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.