The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Four Election Options: Explained and Defended

A week to go–that is how long we have until the 2012 Presidential Election. As I see it, we have four choices: Obama, Romney, Third Party, or Abstain. Allow me to present the reasons for each, and which I’ve settled on.

Obama: We’ve heard one argument: it is more likely to bring on a truly conservative candidate sooner. We’ve heard the response, “We are told that it is perverse to deduce from God’s providence, ‘Let us do evil that good may come.'” Another argument presented is that an Obama presidency will be the most conservative option we have–more on that later.

Romney: Romney–while far from guaranteeing it–gives us the best chance for conservative replacements to the U.S. Supreme Court. Others will argue that he also gives us the best chance for overturning Roe v. Wade (that’s a pipe dream) and for repealing Obamacare (another pipe dream).

Third Party: Voting for either the Constitution Party candidate (Virgil Goode) or the Libertarian Party candidate (Gary Johnson) would send a clear message to the GOP that we want change, REAL change–not the stuff Obama promised, but real change. It would tell them they can’t count on us to vote for them no matter how bad the Democrat challenger/incumbent is, unless they are willing to be principled.

Abstain: The best reason to abstain is the old slogan, “Don’t vote, it only encourages the bastards.” If you don’t like the system, if the system itself is evil, then don’t participate in it. Coincidentally, whole Latin American nations refuse to participate in their political systems. Dictators come and dictators go; dictators pass their laws and decrees; the people go right on living their lives and doing what is right in their own eyes and the dictator does nothing to stop them because stopping them would mean ending his own career. 

In the end, I am of two minds. I will vote Third Party because I want to send a message to the GOP. I don’t want to help get Obama reelected in order to do that because I’m afraid they’ll just interpret that as a failure on their part to get their message out. But if Romney loses conservative votes to the Third Party candidates, they can’t but help to recognize the problem is with them–even if they’ll refuse to admit that publicly.

My other mind will be expecting a major party candidate to win, and I will hope–should that be true–that Obama will win. *GASP* Catch your breath and give me a moment to explain.

America has a long history of being principled for short periods of time and being–well–nuts the rest of the time. When we are the most principled is when there is a Democratic president and Republican Congress. Republicans will ONLY stick to their principles in opposition to a Democratic president. They forget they have principles when the president is a Republican (see George W. Bush’s term for an example). The current Congress is already conservative, and if Obama is re-elected it will become even more so in 2014 (historical precedence is on our side, folks!) All of the damage that we fear Obama will incur upon us in a second term won’t be possible with a conservative and growing more conservative (and principled) Congress. Historically, the GOP was most conservative and principled when it was opposing Clinton. We can only hope for the same kind of principles with a second-term Obama.

Thus, I send the GOP a message with a Third Party vote (hoping they’ll hear the message and give us a real, principled candidate in 2016) and I hope for Obama to win (if it has to be a major party candidate). For, as historical precedence makes clear, an Obama presidency with a Republican Congress will give us a more principled and conservative America than a Romney presidency with a Republican Congress ever will.

Must you obey the Christian who tells you whom to vote for?

When you agree that a candidate is the most evil choice of the options that you have, you need to not vote for that candidate. I don’t think it is ethical to strategize a “false flag” strategy where you try to promote the worst candidate in the hope of inspiring an awakening. God may do such things. But God is able to make such calculations, and he has the right to do so. We are told that it is perverse to deduce from God’s providence, “Let us do evil that good may come.”

So when you are warned off from a candidate as the worst evil, I think you need to hear him or her and follow that counsel.

But there are also Christians who will tell you it is wrong to vote for the lesser of two evils. I don’t see how that can possibly hold up. If you think only one of two candidates has a reasonable chance of winning, and the one will be much worse than the other, you are free as a Christian to vote for the lesser evil.

To put it another way, no one can claim you are obligated to vote for the candidate you think would make the best ruler, regardless of whether or not he has any chance of winning.

If you choose the lesser of two evils, because you are sure that only one of those two has any chance of getting elected, then you are doing the best you can with the circumstances God gave you.

You’re free to vote for the lesser of two evils. Don’t let any “perfectionist” tell you otherwise.

Lately, however, I’ve notice a lot of Christians who think they have the right to demand of other Christians that they vote for the lesser evil. We have an obligation to defeat the greater evil by means of the lesser evil, we are told.

