Saturday, March 31, 2007

Does "Character" Matter

When voting for political figures, how much does character matter? Is it more important, for example, than a candidate's policy prescriptions? Moreover, what do we do with someone like Mitt Romney? Is it proper for Christians to vote for Romney, a step that would lead to greater legitimizing of Mormonism? Luther famously said that he would rather be governed by a Turk who understood justice than a Christian who did not. What does that mean?

Some Evangelical leaders are beginning to weigh-in on the matter. On the Albert Mohler Show, Russell Moore and Richard Land discussed 2008 and had some particularly harsh words for Rudy Giuliani. Land, on this occasion at least, took a principled stand, arguing that in a Giuliani-Clinton contest, Christians should look elsewhere. "Some would stay home, and I would counsel them not to do that. They need to go and vote. They can always not vote in that race. I would go and vote, and I would vote for congressmen and I would vote for state senator and state representative, I would vote for U.S. senator, I would vote for governor. But I would not vote in the presidential race," said Land.

Land further went on to say that even as Giuliani promises to nominate strict constructionists to the federal bench that there is no reason to believe him. "How can we believe him?" Land asked. "He promised ... two wives that he would love, honor and cherish and be faithful only unto her until 'death us do part.' And twice he lied to his wife -- twice. He broke his marital vows. That gets to the basic issue of trust, the basic issue of character."

Meanwhile, James Dobson has entered the fray. He has publicly criticized Fred Thompson (who conservatives indeed should be wary of) while calling Newt Gingrich the "brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today." If Mr. Dobson can support the likes of Gingrich, he is not to be taken seriously. Gingrich is preaching a "Christian America" line on Faux News and in his latest book, but he is a corrupt serial adulterer and voracious warmonger who himself saw fit to stay out of the jungles of southeast Asia when his number was being called.

So what do we do? Well, first we cannot ignore politics. Like it or not, to ignore politics is to separate ourselves from responsibility, and the abdication of responsibility separates us from God. However, we must not worship at the altar of politics. We cannot become "political Christians." Judgment begins in the house of the Lord, and it is clear as Christians we must first clean up our homes and churches before bringing the light and leaven of the Christ into the public sphere.

Upon entering the public sphere, we must behave like a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, not a voting bloc. Being joined at the hip to a political party, the current state of the "Religious Right," is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, we must recognize that character does matter. What drives a man and shapes his worldview is fundamental to knowing who he is and how he thinks. As Rushdoony said, "Where there is moral disintegration, there is no assurance that an elected candidate will maintain a professed position."

Rushdoony continues: "The number of elected conservatives who have switched sides is legion; they crumbled under pressure and under the temptations of power. There is thus little assurance that an election will gain any results, if there is no assured faith and character in the elected man. And politics cannot produce character. Christianity must. The decline of faith is a decline of character and a decline of character is the forerunner of political decay and collapse. Christianity has an obligation to train a people in the fundamentals of God's grace and law and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order."

Carnage and Lies

Last October, the British medical journal Lancet published a study in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died since the 2003 invasion.

Mr. Bush said the study was "not credible." After a lifetime spent analyzing baseball averages, he was able to dismiss the researchers' methodology as "pretty well discredited."

Across the pond, our British cousins in the Labor government were likewise dismissive. Foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said the figures were "extrapolated," and the prime minister's spokesman said the study "was not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate." Tony Blair himself sallied forth from 10 Downing Street to say: "The overriding message is that there are no accurate or reliable figures of deaths in Iraq."

We know now that they were lying. Scientists at the UK's Department for International Development as well as the Ministry of Defense's chief scientific advisor told Blair at the time that the research was balanced and robust. In fact, it is more likely that Lancet understates rather than overstates the casualty count.

Isn't it disturbing to contemplate the reality of 650,000 dead human beings in a country 1/12 the size of the United States? Moreover, shouldn't it bother us that this story has been virtually ignored here in the States?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why Iraq Was a Mistake

The war in Iraq hasn't gone to pot as a result of inept prosecution, not having enough "boots on the ground," or any of the other tactical mumbo jumbo offered by Neoconservative critics. Iraq isn't a mess because of de-Baathification. It is not falling apart as a consequence of the Iraqi army being disbanded.

The problem was going in at all given the inevitable outcome obvious to any person with an IQ above room temperature. There were only two possible outcomes to the war in Iraq. The first possibility was complete chaos, a Hobbesian battle of all against all with various factions duking it out for control. The end result would be a civil war and a "failed state," fertile ground for non-state entities to take root.

The second possibility, fostered by "democracy", was the creation of a Shi’ite regime aligned with Iran. Neither outcome was desirable given the historic role played by Iraq as a counterweight to Iranian power in the Middle East.

