Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sexual Slavery

I had assumed that prostitution was something women were reduced to, like Fantine in Les Misérables, and that "happy hookers" like Xaviera Hollander were rare exceptions to that rule. C. S. Lewis once wrote something to the effect that what most people consider one of life's great pleasures a prostitute endures to obtain money rings true, and I can almost empathize with Fantine's whimpered "Don't they know they're 'making love' to one already dead?"

Imagine my surprise, then, when I edited the paper of a client who is going to teach English in the rural areas of northern Thailand and read that young girls there actually aspire to be prostitutes. If I read correctly, no one needs to abduct them: they look at prostitutes' standard of living, compare it to their other alternatives, and conclude that the best career choice open to them is prostitution. They think no more of selling their bodies than I would think of editing papers. They know that puberty equips them with the toys most men value most, and given a choice between a husband who will likely treat her violently in a house with a dirt floor and a pimp who will protect her and provide her with fine food and clothing, she'll take the pimp.

I was shaken again in Sunday school when a friend said that "there are more slaves today than in any time in history," by which he meant sex slaves. I didn't press for details, but I gather from other things I've read that we are talking not about those who enter the trade willingly, like the girls in Thailand, nor about those reduced to it like Fantine—not that these situations aren't reprehensible enough—but about those abducted and forced either to engage in sexual activity against their will for the profit of their captors or to risk being punished or even killed if they try to escape.

How important is this situation to the Christian community at large? Obviously not very, since this statement was news to us, yet it has been true for some time. How important is it likely to be to us as we go forward?

One of the first lessons I learned as a new Christian is that we can tell what our priorities are by looking at how we spend our time and how we spend our money. Our budgets and our calendars are the truest indicators of our priorities. "They may not believe what you say, but they'll always believe what you do."

Since most people would look first to government, specifically the police, to solve the problem of sexual slavery, let's look at police priorities. How important is ending sexual slavery to the police?

My first mental picture of a policeman is a guy sitting in a cruiser waiting for someone to exceed the posted speed limit or roll through a stop sign. Why is he not out looking for sex slaves? Because it's more important to issue tickets for activities that have not harmed anyone than for activities that are intrinsically harmful.

Closer to the sex trade, of course, is the work of the vice squad. But again, instead of going after those who abduct and enslave their victims, they concentrate on the voluntary sex trade, even to the point of dressing as prostitutes in sting operations. So stopping voluntary sexual activity is more important than stopping sexual slavery.

All of this pales, of course, in comparison to the war on drugs. A friend and his co-workers were on break from their job painting center stripes on highways when a police cruiser drove up, stopped, and asked them if they were connected with the land they were sitting on. The cops were working with a helicopter that had spied marijuana growing in a nearby field. Now I happen to know that it costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars an hour to fly helicopters. Need I point out that money spent looking for marijuana gardens cannot be spent freeing sexual slaves?

Add to these the wars overseas, and the bread and circuses of government "health" programs, Medicare, Social Security, and "income security", and you can see that our government considers sex slavery pretty small potatoes.

Slavery cannot exist without government consent. For evidence, look no further than the Fugitive Slave Law signed by none other than the Father of Our Country soon after he took office. Without that law, Harriet Tubman would have been, I don't know, a nuclear physicist, but certainly not the CEO of the Underground Railroad. And if nothing else, note that we consider her a hero because she worked against, not with, "the powers that be ... ordained of God."

Sexual slavery exists today because of, and certainly despite, government. Government, which necessarily entails the transfer of wealth from those who produce it to those who don't and the restriction of productive activity, for that reason alone causes the poverty that reduces the Fantines of the world to prostitution and gives the girls of northern Thailand (not to mention poorer nations) no better choice. No surprise is it, then,that government has done little and will likely do little, to end sexual slavery. Sexual slaves need neighbors who will work outside the system to bring them to freedom. One important first step is for those who would be those good neighbors to stop looking to the problem for the solution.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How's It Working for You?

So, Mr. Quill Pig, how’s it working for you?

After all these years of bloviating, how many minds have you changed?

How many of your non-believing libertarian and anarchist friends have you attracted to Jesus?

How many Christians have you persuaded to reconsider their devotion to Uncle Sam?

How many of the people who friended you on Facebook will unfriend you before you decide you’re a menace to what you say you stand for?

What does it mean when your family members, every one of them, leaves the room when the conversation turns to issues of right and wrong and you get the floor?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m simply incurably dense. Or apostate.

I started this post because I wanted to ask Mr. God Bless America how it’s working for him. And I still think the question is worth asking.

After 9/11 we (I was all for it) were going to have a minor-league police operation in Afghanistan to catch Osama and bring him to justice.

Then we were going to send what Rush Limbaugh called “150,000 weapons inspectors” to Iraq to make sure Saddam wasn’t going to nuke us. Fifty billion bucks and we’d be greeted as liberators.

Well, eleven years later we’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as God knows how many other countries, and not only is the bill rising, the amount of money being spent day by day is also rising.

How’s it working for you? If we were safer now, wouldn’t the bill be going down?

We’ve had three years of Barack Obama. How’s this for a sign of God’s blessing?

Now we’ve got the worst drought in fifty years. How’s this for a sign of God’s blessing?

If God were out to destroy this nation, what would he do differently? Corrupt leadership, tyranny, endless war, drought—what’s missing? Oh yes, disease. I don’t suppose autism and obesity, not to mention increased government spending to combat cancer, count, so we seem to have dodged that bullet, at least so far.

I’ve been buying silver coins to try to protect myself from the devaluation of the currency, but if the drought is killing the food supply, a piece of bread will eventually buy a bag of gold. What then?

What can the Quill Pig do to change the future? Why talk if no one is listening? What would change if they listened?

If I just shut up, I can stop alienating my family and friends and brethren in Christ. These are the people I’ll be depending on after the fertilizer hits the ventilator, so maybe it’s time to go along to get along.

Or is there a battle going on that’s worth fighting even if there’s no chance of winning it?

I hear a voice calling from the past:

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

So, Mr. God Bless America, you’re right. It’s not working for me. I don’t think it’s working for you either, but you’re obviously happier with your lot than I am with mine. So go for it, buddy.

I’ve been told that if I won’t stand behind the troops I’m welcome to stand in front of them. If—maybe I should say when—that day comes, may God in his mercy put me in the sights of a sniper who can hit my aorta the first time. Then we’ll both be happy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Battle of Aphek

My better half needed a break from her duties as organist at our church, and we both wanted to take a look at how other churches “do church,” so we’ve visited five other churches in the last five weeks. Assuming they were preaching the gospel, we were looking primarily at how they did music, but we also wanted to see, in no particular order, how missions minded they were, how closely the congregation reflected the ethnic diversity of their area, and what they were doing to bring about numerical growth. We were pleased with what we saw everywhere, but our favorite was—and I would never have predicted this—inside the Beltway, just outside Washington, DC, Mordor on the Potomac: Wallace Presbyterian Church of College Park, Maryland.

