Sunday, February 27, 2005

Machen v. Bennett and the "Christian Right"

Intellectual poverty and worldliness are pervasive in contemporary evangelicalism. Sure, we have an abundance of “Christian” books, periodicals, websites, etc. Heck, Joel Osteen’s Schulleresque musings are on the NY Times bestseller list as I write. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” has sold over 20 million copies to date, and Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye have sold more than 62 million books from their apocalyptic ‘Left Behind’ series. Osteen, Warren, and LaHaye? I guess we aren’t exactly talking Calvin, Spurgeon, and Hodge!

Worse than the pulp fiction and theological greul being served up in mass quantities is the full-fledged embrace of pragmatism and desertion of Christian leaders from orthodoxy. In their zeal to prop up a Christ-professing president, evangelical leaders have become an appendage of the Republican Party, effectively sanctioning torture and ignoring centuries of Christian thought to endorse a war of dubious morality.

In such times, it is always comforting to be a Calvinist, with the understanding that God is in control and working His will to fruition. Ultimately, our concern must be obedience and faithfulness—always aware that ultimately we participate in Christ’s victory. Further, we have God’s Word, and He has graciously given us a remnant of faithful men to follow, and 2,000 years of church history as a reservoir from which to draw strength.

Of late, I have been spending time in the company, so to speak, of J. Gresham Machen. Machen was a prominent Presbyterian theologian of the last century whom H. L. Mencken praised for “his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist.”

Machen was a thoughtful opponent of contemporary public education, and in an age where religious conservatives are locked hand-and-glove with neoconservative statists, it will be helpful to consult a fully-orbed, hard-hitting Christian assessment of education.

Machen opposed federal funding of education and the creation of a federal department of education. He was concerned that uniformity in education would be a “calamity.” Machen said:

Let us return to the "educators" and their general demand either for a Federal department of education or for Federal aid to the states. Such demands are in the interests of uniformity in the sphere of education. There should be, it is said, a powerful coordinating agency in education, to set up standards and encourage the production of something like a system. But what shall we say of such an aim? I have no hesitation, for my part, in saying that I am dead opposed to it. Uniformity in education, it seems to me, is one of the worst calamities into which any people can fall.

How does Machen’s concern for centralization measure up with the new "conservative" view of education? Catholic neocon and former Democrat Bill Bennett sallied into Washington in the mid-80’s and rode roughshod over Reaganites who at least paid lip-service to eliminating Jimmy Carter’s Department of Education, which was a sop to the NEA. Fellow neocon educarat Chester Finn said that Bennett, “moved into the Education secretary's corner office and found it a bully pulpit for nudging, criticizing, surprising, and leading. People stopped talking about scrapping the agency and instead began asking whether all those federal programs were having the impact that they should and whether a bit more sunlight on the education system's results might not help.”

Bennett, who once said, "You cannot be cynical about government without becoming cynical about America," was described thusly by Catholic University professor Claes Ryn:

As is rather typical of neoconservatives, Bennett did not want to reduce federal power but use it for purposes he deemed salutary, such as inculcating virtue and American principles. Bennet actually sought a much-expanded federal role in education. In early 1988 he began pushing for a 21 billion-dollar budget for his department in the coming fiscal year, fully 50 percent more than the Reagan administration had requested for the current year. Bennett proposed the education plan that eventually became "America 2000" . . . . Bennett wanted to set national standards of education . . . . The program of nationalization, initiated by a putative "conservative," helped disarm conservatives who were opposed to the U.S. Department of Education and created an opening for additional federal education initiatives. Bennet's plan made it much easier for the Democrats to introduce . . . further nationalization of education.

President Bush has implemented Bennett’s statist education goals with the ‘No Child Left Behind Act,’ imposing national standards on local communities while increasing federal spending on education by 70%.

Bennett and his Christian sychophants also believe education can be reformed if students are simply allowed to pray and read their bibles in public settings, study religion in school as something integral to "civic virtue," or be inculcated with “character education.” Machen would beg to differ.

Here is Machen on bible reading in public schools:

What other solution, then, has the public school to offer for the problem which we are considering just now? Well, many people tell us that the reading of the Bible can be put into the public schools. Every educated man, we are told, ought to know something about the Bible; and no intelligent, broad-minded person, whether a Christian or not, ought to object to the bare reading of this great religious classic. So in many places we find the Bible being read in public schools. What shall we say about that?

