Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Ron Paul Is a Racist: So What?

The Establishment propaganda mill is all a-twitter with accusations that Ron Paul is a racist. Having all my life considered racism a serious sin, a self-righteous Yankee considering it the province of benighted Southerners, I'm not eager to cast my lot with a racist, even if that particular Texan was born in Pittsburgh. Also, as an anarchist, I'm not totally satisfied with Ron Paul's small-government libertarianism. So why isn't this charge of racism, even if true, not enough to get me to tell the Ron Paul REVOLution to go to hell?

Racism is an integral part of fallen human nature.

The original sin was the desire to be "like God," the center of the universe. May I suggest that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," every one of us is the center of his own universe, and we all tend to regard those who are more like us, or who conform to our standards, as more worthy than those who don't? Racism is but one form of prejudice, and prejudice poisons us all.

Let me show you how it plays out in my life.

My morning commute to Philadelphia is less onerous on those days when a certain black lady allows me to walk with her from the train to her workplace. On occasion she'll say something like, "I coulda did that myself." Not the textbook English I was raised to speak, that, and a sure sign of inferiority, right?

Well, no: textbook English or not, when the conversational ball gets dropped, she is almost always the one who gets it rolling again by punching one of my buttons. And her workplace is a prestigious hospital where she's a nurse practitioner, entrusted with life-or-death matters, something I can't lay claim to. Ain't nothin' to look down on there.

Or take the Filipina who works in the cubicle next to me, who can brighten my day by asking for help with work-related matters or by recommending a song she likes. Those communiqu├ęs often come in writing, complete with the kinds of errors I see in my editing work. Poor thing, it's not her fault she's Filipina: she must not be able to get that Asian brain around the complexities of English. But again, the rest of the story is that she is still editing our clients' manuscripts while I rightly got yanked out of the editorial department long ago. (And, lest you miss the irony, Asians score higher than honkies on every "intelligence test" ever devised.)

So if you're perceptive, you've seen that not only do I have to consciously fight racial prejudice, I'm also regionalist, sexist, education-ist, and language-ist. And if you were to see those two ladies, you'd also call me appearance-ist: they are both quite attractive, and you might well ask me about them the question I asked in an earlier post: would their favor mean so much to me if they were dumpy white guys?

The isms that I'm subject to are common to all of us to some degree; it's part of the sinful human nature Jesus died to save us from. So if Ron Paul is a racist, he's simply human.

Some forms of racism are more virulent than others.

I haven't delved deeply into Ron Paul's racist screed, but the line that sticks in my memory is a comment about black muggers: "They do run fast, don't they?"

That was obviously not the most intelligent statement uttered by a human being, but let's see. Most of the people on the USA Olympic track team, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association seem to be black. Does running play a part in these activities? Is this disproportionate representation attributable only to training, or could there have been some natural resource inherent in these people on which to build?

(And lest I be accused of accusing blacks of deficient mental capabilities, let me repeat Thomas Sowell's observation that football, basketball, and jazz, areas dominated by blacks, require the ability to enact split-second decisions, unlike classical music and chess, traditionally "white" activities, which allow for slower thought processes.)

How virulent is Dr. Paul's racism? Let's answer that by comparing it with that of someone no one in the public eye accuses of racism: Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama presides over a nation in which most illegal drug-related activity is carried out by whites, yet most prisoners incarcerated for drug-related "crimes" are black. Not only are blacks more often incarcerated, their sentences tend to be longer. If that isn't virulent racism, I don't know what is. Mr. Obama has had three years to change the situation but hasn't. And none of the "non-racist" Republican presidential candidates has even mentioned the problem.

But for thirty years the "racist" Ron Paul has been calling for an end to the War on Drugs and for the release of those imprisoned for drug-related violations, including, presumably, those fast-running blacks.

Verbal assault like Dr. Paul's comment is not nothing, but given a choice between being verbally slighted by the power brokers and being stuck in a cage for years, I'll take the former, and I assume most black convicts would too.

We already live in a nation known for racism.

"American exceptionalism," an idea I hadn't heard of until a year or so ago, is essentially Hitler's master race concept couched in nationalist, not racist, terms. It is the province primarily of the right—Rick Santorum actually dropped the term in a recent debate—but when Madeline Albright spoke in the 1990s of the US as "the indispensable nation," she was a leftist saying essentially the same thing: the US is the best country in the world, and its citizens are therefore entitled to do things the rest of the world's inferior citizens aren't, like invading other countries, changing their governments, killing innocent people, driving them from their homes, and whatever else they need to do to protect and advance their interests.

I have heard both Dennis Prager (an "American exceptionalist") and an ordained Presbyterian elder say in as many words that Uncle Sam's killing of innocents overseas is justified because he is there to make life better for the local population as a whole. He targets only the bad guys, and therefore he can be excused when he kills the innocent, even though he knows innocent people will die as a result of his actions. ("Hey, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.") This about a nation both these men rightly disparage when it comes to the abortion holocaust and pornography.

How a nation that is so sexually immoral and so violent that much of the population thinks no one but the government should own guns lest there be mass bloodshed can consider itself ordained of God to police the world and kill innocent people with impunity is simply beyond me.

The US's most beloved presidents have been racists. One more won't hurt.

Everyone knows that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Washington even signed a law that made hiding fugitive slaves a federal offense. They may have been good, kind masters—my black friend, somewhat to my surprise, once volunteered that her family had been given an inheritance by just such people—but the zeal they showed for the liberty of whites somehow did not apply to blacks. At least not their blacks. At least not until after they died.

Ah, but what about Lincoln, the Great Emancipator? Remember Dion's paean in the 1960s? "He freed a lot of people, but it seems good they die young." If anyone is beloved by both left and right, it's Lincoln.

Well, Lincoln was a racist. I have shamelessly copied and pasted the following quotes from here.

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.” — Abraham Lincoln (Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, pp. 145–146.)

From Lincoln's First Inaugural Address:

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

Compare those to the words of the "racist" Ron Paul:

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist.

If this be racism, make the most of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Can Orthodoxy Be Dead?

Our Sunday school class has been going through Ezekiel's prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, a horrific time in the history of God's people brought about by their apostasy and idolatry. As shocking as the apostasy and idolatry were, the true horror was that the people of Jerusalem were content with the status quo: "The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way" (Jer 5:31).

Leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, the people made no pretense of worshiping YHWH, instead openly worshiping Baal (Jer 2:8) and the Queen of Heaven (Jer 7:18). So of course, God's glory left the temple and headed east (Ez 9-10), by implication to the community of exiles in Babylon. Then "the guards of the city" went through Jerusalem, beginning at the sanctuary, and killed everyone who was not grieving over the apostasy in the city.

The problem in Jerusalem was open apostasy: no one named the name of YHWH, and those who did were persecuted. My question, though, is this: is it possible to hold to all the proper theological propositions and still be apostate?

I live at a time in US history in which over 80% of those polled think our nation is "going the wrong way." By any measure, it is financially bankrupt: the official national debt is higher than could ever be repaid, the currency is losing value by the day, and as businesses fail the unemployment rate is high and still rising. "Whatever is true, ... noble, ... right, ... pure, ... lovely, ... admirable ... excellent ... praiseworthy" is scorned; the only virtue is "pushing the envelope," the only right our government recognizes is the "right" to kill the unborn.

Yet the US evangelical church waves this nation's flag proudly.

"We" are also so afraid of "our" enemies that "we" strip-search wheelchair-bound nonagenarians lest they carry weapons of mass destruction onto airplanes, to say nothing of caging sellers of raw milk and growers of industrial hemp, and killing innocent people overseas by the hundreds of thousands, all with the hearty approval of the evangelical church.

Actually, "hearty apporval" is an understatement. Dr. Michael Milton, the new chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, has gone so far as to call the decision to reduce military force overseas immoral.

Now if anyone is as orthodox as the day is long, it's RTS Charlotte. When I audited classes there in 1996, they allowed me to ask questions in class and grading my homework, examinations, and term papers, generosity auditors are usually not given. Nothing I saw while there would testify against their desire to be true to the Bible and sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

I have the same impression of World magazine. And my local church.

In contrast, I look in the mirror and see someone whose commitment to Christ is tepid. While those I disagree with over the war and "compassionate conservatism" seem to be fervent in their desire to know and carry out God's will, I find myself making excuses for my self-indulgence. To be honest, I not only find myself wondering if God loves me, I find myself wondering if there is a God at all and even not caring whether there is or not.

Now I want the gospel to be true—without it life has no meaning. But my wanting something to be true doesn't make it true, and, more immediately, it doesn't make it apply to me. So I write the following in the context of Paul's admonition, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor 10:12): I find myself fleeing my own idols (v 14) too slowly.

But given what has come out over the years about the lies the US government has told to its subjects1 and, more importantly, the love the US evangelical community has lavished on those lies (see 2 Thess 2:11), I think the question needs to be asked: can idolatry prosper in the soil of even fervent theological orthodoxy?

I find one answer in the second chapter of the Revelation.

