Promoting God’s Law is More Important than a Successful Trump Presidency

From Calvin’s commentary on Isaiah 1:23-

…no disease is more injurious than that which spreads from the head into the whole body, so no evil is more destructive in a commonwealth than a wicked and depraved prince, who conveys his corruptions into the whole body both by his example and by the liberty which he allows.  Hence, too, comes the proverb, “like mistress, like maids.”

I confess to being optimistic for the possible good things that may be done by President Trump.  We know what Hillary’s presidency would have brought.

Continue reading “Promoting God’s Law is More Important than a Successful Trump Presidency”

Elections Don’t Matter as Much as We Think They Do

Whoever wins the election tomorrow, God will remain in control.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I will not be voting for either major presidential candidate tomorrow. I am not writing this to encourage anyone to vote any particular way, except to keep in mind some simple truths. God will remain in His heavens and Christ on the throne tomorrow, and that has some very practical consequences. In particular it means that it is the law and truth of God which most immediately impacts your life.  That truth should not just be an abstraction that comforts us in hard times.  That is a truth that should immediately impact the choices we make.

Continue reading “Elections Don’t Matter as Much as We Think They Do”

Facebook is Not Our Friend

We really need to be aware of the way that the supposedly neutral platforms we use, like Facebook and Twitter, are in fact tipping the scales in a particular political and cultural direction.  This is one of the reasons I’ve backed way off of Facebook use, and leaned more toward my blog, which I think I’m going to be doing even more of going forward.  Facebook’s owner and top people are all progressives.  But then most or all big corporations these days, not just tech companies, are.  They go with the flow in order to avoid trouble.  In tech, though, there are a lot of true believers.  Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc- all are very much part of pushing the progressive agenda, and we Christians need to be aware.  A social media platform absolutely depends on its users to create content that will draw in eyeballs.  But when we know that it is using us not just to make money for itself (which we already knew) but also to shape the national narrative in an anti-Christian direction, then I think we have to do some serious thinking about how (or if) we use this platform any more.

I think one of the things that means is creating our own spaces for discussion that can’t be curated or moderated by them, or at least not so easily.  So, let’s have more of our discussions on our own blogs.  You put something on Facebook, then Facebook is in control of who sees it.  Facebook can still be a useful tool in some respects, but it’s increasingly apparent that it is not a neutral platform for discussion.  So let’s do more of that in spaces we control ourselves.

When I first started blogging, that’s where all the action was and it was relatively easy to get readers and get discussions going.  Facebook really sucked all the oxygen out of the blogosphere for a long time.  Big blogs still did fine, but nobody was going and visiting the blogs of friends and acquaintances any more like they used to.  They’d just look at Facebook.  I know I did a lot of my lighter updating, and even some of the more serious writing, on Facebook, for a while.  But they control that platform.  Who knows when anything that doesn’t fit the whole progressive agenda will be declared a hate crime and just deleted?  At least my blog, hosted on a smaller host and with content entirely controlled by me, is a lot more under my control than that.  It would be significantly more difficult to suppress it.


This ad is at the center of a new uproar in the presidential campaign.  In case you can’t watch it (or don’t want to), the ad features a man who was laid off when his factory was closed.  There’s a lot of questions about whether Mitt Romney was even at Bain when the factory was closed.  I think that’s entirely irrelevant.  The ad itself is an ad against freedom, and advocating slavery.

If I lay someone off as a legitimate business decision, they might lose their access to health care, and someone might die as a result.  That is true.  So what the ad is saying, is that business owners have an obligation to employ their employees, and are responsible for whatever happens if they do not.  This is an ad against the free market, against the rights of business owners and employers to make decisions that are good for their business.

Let’s say this ad actually represented the way our market was supposed to work.  If a business owner can rightfully be held responsible for anything that happens to any of his employers once they work for him, even in a non-legal but moral sense, then an employer essentially could not employ anyone.  How could you take the risk?  How could you be responsible for everything that might happen to that employee if your business fails or if the employee is no good and you have to fire him?  Can you justify being responsible for murdering someone, or someone’s family member, because they weren’t good at showing up on time?  No employer is going to accept that kind of risk, of being made responsible for everything that might happen to someone once they are employed by him.

