The New Litmus Test

For almost all of my political life, abortion has been the litmus test for conservatives in the United States. Not anymore.

Some pro-life leaders are worried about “fetus fatigue” (a term coined by Douglas Groothuis in 2008), where it appears that many young evangelicals have given up on making sigificant progress in reeling back from Roe v. Wade. I think Groothuis is correct in part. However, I also think that conservatives, evangelical Christian and otherwise, can only handle one Big Issue at a time. Move over, Abortion – Immigration is here.

All of my friends (and yes, I have a few) who used to go on and on about abortion now go on and on about immigration. The level of perjorative that used to be reserved for those favouring abortion rights or, at worst, abortion providers, are now reserved for those favouring leniency toward undocumented immigrants. In fact, if anything, it is worse. In reading around the conservative blogosphere and even in talking to individuals face-to-face (because people tend to be much less restrained in the pseudonyminous detachment of the internet), opposing views are treated with anger, aggression, and a remarkable lack of civility.

In one sense, the anti-immigration crowd have become the new liberals. I say this only with regard to manners and decorum. I used to occasionally read liberal blogs – mostly if said bloggers strayed over to this or predecessor blogs and left a link with their comment.  The venom and vitriol spewed at virtually anyone in the Republican Party was astonishing. I’ve been around for a long time and met a lot of people of various backgrounds carrying a variety of baggage, but I had never seen anything like it. Now it has become increasingly the common behaviour of those who comment in conservative blogs to do the same thing.

A recent troll commented on another post I wrote about immigration: “You seem to consider yourself a Christian. I don’t think you’re a especially good one, but perhaps you’ve be better off dropping the ‘conservative’ label entirely and just using the Christian one.” If it comes down to it, that would be my choice. I still consider myself a conservative and I believe that my political views – including my views on immigration – reflect true conservative values. I believe in small government and a free market. I believe in the sanctity of life and of the family as created by God. However, if I’m only allowed one, I’ll take the label that has eternal value.

A Matter of Principles

I haven’t seen the rhetoric flying like this for a long time. The battle lines are drawn. Ideologues on either side will truck no dissent. If there is one thing of which we as conservatives can be sure, liberals are always wrong about everything. If there’s a liberal is favoring a particular policy, we don’t have to know anything about it. That tells us enough to know we’re agin’ it.

I keep writing about the matter of illegal immigrants, even though I get very little blog traffic or Facebook comments about it. My liberal friends have written me off years ago and my conservative friends have by and large shunned me. Sadly, that includes most of my conservative Christian friends. But for Christians is it an area where the ideological rubber meets the theological road.

More than anything, this issue has highlighted that when it comes to politics for a lot of conservative Christians, they are conservatives first. If it is possible to eisegete their square Christianity into the round conservative hole, all the better, but if not, it can be silently left outside.

I consider myself a conservative. I’ve always been on the right wing of the Republican Party. At one time I was very active on the right wing of the Republican Party. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a conservative. You do however, have to be a Christian to be a Christian.

Christians are not called to be politically conservative. Neither are they called to be politically liberal. They are called to be Christians. Where being salt and light, even in political participation, intersects with being politically conservative (in the very limited meaning that term has within the very specifically American context, which most Americans assume is the only context), that’s great.

Time and again I have read and I have been told that we should be compassionate individual Christians, but that when it comes to the State it is a whole different matter.  The State, just like any other God-ordained institution, is nothing more than a collection of individuals. As such, it has – we have – a responsibility to act righteously and compassionately without assuming roles not delegated to the state. Should we not as the Church be compassionate? Should we not as members of families in whatever capacity we find ourselves – father, mother, child, sibling, or collateral – be compassionate? Likewise, we have a responsibility to look to the Scriptures for guidance with regard to how we treat others as a body politic.

A lot of Christians seem to be concerned with the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law to get into the United States. Now most of these people would not have been involved in the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t mean that they were too young to have been involved, but rather as conservatives they would have seen the whole thing as a big liberal conspiracy. I wonder how many of these people were involved in Operation Rescue. After all, I’ve never heard of OR folks being labelled as liberals.  And how many are old enough to have homeschooled in the 1980s when it was illegal in many states? For many Christians, it was imperative – it was a matter of conviction – to educate their children at home. In some states it was illegal to have an unlicensed private Christian school, especially one that did not have state-certified teachers. Nonetheless, otherwise law-abiding citizens opened them. To a person, these folks were committed to the right wing of the Republican Party and self-identified as very conservative.

I have heard complaints that these illegal immigrants are getting welfare benefits. Most of these people complain that anyone is getting welfare benefits – that, in fact, there should be no state-funded welfare benefits. I can’t disagree with the last bit. There is no biblical mandate for the state to be engaged in the financial support of individuals. That’s good conservatism. However, if the state chooses to provide benefits, it cannot biblically discriminate between the citizen and the stranger. To do so is to violate the mandate of Leviticus 19 – a civil mandate to love your neighbor as yourself including the stranger among you.