The music ranged from contemporary to golden (i.e., theologically meaty) oldies, the musicians were professional grade, and all major ages, body shapes, and skin colors were represented. The good news was preached, including the bad news of our transgression of the law and our resulting helplessness and hopelessness. The Bible readings took at least five minutes and included a handful of Scripture passages. We confessed our sins both as a body and individually. The service was well over an hour in length, but the time went quickly.

Special mention: I have never, in any church I have attended, heard missionaries prayed for so thoroughly. I spoke with a member of the congregation afterwards, and he seemed to think that the emphasis on missions was connected to the ethnic makeup of the church. (OK, I’m cheating here. It seems that most of the non-honkies were foreigners who had been touched by missionaries from our denomination before immigrating.)

And, so dear to my own heart, I did not see a Yankee flag anywhere in the building. Nor was there any so-called Christian flag. What I observed there would lead me to say that Jesus reigned in that fellowship unrivaled.

So a light shines in the darkness of Mordor. May God continue to bless his sheep there.

One topic addressed during the morning was the account of the battle of Aphek in 1 Samuel 4. As you know, Israel’s rejection of God as king was almost complete by then, and their national security was being threatened by the Philistines. Knowing that they were God’s chosen people, they merrily trotted out to do battle, and four thousand soldiers died as they lost. Note that four thousand is a third more people than died on 9/11 and about the same number as that of US troops who have died in the entire War on Terror. In contrast, though, while our population of three hundred million hardly notices four thousand dead soldiers, this would have been a noticeable chunk of Israel’s population, to say nothing of its army, gone in a day.

Our preacher’s point was that Israel’s next move was a clear violation of the commandment against “taking God’s name in vain”: they brought the Ark of the Covenant out to their camp in an attempt to, as he put it, conscript God to fight for them when he had apparently withdrawn his favor and thus his protection from them because of their rebellion. And, of course, the stratagem didn’t work: the next day, Israel was routed, and this time thirty thousand soldiers, the equivalent of ten 9/11s, died.

I found myself asking, what were those thirty thousand thinking when they marched off to battle? What were their parents thinking when they put those “Proud parent of an Israeli infantryman” bumper stickers on their ox carts? Was there, as the Bible seems to indicate, no Ron Paul or Quill Pig to say, “What we need here is repentance, not patriotism”? Did no Bradley Manning say, “Heaven no, we won’t go”? Did no one understand that it was literally suicide to go out that day?

Apparently Samuel had started his ministry: “The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel's word came to all Israel. Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines” (1 Sam 3:21–4:1). But either he never addressed the subject of war or no one was listening. His name does not appear again in Scripture until the Ark returns twenty years later (1 Sam 7). Meantime the fall into the statism that scourges us today had become complete.

Is God really on the same side as the nation of Roe v. Wade, American Idol, the jailing of Amish raw milk sellers, “enhanced interrogation,” and “collateral damage”? Or has Uncle Sam’s inability to call the shots in Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan not provided some evidence that the problems besetting our society are deeper than we’d like to think?* And that, just as Satan used Israel’s status as God’s chosen people to fool them into thinking God would rescue them despite their rebellion, he could use the glory days of the church in the US to fool even the elect into confusing the Yankee flag with the cross of Christ?

Either Jesus is Lord of all or he is not lord at all. He will not share his glory with another, not even “the greatest nation on God’s green earth.” We are to love our neighbors and do all we can to convince them that they have violated God’s law and so deserve his eternal wrath; this message is the same for al-Qaeda as for US Special Forces as for drug dealers as for policemen as for entrepreneurs as for little old ladies in retirement homes. And, of course, the offer of the water of life is the same for all. God will call whom he will, but our job is to be winsome so that he can win some through us.

I would rather preach to al-Qaeda than US Republicans, but that’s not where God has placed me, and frankly, my failure to be winsome has been spectacular. But after yesterday’s time at Wallace, I feel less alone than I have in a long time.

*This assumes the conventional narrative, that the military could have won. If, as I maintain, prolonging wars is more profitable, and hence more important, to the politically connected than winning them, then paying for, let alone fighting in, such wars is the paragon of biblical folly.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Eternal Legacy of a German Soldier

Two greying empty-nesters named Henry, St. Louis Cardinals fans since childhood (however intermittently in my case), sat across the picnic table on Saturday. The other Henry had been charged with telling me about his father, yet another Henry. So, it being Memorial Day weekend, Henry père's war story came to mind.

"Dad was on a B-24 on a bombing run over Germany when the plane was shot down. The plane turned over on its back, one of the wings fell off, and then it exploded. Dad was blown out of the plane. He was the only survivor.

"When he landed, he was captured by a bunch of German civilians. They got a length of rope and were taking him to a tree to string him up when a German soldier came by and stopped them. My dad spent the rest of the war as a POW.

"After the war, ... I don't know whether it was guilt from being the only survivor of the shootdown or what, but he was never the happy-go-lucky guy he'd been growing up. He went through shock therapy and other things, but he was never happy again. He became an alcoholic and died when he was forty."

So much food for thought in so few words.

Isn't it interesting that it is to one of the soldiers whom he and so many others had gone overseas to kill that Henry père ended up owing his continued life and Henry fils owed his very existence? That German soldier is remembered on this Memorial Day because he did the exact opposite of what he and Henry père were trained and paid to do: preserve the life of the enemy.

Why were the civilians so ready to kill? Was it simply because Germans were barbarians, as we were taught growing up? Or could it be that they had lost loved ones to the carpet bombings and felt justified in killing one of the bombers? Or that they were still angry about the misery they had gone through in the 1920s and 1930s caused by the Treaty of Versailles and its resultant near starvation, and that on top of being dragged into the first war, one that was originally no business of France, Britain, and certainly the United States and entered by those last for opportunistic imperialist reasons?

How did those civilians feel about being robbed of their prey by a man they were paying to defend them from the likes of this US soldier? Was this rescuer in danger from those who were paying him?

For the last few years of the war in Ir-Af-Pak, US military deaths by suicide have exceeded deaths from hostile fire. Was Henry père's alcoholism simply a somewhat socially acceptable form of suicide?

Most importantly, was there no way this war could have been avoided? Was the US government, which by this time had eschewed the liberty mindedness of Jefferson for Progressivism, without blame for bringing it about? Or could those who ended up profiting from it have had some interest in seeing it begin?

Whatever the answers to those questions, some things are certain.

God's ways are beyond our knowing. Certainly the average US Christian would not credit the courage of a paid armed agent of Adolph Hitler with his own eternal life in Christ, yet that is the testimony of Henry fils (as I connstrue it, anyway), and that in a way harder to swallow than that of Corrie Ten Boom. (Sister Corrie's testimony is that the Nazis were the horrible death dealers we US Christians love to hate, yet it was through that horror she saw God work in her own life, eventually even to the point where she was able to forgive those who had tormented her and killed her sister.)

