Friday, November 28, 2008

On the Christian's Relationship with the State

The question presented is whether it is a sin for Christians to vote. The way in which the issue was originally stated was that “Christians should not vote.” “Should” indicates duty or responsibility, meaning that Christians have a duty to abstain from voting in political elections. If the Christian has a duty to refrain from voting, then to cast a ballot is a violation of that responsibility, and therefore a sin. Thus the question, “is it a sin for Christians to vote?”

As neither republics nor democracies are contemplated in Scripture as ongoing forms of government, one must look to underlying Biblical principles to answer the query. I thus begin with the foundation and work my way up. Please read what follows with a forgiving eye. I spent about five hours today reading and writing on this issue, and below is the result. Although the writing is porous, I am sure the theological footings are sound.

I.
All things are lawful for the Christian unless the Bible either explicitly or implicitly prohibits it.


The default position for the Christian on matters of conscience is that all things are lawful unless prohibited by the Word of God. Paul wrote in Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. . . . [I]f you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Gal. 5:13a, 18. However, Christian freedom does not negate those things prohibited by God, thus we read further in Galatians 5: “[D]o not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. . . . Now the deeds of the flesh are evidence, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you . . . .” Gal. 5:13b, 19 – 21. Christian freedom, therefore, has certain limitations, which can be characterized as moral, rather than ceremonial, law. Therefore, we can now partake of catfish, but we are not allowed to steal a rod and reel to catch it.

The idea espoused by Paul in Galatians is applied by Paul in Romans: with regard to a kerfuffle involving permissible foods and the meaning of certain days, Paul wrote, “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. . . . Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 14:14, 16 – 17. Christ having fulfilled the law, dietary restrictions had been annulled. However, some people in the church still felt it wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, among other issues addressed by Paul in Romans 14. Paul stated that he knew it was lawful to eat all things, but if his brother’s conscience impelled him to abstain, then that brother should not offend his conscience. Perhaps Luther had this passage in mind when, at the Diet of Worms, he exclaimed, “acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound.” (If you’ll recall, the vast majority of Luther’s 95 theses pertained to the selling of indulgences, and the representations made by Tetzel were not found in Scripture.)

Nevertheless, some things are certainly forbidden by the Scriptures. Prohibition can be, and often is, explicit: “thou shalt not murder.” However, sometimes Biblical principles must be applied to a given situation to make a determination as to its moral implications. One such example could be whether a husband should take a job with marginally higher pay, but much more recognition, that will require him to be gone from his wife and child four days and three nights a week. While no verse of Scripture is plum on point, myriad verses regarding the manner in which a husband should treat his wife, and love her as Christ loves the church, should inform that decision. See Eph. 5:22 – 33.

The lodestar for calibrating freedom and prohibition is “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lev. 19:18; Matt. 19:19; Rom. 13:9b. The clearest elucidation of this is, again, found in Galatians 5: “[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Gal. 5:22 – 23. (See also, 1 Peter 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves to God.”) Whereas, those things characterized by “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” are sinful and therefore forbidden. (As an attorney, I especially like the Mother Hubbard Claus, “and things like these.”)

Christians are free to do what they will so long as their acts are not immoral or evil. Against the fruit of the Spirit “there is no law.” However, some Christians are permitted a law unto themselves insofar as their consciences do not permit them to engage in certain freedoms they would otherwise have as Christians. (One might here say that some people are forbidden by their consciences to vote, and those weaker vessels should not be forced to breach their consciences by those with a less opaque view of law and freedom.)

II.
The Bible plainly permits God’s people to work in pagan governments, so long as they do all things for His glory.


It is plain enough that no specific prohibition exists against voting. Therefore, we now move to examine whether God permits His people to actively participate in civil government. Joseph, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Zaccheus, the centurion who had the sick servant, the centurion who met Cornelius, and Sergius Paulus: All people of God working for pagan governments.

Moses recorded that Joseph was elevated to penultimate leader of Egypt when he was thirty. Gen. 41. His power was sweeping in this role: “without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Gen. 41:44. His duties were cumbersome, causing him to go over Egypt overseeing the process of storing up grain during the seven years of plenty. Gen. 41:44 – 49. Then, once famine came, it was to Joseph’s discretion how the bread was meted out (pun intended). Gen. 41:55 – 57. These were tedious tasks, but the Bible records that Joseph did them, and accomplished good for God’s glory.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (that’s, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for those keeping score at home) entered “the king’s personal service” following their education. Dan. 1:5 – 7. Daniel’s fortitude in the face of idolatrous government is an example for us all. But note that he didn’t quit the king’s service, but showed civil disobedience, first with regard to diet under King Cyrus, then ultimately in the lion’s den under King Darius. See Dan. 1:8 – 21; 6. Even though these men had to engage in disobedience to the State to act in conformity with God’s law, God did neither punished nor chastised them for their employment with the State. They were never required to run away from the pagan government.

