others don't have. We don't divide our fellow human beings into "fellow citizens" and "aliens"; all are our neighbors (some better than others), and we get what we need and want from them through voluntary exchange, whether it be money, friendship, sex, or potato chips.

If you're asking, "What's wrong with just calling yourself a Christian?" go to the head of the class. This blog isn't about libertarianism or any other ism; it's about obeying Jesus and extending his reign over at least part of a world that is becoming more hellish by the day.

Unfortunately, if you ask most people today what a Christian is, few will answer that a Christian believes that God made all people, that people have rebelled against God, that God somehow became a man in a backwoods village and died to pay for the sins of those rebels, and that he now sends his people to invite their neighbors to leave their living deaths and come to eternal life. I suspect that most believe that we stand for racism, corporate welfare, and imperialist war. Oh, and we hate booze almost as much as we hate sex.

I have heard that a deserter was once brought to Alexander the Great (Thug). Upon learning that the deserter's name was also Alexander, the thug snapped, "Either change your behavior or change your name."

I can't find any good names change mine to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Prayer for Julian Assange and Bradley Manning

Almighty and ever-living God, from whom no acts or thoughts are hidden, I ask you to bless Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

I realize that Julian Assange is unrepentant about his violation of your marriage covenant. But I have also violated that standard by nature and by choice, and as I trust in your forgiveness and power to give me an obedient heart, I ask that you bless him in the same way. I ask that somewhere in the system that imprisons Mssrs. Assange and Manning there be someone who knows you, someone who can talk to them about the weighty earthly matters for which they have sacrificed their freedom, someone who can lead them to consider the eternal consequences of rebellion against you and turn to Jesus, the only source of forgiveness for their rebellion.

Your holy word says that your people have nothing to fear from the truth, that the truth of Christ's sinless life, atoning death, and life-giving resurrection will make us free from sin and death. Yet our experience tells us that freedom also comes from the unchanging everyday truths of mathematics, physics, and biology that have enabled so many to live far beyond subsistence level.

Mssrs. Assange and Manning have given their freedom to promote the truth. These truths are inconvenient for those in power, and so our rulers have mustered raw power and influence to imprison the truth bearers. Those whose actions have killed thousands of innocent people have used the possibility that some of their friends might be endangered when the truth comes out as an excuse to further add to their evil by imprisoning those who have brought to light shameful deeds done in secret.

All truth is your truth. All truth points to your existence, your purity, your mercy, your sovereignty, and the goodness of your law. Thank you for those who have revealed the truth about our rulers. May your people, who have trusted those rulers in ways that rival their devotion to you, no longer put their trust in the authorities and powers of this dark world and instead resolve to serve you and your kingdom wholeheartedly as your ambassadors to a world dead in trespasses and sins.

May I also throw off the sins that entangle me and prove my faith by my deeds.

May Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, who are suffering so much because they have brought cold water to your people, become disciples and so receive a disciple's reward.

For the sake of Christ and his kingdom, amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Could Jesus Forsake the Church in the US?

Could Jesus ever decide that the church in the US is so corrupt that he no longer claims it? You tell me.

I will forsake my house,
abandon my inheritance;
I will give the one I love
into the hands of her enemies.
My inheritance has become to me
like a lion in the forest.
She roars at me;
therefore I hate her. (Je 12:7-8)

Ah, but that was in the Old Testament. This is now, right?

I don't think so.

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Re 2:5)

If it happened in Ephesus, and even to Philadelphia (Re 3:7-13), why can't it happen here? Please put your answers in the comment boxes below.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Does Anarchy Deal with Heinous Crimes?

Personally, I think you are too lenient on child molesters - I would put them to death! I do not believe you can have reasonable [conversation] (if such a thing is even warranted) with the parent of a child who was molested.

My skeptical friend takes exception to my statement that under an anarchic system we would expect people accused of heinous crimes to be treated according to the Golden Rule wherever possible and that the primary concern of any system dealing with crime would be looking after the welfare of the victim and the welfare of likely future victims, rather than inflicting suffering on the perpetrator.

My first task in dealing with his desire to see child molesters executed is to define the terms. What is a child? What is molestation?

As I mentioned last time, If his definition of molestation includes the unwelcome touching of the genitals of a prepubescent, we have exactly that taking place in our airports—not by anarchists, but by agents of the state, which grants them impunity. (If there's a good contrast between anarchy, the lack of a class of people with special privileges, and chaos, the absence of moral order, this is it.)

Who is a child? Is a fifteen-year-old who pays her own rent and buys her own food and clothes a child? Is a twenty-two-year-old with Down's syndrome an adult?

These are questions any faceless ("justice" is blind, remember) government justice system needs to answer if it is to carry out its duties consistently. And, as with everything else government does, the actual standards will be those determined to be expedient by the politically powerful; any resemblance to biblical justice will be coincidental. And I see nothing in the Bible that legitimates statutory rape laws: forcible rape, definitely, but statutory rape, no. My guess is that God figures that parents who don't teach their daughters chastity deserve what they get if their daughters allow themselves to be seduced.

Related to this is the question of equality under the law for perpetrators. Before the Industrial Revolution, sixteen-year-old females were commonly married, not infrequently to much older men.* And if such couples married, one can assume that extramarital affairs were not unheard of and were dealt with as was any other sexual misconduct.

My point is not to legitimate extramarital sex, only to point out that if a sixteen-year-old female has consensual extramarital sex with a nineteen-year-old male, while that is a tragedy, it is not considered a crime; the male is not even arraigned in juvenile court. Yet a twenty-two-year-old male would be sent to jail on child molestation charges for doing exactly the same thing to exactly the same person. (Maybe my friend would solve this problem by working to see the younger male arraigned.) This is morally no different from meting out differing punishments to people of different races or economic levels, or whose surnames come at different places in the alphabet.

All this changes under an anarchic system. The primary concern of the victim's dispute resolution organization (DRO, to use Stefan Molyneux's term) would be the victim, not the perpetrator. No matter what else happened, the DRO (depending on what kind of account the victim's family had) would likely provide counseling, therapy, and whatever else was needed to restore the victim to physical and emotional health. (Try getting that from any state system!)

If the abuse came from a customer of the same DRO, but one outside the immediate family, the DRO would likely greatly modify or terminate the terms under which it would protect the perpetrator. If the DRO terminated his protection and no other DRO would take him on, the family of the victim could then do as they pleased (subject, of course, to their contract with the DRO) with him with no fear of reprisal. It would thus behoove the perpetrator to mollify the family if possible, but if the only way the family could get closure was to kill the perpetrator, then, if no DRO were willing to shield the perpetrator, it would be him (and whatever other outlaws he could get on his side) against them.