In another insightful offering at, William Lind summarizes and explains why the "surge" is destined to end in failure:

First, a higher level dominates a lower. If you win on the tactical level but lose operationally, you lose. If you win on the tactical and operational levels but lose strategically – Germany's fate in both world wars – you still lose.

Second, in most wars, including Fourth Generation wars, success on higher levels is not merely additive. That is not to say, you cannot win operationally or strategically just by adding up tactical victories.

If we consider the operational and strategic situations in Iraq, we can easily see why no amount of tactical success can save us. Strategically, we are fighting to support a Shi’ite regime closely aligned with Iran, our most potent local opponent. Every tactical success merely moves us closer to giving Iran a new ally in the form of a restored Iraqi state under Shi’ite domination. The more tactical successes we win, the worse our strategic situation gets. This flows not from any tactical failure (though there have been plenty of those), but from botching the strategic level from the outset. Saddam's Iraq was the main regional counterweight to Iran, which means we should not have attacked it.

Big Brother Is Watching

There is a certain tendency among my libertarian friends to view technology as an instrument of decentralization and a means of undermining the power of the state. But technology can also be used to harness information which can be wielded by the state for an array of nefarious reasons.

I stumbled across this article recently from the Daily Mail. The British government is reaching for sweeping power to monitor the home life of every child in Great Britain. "Details of school performance, diet and even whether their parents provide a 'positive role model'" would be kept in a database which could willy-nilly be searched by police, social workers, teachers and doctors.

Where are the Christians? Here in the cradle of English-speaking Christian civilization is an idolatrous state, seeking to undermine and subvert parental and familial power. What greater example could be found of a state using the instruments of modern technology in pursuit of omniscience, with the ultimate goal of total control?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Crushing the Tobacco Demon

Richard Land recently took time away from other important matters to hop on his high-horse and head to Washington, DC with a gaggle of religious liberals, where he agitated on behalf of legislation proposed by Teddy Kennedy to stamp out the very symbol of wickedness and human depravity--BIG TOBACCO.

Land endorsed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a piece of legislation designed to empower the FDA to regulate the content of tobacco products, curb tobacco sales to underage children, limit advertising and promotion of tobacco products and crack down on those demonic candy cigarettes you smoked as a little kid (OK, maybe you didn't if you were a Baptist).

Is there an evangelical leader anywhere who won't endorse statist means to "solve" any social malady they deem undesirable? The state is not god and cannot redeem humanity. Moreover, its jurisdiction is limited by Scripture. We must cease this folly and ask what are the just and appropriate means for dealing with social "problems" such as smoking. Why is Land bellying up to the table with a bunch of Social Gospelers, beginning with the presupposition that the state is the appropriate agency to deal with everything? What about prayer, individual action, action by churches and voluntary agencies? Heck, maybe we could even get parents involved if that wouldn't be asking too much. But NOOO, the answer is to bend the knee and turn to Washington in search of a solution to banish the sin from our midst.

Democracy vs. Orthodoxy

I've written often about the perils of the Democratist Temptation, that the pursuit of global democracy, which is in reality a cover for American hegemony, is in fact anti-Christian at its core.

In a brief essay, R. J. Rushdoony writes that the doctrine of infallibility is inescapable, that every philosophy has either explicitly or implicitly an infallible word. Therefore, if the infallibility of Scripture is denied the concept is merely transferred to something else.

When Rushdoony was writing, Marxism as an ideology and the Communist Party institutionally frequently served as proxies for God. But democracy is also one possible substitute. "From ancient times its (democracy) essential faith has been summed up in the Latin motto, vox popula vox dei, 'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' This new god--the people, or democracy--speaks infallibly in and through majorities...Not surprisingly, every movement towards democracy has been a direct or indirect attack on Christian orthodoxy. Because democracy has an explicit doctrine of infallibility, it is necessarily and logically hostile to a rival doctrine of infallibility, and the claims of Scripture are either implicitly or explicitly denied."

Of course, the voice of the people is typically made incarnate through self-serving elites who "speak" on their behalf and wield power through the mechanism of the state. But to speak infallibly, the state requires total power. Thus as infallibility is transferred to "the people" or the state, other attributes of God, such as omnipotence and omniscience flow to those entities, too.

The goal of the modern state is total control, total planning, which is a secular variation of the doctrine of predestination. Rather than holding to God's eternal decree, modern man, including not too few churchmen, frequently puts his faith in the state. Slowly such faith will erode, and the edifice built on such shaky foundations will collapse.

"Because the modern state, in all its variations, is based on Rousseau's concept of the infallible general will, it is moving steadily towards totalitarianism, seeking total power over man," says Rushdoony. Though we can rest in God's sovereignty, our call is to extend the lordship and dominion of Christ in all spheres of life, working through word and deed to spread the Gospel. "We are therefore in a state of war, war between heaven and humanism, war between the Almighty God and the totalitarian state, war between the scientific planners, predictors, and controllers, war between God and all those who deny His infallibility."