Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some Links

Pastor Chuck Baldwin, one of my faves, on "The Man Behind the Curtain."

Here is an interview with Ron Paul about his faith. One caveat: I think Paul misunderstands the idea of theocracy. Theocracy is not the rule of men by other men, or institutions, but the rule of self-governing Christian men, women and families under the authority of God's word. In a true theocracy, both state and church are limited to their biblical roles and most normal functions of social life are provided by decentralized agencies and families. As I wrote, "Theocracy is the re-establishment of self-government under God, with the family as the central governing institution rather than the distant imperial regime." But true theocracy also limits the institutional church, though not the power and authority of the kingdom of God.

I haven't read this book, but evidently Albert Mohler is calling on Christian parents to think about an exit strategy from the public schools. I'm not sure if the book merely rehashes this earlier essay. In any case, good for Mohler! One wonders if other evangelicals and leaders in the Christian community will follow. By the way, here is a good post by Backwater Report fellow-traveler Bret McAtee on public schools, along with some fine book recommendations at the end. To pastor McAtee's list I would add Intellectual Schizophrenia.

Here are essays by Paul Craig Roberts and William Grigg about preemptive nuclear war. Showing how hard it is to be a satirist in the Bush Era, Grigg quotes from "Get Smart":

99: Oh, Max -- what a terrible weapon of destruction.

Max: Yes. You know, China, Russia, and France should outlaw all nuclear weapons. We should insist upon it.

99: What if they don't Max?

Max: Then we may have to blast them. It's the only way to keep peace in the world.

Not content with the blizzard of propaganda that led us into the Iraqi briar patch, an unrepentant Rummy is calling for a "21st century agency for global communications." Call it the MINISTRY OF TRUTH for our brave new world.

Strange that John Whitehead has to publish at, of all places, The Huffington Post. But here
he wonders if you or I might soon be called a "homegrown terrorist."

Finally, a piece of serious commentary I've read about "the surge" and naturally it comes courtesy of Andrew Bacevich, whose Marine son died last year in Iraq:

In reality, the war's effects are precisely the inverse of those that Bush and his lieutenants expected. Baghdad has become a strategic cul-de-sac. Only the truly blinkered will imagine at this late date that Iraq has shown the United States to be the "stronger horse." In fact, the war has revealed the very real limits of U.S. power. And for good measure, it has boosted anti-Americanism to record levels, recruited untold numbers of new jihadists, enhanced the standing of adversaries such as Iran and diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan, a theater of war far more directly relevant to the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Instead of draining the jihadist swamp, the Iraq war is continuously replenishing it.

Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI, although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism.

Fred Reed writes things that few will.

Lawrence Auster has some interesting thoughts about what an Obama presidency would yield.

Derbyshire says that Ron Paul is making libertarianism irrelevant.

Huck thinks those missing WMDs are in Jordan.

Paul Craig Roberts laments that the American legal system is increasingly constructed on a Benthamite foundation.

Buchanan on McCain (yawn!!): "The three issues that ruined the Bush presidency are this misbegotten war in Iraq, the failure to secure America's borders from invasion and a mindless trade policy that has destroyed the dollar and left foreigners with $5 trillion to buy up America at fire-sale prices. McCain remains an unthinking advocate of all three...The question conservatives may face if McCain is nominated is not whom should I vote for—but should I vote."

Friday, January 25, 2008

On Praying For Kings and Those In Authority

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 Timothy 2:1-2

These words, like Romans 13:1ff., have been grossly misunderstood. Paul asks us to be intercessors. Intercession was then a royal prerogative, or, on a lesser level, that of a state-recognized priest. According to Revelation 1:6, we have been made "kings and priests unto God and his Father" by Jesus Christ. To be an intercessor for Caesar or any ruler is to say he is below us in rank before god because he is not a believer. Perowne has called attention to the fact that such intercessory power for Caesar "simply confirmed (for the Romans) that they (the Christians) were a seditious and subversive organization." It is a perversion of Paul’s intent to pray simply, "Lord bless the president, bless congress, bless our governor," and so on. It is usually true that they need, not blessing, but conversion and even judgment.