Not only does this ad advocate slavery for the business owner (since he is now forced to make economic decisions for the benefit of other people, not for himself), it also advocates slavery for this worker.

See, if the employer is responsible for providing healthcare coverage for this employee, then the employer has the right to control all of the decisions that affect that coverage.  If an employer is to remain in business, he must control his costs, and cannot be expected to make open-ended commitments to people without the ability to control the costs of those commitments.  So he will make sure the employee is exercising and eating right.  If he cannot fire the employee, since if he does he will then be responsible for anything that happens to the employee, he will keep the employee on forever, but will then essentially own that employee, making all the decisions for him and protecting him (or claiming to) from every risk.  This is the logic of this ad.

The ad is saying that this employee can’t be expected to take care of himself and make his own decisions; men like Mitt Romney must do it for them.  It is an argument for slavery, for lords and vassals, for turning over all our responsibility to powerful men who will make all our decisions for us and protect us from every danger.  This is the argument that tyrants and emperors have always made.

Liberty can only exist when people are willing to take responsibility for themselves.  This man’s employer made a contract with him, to provide him with compensation in exchange for labor.  That contract was not perpetual; either side had the right to end that contract whenever they so chose.  Saying that this man’s employer essentially had a moral obligation to provide employment forever is saying that freedom itself is immoral.

But no man really can provide everything for you.  No man can protect you from every danger.  The claim that someone can is the claim of a false Messiah, the claim of a man trying to usurp the place of God.  There is always a question at the heart of these kinds of debates, and that fundamental question is, who can save us?  Who can provide us with security and safety?  There are three basic possible answers to that question- man can save us, nobody can save us, or only God can save us.

The second answer, that nobody can save us, is a recipe for nihilism and despair.  Nihilism usually doesn’t get too many votes in politics.  So the choice is always between man and God.  Those that advocate for government programs that can preserve us from every possible danger are saying that man can save us.  They put the source of their hope in the actions of men, and it makes sense then to look to the greatest possible collection of the power of men, which is government.

The conservative Christian answers that only God can save us. The problems of this life- disease, poverty, war and the like are all the result of sin, and only God can save us from sin or from any of its consequences.  We look to government then to do only what God has called for it to do, which is to protect the innocent from evildoers, to the best of its ability, to provide some sort of order and stability in which society can function, because this is the God-given function of government (Romans 13).  We do not think that the government can protect us from every possible ill, and we know that anyone who claims that they can is a con-man, a shyster, a would-be tyrant who hopes to rob us of our liberty with promises that he can never keep.

This is more than just a dirty ad.  This ad is a good indication of what this election is really about, and what is truly at stake in these political discussions.  Will you trust God, and reject any claim that other men can ever safeguard your health, your safety, your prosperity, your importance in life?  Or will you trust men, and turn your liberty over to them, to willingly make yourself their slaves, so that they can provide you with everything you need?  The tyrants of the world always claim to be looking out for the little guy, like the man in this ad.

When government does only what God says it should, it can be reasonably effective, though still never perfect, not by a long shot.  When government usurps authority that God never gave it, and starts seeking to provide wealth, health and happiness to its population, then that government sets itself up in the place of God, makes slaves of the people and inevitably fails to do what it claimed it could do anyway, because the government isn’t God, and it doesn’t matter how much power or wealth we give it, it will never be God.  The last three years should show us that; the fall of the Soviet Union and every other totalitarian regime should show us that.  Government isn’t God.

Bible-believing Christians should always support limited government and reject these messianic claims, that men somehow can.  Governments cannot eliminate the effects of sin; only Christ can do that.

Here is Wisdom- Support Chick-fil-A

 Rev. 13:14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

Barnabas Piper writes on the Aquila Report that it is a mistake to support Chick-fil-A today.  He is concerned that this shows a hostility on the part of Christians toward homosexuals, which he says is a mistake.  I agree- that would be a mistake.  But I think he fundamentally misunderstands what this is about.