The church at Ephesus worked beyond weariness to do good deeds, persevered through hardship, could not tolerate wickedness, and pursued theological orthodoxy. Yet despite all that, they had forsaken their first love. They could hate what God hated—the practices of the Nicolaitans, whoever they were—but they didn't love what God loved (Rev 2:1-6). (Sounds like me, except without the hard work and perseverance.)

My question to Dr. Milton and the rest of the visible evangelical community is this: If you had to choose between being a US citizen (which today, as Congress is passing a law that allows the government to cage anyone they please indefinitely without trial, means someone who goes along with everything the government considers necessary) and being a Christian, which would you choose? If a ratio of dead innocents overseas to those killed on 9/11 of somewhere between a hundred and a thousand to one isn't enough, how many would be enough for you to say that you need to choose between evangelizing them and blowing them to hell? How do you know that that point is not too late to change the situation? Or does it just not matter?

My local church gives three times as much money in taxes for the war effort alone as it does to missions, and given the number of seminary professors and former missionaries in the congregation, I would expect this ratio to be on the low side for evangelical churches as a whole. Its prayers for missions and the military reflect this ratio: the former are sporadic and general, the latter consistent and specific. Is God more than three times as concerned that we worship in freedom (i.e., comfort) as he is that the Islamic world hear the gospel?

For that matter, was it really God who sent Christian soldiers to help found the Republic of Iran, in which Islam is the state religion, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan? In both nations, confessing Christians have paid a horrible price for their "enduring freedom," much greater than the price paid by US evangelicals, which of course the latter take as a call for even more killing, so that "we don't have to fight them over here."

How about fighting Islam over here?

The most fertile ground for Islam in the United States, save perhaps for the wombs of resident Muslim women, is the prison system, the evils of which I have decried here and here. Most of those incarcerated are innocent of any activity that was considered a crime even by Christians a hundred years ago, when the church was more influential than it is today.2 Yet what prominent evangelical leaders are willing to come out and say, e.g., "The Bible nowhere gives me jurisdiction over what you grow in your garden, provided it stays in your garden, nor what you consume in the privacy of your own home, nor what you voluntarily exchange with your neighbors; therefore, in the name of Jesus, while I urge my fellow citizens to exercise the utmost caution and restraint in their use of potential intoxicants, I call on the US government to end the War on Drugs and free all those convicted solely of possession and sale of substances"?

If they are worried about the spread of Islam, why do they not take a look at the prisons? Is the ratio of Christian converts to Muslim converts "good enough for government work"? Or do we just love the US government, including its barbaric prison system, more than we love God?

Just as the glory of the Lord departed from the temple of Jerusalem because of the people's open apostasy and allowed them to be slaughtered by the Iraqis of their day, it would seem the Lord removed the lampstand of the church of Ephesus despite its hard work and perseverance and turned the people over to Islam (and, even scarier, the church of Philadelphia shared the Ephesians' fate).

In the past I have taken breaks from writing this blog and reading my favorite writers when I felt I needed to make sure my focus was on Christ and his kingdom and not on attacking the libertine state. Would it be unreasonable to ask the evangelical church in the US to take a month sometime to take Uncle Sam's flag out of the sanctuary and off the flag pole, take off the flag lapel pins, and pray exclusively for Christ's kingdom and its emissaries (including military members and chaplains, but only as they are ambassadors of the gospel)?

Germany was once the hotbed of the Reformation. Before my time, its strong central government was the hope of many Protestants3 for recovery from terrible oppression by the victors of a war they were convinced had been forced on them. When Germany went to war, it was to regain what it said was land unjustly taken from it and later to fight Communism. Today Germany is the economic engine of Europe, but it is not known for a vibrant church.

Is our future the carpet bombings and fire bombings and atomic blasts we have inflicted on others, followed by an age in which the Christian church is an irrelevency, ignored and tolerated at best? Do we avoid such a future best by being "patriotic Americans" exporting democracy by bomb blast, or by single-hearted devotion to Christ and his kingdom?

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1. For starters, see this review of one book and mention of others that praise Franklin Roosevelt for lying the US into World War II.

2. I find it ironic that when it comes to killing and caging innocent people, conservative Republicans side against me with the Progressive Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

3. "The [Protestant] churches did not reject National Socialism on principle. The idea of a strong authority and a close bond between throne and altar, of the kind that existed in the empire between 1871 and 1918, was in keeping with Protestant tradition. Many ... [Protestants] had reservations about the democratic Weimar Republic and sympathized with political forces – such as the German National People's Party – that idealized the past." Wikipedia entry for the Confessing Church. A bulletin insert put out by Christian History magazine (alas no longer available on line), went even further, saying that evangelical churches put swastikas and pictures of Hitler on their pulpits and the Gestapo supported Christian missions.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On Enlisting

Rex, a friend of a friend, is thinking of joining the Army. He's not just thinking about it—he's taking concrete steps, including being part of a high school-level ROTC program. I asked him through our connection if he'd be willing to allow me to urge him to reconsider his decision to enlist. He said yes, but the conversation hasn't taken place yet and probably won't. What follows is my guess at how it might have gone after the initial pleasantries.

Me: Why do you want to join the Army?

Rex: I want to serve my country.

Me: How is joining the Army a better way to serve your country than, say, doing what Steve Jobs did and offering a product or service that makes people's lives better?

Rex: Our country is at war, and I want to be part of defeating our enemies. Otherwise people won't be able to enjoy the things that Steve Jobs makes.

Me: Do you think there are no iPhones or iPads in Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan?

Rex: There might be a few.

Me: Are there only a few because those you consider our enemies forbid people to own them, or is it just that the people can't afford them?

Rex: Probably a bit of both.

Me: I agree with you. I'd say that the people in power in those places consider it their duty to run others' lives. They have no qualms about taking others' property or telling them what they can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes. So they steal the money that people might otherwise use to buy iPads, and if the people buy iPads or other Internet devices anyway, they tell them what sites they can and cannot visit. Am I right that you don't want to live in that kind of society?

Rex: Yes.

Me: So that's at least part of why you want to join the Army—so you can do what you want with your life and not have to have others telling you what to do.

Rex: That's part of it. More than that I want to protect innocent people from being killed by terrorists. I don't want bad things done to innocent people.

Me: You want to be a good neighbor by protecting innocent people.

Rex: Yes.

Me: And you're willing to put your own life on the line to do that.

Rex: Yes.

Me: Why do we have to worry about terrorists? What's in it for them? Given a choice between marrying your girlfriend and getting blown up, either as a suicide bomber or a casualty in war, wouldn't you choose to marry your girlfriend?

Rex: Well, duh, I'd rather marry my girlfriend.

Me: So why would—

Rex: Because there aren't enough girls over there. Some men have four wives, and that means some men will never get married. And they've been propagandized, told lies that it's all our fault, or Israel's fault, or our fault because it's Israel's fault, and since there's no hope that they can have a better life, they just blow themselves up to kill as many of us as they can to get revenge on us.

Me: So there's no reasoning with them. The only thing we can do is blow them up.

Rex: Not everyone. Just the terrorists.

Me: How do you make sure it's only the terrorists who get killed?

Rex: You can't. There's always going to be collateral damage.

Me: How much collateral damage is acceptable? If you're given a command to fire a mortar, and you know there will be collateral damage, how do you determine whether fulfilling the objective is worth the amount of collateral damage you'll be inflicting?

Rex: It's not up to me to decide.

Me: You just follow orders.

Rex: Right.

Me: And if you find out afterward that you or your commanding officer underestimated the extent of the collateral damage, how do you decide whether obeying was the right thing to do?

Rex: I don't set the policies. I just carry them out.

Me: So you wouldn't let it bother your conscience.

Rex: That's right.

Me: So the only moral obligation you have is to carry out your orders to the letter. The actual suffering you inflict on innocent people is none of your concern.

Rex: I trust my commanders to order me to do what's right.

Me: Do you believe that any human being is perfect?

Rex: No.

Me: So it's possible that your commanders are fallible. They can make mistakes.

Rex: Everyone is entitled to an honest mistake.

Me: What would you do if you thought your commander was making an honest mistake that would needlessly cost the lives of innocent people?

Rex: I'd—

Me: And you couldn't convince him to change his mind.

Rex: I'd obey him.

Me: I understand that. If you disobey, they'd court martial you, even if it turned out you were right, right?

Rex: Right.

Me: And you'd be in doubly deep doo-doo if you turned out to be wrong.

Rex: Right.

Me: So you'd cover your ass by obeying him.

Rex: Right. But I don't think that would ever happen.

Me: You trust the military.

Rex: Right.

Me: All the way up to the top.

Rex: Right.

Me: Including the commander-in-chief.

Rex: Right.

Me: Did you vote for him?

Rex: Um, hello, I'm not old enough to vote.

Me: OK, did you want the current president to win?

Rex: No.

Me: Why not?

Rex: Because—

Me: You're not racist, are you?

Rex: No, of course not. I didn't like his policies.