This has several advantages over the present system. Most important is the concern for the victim. Under our present system, as Charles Colson has pointed out, the state considers itself the primary victim of any misconduct, and any concern shown for the victim is coincidental. That is why rape victims especially are known to feel as though they have to relive the horror under interrogation by state agents both before and during trial. Also, whether the suspect is convicted or not, it is the victim who pays for medical and psychological treatment, as well as any work missed due to trauma. And finally, all government officials involved have the incentive to grandstand, or to please voters or lobbyists, rather than to administer justice.

Under an anarchic system, the interpersonal relationships of all concerned enable people to talk about issues freely and force them to take responsibility for the final result: it's one thing to have your granddaughter's molester killed by a faceless bureaucracy; it's another thing entirely when you're the one who does the job yourself.

Other questions to consider:

Does the victim always want to kill the perpetrator? More importantly, is it alway (or ever) to the victim's advantage to have someone whose paycheck is the same no matter what he decides deciding the matter?

Most abused children still love their parents; they only want the abuse to stop. How are such children better off if a "hanging judge" makes them orphans?

Still, I hear my friend complain that such a system would be too lenient and a state system is needed. I would like to point out that never in the history of "the greatest nation on God's green earth" has child molestation been a capital crime. For that matter, I can't think of any state anywhere where molestation is a capital crime. So if he is going to get what he wants from a state, it will have to be a state unlike any that has ever existed.

If you really think God wants child molesters dead, anarchy is the way to bring it about: start small and work up. Find or start a DRO that demands death for child molesters—define the terms any way you like—and there you are. Of course, you'll have to deal with a larger system that might get in your way, but at least it will be in everyone's best interests to listen to each other, unlike our political system that only listens to money and power. Maybe your way will prevail. Or maybe not. But it hasn't prevailed under any state system anywhere in the world at any time. One would think it reasonable to try something other than what has failed every time so far.

*One reason commonly given for the disappearance of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, from the gospel narratives after Jesus was twelve years old is that he was much older than Mary and died before Jesus began his ministry. Be that as it may, such musings show that the idea of Joseph as a considerably older man is not completely despicable to those who propose it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Does Anarchy Avoid Corruption?

When a friend with whom I share a considerable amount of discontent with our present social systems asked me how I envision police and military working under anarchy, I referred him to an article I wrote years ago adapting the ideas of Stefan Molyneux to a Christian audience. My friend responded at some length:

I don't think your system would work[,] and [it] would eventually become corrupt, as is the present system, which was designed initially to protect the innocent. Incentives do not always prevent crimes, especially [those committed by] criminals who prefer to return to prision. Personally, I think you are too lenient on child molesters - I would put them to death! I do not believe you can have reasonable [conversation] (if such a thing is even warranted) with the parent of a child who was molested.

He has essentially raised two important questions: What would keep anarchy from becoming corrupt? and What should be done with perpetrators of heinous crimes? To keep the size of this post manageable, I will deal with only the first question here and the second in another.

"Incentives do not always prevent crimes." My friend is implying that unless anarchy were to be perfect, it would not be preferable to the status quo, and because I can't promise perfection, he can shake the dust off his feet. But hang on. We have a state system, and it's far from perfect, as he acknowledges. We agree that it was better (the slavery system excepted) two hundred years ago. But it wasn't perfect. There were still crimes committed. So no state can guarantee that crimes will not be permitted.

Today we live in the first nation in history that has targeted civilians with atomic weapons and chemical weapons. Even more surprising, ours is the only nation in history to pass laws making its entire population subject to groping of genitals and female breasts by government agents. My friend would like to see child molesters executed; to that I say, if touching the genitals of a prepubescent is molestation, it is the agents of the state, not anarchists, who should be the objects of his wrath. To disparage anarchism because of potential abuses in the face of such real abuses by "the greatest nation on God's green earth" is breathtaking, to say the least.

So we're back to the question of what system will do a better job of dealing with the human tendency to violate others' bodies and property to further selfish interests. And to deal with that, we need to discuss incentives.

I would agree that incentives do not always prevent crimes. In fact, they can even motivate crime, as my friend claims when he says, "...especially criminals who prefer to return to prision." My friend has proven my point. Humans make almost all important decisions in response to incentives, doing what they think, rightly or wrongly, will be in their own interests. If a prisoner prefers to return to prison rather than to be free, he has—you got it—an incentive to commit crimes.

But let's be biblical. Did Jesus believe in incentives? Ja, you betcha!

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Lk 9:5). Jesus is appealing to naked self-interest here. Far from telling us not to live for the bottom line, he's implicitly acknowledging that we can't help but live for the bottom line. He's telling us here that the bottom line is further down than we think it is.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Mt 25:21). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). If the promise of a happy, full life as a reward for faithful obedience isn't an incentive, what is it? Was Jesus disinterestedly stating a fact, or was he using incentives to motivate rational, self-interested people to channel their desires into a conscious effort to love God wholeheartedly and their neighbors sacrificially as themselves?

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." Why? What's in it for me? "All these things will be given to you as well" (Mt 6:33). Ah, now that's incentive!

I'm afraid this argument puts me at odds with these sentiments expressed decades ago by Keith Green (whose spiritual kneecaps I can reach if I stretch):

And when I'm doing well
Help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you.

Brother Keith's words are like those of one proud of his humility. If Jesus believed in incentives, we should too.

So if we can't avoid incentives any more than we can avoid eating or breathing or sleeping, then somewhere in the discussion we need to compare the incentives inherent in an elitist state with those that would exist under anarchy. And let's begin with the Bible.

The first king of Israel was not Saul son of Kish and father of David's friend Jonathan. It was someone we would today call a neoconservative, a fellow named Abimelech (Jg 9:6). Not content with the separation of powers and the checks and balances of his day, he promoted what Dubya's legal advisor John Yoo called the "unitary executive"—and, of course, who better for the job than him?

On the day of his accession, his half-brother Jotham told a parable, the point of which was that people who want to live productive lives have better things to do than to go into government, and those who do go into government will make life miserable for the productive members of society (Jg 9:7-20). Why is that? Because the power that is government provides incentives for its agents to indulgence their natural desires to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (Dt 17:16-20; 1 Sa 8:11-17). And the more powerful the government, the more opportunity for self-indulgence it provides and the less able the populus is to resist it. It follows that the less powerful the government is, the less incentive there is to become part of it and the more incentive there is to continue to produce the oil, wine, and fruit that cheer both God and man. If the most powerful government official in the nation were the town librarian, how fierce would the competition be for the job? The reason politics is such a dirty business is that the stakes are so high: the winners live off the labors of the losers. So everyone wants to be net beneficiaries of government largess and avoid being net taxpayers.

