The Kuyperian Commentary

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

Archive for the tag “republican”

Biblical Government: Anarchy, Minarchy, or Statism?

Click for more in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

an·ar·chy (nr-k): Rules without rulers; the doctrine of abolishing all compulsory, tax-funded government. Crime would be dealt with through the free market as private agencies offer judicial services based on consumer preferences.

min·ar·chy (mnr-k): Minimal rule; the belief that civil government rightfully exists to protect individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. Law enforcement, courts and military are valid government services.

stat·ism (sttzm): The practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy, usually including the acceptance of welfarism and militarism.

If you adhere to a minarchist view of civil government, a statist has probably accused you of being an anarchist at least once in your life. Read more…

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A New Conservative Manifesto?

DonQuixoteunhorsed

“How to revive the flagging fortunes of the Republican Party might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled conservatives. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.”

Several weeks ago a piece appeared over at The American Conservative touting itself as a manifesto-of-sorts for a re-envisioned and reinvigorated conservatism: “Counterculture Conservatism: the right needs less Ayn Rand, more Flannery O’Connor.” Before the literary among you get excited, I should warn you that author Andrew J. Bacevich interacts with O’Connor nowhere in the article; in fact, by the end, I felt a little like Inigo Montoya (“you keep using that name; I do not think it means who you think it means”). Anyway, Bacevich’s opening lines (quoted above) are one measure consolation, one measure exhortation, and just a splash of knowing self-congratulation

True enough, a lot of people predicted that if and when Republicans lost the 2012 election, the party would attempt to reinvent itself, distancing itself from “loser issues” like the sanctity of biblical marriage, or the fight against abortion (of course, the party had already begun to do this when they put Mitt Romney in the race, but what’s a few months one way or the other to the long memory of history?). ‘Republican’ and ‘Conservative’ might be related terms, but fortunately they are not perfect synonyms, and many of the latter woke up and found themselves too “principled” to remain attached to the former. I followed the author this far because, truthfully, I was in that number and could say, without irony, “thank God for conservatism,” but he (in this case, the article’s author) wasn’t finished yet.

What, then, is Bacevich’s vision of conservatism in the coming epoch?

“The conservative tradition I have in mind may not satisfy purists. It doesn’t rise to the level of qualifying as anything so grandiose as a coherent philosophy. It’s more of a stew produced by combining sundry ingredients. The result, to use a word that ought warm the cockles of any conservative’s heart, is a sort of an intellectual slumgullion.”

His recipe for this mess of pottage includes, among other thinkers, heavy doses of Flannery O’Connor (he drops her name a second time, but by now I’m even more skeptical that he could explain satisfactorily why she belongs in the discussion) and Wendell Berry (who recently came out in support of gay marriage, which will seem more relevant in a minute)—“don’t skimp” he writes.

Next, there are the sweeping, inspirational value statements about the human responsibility of stewardship—“preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value”—the importance of community—“ Conservatives understand that the most basic community, the little platoon of family, is under unrelenting assault”—awareness of pain and suffering—“conservatives also believe in Original Sin, by whatever name”—and patriotism—“America is amber waves of grain, not SEAL Team Six.”

Bacevich finally descends to the level of clear details in outlining the task that is before the next generation conservative.

“The key to success will be to pick the right fights against the right enemies, while forging smart tactical alliances. (By tactical, I do not mean cynical.) Conservatives need to discriminate between the issues that matter and those that don’t, the contests that can be won and those that can’t….So forget about dismantling the welfare state. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and, yes, Obamacare are here to stay. Forget about outlawing abortion or prohibiting gay marriage. Conservatives may judge the fruits produced by the sexual revolution poisonous, but the revolution itself is irreversible.”

He warns against a Quixotic tilting at windmills, while adopting for himself the conciliatory tone of the Don on his deathbed, claiming that there are no birds in last year’s nests. I mention Don Quixote, but the reader may also be reminded of the first-century Sadducees with their “smart tactical alliances.” This conservatism begins to sound less countercultural and more concultural or syncultural. One could hope that the author simply intends the Church to play a larger role than the State in transforming culture, but churches are mentioned as a kind of afterthought in the close of his manifesto and largely as a sheepish concession that they all “may be flawed.” The piece reads instead, as if conservatives simply have bigger (largely financial) fish to fry.