Me: Which ones?

Rex: Well,—

Me: Scratch the question. Do you like his policies now?

Rex: He's OK.

Me: So really it didn't matter that the guy you didn't want to win won.

Rex: Right.

Me: And you like him enough that you're willing to have him be your commander-in-chief.

Rex: Right.

Me: Did you have doubts about his honesty during the campaign?

Rex: Some. I also thought he was incompetent.

Me: But he's more competent and honest than you thought.

Rex: Right. Besides, I won't take my commission until after the next election, so he probably won't be in office.

Me: And the guy who replaces him will be better.

Rex: I hope so.

Me: The same electorate as last time will elect someone better next time.

Rex: They've seen what a —

Me: This is your commander-in-chief you're talking about.

Rex: They'll do better next time.

Me: You might be right, but it's pretty much the same people voting, and I thought they thought they were doing better last time. Tell me: What would it take to convince you that your superiors were giving you orders that you would regret obeying?

Rex: I don't know. I would have to think it through at the time.

Me: What criteria would you use to decide?

Rex: Well, if it didn't feel right—

Me: Hasn't the army been teaching you to ignore your feelings?

Rex: OK, fine, I'd think it through.

Me: Would you have time to think it through?

Rex: If I did, I'd think it through. If I didn't, I'd obey. What's wrong with that?

Me: May I suggest that if you're on the battlefield you won't have time to develop the criteria you need to think it through, then think it through? That you need to think it through now, before you enlist?

Rex: Well, I've thought enough, and I'm convinced that joining the army is the right thing to do.

Me: You're convinced that you're fighting on the right side.

Rex: Yes.

Me: Uncle Sam is the good guy.

Rex: Yes.

Me: What do you think of the bailouts?

Rex: The banks were too big to fail. If the government hadn't intervened, too many people would have lost their jobs.

Me: People are still losing their jobs, right?

Rex: Right.

Me: So did the bailouts work?

Rex: They worked well enough.

Me: How many more jobs have to be lost before you would say that they didn't work well enough?

Rex: I don't know.

Me: But you still trust the president you didn't want to see win enough to go to, say, Uganda or Tanzania or Iran to kill women and children because he orders you to.

Rex: Like I said, I don't think he'll be in office when I'm commissioned.

Me: So you trust the same electorate that elected him to elect a better commander-in-chief next time.

Rex: Aren't you listening? It's not the same electorate. They'll know better next time.

Me: Will you still enlist if he gets re-elected?

Rex: Yes.

Me: He's not the best there could be, but he's good enough.

Rex: Yes.

Me: So it doesn't matter who's in the White House. If he tells you to go to Tanzania or Iran to kill women and children, you'll go.

Rex: I won't be going to kill women and children. I'll be going to fight terrorism.

Me: What reason is there to believe that innocent women and children won't be killed by the action you'll be part of?

Rex: Hey, stuff happens in war. The terrorists target innocent people. We don't target them.

Me: But you know they'll die.

Rex: Stuff happens.

Me: If the Chinese decided some guy was a threat to them and killed him while he was in the US, and your girlfriend were killed in the blast, and they knew when they fired that she would be killed, would you say, "That's OK; they didn't target her; stuff happens"?

Rex: No. They shouldn't be killing people on American soil.

Me: But if our government considers someone a threat, it's OK for US troops to kill him, even if he's in another country, and even if they know they will kill innocent people in the process.

Rex: Here's the difference: The Chinese government is bad. Our government is good.

Me: Do you believe that selling raw milk is evil?

Rex: No.

Me: Our government does. They are sending agents these days to jail people who sell raw milk.

Rex: Well, no government is perfect.

Me: What would the government have to do before you would be convinced that it is not good?

Rex: It would have to do bad things to innocent people.

Me: Jailing people for selling raw milk doesn't fit that definition?

Rex: No.

Me: How about arresting people for being Christian?

Rex: Maybe.

Me: Your girlfriend is very active in her church, so she might be one to go to jail if they start arresting Christians, and all you can say is "Maybe"?

Rex: Well, if she went to jail, that would convince me.

Me: Braveheart would be proud of you. Do you know what her church's stands on abortion and homosexuality are?

Rex: Yes.

Me: Do you know what our current president's stand—

Rex: He won't be president when I'm commissioned.

Me: And his replacement—

Rex: —will be better.

Me: And if he's re-elected,—

Rex: It won't matter. Look, I've had enough of this. Goodbye, sir.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who Would Profit from Another Terrorist Attack?

US citizens are being rendered destitute by the War on Terror, directly through the increase in debt and the consequent increase in taxes needed to pay the interest on that debt, and indirectly through "quantitative easing," the debasement of the currency that makes the accumulation of capital impossible. More importantly, our liberties are being revoked by agencies that consuder us guilty of terrorism until we are able to prove our innocence by passing searches that violate standards of decency considered sacrosanct all over the world until a decade ago.

When asked why they tolerate being so abused by their own government, most USians patiently explain that they are willing to give their great-grandchildren's inheritance to those who would literally strip them of their dignity so that no terrorist will attack them. Asked "Why would anyone want to attack you?" they wil rattle off the conventional wisdom—they hate us because we are good, they hate us because we're evil, they want Islam to take over the world, they want to screw beautiful virgins forever, etc.

But there is still another question to be asked: What would the jihadists gain from another attack? Or even better, who would benefit from another attack?

Before getting to the serious stuff, let's dispose of the virgins-in-paradise argument. I'm a guy, and I know how guys think. The old expression "A bird in hand is better than two in the bush" didn't come from nowhere. Not many guys who've got a chance at getting and keeping women in this life are going to give that prospect up for the words in a book.

How do I know? How hard is it for even the most devout Christian to "lend to anyone who asks without asking for return"? How many of us really forgive unconditionally? How many of us really "do not fear for [the LORD] is [our] God"? Or look at the divorce rate among Christians: do we really bear with each other's faults? We can sing as loudly as we want about leaning on the everlasting arms and standing on the promises of God, but actually doing it doesn't come easily. Unless the Holy Spirit is really a Muslim and has more power than the Christian version, suicide bombers are going to be few and far between enough that we've got other things to worry about.

Now polygamy in the Muslim world does present the real problem that there are simply not enough females to go around, which means that there is a significant bachelor herd for whom death might be preferable to life without a mate. I know of no possible solution to that problem but preemptively killing all Muslim males unlikely to marry, and I don't think God would honor that. But I would also like to suggest that killing women and (female) children as "collateral damage" is just as certainly no solution.

However, the question is moot: recruiting terrorists by appealing to the virgin argument has been spectacularly unsuccessful. The FBI has run half a dozen or more domestic sting operations designed to—well, designed primarily to keep USians afraid of terrorism, but ostensibly to catch those with terrorist leanings—and while the prospect of screwing virgins forever doesn't seem to get much traction, that being the reward for all Muslim men, anger against the killing of innocent people overseas does. If the best way to encourage the supply of potential terrorists is to keep killing innocent people in the Ummah, one would think that the best way to prevent terrorism would be to stop killing people overseas; but that alternative is, alas, off the table.

So, if a terrorist martyr doesn't increase his supply of virgins, what would he gain by a suicide mass murder?

To start the answer, what did the 9/11 suicide murderers accomplish? If they could look back at the fruit of their labors over the last decade, what benefits would they say they accrued to their cause?

Is the Ummah a better place because of the 9/11 attacks? Jihadists killed three thousand USians, true—if you believe the official version, which I don't, but let's go with it here—but a hundred times as many innocent Muslims have since died, more than that have been maimed, and millions have been displaced. One could argue that this is a short-term sacrifice that might pay off for Islamism in the long term, as evidenced by the bankruptcy now taking down every government in the West, but unless you're going to write off as totally irrational the community that gave us the number zero, algebra, the compass, the mattress, coffee, and the linguistic terms our seminary students to this day use to learn Hebrew grammar, you've got to predict that influential Muslims will seriously consider whether the same goal could be achieved with less spilling of innocent blood. By that measure, another attack would do the cause of jihad no good, and so one would expect the jihadists to try to destroy the US in some other way.

So if the cause of jihad would not benefit from another terror attack, who would? Answer: No one would benefit from another attack as much as the US government.

As Bob Dylan and Joe McDonald sang in the 1960s (to the disgust of the evangelical community, as I remember), there is plenty of good money to be made by the masters of war for supplying the army with the tools of the trade. In fact, in a twist worthy of Mel Brooks' producers, there is more money to be made from fighting wars than from winning them, a fact that cannot have escaped those intelligent enough to market guns and bombs, to say nothing of night-vision goggles, or for that matter the CEOs of fast-food companies that serve large military installations overseas. After World War II, government spending was cut 60%: soldiers and manufacturers alike could no longer rely on income the government had taxed away from people who had earned it; instead, they had to offer goods and services that private individuals would voluntarily part with their money to obtain, a significantly more difficult task. They learned their lesson well, and the mistake has not been repeated: the Vietnam war went on long after the government knew the effort was futile, US troops stayed in the Ummah after the cease-fire that ended Desert Storm, and, of course, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have promised their corporate sponsors that the war that presently stretches from Uganda to Afghanistan will not end in their lifetimes.