If no one has power over anyone else, how do we get what we need and want from other people? The only avenue open is service. Yes, people would still be sinners under an anarchic system, but the vast majority of them would find that their self-interest is served best through serving their neighbors. Think of your favorite friends and trading partners (merchants, customers, employers, employees) today: are they all Christians? Would you want to insult them by saying that if it weren't for the presence of the police they would rather get what they're after by plunder than by being good neighbors? For that matter, is the threat of jail what keeps you in line?

What does this have to do with Jesus? Well, it seems to me that a greater proportion of the population of the US is going to hell than ever before. How does the view of government espoused by Christians affect that?

Let's take school textbooks as an example. The morality of government schools rests on the idea that people have the right to vote money out of others' pockets to pay for their own children's education: might makes right. Might also makes right regarding the choice of textbooks: whether the biology books teach "creationism" or "evolution" is decided by political power, not by right or wrong: obviously, both sides think they're right and resent the idea of their tax money going to fund books that teach against their version of the truth. So when Christians stand up for their "right" to have their tax money go to books they agree with, they are ipso facto taking others' money for purposes those others disapprove of.
This situation is repeated whenever Christians seek to keep from having their tax money go to purposes they find objectionable, whether erotic art or abortion (or in my case mass murder overseas). Is it any surprise that those who have to fight Christians so that their tax money goes to what they want don't want to listen to the gospel?

The more anarchistic the society, by definition the smaller the government, and the more we Christians are able to say, "What's yours is yours; I won't take it away from you (though maybe I can interest you in a trade). But I do have a message I think you ought to listen to, and I'll leave you free to decide whether or not to accept it." What is not good neighborly about that?

If the Great Commission is about building the kingdom of God rather than preserving or extending the might of our rulers, the more we act like servants and less like wannabe masters, the more likely we are to be the salt and light we are called to be, and the more likely (in human terms) we are to get a hearing.

Is corruption inevitable? Yes. If it can happen to Israel, it can happen to anyone. What was the root cause of the breakdown? The people had rejected God as king over them (1 Sa 8:7); as Cotton Mather said about Massachusetts, "Religion brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother." What was the result? The people wanted a state, and God punished them by giving them one. And far from rescuing Israel from the corruption of anarchism, their state delivered them into the hands of their enemies. Only godliness can keep people from tyranny, and one important component of godliness is that we not trust government (Ps 146:3).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Anarchy on the Highway on Guy Fawkes Day

My wife and I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day by droving down to Chattanooga after spending the night in Winchester, Virginia. We got on the road just before sunup and were on our way. She had a very important appointment outside Chattanooga, and there was no way we were going to get there in time driving the posted speed limit.

I was surprised at how many cars there were on the road, but even more surprising was that we were all doing about eighty, the usual almost ten miles an hour over the speed limit. I wasn't the fastest car on the road, so those who passed us must have been doing over eighty. When I lived in Virginia during high school, the drivers' manual said that exceeding eighty was considered reckless driving, but I wouldn't have considered anybody there reckless. We were simply making very good time.

It was an anarchist's dream: no police, just hundreds of people who all wanted to get where they were going as fast as they could. I've been in similar situations where there were jerks, people weaving in and out of traffic, going way too fast, but this was a good day. Had there been no posted speed limit, I'm not sure how much faster we would have driven. Gasoline consumption increases exponentially with speed after a certain point, as does wear on the car, so I think I was about at my personal limit, but others might have gone faster. To them I say, "More power to ya, Buddy. Just don't hit anything."

On the return trip, almost as soon as we got into Virginia, even though there was much less traffic on the road, we saw state troopers pulling drivers over right and left. I didn't see how fast the cars were traveling before they were pulled over, but even if they were doing eighty (the speed limit in southern Virginia is sixty-five), I can't imagine that they would have been a hazard to anyone.

But, I hear the angels say, the law is the law, and we must obey it, even if it seems silly. And they might be right. But what if obeying the law is more dangerous than breaking it?

You've seen it happen, I'm sure: On a divided highway with two lanes going your way, two cars are driving side-by-side, neither passing the other. You've been driving faster than they, so you've come up behind the guy in the left lane, hoping he'll either speed up and pass or slow down and let you by. But he does neither.

So you back off, because you are a careful driver and know that you need at least two seconds between you and the car in front of you. Long about this time someone comes up behind you, dips into the right lane, then comes between you and the car in front of you. Then another car comes and does the same thing to him, and before you know it, you're ten cars behind the car you were originally tailing. And unless you're more spiritual than I am—not that that's particularly difficult—you're pretty hot under the collar. Right away, that's danger, and the passing on the right is a hazard per se. (I've even seen people pass such blockades on the shoulder.)

Now, if John Law is sitting by the side of the road with his radar gun, he's not going to catch blockading. He'll either be content because everyone is obeying the speed limit or unhappy that he has to wait longer to fulfill his ticket quota. Patrolmen in private life may be the nicest people you'll ever meet, but in that capacity they're worse than useless.

Then there are the times when the vehicle in front of you is driving erratically, and you need to go well over the speed limit for a few seconds to get by him quickly. (My driver ed class said this was OK when passing on a two-lane road so you could spend less time in the oncoming lane, but that was forty years ago and may not be relevant.) If that's when you hit the radar zone, what can the cop think but that you've been speeding all along?

Am I the only one who thinks that this ticketing of speeders is arbitrary (and thus unjust) at best and malicious at worst? Yes, God has ordained the powers that be, but can't he do any better than this?

If safety, not tickets, were the true object of highway patrol work, wouldn't it make more sense for the patrolmen to be on the road, driving exactly the speed limit (instead of five or, more often, ten miles per hour faster, as I see most doing, without lights or sirens), sporting a believable threat to ticket anyone who passes them? I saw that happen once driving west from Chicago; one cop car with at least a hundred vehicles stacked up behind him. I wasn't in a hurry, so I didn't mind, but if I had been, my resentment would have been against the folks who set the speed limit, not against the guy in the car. How different that would be from the way I felt about the guys pulling over drivers on an almost empty road in Virginia that day.

Need I also mention that this system wouldn't require a guy with a six-figure salary (if you factor in pension and other bennies) to drive a six-figure muscle car to implement? A high schooler in a Smart Car with a camera could do the job (provided he had the requisite character) for twice what he'd make at McDonalds for a quarter the cost of deploying a highway patrolman. And that's only if we decide speed control is needed, which I think remains to be proven.