For my part, I have no hesitation in saying that I am strongly opposed to it. I think I am just about as strongly opposed to the reading of the Bible in state-controlled schools as any atheist could be.

For one thing, the reading of the Bible is very difficult to separate from propaganda about the Bible. I remember, for example, a book of selections from the Bible for school reading, which was placed in my hands some time ago. Whether it is used now I do not know, but it is typical of what will inevitably occur if the Bible is read in public schools. Under the guise of being a book of selections for Bible-reading, it really presupposed the current naturalistic view of the Old Testament Scriptures.

But even where such errors are avoided, even where the Bible itself is read, and not in one of the mistranslations but in the Authorized Version, the Bible still may be so read as to obscure and even contradict its true message. When, for example, the great and glorious promises of the Bible to the redeemed children of God are read as though they belonged of right to man as man, have we not an attack upon the very heart and core of the Bible's teaching? What could be more terrible, for example, from the Christian point of view, than the reading of the Lord's Prayer to non-Christian children, as though they could use it without becoming Christians, as though persons who have never been purchased by the blood of Christ could possibly say to God, "Our Father, which art in Heaven"? The truth is that a garbled Bible may be a falsified Bible; and when any hope is held out to lost humanity from the so-called ethical portions of the Bible apart from its great redemptive core, then the Bible is represented as saying the direct opposite of what it really says.

On teaching “religion:”

As for any presentation of general principles of what is called "religion", supposed to be exemplified in various positive religions, including Christianity, it is quite unnecessary for me to say in this company that such presentation is opposed to the Christian religion at its very heart. The relation between the Christian way of salvation and other ways is not a relation between the adequate and the inadequate or between the perfect and the imperfect, but it is a relation between the true and the false. The minute a professing Christian admits that he can find neutral ground with non-Christians in the study of "religion" in general, he has given up the battle, and has really, if he knows what he is doing, made common cause with that syncretism which is today, as it was in the first century of our era, the deadliest enemy of the Christian Faith.

What, then, should the Christian do in communities where there are no Christian schools? What policy should be advocated for the public schools?

I think there is no harm in advocating the release of public-school children at convenient hours during the week for any religious instruction which their parents may provide. Even at this point, indeed, danger lurks at the door. If the State undertakes to exercise any control whatever over the use by the children of this time which is left vacant, even by way of barely requiring them to attend upon some kind of instruction in these hours, and still more clearly if it undertakes to give public-school credits for such religious instruction, then it violates fundamental principles and will inevitably in the long run seek to control the content of the instruction in the interests of the current syncretism. But if -- as is, it must be admitted, very difficult -- it can be kept free from these evils, then the arrangement of the public-school schedule in such manner that convenient hours shall be left free for such religious instruction as the parents, entirely at their individual discretion, shall provide, is, I think, unobjectionable, and it may under certain circumstances be productive of some relative good.

On “character education:”

we find proposed to us today what is called "character education" or "character-building". Character, we are told, is one thing about which men of all faiths are agreed. Let us, therefore, build character in common, as good citizens, and then welcome from the various religious faiths whatever additional aid they can severally bring. Let us first appeal to the children on a "civilization basis" -- to use what I believe is the most recent terminology -- and then let the various faiths appeal to whatever additional motives they may be able to adduce.

What surprises me about this program is not that its advocates propose it; for it is only too well in accord with the spirit of the age. But what really surprises me about it is that the advocates of it seem to think that a Christian can support it without ceasing at that point to be Christian.

In the first place, when this program of character-education is examined, it will be found, I think, to base character upon human experience; it will be found to represent maxims of conduct as being based upon the collective experience of the race. But how can they be based upon the collective experience of the race and at the same time, as the Christian must hold, be based upon the law of God? By this experiential morality the reverence for the law of God is being broken down. It cannot be said that the results -- even judged by "civilization" standards (if I may borrow the terminology of my opponents for a moment) -- is impressive. The raging tides of passion cannot successfully be kept back by the flimsy mud-embankments of an appeal to human experience. It is a feeble morality that can say nothing better for itself than that it works well.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Other News

According to this article, in some Nebraska school districts, up to 1/3 of students are learning English as a second language. This immivasion has provoked some white parents into enrolling their children in smaller rural schools. Look for Nebraska lawmakers to try and thwart such racism.