Yet because of the interposition of a kraut, Henry père returned home, married, and fathered children, including Henry fils, who, for reasons of his own, soon followed his father into alcoholism.

Yet today he is the loving husband of a joyful wife and father of two children he has every right to be proud of. Most importantly, he is a citizen of heaven who testifies, "I'd have gone the same way my father did. It's only because of Christ that I didn't" and takes an active role in his church.

Part of what God used to bring that man to Christ and make him a channel of blessing to so many was the noble action of an anonymous German soldier almost seventy years ago. May the soul of that Nazi soldier rest in peace.

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Christians Can Deal with Child Molestation Without the State

I consider myself blessed to have received the following thoughtful response to my earlier post about the suicide of Tom White, head of Voice of the Martyrs. The e-mail I received was too long to post as a comment, so I have included it here in grey, with my responses.

Concerning your first question, ‘was Tom White most likely a Christian or not”, my first thought is we cannot know another’s heart, we can only know our own. We can never be sure of another’s. My second thought is based on why I guess someone would commit suicide. Two reasons come to mind: the first is when the future looks in general too painful to live, so the easy way out is to not live it. The second reason is to pay for the cause of the embarrassment and shame. If Tom felt like he was a Christian, he probably felt he had besmirched the reputation of his Lord. The kicker comes when he decides to execute the punishment himself for the crime. He is either not trusting God to do what is right and has to do it himself, or he is trying to earn points by self-punishment. God never asked anyone to pay for their own sin. That Tom would do this would suggest he did not understand or accept the gospel. To do it to save the victim further pain just doesn’t ring true to me.

It is possible that he did not understand the gospel or that he forgot what he had learned. Sinful humans do that. But one would think that a man who spent years building a ministry that clearly reflects the heart of God, not to mention 17 months in a Communist prison because of his efforts (effective or otherwise) to spread the gospel, would have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit—in short, he’s no flake like me—in such a way that his first reaction when he knew the jig was up would have been to seek reconciliation with the girl and her family.

And, as a better mind than mine has pointed out in private, this assumes that events were what the government says they were.

First, we don’t know the identity of Brother Tom’s accuser, and it could be that there is no girl at all. One would think that a system interested in justice would publish the names of either both parties or neither. That only the defendant’s name is published creates a moral hazard for the prosecution (including the plaintiff) in that it suffers nothing if it loses—and the prosecutor himself, of course, is paid handsomely for his efforts—while the defendant loses freedom, time, and money in the process. It’s win-win for the prosecution and lose-lose for the defendant.

Second, people don’t usually commit suicide at work. They do it at home or in isolated places. Conclusive evidence that the state was after him for something else? No. Strange? Yes.

The above is from a human perspective. You ask also about God’s perspective. We can be assured that God is both good and just, and allows only that which ultimately brings Him glory. One could argue that either suicide or not committing suicide could meet those ends. In this case perhaps the lesson is ‘the punishment for sin is death’, either one’s own death, or the death of our Savior on the cross.

Concerning the setup for the second question, let me respond to some of your statements. [My original statements are in italics; his response is in bold.—QP]

  • 1. Every rape complaint means more work for government agents. For some I am sure this is true. To say it is true for all is oversimplification and unfair to many truly helpful, caring, and loving social workers.
  • Government workers are paid whether they do their jobs or not. Yes, some are scrupulous. Others are not. The question then becomes, do the scruples of the scrupulous justify a system that also pays the unscrupulous (using money that is, don’t forget, extorted from those who earn it)? Or do the scruples of the scrupulous actually allow the extortion–sinecure system to expand by lending it the perception of legitimacy?

  • 2.  I assume you consider soldiers exemplary government agents. Not true. We are all aware of unjust, hateful, cruel and mean acts conducted by soldiers through all of history. They are sinners under severe mental strain given inordinate power, which is a recipe for problems.
  • The church attended by the letter’s addressees prays regularly and specifically for the US military and until recently—and then primarily because of yeoman efforts by a lay woman—sporadically and generally for missionaries the church supports. While there have been occasional prayers that Christian soldiers will act in a manner that befits their claim to be Christians, the assumption that the mission they are on is truly to defend our freedoms, to execute God’s wrath on evildoers, and to be of no threat to those who do what is right has never been questioned.

  • 3. the same soldier who told me, "I don't make the policies. My job is to carry them out." Yes, lower ranking soldiers in general are paid to follow orders, not to make decisions.
  • Is this not also a moral hazard? Will God not judge the soldier who ordered female prisoners at Auschwitz to disrobe and enter the gas chamber and then turned on the gas, as well as the officer who commanded him to do it, as well as the politicians who set the policies? To acknowledge the legitimacy of the state is to legitimize the whole process: the guy at the top gets a pass because he didn’t turn the switch, and the soldier gets a pass because he didn’t give the order.

  • 4. government agents in charge of investigating sexual assault are less interested in the welfare of the victim than in doing their job... No- not every government agent is a soldier. Other people are paid to investigate justice and make moral decisions- not to just follow orders. You are grossly oversimplifying.
  • This was a blog post, not a doctoral dissertation, so yes, I was oversimplifying. But again, it is the scruples of the agent, not the incentives built into the system, that results in justice. And no less an authority than Chuck Colson has gone on record as saying that victims feel exploited by the “justice” system.

  • 5. The welfare of the victim is secondary at best. I agree that it seems that way sometimes. This contradicts, however, a quote in the second article you cited. “Bartlesville Police Capt. Jay Hastings … noted that the department's next step is to ensure the girl receives proper treatment or counseling.”
  • If I read Colson correctly, his point was that the welfare of the victim is secondary most of the time. When Bernie Madoff went to jail, how much of the money he stole went back to his victims? Or are they rather now not taxed to provide him room, board, and whatever else he consumes as a prisoner? And if the government were not to see that the girl gets counseling, what recourse would her family have?

    Also, what kind of counseling would the girl receive? Would a government that fastidiously avoids mixing church and state pay for her to receive Christian counseling? Or is it more likely that she’ll be counseled by a radical feminist to blame her situation on the patriarchalism inherent to Christianity? And who will pay the bill? The putative offender is dead. Will his family have to foot the bill? Or will the already-overburdened taxpayer be hit up once again?

  • 6. the prosecutor, another government agent, is not likely to be as concerned with the victim's welfare as with advancing the interests of the state or his own career.  Yes, this is likely, however his job is to uphold justice, which is a higher calling than the interests of an individual. Otherwise the legal system would be nothing but retribution and blood feuds. That’s the value of the rule of law.
  • Again, he is paid whether he upholds justice or not. If the position requires an election, the only thing that keeps him employed is getting the votes, and only his scruples dictate how honestly he pursues those votes.