Even better, of course, would be if the roads were privately owned. There would need to be some kind of police activity, to be sure, but the patrolmen then would be like bouncers in a bar; their message would be, "We want to keep you as a customer, but we also want to keep our other customers happy." The idea of treating a rude driver like a criminal would be far from the ethos of the private highway, though not nealy as far away as using traffic tickets to top off municipal coffers.

I know, "We live in a fallen world, and your system wouldn't be perfect." Would there be jerks in an anarchic system? Yes. Would innocent people die in accidents? Yes.

Does that all happen now? Yes. Does ticketing a small fraction of violators, most of whom pose no real hazard, make up for the failure of the system to protect lives and promote justice? No.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christian Nudists? (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here.)

––Hey, you're back. Did you enjoy your trip?

––Sure did.

––How was the flight?

––Fine. Why?

––Did you have to go through one of those new naked-body scanners?

––No, I just went through the metal detector. But the plate in my thigh set it off, so I had to go through the wand routine, as usual.

––What would you have done if they'd told you to go through the strip searcher?

––I'd have gone through. What's the big deal? They're protecting us from terrorists. Better to have to go through the imaging than have a bomb blow up the plane.

––Even if it's a woman manning the screen?


––Would you want your daughter to be that woman?

––I want my daughter to aim for better jobs than staring at a screen all day.

––Good boy. But how about if she did it part-time, you know, nights and weekends, while she's on her way to the corner office?

––I can't imagine she'd get much of a thrill looking at naked men. Women aren't affected that way, you know. That's why they can work in places men can't, like nurseries and children's hospitals and senior centers.

––And there are no exceptions to that?

––There might be.

––And you don't mind taking the chance that you're giving some chick a thrill?

––Nope. She'd have to be pretty desperate to get a thrill from looking at me!

––Wouldn't that make you an accessory to her . . . should I say . . . perversion? Or how about taking it off for a gay man? Is that OK?

––That's a chance I'm willing to take.

––Isn't contributing to the delinquency of a minor an offense?


––But helping an adult satisfy his perversions isn't.

––Pfft. Besides, the pictures aren't that clear.

––The pictures are clear enough to show whether your trouser cobra still has his hood. Do you think there's no one being paid big bucks to make sure that the pictures will get clearer as time goes by?

––They probably will, but so what? The faces get pixelated out.

––Do you think nobody knows how to turn off the pixelation?

––So what? The images can't be stored.

––Yes, they can.

––Anyway, so what?

––How about your wife? Do you want her virtually naked for some guy?

––Well, you have to do what you have to do to fly these days.

––What if it were determined that the scanners pose a bigger health hazard than we know now? How dangerous would they have to be before you said we shouldn't have them?

––I don't know. I'd leave that to the government to determine.

––Right. Romans 13 says they always do what's right. So it's right to put the scanners in because they're not harmful, but if they're found to be harmful, it will be right to take them out, but it still won't have been wrong to have put them in in the first place. Government can never sin.

––Some governments can.

––But not Uncle Sam.

––You're just ungrateful.

––OK, let's say they decide to take them out for some reason. You've said the strip searches are necessary. How do they do the strip searches without the scanners? Do we have to literally go naked to fly then?

––Like I said, it's the government's responsibility to do what it has to do to make flying safe. If they had to do real body searches, we can be reasonably sure they would divide the passengers up by sex to inspect them.

––You wouldn't mind having a gay man inspect you?

––How would I know he's gay?

––Silly me, I forgot; the HR guys can't ask about that. OK, but if you were in charge, what would you do with a woman flying with an eight-year-old boy? Does she go in with the men, or does he go in with the women?

––That would be for the government to determine.

––And government never gets it wrong. OK, so it's OK for some guy to give your wife the choice of being naked for him or not flying?

––They wouldn't put male inspectors in the female line.

––Male inspectors see female passengers on the scanners and pat down their boobs and crotches today.

––Well, doctors see and touch naked women all the time. It's no big deal to them.

––Does your wife like having male doctors see her naked?

––Not particularly.

––The last time we got near this subject, you said that you think nudist colonies are immoral.

––Oh, good grief, not this again.

––Yes, this again. You're saying it's OK for men to see women naked when the women would prefer not to be naked, but it's not OK for them to see women who don't mind being seen naked. You don't mind having a strange man force your wife and daughter to be naked for him, but to keep them from being forced to wear a burqa you're willing to kill innocent people overseas. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

––When it's necessary, nakedness is OK. When it's not necessary, it's not OK. What's so hard about that?

––Is it really necessary? If there were no searches at all, how many terrorists would be on the planes?

––Well, one's too many.

––Granted, but what proportion of the flying public is terrorist? More than half?

––No, of course not.

––Ninety percent?

––Maybe one in a million. But that's still too many.

––Granted again, but if it's one in a million, that means that the search is not necessary for 99.999999% of those being stripped, right? So they're being forced to go naked when it's not necessary, which you just said is immoral.

––Oh, come on. we don't know who that one in a million is, so we have to search everyone.

––If you had a check for a million dollars in your hand yesterday but couldn't find it today, would you search in a million places you were reasonably sure you'd never been to?

––You're being illogical. If I had been in a million places since I was given the check, I could conceivably search in any or all of them; the only limit would be time. Or if I'd been with a bunch of strangers, I'd want to search all of them.

––But if you'd been with your friends, would you search them, too?

––Of course not.

––Do you know who your friends are?

––Of course.

––But wouldn't one of your friends be more likely to steal the check, knowing you wouldn't search them?

––Maybe I would have to search my friends.

––If you did that, would you end up with fewer friends?


––But that's a chance you'd be willing to take for a million dollars.

––No, not really. But when human life is concerned, you can't be too careful.

––I see. The "collateral damage" overseas isn't human.

––You know what I mean.

––I'm afraid I do. Anyway, so why doesn't the government know who its friends are? Why does it search everyone?

––How would they know who is and isn't their friend otherwise?

––I don't know, but if they're as wonderful as you think they are, can't they be trusted to come up with a way?

––I don't know. Maybe.

––Would asking them to come up with an alternative be better than having your wife strip-searched?

––I don't know. Do you?


––I wouldn't want to take the chance.

––If they're going to assume everyone's their enemy, that means no one can ever be considered innocent, because innocence is the absence of guilt, and proving a negative is impossible.

––So see, you can't get away from the scanners.

––I was thinking it would be good for our government to learn how to make friends.

––What have you been smoking?

