Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nation-building and historical Christianity

The following are excerpts from a fascinating article that I found in the Spring 2004 issue of The Public Interest entitled “The unraveling of Christianity in America.” The author, Clifford Orwin, makes two key points worth highlighting: 1) the notion of imposing our form of government on Iraq is completely out of step with the historical understanding of America’s Christians, & 2) the logic of ‘war on terror’ is making America even more secular and syncretistic.

Not that many years ago, no president could have sold nation-building and the imposition of "democracy" (an almost completely useless term) to most conservative Christians. Liberals however, who believe that they must bring in the kingdom and that all of the world's ills can and must be corrected by the "proper" application of government power, have always fallen for this lie. One would think that the evangelical Christian Right would have at least a few leaders capable of understanding this distinction. (Well, maybe not.)

Here are the excerpts:

“By its deeds, not merely its words, [the Bush] administration has exceeded all previous ones in rejecting the dependency of democracy on Christianity. “

“This position is so far from that of the Christian Right as to place the administration squarely on the wrong side of the cultural divide. The conservative Christian view is that America has become and remained free only insofar as it has remained Christian, that the Christian backdrop to republicanism is a matter not of historical chance but of vital necessity. As the Reverend Chuck McIlhenny of San Francisco put it to James Davidson Hunter, ‘The Lord has blessed our nation over the centuries because its cultural heritage was Christian.’ In rejecting the notion of a “naked public square’ – that is, of public culture purged of Christianity — these conservatives implicitly rejected naked democracy as a commodity subject to export.”

“[Bush] has chosen to present America to the world not as the Christian nation for which his religious supporters take it, but as the universal sponsor of liberal democracy, which as such is impartial in principle as between Christianity and Islam.”

“[Bush] cannot revive Lincoln’s appeal to Christianity, no matter how nondenominational that appeal would be. His religious rhetoric must be ‘inclusive’, anodyne, and sterile. His administration must become American’s first genuinely Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jewish (and Muslim) one [so that the world doesn’t see the “war on terror” as a religious crusade]. And so the challenge of Islamic terror will collaborate with other forces to drive official America to ever greater lengths of secularism or syncretism.”

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Ron Paul Counterrevolution!

The turn [from the dangerous concentration of power at the federal level] will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given.

It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic. Who will proclaim in a campaign speech: “I have no interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

-- “The Conscience of a Conservative”, Barry Goldwater, Hillman Books, 1960, pgs 23 –24

While Americans have not yet elected a president as described above, the Ron Paul “revolution” represents the first opportunity to do so since those words were penned. Reagan’s rhetoric came close, but Ron Paul’s rhetoric and ACTIONS are sans pareil.

I’m not fond of the cultural connotations of the word 'revolution'. Moreover, to apply it to Ron Paul’s philosophy is simply not accurate. Our present system of government contains some of the form and structure of the old republic, but there has been, in the words of Old Right essayist Garet Garrett, a “revolution within the form”. That is, we hear incessantly about freedom, rule of law, separation of powers, and democracy, yet the concepts behind these words have been perverted.

It is this "revolution within the form" that Ron Paul wants to reverse. Thus Ron Paul is a counterrevolutionary. His core agenda can be summarized as 1) a strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution, 2) a vigorous defense of national sovereignty, 3) a deconstruction of the military-industrial complex and a return to a non-interventionist foreign policy, and 4) the abolition of the Federal Reserve and a return to sound money. This agenda is an attack directed at the very heart of the Establishment that has had a grip on the levers of power in our nation for decades.

OK, I'll admit that in a sense, this counterrevolution is revolutionary! As long as you understand the distinction outlined above, I’ll let it ride. So, LET’S START A REVOLUTION!!

"I want to be president mainly for what I don't want to do: I don't want to run your life, I don't want to run the economy and I don't want to police the world."