The centurion who met Christ in Matthew chapter 8 was likewise not told by Jesus to quit his military service to Caesar. The centurion, if you’ll recall, had a sick servant at home who was “paralyzed” and “fearfully tormented.” Matt. 8:6. Jesus offered to go to the man’s house to heal his servant. Matt. 8:7. The centurion demurred, saying he wasn’t worth and telling Jesus, “[J]ust say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Matt. 8:8 – 9. Jesus “marveled” and told His listeners, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” Matt. 8:10. Jesus immediately healed the centurion’s servant and never told the centurion to forsake his role as soldier. Matt. 8:13.

Wee little Zaccheus was a tax collector, in charge of obtaining the lifeblood of the government from its people. Luke 19:2. When Jesus went to Zaccheus’s house, for which He had opprobrium heaped upon him by the crowds, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9. The Lord required only repentance from Zaccheus and not retirement from his cushy government job.

That Italian cohort, Cornelius, was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household.” Acts 10:2. This man was used by God to display how Christ had fulfilled the Law, tearing down the wall between Jew and Gentile. While Cornelius was corrected by Peter, it was for falling down at Peter’s feet, and not for serving in Caesar’s army. Acts. 10:25 – 26. In fact, from reading Acts 10, one gets the view that serving as a centurion was an honorable rather than dishonorable profession.

Lastly, “the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence” was converted after summoning Barnabas and Saul to preach to him the word of God. Acts 13:7. Luke does not record any effort by the evangelists to convince the proconsul to renounce his position in government.

Plainly, God permits His people to make a career of working for the government, whether in the highest seat of government or as a soldier. If making a career, whereby the majority of the waking day is spent in service to government, in a pagan, not merely secular, government is permissible, to the degree that such men can be accurately described as “devout,” then it stands to reason that biannually taking thirty minutes to vote is permissible as well.

III.
Scripture calls for Christians to do good to all people and love our neighbors and enemies alike, which can in part be accomplished by voting blameless men into office.


Above, we have discussed the general freedom afforded in Christianity, and God’s permission to His people to work in government as civil servants or soldiers. We now move from that which is permissible to that which is required.

There exists in Scripture a positive command to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Gal. 6:10. Additionally, Christ iterated the Law when He stated, “you shall love your neighbor,” and went a step further in stating, “love your enemies.” Matt. 5:44 – 45. In our republic, we are both the governed and those who elect the magistrates who govern: we are the government. It is our duty, therefore, in our capacity as the government, to “do good to all people,” and to love neighbor and enemy alike. Certainly, myriad ways exist to accomplish this. But one way in which we can love our neighbor is to do what we can to elect leaders who will do rightly by our neighbor, to elect judges who will judge our neighbor in accordance with law and equity, and to elect men who will protect us properly (though without imprudent use of force). In a simple moment of voting we can aid our neighbor by electing sober minded people to office. In electing people who can effectively govern well, we are in effect doing “good to all people,” and abiding by the command to “love your neighbor.”

Perhaps this is why Calvin wrote, “And ye, O peoples, to whom God gave the liberty to choose your own magistrates, see to it, that ye do not forfeit this favor, by electing to the positions of highest honor, rascals and enemies of God.” Kuyper, Abraham, The Stone Lectures, available at http://www.kuyper.org/main/publish/books_essays/article_17.shtml?page=4.

Therefore, in our republic, whereby the people send representatives to govern the nation, we have a manifest duty to “do good to all people,” and to love neighbor and enemy alike, by electing wise and judicious men to govern us and the country. For if we choose to be ruled by wicked men, then we risk the national fate of Israel after the crucifixion and the judgment of our Lord for not actively doing good to all.

Within a republican democracy, it is just and right to take part in choosing leaders. Even that wrecker of the old order, Roger Williams, acknowledged that Christians may take part in the selection of leaders by “election and appointment of civil officers to see execution of [civil] laws.” Williams, Roger, The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, available at http://classicliberal.tripod.com/misc/bloody.html. He went on, “the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people (whom they must needs mean by the civil power distinct from the government set up). [A] people may erect and establish what form of government seems to them most meet for their civil condition; it is evident that such governments as are by them erected and established have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust with them.” Id.

For further reading, may I suggest Boettner’s essay called Calvinism and Representative Government, available at http://reformed-theology.org/html/issue07/8.htm.

IV.
The Bible, Calvinists, and other right thinking Christians have always maintained that Christians owe certain duties to the State.