Looks like schism may be in the cards within the Anglican Communion. We should be praying for our sane brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church and pray for revival there, but in truth, it is probably time for them to leave that apostate church behind.

Glenn Plummer, outgoing chairman of the National Religious Broadcasters, says the Israeli's shouldn't give up even an inch of land. "It is my opinion that Israel needs to hang on to the land that they have and not give it up. If [the Palestinians] want a state, let it be in Jordan," said Plummer. Perhaps since Mr. Plummer will be in need of a job he can be made a special American envoy to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Hal Lindsey is having a party! He claims that the Sanhedrin (remember those guys!) is getting back in business and a rebuilt temple is just a matter of time. I'm no expert in theology, particularly the complex arcana of dispensational eschatology charts, so I'll just direct you to piece here by a historic premillenialist and another by preterist author Gary DeMar. (See also DeMar's response to a critic.)

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I've seen very little written about the administration's shenanigans in terms of manipulating the media by handing out federal largesse to sympathetic members of the press corps like Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher. Now I see that a gay prostitute, and apparently a neocon, was cavorting around the White House. Raimondo wants to know who gave "Jeff Gannon" access the press pool and for what purpose?

Clearly part of the scheme was to lob softball questions at a beleaguered White House press secretary facing a barrage of pointed questions about the war and the Bush administration's many scandals. However, the idea was also to debunk and distract attention away from the questions that were beginning to be raised not only about the Plame matter, but also about the series of outright fabrications that represented a great deal of this administration's case for going to war. That case had been made by influential neocons now facing scrutiny from Congress and the Justice Department, and Gannon served as their personal pitbull, going after Wilson and other debunkers of the neocons' war myth.

The Tale and the Dog in Iran

According to Philip Giraldi of Cannistraro Associates, Iranian officials have started making contingency plans in the event of a U. S. attack. An extensive counter-attack against Israel, American military bases in the Middle East, and potential terror attacks in Europe are all on the agenda. There is also unconfirmed intelligence that Iran has convinced the North Koreans to arm Iranian missiles with nuclear warheads.

Mr. Bush and the neocons appear set on provoking confrontation and driving Iran and other “rogue states” into something of an alliance. Seymour Hersh has reported and Giraldi confirms that U. S. special-forces are already active in Iran, directing members of the Saddam Hussein supported Iranian dissident group Mujaheddid-e Khalq (MEK).

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter says that the president has already signed off on an aerial assault of Iran to be carried out in June. That would explain the increased use of U. S. drones flying over Iran to begin testing Iranian air defenses.

Why the rush to do something about Iran? Israel! According to the Rowan Scarborough, “Israel has been privately pressing Washington to solve the Iran nuclear problem in a hint that Tel Aviv may be left with no choice but to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, defense officials say.” Before the Iraq war, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon said the U. S. should "March to Tehran the day Baghdad falls." Who is the tale and who is the dog? Scarborough continues:

Tel Aviv's concerns are one reason the Bush administration in the past year has ratcheted up its rhetoric and its intelligence collection on Iran's clandestine program to build nuclear weapons, including surveillance flights by unmanned U.S. planes. The officials said they think President Bush, who has adopted a policy of pre-emption to prevent terrorists from obtaining atomic arms, is on a course to take military action before he leaves office in 2009.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Still Safer?

In a recent post on Iraq, I mentioned a report by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA's think tank, which concluded that Iraq had become "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills" for those who will eventually disperse to other countries.

In testimony last week, CIA chief Porter Goss confirmed the NIC findings. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that, "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists."

Goss went on to say, "These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate panel that American "policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment." Indeed, Jacoby concluded, "Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world." Jacoby also testified that the insurgency in Iraq was growing stronger and more sophisticated. Obviously Goss and Jacoby hate America and are undermining national morale and the will of our fighting men. I say throw them in the Bastille!

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Capitol Hill, Don Rumsfeld said he has no idea how large the insurgency may be, and even if he did he wouldn't discuss the matter with nosy members of Congress.