––Well, I have to wonder why, if they're convinced everyone, including us, is a potential enemy, they make such a big deal about protecting us. If we're their enemies, wouldn't they treat us like enemies? Come to think of it, isn't that the way they are treating us? Maybe we really are their enemies. Or we would be if we knew the truth. Maybe they really are our enemies.

––You should be grateful to live in a free country.

––Having my wife and daughter strip-searched is freedom? And you have trouble with nudist colonies! Do you have trouble with locker rooms, or Boy Scouts skinny dipping?

––I'm not excited about them. What are you getting at?

––When you were a kid did you ever check out the plumbing on the other guys in the locker room?

––Of course.

––On the sly, of course.

––Of course.

––Was that wrong?

––I think it was just curiosity.

––Have you ever snuck a peak at a guy's pecker in a locker room as an adult?

––None of your business.

––Right. I'm a nosy puppy. Please forgive me. But let's say you've got a bunch of Boy Scouts on a hike, they go skinny dipping, and one of them pulls out his cell phone and takes a picture, and for some reason no one objects. How are we doing? Would that be OK?

––I'm not sure.

––Fair enough. After he takes the picture, he shows the picture to the guys who are standing there. If taking the picture were OK, has he crossed a line into immorality by showing it to the guys whose picture he just took?

––I don't think so.

––And if they all check out each other's third legs in the picture, has the guy that showed the picture done something immoral?

––Why would they do that?

––Because they're a bunch of twelve-year-old guys! Weren't you ever twelve years old?

––Keep going.

––Or say it was a camera. OK?


––He doesn't delete the picture. After the hike, he shows it to a bunch of guys who weren't there when the picture was taken. Is that OK?

––Well, now you're getting into questionable territory.

––The guys in the picture volunteered to be in the picture. They trust the guy who owns the camera and don't force him to delete the picture. The whole point of the picture was to publicize their privy members. They were looking each other over in person, and they looked each other over when they looked at the picture. The guy shows the picture to a guy, knowing full well this guy is going to look at the picture for exactly the same reasons the picture was taken in the first place. So where's the line?

––Next you'll be telling me it would be OK to show the picture to a girl.

––Well, didn't you say girls don't get affected by seeing naked men? So that should be OK, right, especially if the guys in the picture don't want girls to see them naked?

––Now come on, I didn't mean that.

––Sorry, I couldn't resist. But let's say a bunch of girls go skinny dipping and take pictures of each other. Is that the same rules as it was for the boys?

––I see where you're headed. If it's OK for them to show the pictures to each other, it's OK to show it to other girls, then it's OK to show it to the boys, then it's OK for them all to take their clothes off, and you're back to your question about nudist colonies.

––Nothing gets past you!

––I can't go along with your reasoning. I think the whole thing is an affront to God.

––But what goes on at the airports is not an affront to God.

––Listen, God is working his purposes out through all his ordained leaders in our government. This isn't something we need to be concerned about.

––You're absolutely right. He is working his purposes out—just like he was working them out in Germany in the '30s and '40s.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Boots on the Ground

When I was a kid, my dad was in the Air Force reserves. One weekend a month he would get out the nifty shoe shining contraption we stored in a cabinet with the pet food in the laundry room, hang it on the bracket screwed into the cabinet, get out his military dress shoes, slip one over a sort of rounded triangle at the front, move the heel holder back along the track behind the triangle, secure it by tightening a wing nut, and spend a few minutes brushing on polish and buffing the shoe with a soft cloth. I don't know if he had the shiniest shoes in the office—Did I tell you he flew a desk? All the leaves on my branch of the family fly desks. Maybe the new Whitney coat of arms should have a desk on it.—but no one seeing him would say he was on his way to fly an airplane, or even fix one, let alone headed for a combat zone.

A few times a year Mom and I would go to visit him on Sunday afternoons. We'd get there just about quitting time, and occasionally I was invited into the office. I even got to shake hands with Steve Bramwell, who, during the University of Washington Huskies' glory days, once ran an opening kickoff ninety-something yards for a touchdown.

Everyone there dressed like Dad: they had on pressed uniforms, maybe even neckties (I'm not sure—it's been a while). I seem to remember that the guys I saw actually walking around the planes had on uniforms, but they were work clothes. I didn't look to see if their shoes were shined, but I would expect they weren't permitted to wear shabby shoes.

So I was somewhat surprised when I visited my son awhile back to see that even though he too now flies a desk, he goes to work in camouflage fatigues. Maybe what he wears is ersatz camouflage, stuff he wouldn't wear if he were actually in a war zone, but it looks like it's made out of rip-resistant fabric. It certainly doesn't look like what one would wear to any other office job.

What really makes me think he's only a helmet and a weapon short of battle dress is his footwear. He wears beige boots, what Dad used to call boondockers, except made out of God knows what instead of black leather. He needs boots to fly a desk?

Maybe that's the Army, I thought. Wrong.

I've recently run into a member of our church who's in the Air Force a couple of times at evening church activities, a guy so gifted in logistics that making a pilot of him would be a waste, and he's dressed exactly the same way: camouflage and boots. A pencil jockey for the Air Force needs camouflage and boots to do his job?

When I saw my father in his work uniform, I would think, "This is not a war zone. They don't dress like this in war zones. There is no war going on. [The Vietnamese would have disagreed with me somewhat on that one.] We are at peace." It was like getting a smile from an intelligent guy with two hundred pounds of solid muscle he's not afraid to use.

I don't think we're supposed to view "our" military that way anymore. When our rulers talk about moving people—make that personnel; I'm not sure they're thought of as people—to a war zone, they talk about "putting boots on the ground." Well, the boots are on the ground here in the good old USA.

And lest we think those in charge don't mean business, we should remember the words of President Dubya, who said that the military was in Iraq to give Iraqis the "same freedoms Americans enjoy." New Orleaneans found out what that meant after Hurricane Katrina, when the same military—and some of the same soldiers, I would guess—that had kicked down doors and confiscated weapons in Baghdad kicked down doors and confiscated weapons in New Orleans. The main difference I can see is that the Iraqis were permitted to stay in their homes and face the dangers if they so chose, but the New Orleaneans weren't.

Seeing "our courageous men and women" walking around in battle dress lite makes me feel secure, all right—as secure as a Dutchman after the Blitzkrieg.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Toughest Nut?

One of the arguments Christians apologists like to trot out is that we have a system of morality that we can depend on, handed down from God himself in the Bible. Where atheists are "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Ep 4:14), we can look to the Bible for definitive pronouncements about everything needed for faith and practice. While the Bible is not clear about everything, it is clear about everything that's important.