What of those called upon to fight, tired as they must be of being away from their families and the risk to life and limb?

To their credit, they are putting their money where their mouths are, giving more money to Ron Paul, who promises to get them out of the war zone forthwith, than to any other candidate, and twice as much as to all other Republican candidates combined.

But in the end, they are expendable. Why should the government waste money on combat pay for people might be killed, and whose deaths in great numbers could begin a backlash against the system? Far better to leave as many of them as possible at home or simply discharge them, have only enough boots on the ground to do what drones cannot do, and let the drones take the risks. Again, if a soldier dies, there are human consequences. If a drone is shot down, according to the Keynsian economics that guide the establishment, that is a good thing, because it brings about government spending that employs people to build a replacement. Drones in the end are cheaper than foot soldiers, and managing the needed production process can be extremely profitable for the corporations that manufacture them.

In short, the next terrorist attack will see an increase in drone warfare, with only as much increase in troop involvement needed to sell the program: fewer US military combat deaths, but an increase in money spent on whizbangs, a boon for the military-industrial complex.

It will also be a boon for those who believe in strong central and even global government. Such an attack will be followed by calls for more checkpoints, chatdowns, patdowns, strip scanners, and drones flying overhead. All will reduce our privacy as they augment the bank accounts of the corporate elite and the power position of the New World Order.

The implication of this for Christian mission is obvious. Unless the New World Order is indeed God's way of fulfilling the Great Commission, it is the reaction to the attack, not the attack itself, that will make fulfilling the Great Commission more difficult. Since that reaction will simply be an extension of the reaction we already see to past attacks, isn't it time we asked if the reactions to 9/11 that the evangelical community has tolerated and even celebrated might be, far from our legitimate means of  self-defense, the Devil's way of obstructing the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Archy Handles Heinous Crime III: Default

This week the US power establishment revealed a new tool for dealing with heinous crimes that initially had me shaking my head but eventually asking why this should be a surprise to anyone.

Any small-government conservative or libertarian will tell you that government is necessary to protect people and property: protection of people and property is government's primary responsibility, and government, and only government, can do it. But now one polity has walked away from this responsibility, and there's every reason to believe that others will soon follow.

It seems that the city of Topeka, Kansas, no longer has enough money to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence. So the city fathers have came up with a great idea for solving the problem: they repealed the statutes outlawing domestic violence. No solution, no problem!

The "good news" is that domestic violence is illegal in that county, so perps can still be prosecuted under county statutes. But the bad news there is that the county doesn't have the money to prosecute them either.

I'm not a good lateral thinker, so I can only come up with two ways domestic violence will be handled in Topeka, absent the resources to prosecute: either those accused will be put in jail and wait forever for trial, or they will simply be released. In the former case, simple accusation will be the equivalent of conviction; if you don't like someone, you can come up with a believable accusation of domestic violence, and he might never get out of jail, depending on what the powers that be deem expedient. In the latter case, even the most obviously guilty perps will be set free to continue their depredations. Either way, it's not anarchy, but it certainly is chaos.

The irony, of course, is that while the prosecutors and judges won't prosecute domestic violence cases, they will be plenty busy prosecuting those whose activities, according to the Bible, are nobody's business but their own: druggies (including purveyors of raw milk?), prostitutes and their customers, and owners of "assault weapons," to say nothing of people who exceed posted speed limits on empty roads and creep through empty intersections without stopping at stop signs. And the schools, libraries, parks, counseling centers, and other distributors of "entitlements" will continue apace.

As the currency is inflated (by our current archy), people's buying power diminishes, which means they patronize fewer businesses, which in turn hire fewer employees, who then patronize fewer businesses, and the cycle continues. All this results in reduced tax revenues, which means that government has to cut back on its "services." The government of Topeka is not facing the need to redefine essential government functions alone.

The fundamental question for any society is, "Who gets what at what expense to whom?" In a free society, the answer is, "You can have anything you want and can persuade someone to give you voluntarily." The answer in any political system is, "You get what those in power consider expedient to give you, and you give them whatever they consider expedient to extract"; that is, might makes right, or at least it makes policy, and justice is incidental.

So which services get cut, as with which services are provided, is always a product of political expediency. If more voters benefit from schools than from prosecuting a perpetrators of violence, law enforcement will be cut and the money will go to the schools.

As the economy continues its collapse, the Topeka syndrome will spread, and with it government at all level becoming increasingly chaotic, showing itself to be Bastiat's "fiction by which everyone seeks to live at everyone else's expense" keeping itself in power by buying votes through promises to dispense entitlements, and less an agency decent people look to for the maintenance of order.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Archy Deals with Heinous Crimes II: Summary Execution

The recent killings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki—I will use the government versions of both events here, since I want to hit Uncle Sam's best pitch and these narratives present him in the best possible light—show us that government by its very nature cannot act morally, should not be expected to, and has every incentive not to.

Having been overseas for twenty years until weeks before, I had only recently heard of Osama bin Laden on 9/11, but I had heard enough to be fully on board with the pastor of the church I attended the following Sunday when he said that if Osama bin Laden were to come to his office to hear about Jesus, he would wrestle him to the floor and call the authorities. (I think he said he would present the Gospel first and wrestle him to the floor afterwards no matter how Osama responded.) That is, "everyone knew" he was a "bad guy," and we all assumed that he was guilty of 9/11.

We didn't know, or at least I didn't, that he had been a CIA operative in the 1980s, though I should have, since there had been rumblings from feminists in the 1990s that the Taliban, who had been the "heroic mujahedin" we all got behind as they fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, were mistreating women, so I did "know" that the Taliban was up to no good. Taliban, Osama, let's kill them all, I thought. And we did.

That Osama and the Taliban were bad guys and in cahoots was front-page news. The back-page news was that after 9/11 the Taliban offered to hand Osama over to a neutral party for trial, but the Bush regime didn't agree to the deal. As I'll explain, a trial by a neutral party would have required a lot of work, but it could have saved countless lives ("We don't do body counts," at least not on gooks).

As I explain here and here, the archist view of a trial pits a defendant, someone either rich enough to afford a lawyer who can get him off whether he's innocent or not or someone who is stuck in jail and therefore unable to gather exculpatory evidence, against a state that pays the judge, the prosecutor, and the policemen whose testimony carries more weight than that of mere mundanes; the system has a vested interest in finding the defenddant guilty, certainly more than in rendering a just verdict based on truth as can best be established. If the Taliban are decent human beings, would they want to surrender a long-time comrade in arms to such a system? Surely their reluctance to do so is no proof that they are brutes.

The alternative would have been for the Taliban and the Bushies to sit down and draw up a list of people who could give both sides a fair hearing. Surely out of eight billion people on this planet there is someone who has a reputation for fairness, someone who would be strong enough to stand up to the bullying that both sides would engage in without becoming a bully in turn. Perhaps it would have been a Muslim leatherworker in Bosnia and his Orthodox wife. Or three Vietnamese Buddhist monks who had suffered under both the US puppet regime and the Communists. Or the Afghan woman whose picture was the most memorable National Geographic cover of all time? Or Vin Suprinowicz's Omani judge? How long would it have taken to find one person or a group of persons that both sides could trust?

This process would probably have taken months, but there's reason to believe that had justice, rather than victory, been the most important goal for even one side, the result would have been better than the senseless mayhem that came instead.

Am I the only one who thinks it's ironic that after all the billions of dollars that were spent invading Afghanistan, a financial hemorrhage that will not been stanched for the foreseeable future, it was a surgical operation costing a couple of million dollars at most that eventually took Osama out? If "we" had been willing to wait a while, this or a similar operation could have taken place without the billions of lost dollars, to say nothing of the thousands of deaths and millions of other casualties.

All this assumes that Osama was indeed guilty. What if he wasn't? Summary execution, the ethic of "shoot first and ask questions later," makes those questions irrelevant, doesn't it? Only agents of archy, who are almost universally granted impunity by their bosses, would consider this a good system.

Then there's the execution of Anwar al-Awlaki. At least one Muslim jihadist wonders if he was a CIA asset: “Al-Awlaki is not known for having participated in any ‘jihad’ whatsoever and this is what has to be highlighted. For he calls to it and hypes up his audiences with it, yet the question has to be asked: upon which battlefield has he fought?” That he was an incindiary speaker and an enemy of Uncle Sam seems to be well established. But wasn't anti-government speech precisely what the First Amendment is supposed to protect?

"Mission creep" is at work again. First it's OK to summarily kill someone in the act of killing another. Then it's OK to kill the guy certain people in the government say killed an innocent person. Then it's OK to kill the guy who was driving the getaway car. Then it's OK to kill the guy who bought the getaway car. Now it's OK to shoot the guy who convinced the third guy to buy the getaway car.

All this without trial.