R. J. Rushdoony, "Sovereignty"

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Not exactly breaking news, but the AP is running an interesting story, the gist of which is that the administration, starting with the emperor himself, told some real whoppers before the Iraq war.

The article is based on a study published by the Center for Public Integrity. The study found the following:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq...On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

You may recall that these fellas were going to restore honor and integrity to the oval office.

Ron Paul and Abortion

I have met many devoted, humble brothers and sisters over the years laboring in the pro-life fields. I have also discovered that the leadership of the movement is overtly pragmatic and craven.

Witness the recent campaign where the National Right to Life Committee endorsed Fred Thompson, while ignoring a host of better "second tier" choices.

I also see that the folks at Baptist Press marked the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by regurgitating portions of statements by candidates Clinton, Obama, Edwards, McCain, Huckabee, and Romney.

BP didn't see fit to mention Ron Paul, the only candidate to make an appearance at the March for the Life and the recipient of an endorsement by Jane Roe herself, Norma McCorvey.

Meanwhile, NRLC is very concerned to tell readers about the anti-abortion bonafides of 'Juno'. Typical.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On Equality, Irresponsibility, and Statism

A few years ago, I wrote an essay on women in combat which was in reality a broadside against the ideology of egalitarianism. I wrote: "The elimination and obliteration of distinctions between the sexes is rooted in rebellion against God's order. Indeed, egalitarianism denies the very principle of order and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution."

There are many consequences to egalitarianism, including the progressive desexualization of our culture where distinctions between male and female are increasingly blurred.

But the doctrine of egalitarianism also fosters irresponsibility, out of which sprouts the menace of statism. Rushdoony writes:

"Equality" is the modern form of slavery, because it is an instrument whereby all institutions, families, and religious authorities are eroded and destroyed. The egalitarian state stresses destructive and erosive freedoms such as sexual license, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, drugs, and more as a means of eroding the positive social forces such as family and church. Such a state presents itself as the champion of liberty because it enhances individual irresponsibility, whereas true freedom means responsibility and accountability. It is the "insane" who are neither responsible nor predictable: their anarchic "freedom" is precisely their bondage.

Where radical individual "freedom" triumphs, irresponsibility reigns, and also the tyrant state. Tyrant states triumph in the name and under the banner of "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality." The great crimes of the modern era have commonly been committed in the name of liberty.

An interesting point indeed. Egalitarianism flattens everything distinctive in its path, and necessarily attacks hierarchical institutions that offer authority and order. The resultant disorder breeds irresponsibility, and with all mediating institutions made impotent, only the state is left to pick up the pieces.

Baskerville on Family Policy

Here is an article worthy of your attention on family policy by Steven Baskerville. Baskerville teaches at Patrick Henry College, which largely caters to homeschoolers. Hopefully, his students will imbibe from his deep knowledge.

Baskerville beats up on a favorite target of his, no-fault divorce, and shows how perverse incentives ginned up by the federal government have provided states with an incentive to generate fatherlessness.

In the comments section, a number of commenters laid the family crisis at the feet of the "corporatocracy". Evidently these fellows are conspiring in their tree houses to drive women into the workplace. Well, sure they are. But the problem is primarily religious, not economic.

We live in a covetous age. We want more: More money, more security, more education, more job opportunities, and more sex without consequences. We crave absolute autonomy. Marriage is no longer covenantal, it is contractual, and it can be revoked. Women demand their independence and "freedom" in the name of autonomy as much as economic necessity.

Feminism has liberated women from the "narrow" and "constricting" roles of wife and mother. Meanwhile, the siren song of the marketplace drowns out God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. In 1950, 88% of women with children under six stayed in the home. Today, 64% of American women with children under six are in the labor force.

In short, economic necessity and the machinations of the corporate elite are surely a factor in this discussion. But to be blunt, the failure to see marriage and family life in explicitly biblical terms is the bigger problem. In short, it's a sin problem, aided and abetted by elites in the business, political, cultural, and educational establishments.

Why I Hate Coen Brother's Movies

I've often been intrigued that so many people enjoy the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen. Why do so many otherwise reasonable and intelligent people enjoy the faux sophistication of this trash? Or, to put it another way, why do I always walk away from these movies shaking my head.

