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Author Archives: cmulready
Everyone & everywhere on the internet is talking about the latest panic: Swine Flu. Although it hasn’t become a pandemic, apparently the potential is there. Those who aren’t worrying about the latest virus to come down the pike remind us that we’re facing doom at the hands of a changing environment, which scientists are now saying may swing cold, rather than hot (this makes sense to me…if, as the esteemed Al Gore has said, the “earth has a fever” we should expect temperature swings…when I have a fever, I feel hot and cold simultaneously…although, somehow, I don’t think that’s what he meant…)
The United States is a leader in this scary world; some might say the most powerful leader, some would say we have lost our position as the most influential nation. Regardless of where we sit in the global pecking order, the question that faces us is obvious: what is our responsibility when the world is faced with a crisis? Do we make it our own, or do we close-up shop in the troubled nations and keep doing business where it’s still profitable?
We pose this question to our readers: what is America’s role in times of global crisis? Should we use our abundance to help those struggling? Is the first responsibility of our government to protect we, the citizens? Should we be led to sacrifice and provide for those in need around the world by our government, or should this be reserved for private citizens? Is international aid even feasible for private citizens, or are the problems we face so large they must be entrusted to the government? Is Xenophobia the only good phobia? We want to hear your thoughts!
Taking a break from our ongoing discussion of the first principles of government, I wanted to reflect on the goals that we should have as the citizens, and more specifically the church, within this nation.
Regardless of your politics, it is important to recognize this truth: no earthly government will solve all of your problems. Conservatives like myself often take this to justify our argument that, in fact, no government will solve even most of our problems, and therefore we’re better of with less government. Liberals maintain that, while our government is flawed, it is a powerful tool and might as well be usefully employed; therefore, we should use it as effectively as possible. However, we will both agree that a necessary component towards seeing the government accomplish our goals is our own involvement.
We have a role to play in our nation; the question is, what?
Conservative Christians in America today often get labeled as being fans of Armageddon; as if we are rooting for the end of the world in war and pain. Unfortunately, I cannot deny that there are voices in the church that do seem to call out for the total destruction of our nation and the world, justifying this postion with the argument that such a cataclysm will bring on the Kingdom of God. This stance puzzles and frightens those not in the church (and some within the church, to be honest); how can any group of people claim to love their neighbors, while cheering on the brutal end of the world?
I am not going to get into a eschatological debate here (as if defining and arguing about government weren’t difficult enough!) but the way we think about how this world will end does seem to color the way we live in it. The majority of the church in America is in danger, it seems to me, of living as if tomorrow will be the last day, so we need not care how we live today. This may be true in many areas, but in the realm of our civic duties it seems particularly prevalent.
Our stated goal is often to merely save souls, rather than to redeem our culture. I have recently begun to think that we cannot be effective at one if we do not participate in the other.
Perhaps I sound like an alarmist. We live in the United States of America, and regardless of the different surveys that Newsweek or Gallop or CNN take, for the most part this nation identifies itself as a Christian, religious nation. What’s the worry, right?
On the other hand, much that was once the natural province of the church has been ceded to the realm of social justice. Whereas in ages past the church was the forefront of education & charity, and would be one of the natural counsellors to those in power, today more and more the state and secular institutions are the sole providers of education & charity, and there are increased efforts to prevent any trappings of Christianity from being present in the government, or encouraged in the main-stream of the culture.
We should not be shocked that we are opposed when it comes to influencing the powerful; even if we were a neutral voice, those positions of influence are few and are always up from grabs. Everyone wants their voice to be heard; when we fail to be convincing and impact our community, we can hardly expect to keep the same ammount of influence on the affairs of state. Compound that with the fact that Christianity is not a morally ambivalent system of belief, and should result in a change to business as usual, which will naturally prompt opponents to actively seek to undermine us…can we really be surprised that we’re opposed in government at times? Weren’t we assured of that very thing? The opposition we face reflects the stakes; we fight for the soul of our nation, and it is actually our task as American Christians to work to see the nation redeemed and restored. No one party has the monopoly on the solution; I have my preferences and arguments in favor of one over the other, but we should not limit ourselves to the same party politics that the secularists around us promote. Our goal is more than any one politician’s agenda or political party’s platform. Our goal is to see the Kingdom of God on earth.
Now…I am not a utopian, and I have no delusions that we can make the world perfect. My argument is simply this; we, the Church of Christ, have this commission: to go and make disciples of all men. Our primary interaction with our fellow man is through our own community, our neighborhoods, our governments, local and federal. If you read this blog, I’d assume that government is something you enjoy thinking and talking about; I’d encourage you to reflect further on how the interactions you have with your community further the cause of Christ in our Nation. Remember that a culture saturated with Christians who live lives aimed at establishing Christendom cannot remain secular for long.
