Feb 27 2011

Liberty and respect for authority do not conflict

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:02 pm

Over at Blog and Mablog, Douglas Wilson dispenses with some presumed inconsistencies in Christians being for both freedom and respect for authority, in My Kayak of Consistency

There are two basic streams of conservatism, and I have the misfortunate to belong to both of them. This means that as I am going down this particular river, whenever I get to the rapids, my kayak of consistency gets bounced around a bit. It can be done, but it requires some fancy paddle work, just a-going.

Those two types of conservatism are the Burkean and the libertarian, with the guiding principles of tradition and liberty. Tradition in the Burkean sense is consistent with liberty because in the West many of our traditions were shaped by the gospel. And because God of providence has a sense of humor, the second stream of conservatism is the older form of classical liberalism.

No human arrangement is absolute. Only God’s Word is absolute. So what does this mean?

If someone takes human choices in the marketplace as his absolute, the end result will be a market in which the fundamental commodity will be the souls of men. But if someone takes the law of God as his direction, the end result will be a market in which a man can buy and sell his cabbages or cabinets or cars without getting permission from some functionary at the the Department of Hubris.

If someone takes human tradition as absolute, the end result will be a stifling and oppressive regime, and way too many bishops. But if someone takes the law of God for his guide, the end result will be deep respect for the established authorities, including even some of the bishops.

So take it from me — you can’t have the fruit without the tree.

If you take God’s law as absolute, you will not take it upon yourself to act coercively without warrant from Him. This will result in an enormous amount of economic liberty. If you restrict only those transactions that you have biblical warrant for restricting, then the result will be far more freedom than we currently have. This is why accusations that a “mere Christendom” would result in “oppression” are so risible. Are you joking me? In our current system, a contractor on a building site can’t scratch his rear end without talking to the building inspector about it first. Tell me more about this free society you are so anxious to preserve. Are we dropping bombs in the Middle East to protect our right to be groped in a TSA line? Being lectured on our potential “oppressions” from today’s statists is like being lectured on public hygiene by Typhoid Mary. I can never make it through even one lecture without fidgeting in my seat. And they never seem to allow time for Q&A.

Liberty is not the standard. Respect for authority is not the standard. Both of those things are the fruit, resulting from faithful acceptance of what God says to do. When a society ignores what God says to do, and the grace in Christ enabling us to do it, the end result is what we see around us — the erosion of both our liberties and our traditions. As Lewis put it so aptly, we laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful. We remove the organ and demand the function.

Both forms of conservatism have been great blessings from God. But without Jesus, we won’t have either for very much longer.

I think this hits the nail on the head.  Another way to put it is this: the surest foundation for the peaceful coexistence of liberty and respect for authority (which is required for liberty to flourish, and not lead to anarchy and self-destruction) is a view of human beings that we were built to live together by God according to certain principles of regard for others, ourselves, our forbears and our posterity.  Maximum freedom and maximum security both flow from that regard, when it is pervasive in a society.  When we begin to worship unlimited liberty (to act is if we are the sole inhabitant of the universe), or to worship authority (perhaps in a search for greater safety and security), we will have neither.

H/T:  Melody

Feb 16 2011

“Prosperity Gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 4

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:11 am

The previous posts in this series are here, here, and here, and are essential background for understanding what follows.

The first three posts in this series were to set the table, so to speak, for the videos posted over the last few days from the Manhattan Declaration website and the Planned Parenthood videos, showing Planned Parenthood employees essentially enabling human trafficking, sex crimes, and underage prostitution.  If you missed them, they immediately precede this post, or you can click the links above.

It seems that human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation, has eclipsed abortion as a major concern of some Christian non-profits and churches, especially some Christian colleges and universities, and some churches that are busy moving or staying left, whether they are “emerging” or were simply left/liberal to start with.

As demonstrated by the videos referenced above, there is considerable irony in this, since the easy availability of abortion is one of the enabling factors for human-trafficking pimps.

Should your Christian organization that is justifiably concerned about human trafficking also be just as concerned and visible in its opposition to legal abortion-on-demand?  But you see, there’s a small problem with this.  In the modern media and academic environment, it’s not popular to take a strong stand about legal abortion-on-demand, because it is very clear that one political party is essentially for it, while the other is essentially against it.  That is simply an uncomfortable fact, an “inconvenient truth,” if you will.  Uncomfortable, that is, for those who want to court the left, for those who want to say that while they are “pro-life”, abortion-on-demand is really a political issue, and not an appropriate focus for Christian non-profits with other fish to fry.