I don’t think this can possibly be right. I think it is an unsupportable attack on Christian liberty. And, for what its worth, the more such Christians push their “lesser evil,” the more he stinks to those who are being pushed upon.l

No one can tell you to put a sign in your yard for a candidate for a political office.

If you’re a Christian, your obligation to do good to all men does not mean that your lack of dedication to doing all you could possibly do to get the best possible candidate elected can be counted against you as sin. It isn’t sin. You’re free. Your lawn is your lawn and it is no one’s business if you choose to keep it signless.

You’re not morally obligated to send money to the best candidate’s campaign. No one can tell you that you are responsible for the next four years of bad Supreme Court appointments if you don’t donate to them. No one has a right to berate you or morally bully you out of your money.

You don’t have to hand out political flyers. You are not obligated to go door to door to get the vote out.

You are free to decide how much time, energy, or money you will or will not contribute to the candidate you prefer. No one is your judge in this matter.

Likewise, you are not obligated to vote for a candidate who you despise because he is better than the alternative and is the only candidate able to beat that alternative. The way that history changes is that people get fed up with their usual options and simply stop behaving as they once did. If this were not true then we would still be stuck with the same original two political parties. But that is not what has happened. Eventually, people simply stopped responding to one political party and it died to be replaced by another.

Shifts don’t only depend on the next election. There can be multi-cycle trends that build up before they are felt. If the number of registered voters shinks, or if the number of them who participate in voting for one of the two major presidential candidates shrinks, that communicates to both parties that there is a resource that is not being used that might help them win the next election.

If you want to vote for someone who won’t win because you think he is a far superior candidate, your vote may have no positive impact in that election cycle. But history is probably going to last longer than the election cycle. You may be positioning him for a stronger showing in the next cycle. It is up to you.

How do you calculate when it is worth it? Since you don’t know the future, you really aren’t calculating anything. But you vote how you want. You vote for the candidate you want to vote for. You can limit your alternatives to the two most likely candidates to win, or you can simply vote for the candidate you like the most. You are free to vote how you want.

Likewise, you are free not to vote at all. There is no law that obligates you to vote, and the Bible only tells Christians that their civic obligation is to submit to the governing authorities. The fictional claim that we have the power “to choose our rulers” is a socialist fallacy. You are not a collective hive mind; you are a person. In a society of many tens of millions of voters, nothing you do can determine the outcome of the election.

I could go back in time and change all the votes for the President that I have ever made to the other candidate. Do you know what that would change? Absolutely nothing. The question of voting is not like actions where you actually do tangible good in the world. You will wake up in the same world on November 7 regardless of who you vote for on November 6.

If you are obligated to contribute to the outcome of an election, then donating money, actively campaigning, and even putting a sign in your yard would probably have much more impact than your one vote. If you are not obligated to do the former things, then you are not obligated to do the latter.

Should our country make it legally mandatory to vote? If such a law were put in place, then the differences between the two major political parties would become much less than they are. As the system works now, a party can’t simply assume that all it needs to do is run a candidate marginally better than the other guy. The candidate is not just running against the other guy. He is running against the option of not voting at all. If you want to win an election, you can’t pretend that everyone is forced to show up at the voting booth and then, at that point, will make a decision about how to make the best of a bad situation. People don’t like to be in bad situations. They especially don’t like to have to drive and stand in line and wait for them. So you have to try to run a campaign that actually wins people over.

So the point here is that you are free. You vote for who you like most according to Christian values. These can involve a choice among the two most likely options, a choice between all the candidates for the one you like the most, or a choice to not participate because nothing seems worth the effort.

In all of this is a lot of guesswork. You don’t know the future. You don’t know how events will turn out. Your decision has a lot more to do with the imagination and with how you feel than with some kind of calculation you are capable of making.

You do know that your vote won’t change who gets into office and that God controls the hearts of your rulers.

So you’re free.