Governments exist because of sin. But for sin, there would be no need to police the streets, enact civil and criminal laws, or have a judiciary. Puritan Samuel Bolton wrote, “Blessed be God that there is this fear upon the spirits of wicked men; otherwise we could not well live in the world. One man would be a devil to another. Every man would be a Cain to his brother, an Amon to his sister, an Absolom to his father, a Saul to himself, a Judas to his master, for what one does, all men would do, were it not for a restraint upon their spirits.” Bolton, Samuel, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, quote available at http://www.founders.org/journal/fj28/article1.html. In this vein Peter explained, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” 1 Pet. 2:13 – 14 (written by a man later crucified). Similarly, Paul wrote that “rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.” Rom. 13:3 (written to the seat of government for Nero and Caligula). Governments, therefore, are placed by God to keep order and punish certain evils.

The indefatigable Luther endorsed this view when he stated, “Since the devil reigns in the whole world, God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, as shackles, and all civil ordinances, so that, if they cannot do any more they will at least bind the hands of the devil and keep him from raging at will.” Grabill, Stephen J., Ph.D., Natural Law and the Protestant Moral Tradition, available at http://www.acton.org/commentary/commentary_351.php?view=print. I rather like this rather punchy quote from Calvin regarding law as enforced by the magistrate, “The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work.” Id.

God has required of His people that they be obedient to the State: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Rom. 13:1 – 2. Paul wrote to Titus to “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.” Titus 3:1. Peter wrote to the church scattered abroad to “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” 1 Pet. 2:13 – 14. Although our only allegiance is to Christ, we are nevertheless saddled with the command to submit to civil authority. See Col. 3:22 – 24.

God has said that we should not only submit to authority, but we should pray for our government as well. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Tim. 2:1 – 2. As important as the directive here is the reasoning behind it: “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” The reason we are commanded to pray for those in power is so that we will be enabled to live pacific lives, exemplifying godliness, and maintaining dignity. The reason provided by Paul is vital to a proper understanding of the Christian’s role in a republic. For “entreaties and prayers” were all Roman citizens had at their disposal to sway Caesar. While we are still armed with entreaties and prayers, we’re also girded with the privilege of voting, and may and should do so in order that “we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” We control not only whether we pray for our leaders, but the object of those prayers.

I suggest Theodore Beza’s On the Rights of Magistrates for some foundational reading on this subject, available at http://www.constitution.org/cmt/beza/magistrates.htm.

V.
By ignoring State-supported immorality, the Christian facilitates calamity and brings at least temporal judgment on himself and his nation.


In response to my argument that a government should not permit the slaughter of innocent babies (by “innocent” I meant before the laws of man, and was not making a theological point about original sin), it has been proffered that the only true innocent to die at the hands of government was Christ, “yet he made no answer for himself.” By that statement, it is supposed that since the Roman government, at the behest of Israel, killed Christ, then those who could vote to effect change in American policy vis a vis abortion or some like immoral policy not only need not do so, but should not do so (as again, the original point made was Christians should not vote).

Let us deal what Christ’s death tells us about human responsibility. The crucifixion of Christ brought about both individual judgment for the men who committed the act, and national judgment to Israel. Regarding Christ’s death, Peter said, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 2:22 – 23. Even though the crucifixion was the “predetermined plan” of God, the men were still held responsible for this act. In order to be absolved from guilt, the listeners were told in response to their query of “what shall we do” to “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts. 2:37 – 38.

Not only were the individuals liable for their sin, but the whole nation of Israel was judged for the rejection and ultimate execution of Christ. Matthew records that the people ardently plead to Pilate to crucify Christ. Pilate, seeing no wrong in Christ, went through the charade of washing his hands to show that he was innocent of Christ’s blood. The ribald crowd shouted, “His blood shall be on us and on our children.” Matt. 27:25. Indeed it was. Terror ruled in Palestine, and in 70 A.D. the Second Temple was destroyed, and with it the spiritual economy of a people. Jesus described in chilling clarity in the Olivet Discourse how perilous that pending judgment would be.

All Christians must agree that our chief duty is to God, but if we are to carry out His law, we are to abide by the principles of Scripture. And if we abide by the principles of Scripture, we are to do that which is practicable to choose for ourselves as magistrates those people who will exhibit good to all people, and enable God’s people to “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Tim. 2:1 – 2. Bonhoeffer wrote, “The church must confess that she has not proclaimed often or clearly enough her message of the one God who has revealed Himself for all time in Jesus Christ and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her evasiveness, her dangerous concessions. . . . She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was crying to heaven. . . . She has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. She is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of the lord Jesus Christ. . . . The church must confess that she has desired security, peace and quiet, possessions and honor. . . . She has not borne witness to the truth of God. . . . By her own silence she has rendered herself guilty of a failure to accept responsibility and to bravely defend a just cause. She has been unwilling to suffer for what she knows to be right. Thus the church is guilty of becoming a traitor to the Lordship of Christ.” Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Ethics, p. 117.