But let’s look at Leviticus 19 more closely. While there is no provision for the State to collect and distribute welfare, there is a provision requiring individual property/business owners to provide welfare in the form of unharvested produce. In other words – or in modern, non-agrarian application – to provide work and remuneration. And for whom is this provision made?  The poor and the stranger. This idea of providing for the alien among you is so important that it appears three times in the Torah (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:21). Biblically speaking, non-citizens are not only entitled (I know, a liberal word, but hard to get around) to work-based welfare, they are one of the principal intended recipients.

And while we are at it, it is unbiblical to choose your neighbors, stranger or citizen. Neighbors are yours because they see you have a desirable society and settle among you. Once among you, they must follow the rules – not any more strictly or with any greater consequences than citizens – but there’s no biblical provision for discrimination.

And finally for those repulsed by the theonomic tone in setting out what is biblical and what isn’t – those who say forget the Old Testament and ask WWJD – there is no evidence that the conservative views incompatible with the Torah are somehow more compatible with the New Covenant.

Theologically conservative Christians must begin to discerne where poltical conservatism merges and diverges. The current hot button issue of illegal immigration provides such an opportunity. It is then a matter of choosing which principles take priority.

Why I am a Reactionary

It is a term that is generally meant as a perjorative.  Reactionaries rebel against all the wonderful progressive ideas that all right-thinking people know make the world a better place. In a word, liberalism. Well, I am a reactionary. I react against all of the ideas that see separation from God as progress. That it because these ideas are not progress at all. Progress is to move toward God’s desire that creation be reconciled to Him.

In being a reactionary, I follow in some pretty big footsteps. When someone called me a reactionary recently, I began to think of other reactionaries among whom I am not worthy to be counted.

I think of that young Jewish boy 3000 years ago, not old enough to be drafted into the army, reacting against the challenge of a giant man who had defied the armies of the living God. He reacted with a stone in a sling.

I think of Elijah in the midst of a government that had rejected the historic worship of God for worship of Baal. He reacted by calling down fire from heaven.

Elijah was but one of the prophets who reacted against the apostasy, injustice, and bad governments of the day. The people still chose captivity, but it was reactionaries who warned them and showed them another option. Being a reactionary has long been a thankless task.

Then I think of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – usually known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  The government said bow to the statue. It’s not a big deal and you won’t notice any real difference to your everyday life. Just bow and everyone will be happy. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were reactionaries. They just weren’t willing to buy into the spirit of the age.

They had a friend called Daniel. When the government said all petitions must be made to the state and not to any god, Daniel reacted by opening his window the exact same way he always had (conservative that he was) and knelt down and prayed the same way he always had. It cost him a trip to the lions den, because the state doesn’t like to be defied when it has set itself up as the font of all blessing and the focus of worship.

And there was that carpenter from Nazareth. He reacted against “you have heard it said” with “but I say to you”. But wasn’t this progressive? No, quite the opposite. He peeled back all the Talmudic layers of Pharisaism and brought it back to the revealed truth. And when it came to moneychangers in the temple, He was very reactionary. You might even say He was reactionary after they killed Him. He reacted by rising from the dead, trampling down death by death. That was the ultimate reaction.

So while I will never be as significant or successful a reactionary as David, Elijah, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, Daniel, or Jesus, I will be a reactionary nonetheless.

Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.
Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,

‘ Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law, but rejected it.

Pat Robertson, Haiti, and Urban Legends

It is another natural disaster, so clearly it is time for Pat Robertson to explain the Divine cause and effect. As if on cue, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake the next edition of The 700 Club featured Pat’s prophetic view. And just as predictably, there was the mostly liberal Christian and secularist backlash as soon as Pat expounded how God’s wrath was triggered this time. This, then, entrenches Pat’s supporters and probably a few other conservative Christians (who hate secularists and liberals more than they worry about Pat being increasingly bonkers)  into the battle against the forces of evil.

I have no problem with the idea that God can and/or does mete out judgement on individuals and nations. This does not mean, however, that every natural disaster is an act of God’s judgement and wrath upon a particular group of people. It doesn’t even mean that any natural disaster has to be an act of God’s judgement. Rather it is presumptive to assume that it is.

Certainly there are some Christians who are emboldened by their faith in their own gift of prophecy – or their faith in someone else’s. However, most of the time I’ve found that prophecies about the cosmic significance of newsmaking events fit neatly in the theological presuppositions of the prophets and their hearers. For those expecting everything to point to the “end times”, amazingly everything does. For those expecting to see God’s justice done for this or that evil, sure enough God comes through. It may not directly effect the evil doers, but it shows that God is angry nonetheless.  The propensity of some to live from one “prophetic word” to the next only enhances this perception.

