Sunday, December 18, 2016

After the Election Is Stolen

Surprise, surprise.

The political class, those who today cloak their rapacity in the authority supposedly granted them by Romans 13, are deathly afraid that someone they don’t like will take up that authority, so they are threatening to kill members of the Electoral College who vote for Donald Trump. If enough electors change their votes, Congress could give the presidency to Hillary Clinton on January 6.

It doesn’t look like the establishment will co-opt Trump to their satisfaction. They may still be able to assassinate him, but the “Russia swung the election to Trump” meme has gained so much traction that

electors interested in living out their natural lives will probably “do what’s best for the nation” and vote for an “experienced statesman” rather than a “racist, buffoonish demagogue.” Between Trump, Pence, and Clinton, the safe money says it will be Hillary Clinton putting her hand on the Bible and swearing to uphold the Constitution come January 20.

So evangelicals—who last March would never vote for a serial polygamist with no principles but change their tune in November and carry the flag of said unprincipled polygamist to victory—suddenly find themselves as two-time losers: they lose credibility because they abandon their principles, then they lose the election anyway. The Libertarian Party, the “party of principle” that abandoned its principles and still can’t get 10% of the vote, would be a suitable home for today’s Trumpista evangelicals.

What to do now? Step one: revamp your theology.

Stop beginning your theology of government with Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13–14. Remember what happened to the men who wrote those words: they were both executed by the very people they told us to honor. Clearly they did not mean that we were to regard those murderers, or any other politicians, as our leaders, or our citizenship as in any place but heaven.

Instead, start where the Bible starts, with Genesis 12, where Pharaoh, the biblical paragon of pretension to God’s heavenly throne, simply abducts Abraham’s wife. (Or Genesis 10, where Nimrod is “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” whatever that means; I don’t get the impression God’s people would want to be under his dominion.)

Note how Abraham works outside the political system to rescue Lot in Genesis 14, accepting bread from the priest Melkizedek but refusing to take even a sandal strap from the king of Sodom. 

Remember that yes, Joseph did save his people through the political system, but his descendants spent four centuries in slavery to that same system, and God had to (well, OK …) work miracles to bring about deliverance.

Notice that among all the commands given from Exodus 20 to the end of Deuteronomy, there were no taxes: the tithe and the poor laws and all the rest of the assessments were all voluntary; God specifies no agents to check on who was giving how much. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.”

Notice that when Moses acknowledges that the people will want a king later on, he specifies that the king is to operate under the same rules as those he rules (Deut 17)—he was to be a brother, not a Big Brother, not a father, and certainly not a despot.

Notice that during the period of the judges, when “there was no king in Israel,” the land had peace for forty years twice and eighty years once.

Notice that God gave Israel the monarchy as a curse, not as a blessing (1 Sam 8). Notice that most of the kings of Israel and Judah “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Could this be why the psalmist says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man who cannot save”? Ask yourself: Does the history of the monarchies of Israel and Judah, to say nothing of the history of other governments, look more like Romans 13 or like “The kings of the earth rise up, and their rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Messiah”?

What does the destruction of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue by the rock not made by human hands (Dan 2) mean, if not that God’s ways are not man’s ways and that our weapons are not the weapons of the world and that the church will take dominion over the world not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit, through God’s people serving each other and their neighbors with love?

What do Jesus’ words “it is not to be that way with you” (Luke 22:25–26) mean, if not that his people are not to lord it over their neighbors the way politicians do, thus disqualifying the political process as a tool of dominion?

The Clinton presidency will present us with unfamiliar challenges. More than ever American evangelicals will be like the Romans to whom Paul wrote and the diaspora to whom Peter wrote. Those in power will be our increasingly intractable enemies. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who mistreat us. That’s a tall order that will take all our resources to fulfill. Let’s not waste our time considering those people our leaders.