    I disagree that his job is to uphold justice. His job is to further the ends of the state, whatever they be. “Law enforcement” is not the same as upholding justice: the agents who enforced the fugitive slave laws in the US and who rounded up the prisoners for Auschwitz were enforcing the law, but I don’t think they were upholding justice.

    God never calls us to “the rule of law.” He calls us to submit to him as a person. This is what we as his ambassadors are to be calling our neighbors to. There are rules, but they are God’s rules. Most of the laws our law enforcement people enforce—prohibitions against peaceful activities like growing hemp and selling raw milk come to mind—are unbiblical.

    So, I think your second question is “How is this [judgement by the church] a worse situation than what … would have [happened] had Mr. White taken his medicine like a man [and lived to be investigated and prosecuted by the law]?” My answer is I don’t think it would have been worse, but may have been considerably better by being tempered with love, compassion for both, a deep God-given understanding of human nature, and willingness to invest counseling and time in restoration. I think conflicts between believers should be resolved in the church—God is quite clear about this.

    Thank you. That was my point exactly.

    It would have been considerably better had the situation been handled through non-state means, specifically the church in this case. First Corinthians 6:7 says, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

    Child molestation is certainly more serious than the financial matters Paul appears to be talking about, but then the question arises, when is a matter too serious for God’s people to handle alone? When do they need the assistance of the godless state?

    Here the victim’s family apparently chose state terrorism—“the state is supposed to be a terror for evildoers,” some would say—rather than the path of fraternal confrontation, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation, a path I have never heard of a state even offering. Perhaps the family tried non-state means first and that was never reported. But even so, then, we’re back to the question of when God wants us to hang our dirty laundry out for the world to see.

    I have seen signs in churches declaring that the state will be called in to deal with any cases of child molestation on church property. Now I’ve had four daughters go through church youth programs, and had I had any doubts about the moral fortitude of our church’s staff—no such doubts ever crossed my mind— I would have taken comfort in knowing that the matter would have been taken seriously. But the last thing I would have wanted to see would have been those men and women whose names I knew and whose children were my children’s friends put in jail, their names in the papers, their futures ruined, their spouses alone and impoverished, and their children publicly shamed—not to mention the church's name in the papers and thousands of tongues wagging that Christ not only doesn't save his people from sin, they can't deal with it without help from unbelievers.

    I hope the girl’s father is happy. If it was a dead child molester he wanted, he got it. I suspect the only fly he sees in the ointment is that either he didn’t get to do the deed himself or the process wasn’t made more torturous by some sadist in prison.

    Call me what you will, but the sooner I no longer share the planet with people who share his happiness, the better.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Anarchy and Chaos

    Why do people use the word anarchy to describe chaos?

    They don't similarly misuse related words. Monarchy is always used to describe a structure of authority, as are oligarchy, plutarchy, and whatever other -archy there might be. But anarchy is not only used most often as a synonym for chaos, it is almost never used to specify a structure of authority; even worse, it seems to be the preferred term for chaos. Why is this?

    The Progressive Ernest Partridge provides two quotes that are on target. The first is his own:

    Language is the constant yet unnoticed current that carries our thoughts. Thus, in the game of politics, the party which controls the language, controls the contest.

    We used to see this back when even non-Christians in the US considered themselves Christians. When someone who had come to repentance, pledged his allegiance to Jesus, been baptized, and become a church member would tell someone who had done none of these that the latter was not a Christian, the response would often be anger because the two would be using Christian to mean two different things. The latter would use the word to mean "a good, respectable person," and so when the former would say, "You need to repent and follow Jesus to be a Christian," the latter would say, "But I am a Christian, and I resent you implying that I'm not." So those who used Christian to mean what only that word means were hard pressed to communicate what they meant, and that was before beginning to deal with the natural human resistance to the gospel message as properly understood.

    Also, people respond from the heart, not from the brain. Advertisers "don't sell the steak, [they] sell the sizzle." They don't sell the product, they sell the image that the buyer will have in his mind of himself when he buys the product: handsome, masculine, feminine, popular, nonconformist, healthy, or socially responsible. We are emotional beings: emotions are so called because they are what sets us in motion.

    If he who controls the language controls the contest, and the way to influence people is through their emotions, I would suggest that those who purposely use anarchy instead of chaos to describe chaos are people with vested interests in maintaining the power structure, either because they are now in power or because they expect to be in power someday, want to give anarchy a bad name. This has two benefits for them: it provokes a knee-jerk reaction against people who call themselves anarchists, and it leaves us without a graceful self-appellation. Reasoned conversation ends before it begins.

    Partridge again, quoting George Orwell:

    The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the [Party's] world-view and mental habits ... , but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of [the Party] - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings... Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought...

    (To be fair, another possibility is that someone used the term as metonymy, like saying "the throne" when referring to the king, and it has simply become a cliché.)

    If the two words are truly synonymous, wouldn't one be redundant and fall out of favor? Why would the preferred term be the less etymologically defensible? The most logical reason is that someone wants to take away every means we have of expressing ourselves and thus capture the loyalty of those who don't think for themselves without allowing us to put up a serious fight.

    Jesus calls his people to become humble and harmless like little children and doves, to serve our neighbors, and to be known for our gentleness. Human nature makes obeying that call difficult enough under any conditions; for those who consider themselves above their neighbors—archons—it is all but impossible. Only anarchy provides natural rewards, and thus incentives, for Christian obedience.

    On that basis, I would say that the mind behind the confusion of anarchy with chaos is that of the enemy of our souls.