Good Christians are the foremost patriots; not because our state is the same as the church, but because the Church intends to change the nature of the state.
The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
“Liberty has never come from Government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it… The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.”
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.
What is the right to Liberty, and how should the government protect and provide for it?
I have spent time, off and on, over the past week trying to find the words to answer this question. My best thoughts amount to this: liberty, as we refer to it in terms of government and it’s citizens, is the space provided by the government, by which the citizens are allowed to explore and appreciate the ambitions of their hearts. Where this space exists, there is liberty; where it is absent, there is tyranny. The greater the space, the greater the liberty: every additional intrusion by the government into the private lives and personal governance of it’s citizens is a stripping of liberty.
Should the space be absolute, should the government be entirely restricted from inserting itself into our lives? The answer is obviously no! We are a people of law, and our government exists to protect us and allow us the peace necessary to make the space of liberty a good thing. Liberty without a government is not unlike the freedom of being homeless: with nothing to tie you down, the world is open to you; however, there is also nothing to shelter you from the harsh reality of the world. We need a home to protect us; in the same way, we need a government to serve as a safe-guard against the unfetered wrath of nature.
However, just as we would not be shut-in to our homes, never to venture out and appreciate all that the outdoors has to offer, so we will not be so encompassed in the safety of our government that it becomes impossible to enjoy the joys that exist apart from the government. Our government’s good is not the only or even the best good. We should not be limited to the vision of even a democratically elected representative for our future. Our personal prosperity, so closely tied to our ability to explore and expand our horizons, is not and should not be the priority of the government; the consequence of this reality, however, is that we need the government to give us a free hand to pursue prosperity. Less government oversight and regulations actually means broader horizons, and while there should be some safeguards, a nation where each individual is expected to make for themselves the most of the opportunities we have all been given is a nation of greater accountability and responsibility.
Our personal excellence should be allowed to flourish; likewise, we must also be permitted to pay the price of failing.
This last point might seem controversial. Where is the compassion in a government that allows it’s citizens to fail, and fail brutally? It’s a fair question…my answer is, the government’s role is not to show compassion to it’s citizens. That is the place of the citizens; we should (and do) minister to fellow citizens in need. In fact, charitable giving is higher when the government taxes it’s people less.
The happy result of having fewer government intrusions and restrictions to our livelihood is citizens who are more self-sufficent, more personally responsible, and more charitable. Liberty is not merely the privelege of a free society; it is integral for the survival and flourishing of such a society. Less government, more freedom!
In honor of the annual day for rendering unto Caesar, it is appropriate to ask why we pay taxes.
Ostensibly, taxes are the quid pro quo for the services we expect from the government. We pay taxes, they give us roads. We pay taxes, they provide us with a national defense. We pay taxes, they form a myriad of government agencies to employ hundreds of thousands of employees who cannot be fired regardless of they level of competence…
The honest truth is, if we do pay taxes, likely very little of our money goes towards aspects of the government we appreciate. Be it the military or public education or the NEA, etc., its a good bet that we would spend our money differently, even if we still had to give it to the government, if we were entrusted with that responsibility.
Which makes this the next question; Lang asked what we think of paying taxes. I ask, what should we do with taxes? Fund health care for illegal aliens? Provide a bail-out for failed businesses? Sponsor wars in Asia Minor to get more access to oil? The possibilities are endless…what are your thoughts?
In many ways a discussion on the nature of life is a tricky thing. This is because, as Lang points out, such questions are huge and answering them “correctly” requires more time and room than we here have. Still, as Lang has bravely offered her thoughts on this natural right and the implications for a government whose stated purpose is the protection of this right, I will do my best.
In short, our right to life is simply that: we have the right to live. This is a right endowed to us by the Creator, and as our life springs from His original miracle, it is deserving of our protection. We are created equal in our capacity and possession of this right; in that sense, it is inalienable. For all mankind, this is a fundamental right, one that cannot be taken from us justly without cause. As with all rights, this right can be revoked if our actions warrant it; but that is a matter of the law, and not one that should ever be determined based on the convenience of others.
We take the time to state this seemingly obvious reality because, as our generation bears witness, sometimes even obvious injustices are overlooked in favor of the convenience of others. The weak and the helpless, old and the new, require that we enumerate this right, to prevent the tyranny of the strong from abusing them for our own needs. We must insist that the law uphold the legitimate claim to life that these demographics possess, and advocate for them in the absence of justice under the law. We cannot state this strongly or plainly enough; the cause of the unborn (and the disabled and elderly) is the most basic and fundamental responsibility of our government. A government that permits abortion on demand is a government where the right to life is conditional at best, never inalienable.
