Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Christianity–Just Socialist Politics

This is Not Fiscal Conservatism. It’s Just Politics.

by Jim Wallis 02-24-2011

The current budget and deficit debate in America is now dominating the daily headlines. There is even talk of shutting down the government if the budget-cutters don’t get their way. There is no doubt that excessive deficits are a moral issue and could leave our children and grandchildren with crushing debt. But what the politicians and pundits have yet to acknowledge is that how you reduce the deficit is also a moral issue. As Sojourners said in the last big budget debate in 2005, “A budget is a moral document.” For a family, church, city, state, or nation, a budget reveals what your fundamental priorities are: who is important and who is not; what is important and what is not. It’s time to bring that slogan back, and build a coalition and campaign around it.

Kent comments:

Note to Jim Wallace and his Sojourners:

What you advocate is not Christianity.  It’s just socialist politics.

The key error of Jim Wallis’ attempt to merge Christianity and socialism is revealed here.  Family, church, city, state, and nation are very different sorts of entities.  Wallis’ attempt to lump them all together is also an attempt to hide something very significant here.

Family budgets are voluntary.  Families can spend what they have, but as a family they cannot spend what other families have.  (Unless, for example, your mother’s name is Bonnie and your father’s name is Clyde.)

Churches can spend what their members contribute.  Churches, as such, cannot force their members to contribute nor can they (or at least should they) force others to give to them.

Governments (city, state, nation) are another matter.  They spend what they take by force.  The scope of governments must be very limited if there is to be any place for families or churches in society.  In this they are very different from families and churches.

This being the case, I can agree with Wallis that how the over-spending of governments is reduced is a moral issue.  The proper scope of government is a moral issue.  Governments will always over-spend when they engage in matters that are outside their proper scope.

So when our government over-spends, we need to think carefully about the limited range of things government should be doing.  We should then shrink government back to its proper role, and thus proper size, and therefore it proper budget.

It is not the proper role of government to make sure everyone tends toward economic equality.  The only way a government can do this is to be like a massive, powerful Bonnie and Clyde.  The problem is that this is evil.

Jim Wallis and his kin do not understand what governments are meant to do, and what they are NOT meant to do.  This is a moral issue.  And the Sojourner view of this issue is immoral.

It’s Mr. Jefferson, Again

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy. ... I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." --Thomas Jefferson

Kent comments:

I know that Mr. Jefferson and I would have had a never-ending debate about religion.  Still, I often find myself in political agreement with the Sage of Monticello.  I agree with what is stated above.  It is amazingly current in its application.

And yet, I do not blame the ‘parasites’ entirely.  All the unnecessary ‘machinery of government’ under which we now suffer came about because voters consented to it.

Were we lied to, tricked, and manipulated in the process?  Of course.  But part of the job of free citizens in a republic is to detect and overcome deception.  When we allow structures to be created and propagated which squander the ‘labors of the people’ it should not surprise us when many of the people put themselves in a position to receive these plundered goods.

So don’t just blame the parasites.  Most of us, in some way or other, ARE the parasites.  And all the possibilities for plunder by government happened because we consented.  Perhaps we will now withdraw that consent.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Respect for the Word of God

Treating the Bible as Sacred

Does how I care for my holy book say anything about me?
Janice Sheridan

[This takes place as the author visits a church in Pakistan]

When our driver let us out in front of the church building, I hastily set my Bible on the van floor and stepped out. . . At that moment, I began to question if I had become too casual and overly complacent in my treatment of the Word of God. . . No tossing Bibles on the floor after Sunday school. That would be disrespectful.

Kent comments:

I appreciate the sentiment behind this.  The author, while visiting a church in Pakistan, notices that the Christians there treat their Bibles with great respect, as Muslims do copies of the Koran.

The Word of God should be treated with great respect.  But the Word of God is not identical with the printed letters on the page of a copy of the Bible.  The Word of God is that collection of concepts formed by those words – and ‘words’ in this sense do not require printing to exist in the way that words exist.  They only require minds – God’s and ours.

The “book” which records and conveys this to us is a piece of technology.  Some think that the technology of the “codex” – pages bound on one edge which can be easily ‘turned’ – was the invention of, or at least first used extensively by, Christians.  Whatever the case is in regard to origin, the modern book is a piece of information storing and retrieval technology.

Should we be careful just how we treat a piece of technology which conveys the Word of God to us?  Perhaps, at least in some settings.  But we cannot reasonably push this idea too far.