Richard Myers jumped in and said that foreign fighters represent a very small, indeed miniscule part of the insurgency. Did he mean to say that we really aren't battling al-Qaida in Iraq? Does he hate America, too? Quick, someone call Tony Blankley and Sean Hannity.

The truth is that the Pentagon has no idea how large the insurgency has become. Rumsfeld himself pointed to the problem in an October, 2003 memo, where he wrote:

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?
It appears that we still lack the necessary "metrics" to gauge success and failure in Iraq.

You would think that Mr. Bush might have stumbled across these words from Jesus in Luke 14 during one of his morning devotionals before watching 'Sport's Center':

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?"

So what are the costs so far? More than 1,400 American dead and 10,000 wounded; between 15-100,000 dead Iraqis; $300 billion and rising; an incalculable loss in U. S. moral authority.

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's invade Syria and Iran, too!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Conservative Media?

In the Februaray 14th issue of The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan celebrates the fall of Dan Rather and provides a brief history of the rise of the "conservative" media counter-establishment. Pat rehashes the emergence of right-wing punditry on “all-news” cable television food-fight shows, such as ‘Crossfire’ and its progeny, and also discusses the rise of talk-radio, Fox News, and the emerging blogosphere. Pat contends that “Conservative perseverance exposed the liberal bias, and technology killed the monopoly.”

On the surface, there is something to be said for Pat’s argument. There is certainly some good that arisen from Fox News and the phalanx of conservative and Christian-oriented media, from talk shows and weblogs to magazines.

But overall, the state of the conservative media is dismal. Rush Limbaugh, for example, sprang to the defense of Jim McGreevey when the former NJ governor came out of the proverbial closet. Limbaugh and other conservative media personalities are also drunk with the sprit of Jacobinism, and have become hard-core warmongers—there is no other word for it. Top evangelical media and spokesmen have defended torture and other “conservative” evangelicals have joined arms with the Christian left, singing Koom By Ah all the way, in endorsing global redistribution. Washington Times editorial page editor, ‘McLaughlin Group’ regular, and syndicated columnist Tony Blankley wants to send administration critics to the pokey. Even intelligent conservatives like George Will have heralded the emergence of Goldwaterism in the political success of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, the paleocon, antiwar right is accused of being unpatriotic and anti-Semitic.

This is conservatism?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Giving Israel the Green Light

Just hours before the beginning of Bush-Cheney, Part II, the Veep was on the Don Imus show. Perhaps with the early hour, Cheney had not yet consumed a cup of coffee and was a tad off his rocker as a result. In any event, during the interview, Cheney gave Israel the green light to attack Iran's "nuclear infrastructure." The Dickster told Imus that, "Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards." Cheney went on to say, "We don't want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it." Evidently, he's forgotten that we are already fighting a proxy war on behalf of Israel. Cheney also pointed directly to the "threat" posed by the Iranians: "You look around the world at potential trouble spots, (and) Iran is right at the top of the list."

Cheney's remarkable comments prefigured similar remarks by the president. When asked if the U.S. would back Israeli attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities, the president said, "Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."

OK, so while Israel refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and does not allow inspections of its weapons facilities, Iran has been a signatory of the NPT since 1970, subject to intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Gordon Prather notes that in the wake of American zaniness in Iraq, the Iranians have gone out of their way to avoid being attacked. Prather writes:

More than a year ago, after watching what Bush did to Iraq, Iran voluntarily subjected itself to an intrusive go-anywhere, see-anything Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Under the Additional Protocol, activities and sites that either did not need to be declared at all, or needed to be declared only shortly before operations involving "special nuclear materials" began, must now be declared while still in the planning stage. Iran volunteered to temporarily freeze its gas-centrifuge research, development, and production program.

Any past or present violations of Iran's Safeguards Agreement was to be reported to the IAEA Board of Governors. If and only if the Board decided the violations amounted to a violation of the NPT itself was the Board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council for possible action.

The IAEA has now visited every site the Iranians have declared under the Additional Protocol, as well as at least two sites the U.S. suspected should have been declared but weren't. Iran had also given the IAEA permission to review its import and export records going back at least a decade.