This isn’t anti-homosexual day.  That’s not the reason for this movement.  Chick-fil-A has been a vocal Christian organization for a long time.  There is no reason for surprise or outrage at their views, which are well-known.  I find it interesting that this attack on Chick-fil-A comes just a few months after Obama publicly reversed his stance on gay marriage- were they perhaps paving the way for just this kind of attack?  Because the whole thing certainly wasn’t spontaneous.  It was planned.  But this isn’t even about gay marriage.  The big issue has nothing at all even to do with homosexuality.

The attack on Chick-fil-A is a shot across the bow of every Christian in this country.  It is a message that our political views, even those driven by our religious views, are going to have to be subordinated to the needs of the statists.  They picked a big, public, known Christian organization and threatened them with economic destruction because of their faith.  It is persecution of Christianity, and it is overt.  In the book of Revelation, the kingdom of the mark of the beast is characterized by economic persecution to all who do not bow down to the image of the beast.  That is what is going on here.  The statists, those who look to the state as the savior of man, the solution to all our problems, have made it clear that unless we submit to the statist agenda, we will not be permitted to buy or sell.  The statists don’t even care about gay marriage.  They’re fine allying themselves with others who are against gay marriage, but who support the statist agenda.  It’s not even about “religion” against the state per se- as the last link shows, religions which believe in the Messianic state are just fine with them.  This is about Christianity.  Gay marriage is only a pretext to attack Christians.

I don’t believe this indicates the eminent return of Christ, necessarily.  I am an amillenialist, and as such I see this persecution as an element of the Christian life, that has been present on and off throughout the history of the church age.  “All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  Our salvation is not found in stamping out such persecution wherever it is found.  It is found in patiently enduring that persecution until Christ comes again and frees us from it.

Early in the history of the church, during the time of the Roman Empire, in order to practice most trades and professions you had to be a member of a guild.  That guild was also a temple to a pagan god.  Being a member of the guild required worshiping the god.  Becoming a Christian, therefore, meant leaving the guild and being barred from practicing your profession.  That kind of economic persecution led some to say that it was acceptable to practice the guild rituals in an outward way in order to maintain one’s standing in the guild, as long as you worshiped Jesus in your heart.  This is the error of the Nicolaitans, most likely, so roundly denounced in the book of Revelation.  Even today, many professions are being closed to Bible-believing Christians, more and more- medicine, politics, law, science- many of these fields are becoming harder and harder for believing Christians to practice, especially at higher levels.  The statists would love to add business to that list.

Knuckling under to that persecution is not quietly enduring it.  It is not quietly enduring to throw to the wolves those that the beast targets.  It is therefore not truly anti-homosexual to support Chick-fil-A.  But the homosexual groups have allied themselves, by and large, to the statists, because ultimately all those who hate God worship the beast.

Christians should absolutely be loving to homosexuals, just as we should be loving to anyone trapped in any other sin.  But it’s not loving to say sin isn’t sin.  And it’s not loving to abandon our fellow Christians when they’re under persecution, in order to maintain a relationship with those responsible for the persecution.  Christians were a witness to the Roman soldiers who were persecuting them by staying faithful to the Lord (which means staying faithful to the Lord’s people) even in the midst of torture, not by distancing themselves from the persecuted in order to maintain good relationships with the Roman soldiers.

The beast is the power of the kingdoms of the earth, seeking to replace the true Messiah and supplant His kingdom on earth.  He will always fail, for Christ has won the victory.  The only way the beast can defeat you is by tricking you into thinking that he is alive, that he has power, that he can bring you security and prosperity.  He will try to terrify you into thinking that you need to at least soften your allegiance to Christ a little bit, in order to avoid the persecution of the world.  Stay strong, endure, don’t compromise the faith.  Support your brothers and sisters who are under attack for their Christianity, because you are next.  Homosexuality has nothing at all to do with this discussion, and everything to do with the hatred of the world for the kingdom of Christ.  Chick-fil-A has taken a stand for the kingdom of Christ.  We should support them.

