The Kuyperian Commentary

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

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The Irony of Independence Day

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By Andrew Isker

Today as an American, if you were to log into social media, turn on the television, or even step outside your front door, you would hear the refrain, “I am thankful for our freedom, because we live in America.” While it is good to celebrate the few freedoms we do have left, to do so without any idea of where we came from and where we are going is utterly foolish.

That we have more freedom than, say, the subjects of the Soviet Union or Mao’s China, is not up for debate. We are not forced to starve on collectivist farms, nor herded into a gulag if we complain about it. And for all I know, today America might be the most free country in the entire world. But Americans in 2013 are far less free than Americans in 1776. For that matter, Americans in 2013 are far less free than Americans in 2012. This country would be unrecognizable to 18th century Americans. And it wouldn’t be (just) because of airplanes, iPhones, and automobiles. It would be because we think a people who are spied on, who are compelled to pay onerous taxes, and who are so enslaved to lust they would murder one million babies per year are free. If one were to look at the list of grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence, almost all of them could be levied against our government, and in fact, far more damning grievances could be added if the document was written with the U.S. Federal Government, rather than the British Monarch, in mind: 

 “He has intruded upon the privacy of a free people, and has protected the criminals who tread upon our rights.”

 “He has furnished the heathen with arms, allowing him to slaughter our good Christian brethren.”

 “He has perverted the institutions of our society; he has called evil ‘good’ and good ‘evil.’”

 “He has played the whore with houses of commerce, and willfully aided their despicable machinations.”

 It should be noted, that while 1776 is a good historical marker to show how much our freedom has diminished, to set that time up as a standard for freedom is idolatrous. Our ultimate standard for what freedom and a free people looks like must be the Word of God, not the ideals of 18th Century secessionists (who, lest we forget, were largely guided by a biblical idea of freedom). And the only way for freedom to be restored in this country is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to sweep across the country. And when that comes, celebration of Independence Day will no longer be ironic.

How to Distrust the Media

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By Andrew Isker

I often hear something like this said, “you have to assume the mass media are usually lying.” I don’t think this is true. Not because I think it is false, but because I think it is simplistic. The media obviously doesn’t create a totally false reality that the average person could readily recognize is just not so. The world they create in print, on the internet, and on TV is mostly true, just not entirely true. They introduce just barely enough falsehood that only those who are consciously discerning can recognize it. And usually any discernment practiced when watching and reading the news is only done through a left-right grid. If you are liberal, Fox News is obviously neoconservative propaganda and MSNBC is where you go to get he truth. If you are conservative, MSNBC puts a pinko-homosexual slant on everything whereas Fox News will straighten everything out. Rarely does anyone question whether their news channel or website is consistently not giving you the whole story.

Of course, anyone who urges someone to be more discerning with all corporate media will be treated as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. To be honest, many who are skeptical of all corporate media will treat cluttered websites with blogspot.com or .biz in the address as though they were gospel. This is clearly no better than believing all that flows from the lips of Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly is true truth. What I am urging you to do is treat the billion Dollar corporate media with as much skepticism as you would a website your tin-foil-hat-wearing cousin frantically sends you a link to at 3 am.

One of the major problems with corporate media is that they are quick to accept even the weakest explanations that the government gives for anything, yet are quick to condemn the most basic journalistic inquiry into the doings of the government as “conspiracy theory.” Why don’t they ever label press releases from the White House, Pentagon, or State Department as “conspiracy theory”? The more paranoid will begin to see conspiracies themselves, which is foolish. Corporate media sidle up to the government because access is the currency of the prominent 21st Century American journalist. A good example to corroborate this can be found in coverage of not politics but sports.

I have watched and read the sports page since I was a teenager. I listened to sports reporters on TV and the radio even before that. Everyone who pays close attention to sports which reporters will never say anything but nice things about the local teams even when the teams are abysmal. They will usually say nice things about players too. And these are usually the sports reporters and personalities that are older and have been around the teams for a long time. They have developed relationships with owners and executives and a result of these relationships is information. In Minnesota, you knew that a player was on his way out when the geriatric Star Tribune sports columnist, Sid Hartman (who never had anything not nice to say about the local teams and players) would start to criticize him. But these criticisms would never cut so deep as to make the team and it’s ownership look bad. It wasn’t that Sid was secretly on the payroll of the Twins or Vikings. It was because he had spent his entire career cultivating access with the important people that weren’t going anywhere. And without that access, Sid is a 93 year-old, high school dropout.