We now have a KGB-style system in which anonymous government agents use evidence they share with no one to dispatch more anonymous agents to kill or imprison whomever they choose, all with impunity, all with no legislative or judicial supervision. All any of us needs to do is get on the hit list, and we're defenseless. Romans 13 says, "If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear," but remember that the author of those words had been stoned and scourged, and was eventually executed, by the very authorities he described.

Given archy, how could it be different? Jobs that involve the exercise of power with impunity will draw workers who enjoy exercising power with impunity. And self-preservation being a basic human characteristic, these workers once hired will be most interested in preserving their positions of power and privilege. Yesterday they were content with responding forcibly to those who either initiated force or whose threat to use force was credible. Now they are killing those whose words they find threatening.

(Yes, I realize the the legal definition of assault includes credible verbal threats. Verbal threats need to be taken seriously, but I would suggest that the way to take them seriously is to see if they are symptoms of a legitimate grievance, questions neither "law enforcement officers" nor government diplomats seem to be interested in asking.)

If you're happy with the way things are, archy is the way to bring about more of the same. If not, you need to question your basic assumptions, chief of which is the assumption that our interests are served by an elite that can initiate force with impunity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Is My Country

I'm part of a men's group that is going through an excellent video series, "Men's Fraternity: The Quest for Authentic Manhood." Years before I posted my lament that so few men are involved in church activities, Robert Lewis, a pastor in Arkansas, was running a program to help men plan to grow up. His point is that we need to understand what social forces have shaped us and our view of manhood, how the people and events in our lives have further shaped us, and who we really are, in what unique ways God has made us. Then we need to take what we've learned to plan our futures as best we can.

This is an excellent series, and I highly recommend it to any man, period. If nothing else, it's a good opportunity to get to know other men and talk about things other than sports and trivia. Nothing that follows should be taken as denigrating the value of the series, but Brother Robert unthinkingly gave approving voice to an attitude that is killing the church in our nation.

When describing "noble moments" that shaped him, Brother Robert told how every Veterans Day his father would place flags on the graves of fallen soldiers. He knew who all the veterans were, and (I think) he would place flags on their graves whether they died in combat or otherwise.

So far so good: those who are convinced that our nation owes its very existence to the sacrifices of our military personnel do well to honor the dead as a testimony to the living.

It was the next line (as best I can reconstruct it) that prompted this post: "I went to college during the height of the Vietnam War, and even though there was a lot of antiwar sentiment, because of my father's example, I still had a lot of love for my country."

Notice the presumptions: Those who love their country support its wars; those who oppose any war do not love their country. Though most evangelicals seem to believe these presumptions, their truth is open to question.

Let's begin with the Vietnam war itself. It began in the 1950s when Vietnamese nationalists rebelled against their French colonial rulers. The US refused to aid the Vietnamese, instead aiding the French until the French pulled out. The US then propped up a puppet government in the name of fighting communism.

In 1964 the US government reported that a US military vessel had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Using the precedents of the Maine and the Lusitania, vested interests were able to get Congress and the media behind an undeclared war that eventually killed almost sixty thousand US military personnel and a million Vietnamese.

Brother Robert was not alone in being convinced that the war was necessary to fight communism and that if Vietnam went communist, so would all of Southeast Asia, including Thailand and possibly India, all falling like dominoes. Again, this was not an unreasonable fear, but my point is that those who considered that fear unfounded could well have given evidence that they loved their country.

That communism is horrible is not open to question. But one might ask whether conscripting soldiers to fight in a "conflict"—the government never called it a war at the time—was the best way to fight communism. That so many Vietnamese were willing to die in the fight to drive the US out of Vietnam tells me that our government's efforts to make friends were not entirely successful. And while many of those in the antiwar movement did not come off as particularly noble or self-sacrificing people, one needs to judge the pro-war faction by the same standard. And in this case, they come up woefully short.

It turns out that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not what the government told the people it was and that the Secretary of Defense "perpetuated the war long after he realized it was futile"—that is, the US government sent soldiers to kill and die after they knew the war could not be won: those US military personnel and Vietnamese who died from then on died for nothing. They were, quite simply, murdered by the US government. And after the US withdrew, only those countries the war had spread to, Cambodia and Laos, went communist.

So unless loving one's country includes cheering on a government that lies to its subjects and conscripts them to fight in futile wars, it is at least possible to love one's country while opposing its wars. Is this the love Jesus wants us to have for our neighbors?

What does it mean to love one's country?

Using Brother Robert's implied definition, one's love for one's country is best measured by one's agreement with government policy. By that definition I do not love my country.

But if my country is my family, my neighbors, and my church, then my love for my country can be measured by how well I serve those people. I love my country by being faithful to my wife and by raising my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I love my country to the degree I put in an honest day's work and show appreciation for for my boss's honest efforts to make his clients happy. I love my country by paying the rent on time and treating my landlord's house well. I love my country being courteous to the staff and other customers in my local supermarket. I love my country by volunteering on various committees at church. I even love my country by turning the other cheek to my enemies and faithfully representing Jesus to them.

I don't have any conscience about not loving my country by Brother Robert's defintion, but it does bother me that I have fallen short of my own standards.

What is one's country? Who are our countrymen?

Brother Robert seems to define a country as a political unit and countrymen as the people subject to one government: to criticize a man's government is therefore to criticize the man himself, a good way to get the likes of Merle Haggard into a fighting mood.

By that definition of a country our current president is my countryman. But if the Bible is true, my true country is the kingdom of God, and he is not my countryman. He is a neighbor I am to love until I am taken home, but until he surrenders to Jesus, he is not my countryman.

Maybe Brother Robert was really using my definition of country. Maybe when he saw the antiwar protests, he realized that the government was fully as evil in its way as the fornicating dopers were in theirs and felt homesick for the kingdom of Jesus. The rest of his message is so good it might be best to assume so.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How Archy Handles Heinous Crimes I: The Plea Bargain

Several years ago, the police entered the office of a young professor at a reputable university and arrested him for an online crime. They took the professor away, booked him, and then offered him a deal: admit guilt and get off easy. The professor said to the few people to whom he was permitted to speak that this was crazy because he was innocent. His lawyer warned him: fight this and you could get life; admit guilt and you will get a suspended sentence. He took the deal. It was a trick. Now he languishes in jail, his life wrecked as far into the future as he can see.
. . . Trials in federal criminal cases are rare. Nine in ten cases are settled in pleas like the above case. Only 3 percent of the cases go to trial. Among those that go to trial, the defendant wins once in every 212 times.

Even "small government" conservatives and libertarians agree with "big government" types that the state is needed to deal with heinous crime. They would like to see the state limited to dealing with crime, but they see no way to deal with crime apart from the state. I've taken a shot at trying to answer this challenge here, but I'd like to try again, this time by arguing that the state cannot be limited to a crime-fighting agency and that it can deal with crime only in ways that are inherently sinful.

First, the state cannot be limited to a crime-fighting outfit. No state in recorded history has ever limited itself to fighting crime; this is because the dynamics inherent in a state work against it ever doing so.

The first such dynamic is "mission creep." If government is needed to pursue, arrest, try, and punish criminals, any activity that helps it do so is therefore part of the job description. For example, if the powers that be are convinced that poverty leads to crime, fighting poverty becomes by definition part of the fight against crime. (And, right or wrong, those whose will becomes law are by definition the powers that be.) And if subsidizing a pharmaceutical corporation, or feeding school children three free meals a day, or building a stadium for a major league sports franchise will fight poverty, these activities also become the proper province of government. Which, of course, is where we are today.

By what criteria does anyone decide what other activities are and are not legitimate for governments to undertake? I can think of no criteria that would allow the creation of a state to "deal with heinous crime" that are not elastic enough to eventually subsidize hobbies for millionaires. And that assumes that those in power are not stretching the definition under the guise of "doing the job more effectively" to serve their own ends. Only the anarchist principle that bodies and property are sacred is stretch-proof.

This leads us to the second dynamic, the impunity of self-interested government agents. Self-interest is, of course, a universal human trait; this is why Jesus tells us that our ultimate interest is to be willing to give up the whole world and to look to the condition of our souls (Matt 16:26).

But government is by nature the organization in which (I would say the fiction by which) some people are able to do with impunity what others would be considered criminals for doing. These actions always begin with tax collection, but they eventually include intrusion into people's private lives and have gone so far in this country as to include caging people who sell raw milk. As I detail here, we all want to push the limits of actions permitted to us. This is "mission creep" with no pretense of benefit for anyone but government agents and their cronies.

There is also a theological reason that even a state devoted only to fighting crime is illegitimate: trying to limit government to fighting crime turns on its head Jesus' dictum that he who would be a faithful steward over much must first prove himself faithful over little things. People whose bodies and property are not secure live in chaos and cannot plan for the future, so protection of life and property is perhaps the most basic and important function performed by any society. Before government can be trusted to take care of such important things, it needs to prove itself faithful in the less-important things. (Like what? Delivering the mail? Educating children? Running recreational programs?) But "small government" types don't want the government messing in the small things, in part because they know that government ruins everything it touches.