Does your church or para-church organization pride itself on its commitment to “justice,” or even “social justice,” with annual workshops, conferences, presentations, etc., which focus on human trafficking?  Does your organization expend as much effort on reducing abortion, by educating people about its realities, by providing support for women in “crisis” pregnancy (and after birth of a child), and also working to change the laws that allow abortion for essentially any reason at any time in the pregnancy?

Have the leaders of your organization signed the Manhattan Declaration, surely one of the most ecumenical of documents?  If not, why not?  Ask yourself, with what public policy initiatives does your organization ally itself?  What is different about those public policy aims and the aims of the Manhattan Declaration?

If, upon closer examination, you notice that those aims seem to be identifiable with the left, you have your answer.

Which leads to even bigger questions, doesn’t it?

Feb 15 2011

Planned Parenthood gives free business advice: part two

Category: abortion,illegal alien,justiceharmonicminer @ 10:59 am

Planned Parenthood is just so helpful. Great customer service.

Feb 14 2011

Planned Parenthood gives free business advice: part one

Category: abortion,illegal alien,justiceharmonicminer @ 5:57 pm

Here is a video of a Planned Parenthood worker giving business advice to a pimp and a prostitute and conspiring to provide birth control, STD testing and abortions to underage prostitutes in their employ.

Feb 13 2011

Manhattan Declaration Pro-Life Video Contest winners: #1

Category: abortion,justiceharmonicminer @ 10:01 am

The Manhattan Declaration people have just finished a video contest for pro-life videos.  Here is the winner.

Feb 12 2011

Manhattan Declaration Pro-Life Video Contest winners: #2

Category: abortion,justiceharmonicminer @ 10:01 am

The Manhattan Declaration people have just finished a video contest for pro-life videos.  Here is the number two finisher.

Feb 11 2011

Manhattan Declaration Pro-Life Video Contest winners: #3

Category: justice,raceharmonicminer @ 10:01 am

The Manhattan Declaration people have just finished a video contest for pro-life videos.  Here is the number three finisher.

Feb 10 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 3

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:12 am

The previous posts in this series are here and here, and are essential background for understanding what follows.

The problem for faithful Christian organizations is this: there will come a day when the choice is between being faithful to mission, by maintaining a powerful Christian witness for truth, or being safe and well-regarded by the secular world. It will probably not be something so dramatic as a secular sovereign attempting to force a recantation on pain of death. It’s more likely to be the temptation to adopt an essentially secular perspective or initiative that “sounds good” on the surface, one with non-Christian or even anti-Christian origins, but one that is highly socially acceptable, and to bathe it in proof-texted Christian sounding rhetoric. Or it may be the temptation to withhold speaking out on a crucial moral issue, perhaps a controversial one, in which taking sides comes with some risk of negative public relations with some group whose approval we court. Another danger is the retention of leaders or employees whose dismissal will cause some inconvenience (lawsuit, perhaps bad public relations with a sister organization, etc.), but who are clearly out of sympathy with the Christian world-view that is presumably at the root of the institution, or who are having a negative impact on the institution’s ability to carry out its Christian mission without hypocrisy.

Self-delusion is easy. We can say that we have taken particular actions or adopted particular policies because they are the right things to do, not merely because we expect them to bring the good regard of the world and success in our direction. And certainly there can be overlap. But one thing is clear: the agenda of the world is not Christ’s. If we can not fairly easily point to several specific ways in which we have risked the world’s approbation for our church, para-church organization or institution, and risked it for the sake of being true to Christ and standing firm, it is likely that we have succumbed to a carnal view of our mission of leadership, wherein we judge ourselves more by our press releases and public image than by our faithfulness to Christ’s teaching.

One of the more seductive tendencies for 21st-century Christian organizations is to seek social acceptability by moving to the left. This is sometimes packaged as “maturing” and becoming less “simplistic.” Since the opinion makers in media and academia are mostly on the left, that may seem to be the only way to gain the good report of the world. Not that this is always a consciously chosen grand strategy; rather, it is often the cumulative result of many small compromises. It may also come about from adopting perspectives, initiatives and vocabulary of un-Christian or even anti-Christian origin, and then trying to find scriptural support for them.