On Libertarianism and Utopianism, and the Candidacy of Rep. Ron Paul

We are once again facing that most dreadful of all seasons, a presidential election. We on the Republican side are again faced with the choice of selecting a presidential candidate, and many of us feel that on this selection hinges the future of the country. The stakes are high. Of course they are always high. But the choice of the right Republican to run against Obama is, we feel, of crucial importance.

It is in this backdrop that many point to a candidate such as Ron Paul. As something of a political junkie, I am frequently asked what I think of Ron Paul. I have had difficulty articulating my objection to Paul as a candidate, but decided it was time to think it out and express it. I will do so by means of a literary allusion, from one of the greatest novels in the English language, Middlemarch:

He had formerly observed with approbation her capacity for worshipping the right object; he now foresaw with sudden terror that this capacity might be replaced by presumption, this worship by the most exasperating of all criticism, -that which sees vaguely a great many fine ends and has not the least notion what it costs to reach them.

A little background is necessary, which is worthwhile since this is such a fascinating book. Mr. Casaubon, the speaker in the previous quote, is a middle-aged, eccentric clergyman whose life is poured into writing an epic book which will seek to unlock the common key in all the mythologies of the world. Dorothea, the “she” mentioned in that quote, fell in love with Mr. Casaubon and married him, despite the warnings that many gave her that it was an unsuitable marriage. She is a deeply idealistic young lady, and has projected onto Mr. Casaubon all of her desires for changing the world, believing that by being his partner and help she will share in his noble work. Once she marries him, she finds out that Casaubon is in fact a rather small and petty man, whose fears and insecurities prevent him from ever finishing his work, and that in fact the book he is working on is simply his way of hiding from the world.

Casaubon is not a bad man. The novel is at pains to point this out. He is merely human. The problem comes from the fact that Dorothea has projected her highly unrealistic ideals onto Casaubon, forcing him to carry a burden which he is unable to bear. The quote above reflects the moment when Casaubon realizes this.

This is the approach, I feel, which a certain segment of the electorate takes to selecting a presidential candidate. Some, of course, pick candidates for the shallowest of reasons- who is more attractive, who promises them all the goodies the want, etc. But there is also a segment who has a vague idea in their mind of what kind of world they would like to live in without any conception at all of what would be required to get there, and fall in love with the candidate who promises them that. Because this candidate is connected to their Utopia, they refuse to see any real flaws in that candidate and even make the flaws out to be virtues. So, if a person has no experience, they say that’s a good thing, since experience corrupts. If the person regularly says stupid things, they say that just shows that they’re “real” or “honest”, instead of being a fake, airbrushed candidate. This is mainly the way that we elected our last president, Barack Obama. There were of course some who knew exactly who the man was and elected him, because they want radical socialism in this country. But many others simply projected all of their fantasies and wish fulfillments of a post-racial society, of an end to political conflict, of brilliant post-partisan political leadership, onto that man, who had deliberately cast himself in such a light as to make such “wishcasting” possible and desirable. He deliberately spoke in vague generalities and platitudes, reserving his much more specific (and very progressive) statements for small friendly audiences.

Conservatives must not make the same mistake. We live in a sinful world, where there is no such thing as perfection. Not by a long shot. All of our candidates are flawed in one way or another. But this should not be surprising. There is no savior in politics. There is no way out of the messy world we live in. Anyone who stays in the spotlight of elected government for any length of time is going to have some uncomfortable things revealed about them, and is going to make some bad mistakes. Oftentimes we are drawn to political outsiders such as Herman Cain, because they appear to be untainted by the corruption of government. But does that really make them better than anyone else? It’s easy to be untainted by the corruption of government when you’re not in government. Will they remain untainted once they’re in? I’m not against political outsiders, but there as in all cases, we must remain realistic. Pride, ambition and greed exist just as much in the private sector as they do in the government. It’s often just less visible- that’s why we call it the “private sector”.

Real candidates also know that there is a difference between where you want to be and where you have to go to get there. Dishonest political campaigns are always telling you, “Step 3- Profit!” without making terribly clear how we get there.