It is this certainty that has inspired the martyrs over the centuries, and it is the basis on which those stand who believe that "thy kingdom come" will be fulfilled in some degree through the church before the return of Christ, as exemplified by this passage from an article handed me by a friend:

The gospel tells us that all enemies of Christ will be subdued before the Lord returns—with the one exception of death. That enemy will be destroyed by the Lord Himself. All the other enemies—famine, disease, pestilence, war—will be destroyed through the agency of the faithful proclamation of the gospel, adorned by the Church living it out. (Douglas Wilson)

Unfortunately, either war is not an important subject, unclearly addressed as it is by the Bible, or the Bible does not address all important subjects clearly:

But we have good reason for believing that war will be one of the toughest nuts to crack. It well may be that it is the next to last enemy to be destroyed.

I suspect my friend directed me to Brother Doug's article because it contains this:

Winston Churchill defined a fanatic as one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. The ideologue is similar—he demands submission from everyone to the dictates of the abstraction that holds his loyalty by the back of the neck. This is why, without any sense of irony, the advocate of pacifism can find himself arguing, in the most bloodthirsty way, for the engines of war to get warmed up.

I consider myself more a wimp than a pacifist, but anyone who opposes the present wars is tossed in the pacifist pile, so I guess that's why I was given the article. And since the war is a topic that I find myself addressing often and my opinions are not likely to change soon, I'll concede that I'm a fanatic. I'm not sure "do for your neighbor what you would have him do for you" and "what's yours is yours, what's mine is mine; keep your hands to yourself and tell the truth, and it doesn't matter who you are, we ought to be able to get along" is an ideology, but my friend and Brother Doug might think so. So if I'm a fanatical pacifist ideologue, make of it what you will.

The article's conclusion is reasonable, or at least I think I can agree with it, even the first clause:

I am no pacifist, and so I believe that there are wars that are just in principle, and in which Christians might participate with a clean conscience. I hold this position as one who believes that every just war ought to be aimed, in principle, at the glorious elimination of war that the prophets have wonderfully anticipated for us. If we hold our convictions about war in this way, refusing the ideological lure, we may not see wars abolished as quickly as we might like. But if we reject ideology, we will at least not be breeding additional and unnecessary wars in the meantime.

Now war is an abstraction: while there are no doubt some who find rapacity more rewarding after a good hard battle where even their own side takes casualties, most prefer to show up with overwhelming force, skip the battle, and take the women and the loot. You don't need the Bible to convince most people that war in the abstract isn't a good thing.

This war, however, is no abstraction. It has visible, tangible, measurable effects on millions of people. If nothing else, the money we send to Washington to keep the army over there is money we're not sending to missionaries, who are feeling the pincers of inflation and reduced giving.

So I find rather scary a theme that runs through the article, as encapsulated in the penultimate paragraph:

As a Christian pastor and biblical constitutionalist, I opposed the war in Iraq on constitutional grounds. The president is not authorized by the Constitution to go to war with another sovereign nation and replace its government. Congress has the responsibility to declare war. This conviction of mine is a political opinion, one which I would never dream of invoking in the discipline of God’s people. And godlier men than I believe that the war is perfectly justified, both constitutionally and scripturally. I write this, not as a max nix [sic] relativist, but as someone who believes that the diamonds of some absolute truths are not lying on the surface of the ground. For those, we will have to dig some deep mines. But as the historian Christopher Dawson once put it, the Christian church lives in the light of eternity, so we can afford to be patient.

Christians living in the US can certainly afford to be patient: Uncle Sam isn't dropping bombs on us from unmanned aircraft (yet). Will Brother Doug be as patient when he's dodging bombs? And what will he be able to do about it then if he should decide that Christians shouldn't be part of the imperial army? More importantly, if he does decide that this war is wrong, what will he tell his sheep who have assumed so far that it is OK to be part of it?

Since the Bible apparently isn't clear about how we are to think about the war, let alone what we are to think of it, Brother Doug is left with the Constitution for guidance. But he admits that he can't agree with "godlier men" than he what the Constitution says, so even that's no help.

(Then there's the question of whether a document that is de facto being ignored can be appealed to at all. Worse, as Gary North and Lysander Spooner have written, the ratification of the Constitution was of questionable morality, and its nature as morally binding would be suspect even if it were lawfully and morally instituted.)

So, having eliminated all authoritative backing for any pronouncement he might make about the war, he is left with saying nothing and calling it patience. But I have a problem with the selective nature of his patience:

If an abortionist sought membership in our church, we would refuse him unless he repented. If a homosexual couple sought membership, we would refuse them. If a pornographer wanted to join, we would say no. But would we allow a conscientious objector in? Yes. Would we allow a colonel in the Marines to join? Absolutely. Does this mean that I believe “it is all relative” and that when it comes to issues of war and peace, each Christian can just choose for himself? No. But it is a recognition that the prophetic vision recognizes that when men come to “study war no more,” and the lion lies down with the lamb, and men turn their ingenuity to the task of making the finest plowshares out of the finest spears, we are then at the culmination of the gospel age. The elimination of war is not irrelevant to Christian worldview thinking, but is rather the capstone of that kind of thinking in history.

(Notice that Brother Doug is talking about church membership, not about attendance. He and I both, I think, desire passionately to offer the good news to abortionists, homosexuals, pornographers, conscientious objectors, and Marine colonels as much as to anyone else, and to love them as people no more self-interested and sinful and no less desirous of doing the right thing than we are.)

So the church can be definitive about the killing of the unborn, but not about killing those already born, about sexual sins, but not about the taking of innocent life on a massive scale. Brother Doug might be right, but what does that say about the authority of the Bible?

I'm no church historian, but I understand that in Tertullian's day one had to choose between being a Roman soldier and a church member:

The case is different, if the faith comes subsequent(ly) to any (who are) already occupied in military service, as (was, for instance, the case) with those whom John admitted to baptism, and with the most believing centurions whom Christ approves and whom Peter instructs: all the same, when faith has been accepted and signed, either the service must be left at once, as has been done by many, or else recourse must be had to all sorts of cavilling, lest anything be committed against God – (any, that is, of the things) which are not allowed (to Christians) outside the army, or lastly that which the faith of (Christian) civilians has fairly determined upon must be endured for God. For military service will not promise impunity for sins or immunity from martyrdom. The Christian is nowhere anything else (than a Christian).

When the need to choose disappeared I don't know, but surely it was gone by the time Constantine made Christianity the official religion of his empire: "Hot dog! Now we can really make disciples!"