We know from Pat that Hurricane Katrina was a result of legalised abortion in the US. Katrina resulted in 2,500 deaths, though not especially those of abortionists or even people who support abortion. I would suggest that in fact, southern Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama would be areas of the US with a particularly low rate of abortion and with elected officials that are opposed to it.

Likewise, I wonder what caused the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 with over 6,000 deaths. Must have been something worse than abortion. It would seem that the pact made with the devil by the Haitian leaders who were trying to get out from “under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III, or whatever” was even worse that abortion in America, because it has and will result in somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. After all, God’s judgement must be just.

Some people have pointed out a key flaw in Robertson’s view is that Napoleon III came to power in France in 1852 and the Haitians revolted against the French in 1791. Napoleon III’s uncle Napoleon I didn’t even take control of France until 1799.

We will set aside for the moment whether it could have been verified that the devil said “Yes” as affirmed by Robertson. Pat presumes that if anyone or any group of people offer to enter into a pact with the devil, the devil necessarily agrees to it. We’ll also set aside the issue of whether or not some 18th century revolutionaries could bind the whole of the country into a league with the devil. Further, we’ll have to set aside whether the actions of these handful of revolutionaries has caused God’s wrath to be extended to tens of thousands of people 219 years later.

We have to set all of this aside because the biggest problem is that there is no historical evidence that any such agreement was attempted. It’s an urban legend. That right, forget all the dodgy theology, even if you wanted to get wrapped up in it. There was no pact, no agreement, no curse, no whatever.

Nonetheless, I wonder if Pat Robertson is familiar with the words of St Issac the Syrian, “As the grain of sand cannot be compared with a great amount of gold – the same way God’s need for justice cannot be compared with his mercy. Because man’s sin, in comparison to the providence and the mercy of God, are like a handful of sand that falls in the sea and the Creator’s mercy cannot be defeated by the wickedness of the creatures.”

Ten Things Barak Obama Cannot Do

With a H/T to Greg, who reprinted William J. H. Boetcker’s “Ten Cannots”, I’m doing the same. Ronald Reagan misattributed them to Abraham Lincoln. As Greg and others have noted, they present a great juxtaposition to the values of presidential heir presumptive Barak Obama.

  1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  3. You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
  4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  5. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  6. You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
  7. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
  9. You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
  10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

As I have been writing this post, I’ve been watching a documentary with the former deputy prime minister John Prescott – the token Old Labour socialist in the Blair government – constantly trying to fight the class struggle and refusing to see that no one else is at war. This is the same manufactured conflict that Obama wants to resurrect from the grave of dead ideologies.

Living in the Discredited Past

Someone forgot to tell these kids that the 1960s are over.

I am always amazed at how the most left-wing, commie organizations always like to use the word “democratic”. I think the idea is that if they can finally convince 50%+1 of the population to adopt their radical socialism, they can collectivise the US and finally turn it into a communist paradise. After all, look how it has worked so well everywhere else in the world.

They know it’s not going to be easy: “This demands a broad-based, deep-rooted, and revolutionary transformation of our society. It demands that we build on movements that have come before, and alongside other people’s struggles and movements for liberation.” Maybe Mao’s Cultural Revolution didn’t go far enough.

The comforting thing is that these are students for a democratic society. It’s why the first incarnation of this group didn’t outlast the 60s. Everybody has to grow up at some point. Well, most everybody.

Ahead of His Time

The Welsh get unfairly blamed for a propensity to a certain crime against nature. However, a string of attacks has made national news (and here) and the alleged perpetrator is a Londoner.

Though it seems a bit over the top, he was arrested in a dawn raid on his home. He has been bailed by police while they continue their enquiries, on the condition that he not visit any farmyards in the London area. Of course there’s nothing to stop him visiting farmyards outside the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police.

This may be what has been happening all along. It may be Londoners looking for virgin territory, so to speak, visiting the hillsides of Wales, and observers have just assumed that they are Welsh. The lie is then spread by other English people, casting aspersion on the natives of the Principality.

The alleged crime carries with it a possible two-year prison sentence. However, in the news stories there is no mention of a political lobbying group protesting about his right to express his own sexuality. After all there is no suggestion that the sheep in question were lambs. These were described at violent attacks, though there was no evidence of actual violence. Do we just assume that the sheep were not consenting?

Isn’t is just a bit hypocritical to say that others are not bound by sexuality linked to the possibility of procreation, and yet criminalise this man for expressing his own orientation? This is especially true given the advances in embryology. Scientists have already created human-animal hybrids and cloning became most famous with the case of Dolly the sheep. Who’s to say that in a very few years, a man and his ewe (though I suppose that’s sexist to say “his ewe”, implying that it’s not an equal partnership) won’t be able to have their own offspring.

Rather than being criminalised and ostracised, this poor man should be recognised for living in the true spirit of the age. He is a shinig example of the British liberal ethos that it shouldn’t matter what you do as long as you’re not hurting anyone else.