Of course, those pinkocommielibs at IAEA weren't convinced that Saddam had a burgeoning weapons program, either.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Dow's Digest

For various reasons, I have been unable to post much new material recently. If you are a relatively new visitor to Dow Blog, and would like to read some of my short essays, click here. While you are at my website, please feel free to take a look around. Dow's Digest is intended to be a resource for those interested in news and commentary, the issues of the day, theology and apologetics, and Dow family fun. If you find typos or other editing errors, or would like to suggest links, please post in the comment section or feel free to email me. Thanks

I am hoping that by March I will be able to post original material on a more regular basis. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Web Surfing on a Saturday Morning

Before a day of playing with the kids, changing diapers, and trying to straighten up the house before grandma and grandpa visit, I wanted to direct my readers (both of you out there) to some interesting stuff I stumbled across this morning.

Dave Black writes an interesting essay on the church. Dave provocatively asks, "Why do so many of our congregations look for potential leaders outside of their own ranks instead of raising and training their own men for pastoral leadership?" That raises an interesting question: Are seminaries, under the control a central agency in the church, the best means of training the clergy. I don't really know enough to comment on this matter intellignetly, but it seems that ministerial education, like all other forms of education, has become increasingly centralized, with the consequent decline in quality. Increasingly, seminaries place less emphasis on systematics and languages, and more concern on "practical" and "managerial" aspects of ministry. Doesn't this inevitably lead to spiritual sterility?

Paul Craig Roberts is burning up the keyboard. Commenting on Donald Rumsfeld's silly statement that, "Partly it's [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing," Roberts writes:

You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq."

Tom Fleming reminds us that charity begins at home (scroll down for article).

Though I would like to see something done about the immigration problem, I agree with Ron Paul that HR 418, the REAL ID Act, is not the answer to the problem. This is one more example of what Sam Francis has termed anarcho-tyranny. Here you have a huge problem created by the state, which has willingly allowed its borders and sovereignty to be violated by lawbreakers. But instead of taking care of the problem at the border, the White House has asked for just an additional 210 border patrol agents while Congress has passed legislation that "establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens." Let freedom ring!

Charley Reese takes on the Bushies over our coming Iranian invasion. Charley is correct that it would only be rational for the Iranians to pursue nukes. Remember, Iran is surrounded by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and neighboring countries (Pakistan, India, and Israel) are also nuclear powers. Let's hope we aren't taken over the brink in Iran, because war there will make the Iraqi invasion look like a "cakewalk."

The Internet is crawling with interesting writing that would never see the light of day elsewhere. Here is a great little post at The House of Degenhart (here is another) and here is a nice little historical essay by pastor Bret McAtee. I especially like Bret's comparison of the GOP and the Girondists. If my experience is any example, Bret will find out that Americans don't know very much about European history (Jacobins, Jacobites--who is Jacob?).

The Derb sees the light. He says that Ted Kennedy is right--it's time to declare victory and bring the troops home. Derbyshire, and perhaps John O'Sullivan, represent the only serious thinking going on over NR, once the center of the conservative movement.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Iraq, Immigration, and More Republican Lies

The political parties that won the election in Iraq plan to vet their prime minister candidates with the nation's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric. That cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, will also oversee the drafting of the constitution if he is unhappy with the direction it's taking. I wonder if foreign policy expert Al Mohler still thinks the election represents a "massive vote of confidence in the possibility that Iraq will emerge from the oppression of Saddam Hussein and the experience of the recent war with a new government, a new hope, and a new faith in freedom."

The Mexican government has published a how-to guide for those that want to enter the U. S. illegally. Well, I hope they bring their "family values" with them.

Though the administration originally claimed it would only cost $400 billion over the next decade to cover the cost of Viagra and Levitra, it turns out that the actual cost will be $720 billion. Wow, these guys sure do have trouble getting their facts straight.

Thanks to Republicans, Planned Parenthood will get more of your money. Who said these guys were pro-life?

Sam Brownback: Mouthpiece for the Treason Lobby.

Shocking discovery. The Washington Post is reporting that George Bush is a proponent of gargantuan government. Indiana Congressman Mike Pence says:

"The Republican majority, left to its own devices from 1995 to 2000, was a party committed to limited government and restoring the balances of federalism with the states. Clearly, President Bush has had a different vision, and that vision has resulted in education and welfare policies that have increased the size and scope of government."