In the latest issue of Chronicles, George McCartney reviews "No Country For Old Men," which I saw recently, and provides an answer: it's the worldview, stupid. McCartney writes:

"One can see why the Coen brothers were drawn to McCarthy’s novel. All their films invoke chance as the ultimate arbiter in life. From their first feature, Blood Simple, to The Man Who Wasn’t There, they have indulged in a smart-alecky existentialism that cleverly sneered at the very notion that life has any rhyme or reason. Events happen, their characters suffer or prosper, that’s all. No appeal to a higher order of meaning. Nothing makes any sense."

Nothing makes sense. Precisely! There was a scene of a UFO-sighting in "The Man Who Wasn't There" which was completely out of place, disconnected in any way from the "plot". When the movie finished, I watched the scene again accompanied by the Coen's commentary. It turns out that they weren't exactly sure why the scene was in the movie, either. There was no rhyme or reason, it was just there. This is what passes for cinematic brilliance.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More on Capital Punishment and Rod Dreher

I hate to return to the subjects of capital punishment and Rod Dreher once again, but I stumbled across an essay by Dreher from 2003 where he praises the felonious former Illinois governor George Ryan. Before his departure from office, Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates, thereby emptying Illinois' death row and winning the acclaim of death penalty opponents worldwide.

Dreher doesn't oppose the death penalty in theory, but rather in practice. "Capital punishment in practice is so fraught with systemic error and injustice," writes Dreher "as to make it intolerable in our society."

In an example of rigorous logic, accuracy and fair-minded writing, Dreher summed up my thoughts on the death penalty as “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.”

So if Dreher is opposed to capital punishment in practice, what is his solution? Well, he endorses a kind of futuristic Panopticon, which sounds like it sprang from the pen of a dystopian sci-fi writer. Dreher writes:

We now have something called a "supermax" prison, which are reserved for the most-violent and -dangerous inmates. For inmates, they are like living death. Inmates are kept in total isolation for 23 hours a day inside their solitary cells, and allowed to walk around for fresh air for one hour. Everything is done by remote control.

Why couldn't we abolish the death penalty, and use the money saved on the expensive death-penalty appeals process (which takes eleven years to complete, generally) to incarcerate those found guilty of first-degree murder at supermax facilities, without benefit of parole?

Is Dreher’s solution really more humane than execution? I’m serious. There are two terms used to describe hell in the New Testament. Hades, or Sheol in the OT, is a place of the departed spirits. Gehanna or Hinnom, was a dump outside Jerusalem, a place of trash and perpetual fire.

Hell, thus, is a place of wasted lives where meaning and relationship are negated, and absolute autonomy is asserted. Hell is a cosmic dump heap where all things are unrelated, where there is no community and nothing has any relationship to anything else.

This "supermax" prison is, literally, hell on earth, a place of absolute solitude and loneliness which is surely a fate worse than death. Yet Dreher defends it as a compassionate alternative to capital punishment. It is a "mercy" which should be gratefully accepted. "It seems to me," writes Dreher, "that if you have been found guilty of first-degree murder, you deserve to die; being left alive in a supermax jail, or some lesser version of same, is a mercy you aren't owed, but are graciously given."

Dreher rings his hands about the potential that an innocent man may die. In a world contaminated by original sin, this is indeed inevitable. And yet God’s Word (which one wonders if Dreher thinks a bit bloodthirsty) demands the death penalty, rather than torturous and perpetual solitude, for murderers:

"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Gen. 9:5-6).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On Rod Dreher

In responding to a blog post by John Savage, Crunchy Commissar Rod Dreher

As a thoughtful editorialist for the Dallas Morning News, Mr. Dreher can be counted on to carefully read and think before slinging barbs and arrows. Right? And surely as a Christian writer he would never stoop to caricaturing and misrepresenting the argument of a brother in Christ.

In any case, Rod sums up my essays on capital punishment (here and here) in the following way:

"Yeah, Darrell Dow’s thoughts on the morality of the death penalty boils down to 'kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out.' If that Savage’s definition of a traditional conservative, sorry, I happily don’t meet it. Neither does the Pope, that well-known squish."