Brother Doug describes himself as a "biblical constitutionalist" and his opposition as being on "constitutional grounds." I hope the label means he reads the Constitution through the lens of the Bible and not the other way around, but to say that his opposition is constitutional rather than biblical is breathtaking. Does the Bible not give him anything to say about this particular war?

"No, Mr. Quill Pig, it doesn't. And if you look in Romans 13, you'll see that the state has been given the power of the sword."

Commenting on Romans 13, the Westminster Confession says that the civil magistrate is bound to enforce "wholesome laws"; he is not free to act as he chooses. If, by Brother Doug's own admission, this particular war is unconstitutional, prosecuting it is a lawless act, and Christians are not to participate in lawless acts, because "all sin is lawlessness" (1 Jn 3:4). I think he would do well to call a meeting of his church elders, lay out his case, invite those "godlier men" than he to lay out their cases, and ask the elders to take a stand about the moral nature of this war, calling on his denominational leaders to follow suit. Again, we're not talking about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or even whether a drum set should accompany the music team: we're talking about whether or not God is calling Christians to disrupt the lives of millions of people who are on their way to a Christless eternity.

My congregation and denomination have endorsed this war from the get-go without even so much as a discussion or an explanation. We pray more on Sunday mornings for the soldiers who fight for Uncle Sam than we do for our missionaries, and we send more money to Washington to support the war than we do to our missionaries. Yet the topic has never been discussed officially. It's as though we don't dare raise the subject lest the discussion become heated. My church claims to carefully avoid taking stands on political issues, but nothing is more political than war, and not to raise the issue is to side de facto with the warmakers and then to pretend as though which side the church is on is not important.

I'd rather be excommunicated by a church that decided—after deep, lengthy, and passionate discussion—that to oppose this war is tantamount to abetting the murder of Americans than to see God's people refuse to discuss the issue (Re 3:15).

Does the Bible not talk about matters of life and death to millions of people? If it doesn't, can one not be forgiven for asking, "God is good, but what's he good for"? I know atheists who have no desire to hear the gospel precisely because Christians who will wax tearful over the evils of intrauterine devices can't bring themselves to call bombing women and children in a country with which we are supposedly allied evil. They would answer in Stalin's famous words: "When one person dies, it's a tragedy. When a million people die, it's a statistic." And we know Jesus doesn't care about statistics.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Erwin Lutzer's Is God on America's Side?

Erwin W. Lutzer. Is God on America's Side? Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008. 103 pages.

Most Christians in the US seem unable to separate the cross of Christ from the "American" flag. I would suspect that most Muslims can't either. For the former, the identification of the Christian God and their native land is a source of pride and joy. The latter, especially those who have lost family members, their health, or their homes to US imperialism, could be forgiven for deciding that if the Christian God is like Uncle Sam, no decent person would be a Christian. Unfortunately, it's even worse than that: they cut themselves off from the God whose forgiveness they need if they are to have eternal life because they identify that God with Uncle Sam's depredations.

So this book by Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, a bastion of respectable US evangelicalism, is a must-read for Christians who consider themselves patriotic Americans. While I have predictable quibbles with Is God on America's Side?—the societal sins he calls Christians to fight are gambling and prostitution, but imperialism is never mentioned—his message is just what the doctor ordered for his audience, mainstream evangelicals. Once we get evangelicals to question "American exceptionalism," the idea that the US is somehow God's chosen nation in a sense that Finland or Papua New Guinea could never be, they might be open to questioning the morality of Uncle Sam's out-of-bounds actions that they currently accept.

Lutzer begins by enumerating and discussing seven biblical principles:

God can both bless and curse a nation.
God judges nations based on the amount of light and opportunity they are given.
God sometimes uses exceedingly evil nations to judge those that are less evil.
When God judges a nation, the righteous suffer with the wicked.
God's judgments take various forms.
In judgment, God's target is often His people, not just the pagans among them.
God sometimes reverses intended judgments.

He then turns the title's question on its head by quoting Abraham Lincoln, "America's most admired president": "The important question is whether I am on God's side, for God is always right." (I quibble over the invocation of the president who was Hitler's favorite precisely because of his racism and imperialism, but again, invoking him would soften Lutzer's audience's defenses against the book's main message.) From there he discusses at length the crucial (pun intended) difference between building a political entity and building the kingdom of God.

He expresses this difference aptly: "Our job is not to save America but to save Americans by living the Gospel." Our nation is literally going to hell—read the obituaries and see where most of those named are headed—and its military is literally blowing women and children to hell, claiming such is necessary for its defense. Lutzer proposes that the church can survive and even thrive under adverse conditions; our job as Christians is to be faithful to God, working for justice and showing mercy and compassion.

So where would he have us go from here?

First, we must choose the right battle.

Where a general who loses on the battlefield can only give good advice about how to cope with the new situation, we need to be dispensers of the good news of Christ's victory over our enemies: the world (including the messianic state—that's me, not Lutzer), the flesh, and the devil.

Second, we must use the right weapons. [Yes, Moody's copyeditor should have checked to see that italics in this list were used consistently.]

The weapons he names are "helpless dependence on God's Word" and "the integrity of our lifestyle." We can never get enough Bible teaching, either on our own or from those whom God has called to study it. I am convicted of looking down on my neoconservative brethren for eschewing Bible reading for the teachings of the Mormon Glenn Beck and Fox News, the neoconservative arm of Fox porn, while I am myself not able to get enough of atheists like Stefan Molyneux and Latin Rite Catholics like Thomas Woods. More convicting still, the inconvenient biblical truth Lutzer discusses at length is that Jesus calls us not only to suffer but to suffer specifically for his name's sake.
Lutzer pulls no punches: he fully expects Christians to become a persecuted minority, but he makes it plain that we are not to have the "poor me" attitude that goes along with it: we are to rejoice that we are being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' name and work hard depite our suffering to win people to Christ. (If I can't abide people lolligagging in the left lane on the expressway, how will I tolerate being caged or waterboarded?)

That is, when it is essentially illegal to be a Christian, we are to obey God rather than men. I don't know that Lutzer would translate that into breaking the fugitive slave laws, let alone breaking today's drug laws to provide marijuana to people dying of cancer so they don't have to endure either the excruciating pain of the disease or the expense, nausea, and impaired mental state that go along with morphine use—and if he did, saying so might alienate his audience—but he's at least giving the lie to the idea that the cross and Old Glory are inseperable, and that's a giant step in today's US evangelicalism.

The final chapter is titled "Winning Even When We Lose." Whether Uncle Sam survives or not, the church of Jesus Christ will keep going. She grows under adversity, and she is growing fastest in the nations that persecute her and in other places we comfortable saints wouldn't voluntarily live. And her best days in North America may still be ahead of us; but if they are, they will be accompanied by severe persecution.