Political reporting is not that different from sports reporting. Establishment journalists seek access, and their acquisition and maintenance of that access will affect their reporting. This means that they will say what the important people in the government want them to say. Times have changed for both political and sports reporting. For instance, every Major League Baseball team has scores of sabrmetric blogs which analyze baseball (and more importantly, baseball decision-makers) using advance statistical methods. And traditional baseball reporters typically have much disdain for sabrmetric bloggers, and if they could make the label “conspiracy theory,” they would. This is not to say that establishment political reporters who are part of the corporate media do not provide a useful service, but that the service they provide is disseminating the ruling class’s side of the story. But we would be kidding ourselves to consider them investigative journalists. They are not. Real investigative journalism must necessarily be done by those who do not crave access. And they are almost entirely found not on the payroll of corporate media companies.

Homosexual Brutes and Christian Veneration of the Military

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By Andrew Isker

A recent report estimates that there were 26,000 sexual assaults of U.S. servicemen by other servicemen in 2012, which also showed that 14,000 of the 26,000 victims were male and 98% of the assailants were male. Most of us have heard that sexual assault within the US military has been a problem for several years now, but widespread male victimhood is a new development. Given the recent major policy shift within the United States Military regarding sex (the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), and how rampant sexual assault had been within the U.S. Military, this is only a shock to those whose minds are warped by politically correct tolerance. It would seem that homosexuality in the military is more in accord with Genesis 19 than popular perception would have us believe. After all, brutishness is not one of the characteristics our thought-controllers want us to associate with homosexuals. They would prefer we believed every homosexual is an intelligent-but-quirky, eccentric, easily-bullied and easily-marginalized, effeminate, lovable loser, rather than anyone nasty. That there are violent homosexuals who would rape other men simply does not comport with the worldview that we are constantly pressured to accept. This survey begins to unravel that. In today’s U.S. Military, homosexual rape is not an outlier—it is epidemic. 

As American society increasingly rejects the gospel, a natural consequence of this is that the culture has become increasingly sexualized and increasingly violent. As Romans 1 tells us, this is not just a consequence of sin, but is itself a judgment. That the military, naturally, given the nature of the work, often attracts violent men, is nothing new. In fact, that should seem pretty obvious. Fornication too, has historically been associated with military life. For example, all one has to do is look up the etymology of the word “hooker,” or research venereal disease statistics among the U.S. Military during World Wars One and Two. Of course, such fornication was never really celebrated by the larger society then as it is now—we now live in a sex-crazed nation. Now, imagine a community of 1.6 million people, where there is acceptance and even celebration of homosexual fornication (and by extension, there is unquestioned acceptance of heterosexual fornication), a culture in which everyone is conditioned to not even question those in authority over them (much less disobey them), a portion of the population is made up of convicts who had the choice between being there or being in prison, and everyone works for a company whose ultimate goal is to be able to kill as many people as possible. What could possibly go wrong? 

That sexual assault is prevalent in the military should come as no surprise to us, especially given our cultural situation. However, when looking at the raw numbers, compare the number of alleged sexual assaults in the U.S. each year (one for every 2500 people) to the data in this DoD survey, which states there is one alleged sexual assault for every fifty active duty service-members. Sexual assault isn’t just more common in the military; it is perhaps fifty times(!) more common in the U.S. military. This is shocking.

So what does this mean for Christians? Well, maybe we shouldn’t universally venerate the military as a whole anymore. Would it be so outrageous to say that the fact that rape is so rampant within the U.S. military is a judgment of God on the U.S. military? Of course, it should go without saying that every Christian knows several servicemen who are faithful, godly men, and we should be thankful for our brethren and that God has placed them there. But maybe we shouldn’t universally and uncritically revere the military as a whole. Maybe we shouldn’t throw out blanket statements like “God bless the troops” and “thank you for your service” during the civic religious holidays anymore. Now, I’m not encouraging Christians to boo soldiers, spit on them, and call them rapists and baby-killers as they march by in the Fourth of July parade. Jesus wouldn’t even do that to Roman soldiers. I’m not even saying we should not be thankful that there are men willing to defend their neighbors, even if the wars they fight in might be unjust. I am simply saying that as the culture deteriorates, at a certain point, we Christians will have to stop our quasi-religious veneration of the military. And perhaps we have reached that point. 

 

Zero Dark Thirty or: How I Learned to be Ambivalent Toward Torture

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For Memorial Day yesterday, we watched ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Here are a few thoughts: 

1. It is an amazing piece of 21st Century propaganda. I can scarcely believe that the USSR or any other despotic state would ever have made a movie justifying, and perhaps even glorifying, torture, much less even publicly admitting that did it. But that is just what Zero Dark Thirty does. And even I, never one to acquiesce to utilitarianism, almost came away thinking, “Wow. That’s disgustingly awful, not to mention illegal, but I guess that’s how they got bin Laden.” 