When some version of the Bible is loaded onto a Nook or Kindle, does that device suddenly become worthy of some special physical treatment?  Does that change in some way when such device is no longer displaying a Bible version?  What if the Bible version is not currently being displayed, but is stored on the device as a file?  We could ask all the same questions about phones and PCs that can display the text of the Bible.

So I am not sure if placing a copy of the Bible on the floor of a van is a significant problem.  Apparently Islam takes this kind of view of the Koran.  But with all due respect, Islam holds many problematic views.  It is probably not surprising that this approach has influenced Christians in predominantly Islamic countries.  And I might respect such a view if I were visiting such a place.

But outside of cultures with somewhat weird views about such things, there is no good reason to think that placing any book on the floor is an insult to the Word of God.  A book, just like a PC, digital phone, or e-text reader, is a piece of technology.  None of these is “The Word of God.”

So how do we treat the Word of God with proper respect?  By taking the time and effort to try to understand it correctly.  By applying it correctly and trying to live in harmony with those applications.  By paying careful attention when it is being read in public.

I have witnessed this scene in a church:  people gather on Sunday for worship.  As they do loud music is playing.  Rather than listening, many of them shout to one another to be heard over the music.  During all this someone is reading the Bible aloud.  But few are paying attention, partly because it is difficult to hear what is being read.

It is this kind of thing that is disrespectful toward the Word God – not where you store your copy of the Bible.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Time, Chuck Failed

One Culture, Many Contributors
Why Multiculturalism Can't Work
By: Chuck Colson|Published: February 16, 2011 12:00 AM

Look at the United States. Our national motto is “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many, one.” Multiculturalism fails because it denies the need for the “one,” for unity, and in our case, for a shared commitment to the American creed: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Kent comments:

Colson is often insightful.  Sometimes, however, he gets a bit stupid, as we see here.

Our national motto has nothing whatsoever to do with so-called multiculturalism.  The “one” and the “many” that are the subject of our motto is the separate states uniting in a confederated, and then federated, central government.  It simply does not speak to the matter of “cultures.”

“Culture” is a very vague term and idea.  But any “cultures” that can endorse the idea of ordered political liberty should be able to coexist and even flourish under a political economy dedicated to protecting the God-given rights of individuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  In fact, given this protection of individual liberty, people might choose or even invent all sorts of “cultures” for themselves.

Colson is right to claim that some versions of ‘multiculturalism’ could threaten ordered liberty.  If part of your ‘culture’ involves a denial of our God-given rights, that ‘culture’ could threaten our liberty.  But that has nothing to do with our national motto.

This does bring up the interesting question which Colson does not explore in his article:  if we are devoted to the individual liberties of the Declaration, what do we do when some come among us who are devoted to the destruction of those liberties?  (What do you do when someone like that is elected President?)

In other words, how does a classically liberal society deal with those who come into its fold with illiberal ideas, especially when they attempt to put those ideas into practice?  That seems to be a question to which we have not developed much of an answer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Take Your Own Advice, Barack


Obama calls for peaceful response in Middle East


The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 15, 2011; 12:13 PM

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday slammed Iran for its harsh treatment of anti-government protesters and called on governments throughout the Middle East to avoid crackdowns on pro-democracy supporters.

"The world is changing," Obama said in a message he said was for "friend and foe alike" but which seemed directed to remaining autocratic leaders across the region. "You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity, and that if you are governing these countries, you've got to get out ahead of change, you can't be behind the curve."

Kent comments:

Can anyone not guess what I am going to say here?  People gather in Egypt and demand that the president step down.  Obama says he should do so immediately.

So Barack, old buddy, old pal – every time there is a Tea Party meeting everyone present would like to see you step down, over, out – somewhere.  Should you do so ‘immediately’?

“Autocratic leaders” – do they include those who impose unpopular policies on people, sometimes without as much as a vote by the legislature?  Need I list examples from Obama here?

There are plenty of people in the United States looking for “greater opportunity” – much greater than we will get with Obama policies in place.  Barack, maybe you should take your own advice.  Don’t get “behind the curve.”  Instead, “get out ahead of change.”

Resign today – preferably in the next five minutes.  Make that two minutes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It Struck Something or Other


Why Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem Struck a Nerve

Aguilera issued a statement last night about her version saying “I got so caught up in the moment of the song that I lost my place. I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through.”