The same holds true if the election is not stolen.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Why of Donald Trump’s Atrocious Presidency and How to Fight It

You probably didn’t hear it here first, but here’s my version:
Donald Trump’s presidency will make Evangelicaldom regret every handclap it raised in support of it.
The why is simple: Mr. Trump does not believe in private property. He will go after it with a vengeance.
People who believe in private property do not—cannot, by definition—support eminent domain, restricted trade, restricted migration, import tariffs, tax-funded education, standing armies, and the war on drugs. Mr. Trump not only supports these things, it was his support for these things that got him elected.
This is not to say that his opponent in the election would have done better. But just as rape is not as bad as murder yet is still an atrocity, Mr. Trump being not as bad as Mrs. Clinton does not make his stated policies less atrocious.
Mr. Trump has, commendably, lamented the expropriation of Christians who refused to play ball with the LGBTQ community, but he has done so by calling said expropriation a violation of religious freedom. My take is that anyone who thinks that fighting Roe v. Wade or Obergefell by playing the “religious freedom” card is hopelessly na├»ve. No one I have ever heard bleat about their religious freedom would grant religious freedom to anyone who said their religion allowed them to abort full-term fetuses or marry an animal or burn their widowed mother on their father’s funeral pyre. Hillary Clinton was right: the phrase “religious freedom” is simply code for Christian supremacism. Mr. Trump will support Christians’ “religious freedom” only as long as it serves his concept of the “greater good.”
We can depend on Mr. Trump to use eminent domain to dispossess the politically less powerful of their property. He will do so by claiming, probably correctly, that those he oppresses—and that’s the right word—are refusing reasonable offers for their property in hopes of getting a better offer later. Usually foregoing a lesser pleasure in the present in the hope of a greater pleasure in the future is considered a virtue. Deferred gratification is, after all, the mechanism that builds capital.
But while collectivists like Mr. Trump acknowledge your right to pass up the latest car or epic vacation today to build the capital to start a business (or buy a better car or vacation) tomorrow—and, of course, to run the risk that the business or the vacation or the car won’t work out as planned—they deny you the right to wait to see if you can get a better price for your property than what they are offering. And they deny you that right at gunpoint.
We can look forward to systematic violations of the right of the politically unconnected to associate with whom they please, as well as to the deportation of politically unconnected law-abiding people. Mr. Trump’s wall will be as effective at keeping unwilling business owners in as it will be in keeping willing workers out. This will result in the flight of all but politically connected capital and to higher prices on goods and services we currently import or pay illegal immigrants for. I would not rule out a military draft, including females, and a senseless war or two just for good measure.
Mr. Trump did us a yuuge favor during his campaign by showing us how to talk about the Establishment and how to talk to it, and most importantly, how to view it. We’ve seen that we don’t have to kowtow to a naked emperor anymore.
Well, come January Mr. Trump will be the Establishment. One would hope that he would expect and tolerate dissent couched in the terms he used when he was on the outside, but I think we can expect him to be just like the Clintonistas, who went from being pro free speech when they were out of power to thought police once in power. Mr. Trump will likely not tolerate dissent couched in the terms he used in his dissent.
Fortunately, Jesus calls us to a higher standard of discourse than Mr. Trump used in his campaign. And though Mr. Trump made great use of his lack of principles in his campaign, Jesus calls us to have principles.
Specifically, he calls us to obey the words “Do not steal.” Every abomination Mr. Trump will unleash on his subjects can be seen as theft, whether of property (eminent domain and restrictions on migration and investment), labor (taxes), or time and safety (the draft).
The church needs to stand firm for property rights, especially those rights of the politically less connected.
How this can happen when the vast majority of Christians send their children to tax-funded schools and have no qualms about paying into and benefiting from a Social Security system that subsidizes homosexual marriage I don’t know. Having given away the argument by not opposing theft themselves, evangelicals by and large have no moral legs to stand on in opposition to government atrocities.
Which is why I think the next four years will be atrocious.