More recently, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman wrote an article (also for The American Conservative) entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” arguing,

“There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship [a happy marriage] with the person they love.”

But his essay’s final remarks strike a now familiar chord that complicates the simplicity of that emotional appeal:

“We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.”

Neither Bacevich nor Huntsman is the force behind this shift, but they are both good indications of where the winds are blowing. Both outline a strategy that feigns compassion (or possibly misunderstands real compassion as a secondary end) in order to gain influence, especially in financial/economic arenas. These Conservatives are simply maneuvering to become the new Republicans and making moderate the new conservative.

Fortunately, the Christian remains more conservative than the Conservative. Kuyper would remind us that the state is meant to restrain sin out of love for the nation and concern for its culture; love and concern based in and upon the truly charitable, Gospel-oriented mission of the Church, where liberty and equality truly abide.

So, how to revive the flagging fortunes of the conservative movement might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled Christians. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.

 

Sean Johnson is a graduate student of Literature at the University of Dallas (TX) and husband to a beautiful pregnant woman.

Political Education and the Future of the Republican Party

Pink Floyd’s monumental contribution to the world is found in this statement: “We don’t need no education!” Despite the political and psychedelic observation, our country needs a lot more education of the right kind. One of my greatest desires over the years has been to educate–imperfectly–friends and family on the virtues of the American view. I am under no compulsion to defend the perfection of the U.S. Constitution. I happen to believe that Patrick Henry’s skepticism is now well justified. At the same time, I am committed to the fact that we must use the tools that we have to fight the present intellectual war.

At this stage in American history, Christians have an important duty to educate the public by inculcating a form of transcendent morality. Politicians will not take this to be their main tasks. By and large they are concerned about their constituents’ response to their decisions and votes. This adds an immense amount of burden to politicians. They need greater burdens, but not the temptation to act even more unwisely. Naturally, I find this to be at least one reason for the vast inconsistencies we find in most of their voting records. Term limits, anyone?

As Republicans re-group, they are beginning to re-fill their savings for 2014. After suffering a loss of two seats in the Senate and a handful in the House, they are wondering what to do to restore those seats.

Is Constitutional education part of this reformation process in their minds? It is certainly not.

Out of the many tools, I believe the labors of the Institute on the Constitution could add tremendously to the general knowledge.

Christians need to be more strategic in their giving. After the tithe, where will our gifts be best used? According to The American Conservative, “Republicans spent $776 million this cycle…while the Super PAC’s put in another $296.5 million.” This is well over a billion dollars, which went mostly to Karl Rove and the “brotherhood of campaign consultants.”

Democrats are ideological in nature. They are seeking and proposing strategies that will genuinely change the make-up of the country–for the worse, we might add. But on the other hand, ideological Republicans are ridiculed. The reason for this–as Steve Deace observes–is that Republicans are seeking to control the party and not the country. When politicians propose tough transformations to the play-book, they are viewed as radicals.

While the GOP seeks to restore the White House to the next Republican candidate in 2017, will she seek this by more compromises or will she seek it through genuine education? We can’t promise immigrants more gifts as a way to secure their votes in the next election. We can’t promise welfare recipients more gifts as way to secure their votes in the next election. The Democrats have already won that fight. But we can go through the arduous task of educating a society. As Joel McDurmon states: “One County at a time.”

What role will Christians have in these next four years? Will we continue to seek another moderate candidate? Are Republican talking heads correct when they assert that we need an even more moderate leaning Republican candidate to reach the independent groups? Or will we pursue to train and participate in local elections and conversations, and thus influence the grassroots? Will we tap into this gigantic Tea Party and Constitutional storm that is brewing?

One thing is certain: Our political investments need to be in education, not enriching political consultants.

The Biggest Problem after Tomorrow’s Election

The biggest problem I will have with the results of tomorrow’s election is not who wins. As much as it pains me to say this–especially because I know so many object to it–there is not a dime’s bit of difference between the two candidates. The biggest problem is the continuing problem with short term memories in America.