Aguilera’s pop singing style has roots in soul, where the focus is sometimes less on words than on emotions. Sometimes lyrics get skipped or repeated in favor of finding the heart of whatever piece of music is being performed.

Of course there is such a thing as professionalism–and part of that is knowing the lyrics to the song you’ve been selected to perform. Aguilera has been caught between her desire to tap her passionate, creative soul–and the public’s expectation that artists respect certain boundaries when they offer up a song that represents American values.

Aguilera may be taking some flack now, but she has performed the National Anthem in the past, and will no doubt do so again.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a song that represents American freedom, so it makes sense that some musicians–like Aguilera–would take some liberties in performing it.

Kent comments:

It’s the Super Bowl, so who is really surprised?  It’s the big show, so, of course, no one can just deliver the national anthem.  (I have to pause to wonder why we feel compelled to have this performed at every sporting event.)  The whole history of this song and this event is enough to make me musically sick.

I suppose that when you think you must contort your face, distort your voice and your whole demeanor, and generally project this whole image as ‘soulful performer’ that you could easily forget not just the lyrics of the song you are singing, but even things like who you are, where you are, or maybe even what you are.

I know this runs against the whole showbiz idea, but I can appreciate someone who simply stands and delivers a song in good voice quality, on-key, with understandable lyrics.  But no one wants that, I know.

Unfortunately, this whole Super Bowl approach often shows up in church music these days.  People don’t have a clue how to sing because they are often too busy trying to emulate pop singers like Aguilera.  We are convinced, it seems, that good singing requires that you contort and distort your voice in hopes that you and your audience will be caught up in ‘emotions.’

A good song, delivered well in an appropriate setting can certainly evoke an emotional response.  But all those ‘goods’ and ‘wells’ must come first.  Last night at the Super Bowl, Christina struck, we might say, up against something.  That something was good music.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Flesh Is Present, But the Spirit Is Unwilling

Calvin and Hobbes

Kent comments:

Calvin reminds me here of something that I have seen often.  I have even seen it in myself.

Many students today are shoved, kicking and screaming, in effect, into ‘education.’  My observations are mostly in regard to higher education.  There is a significant number of students at most universities today who do not really want to be there.  Like Calvin, they are physically present (well, most of the time, or some of the time, at least) but their minds and spirits are far from academia.

It was during my generation, it seems, that Big Brother got the idea that everyone should ‘go to college.’  You don’t have to be around campus very long these days to see that this was a very bad idea.  There are many people at most colleges who should not be there.  They are not interested.  But they are funded by various governments and prodded by ‘educrats.’

I attended college one year when I was not really interested.  The results were depressing.  The next year my mind and spirit showed up, and the change could not have been more dramatic.

I taught college classes for several years.  Each semester it quickly became clear who wanted to be there, and who did not.  It wasn’t always just a matter of academic performance.  Sometimes those whose minds were present and active simply did not have the mental ability of some others.  But the effort was apparent.

Some people should not enroll in college immediately after high school because they are not yet mentally ready.  A delay is appropriate for these.

Others should never enroll.  It doesn’t mean they are deficient in any way.  It just means they are not interested in academics.

Adjusting our ‘cultural thinking’ on this matter will lead to less frustration (on the part of both uninterested students and those attempting to teach them), less wasted resources, and less burden from payments on pointless student loans.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hanlon’s Razor

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Kent comments:

It is sometimes difficult to know how to apply this to politics.  For example, consider all the continued hubbub about ‘carbon footprints’ and such matters.  Certain categories of politicians have picked up on this as a supposed reason to force all sorts of irrational behavior, all of which will make life much more difficult than it need be.

Malice or stupidity?  Tough call, isn’t it?  Of course, this will vary from politician to politician.  If it is stupidity, one shudders to think of what this implies for the condition of the republic.  If it is malice, that’s even worse!

Of course, one good argument in favor of political liberty is that it limits the damage that can be done by either stupidity or malice.  If you (stupidly) want to generate your power from highly inefficient sources like solar panels of wind turbines, you are free to do so.  What you are not free to do is to force your stupid decision on others.

The need to consider malice is greatly diminished when there is liberty.  While people can harbor malice, their power to act on it is severely reduced where liberty reigns.

The very fact that there is a ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ is a good reason for liberty.

Now, in another area (religion) it is likely that much of what goes on should be attributed to stupidity.  But that’s another story.