 

Vote Only for the Candidate who has a Chance

This was the basic premise of a local talk-show host I interacted with today. My response is brief:

__________, I grant your position and principle as the majority in this country. I simply refuse to accept it as the sole principle to consider in election season. My commitment as a principled Biblicist and Trinitarian Christian causes me to consider other matters beyond simply “who has a shot and who doesn’t.” Even if I were to accept your premise it would only make sense in Florida, and a few other states where votes actually make a difference in the general election. I would not consider a Republican vote in California to be foolish and wasteful. Human beings are created with what the Reformation called the “doctrine of the conscience.” Our decisions based on principle and conscience are not in vain, whether they win out in the end or not. They indicate and form the type of person we are and will be. Decisions are formational and maturational at their most basic level.

The Mormon Thing No One Talks About

With a plethora of Romney apologists in the internet, Mormonism couldn’t be happier. The distinctly American religion has found its way to the American audience. Mormonism continues to grow in America. CBN reports “that if present trends continue there could be 265 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) worldwide by 2080.” That is a staggering number!

Evangelicals find Mormonism largely non-threatening. After all, what is threatening about well-dressed young men handing tracts at your door on a Saturday morning? Make no mistake. Mormonism is a threat to the well-being of this country. It may even be a greater threat than Islam. I say that because the majority of Americans are vaccinated against Islamic talking points. Most Americans view Islam for what it is: a religion shaped by Sharia Law whose purposes are dominion-oriented. Further, Americans are– by and large–incapable of distinguishing between between different branches and schools of thought within Islam. In their mind, Islam is Islam. They blow up things, and that is the core of their philosophy. Sometimes ignorance can be good.

On the other hand, Americans are hardly able to differentiate between a cult and Orthodox Christianity. This is seen in religious polling, when pollsters include Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons and non-affirming Trinitarians under the “Christian” category.

Very few have considered the claims of Mormonism. Apart from the polygamy aspect–which is no longer practiced in mainstream Mormonism in the 21st century– evangelicals can offer no sound apologetic against it. Hank Hanegraaff summarizes the absurdity and confusion of the Book of Mormon:

How millions can take the Book of Mormon seriously is almost beyond comprehension. While Smith referred to it as “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion,” its flaws run the gamut from the serious to the silly. In the category of serious we find that Ether 3:14 (“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, I am the Father and the Son”) is modalistic and militates against Trinitarian theology, while Alma 11:44 (“Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God”) is basi­cally consistent with the biblical doc­trine of the Trinity.

In the category of silly is the account in Alma 44 of a man who becomes irate after being scalped and stirs up his soldiers to fight “more powerfully.” And in Ether 15 we read of a man who struggles to catch his breath after having his head cut off. The Book of Mormon has now been altered over 4,000 times to compensate for Smith’s poor command of English, as well as for the numerous errors and incon­sistencies it presented.

After having read several classic books on cults over the years, after listening to dozens of debates, after having taken two classes on cults in college, and after interacting extensively with the average American evangelical, I can say that Mormonism will only continue to rise.

What does this mean?

This means that with a Romney victory on November 6th evangelical pastors will need to do a lot more homework. They will need to instruct their flocks with greater precision, and perhaps Trinitarian theology will need to be more foundational than a systematic category. Trinitarianism will need to be the source of life and worship; the very pattern of existence and human relationships.

With Obama at least we knew that liberal christianity is just that: liberal. At least we knew that he was going to always misuse the Sermon on the Mount. At least we knew that he was going to open his wings to religious diversity and ecumenicism. At least we knew that he was a fulfillment of Machen’s dire warnings about liberalism. At least we knew his social and moral agenda. But with Romney, what do we know? Will a moderate appoint other moderates to the Supreme Court? Will he appoint someone like Roberts who stabbed the conservative heart through legislative technicalities? Will he fill the White House with General Authorities of the Mormon Church? In particular, who will be his spiritual advisers?

And when that happens will evangelicals separate religion from policy? Do we truly believe evangelicals have been discipled under Kuyperianism long enough to discern right from wrong? Truth from error? Trinitarianism from Non?

The Mormon thing is actually an important thing to discuss. There is more at stake than the economy in this election. There is the future of the Church, her members, and the responsibility to present a God who is One and Three.

How to Celebrate a Christian Hallowe’en

Halloween is not pagan. There, I said it.

Halloween, linguistically, is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, or Hallows Evening, or Hallowe’en. We should recognize the word Hallows from the Lord’s Prayer: “hallowed be thy name.” It is a celebration on the evening before All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day, November 1st.

It is not pagan; it is Christian.