Tomorrow, if Obama is re-elected, Americans will be admitting to the whole world that everything they grumbled against George W. Bush for (indefinite detention, not closing Guantamo Bay, troops in the Middle East, criminalization of marijuana, etc.) really weren’t that important.

Tomorrow, if Mitt is elected, Americans will be admitting that they only opposed what was happening because it was Obama doing it instead of another Bush (healthcare–remember Medicare Part D?, education–remember No Child Left Behind?, wars, detention, lack of transparency, etc.)

What I want is more men like John Piper, who criticized Bush and the Gulf War even when it cost him congregants. I want men like Greg Bahnsen, who opposed the First Gulf War, at odds with GOP. It was Greg Bahnsen who first demonstrated such character to me. From him, I learned how to judge war, not according to whether it was a Republican or Democratic war, but whether it was Biblical.

My biggest problem, however, could be my biggest surprise. Regardless of tomorrow’s results, maybe I will see men who will oppose tyranny and injustice because it is happening, not because of who is doing it. Maybe, after tomorrow, I will see Christian leaders stand up for what is right, not for who is saying it.

Or, maybe, I’ll just see a new four years that will tick by until I can be told again, “The 2016 Presidential Election is the most important election you will face in your lifetime.”

Either way, I can say with fellow blogger Steve Macias, “Christ is still faithful and Christ is still King.”

Every Four Years, It’s The End of The World Again

by Adam McIntosh

At this very moment, the fate of America hangs in the balance. Re-electing President Obama will result in the destruction of America as we know it. It will lead to the Islamic takeover of our western heritage. Mitt Romney, however, loves America and knows it is the hope of the earth. He alone can save us from Obama’s agenda of ushering in the apocalypse. Cast your vote for Romney this Tuesday and be amazed at the marvelous deeds he will accomplish. A vote for Romney is a vote for all that is holy and righteous in this land.”

Sounds like a pro-Romney argument you’ve heard recently, right? It’s my amateur attempt at writing an attack ad, but I think I captured the overall perspective of those who insist you must vote for Romney if you wish to be a decent American, and a decent Christian. It seems that we are always on the brink of impending doom if we don’t vote for the Republican nominee. Obama is the great enemy and Romney is our coming savior.

Our Democrat friends aren’t immune to this way of thinking, either. They buy into messianic scenarios just as easily. In 2008, it was proclaimed that Obama would establish peace in the world and usher in a much needed era of war-ending, civil-rights-protecting, transparent government. Today, we’re hearing that Romney will overturn Roe v. Wade, ban gay marriage and let sick people just die, along with hurricane victims. Obama is the champion we must vote for and Romney is the terrifying adversary.

This apocalyptic mindset is borderline idolatrous. Both parties repeat the same rhetoric and propaganda each cycle, regardless of who the candidates are. Every four years, it’s the end of the world again – except that it’s not. Jesus the Christ is ruler of the universe, not Romney or Obama. He is reigning from his throne working all things according to the counsel of his will and for our good (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28). We shouldn’t worry about political scare tactics; the only thing we have to fear is God himself. The cosmos will not blow up if the “wrong guy” is elected. In fact, all leaders are given authority by God (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1). As hard as it is to believe, God planned for Barack Obama to be president. Same with George W. Bush and those before him. But this doesn’t mean that all leaders are justified in their actions. God often raises up tyrannical leaders as an act of judgment (1 Sam. 8:1-22). What it does mean is that God uses our voting strategies to bring about his will. Regardless of who is elected on Tuesday, the President of Presidents will still be seated on his heavenly throne.

In his providence, Christ has placed Americans in a nation where voting is an option (not a mandate) and where multiple candidates can be on the ballot. There is no law, biblical or constitutional, that says we must vote. Nor is there a law that says we must vote for one particular candidate. Next time someone tries to guilt-trip you into voting or voting for a particular candidate – with the implication that you are an irresponsible citizen if you don’t – simply smile and say, “Chill out! Jesus is in control.”