There is irony in this. The left generally despises traditional religious and moral perspectives. It is usually anti-American in significant ways, and generally denies what it considers to be the flawed notion of western cultural superiority (including the “progress” narrative, the assumption of ever greater material prosperity, etc.). Yet the assumption of success due to intelligent effort is the most American (and conservative) of perspectives. The idea that you can do good and get rich is extremely American, not to mention capitalist at its core, with its assumption that when you do good by providing a service, or creating a product, you deserve to benefit when people freely buy whatever you’re selling. When that assumption animates church and para-church organizations and institutions, which then gradually shift to the left (because, after all, moving left sells, don’t you know, in the media and academia), the irony is complete. They become busy marketing a left-leaning perspective, one which is inconsistent with the underlying assumption that the practice of selling something that people want is to be justly rewarded.

There is another paradox. The Christian left is prone to agree with the secular world that “America is not a Christian nation” and to disagree with the notion of “American exceptionalism” that is generally held by conservatives and many “mainstream” Americans.  How sad, then, when a critical part of the self-image cultivated by some Christian institutions is that non-Christian, unexceptional America likes them, as measured by ratings in magazines, opinion polls and the like.

If any of this is interesting to you, stay tuned….  we’re about to get to the nitty gritty.

The next post in this series is here.

Feb 09 2011

High speed rail? Obama tries to turn economic lead into gold

Category: Congress,economy,government,humor,legislation,Obama,politicsharmonicminer @ 9:36 am

Obama to call for $53B for high-speed rail


President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jumpstart job creation.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn’t say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it’s likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama’s push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new spending on infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month’s State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

At the same time he’s calling for new spending on sectors like high-speed rail in the upcoming budget, Obama also has pledged to cut overall spending as he seeks to bring down the nation’s mounting deficit.

Well, to be clear, Obama only called for a “freeze in spending”…  a freeze at the ridiculously high levels he set in his first two years.  Only his sycophants in the press would call not raising spending even further “a cut.”

In any case, America is not Europe, nor is it Japan.  There is not now a demand for high speed rail, nor will there be anytime soon.  If there was a demand for it, private interests would be busy investing in it, expecting to make money from it.  Obama seems to have learned nothing from the subsidy infested mess that is Amtrak.

I propose a better way to spend the money.  He should invest in research in alchemy.  Turning lead into gold is probably impossible….  but maybe not.  And along the way, spending 50 billion dollars is likely to accidentally result in some real science getting done, something with at least “spin off” benefits, technologically and economically.

So lets hear it for alchemy in the federal budget.  That makes a LOT more sense, and is probably a better way to spend large amounts of money, than high-speed rail, which will continue to be a sinkhole for money even after it’s built, which will probably cost a lot more than anyone now projects.

Of course, we all know Obama has no actual hope of doing this.  He just brought it up to play to his lefty audience, who love anything that makes people get in lines and wait somewhere.  But Obama knows he has no chance of getting this through a Republican House of Representatives.  He’s just talking for effect, and public relations with his base.


Still…  maybe in trying to turn lead into gold, the scientists would finally discover cold fusion.




Feb 08 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 2

The previous post in this series is here, and will help provide background for what follows.

There are many instances of people and groups who take risks for the gospel, do the unpopular thing, and God does bless them. But obvious worldly blessing is not a given. God has His own agenda and ways of doing things, and we cannot assume that our worldly success is due to God’s blessing, nor our difficulties evidence of our failure to seek God’s will and do it. Some missionaries are murdered, and martyrdom in Christ’s service did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Lesser difficulties also occur with some regularity, even in the modern world.

Yet how many boards and leaders of churches and para-church organizations proceed with the assumption that apparent worldly or financial success equals God’s blessing, with such a rigid conflation of the two that any policy which carries some attendant risk of worldly disapproval is assumed to be the wrong one? Consider the logic: if we are doing good, God will bless us in worldly ways. Therefore, we should not consider doing something that risks getting worldly disapproval, since if the world disapproves, by our benighted definition, God is not blessing us.

So how can we decide if we are making our decisions according to God’s plan, from a fully Christian worldview, or if we are simply doing what seems best to us, within our human expertise (and afflicted with human pride and desire for power), as we try to strengthen our organization or institution in a worldly sense? There is no way to know for sure, of course….

But one thing seems indicative.

If we find we are mostly making decisions from the point of view of what the world will think of us (not from the point of view of God’s will, God’s commands, God’s moral precepts, and Christ within and among us), even if we have great institutional and public success, even if we are doing some good, we are not doing what God desires of us. Christ’s way is one of sacrifice and risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, most particularly the risk of being misunderstood and vilified by those who do not know Him. This is true whether we are explaining His way to the world, or standing for the principles He taught.

I’ll be developing this idea further in subsequent posts.

The next post in this series is here.

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