Great, Mike. By the way, didn't you vote to spend $720 billion on Viagra and Levitra?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Freedom, or Some Such Thing, Goes a Marchin'

A pastor gets a visit from the FBI after preaching sermons about abortion and homosexuality. Freedom is on the march!

Harry Browne breaks down the Iraqi elections. And some other good news from Iraq--Shiites are demanding an Islamic constitution. Yes, indeed, freedom is on the march.

In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen said that the Nazi occupation of France during World War II as "not especially inhumane." Paris prosecutors are looking into whether Le Pen's comments represent a "denial of crimes against humanity" or "apology for war crimes." If so, it's off to the pokey. Freedom--still marching.

"Pro-Family" hacks praise Bush State of the Union speech.

I've written about the spirit of Jacobinism among certain sectors of the "conservative movement." Now Scott McConnell, editor of The American Conservative, has written a hard-hitting piece on the "Hunger for Dictatorship." I think McConnell is a bit sanguine about the notion that freedom is on the move.

Here is a fine essay by Jim Pinkerton on George Wilson Bush.

The aging of populations around the world is likely to strain resources. In our full embrace of the culture of death, we will soon be reaping what we have sown.

Better late than never. The Dutch have come to the conclusion that they have an Islamic problem.

In case you've forgoteen, freedom is on the march.

U. S. troops protecting the borders--of Iraq!

Paul Craig Roberts is America's best columnist. Here is a little gem he wrote back in mid-December:

Bush’s war is achieving a Shi’ite unity that will redraw Middle Eastern boundaries and eliminate secular Muslim governments. Shi’ite unity will merge with the anti-American terrorists and drive all Western expatriates out of the Middle East. Indeed, the departures are already underway. Israel will be isolated, exposed to the consequences of its aggression against the Palestinians.

Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio crazies misinform us that we are kicking terrorist butt, but in non-delusional reality, we are unifying Islam and ending forever Western influence in the Middle East.

So Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher received federal largesse to serve as administration shills, and now it looks like the Pentgon might have ponied up cash to journalists to try and shape policy in the Balkans. It's all about freedom and democracy.

This is hilarious! Economist Hans Hoppe was lecturing and explained that homosexuals may have different time preferences than heterosexuals, due to the fact that they lead a riskier lifestyle, do not have children, etc. For this offense against human dignity, he was dragged before a group of Stalinists at UNLV. I had the privilege of sitting in on several lectures by Hoppe about a decade ago, and he is a man of great intellect who does not bow the golden calf of political correctness. As a result, he will spend his career at UNLV rather than the University of Chicago, or that bastion of academic freedom, Harvard. Like I said, freedom is on the march.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Evangelicals and Poverty

Evangelicals for Social Action sent an open letter to the president demanding a global war on poverty. Reading the list of signers, I noticed a few “conservative” evangelicals, including Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

According to Time Magazine, Land is “God’s Lobbyist,” and one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America. Land has a huge rolodex filled with the names of Washington insiders, not to mention an educational pedigree that includes stops at Princeton and Oxford, but he has evidently not taken an economics class.

The letter begins by emphasizing the moral imperative to clothe the naked and feed the hungry:

We write as evangelical leaders to urge a strengthened, expanded emphasis on overcoming hunger and poverty both here and abroad in the next four years. Precisely the commitment to moral values (including the sanctity of human life) that shape all our political activity compels us to insist as a nation we must do more to end starvation and hunger and strengthen the capacity of poor people to create wealth and care for their families.

ESA goes on to urge a greater commitment to foreign aid programs:

In 2000, virtually every nation on the planet approved the Millennium Development Goals that included a commitment to halve global poverty by 2015. But adequate funds to meet these goals are not being given, and the U. S. ranks absolutely last (as a percentage of GNP) among all developed nations in its governmental assistance to overcome global poverty. Our nation has fallen far short of the increase in health and development assistance that you proposed. The richest nation in history can and must grasp the opportunity to lead.

The ESA is also concerned about poverty here at home, and while they laud the work of charities and churches, they say that faith-based social services are just not doing enough:

But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance.