So if government can't be trusted in the little things, it shouldn't be given charge over important things like keeping the peace. And if it shouldn't be given charge over the little things, it will never earn the right to steward the big things.

Let's assume for the moment that it is permissible to delegate peacekeeping to government and see how morally it acts. Given the impunity with which government agents can act, I guess that the quote that begins this post describes an occurrence that is more common than we know.

I would further suggest that even if government starts out as a legitimate peacekeeper, it can't be trusted to do so morally for long.

Even if cases like that in the quote are tolerably rare, the last sentence should give you pause: can it be that the government justly condemns over 99.5% of its accused? With all the unknowns that go into criminal investigations, can they really get it right that often? What sports team wins 99.5% of the time, season after season? What oncologist has a 99.5% cure rate? Or could it be that a prosecutor and judge who would pull a bait-and-switch on someone willing to cooperate with the system would bend the rules even further against someone who fought the charges?

If we go ahead and assume that this case was an exception, and that plea bargaining is otherwise done in good faith, how good is that faith?

Let's forget for now that the Bible nowhere commands or authorizes prison as a response to criminal behavior and assume that God prescribes thirty years in jail for the "online crime" the criminal in the example committed. By offering a lesser sentence isn't the system committing an offense against God and an injustice against whoever is supposed to benefit from the convict's incarceration? By what authority is clemency even offered? And if the system is exceeding its authority by offering clemency, how could anarchy do worse than offending God and committing injustice against innocent people? (Remember: the plea bargain takes into account only the accused's willingness to work with the system, not the nature of the crime or the accused's character.)

If clemency is a sin, then, in order to make the plea bargain just the system can pile on charges to be bargained away, as we know happens. This "online crime," for example, could have transmission across state lines, or use of a motor vehicle, or whatever a creative prosecutor can come up with, each with additional penalties, piled on it; then if the accused takes the plea bargain, he gets the thirty years God prescribes. So far so good. How, though, does anyone with a conscience make his living accusing people of crimes he knows they're innocent of or for the same crime more than once? Isn't that a form of lying, even if the hope is that by piling on false charges he can force the accused to agree to the plea bargain and only serve the time God prescribes for the true charges? Isn't that a classic case of using the end to justify the means?

And, of course, our accused might obey his human nature to fight for his survival. If he does, it's 99.5% sure that he will be sentenced to more than God's prescribed thirty years. Again here, God is offended by the government's excess zeal (cf. Num 20:8-11): in this case, the convict is treated unjustly. (And, of course, if he is innocent of any of the charges against him, he suffers as an innocent man.) Again: how could anarchy possibly be worse?

If offering plea bargains is inherently immoral, then not offering plea bargains should fix the problem. But then we come up against the problem plea bargains were instituted to solve: spurious defenses.
Why should someone of whose guilt the evidence leaves no reasonable doubt be put on trial? Isn't that a waste of time and money? But who is to decide whether the evidence leaves enough doubt to make a trial worthwhile? Wouldn't the process to decide whether the evidence requires a trial be itself in effect a trial? If a trial is necessary, rather than putting the evidence on trial, wouldn't it make more sense to put the accused on trial? Now we're back where we started.

It would seem that some trial is inevitable. But even if a trial isn't inevitable, what does an "obviously guilty" accused have to lose by calling for a trial? It delays whatever penalty he is likely to receive, and there is the off-chance that he'll be acquitted. And if he's convicted, he can appeal almost indefinitely, thus tying up the system and limiting its ability to deal with cases where the accused's guilt is not as readily established. There is injustice either way.

Anarchy avoids all three unsolvable problems of government peacekeeping. Any agency that would stay in business keeping the peace would first have to convince prospective customers that it could do so by earning their trust in smaller matters, perhaps through some form of health or property insurance. People who wanted to defend themselves would be free to do so, benefiting from their own good decisions and suffering for the bad ones. Only those agencies who were able to convince their customers over the long term that they were able to protect those customers' interests would stay in business.

Instead of trials where the practically omnipotent state squares off against a hapless defendant (who might, of course, be guilty of some violence; the salient point here is that he is in no position to defend himself), the heuristic process would take place in an arbitration session, where the protection agency would be trying to keep its good reputation for treating well not only its customers but the other agencies it interacts with. The accused also would be concerned about his reputation: if his protection agency terminates his contract because protecting him is no longer profitable, he will have a harder time replacing it than fulfilling its stipulations for further coverage. The same also goes for the plaintiff, the accused's victim.

The agents of erstwhile protection agencies would thus serve their long-term self-interest by serving, not dominating, their customers. No system is perfect, so the mentality that says, "I can get away with X, so I'll see if I can get away with X + 1" will never disappear completely, but in anarchy it will only work in the short term, never in the long term, as it does so commonly in government systems.

And the "mission creep" of any agency will be limited to those areas in which it is able to prove competence to the satisfaction of its customers: they may be able to do X quite well, but if they fail at X + 1, it will either close that operation or risk losing their advantage in X.

As the old song says, "If ya wanna be gre-e-e-eat in God's kingdom, learn to be the servant of all." State agents don't serve, so the state cannot do a great job of dealing with heinous crime. Anarchism is simply the servant principle applied to all areas of life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget!

Never forget that all public statements by "jihadists," from Osama bin Laden to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the shoe bomber to the Times Square Bomber have indicated that their target is the US government, not innocent civilians.

Never forget that today's "jihadists" are Ronald Reagan's "freedom fighters," creatures of the CIA and Charlie Wilson's War, and that Saddam Hussein “gassed the Kurds” with materiel given by the US for the war he waged against Iran.

Never forget that the 150,000 “weapons inspector” Rush Limbaugh couldn’t wait to send into Iraq never found any weapons of mass destruction, and the most expensive and intrusive intelligence apparatus in the history of the world has never found them.

Never forget that the 9/11 attacks were against the US corporate-government alliance, not against Joe Sixpack. The Twin Towers were government entities, as are the Pentagon, the White House, and the Capitol.

Never forget that the innocent who died on 9/11 were the same kind of collateral damage to the jihadists that as that produced by the US in the carpet bombings of Germany and the firebombings and nuclear bombings of Japan, Iraq in the 1990s, and in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya since 9/11.

Never forget that the toll of innocents killed by the US military after 9/11 has been between ten and a hundred (or more) that on 9/11, and the victims of the internecine fighting made possible by the invasion are an order of magnitude even greater.

Never forget that in the land of the free it is illegal to possess more than $10,000 in cash and in the home of the brave toddlers and ninety-somethings in wheelchairs are frisked for fear they would carry bombs onto airplanes.

Never forget the lies told about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.

Never forget to “follow the money”: the beneficiaries of the post-9/11 regime were those who in the late 1990s were calling for “a new Pearl Harbor” that would enable them to carry out their plans for the new world order.

Never forget that Osama never boasted about 9/11; in fact, he condemned it. Yet he was tried in the media, not a court of law, and executed in an operation that the US government originally lied about.

Never forget that money that could have been used to create jobs and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure has been sent overseas to finance these invasions.

Never forget that a "magician's" most important tactic is to divert his audience's attention from what is really going on to superfluity.

Never forget that Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. This means ragheads and sand niggers.

And, Mr. Quill Pig, it also means Republicans and Democrats, liberals and even conservatives.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

About Those Libertarian Islands

"America: Love it or leave it!"

As I've said before, I would love to live in America; my problem is that unless America is dirt, the US isn't America. But of course, those who take offense at my rants against their government mean simply, "The way things are is good enough for me. If you don't like it, shut up, and if you don't like that, go somewhere else."

That's fair enough, I suppose, but seriously, where would I go? Uncle Sam has his armed forces in 150 or more countries and would speedily deploy them anywhere else he cared to, with a clear conscience and essentially (for the moment, anyway) no financial constraints. Can I really expect to get away from him anywhere on this planet?

"Would you really want to go anywhere Uncle Sam isn't? Isn't everywhere else worse?"

That's an overly broad question. With enough money and depending on your definition of living well, one can live well anywhere on earth, probably even including hellholes like Myanmar and Burkina Faso. If living well can mean having Kim Jong-Il as your best friend and fancy booze at dinner, it's probably not impossible to live well even in North Korea. But that's not America.

Of places that are now reasonably well off and are likely to survive Uncle Sam's death throes—which, for better or, more likely, worse, are now imminent—Mexico and Argentina are two places I know of to which those with the resources to expatriate have done so with no lowering of their standard of living. There's something to be said for moving from a situation that you know will get worse to one that's not as good but likely stable.

For those not afraid of risk, it may well be that what today are much less free and so poorer countries will be better places to live after the collapse of the US. Foreign aid has often been described as money taxed from the poor and middle-class in the US and given to the rich overseas, and one might be forgiven for thinking that after Uncle Sam gets his come-uppance those who are now oppressing their subjects at our expense will receive in this life some of what their wickedness deserves, and that their victims today might even pity those in the US tomorrow.