Indeed, “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Prov. 14:34. Bonhoeffer witnessed a church sit idly by while jingoistic antichrists took over a country, whipped it up into nationalistic fervor, and slaughtered Jew and Gentile alike. The people said, “‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace.” Jer. 6:14; 8:11; see also Ezek. 13.

VI.
CONCLUSION


Christians are at the very least permitted to vote, and may be required to minimally participate in this basic aspect of our political system. Nothing licentious or immoral is associated with the act of voting, and it is therefore allowable and unobjectionable. Bolstering this view, is the evidence that God has permitted fine and godly men in Scripture to work for pagan governments. Some people may feel especially convicted to not take part in the electoral process, and their consciences may force them to abstain from voting.

Although Christians enjoy great freedoms, they are called to do good unto all and to love their neighbors and enemies. Such a command compels the Christian to engage in activities to effectuate positive results for his countrymen.

In fact, Christians owe certain unalienable duties to the State, including the duty to submit to its authority and to pray for its leaders “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Tim. 2:1 – 2. Encouraging and acquiescing to rank sinful acts by government can lead to both national and personal judgment.

Years ago William F. Buckley wrote that it was the duty of conservatives to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” As history continues to move forward, Winthrop’s beacon will dim, and our dominance will fade. But like the conservative yelling stop at the march of liberalism, the Christian should not accept the downfall of America as a fait accompli, and instead should do his level best to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Gal. 6:10.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

another "brief" response

Okay cuz, let me begin with a disclaimer: the jabs are in good fun. Other than that, feel free to take what I say personally.

I do appreciate you posting your veritable cornucopia of words which, if nothing else, certainly serve to prove the point that knowledge is often eternally distant from wisdom (<-note the playful jab). By the standards of the political principles you say it is a Christian's duty and responsibility to act upon, well, Christ was a failure. He was a fool for not setting up an earthly kingdom and establishing a government which would produce the moral trickle-down effect you claim earthly government can achieve (if you don't claim it, you certainly hint at it). And Cuz, I know where you stand theologically, so I can't believe for a second that you think man has been endowed by his Creator with any "right" other than to go to Hell...I know that's the only right I've ever earned or deserved. So, as far as supporting that governmental ideal, well, I don't.

As for our responsibility to stand up to a government who would propogate the slaughter of the innocents, I point you to the only case where this has truly happened: Christ...the only innocent, delivered up by his own people, and slaughtered by the government, yet he made no answer for himself.

I'm sure you have experienced the urge to blurt out, "you just don't get it!", when you are conversing with someone whose calvinistic coffers of theological understanding are not quite full when they say (as they often indeed do....to quote your example here), "well, it's God who changes men's hearts, so I don't have to go evengelize". You used that as an example of what you see being the logical end of my point of view. So my response to you is, YOU JUST DON'T GET IT!

You began your diatribe by saying, "Let us begin where all questions of Christian duty should begin, the Bible"; if you began there, you certainly didn't linger long. You did provide some interesting historical perspective and praise of the governments of men (yes, God appointed those governments and leaders and purposed them to affect the lives of all, just as He did Pharoah and Ceasar and Hitler and the local governing authorities in the darkest jungles of Africa, who, according to scripture, have all been used to work together for good for those who love Him are are called according to His purpose...so I hold George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Adolph Hitler and Albert Phish all in equal places of honor). As to your assertion that I quoted no scripture, well, I did.

Render unto Ceasar the things which are Ceasar's, and unto God's the things that are God's.

Let me try to simplify this. My Rabbi would not spend His time changing the world from the top down, as governments intend to do. My Rabbi went to the sinners, straight to them, and changed their lives personally so that they were able to govern themselves. Show me a Christian who does that AS they are marking their initials next to a candidate, and I'll pat them on the back. Let me ask you (and whoever else is reading this) a question: how many girls have YOU stopped from getting an abortion? Not by picketing and screaming hate, and not by voting for someone who you hope will do the job for you, but by engaging them and loving them for who they are, regardless of what they will decide, and showing them that life and love are the most blessed gifts from God? How many have you invited to church after you found out they had an abortion? I have never voted in any election; I have stopped several girls from getting abortions, and I have done so by following the example of my Rabbi. Would my time have been better spent watching CNN? Would my time have been better spent waiting in line to cast a vote?

You say there's no empirical evidence for my claim that a state making abortion illegal would not decrease the abortions. In a very real sense, you are correct: the evidence was thrown out with the trash. I will not soften my rhetoric on this point, I will not abort my argument just because it seems harsh or pointed or bold. Oh so many Christians think I don't care about abortion because I don't vote, but the truth is that I care too much about it to waste time putting my hope in this wretched American government that is nothing close to what it began as or was intended to be. Sin is predictable, and so are the behaviors of those who practice it. People always find a way to sin, especially if you tell them not to do something (See Genesis 3). You state that my philosophy, or your understanding of it, means that we should legalize heroine or murder...don't you see the flaw in your logic, the flaw that affirms what I have been saying? Heroine and murder are already illegal, and it is still widely used and abused. These actions are evidences of what is in the heart, and what is in the heart is not controlled or stifled by ANY government of men. I know your counter argument, so no need to raise it here for my sake.