    Saturday, May 12, 2012

    How the Bible Establishes the Moral Legitimacy of the State

    I bugged some friends to respond to my last post and got one more response than I deserved, which I here reproduce in part:
    1) I assume moral legitimacy to the state primarily because the Bible does. 2) You are suggesting that if we lived in a state-less society things would be better. Can you give an example of a society larger than hunter gatherers like pygmies and bushmen where there is no state?
    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the proper response to the first question takes us a long way down the road to answering the second.
    As sure as a hangover is God’s punishment for self-intoxication, as are cirrhosis of the liver, unemployment, divorce, and abandonment by one’s family and friends, the state is, quite simply, God’s way of punishing rebellious society. Thomas Jefferson’s aphorism, “If men were angels, there would be no need for government,” is the view of a Deist Qohelet. Let me suggest that the view from heaven is, “If they refuse to submit to me, let them submit to those who hate me.” And, as Friedrich Hayek noted, It’s always the most ruthless that rise to the top of government; the more more ruthless the government, the more ruthless you need to be to get to the top.
    The biblical case for the beneficent state begins with the book of Judges, in which “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
    “See?” the argument goes, “this is why we need government: to keep people from doing right in their own eyes, to avoid chaos.” QED, right? Wrong.
    The most easily available torpedo for that argument is the account in which God actually provides a king: God says he is ending the golden age of anarchy because Israel has rejected him as king (1 Sam 8:7). He promises them not order, but chaos:
    He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. (1 Sam 8:11-17)
    The common people would no longer be free to do “what was right in their own eyes,” true, but the powers that be, ordained of God, would—as we see when Saul takes tax money to pay his soldiers to chase down David, when David has many of his loyal soldiers killed so that he can marry Bathsheba, and when Solomon oppresses the people so that he can marry a thousand women—be freed to do what was right in their eyes. Again, God states the reason he is ending anarchy and bringing in archy: the people have rebelled, and he will ordain powers to bless them, but not in the way they expect.
    So yes, the powers that be are ordained of God; they are “God’s servant to do [us] good” (Rom 13:4), specifically, with a few notable exceptions—which are exceptions—by making life miserable for us.
    And it is quite likely that anarchy will always remain out of reach: “You will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day” (1 Sam 8:18). If, as Paul writes, “the many died by the trespass of the one man [and] by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man . . . in Adam all die” (Rom 5:15, 18; 1 Cor 15:22), it may be that in those rebellious Israelites we too became condemned to life under government, just as we all face mortality because of Adam’s sin.
    The ship of state may be leaning, you say, but she’s still afloat. OK, torpedo number two: the history of the state before Israel transformed himself from an oasis to a cesspool. The Bible speaks evil of all but at most one king before Saul:
    Nimrod, the first to have a “kingdom,” was “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” but there is no evidence of godliness in his society; many Bible commentators consider it to be the society cursed by the confusion of tongues at Babel.
    The kings of the east who invade the Jordan Valley in Gen 14 are simply thieves and murderers.
    The kings of the Jordan Valley are no better, as Abraham’s treatment of the king of Sodom and Lot’s later experience with him attest.
    The Pharaoh of Egypt and Abimelech of Gerar abduct Abraham’s wife instead of negotiating a marriage, proof that Abraham was right when he said, “There is no fear of God in this place.”
    The evil of the Pharaoh of Moses’ day and the Canaanite kings of Joshua’s day needs no further explanation.
    Abimelek, the first to be called king of Israel (Jdg 9) was a thieving murderer.
    The only exception to the rule is Melchizedek, “king of Salem” and “priest of the Most High.” And as the writer to the Hebrews makes plain, he was in a class by himself: “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God” (Heb 7:3).1
    Note also that whenever the Israelites rebelled against the Lord, he brought against them states, specifically kingdoms, ruled by Balak (Num 22), Cushan-Rishathaim and Eglon (Jdg 3), Jabin (Jdg 4), Zebah and Zalmunna of Midian (Jdg 8), and “the king of the sons of Ammon” (Jdg 11, NASB). And, after the monarchy failed to halt their apostasy, he brought in the superpowers of Assyria and Babylon, the latter specifically designated “my servant” (Jer 25:9; 27:6; 43:10).
    Unlike these nations, Israel under Moses, Joshua, and the judges had no king. It was anarchy, designed by God to be so, and under this anarchy “the land had peace” for those decades in which the people kept covenant with the Lord (Jdg 3:11, 30; 5:31).
    And Israel was no tribe of “hunter gatherers like pygmies and bushmen.” If we are to take the numbers in the book of Numbers literally, it was a nation of perhaps three million men, women, and children. It was anarchy, but it was far from chaos.
    Further, Israel is the only anarchy that I know of to win a military victory over a state.2 This tells me that the only way anarchy can become a reality is if it is in covenant with the Lord.
    That the state is God’s instrument of blessing through inflicting misery is shown ultimately in the crucifixion of Jesus. Why did God have Jesus killed by Roman soldiers instead of by Jewish priests, the agents he chose from the beginning to offer sacrifices of atonement for sins?
    The answer is nowhere stated, but I would suggest that a priest offers sacrifices in the context of a covenant: the sacrifice is an admission by the one offering it that he has sinned, is repentant, and wants to make things right. But when God sends in his servants the heathen soldiers, he is showing that the covenant has been broken and he has no intention of renewing it, as when he told Jeremiah not to pray for the people of Judah (Jer 14).
    I take God using soldiers, not priests, to slaughter the Lamb of God as testimony that Jesus took on himself the penalty for sins that separate us from God beyond God’s desire to see covenant established or renewed. Only through soldiers could he inflict on Christ his wrath against our worst sins.
    So I am forced to admit, however reluctantly, that the Bible does ascribe moral legitimacy to the state. But that admission comes with a caveat: God’s ordination of the state does not include impunity for wicked deeds. In brief, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
    This is especially true for those who execute the judgment of the Lord: God calls Nebuchadnezzar his servant, but holds his underlings responsible for the evil they did: “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Ps 137:8-9).
    A more detailed warning that should hit US citizens close to home comes from the prophet Habakkuk:
    He gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. . . . “Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! . . . Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. . . . Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. . . . Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! . . . Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. . . . You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. . . . For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. (2:7-17)
    Whether anarchy can ever be achieved in this life or not, the obedience to God that is prerequisite for anarchy is a worthy goal in and of itself, infinitely more so than the building up of a state that can at best put its agents in line for God’s retributive judgment.

     1 Some might argue that Joseph’s rule in Egypt was also beneficent. While it is true that he and his family prospered at that time, I think Frank Chodorov has done a good job of describing it as time of loss for the populace as a whole. Certainly the benefits even to Joseph’s family were temporary at best, as shortly after his death (Ex 1:8 KJV, NASB, ESV, contra NIV) his descendants were enslaved by the same system that had benefited Joseph and his brothers at the expense of the Egyptians.
    2 Actually, there is one other: Abraham’s victory over the allied forces of the kings of the east in Gen 14. However, as his camp numbered only in the hundreds, they can probably be classified as pygmies and bushmen and therefore rate mention only in a footnote.

    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Open Letter to Other Fathers of Daughters on the Suicide of Tom White

    The highlight of my week is my Wednesday morning meeting with a handful of other men, where we discuss what it means to be a Christian man and how we can conform ourselves to the image of Jesus. This letter is to the members of that group.

    Dear Brothers,

    The suicide of Tom White, the head of Voice of the Martyrs, after he came under investigation for sexual abuse of a ten-year-old girl, has raised two questions for me that I would like to pose to you. Perhaps the answer to the first will obviate the need to answer the second, but I'll pose them both anyway.

    Before I do, let me state what I think are our shared presuppositions. First, we are all the fathers of daughters and would want anyone who abused them dealt with, either by ourselves or by someone else. Second, we are all Calvinists who believe in the validity to some extent of the Old Testament law, including the idea that suicide is murder, in capital punishment in some situations, and in predestination.

    Let us also assume for the sake of this discussion that Mr. White did indeed have "inappropriate contact with a young girl" of a sort we would strongly object to. Let us further assume that the investigation was prompted by the girl or her family.