This is why I am a conservative, and not a libertarian. Libertarians and progressives both fail to be realistic about human nature. They claim they are, of course. But both of them simply posit an ideal world and insist that we go to that ideal world as fast as we possibly can. The major difference between the two is the nature of their utopia. Conservatives recognize that this world is fallen and that there is no such thing as perfection, and that anyone telling you that they can deliver any kind of perfection is a snake-oil salesman. Therefore we must be realistic about our candidates and realistic about the kind of change we can expect and the kind of change that is desirable. Government must be limited because of the sinfulness of politicians. But government must exist, and be strong in the things it needs to do, because of the sinfulness of politicians in other countries, as well as of non-politicians in our own. By being realistic about the human condition can we do the best job of restraining its defects and excesses, and encouraging its better side.

A further point about human nature- Revolutions always end badly, because in the breakdown of social structures, revolutions are always coopted by the worst sorts of power-hungry people, the people unrestrained by moral codes and driven most by personal ambition. Change therefore must always be incremental. Anyone promising you quick change is either deeply naive and unrealistic, or is a snake-oil salesman.

This brings me to Ron Paul in particular. I agree with much of Ron Paul’s ideals of limited government, sound currency and fiscal restraint. But the conservative movement as a whole agrees with those things, though we disagree about some of the details.

But I have two major issues with Paul. First, he does not seem to be living in the same country I am in. He seems to think that we can just get where he wants to be just by virtue of him being elected. Perhaps I am selling him short here, but he does not seem to have any concrete plan for dealing with our situation now in a realistic way, and instead just tells us how he’d like things to be, which is how I’d like things to be too. It doesn’t take any particular competence or virtue to dream. It doesn’t take any great intelligence to tell me the things that are wrong with the country right now. What is hard, but necessary, is to articulate a doable plan for moving the country in the right direction, from where we are right now.

Secondly, and this is an extension of the first, is his foreign policy. I understand that we are all weary of war after the last decade. Paul seems to think that we can end all these wars unilaterally, just by leaving. I have plenty of criticisms of how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were handled. But again, that takes no special brains; hindsight is 20/20. Paul was saying we shouldn’t be involved back then, and everybody thought he was a crackpot. Now that we’re all tired of war, he’s starting to look (to some) like a genius. But he was wrong then and he’s still wrong. Just because we’ve seen the bad consequences of what we did doesn’t mean that those consequences are worse than if we had done nothing, or done something different. We don’t know what the consequences of doing nothing would have been. We cannot go back and have the argument again based on what we now know, much of which is only true because of the choices that were made in 2002-03. It’s always easy to criticize people who try things, to criticize the messes that are caused by accomplishment. It’s like the modern environmentalist who criticizes the pollution of industry- he’s not criticizing failure. He’s criticizing success. Because the industrialist has succeeded in industry, some secondary problems are created that need to be dealt with. But what is the alternative of no pollution? No industry, and living in caves. Where there are no oxen, there the stable is clean.

So it is with foreign policy. We can’t just not have a foreign policy. We can’t just withdraw from the world. I know we’d all like to. But the world isn’t going to let us withdraw. 9/11 happened because people hate Christianity and freedom, not because of some evil America committed. It’s not like 9/11 was the first time Muslims ever attacked Christians. 9/11 would have kept happening, and will keep happening, until America simply surrendered, unless we did something about it. We did something about it, and it wasn’t perfect, but we haven’t had any more 9/11’s.

Jesus told us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If I lived in a country where I and my family were in danger of being tortured and killed for being Christians, or for being from the wrong tribe, or being opposed to the government stealing all my property, and there was a powerful nation who could do something about it, I would want them to do it. America can’t save the world. We can’t help everyone. But to say we can’t help everyone is not the same as saying that therefore we shouldn’t help anyone. God has given us overwhelming power and strength, and I believe that those who have strength and power should do what they can to help those who do not. We’re going to make mistakes. But the alternative is to hide our talent in the ground, which I do not believe is a viable alternative.