The real heart of the matter is this: Murder....don't murder; use heroine....don't use heroine; abort your fetus....don't abort your fetus. None of these courses of action will keep you out of Heaven, but all will get you into Hell. A well maintained government will only provide Hades with souls that may burn a little cleaner.

Again, if Christians would take the time they waste on supporting polititions and instead spend it actually doing what we are commanded to do, which is caring for the orphan and the widow, following the example of our Rabbi and engaging sinners and saved alike one-on-one and pouring our lives into them (paying our taxes along the way, for this is what belongs to Ceasar) then the state of the government wouldn't matter because you would have a people so engulfed in spreading the selfless love of Christ that they wouldn't have time to WORRY about economic growth, mortgages, tax increases or whether the person they voted for is effectively making people live lives that, according to the letter of the law, appear "Christian".

So, Old Glory and those who fly her high can have my taxes. But I will spend my time governing myself by the grace and guidance of God almighty, and hopefully people won't ask me how I voted, but will instead ask me to give an answer for the hope that I have. I put no confidence in princes, but wholly trust in God, and Him alone.

He gets my vote.

By the way.....it's good to hear from you Cuz!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A brief polemical reply to Treybur

Originally I was going to scribble a comment in response to Trey’s post on voting, but I fear it would be too long.

Let us begin where all questions of Christian duty should begin, the Bible.

I think we can agree up front that our life decisions should be based on Biblical principles, so we must first look to Scripture to see whether voting is either prohibited or endorsed.

Republics were not an option in the days of Israel, which was an amalgamation of a theocracy and monarchy, or in the days of the Roman Empire. Our system of government is not really contemplated in the Bible. Therefore, neither of us can point to decisive verses. We can, however, appeal to principles such as "do unto others," and "love thy neighbor as thyself." While I believe a close examination of such principles would reveal that a Christian should vote, I doubt you would agree that such verses and their like are applicable. Therefore, I will take a different tack.

Representative government, though experimented with by Greece and Rome, was made palatable to the West due to none other than Calvinist influence. Starting with congregational authority at the local church and moving toward voting on local magistrates, representative government is the product of ardent Protestants pushing back against tyranny. Loraine Boettner addresses this briefly in his The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. The thoughtful Abraham Kuyper has a wonderful lecture that touches on this as well, which can be found at the following link: http://www.kuyper.org/main/publish/books_essays/article_17.shtml?page=4.

Government, of course, is both good and bad. It is bad in the sense that the power it offers attracts ambitious men, who will necessarily look after themselves. In a representative democracy this is often a good thing because the ambitious man rises and falls based on the prosperity of the country or his State. However, it also opens the door wide for corruption and looting of the public till.

Yet government is a blessing from God, by which God tempers the anarchical tendencies of man, and prevents men from ruling over one another by brute force and intimidation. But for government, and the respect the public affords it, no man could feel secure in his property interests as he would constantly fear some brigand may take his car, his money, or boot him from his home. A world without government would destroy commerce by making it too risky to invest capital in any project for fear of mobs, stunt the arts, as people would not have time to devote to writing, painting, or composing, and fighting would be a staple of daily life. We must never forget, God Himself instituted governments.

Now, I’m certain that as a Calvinist you agree that God institutes government, but yet you say you should not vote.

In a representative democracy the people elect representatives to reflect their values, whether economic or moral (I would argue economic issues are all moral). In our representative democracy, the people elect a bicameral legislature and an executive, who in turn appoints judges. No allegiance is required on the voter’s part to any of the men and women of these offices. However, the Bible commands that we respect them and submit to their authority.

I want to briefly address your abortion reasoning, but the responsibility of a Christian to vote goes well beyond the so-called morality issues.

We have the options as Americans to influence those we put in office. By judicial fiat, our country has presided over a holocaust—a mass murder not only sanctioned by the state, but funded by its citizens.

Does the Bible teach that citizens should not attempt to stifle the state funded slaughter of innocents?

You argue, in response, that only the sale of wire hangers would increase: a morose claim. However, that is a dogmatic assertion and not a defensible argument. The state-sanctioning of any act gives it a color of rightness. That which is constitutional is felt by Americans to be moral as well, whether that’s burning a flag or creating “art” by draping the Virgin Mary in a gown of feces.

Through judicial imperialism we as a nation have said that the right to kill a fetus is one bestowed on us by our Creator, and a right which must be defended to the death. And how can we change the courts but that we vote?