Ron Paul speaking to Republican straw poll in Center Strafford, New Hamphire

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reagan on a National ID

Writing for the Cato Institute in 1997, author Stephen Moore recalled that during Reagan’s early years in office, “Then-Attorney General William French Smith argued that a perfectly harmless ID card system would be necessary to reduce illegal immigration. A second cabinet member asked: why not tattoo a number on each American’s forearm? According to Martin Anderson, the White House domestic policy adviser at the time, Reagan blurted out ‘My god, that’s the mark of the beast.’ As Anderson wrote, ‘that was the end of the national identification card’ during the Reagan years. -- "Pushing National IDs", The New American, 2007-07-09

Too bad that didn't kill this noxious idea for good. The latest attempt at a National ID is the Real ID act, which was passed in part by using illegal immigration as the excuse, just as in the Reagan story above. It is scheduled to be fully implemented by 2009, but has provoked a significant backlash. For the whole story, see the link above.

The following quote from presidential candidate Ron Paul during the first GOP debate expresses the core philosophical objection to a National ID:

"I am absolutely opposed to a national ID card. This is a total contradiction to what a free society is all about. The purpose of government is to protect the secrecy and privacy of all individuals, not the secrecy of government. We don’t need a National ID card.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Facts for Christians about Ron Paul: Abortion

Presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul was an OGBYN for many decades and has delivered over 4000 babies. On his campaign website is the following strong statement:

"In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman."

Dr. Paul has been an outspoken supporter of the right to life. Immediately after the 2nd GOP debate on May 15th, Dr. Paul defended the pre-born on national TV to Alan Colmes by rhetorically asking, "If you can't protect life, how can you protect liberty?" He also stated, "A fetus is alive, it's human, it has legal rights. If you kill it, you have comitted an act of agresssion."

Dr. Paul has authored and sponsered several pieces of legislation over the years to advance the pro-life cause. But to understand what is unique about Dr. Paul in this regard requires some perspective.

First, it is important to realize that most GOP politicians have no desire or incentive to advance the pro-life agenda beyond mere rhetoric. It is just too useful of a political device.

Ask yourself, "When has any GOP leader gone to the mat and risked significant political capital over this issue?" They mostly utter poll-tested pabulum to the faithful and move on.

A famous trick is when they claim to support a Constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion. Don't fall for this ruse. Politicians often support constitutional amendments knowing full well that they have no chance of passing. Thus they get to posture without risk.

If these guys really were concerned over the issue, they would actually make it a priority regardless of political risk. For an example of how determined political action might look, recall the indecent eagerness with which President Bush and Congressional leaders twisted arms and doled-out bribes to pass CAFTA and massively expand Medicare. Even right now, note how Bush is willingly alienating his rapidly shrinking base by his repeated efforts to grant amnesty for illegals and to subordinate America into a North American Union.

The contrast in effort makes it abundantly clear: The GOP leadership USES pro-lifers. And like a battered mate, social conservatives keep coming back for more.

Contrast this with Dr. Paul's record. Instead of playing political games, he has repeatedly introduced legislation that would abolish Roe v. Wade by using the powers granted to Congress under Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution to remove the issue from the jurisdiction of activist federal courts. For a recent example, see "Sanctity of Life Act of 2007".

The beautiful aspect of this approach is that it can achieve significant results with only a majority vote in the Congress and a signature by the President. This is politically possible, unlike a Constitutional amendment.

Another benefit to this approach is that it uses a tool already contained in the Constitution to address the issue. But to say that the Constitution must be amended in order to address the issue suggests that the Constitution is flawed or to blame, which is obviously not true.

Most suiters of the religious right vote will say they are against Roe v. Wade, but Ron Paul has done something about it -- something concrete that actually has a chance of suceeding. Yes, that means some states could still choose to allow abortion. But many more will choose to outlaw it. For information on why this trade-off is the best alternative for the pro-life movement (the principle of federalism), see
this statement from Dr. Paul.