ESA urged the president to stare down austere members of congress (hee hee) who might want to take an axe to "effective" government anti-poverty programs:

We know there will be powerful pressures, from some places, as you and the Congress work to reduce deficit spending, to cut even effective programs for poor people. We pray that you will not allow this to happen. We pray that God will give you the strength to act like the righteous king in Ps. 72:12-13 and “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help, take pity on the weak and the needy, and save the needy from death.

Indeed, God's concern for the poor and helpless is manifested throughout the Bible. In fact, God's word has much to say about specific remedies for poverty.

But how is wealth created? The only way to achieve to broad-based wealth is by increasing productivity through capital investment. However, investment and capital accumulation don't spring from nowhere. To bear such fruit, a culture must first ingest principles of thrift and work based upon a future-orientation. In short, economic growth is a product of culture, and culture is a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird the culture. It is no accident that free-markets, capitalism and freedom constrained by law are largely confined to those parts of the world still borrowing off the spiritual capital accumulated by Christian ancestors.

Economist P. T. Bauer summarizes the ideology of pagan countries as:

lack of interest in material advance combined with resignation in the face of poverty; lack of initiative, self-reliance and of a sense of personal responsibility for the economic fortune of oneself and one's family; high leisure preference, together with a lassitude often found in tropical climates; relatively high prestige of passive or contemplative life compared to active life...belief in perpetual reincarnation which reduces the significance of effort in the course of the present life; recognized status of beggary, together with a lack of stigma in the acceptance of charity...

Bauer rightly concludes that these attitudes are "an integral part of the spiritual and emotional life" of millions, perhaps billions, of people. Moreover, irresponsible charity and foreign aid will only be reinforce these attitudes

Another assumption made in the ESA letter is that the state is the primary institution established by God to tackle poverty. But is that true? What are the legitimate functions of the state? According to the Bible, God established civil government for three primary reasons:

1) To protect human life that is made in the image of God: ““Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6);

2) To defend the law-abiding from lawbreakers: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:3-4);

3) To provide for a peaceful, orderly society: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Tim. 1:1-2).

Paul says that the civil authority is a servant of God (Rom. 13:4) who is responsible to enforce justice. The Biblical role for the state is limited to the administration of just laws to defend life and property, punish criminals, and defend the innocent. There is no implied right for the state to coercively take money from one party to give it to another in the name of social welfare.

Rather than dependence on the state, scripture commands responsibility on the part of individuals and families. Paul says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The basic social institution is the family, not the state, and when we are quick to call on non-family agencies, we undermine the responsibility of families to care for their own.

While the church has a duty to care for indigent widows (I Tim. 5:3) who do not have family, even that charity is restricted. A widow is placed on a list and must be engaged in charitable service. She must be "well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds" (I Tim. 5:10). Here we see that principle that charity must not subsidize irresponsibility (II Thess. 3:10). The further that charity is removed from familial and local institutions, the more likely the principle is to be abused.

In conclusion, the Bible commands individuals, families and churches to provide charity to the poor in as direct a way as possible. Likewise, there are obligations imposed on the recipients of charity. Such a framework rejects the notion that "thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote," and reinforces the principle of loving our neighbor through real, concrete action. Basic to such change is the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit and propagation of the gospel rather than the "redemptive" power of the state.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Pro-Life Confusion

In my limited experience with politics, I have been greatly distressed by the duplicity and expediency at the heart of the pro-life movement. But now there is just plain silliness afoot in the ranks. Andrew Sandlin, Mr. Relevance himself, says that Hillary Clinton has modified her abortion position and is "re-positioning for a run at the U. S. presidency" because she is "aware that with the resurgence of Christian faith in the cultural arena, it is no longer likely that a vocal pro-choice (= pro-abortion) candidate can be elected president."

Meanwhile, Gloria Feldt stepped down as president of Planned Murderhood. Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee, greeted Feldt's departure with hosannas, hoping that it indicates that abortion supporters think they have lost the battle. Franz says, "Perhaps the clear evidence that the majority of the American people are shifting in a pro-life direction has affected the thinking of the people . . . in the organization."

Despite all of this happy-talk, Scott Richert shows that abortion has risen during the Bush presidency.