    My first question is theological. I think the article makes a good case that Tom White was a serious Christian. Yet suicide is perhaps the ultimate statement that God's grace is not sufficient to get the Christian through whatever comes to us in life. Further, unrepentant murder (of which suicide is a form) and adultery are usually taken as prima facie evidence of an unregenerate heart.

    So what's your take on this? Was God excreting from his church a covert unregenerate whom he had been using for his own purposes all these years, knowing that he would eventually show his true colors? Or was this a Christian brother "overtaken in a fault," who compounded his fault by committing suicide but will ultimately be forgiven? Or have I missed an alternative? (I realize that, as Aslan says, our stories belong to us alone, so Mr. White's story is his alone, but unless we are to make God a subject about which nothing mundane can be predicated, we need to be able to at least hazard a guess or two, methinks.)

    My second is more practical and will require a bit of setup.

    You all ascribe moral legitimacy to the state, which I do not. And here we have a reasonable example of the state doing what you say the state is supposed to do, deal with malefactors: Tom White will never molest another young girl, and the girl involved will never have to look at Tom White and relive the hell of sexual abuse. The only fault in the jewel, if I understand your position, would be that Mr. White killed himself instead of allowing a tax-salaried agent to—what, electrocute him? hang him? shoot him? inject him? tie him to a hill of fire ants or a hornet's nest? or put him in jail for years, where he would likely be killed—slowly and painfully, literally or worse—by his fellow inmates, child molesters being the bottom rung of a prison social ladder known for dealing harshly with those at the bottom? I fail to see how any of these courses of action comport with biblical law.

    Now if we assume that Mr. White is a damned excretum, none of this matters: he's simply an enemy of the Lord who took a shortcut to hell, which will be that much hotter for him for his having done so, so God is good all the time and that's that.

    The question is thornier, though, if he's a brother overtaken in a fault (which is what I certainly hope is the case and expect that you do also). Given the nature of the state, how could things have turned out better?

    Let's begin with the most important participant in the tragedy: the girl. I have never heard or heard of any victim of sexual assault say that they were treated well by the government. Why should they be? Every rape complaint means more work for government agents.

    Let me digress. Since you believe that a government's primary function is to protect its subjects from attack, I assume you consider soldiers exemplary government agents. When I asked a certain soldier on the day of his commissioning why his comrades wanted to go overseas to fight, he replied that the main prize they sought was the extra combat pay. This was the same soldier who told me, "I don't make the policies. My job is to carry them out." So it doesn't matter what the policy is, they take pay to carry it out. Hence I conclude that the government agents in charge of investigating sexual assault are less interested in the welfare of the victim than in doing their job, being paid, enforcing whatever law—in short, "whatever." The welfare of the victim is secondary at best.

    Back on track, once the case comes to trial, as Chuck Colson says, "[victims feel like they are] simply used as the tool of the prosecutors for the state" (Justice that Restores, p. 138), since the prosecutor, another government agent, is not likely to be as concerned with the victim's welfare as with advancing the interests of the state or his own career. (Remember, he is not being paid directly by the girl's family; he isn't being paid to serve them. People are not by nature servants, at least not of others.) The defense attorney, of course, is paid to defend his client at all costs, including truth, so he has every incentive to use any tactic that won't hurt his case to try to break the victim. So it's just as well for her that no trial took place.

    Also in this case, the victim knows that her going public has resulted in a man's death. If he forced himself on her, she may think that's just as well. But if not, is it not reasonable to think that to the degree she was OK with what he did (if, for example, this was a case of horseplay run amok) she will consider herself culpable in his death? Of what benefit to her is this? If, God forbid, she were victim of further low-level malfeasance, how willing would she be to confide in anyone who could possibly take the matter to the state?

    Absent the state, this matter would have been taken care of by discussion between the girl's family and Mr. White, perhaps adjudicated by the Voice of the Martyrs executive board, the elders of the two family's churches, or three homeless men off the street. Certainly unless Mr. White were executed (by those whose testimony convicted him and the members of that community), I would never have known about the matter, and since it's none of my business, I'd have been no worse off.

    How is this a worse situation than what actually happened (or would have had Mr. White taken his medicine like a man)? And, again, given the nature of the state, how could things have turned out differently?

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

    Your brother,


    Sunday, April 29, 2012

    Remembering the Titans

    Papua New Guinea, 1982. I'm in a training camp with my wife and toddler. Among the other campers is a single German woman, very plain, half a head taller than I am, not the stuff of daydreams. Perhaps twice during the two months of the course, we're within conversational distance, but both times she makes it surprisingly and memorably plain that she's not interested in conversing.

    Eugene, Oregon, 1987. I see the same woman at a bulletin board in the dormitory we're living in during the summer. She sees me, lights up, introduces me to her husband, asks all sorts of questions about the intervening five years, and generally treats me like a long-lost friend.

    In my grammar class that same summer is a single German woman who owns what looks to me like a really nifty computer. She answers my questions about it with as few words as possible and makes it plain that she's not interested in conversing.

    Papua New Guinea, 1990-something. The woman from the grammar class sees me at the market, lights up, introduces me to her husband, asks all sorts of questions . . . .

    My conclusion: while respectable single US women can be freindly (as defined by a US man) with married men, respectable German women can't, but they can once they are married.

    People are different, and not all of their differences sit well with their neighbors.

    One of the subplots of the movie Remember the Titans involves a white high school football player who takes his two friends, one white and one black, into a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1970. The owner firmly, though civilly, informs the white boys that the black boy is not welcome in the restaurant and tells them to leave. The boys do leave, but at the end of the movie they return; when the restaurant owner again tells them to leave, the white boy says that his father works for the feds and can sue the owner for a daunting list of civil rights violations. The restauranteur backs down, the black high schoolers get to sit in the restaurant, and everything is hunky-dory.

    The message is clear: the restauranteur was a bad guy, and the kids were made heroes by the government. Government good: entrepreneurship bad.

    I'd like to play devil's advocate here and take the side of the restaurant owner in the movie because I think he was acting rationally and within his rights even though I would have wanted to see the black boy seated. Furthermore, he was not nearly as evil as those the movie portrays as heroes.

    So here I am. I've worked at jobs I don't particularly like for years, saving my money instead of spending it on things I would like to have, like nice clothes, a nice car, season tickets for the Senators or Redskins, whatever. Maybe I've taken out a sizable loan to buy the stoves, refrigerators, freezers, flatware, plates, etc., I need to run my restaurant. I've rented or taken out a mortgage on the building and paid for the structural changes and signage. I've advertised in the Yellow Pages, in the newspaper, maybe even on the radio and TV.

    All this before the first customer walks through the door.

    When I open the door, I have no guarantee that customers will come in. I probably had a grand opening discount deal for the first week, but there was no guarantee those who took advantage of the low prices then will come back and pay full fare. But let's assume I got over the hump and have been in business for a few years.