2. The fact that our government will torture people, but moralisticly set limits on it (as if theirs is “good” torture and anything beyond this arbitrary line is “bad” torture), is tragically comical. We won’t break bones and fingers, use sharp objects to inflict pain, put bamboo underneath a man’s fingernails and glass in his urethra. No, that’s all bad. We’ll just deprive him of sleep, food, and water, hang him from ropes, walk him like a dog, confine him a small box, and pour water down his throat, and do it all for the rest of his life. This is like a pirate ship with a strict code of “honor,” that justifies its piracy because they only pillage, whereas the “evil” pirates pillage, rape, and murder. 

3. Another movie that also graphically portrayed a Western State torturing Muslims was ‘The Battle of Algiers.’ Except this was an anti-war movie that was banned for five years in France because it made the French Government look bad. Contrast that with ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Here we have torture graphically portrayed, but rather than revolting the viewer and forcing him to rethink his nation’s foreign policy objectives, it is portrayed as a necessary evil serving the interests of the foreverwar. Every time the portrayals of torture bring you to the point of being sickened, another terrorist attack will be re-enacted on screen to show you just how “worth it” torture is. How we can go from a society that is sickened by torture to one that cheers (or at the very least is ambivalent toward it) in little more than a generation is amazing.

4. As a has friend pointed out to me, one of the major themes running throughout the film is that we are made to feel empathy for the CIA agents who are doing the torturing. This is true. Both Maya and Dan, the CIA Agents in the film who participated in torture, are visibly fatigued by years of that work. Dan eventually leaves for another assignment, due to the gruesomeness of the work (and, oh yeah, fear of being held accountable for his crimes). Maya, though, consumed with zeal after the death of her friend at the hands of a suicide bomber, presses on. However, in the final scene, we are supposed to come away with the thought that years of her barbarous work have taken their toll on her. It seems what director Kathryn Bigelow wants us to believe is that the ends justify the means and that if there is a cost for having tortured people, it is only the torturers who pay it. Never are we in any way made to put ourselves in the place of the men who are being tortured. They, of course, are subhuman. Empathy toward the tortured and empathy toward those abducted from their homes and interned in camps for the rest of their lives is not something this film makes us feel. And lest anyone mistake me for an Al Qaeda sympathizer, most of these men are murderers or men who have aided and abetted murderers, at least allegedly (of course, few have actually ever stood trial). The reason we should feel empathy for these men is not that we should sympathize with radical Islamic Jihadists, but that if the American State can break its own laws and torture truly evil men and hold them without trial, how long is it before the IRS, for instance, can do that to any one of us? And you think audits are bad. 

Why Has There Been So Little Price Inflation?

Inflation

A question I have heard a lot from those with a Kuyperian bent is “since the Federal Reserve has so greatly increased the money supply, why hasn’t there been corresponding inflation because of it?” Here is one attempt to answer this question, and my hope is, begin a discussion on this topic. Read more…

Biblical Economics and Killing Flies with Vinegar

A few days ago there was a blog post by Bojidar Marinov critiquing a recent article in First Things by Dr. Peter Leithart entitled “Capitalism and its Contradictions.” This article was an addendum to Dr. Leithart’s initial post-election piece, “The Religious Right after Reaganism.” It might be an understatement to call Marinov’s critique scathing. Let’s just say it’s clear the recipe for Marinov’s fly-killing solution contains no honey and more than enough vinegar to drown a cat.

But before we delve into Marinov’s lengthy critique, it’s worth taking a look at what Peter Leithart said.

As a starting point, let me clarify that the term “capitalism” here refers to the actual economic form that has evolved over the past several centuries. It does not refer to a theoretical ideal of a “free market.” Capitalism as a historical ordering of economic life has not taken shape in a “state-free” zone. In many places (including the US), industrial capitalism was promoted if not created by the state. Whatever the theoretical virtues of a state-free free market, it is not the economy we have or have ever had. One may reserve the word “capitalism” for the ideal free market; that is anyone’s semantic prerogative. But I don’t.

This definition puts us in a particular stance toward capitalism from the outset. If “capitalism” means an ideal of economic freedom, one might give it unqualified support. One might even say that the American economy might be far better off if it conformed to the capitalist ideal. Theoretical models can be pure, historical societies and economies are not. Since we’re talking about a historical form, we have to discriminate between goods and lesser goods and evils, pluses and minuses and things in between

Looking at this section, if one were to read it charitably, giving Dr. Leithart the benefit of the doubt that he isn’t actually a Marxist in conservative Reformed clerical garb, we should read a critique by Leithart of crony capitalism, corporatism, fascism, or what Dr. Leithart probably unhelpfully calls “capitalism.”