Jesus Christ came into this world; he was incarnate. We celebrate his incarnation on Christmas. Jesus Christ, living in this world, defeated death, sin, hell, and Satan. We celebrate his victory on Easter. The Church, united to Jesus Christ, continues what James B. Jordan calls the “mop-up operations” of Jesus Christ’s victory. We celebrate our victory on All Saints Day (and Hallowe’en) by remembering the saints who gave up their lives for that victory.

Hallowe’en, then, is the evening in which the Church lives out Christ’s victory and celebrates that victory in her own right.

The Church celebrates that victory by giving liberally. At one point in history, Christians would take food door-to-door to distribute it to the poor. As the Church grew in numbers, people began coming to the homes of Christians to receive distribution of food and treats.

The Church celebrates that victory by loving life. We give not just food to the poor, but treats to children and join in the fun and joy they receive by receiving treats liberally from us.

The Church celebrates that victory by mocking Satan in mocking disguises. Some have pointed out that this is the advent of the red, horned Satan with a silly tail and cartoonish pitchfork. Satan’s sin is his pride, and we laugh with Christ in his victory over Satan by mocking him with cartoonish disguises. Christians join in the fun and joy that comes with Christ’s victory by mocking Satan and his minions in this way, as well as by celebrating saints and biblical heroes as we wear costumes representative of them. There is no harm in wearing costumes representative of other figures as well: princesses, fairies, and others.

Hallowe’en is under the dominion of the Church because it is under the dominion of Christ. Christ rules Hallowe’en just as he rules Christmas, Easter, Sunday, and every other day. The Church participates in and exercises this dominion when she celebrates Hallowe’en, and especially when she celebrates it with more joy, gusto, and vigor than a secular world that completely misses the true meaning of this day–missing it by either assigning no meaning to it, or by assigning false meaning to it.

Learn to love this day. Love it by joyfully giving liberally to the wonder of little children. Love it by joining the saints in all times as we mock the pride of Satan and his defeat at the hands of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Love it by loving the life and creation that God has graciously and bountifully bestowed upon us.

Barack Obama friend of Whistleblowers?

I don’t have much to say about this except that if you voted for Obama how can you do so again.  The man made openness, the end of strong arm techniques, the closing of GITMO, transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers hallmarks of his campaign.  Yet he has cracked down on secrecy, created a kill list of individuals (including U.S. citizens) that can and have been assassinated apart from judge or jury, kept GITMO open, refused CSPAN access to major decision making events (including health care which was explicity promised to be open to the public), and most relevant to this article cracked down on whistleblowers who tried to expose torture and illegal behavior.  This man is convicted of a crime because Barack Obama and his administration have chosen to prosecute whistleblowers rather than act on their information incriminating those who participated in torture and other illegal activities.

I am not voting for a Pastor-in-Chief

The majority of Christians I know are not voting for a candidate they like. But they will vote. Voting is an American sacrament, and not taking the sacrament is an American blasphemy. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is a bad thing that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not vote. I have argued that giving third-parties a fair voice, or even letting the public know they exist, is a good start. I would love to see most Americans vote ( I am sure some contributors of Kuyperian Commentary are not on the same page); I would like a well informed populace, because I do think politics matter. I do care about who are our local officials will be, and I do care about who will represent us nationally (the order listed is the order of importance in my estimation). At the same time, I am deeply concerned about the nature of this year’s political season. Christians who once roared the horrors of their own party after George Bush’s disastrous presidency are now behind the man who I believe will make Bush look like a Libertarian.

When we, Moral Libertarians, Small Government Conservatives, offer a differing opinion on the matter, when we suggest that this election cycle may be a time to re-consider our strategy, turn the tide, and so on, then we are viewed as heretics and unpatriotic. Justin Donathan has argued the nature of true patriotism, so I do not feel the need to opine.

But are we blind here? Have we succumbed to some form of perfectionism, as many argue? Are we expecting too much from our candidates? Or more to point, do we think we are voting for a Pastor-in-Chief instead of a Commander-in Chief? Let me say from the outset that I have no such expectation. Huckabee, our resident Republican pastor, was a candidate in 2007. His policies were to compassionately save the world. His economics were absurdly Keynesian, and he lacked the ability to convey consistent policies. I would even assert that most pastor-types involved in politics have not thought beyond the important social and moral issues of the day. Even as a godly Southern Baptist, I would not have voted for Huckabee, though he is a lot more tolerable than Romney. So a pastor is not the answer.