Up to this point, unless I am greatly mistaken, Lang and I are in complete agreement. It is, unfortunately, at this point that our paths must part; for while we agree that the right to life is the responsibility of the government to protect, I cannot unequivocally assent to the argument that “A system that promotes exploitation cannot claim to be a system that fosters the right to life.”
I should pause; I would assent to that, if I could then assert that the suggestion that our government is such a system is at least mostly flawed. Such a system would represent a failure to protect the right to life, as Lang’s personal anecdote bears witness. If the default position of the government was to allow the people to live at the mercy of corporations for the simple purpose of allowing as many big companies to make money as possible, then yes, the government would have failed in it’s sacred trust to we, the people.
However, it is not so.
I am not in Fairy Land, and I have no delusions that the people do not suffer abuse from big companies; I have worked in corporate America (in insurance, actually) and I too read the news. We all know that Big Business is very susceptible to greedy corruption, and we all agree that if possible, the government should do it’s best to prevent those business’ from grossly exploiting the people. This has been a true Conservative postion throughout the last Century; after all TR was no friend to business tycoons.
The unfortunate reality of the sort of regulation that would be required to ensure that we all receive a fair shake from the big corporations is that it would put the state into a tyrannical position it was never intended to occupy. Ultimately, we face a choice; to run the risk of personal corruption for the sake of allowing for personal excellence. The argument that “Minimal government oversight and restricted government involvement may spell freedom for some, but will inevitably mean tyranny for others, usually those with the least chance of obtaining justice.” seems to forget that if the government expands oversight and restriction, we will assuredly have tyranny for all in the form of a government that has deemed itself capable of discerning what is best for us all.
Since not even God Himself, who does know what is best for us, has forced humanity to accept governance that would eliminate injustice, the argument in favor of entrusting a body of politicians with that power seems overly optimistic to say the least.
Our government protects our right to life, in conjunction with the other inalienable rights, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To protect these three, deemed equally inalienable by our founders, requires a government which balances the need for oversight with the need to get out of our way; one cannot be said to be the proper possessor of these rights if the government is perpetually in the position of manipulating society to produce an environment of artificial of social equality. We should pity those who have less than we do; but the government should not make it It’s business to ensure that we practice virtue.
Finally, I alluded to this earlier; I do believe the government can strip us of our inalienable rights if our behavior warrants it. How do we determine what behavior warrant’s such a punishment? Capital crimes; murder, rape; I am fairly traditional when it comes to this question. Once again, the power to forgive is reserved for we the people; individuals may practice mercy and pity. The state exists so that I don’t need to take up the sword in my own defense; if I am wronged, I need to be able to count on appropriate justice being served for the crime committed. It seems criminally wrong that we allow convicted criminals sentenced to death to live on the money of law-abiding tax-payers as they try to search for any loop-hole in the legal process that ended in their sentence for years on end; or that we shoud prefer the sentence of life in prison over the death penalty because it often better accomplishes the goal of keeping the convicted criminal away from the populace.
I do not think we should relish the deaths of anyone, even the worst criminals. I have taken a long road to get to this position; like Lang, my natural tendency is to reach for the sword rather than the Bible when I see injustice. However, I do believe my first duty is to reach for the Bible; and thus my argument is that, as this is my duty, it is entirely appropriate to recognize what the responsibility of the state is, with regard to balancing the scales of justice.
I have been thinking about this post for too long, which is part of the reason it has taken so long to get it on-line. It is a difficult topic; I have no delusions that I have offered the best answer; merely my best thoughts on a hard subject.
As is no doubt clear, the desire to post regularly vies with the priorities of the rest of our lives. Hopefully we will manage a fairly regular discourse until we get to Summer, when our schedules might become a little more free.
However, my thoughts are never far from the issues we would like to address and discuss here, and positing a good question and allowing it to brew can often be more worthwhile than opining with frequent regularity (notice my subtle attempt to paint our infrequent posts as a clever exercise in restraint).
On that note, I offer the next subject for our joint review: to express, as best we can, the meaning of the inalienable rights and what the government should look like to best promote and protect those rights. Rather than try to envelope all three into one post, lets take it one issue at a time (although it will likely become apparent that these right are, apart from inalienable, somewhat co-dependant and support one another); let us begin with the Right to Life. What is it? How should the government establish and defend it? Who is qualified to appreciate it? Are there circumstances in which the government could (and possibly should) have the ability to take it away?