Further down Leithart references self-described socialist (as Marinov notes in his critique) and sociologist Daniel Bell.

[Bell] identified some real tensions in capitalist democracies – structural tensions between the aims of economic life and the aims of politics and culture, and tensions between the virtues needed for capitalism to succeed and the desires that its success tends to arouse. He worried that capitalism is so good at responding to and meeting consumer desires that its slick efficiency inhibits the development of settled public moral standards.

As Bell argued, the capitalist system has had a corrosive effect on families and traditional societies. Sometimes the structures that it destroys need to be destroyed, and the benefits are worth the costs. But when, for example, the notion of consumer choice infiltrates families and sexuality (which it has), then big social problems follow. Sometimes the corrosions arise because the wealth capitalism generates enable people to pursue morally questionable fantasies. Sometimes the corrosions have happened because the state broke up traditional patterns of life in the name of “modernization” or “industrialization.” Capitalism’s infatuation with novelty spills over beyond the economy. (That image is a problem, since the economy is never bounded off from the rest of life in the first place.) Whatever the cause, my goal was to point out that promoting capitalism might inhibit other goals of the religious right.

Of course, Bell is a left-liberal critic of capitalism (it is likely Bell does not make a distinction between actual free markets or phony-crony “capitalism”), but from what Leithart refers to Bell seems to agree with no less than that proto-Marxist, Cotton Mather, when he said, “prosperity beget faithfulness, and the daughter consumed the mother.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Leithart says:

The question is: What social and economic order best promotes the good of the poor? It’s clear that the massive American welfare system is not the way to take care of the needs of the poor; quite the opposite. Any statist system is dangerous, if not outright evil. Some of the basic features of capitalist economies are crucial to forming a just economy: Free markets and protection of property rights are good for the poor (as Henando de Soto has emphasized). Elijah, Isaiah, and Amos stood up for the property rights of small landowners against the machinations of the wealthy. Further, Scripture provides various models for how the church can address poverty – gleaning laws and even the Old Testament slavery laws offer much food for thought. The economic system that best secures and protects families is also the best economic system for the poor; family breakdown is often a cause of poverty, and even where it is not a cause, it regularly accompanies poverty.

Of course, there’s no either-or choice. In a just society, there are opportunities for expanding wealth and also opportunities for the poor to rise from poverty as well structures for the relief of poverty. Both are social goods, but the test of whether the society is just is the latter not the former.

Here Leithart leaves the question mostly unanswered (characteristic of a scholar rather than an ideologue). To me it seems rather obvious. The church should have a vision for society that respects the Spirit’s moving in the hearts of men. That is, after all, what the law of supply and demand is. Because Christians are not anarchists, this vision should include a state; a state that seeks out justice as God defines it, which precludes any type of redistribution of wealth by the state. A Christian society is one where goods and services are exchanged freely. Implicit in this arrangement is a refusal by the wealthy to use the power of the state to crush the poor, but rather a gratitude to God for His blessing them and charity towards the poor in response. A society like that is truly the only way that the poor can be taken care of. This is, of course, only possible with a society filled with mature Christians. The kind of society we pray God will bring whenever we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Now, as to Marinov’s critique, not much needs to be quoted to get a feel the tone:

In reality, far from clarification, Leithart leaves a trail of confused, illogical babble that is self-contradictory at best. But at the end, the call to action is firmly Marxist.

And

Far from proving some “inner contradictions” characteristic to capitalism, Peter Leithart has only demonstrated the true inner contradictions of his own thinking.

And

Not content with demonstrating his own logical contradictions, Leithart is also demonstrating his and the Federal Vision’s abandonment of the Covenant Theology of the Reformation. Sinful desires do not come from the heart, they come from the economic environment of man; and capitalism must be blamed for the dissolution of the “settled public moral standards.” It’s the wealth it created that is the moral problem. Without that wealth, and without the “slick efficiency” of capitalism, our society would have been much more ethical and just.

And lastly

Leithart’s call at the end is entirely without justification in the Bible but is in harmony with the common socialist and statist leanings of the modern church. The new model for “justice” is re-distribution of wealth, not obedience to the Law of God. Subsidizing poverty is what defines a “just society” for Leithart; encouraging obedience and therefore economic productivity and freedom are only a second thought. Theonomy has been replaced by a new Social Gospel preaching.