So this is my take on Ron Paul- like Dorothea, he has a vague vision of a great many fine ends, and not the least notion how to achieve them. Therefore, we need to find a presidential candidate who has plausible plans that make sense, who has integrity, who shares our vision. We need to understand that such a candidate is going to have flaws, and it’s always a judgment call where to draw the line. If you think your candidate has no flaws, then you are being unrealistic or you are being lied to. This is what being a conservative is all about- about being realistic. There is no savior, there is no golden age. Not in this world, anyway.

Is Religion Out of Bounds in a Presidential Campaign?

Sometimes it seems like the only time I mention some particular blogger that I like is to criticize something that I don’t like. Probably I should link to more sites with positive comments than I do- it might take away the perception that I dislike bloggers that I really actually like. All this is to say that I like Hugh Hewitt, in general.

However, he has quite a strange fixation with ensuring that nobody ever discusses Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.

I believe that attacks on Romney’s faith that are bigoted have to be vigorously denounced, not worried over. I expect conservatives, especially those with an understanding of the left’s long assault on the participation of people of faith in the politics, to understand that snide assaults on Mormon practice are going to be followed by snide asssaults on Catholic and evangelical beliefs and practices because religious bigots generally hate all religions except their own. Even if one can’t be persuaded that they have skin in the game, religious bigotry is itself an evil thing that deserves denunciation whenever it appears, just as all sorts of bigotry ought to be denounced. If Barack Obama gets slammed over his race or Hillary over her gender, you can be assured that the left won’t spend a lot of time worrying over whether those attacks are gaining traction, they’ll be blasting away –rightly– at the nutballs trading in the poisons that we have driven out of politics and should be working to keep far away from politics. Religious intolerance is one of those poisons. Professor Bainbridge is cavalier about its reappearance. I am not.

Is a man’s religion really completely out of bounds for discussion? Hugh Hewitt is a conservative evangelical. His political views are informed by his religious perspectives; reading through his blog makes that clear. And he’s a very strong supporter of Mitt Romney. Nothing wrong with any of these things, of course. I am also a conservative Christian whose political views are informed by my religion, though I am not all that wild about Romney.

But if Hewitt’s political views are affected by his religion, then surely he would expect that Romney’s would be as well? It’s my belief that everybody’s political views are informed by their religious and philosophical views. One’s religion (true religion; not necessarily what one professes) will always lie at the heart of who they are, and will inform everything else they do. Out of the heart come the issues of life, according to Proverbs 4:23. Now if the attacks against Romney are simply for being religious at all, then that’s a problem. But if they are discussions about the particular content of his religion and his views of those tenets and whether and how they will affect his job as president, how is that out of bounds?

If a Wahhabist Muslim wanted to run for president, would his religion be relevant? If the Mormon church still excluded blacks from their leadership, would that be relevant? JFK’s Catholicism was successfully taken off the table as an issue back in the 60’s, but only because he was not a particularly committed Catholic. And if the Catholic Church still demanded loyalty to the pope on behalf of political leaders, and might excommunicate them if they didn’t do the pope’s bidding, would that be relevant to a political campaign? Perhaps there’s some part of Hewitt’s argument that I missed sometime way back, but his message seems to be that any discussion of the man’s religion is simply bigotry, and that is not a very helpful argument.

In fact, it seems to me to play right into the worst prejudices of the left about religion and politics. They demand that religion be kept out of it, that anyone whose religion would inform their views is unsuitable for political office. If that is in fact true, and if it were possible to do so, then religion really would be something that could be set aside as meaningless trivia unrelated to the man’s likely performance as president, like the color of Obama’s skin. But it is not true, and not possible to do so. If Hewitt were successful in his campaign to take religion off the table as a legitimate matter of discussion, the effect of that, it would seem to me, would be to successfully sideline any candidate who did take his religion seriously.

If Romney in fact takes his Mormonism seriously, then it is completely relevant to look at that religion and see which elements of it might be a problem for him as president. And it’s not bigotry at all to wonder whether there are such elements in a religion, especially in the case of a religion of which many people are unfamiliar. I’m not saying I know that Mormonism definitely contains any such elements; I’m not saying I couldn’t support Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. I’m saying that it’s not bigotry to ask the question.