Did Rod even bother to take a gander at my short post on the economics of captital punishment? Did he read my exegesis of John 8:1-11? In short, I was trying to demonstrate two things: 1) the death penalty serves as a deterrent and is an essential aspect of justice in a biblical social order; and 2) a text often misused by opponents of capital punishment actually demonstrates that Christ affirms the death penalty. Yes, that makes me guilty of blood lust in the eyes to Mr. Dreher.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. A typical tactic of pseudo-cons seeking to ingratiate themselves with the lib establishment is to demonize anyone to their "right." The simple-minded caricature of me penned by Dreher is gross, inaccurate, and lacking in Christian charity. Coming from a writer of Dreher’s quality, and a Christian to boot, I would expect better than picking on a small-time blogger who merely tries to write in faithful adherence to the scriptures without delusions of grandeur. Yet even no-name bloggers like me get "the treatment" from those who, as James Burnham said, maintain the "emotional gestalt of liberalism" despite their repudiation of its formal doctrines.

Let’s look at a few other examples of Dreher’s emotional gestalt and lack of logic, shall we. Here Mr. Dreher, noted in the byline as a Catholic, attacks the church and the Pope for their anti-war stand. Dreher’s argument was pretty simple (and naturally published in the "War Street Journal): The Pope didn’t thwart homosexual predators and, therefore, has no moral authority to lecture us about matters of war and peace. Dreher writes:

It is appalling to watch President Bush, who has responsibility for safeguarding 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states, being lectured on his duties in that regard by a church that would not even protect children from its own rogue priests and the bishops who enabled them.

I agree with Mr. Dreher that the church should not have ignored its own teachings on sexual morality for four decades. Yes, it would have been nice for them to punish priests and bishops for buggering little boys. On that, we can agree.

But Mr. Dreher is requiring moral and administrative perfection on the part of the Pope, weaning and pruning away all evil, before he has the authority to "lecture" our fine, upstanding president, or anyone else for that matter, on issues on morality. Yet that doesn’t stop Mr. Dreher, "a Catholic," from lecturing the Pope on morals.

While still pontificating from his perch at National Review, Dreher wrote "I believe with all my heart [that the Iraq war] is just and necessary. We don’t know how long it will last, or what the fallout will be." He accused right-leaning critics of the Iraqi invasion of "going off about imperialism, Israel and Jewish conspiracies [and] trash-talking this country in terms previously associated with America-hating campus radicals." They are trying "to change the subject to the alleged wickedness of corporations, the Jews, and all manner of arcane occultic conspiracy." Citing Myron Magnet and demonstrating Carnac-like prophetic giftedness, Dreher says "that the incoherent rage of the antiwar left and right will burn itself out in the wake of a clear American victory in Iraq." How’d that one work out, Rod?

Finally, here Rod makes the case that classic Augustinian Just War Theory just doesn’t make any sense. After all "9-11 changed everything".

According to Rod, anti-war clerics have no responsibility to protect populations in an era of WMDs and nasty "rogue states" under to pall of "Islamo-Fascism". Heck, Rod says that the ecclesiocracy didn’t even respond positively "to the overwhelming case Colin Powell made this week at the U.N., in which he demonstrated conclusively that a dozen years of trying peaceful means of coercion has not worked with Iraq." That's a thigh-slapper, isn't it? You remember the dog-and-pony show where Powell warned the free-world about non-existent connections between Iraq and Bin-laden and warned us of possible chemical attacks from unmanned aircraft. Wasn't Los Angeles going to suffer a chemical weapons attack via hot-air balloon?

Rod says "religious authorities today are reflexively, and depressingly, pacifistic on this war, as if every devil can be cast out with high-minded talk and good intentions...These are the kind of hopeless naifs who take a fact-finding tour of Iraq, and return trumpeting news that the citizens of this totalitarian dictatorship don't want war."

Obviously, "their credibility is on the line," warned Rod solemnly.

Perhaps Rod’s thoughts on the morality of the Iraq war boiled down to kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out.

Unlike Mr. Dreher, however, let me conclude by being fair. Ultimately, he had the good sense and manhood to admit that he was wrong about the war.

So, Mr. Dreher, if you happen to stumble upon my little blog, please do me the favor of reading and thinking before typing.