    Who are my customers? They are the people of Alexandria. I grew up with them. I know their names, where they live, and how they think.

    Tillamook, Oregon, August, 1972. I'm riding my bicycle up the Oregon coast. I pull into Tillamook at sunset with no idea where I'll be sleeping, and it looks like it might rain. I ride around the town a bit and don't see anyplace tolerable. So I stop at a low-end Mom and Pop motel and ask if they've got a bit of floor I can sleep on.

    They reply that they have a room that has just been painted and they'll let me have it for half price. Oh, joy!

    It even has a bed in it!

    A few minutes later Mom and Pop surprise me by inviting me to dinner: fried chicken, potatoes, and I can't remember what else, but I was hungry and probably ate like a bear. And we get to talking. They ask about me and really seem interested in my world, which at that point was leftist politics. Eventually—I don't remember when, but it makes the story better if I say it was after thirds on fried chicken and halfway through dessert—I ask about them. They tell me they're from Louisiana.

    "Oh. So why did you move up here?"

    "Too many niggers down there."

    Generous, loving people can be racist.

    I know that my people don't choose to have anything to do with blacks. But they're not bad people.

    Like my aunt who gave me my first bicycle, my neighbor who taught me to repair lawn mowers, or my father who worked two jobs and paid for the sign on my restaurant. But these are the people in my world, Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1970.

    Maybe I'd like to leave someday, maybe not, but I can't yet, so I do the best with what I've got. But leaving my people I love so that I can spend more time with black people isn't a high priority for me now.

    Meantime, the success of my restaurant, and my ability to earn a living, depends on the good will of white people who, whether I like it or not, choose not to associate with black people.

    So now a black boy comes into my restaurant with his two white friends. Most of my clientele is adults, so they're already somewhat out of place, but if kids that age behave themselves properly, they're welcome.

    But what do I do about that black boy?

    If I choose to open my main dining room to him, the whites now here will leave, never to return, and tell their friends not to patronize me. So almost overnight my entire clientele will be black. There are [I'm having to guess here—QP] only half as many blacks as whites in Alexandria, and their earning power is also about half that of whites. So we're looking at a reduction in my gross revenue somewhere near 75% if I seat this fellow.

    I could open a separate dining room for blacks, but it wouldn't be as nice as the white dining room for the same reason Chock Full o' Nuts isn't as nice as the Waldorf: the offering has to be tailored to the prospective buyers. And if the blacks are going to be offended that their room isn't as nice as the whites' room [I'm probably bringing in an anachronistic bit of twenty-first-century entitlement mentality—QP]; I also, not being black and not usually associating with them, run the risk of making mistakes based on my unfamiliarity with black culture. So why should I risk the resources to open a separate dining room? Why not save my money and do my best to serve the people I can serve best and leave the opportunity open for a black entrepreneur to better his lot by opening a restaurant that blacks will enjoy going to?

    It's my property. It's my capital and living on the line. "I'm sorry, boys, but you can't eat here."

    The "good news" we all heard about is that before long all restauranteurs had to open their doors to black and white, so now blacks and whites eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same motels, go to the same schools, ride in the same airplanes, and so on. As my Yankee upbringing (since repudiated) would have me expect, I've never heard of any white folks getting cooties from the experience.

    But has getting what we wanted gotten us where we wanted to go?

    Years ago I read (in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, but I don't remember which one) a lament that in racially integrated schools the black kids sit on one side of the lunchroom and the white kids on the other. And why not? If Germans and Yankees have different expectations and customs and preferences, we would expect the same of black and white kids thrown together by government decree, ¿nó?

    What do the closing of beaches in Milwaukee and Chicago because of interracial violence, and the rancor over the killing of Trayvon Martin, tell us, if not that government can put black and white in the same room but can't make them like each other?

    More importantly, we should also remember that those Titans are my contemporaries, who voted for the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, and so share the guilt for depradations of those monsters. Compared to the mega death dealt by those "heroes," a restauranteur defending his livelihood seems like pretty small potatoes.

    I would even go so far as to say that someone whose response was less civil than that of the restauranteur in the movie is small potatoes. Consider Lester Maddox, who famously ran an erstwhile black customer off his property with a gun and a club.

    Photo source

    Compare that with this achievement of the Titans, a scene from Afghanistan that is matched by many in Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, and now Yemen and Pakistan.

    Photo source

    Loving, generous people can be racist. They can also be litterbugs and road hogs. In the case of Bush Republicans and Obama Democrats, they can be proponents of mass murder.

    Yankees celebrated the desegregation of restaurants and put their (I should say our, since I did at the time) trust in government to do what was right and make the world a better place, morally as well as economically. Today little protest is raised against government attempts to stamp out every evil from racism to distracted driving to substance abuse to to prostitution to terrorism, even where it involves invasions into what any reasonable person would consider one's private life (like the bathroom and bedroom). Even when it involves the mass killing of innocent people.

    But I would suggest that where government has failed to stamp out these vices, accepting its right to do so has involved us in much greater evil.

    Jesus nowhere tells us to regulate others' views on race. We are to pursue justice for all, the safety of all people and their property from violence and fraud, and we are to be hospitable, a city on a hill that welcomes those outside the main stream. I can castigate Lester Maddox and try to change the thinking of his society all I want, but if I'm not willing to say, "Mr. Negro [That was the polite term in those days—QP], you don't need Lester Maddox's restaurant. Come to my house for a barbecue," I'm not doing my job, plain and simple. And, as is most likely the case, if Mr. Negro says no, he'd prefer to be with his people, he's within his rights as well.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Christian Nudists? (Part 3)

    — How goes it?

    — Well, I will admit that I wasn't looking forward to seing you here today.

    — Thanks a lot! How so?

    — I found out that my son has been looking at pornography on the Internet.

    — And you expected me to what, be glad about it?

    — Well, you're such a fan of nudism . . .

    — Wait. I said that every argument that can be advanced against nudism can be applied to the wars overseas, and I said that every argument in support of what the TSA does at airports can be applied to nudism, but if you remember, that was my way of saying that the wars and the TSA are immoral, not that nudism is moral. If either of us was saying that nudism is a good thing, it was you, by rejecting my argument.

    — Well whatver, I don't think looking at pornography is good.

    — I might surprise you and think it's not good too. But is there anything to be thankful for here?

    — What?

    — We're supposed to rejoice evermore and in everything give thanks. So what's there to rejoice and give thanks about?

    — Help me here.

    — No, seriously. Could he have been looking at anything worse than what you think he was looking at, or doing something even worse?

    — Oh, yeah. I'm sure there's worse out there.

    — Can you tell what his favorite stuff is?

    — Yeah, he'd fit in with you. He says he doesn't want to see sex. Just nudity.