Your argument concerning abortion is specious at best. You rightly note that only God changes men’s hearts, but ignore the fact that men are morally culpable for lives they take, and countries are judged by the collective morals of their people.

Further, the argument that says, essentially, we can’t change men’s hearts so don’t make abortion illegal, could be applied to any crime where life or property is taken. We can’t change men’s hearts so why punish a murderer? We can’t change men’s hearts, so why make heroine illegal? And so on. Appointing judges who fail to see in the penumbras and emanations of the Bill of Rights a right to have an abortion is not the same as asserting that governments can change hearts and minds; rather, it is an argument that this government has not secured a right to stop beating hearts and suck out the brains of the unborn.

Essentially, your argument about voting is the same as the hyper-Calvinist's argument about evangelism---"well, it's God who changes men's hearts, so I don't have to go evangelize."

There is no empirical evidence to suggest you’re correct in your assertion that if certain states make abortion illegal, then abortions would not decline. Unless you find some, then it would be prudent of you to soften your rhetoric on this point.

Next, voting at the local level affects how grievances will be heard by local judges. Do you want your fellow citizens to be judged by good, honest men, or conniving politicians? By voting and getting involved in local judicial elections you palpably influence how lives and property will be affected in coming years.

By voting for your local city council members you affect how zoning variances will be handled, how your local taxes will be spent, etc. This materially affects local business owners, and all local property owners.

By voting for your Representative in the House and your Senators you affect the defense of this country, which affects the lives of people. You affect the finances of this country, which affects commerce, the viability of businesses, etc.
You ignore by your stance the vital role the Church has played in this nation’s history. From ending slavery to the civil rights movement, the Church was instrumental in ensuring that all men are treated as though they have been created in God’s image. If religious people had stood on the sidelines, and permitted the irreligious to make all decisions how much longer would people own men in this country? The principled stand of Rhode Island at the ratification of the Constitution and the inclusion of the Bill of Rights is also worth noting, as this was a State of religious men seeking protection from a potentially tyrannical federal regime. And while the signers of the Declaration of Independence were by and large not orthodox, they knew they had to answer to people who were.

By the same token you ignore the history of nations whose freedom was secured by the irreligious and by those not respecting the religious beliefs of others. It was not the Huguenots who won independence in France, but enlightened secularists. That made all the difference in the history of our two countries.

In short, there is no clear verse in the Bible that says vote or don’t vote. But the evidence weighs in favor of taking an active role in our body politic to ensure that our laws enable a just society to flourish both commercially and religiously. And your dogmatic assertion that Christians should not vote has zero Biblical authority, which is presumably why you quoted none.

I close with the words of Calvin in his commentary on Samuel: “And ye, O peoples, to whom God gave the liberty to choose your own magistrates, see to it, that ye do not forfeit this favor, by electing to the positions of highest honor, rascals and enemies of God.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I didn't vote.....

Last Christmas I was driving from Durango, CO, to Albuquerque, NM, to catch a flight home to see my family and try to kill whatever crossed our paths in the woods with my brother. As you drive through the barren wastelands which are the Native Reservations, you can pick up infrequent radio stations. I happened to catch a signal from a Christian talk-radio program, so I listened to see whether verbal diamonds or detritus would grace the airwaves.

It seems one of the new favorite past-times of Evangelicals is to become infuriated during the Holy Season when they hear “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Kwanzaa” or “Happy Hanukah” and spread the holiday cheer by demanding that “Merry Christmas” is the only appropriate thing to say: like the King James Bible…if it was good enough for Jesus then it’s good enough for me! So this lady calls in and says, “I’m an African American woman and a Christian and I celebrate Kwanzaa and it’s not a religious thing for me; it’s more of a celebration of my past and my people’s history and it’s really just a matter of me taking pride in my heritage”.

There’s the rub.

Now, to be fair, my whole life I’ve never voted because I always felt I would be casting my vote for the candidate who (I thought ) would not fail as frequently at performing his Presidential duties as the other, to show my support for the lesser of two evils. Sorry, but I’ve got better things to do. And anyone who has had a high school government teacher (even if he was the football coach, which he usually is) should realize with minimal consideration that the President, for all practical purposes, is little more than the hood ornament on a Mercedes (or an El Camino); he’s not much more than a symbol (or perhaps he’s the airbag). It’s Congress (Congress includes both the HR and Senate) and the Judges who run this country. So IF I was ever going to become politically active, I would put my energies into facilitating either change or support of those branches of the government. But again, that was before I heard the Christian Talk-Radio Lady….back to the rub.