I think I can understand why Marinov is a little bit jumpy when notable conservative Reformed Evangelicals seem to be attacking biblical economics in favor of some kind of socialist scheme. It isn’t like Bojidar Marinov is creating conservative Reformed Evangelical (who-are-kind-of-okay-with-socialism) boogeymen—N.T. Wright and James K. A. Smith are prominent names that come to mind. It is certain that a biblical formulation of economics is coming under attack, and this is what Marinov is reacting to, and I have considerable sympathy for him in this regard. This is a battle that I think will be brewing in conservative Reformed circles during and beyond my lifetime, a battle over the answer to the question, “what economic system does Jesus want?” I think Bojidar and I are kindred spirits with regard to the answer to that question. The problem is that we can be absolutely correct and lose that battle, and set the maturation of our corner of the church back quite a bit. We can either deal with men who disagree with us on that question in a charitable way and try to win them, or go down the road of the Christian Reconstructionists and stop speaking to one another because we disagree with what the blood on the doorposts at Passover really meant.

Barack Obama, Evangelical President

Barack Obama was re-elected by Evangelical Christians. He was re-elected by both the Evangelicals who were confused and foolish enough to actually vote for him and Evangelicals who nominated a worthless “alternative” to him. He was re-elected by Evangelicals who sent their children to be enculturated and indoctrinated by a secular state. He was re-elected by Evangelicals who gave their children, as an alternative to a secular upbringing, an Anabaptistic, dropout version of the Christian view of the world.

Barack Obama was re-elected by hipster Evangelical churches that think real biblical condemnation that Jesus would make about people like Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Timothy Geithner, Hank Paulson, and Ben Bernanke means that the property of the poor should be expropriated by the state to the benefit of people like Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Timothy Geithner, Hank Paulson, and Ben Bernanke. He was re-elected by conservative Evangelical churches who would rather preach a personal, private, relationship-with-Jesus gospel and see the Mississippi red with the blood of the unborn than lose their precious tax-exempt status over proclaiming the Kingship of Jesus over every square inch. And lest anyone Evangelical stone be unturned, he was re-elected because conservative Evangelical Christians, in churches that believe and preach the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all of life and give their children a Christian education that engages and reforms culture, regard our own “little,” besetting sins less worthy of mortification than other people’s “big” sins.

Barack Obama was re-elected because of generations of Evangelical Christian unbelief.

The only recourse we are left with, the only option we have ever had and will ever have is repentance and hating our cherished unbelief.

Don’t Open the Pandora’s Box of Future Obamas

At this point, it is unlikely anyone will not have their minds made up, one way or another, but I will offer my two cents anyway.
Only the most deluded fan-boys of the Republican Party are actually excited about voting for Mitt Romney. Anyone worth paying attention to that is voting for Romney are voting for him out of fear and/or hatred of Barack Obama. To these people, the certain continuation of undeclared drone wars, Obamacare, multi-trillion dollar deficits, manipulated currency and interest rates, and government-protected abortion, to name a few things, under Romney, plays little role in their calculation. To them Obama is antichrist and Romney is de facto messiah.

The problem with this type of thinking is that it reduces modern American electoral history to one election, with no reference to any elections in the past or in the future. But God did not create the world on January 20, 2009. Barack Obama came from somewhere. He came from the abject failure on every issue the George W. Bush administration touched. Only those who worship at the church of the Republican Party dispute this. To everyone else, Barack Obama is simply compassionate conservatism in full bloom.

The idea that Mitt Romney is a celestially married George W. Bush clone with rhetoric upgrades is not really a subject of much debate even among those die-hard adherents of the cult of Saint Dubya. The real debate should be over who the certain failures of the Romney Administration will bring us in 2016 or 2020. Despite what many may think. There are things worse than Obama. They reside in a Pandora’s Box that only Republicans like Bush and Romney can open. Whoever follows Romney will be worse than Barack Obama.

How did we even get in this mess, anyway? So long as Evangelical Christians are a guaranteed voting bloc for the Republican candidate, no matter how truly awful he may be, this cycle will continue. Lucy will continue to pull the football away. It is time to stop being Charlie Brown. Evangelical Christians will never have an effect on American Presidential politics so long as they are guaranteed Republican votes. Until there is uncertainty among Republicans as to whether or not we will vote for their candidate, or dare I say, actual certainty we will not vote for their candidate, so long as they campaign to keep our government doing things that God hates, we will continue to have Barack Obamas. So, for all those who truly want to rid our country of Barack Obamas forever:
this election, don’t vote for Romney.

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