Am I missing something?

Doug Wilson on Iraq

Hallelujah! A Christian pastor writing sensible things about Iraq. Check out Doug Wilson here:

Over the centuries, Christian theologians (beginning notably with Augustine) have developed criteria under which war may be undertaken. There are two basic categories. First is jus ad bellum -- the circumstances under which it is appropriate to go to war, and jus in bello, the standards of conduct within war itself. For the most part, with certain notable exceptions I believe our military does well in fighting in a way that lines up with jus in bello (e.g. not executing prisoners, not attacking civilians as a principal target, etc.). But on the criteria for war ad bellum, we have it all gummed up. Such standards include 1. having a just cause, 2. an appropriate authority declaring the war, 3. having a righteous intention, 4. having a reasonable chance of success, and 5. having proportionality between the end sought and the means used. Out of these criteria, we meet the fourth one, and perhaps the fifth. In my view, we fail on the first three.

The Iraq Election: An Assessment

In his commentary on the Iraqi election, Baptist theologian Albert Mohler assured readers that freedom is on the march. Mohler writes that, “while the pessimists in Western nations may be embarrassed by their empty predictions of a failed election, the response in other Arab capitals should be far more dramatic. The autocratic despots of the Arab world must surely see this election as a sign that time is running out. Once freedom is set loose in the Middle East, it will not stop at the borders of Iraq. It will eventually make its way across the Middle East, the gulf states, and North Africa.” Mohler goes on to say, “Iraq did feel the force of freedom on Sunday--and that force was felt not only by freedom's friends, but its enemies as well. That noise you hear is the sound of autocrats shuddering.”

Actually, I don’t think that sound in the distance is the shuddering of autocrats. And I’m pretty sure we aren’t hearing the faint cry of freedom, democracy, and constitutionalism being birthed in Baghdad. No, on the contrary, what you hear is screeching and sputtering nonsense emanating from practically every orifice of the American body politic. The lackeys and lickspittles of the media elite are virtually unanimous in their full-throated acclaim for the latest episode in civilization building otherwise known as the Iraqi elections.

Over at the NY Times, John Burns provided a glimpse of the hard-hitting tone that would imbue the paper’s coverage of the election: “On Sunday, everything about the voting resonated with a passion for self-expression, individuals set on their own choices, prepared to walk long distances through streets choked with military checkpoints, and to stand for hours in line to cast their ballots.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post editorialized that, “The majority of Iraqis support the emerging democratic order in their country, and many are willing to risk their lives for it.” According to the Post, Iraqi “votes were an act of courage and faith -- and an answer to the question of whether the mission in Iraq remains a just cause.“ I hadn’t realized that we went to war in Iraq to ensure that two years later there would be a “free and fair” election. Can someone ask Richard Land if that’s a causus belli? Ah, nevermind.

Nearly as ludicrous as the Post editorial page were the scribblings on the newspage where CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) bigwig Walter Russell Mead offered up this assessment: “It was a big, climactic moment in history, which this clearly was because it had a lot of dramatic consequences and will be unfolding for many years. Certainly at this point, you have to say that the Bush administration's critics have made as many mistakes as the Bush administration in assessing Iraq."

Is he joking? Originally, the administration had no plans to hold an election. Indeed, Iraq was to remain under occupation until a constitution was written. However, last June the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim cleric, issued a fatwa calling for general elections to select the drafters of the constitution.

In the face of Sistani's criticism and rising casualties, Paul Bremer devised plans for a caucus-style election that was to be limited to political, religious, tribal, academic and trade union leaders as well as other influential local figures approved by the Americans. From the caucuses, the drafters of the constitution were to be selected.

Sistani opposed the caucus plan and engineered huge protests provoking and ultimately winning the showdown with the administration. Sistani's victory secured a democratic election that will likely produce a Shiite theocracy closely aligned with Iran, the nation identified by the State Department as the chief sponsor of terror.

As with the mindless intervention in the Balkans, American military might has been used to create an Islamic republic, imperiling the security of our country and the lives of our Christian brethren. That leaders of the American right claim the election represents a triumph of American values shows how corrupt "conservatism" has become. They've traded in Washington, Adams, and Jefferson for Robespierre.