It was the phrase “taking pride in” which caught my attention. More specifically, it was that phrase used in the same sentence with “I’m a…Christian”. I saw the truth then (or rather was shown) as clearly as any truth of scripture that has been revealed to me. I know the Sunday school lesson about this. We all do. Jesus is our all, right? He’s all we need; we must decrease and He must increase; “I claim to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified”. And here was this woman’s voice invading my airspace saying that she was a Christian but that she also takes pride in something other than Christ! NO, NO NO! That’s what my heart cried. And like all good Christians I felt I should call the radio show right away and share this with Ms. Kwanzaa and the world. But then God turned my accusatory finger right back at me…

About two months ago I began my Sunday school class with two questions to break the ice (though to most I think they felt like I was breaking their faces): Should Christians vote (yes or no), and why (please limit your responses to no more than 2 sentences)? So one by one we went around the room. There were, of course a slough of “yes's", one “I don’t think it matters”, and two “no’s” (one of which was mine). The “yes” folk had explanations like “it’s our duty” and “this was founded as a Christian nation” (oh how those history teachers have failed so many) and “as Christians we need to stand up to abortion and make it illegal” (my response to this particular individual was, “making abortion illegal won’t stop abortion; it will only increase the sale of wire clothes hangers; the government doesn’t change anyone’s heart…only Christ does that” – he did not return to class). But one consistent response I got was, “I guess I never really thought about it”.

Yes, we are to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. Right before Jesus says that, He asks them to look at whose image is on the coin. This, according to Christ, is how you can tell what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God: by which image is visible. So let me ask you……

Whose image is on your life?
To whom does your allegiance belong?
To whom does your duty belong?
To whom does your time belong?
To whom does your passion belong?
To whom does your support belong?
To whom does your vote belong?
How much time do you think Christ (you know, the one you call Rabbi, the one who you say you wish to emulate (or is it immolate?) would have sat and analyzed CNN and which candidate was lying the least? How long would He have spent discussing and debating the foreign policy of a particular candidate? How long would He have spent waiting in line to show which man had His support?

Why didn’t I vote? Because I don’t think Christians should vote.
Why don’t I think Christians should vote? I’ll answer this with a question I’ve already asked: Whose image is on your life?

Please go to http://www.itotallymissedthepoint.com/ to cast your vote on whether or not you agree……

Monday, November 10, 2008

On my reading of "The Gay Science"

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
My reading of Nietzsche is done.

He wrote, "God is dead,"
And meant what he said,
Into the pit he'll be thrown.

Well, after six grueling weeks, I have completed my reading of The Gay Science by Nietzsche. The following things linger in my mind after reading this book.

1. "In all religions, the religious man is the exception." Chew on that a while.

2. Nietzsche’s explication of love as a lust for possession, whether it be of property or person. How often do I "love" in this manner? When I first read his treatment of this topic, I was sullen as I reflected on my own selfishness. We could all use a bit of that, I think.

3. Nietzsche seems overly concerned with not being viewed as a jingoistic German, and instead wants to be seen as a European. I bet Freud would have fun with that. Perhaps he did?

4. Boy! Does Nietzsche ever despise Christianity?!

5. Nietzsche observed, wrongly, that Christianity is a religion of "Thou shalt not," whereas Buddhism is a religion that pushes people to do certain "good" things—he, therefore, views Buddhism as much greater than Christianity, but they’re both poppycock to him, so I’m not sure why he felt the need to make the distinction. Nietzsche views virtually all religions, especially pantheism, which he seems to have a fondness for, as superior to Christianity and its notion of sin. How often do I treat Christianity as a call to abstain from sin, rather than a religion whereby I am to positively go about my business of glorifying Christ?

6. Must German authors be so difficult to read? How can I be expected to revere the literature of a people who shun paragraphs? I've read four German authors that I can think of off the top of my head: Hitler's Mein Kampf, Kafka's The Trial and Metamorphisis, Nietzsche's The Gay Science, and Luther's The Bondage of the Will. They're all highly difficult (couldn't finish der Fuhrer, but mainly on account of editing (no good Aryan editors?) and because I didn't need to read the whole thing to get the point). Kafka's imagination makes up for the difficult syntax. Nietzsche was a beat-down at times. Luther---ever the exception. Though, perhaps I'm just a romantic in my view of Luther to be too critical of his writing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election 2012

Well, four years have passed since The One was ushered into office with much fanfare, filling Young America, Black America, Brown America, Professorship America, and Journalist America with aspirations of change and a new world order centered around policies making outcomes fair for all. Now, in 2012, those dreams, which were before so vivid that they seemed to come alive, have now faded to the background of history.

We were in a financial crisis, and something needed to be done. Obama, armed with a liberal House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof Senate, proposed his now infamous "tax cut on 95% of Americans." The dirty-little secret at the time was that 40% of Americans pay no income tax at all. In essence, a new welfare program was created, a welfare program not targeted to people in need, but simply people who by their mere existence became entitled to thousands of dollars under the guise of a "tax cut." Wildly popular in the African American community, and among burger-flipping college students, these tax cuts temporarily stimulated the economy. However, unintended consequences abounded.