Yet, we certainly do have responsibilities when it comes to electing our leaders. We are instructed to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2) and to obey them as long as it doesn’t necessitate disobeying God (Acts 5:27–29; Rom. 13:2-5). We should also use wisdom in our voting strategies. We are supposed to proclaim the lordship of Christ in all areas of life, including politics. This means that we can’t make apathetic or uninformed decisions. But it’s precisely because Jesus is Lord that we aren’t obligated to vote a particular way. We don’t know the future and he has not told us which candidate he plans to elect. As has been previously argued, there are valid points made for each voting strategy. The question to ask yourself is,“which result would best further the kingdom?” Christians won’t always agree on the answer to that. We won’t know God’s answer to that until Tuesday night.

Inconsistent Conservatism

by Adam McIntosh

As the presidential election approaches us, evangelical Christians are rallying behind the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, as the conservative alternative to President Obama. Frequently, I’m told that Romney is better than Obama because he is against redistribution of wealth. Romney has recently criticized Obama for his redistributive policies and when conservatives call Obama a socialist, redistribution of wealth is generally what they have in mind. The two obvious assumptions at play here are 1) that redistribution of wealth is immoral and 2) that conservatives are staunchly opposed to it. But are these assumptions correct? The answer is yes and no, in that order.

Redistribution of wealth is a form of taxation whereby John Smith’s money is taken from him and then given to Jane Doe for a service that the government provides. He must pay the tax even if he never uses the service provided. Mr. Smith is forced to give his money while receiving nothing in return, violating the basics of economic trade. Put simply, this is theft. The principle of private property is clear throughout Scripture. The eighth commandment itself, “thou shall not steal,” presupposes private ownership. If there is no private ownership, there can be no such thing as theft. Redistributive taxation takes your property by threat of force and gives it to someone else, all in the name of charity. (Ironic, isn’t it? Charity is by definition a voluntary act. To force charity is to deny it.) Redistributing wealth is immoral, regardless of what service the government is providing. Christian conservatives – myself included – are correct in condemning the Obama administration and all groups that seek to preserve or extend redistributive taxation.

But as it turns out, Christian conservatives support redistribution of wealth just as much as anyone else. An overwhelming amount of evangelicals all over the country are perfectly fine with disability and unemployment benefits, Medicare, Social Security, public schools, foreign aid, and more. In many cases it is “conservative” Republican politicians who help enact these programs in the first place. And guess who was bragging about how much he wanted to improve Medicare, Social Security and public education during the first 2012 presidential debate? Surprise, surprise! It was Mitt Romney.

These programs are redistributive in the exact same way that government-run healthcare is. John Smith is forced to fund them with his tax dollars even if he refuses to use them. For example, if he never goes to public school, if he never sends his kids to public school, and if he never teaches in public school, he is still forced to pay for other people to attend and teach in public schools. This wouldn’t be a problem if each citizen was given a choice to fund these programs or not. Each citizen could choose which programs they want to use and fund them appropriately. No one would be forced to pay for something they do not want. But this scenario is pure fiction. If the government could not force redistribution of wealth it would be no different than a private agency, thereby defeating the entire purpose of these programs.

Conservatives condemn redistribution of wealth on one hand, but support and defend it on the other. We oppose it rightly when it is advocated by liberals, but turn a blind eye to it when it’s something we want to take advantage of. The inconsistency must stop. An inconsistent person has no credibility. The Republican Party – my party – will continue down the path of irrelevance as long as we refuse to acknowledge the planks in our own eyes. If we want to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and uphold his standards of private property, it must be applied across the board.

This article is not a condemnation of those who are dependent upon redistributive programs. People do the best they can with what is available to them. Many people in this country need charity where the Church has been absent. Ultimately, this is why socialistic policies are becoming the norm in America. When the Church becomes dormant in her duties, counterfeits always arise. Instead of pointing fingers, we should seek first the kingdom of God in our daily lives. We should be encouraging local churches to implement a presence of charity in their communities; to provide affordable schooling to low-income families; to help congregants find employment and assist in managing their finances if need be. We should work towards “opting out” of redistributive programs. Our purpose is to proclaim the lordship of Christ over every area of the political map and to live our lives in terms of that proclamation. Only then can we begin to end the welfare state. It starts with us – and our hypocrisy isn’t helping.

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