Lutzer points out that the churches Jesus addressed in the seven letters of Revelation have all disappeared, as has the Christianesque culture of North Africa and the Europe of the Reformation. The same thing can happen here. And the likelihood of it happening here increases as Christians claim that God is on America's side rather than asking if they and their society are on God's side. May his warning be heard by many.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Would You Go All the Way?"

Would you go all the way for the USA?
Would you go all the way for the USO?
Would you go all the way for the USA?
Lift up your dress if the answer is no.

Frank Zappa's raunchy lyrics from the 1960s aren't so "far out, man," anymore. Now if you want to fly, you've got to take it all off for the TSA. Some prudes and geezers object, of course, but we can always expect some people to resist progress.

It's also usually true that if people knew what would happen at the end of the road, they might have been less complacent during the early stages of the journey. Honorable men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoeller supported Hitler initially, only to find that their trust had been misplaced; Bonhoeffer's repentance cost him his life.

If people had known how graphic the images from the virtual strip-search scanners would be, they might have resisted early on. I certainly wanted to know what was happening, but during the run-up, the only pictures available were this, which looks pretty innocuous. Even this and this aren't so bad (especially when your attention is drawn to the hidden weapons). One could understandably ask, what's the big deal?

But of course, as one can expect from a police state, they weren't giving us the real picture, and only after the TSA had begun installing the devices at airports was it possible know for sure what we would look like "on camera." Leave it to disgruntled pilots, who probably thought they were going to be exempt from the indignities, to squeal once their ox got gored. Check it out here. And while the resolution isn't magazine quality and the image is black and white, one can expect the resolution to improve over time and color to be introduced, "for security purposes only," of course.

Do you think people who don't want such pictures taken of them are unreasonable?

My boss, who is a Jewish atheist, doesn't mind the situation. He doesn't even mind having his wife go through. (She's a looker, so maybe it's his way of boasting.) He says the machines are faster than the old scanners (how having to stop and pose is faster than walking through a metal detector is beyond me), and besides, the guys manning the screens "get inured" to what they see.

I see his point: I found out in my early teens that I lost interest in my friend's physician father's four-foot stack of Playboy magazines about the third time through, though that was before they could publish full frontal nudity; otherwise I would likely have needed another pass or two.

The inurement argument doesn't hold water. I read an article by a gynecologist in Reader's Digest decades ago, and he stated matter-of-factly that he isn't above noting (in ways only he can read?) that a certain patient has "nice breasts." I've asked two physician friends how they dealt with seeing naked women, and they admitted that they don't cease to be guys. As I said, my friend's father, who was a physician, kept a stack of Playboys, and indeed the first Playboy I ever saw belonged to my physician uncle. We lived in a village in Papua New Guinea for almost two decades, and I was never unaware of what women were and weren't wearing shirts, and yes, I had my preferences. Most unmarried women with developed breasts would wear shirts until they delivered their first baby, probably because they were aware that young, firm breasts can distract males from what's important in life. You can't tell me the occasional looker wouldn't be a perk to the guy watching the screens.

What does all this have to do with Jesus? I frankly don't know. I could go on about how the rise of the messianic state in the US has been accompanied by a decline in morals, but this post is long enough already.

But I do know that any Christian who hasn't spoken out against strip-search scanners but disparages nude beaches will immediately lose his credibility with me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paul White, Frank Peretti, and George Washington

I learned a lot from the books I read to my kids when they were young. One that hit close to home was a comic adaptation of a story by Paul White, who apparently was a missionary in Africa. We had other comics of his stories, all set in Africa, but this one always made me uneasy.

It was about a young man who found a leopard cub and decided it would make a neat pet. Some old geezer in the fillage told him he should kill the cub, but the cub was cute and playful, and the young man was sure he could keep it under control. The old man left the young man with this warning: "You have to make sure that that that leopard never smells blood, because once he does, he will only be satisfied with fresh meat."

You've guessed the rest. The young man gets a small cut while playing with the leopard—How could he have expected things to turn out otherwise?—and the leopard smells the blood and kills the young man and others.

Even I could see what the author was getting at: I'm not above indulging in a little questionable behavior that I think I've got under control. And when the leopard smells the blood, having to admit that I should have known better–ha! did know better—is a living death.

Reading that book to my kids was about a weekly experience. Another story that has stayed with me, even though I only read it once, was Frank Peretti's The Oath. The theme was the same as the comic, except this time the young man was a modern village in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the leopard was an invisible dragon. Here a whole community had adopted this cute little dragon, but the more they loved it and fed it, the bigger it grew, the bigger its appetite became, and the nastier its reactions became when gratification was delayed. The dragon was eventually slain, but not before a lot of innocent people died.

And, of course, there's the Veggie Tale about Junior Asparagus and the giant fib, which turned into a monster that almost destroyed the town.

Why do we need so many stories with the same theme? I'd say it's because we don't learn. We all want to be an exception to that rule (except me, of course).

There once was a people called Israel who had a special relationship with God. For reasons of his own, God gave them a rich and fertile land to live in. Little by little the Israelites started cutting theological and moral corners. Paul White and Frank Peretti would no doubt say they had started nursing beasts as pets, but the pets grew up and became masters. Before long things were so bad that they decided they needed something God warned them against: "a king like all the other nations have." After all, this king would be "the anointed of the Lord," so how could that be bad?

Well, it was bad. All but one of those kings shed innocent blood, and the problem the Israelites had asked for a king to solve, utter defeat at the hands of their enemies, came anyway. How could things have gone differently?

You know what's coming, right? The newly independent colonists decided that the confederation of small, sovereign, independent states they had pledged their sacred honor to fight for wasn't good enough: they needed a stronger central government. (Or at least that's the story told by the "Federalist" victors.) Yes, a central government, with only those powers "delegated" to it by the states, that's the ticket! Of course, that federal government would have the power to determine whether which powers had been delegated, but what's the harm in that?

As Elmer Peterson has said, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

The more power and privilege government offers to its agents, the more people who desire power and privilege will seek to work for the government, and the more powerful and expensive it will become. The leopard will grow up, and eventually he'll smell blood. It's best to kill the beast when he's small.

George Washington was a Federalist, part of the scam that now afflicts us as badly as anything King George ever wrought on the colonies. But he could talk convincingly, and here's a pearl we anti-Federalists wish he had taken to heart: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

Do we want this or that government to master us, or are we willing to settle only for the easy and light yoke of the Spirit of God?