What Obama apparently didn’t realize is that if the economy is flooded with free cash, the price of goods rises. This creates inflationary pressures that causes the "free money" in the pocket of the putative tax payer to simply fly away.

Compounding this problem was the new "corporate patriot tax." This plan, sponsored by Maxine Waters in the House, called on corporations to pay a flat 25% tax on all earnings. Shockingly, stock prices plunged on the passage of the tax hike, jobs went overseas, and prices increased further. After all, corporations exist because they have customers, and in a corporation’s eyes, customers exist to pay the corporation’s bills, tax bills included. And so inflation continued, bullied by both "free money" and the patriot tax.

Two quarters of negative GDP growth of less than one percent, quickly turned into six consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth ranging from 1.8% to 3.5%. Obama and Congress blamed "the failed policies of George Bush," and begged us to be thankful that they were in charge now. "After all," they said, "if McCain had won you’d have all this inflation without that extra money in your pocket, and corporate greed would still rule the day."
Unemployment in November of 2008 was around 6%. It climbed to 9% at the beginning of 2010, and most analysts believe it would have broken 10% had the GOP not swept into Congress that year.

One of the most promising aspects of Obama’s hope was green energy, which turned out to be his Moby Dick. 2009 saw the passage of the now infamous "cap-and-trade" system of carbon credits. Businesses were allotted by The One a certain amount of carbon emissions. To the chagrin of Conservatives, Obama described his plan as "nondiscriminatory," and said that "there would be no affirmative action for coal plants and carbon-based businesses." Energy companies were forced to purchase additional credits from wind companies, and businesses that used little or no carbon emissions. This made T. Boone Pickens a near-trillionaire and was initially lauded by all organizations with even a hint of green.

Apparently, nobody realized that half of our electricity comes from coal, and most of the rest from natural gas. Electricity prices soared, causing Americans to bear the heat in the summer and suffer cold in the winter. Obama would seek to save the day, however, and remedy the crisis—not by repealing the draconian cap and trade system, but by granting tax credits to those over 65 and all families making under $60,000 per year so that they could pay their utility bills. In spite of the best of intentions, voiced by the personification of Hope, no great technological advancements were made in terms of energy production. Wind-generated electricity still cannot be stored, and Martha’s Vineyard still refuses to permit unsightly windmills in their precious harbor. Again, the Luddite policies of the Bush Administration were blamed. Millions, especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, became unemployed, almost overnight, because demand for coal dried up so quickly in the wake cap and trade.

One promise not kept by Obama was for a prompt exit from Iraq. Citing "the generals on the ground," and "the need for stability in the region," Obama demurred from lofty campaign promises assuring a quick timetable for withdrawal from Babylon. Instead, we were told that "due to the failed strategies employed by the Bush Administration, against [Obama’s] advice," America was required to keep her troops and treasure in the desert for a while longer. Billions more were spent, and billions more were borrowed.

There were some legislative successes, however. Obama signed into law the new "fairness doctrine," which left only Rush Limbaugh as the lone conservative voice on nationally-syndicated talk radio. The "Children Safety Act," passed in March of 2009, ensured that all firearms sold from now on will be limited to two rounds of ammunition and must either be unassembled or have a child-safety lock on it at all times when not in use. As one writer quipped that Obama’s gun-control policy had two parts, "Part One: Obama asserts that the right to bear arms is a right guaranteed by our Constitution, subject to reasonable regulation. Part Two: all regulation is reasonable." (I read that in National Review, but can’t recall the author.) The "Freedom to Vote Act" was also passed in the first 100 days of Obama’s administration, which gave felons the right to vote in federal elections so long as they are either on parole or through with their prison sentence.

Nothing has overshadowed the tenure of Obama more, however, than the revelation of his affair with a white Congressional aide. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton quickly rose to his defense, smothering the airwaves with claims that if the paramour had been black, nobody would care, and that the only reason Obama was in hot water was because the affair was with a white woman. Privately, however, both men were caught on tape expressing their disgust with Obama’s betrayal. America was told by the talking-heads that the affair should be ignored, and averred with Jackson and Sharpton that the only reasons we cared was out of prurient voyeurism and latent racism.

After a hard-fought nomination process, Obama held off a challenge by Hillary Clinton to serve once again as his party’s nominee. In the primary, Obama won minorities by a rate of 87% to 13%. Hillary won whites 75% to 25%. Due to the demographics of the Democratic base, Obama won in the end, though the Democratic aversion to winner-take-all primaries caused the nomination process to once again last well into the summer.

The Republicans have tapped another boring white guy, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, to be their nominee. Two days before the election, he’s polling at 53 percent to Obama’s 44.