    — Be careful what you accuse me of. So he's into chicks, but nothing kinky.

    — Right.

    — Well, see there's something to be thankful for. He could be looking at baseball.

    — I wish he had been looking at baseball.

    — What I meant was it would be worse if he were looking at baseball.

    — Looking at baseball is worse than looking at naked women? You're out of your mind. Wait. Don't tell me. Let's see if I remember. Doctors and TSA agents look at naked women all the time, so they're inured to it, so it's not a sin, and if my son looks at enough naked women he'll get inured and everything will be hunky-dory. I'm supposed to believe that?

    — If he were inured to it, he wouldn't do it for fun, would he?

    — No, he'd move on to other things. But those other things might be worse. Like kinky sex. Like sadomasochsim. Like mass murder, the way Ted Bundy went. Bundy said he started out with pornography and went on to mass murder. I don't want my son to go that way.

    — I don't want your son to end up a mass murderer either. That's why I say you don't want him watching baseball.

    — The blogger from hell won't have a post until you tell my why, so I'll be a good straight man here. How is it that baseball leads to mass murder?

    — It does perhaps more often than pornography, but not always.

    — And the connection is . . .

    — It's right here. The San Diego Padres' Sunday home uniforms. That is a stylized combat outfit, right?

    — It is. So what?

    — Professional baseball players are glorifying people who go off and murder innocent people.

    — You're assuming what you need to prove, that the US Army is guilty of murder.

    — Ever heard of My Lai? Or Najibian? And if Eisenhower and MacArthur were right, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mass murder on a scale Ted Bundy wouldn't have undertaken if you'd offered it to him. Do you think Jesus is a hundred percent OK with how the west was won, or Sherman's march through Georgia, or the killing of a quarter million Filipinos after the Spanish left?

    — Those were exceptions.

    — So was Ted Bundy. The number of people looking at naked women is greater than the grains of sand on the seashore, but we can pretty much count the people who have gone from there to becoming mass murderers. The number of people involved in those wholesale slaughters runs into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

    — Sheesh. Even if you're right, that still doesn't involve baseball.

    — So you don't think that the Padres and Major League Baseball are at all complicit in the "collateral damage" our military is creating overseas.

    — It's up to you to prove that they are.

    — How about if I show you that baseball is an arm of the government? Would that help make my point?

    — Yeah. Like drinking extract of peach pits "helps support" good health.

    — So what would convince you?

    — I don't know what would, but I can't seem to shut you up. How is baseball an arm of the government?

    — Of the thirty stadiums in the major leagues, twenty-nine were built with government money. Every Little League I know of plays on government property, either a government school yard or a park. Almost every baseball program between Little League and the major leagues is played on government property, the exceptions being private schools that have baseball programs. How'm I doin'?

    — So the government generously provides these things. So what?

    — The government generously takes my money against my will and provides these things.

    — That's just "sour grapes." Besides, that's local government, not the feds.

    — Taking my money to build baseball stadiums is of a piece with taking my money to kill innocent people.

    — Says you.

    — Why do you think Congress has held hearings to prodsecute the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for steroid use?

    — Because those men are in a position of influence, and what they do to their bodies can influence children, and protecting children is the government's business.

    — So the government needs to control them.

    — Right.

    — Who controls this arm?

    — Oh, so because the government controls it, it's an arm of the government.

    — Who else's arm would it be?

    — I'm still not convinced. And I still would rather have my son watching baseball than looking at pornography.

    — Depending on your definition of pornography, I would too. If pornography is the graphic representation of extramarital sexual activity, I certainly would say he's better off with baseball. But you said that's not where he's at.

    — Do you really think it's better for him to be looking at naked women than watching a baseball game?

    — I've never heard of nudists blowing up innocent people and then being proud of it the way the people who unfurl the flag, sing the national anthem, and salute the military flyovers at baseball games are proud of those who kill thousands of people overseas and then deny their victims' humanity by calling them collateral damage. There's something to be said for having the goal of living in peace and asking only to be left alone.

    — But—good grief!—they run around naked!

    — But—good grief!—baseball players steal other people's money to build their stadiums! I don't know how accomplished you are at taking other people's property, but I suspect you've been naked with no one objecting. You might even have been naked in the presence of other people who didn't object. When was the last time you heard of someone taking other people's property against their will without those people being unhappy about it, let alone bombing their houses or killing their family members?

    — These are just the tragedies of war. They can't be helped.

    — Who would you rather have fora neighbot? Someone who runs around naked, or someone who would blow up your house and kill your family with no regrets if he thought it were the best way to protect his interests?

    — Nudism is just wrong. And besides, these people get kids hooked into that system.

    — Collateral damage includes children dead and maimed. Do you think flyovers and honor guards and other connections of baseball with the military, and government in general, has no influence on getting kids to join the military, let alone to accept government programs like schools and parks that are financed by theft?

    — Come on, those stadiums were built with bond issues, or through the decisions of elected officials. That's not stealing!

    — So if five people decide to take what belongs to one other person, or four other people, it's not stealing?

    — Not if it's government.

    — So if a government agency were to open a nudist resort, it would be OK for them to tax you to support it?

    — No, it wouldn't. Nudist resorts are inherently immoral. Schools and hospitals and baseball stadiums aren't inherently immoral.

    — And neither is killing innocent people?

    — Not if we aren't targeting them. Bad things happen in war. That's why it's so important to fight them over there: so we don't have to fight them over here.

    — Is there any limit to the number of innocent people you can collaterally damage before it becomes immoral?

    — Not if the alternative is that we lose the war.

    — And it's also OK to tax people to build baseball stadiums, but not nudist resorts.

    — Right.

    — And there's no moral limit to the amount of taxation as long as people benefit from what the government does with the revenue.

    — Right.

    — If the end of a nudist resort can disqualify taxation as a means for acquiring revenue, doesn't that mean the the end of a baseball stadium, or even a school or hospital, justifies that same means of taxation? Aren't you giving me an end-justifies-the-means argument for all taxation?

    — No.

    — So when does the end justify the means and when does it not?

    — The end never justifies the means, but it can disqualify it.

    — So if the end is good, taxation is OK, but if the end is bad, it's not.

    — Right.

    — But that doesn't mean that the end justifies the means.

    — Right. Look, this hasn't been any help at all. I think there are better things my son can be doing with his time than looking at naked women.

    Really? Like what?

    — Like reading the Bible, or the classics, or praying, or meditating on Scripture, or getting in touch with people who need company, or volunteering somewhere. Or learning a musical instrument or a foreign language, or woodworking, or painting, or writing poetry or hymns.

    — I notice that . . .

    Or watching baseball. You can look at naked women all you want, but I don't want him doing that.

    — I don't want me doing that either. Everything on your list is better.

    — Even the baseball?

    — No, but since I still watch it occasionally, I guess I'd better shut up.

    — It's about time.