Meantime, however, one is moving from a tolerable but worsening situation to a bad situation that might or might not improve. And, as those who bought one of the islands ruled by the king of Nauru only to be evicted by the Royal Nauru Navy found out, even tin-pot dictators can overwhelm a small colony, and they will do so even if the colonists ask only to be left alone.

Some of those unable or unwilling to expatriate, like the New Hampshire Free State Project, have been banding together with like-minded people with the goal of forming an electoral majority and seceding to some degree. I see two problems here: One is that the more a place is one in which many people can actually make any kind of a living, the harder it will be to garner the electoral majority to effect worthwhile change. Another is that, as anyone from Georgia or the Shenandoah Valley could have told you until recently, Uncle Sam doesn't take kindly to people excusing themselves from his rule, as shown by his deification of the president responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of those who wanted only that.


It's safe to say that if the most desolate ward in the poorest county in the least important state in the union voted to secede, Uncle Sam would be there in full force to burn their women and children, as he did the Branch Davidians.

So if there's no place to go and no place to stay, what do you do?

Some entrepreneurial types have decided to go someplace of which it could be said that "there's no there there" and build one: man-made islands in international waters. Will it succeed? I don't know. But we can make some reasonable guesses.

The most important questions are the basic ones: Can the islands endure the tides and weather? How will the residents meet their survival needs?

I would expect that the people who are investing enough money to build the islands have done so only after extensive feasibility studies. These aren't telemarketers who have sold their used cars and widescreen TVs and gone out in rowboats; they are successful businessmen, successful because they are good at risk assessment and contingency planning, among the other rare skills needed to run a profitable business over the long term. (Or they are crooks, in which case they are doomed.) They would most likely harvest a lot of marine flora and fauna, but if they have the money to build the islands, they might well have the means to import land-based food. How or what they will trade with the world at large to maintain their standard of living, I don't know. My guess is that the islands will be a sort of Galt's Gulch to which the denizens repair when they can get away from their remunerative activities.

The biggest problem they will face will be piracy, and the worst pirates will be government. The more successful the venture is, the more likely Uncle Sam is to go over it with a fine-toothed comb for the sole purpose of finding some way to shut it down, especially if there is reason to believe the residents are hiding taxable income. If the reesidents need to do business to survive, Uncle Sam will be there to take what he can, even if they do no direct business with US entities. Renouncing US citizenship is not as simple as saying, "I renounce you" three times, and if the residents have ever been US citizens, they will have the IRS on their case for the rest of their lives.

The Feds produce thousands of small-print pages of regulations every year, and no one can stay abreast of them. I find it entirely reasonable to suppose that some obscure passage on a page only ten people in the world have ever read could be used to send the US Navy off to wreak havoc on the islands.

And, of course, there are garden-variety pirates, many of whom have heavily armed warships manned with skilled marksmen and hand-to-hand fighters.

Freedom isn't free, and these pioneers will have to work hard at building the facilities, building a cooperative community, and defending their turf if they are to have any freedom at all. Indeed, they may not ever be able enjoy what freedom they can forge; their lot may be to build a legacy that they can pass on to those who come after them.

Suddenly what at first blush sounds like a bunch of dreamers running off to fornicate and inebriate takes on a different hue, doesn't it?

And who will come after them? And what about the poor?

The first group will be wealthy, pioneering entrepreneurs, and the poor and the faint of heart will be left behind. But as it was with automobiles, air conditioners, air travel, and video cameras, as the first mistakes are made and learned from, the cost of entry goes down, and the number and proportion of the population able to get on board increases. Soon someone will find a way of making a profit by bringing the poor on board, and they too will benefit.

You may be thinking of Dubai and Kathmandu, where unscrupulous agents deceive poor laborers into leaving home for a workplace where not only are the conditions abominable but the laborers are in debt for travel expenses and unable to return home. The same could happen on these islands, but if the pioneers made their money through repeat business, I would expect them to guard the reputation of the islands as a good place to work and to do business. Libertarians consider contracts sacred, so if the islands are truly libertarian, recruiters would be expected to deliver what they have promised.

Where does the gospel fit in?

Christian libertarians are rare, so there will be few ambassadors for Jesus there at first. There will probably be some substance abuse and promiscuity for a while, but life will be difficult, and those without strong moral fibre will not last. As time goes on, if the island society fulfills the libertarian ideal of people and their property truly being safe from violence and fraud, Christians from all economic classes will be taking their families to the islands. And if they live up to libertarian standards, which should be natural fruit of the new nature in Christ, they will be welcome there and have ample opportunity to spread the gospel.

So I wish Peter Thiel and his friends well. I will probably not live long enough to be part of even the difficult years, but perhaps my grandchildren will inherit their parents' entrepreneurial spirit, ride a later wave to the islands, and cultivate fruit there that will last.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lemonade Freedom Day

On Saturday, folks who are rightly outraged that government agents nationwide are shutting down children's lemonade stands took their protests to the streets—actually, to public parks, an important detail—and opened lemonade stands, expecting to draw fire from armed government agents. The group in Washington, DC, was not disappointed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=04MNf1YdNxI
(Thanks to The International Libertarian)

The morality here isn't as simple as I would like. I would like to say that these poor, innocent lemonade sellers were bullied by government thugs—and they were—and leave it at that. But the sellers were on government ("public") property, and the government's armed agents were within their rights to remove trespassers, people who were engaging in non-approved activity on property they were hired to protect. And one could point out that the protestors were probably (the audio isn't clear) asked politely to desist before they were arrested. Having made their point, they could have packed up and gone home.

That said, however, I'm still on the vendors' side.

Common sense and decency on the part of the police would have dictated that they interpret the situation as an acted-out parable, much like Ezekiel symbolizing the seige of Jerusalem by cooking over a dung fire (Ez 4). What public danger would have ensued from the police saying, "Let them have their tantrum. They'll get tired eventually and leave"? Did they really think that if they didn't kill this nit the Capitol grounds would be infested with outlaw lemonade stands?

If the police would not have arrested someone carrying a sign that said, "Stop arresting lemonade and raw milk vendors," by what logic did they arrest these protestors? And now that they have arrested the lemonade protestors, will people who carry signs or put bumper stickers on their cars be next in the clink?

People not involved in the protest were buying lemonade, and no one we know of was objecting to the demonstration as disturbing the peace. (The video was obviously slanted in favor of the protest, so we cannot know for sure that no Mundanes objected to the it.) This was peaceful activity by any reasonable definition (and so not Uncle Sam's). If Mundanes had been objecting, there could have been reason for police intervention, but absent significant protest from onlookers, what reason was there for the police to intervene?

Most importantly, the protest was over the shutdown by government agents of vendors of lemonade (and, I assume, such things as raw milk) on private property. If Mundanes cannot sell lemonade and raw milk on their own property, where could this protest have taken place legally? Remember, selling lemonade is an activity that, unlike, say, beating people with baseball bats or dancing nude and having sex around a giant phallic symbol, most people in most places at most times would consider innocent. If innocent activity cannot be tolerated in public, what kind of activity can?

Judging by this video, in today's police state, peaceful activity is less to be tolerated than the abduction of peaceful people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The TSA Guy on the Train

Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. (1 Tim 6:1-2)

My wife was remarking to me the other day that there's just something about the way a Christian carries himself that is different from the way nonbelievers do. The context was what people choose to talk about and how they express themselves, but she also said that some people even without speaking seem to give evidence that the Holy Spirit is guiding them. I would have to say that if she's not right, she's not far from it.

One would expect that those who have a right relationship with their maker would give evidence of that, even unconsciously. When I hitchhiked across the country in December of 1972, I was picked up just outside Kansas City in the middle of the night by a carful of random college-agers, and during the course of the conversation, I let it slip that I was a Christian, at which point a couple of them in chorus said, "We knew there was something different about you." They sounded as though they thought that was a good thing, so maybe they were Christians (though other things said during the trip didn't leave me thinking they were), but the evidence supporting the thesis is even stronger if they weren't.

My wife's words came home to me in a less pleasant way recently when I had to work late into the evening a couple of times.

On the first of those evenings, I sat on the train in my seat of choice, the end seat that faces forward, looking at the rearward-facing passengers in the rear half of the car. Two rows ahead of me was a fellow, a thirty-something, perhaps Hispanic, in a TSA uniform that looked like he had just gotten it out of the box.

My view of TSA people has been colored by the horror stories and viral videos of infants, Congressmen, oldsters, and beauty queens considering themselves molested and worse by the TSA. My "favorite" is the attractive twenty-something woman who did not want her one-year-old's bottled breast milk irradiated and, when she refused to have it confiscated, was forced to stand for an hour in a glass cage guarded by a marginally female couch potato who did literally nothing the whole time but casually survey her surroundings and fold and unfold her arms. (Reality check: would I have been so offended if the guard had been foxy and the prisoner unattractive?)