In fact, I do not want a pastor. A pastor’s role is an ecclesiastical one. I prefer to keep the pastor serving and shepherding his people, granting them absolution from sin, and administering the Word and Sacrament. Then I want that pastor to thunder the authority of Jesus over every earthly rulers as often as it is possible. The pastor’s job is inherently political. Finally, I want that pastor denying any access to the Table of our Lord to any parishioner or politician who lives in sin or who condones the murder of the unborn (yes, that’s you, John Kerry and Joe Biden!).

So what am I expecting? I am expecting a man who loves his God, his country, and his family. A man who though not theologically versed in all the ins and outs of systematic theology is still faithful enough to know that righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a reproach to any people. I am expecting to vote for a humble man who does not seek power unto himself, but who wants to give power to the people; a man who does not want to see government grow, but rather see it diminished to its proper Biblical and Constitutional size.

I do not want to vote for a pastor in chief. In fact, I do not want the president opining over theological disputes in any tradition. I simply want him to desire what God desires.

Third Party Debate

This seemed like something that should be here on the Kuyperian Commentary.  I haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but I’m sure it’ll be more interesting than the last debate I watched.

Close of the Day Family Devotion

I’ve been working on coming up with a good model for family devotions for some time, and after much experimenting and many failures this is something that we have found works quite well, especially with small children.  It’s almost directly taken from Concordia Publishing House’s The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, with only slight changes here and there.  Many of the other models we’ve tried, while good, have just proven to burdensome and at times bordered on violating the command not to exasperate one’s children.  I like this because it is fairly short and simple, yet incorporates a number of things I value and wish to teach my children including call and response, some simple prayers to be memorized, Biblical collects, sung or chanted Psalms, Bible reading, and a time of prayer for specific needs and thanksgivings.  Further, it allows for growth as children mature, having a place for more singing through moving from the simple Song of Simeon to working through the Psalms, and allowing for longer Scripture readings or the addition of readings from a Bible study book or devotional work.  It’s not perfect and I’d appreciate feedback or suggestions as I continue to work on it, but we’ve been more faithful to do devotions somewhat regularly with this model than any other we’ve tried.

——————————————————–

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their baptism. (1, 2)

In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to Your name, O Most High;
To herald Your love in the morning,
Your truth at the close of the day.

 

READING

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Other readings: Micah 7:18-20; Matthew 18:15-35; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 12:13-34; Romans 8: 31-39; II Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:22-22:5

Alternatively, a longer passage may be worked through night by night, one or two short section(s) at a time.  Examples include, the Creation account, the Ten Commandments, selections from the Wisdom Literature of Solomon, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion (particularly during Lent or Holy Week), or even an entire book of Scripture such as one of the epistles.

Depending on the age of the children this may be followed (or preceded) by a reading from a devotional or Bible study book and/or discussion. (3)

 

CANTICLE

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  
(Luke 2: 29-32, The Song of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis) (4)

Alternatively, here may be sung or chanted another canticle such as the Magnificat (Song of Mary), or a Psalm. (5)

 

PRAYERS

  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Prayers for others and ourselves
  • Concluding collect:

We thank You, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ , Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept us this day; and we pray that you would forgive us all our sins where we have done wrong, and graciously keep us this night.  For into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls, and all things.  Let Your holy angels be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.  Amen.  (Adapted from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)

  • Threefold Amen.

Then go to sleep in good cheer!

Footnotes:
1. Bold type indicates read by all, 
Regular type indicates read by one, Italicized type indicates instructions.
2. Adapted from the Close of the Day prayer (p. 474) in The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House.
3. E.g. “A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament,” Peter J. Leithart.
4. A good tune for this canticle is that used by the Lutheran Church, a sample of which may be seen here.
5. Concordia Publishing House has also provided the Church with an excellent resource for chanting the Psalter using the ESV translation in their small volume, “Reading the Psalms with Luther,” which includes among other helpful things a set of chant tones and the Psalter pointed for chanting.  It is available here.

A Case for Third-Party Candidates

Wow! The consistent Socialist, Lawrence O’Donnell, offers a powerful case for voting for Third Party candidates:

 

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