Every line of work attracts a different personality: engineering and art and teaching and lumbering and sailing each tend to attract people with not only the requisite skill but consistent personality types. While the guard in the video is precisely what I would expect of a TSA agent, this fellow isn't. His hair was meticulously brushed, and even his facial expression as he read said that he takes everything in life seriously. I would guess that if his daily duties include groping people, he doesn't engage in it for fun; I would expect him to be serious, as respectful as the poster-boy Boy Scout, and minimally intrusive. Nor would he be a pushover in a discussion of the morality of Uncle Sam's undertakings and the part he personally plays in them.

I heard it said of a man I know from church as a generous gentleman with a hearty sense of humor that he becomes a completely different person once he dons his policeman's uniform. The same is likely true of Officer Newshirt: He would likely tolerate no deviation from the obsequiousness we mundanes are now required to render our masters.

Had he been in anything but a TSA uniform, I would have wanted to get to know him. Even as things are, I'm sure he has a story to tell.

So I was not overly surprised to see him on the trip home two days later reading a hardback study Bible.

The morning of the first day I saw him, I had read the passage I quote at the top of this post and realized that I have a lot to learn about counting the reputation of the kingdom of God more important than my own freedom. I find it frightening to think that God values his own reputation more than he cares whether those he has appointed to positions of authority "do justice, love mercy, [or] walk humbly with [their] God," even if those people are Christians. Where Ayn Rand and others say that we are only as oppressed as we allow ourselves to be and advise the oppressed to be as uncooperative as possible, Jesus tells us to treat our oppressors with respect, not only fulfilling their unjust demands but going beyond what they ask:

If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt 5:40-42)

(I don't measure up. How about you?)

Yet for all the deference we must show such people, they are people "whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron" (1 Tim 4:2), as described by C. S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ("The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment")

US Christians may hate politicians—or say they do—but they love the armed agents who carry out those politicians' desires, as shown by the special days churches hold to honor the military and the police. By contrast I've never heard of one prominent evangelical uttering a syllable of thanks to those who predicted that the fall of Vietnam would not be the first stage of the fall of Southeast Asia, or that the war in Iraq would be a quagmire, nor to those who predicted that the Community Reinvestment Act would inflate a bubble that would eventually take down most of the US economy. And so, while I have yet to hear of a church holding a TSA Appreciation Day, I expect Officer Newshirt gets plenty of attaboys when he goes to church.

What response would an evangelical pastor get if he preached an exegetical sermon that followed all the established rules of hermeneutics and homiletics and concluded with the admonition that young adults to stay out of the military, police, and TSA, that it was unwise to indenture oneself to ungodly leaders who pass ungodly laws? My guess is that he would be looking for a job within a month.

Are the ungodly laws passed by our ungodly politicians still "good enough for government work" that a Christian will not run afoul of God by enforcing them? For that matter, have there ever been any laws passed in the US that Christians should not have enforced? Are any on the books now? If so, how long can a Christian remain in government employ without enforcing them?

What scares me most about my view of Officer Newshirt is that I hate him. He is my brother in Christ, yet I not only hate everything he stands so proudly for, I hate him for standing proudly for them. I can understand why an unbeliever who can't procure other employment or who simply enjoys bossing people around would work for the TSA, but I can't see how someone who reads his Bible and shows every sign of seeking to be guided by the Holy Spirit would take such a job. But there we are, and God wants me to be more concerned with my attitude toward Officer Newshirt than about the depredations that his colleagues, and possibly he himself, commit.

Someday there will be no conflict between obeying God and obeying his ordained authorities. Meanwhile, those of us who suffer under official depredations must learn to treat those who carry them out with respect. And the hardest ones to respect may be our fellow Christians.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Anarchist and Not Ashamed

Do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. (Rom 14:16)

"Don't tell me you're an anarchist." "So you ARE an anarchist after all, not just a Libertarian."1

Two good friends—and I mean good friends, both because they are people who seek to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with [their] God" and because they have been especially forebearing with me—have taken me to task for my anarchist views.

My first response is that any word ending with ist or ism is dangerous until it is specifically defined, and this is especially true of anarchist.

The first self-proclaimed anarchists—[firstname] Kropotkin, [firstname] Bakunin, and their later apologists like Murray Bookchin—rejected the idea of private property, envisioning a sort of participatory democracy in which everyone owned everything, a model I find both indistinguishable from the communist ideal and subject to the same inevitable devolution into oligarchy. Note that this definition has to do with the result they pursue.

My definition of anarchist has to do with the process by which the ends are pursued: an anarchist society is one in which there are no archons, people with privileges and rights denied others. In the resulting society some people will wield more influence than others, and sometimes those who live lawfully will have to use force, even lethal force, against miscreants, but the sine qua non of my definition of anarchism is that no one, "from Pharaoh who sits on the throne to the servant girl grinding grain," has the right to violate the bodies or property of innocent people for any reason.

Let me also hasten to add that the kingdom of God is Jesus Christ, not any ism, certainly not either anarchism or "American exceptionalism." But we need a term to describe the way basically decent human beings, Christians and otherwise, treat their neighbors, and anarchism as I define it fills that bill.

That said, what's so shameful about anarchism? Why do my Christian friends use the term as an insult?

The usual answer is that without an archon, society would devolve into chaos: "Look at the book of Judges! 'There was no king over Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes'!"

Let's say for the sake of discussion that Israel did meet my definition of anarchy: Was that anarchy the root cause of the chaos of those days? Did anarchy exacerbate the chaos? Or was it simply one of its symptoms?

Until one of my vast readership commissions me to write a book-length response to those questions, I'll have to make do with repeating my argument from the biblical evidence: Anarchy is simply the term for what happens when people love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would have those others treat them. There was no privileged class: the whole community was the agent of even the execution of murderers, the first activity I can think of that would call for the creation of a privileged elite.

The chaos, on the other hand, was the result of the rejection of the Lord and his rule. When Israel tried to end the chaos by establishing archy (the monarchy), the Lord himself stated that that action was evidence of rebellion, not godliness. And in the end, the monarchy was able only to postpone, not prevent, the demise of Israelite society.

I should also point out that the chaos of those days was widespread, but it was not total: the society was still cohesive enough that it could establish the monarchy and did not cease to exist until Shalmaneser and Nebuchadnezzar—archons par excellence—destroyed it.

So while it is true that the one anarchic society the world has ever seen devolved into chaos, it does not necessarily follow that the only possible outcome to anarchy is chaos: the cause of Israel's demise was archism, not anarchism.2

Nor is anarchism the only known source of chaos. I have mentioned Nebuchadnezzar and Shalmaneser. Need I remind any Christian of Jewish extraction that those who abducted Abraham's wife in Egypt and Gerar, enslaved their ancestors and treated them cruelly in Egypt, destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, conducted murderous pogroms against them in Russia, ratified the Treaty of Versailles that set the stage for the Holocaust, conducted the Holocaust, and prohibited those fleeing the Holocaust from entering "the land of the free," this "nation of immigrants," were archons, not anarchists?

Even those of us from the uncircumcision should note that the worst persecution of Christians is in archistic societies like North Korea and China and (other) third-world oligarchies, to say nothing of Muslim nations that make no secret of their archistic belief that non-Muslims are at best second-class citizens (as are Muslims who wish to change their religion).

Both of my friends would accuse anarchism of denying the truth of Romans 13:1-7, and I don't blame them; this is a serious charge, and I can't claim innocence. However, I would suggest that the reason they so ardently fly Uncle Sam's flag is that in the history of the world only one government has come anywhere close to matching the description of archy given in Romans 13, and that was the government of the United States, the philosophical basis of which was the anarchist tenet that "all men are created equal" and therefore have "unalienable rights" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [which, if not property, is what?]."3

"But people are depraved, and we need overwhelming force to deal with human depravity."

Are all people depraved, or only those who don't become archons? Do depraved people never become archons? If you fear a depraved person who doesn't have overwhelming force—that is, when you would have to band together with others in order to defend yourself against them—how can it be that you are better off if that same depraved person becomes an archon with overwhelming force over you? How do you go about making sure no depraved person becomes an archon?4

What has become Uncle Sam's flag has flown over the murder and enslavement of weaker, innocent people, from African abductees to the first inhabitants of this continent. The major political parties today stands for endless imperial wars, the transfer of unheard-of amounts of wealth from the weak to the politically connected, and the eradication of privacy, all violations of the first tenets of basic human decency responsible parents teach their children. Yet Christians proudly wear flag lapel pins, identify themselves with the major parties, and vebally spit at anarchists.

Dear Jesus, where have I gone wrong?

***

1The capitalized L is in the original. While I am a past member of the Libertarian Party, I have allowed my membership to lapse because "the party of priniciple" has abandoned too many libertarian principles. So I am a small-l libertarian in the tradition of Murray Rothbard, not a capital-L Libertarian Party member.

2I'm inviting theologically astute friends to shoot down my assertions in these two paragraphs.

3I would say this was close to true for whites and free blacks and perhaps even most "Indians" from 1783 until 1861. My friends would likely be more generous.

4I would welcome discussion on this topic as well.