Ron Paul on abortion

Ron Paul isn’t a fav for most evangelicals. As a libertarian he wants to legalize drugs, etc. He is not exactly a social conservative. But when it comes to abortion, he is decidedly against the choice to abort.

Click here to listen to his interview with Diane Rehm and then go to 28:10  in the show. He spends only two or three minutes on abortion, but that is enough to mark his position. The argument that late term abortion is rare does not stand up to the position Paul takes on principle – you can’t defend liberty if you do not have a high view of all human life.

This is not a new argument over even a nuanced take on an old argument. It is a straight forward enunciation of a principle that makes liberty possible and defensible.

Of course, there is not much nuanced about Ron Paul. The thing that is new about him is his rising popularity on college campuses, partly because of collegiate suspicion of government and consensus that people should be able to run their lives as they choose.

This is a refreshing approach after President Obama’s “above my paygrade” comments and Mitt Romney’s thrice-switched position on abortion. Abortion itself is not controversial. What makes it a controversy is the fear of politicians they will not be elected or re-elected. The first rule of politics is that the first thing in politics is to be elected. This is based on the mistaken notion that you must be elected to change America. The reality is that hearts can change, no matter who is in office. People can always say no to abortion no matter what the law is.

I am beginning to read some about the 2008 Crash

It’s time to start taking another look at what happened in 2008 with a few years behind us and with enough time for some first class reporting to get done. It’s a very sorry episode. There was more than speculation run amok, a bubble bursting. There was deep complicity between high finance and Congress that boggles the mind and enrages the righteous indignation of even the most skeptical and hard-nosed capitalist. Everyone knows the game has always been rigged. There are certain people in power who are going to make sure they aren’t going to lose money no matter what happens to everyone else. But even this game can come to a point where criminality and conspiracy to defraud are beyond the pale and must be responded to.

A couple of books I will be reading are Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule The World by William Cohan and Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson. In addition right now I am reading The Forgotten Man by The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes.

I am also reviewing the Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy. I have this on my list for the ethics class I teach.

By the way, Howie Carr just posted this piece about Barney Frank and the role he played in overseeing Fannie Mae while the place was actually burning down.

At some point someone will uncover the financial shenanigans that go on at major evangelical institutions – who are on the boards, how they got their wealth and how they use it, how many family members gain their living at the institutions these people lead, how the money is doled out, etc. I have seen some of this up close and personal. It isn’t pretty. With the New Era scam by John Bennett and company we have a personal revelation of how greedy many evangelical institutions are to “just get money” by whatever means. I was in the middle of it, saw it going on, was blessed of God to have the good sense to stay away from it and not drag my church through the ponzi scheme, but all around me couldn’t get enough of a good thing. And sure enough, you could see the vampires come out looking for easy money. I was close enough to get a sense of just how much money meant to some of these people.

Of course, Shakespeare wrote the KJV!!!

If you speak English you speak King James:

Drop in the bucket, feet of clay, tender mercies, at wits end, baptism of fire, bite the dust, by the skin of your teeth, by the sweat of your brow, can a leopard change it spots, cast the first stone, cross to bear, broken heart, eat drink and be merry, fall by the wayside, fall from grace, fat of the land.

Some even theorized that William Shakespeare was one of the revisers, for only his powers could explain the beauty of the language. Indeed,he was alive and in the second half of his career when the KJV was being produced. People see evidence for this in Ps 46. In Ps 46 the 46th word from the beginning is shake and the 46th word from the end is spear, Shakespeare was 46 in the year the KJV was being translated and through some kind of imagined acrostic supposedly in the middle of Ps 46 you can come up with “I am William.”

Here is a very entertaining program from On Point on the KJV.

Christians and the economy

I think the time has come for Christians to become more sophisticated when it comes to economics.

It’s not enough to shout free market capitalism anymore. The reality is that free market capitalism has come under such a fire from its critics and from inside the church that those who deeply believe that the imperfect system of capitalism is better than all other imperfect options are going to have to go to the mat in the debate.

Why should Christians be debating this at all? Shouldn’t we merely focus on the Gospel itself? Let me respond by asking another question. Should Christians who have found themselves living in a place that has done more through its economic system to bless their fellow man than any other system to date invest themselves in speaking up for what helps rather than hinders their citizenry? Or, to ask another question, what is a Christian’s obligation to an economic system that has done more to enable the church to live in peace and quiet (as the Apostle Paul puts it) and to have the means to support gospel ministry so that Christ can be proclaimed to the uttermost part of the earth than any other economic system? Do we have an obligations of some sort, secondary though it be?

Forces within the church (Jim Wallis and company) are deeply ambivalent about capitalism and are immersed in efforts to enforce the moral codes of the church upon the state which will then enforce those moral codes at the point of a gun. Wallis seems to have a softer and more compassionate approach to human suffering. But make no mistake here, Wallis wants to give the power of the sword to the government to force it redistribute wealth and to bend the trajectory toward socialism.

As the state’s inability to keep up with the demands of a welfare society is constantly manifesting itself, the debate will heat up. Many leftist Christians will demand of the state more “safety nets” until the burden of taxation becomes an impossibly heavy demand.

How much we tax and what we tax are moral issues. For instance, heavy taxation contributes to the further breakdown of the family by two factors. First, it demands of families that both mom and dad earn income outside the home so that they can afford their taxes. It’s not merely lower wages and less job opportunity that hurt families. It is also the amount they have to earn so they can afford taxes which is also at work – property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, federal, state and sometimes city income taxes, etc. Secondly, single parent households in significant measure exist by state largess. Tax laws, tax credits, benefits, etc., in significant measure take into account that many parents are having to raise children alone. In many cases, it is less economically troublesome for couples to not get married so that one of the parents can continue to receive benefits as a single parent.

This debate is going to get fierce as the number of people whose economic planning includes government benefits grows and the number of “forgotten people” shrinks. The “forgotten man” is a phrase used by FDR but it has been used otherwise by some economists to refer to the process by which person A decides that person B should have more of person C’s money. Person C is the forgotten man. When there are enough A’s and enough B’s, person C becomes the slave of the system. This is often what concerned Ayn Rand, whatever one thinks about her positivism.

I am increasingly of the mindset that Christians who live in this country are facing the real choice of how much they are going to risk in struggling to maintain free market capitalism as the cards are increasingly stacked against it. Christians are not free to simply walk away from the argument as if, since their kingdom is not of this word, then whatever happens in this world is not any of their concern. If it matters in any sense that men and women live free, that the church live in peace and quietness, that the moral center does not lose its weight and substantivity, then my hunch is that they are going to be in a battle over economic systems.

If they don’t, Jim Wallis will.

When Pastors are interviewed on national TV about “natural” disasters

So many places in the US have been upended by the forces of nature unleashed upon people going about life as we know it.  We all are flabbergasted at how things so quickly change and life as normal is no longer.

The media, of course, must ask pastors what they say to people who wonder why this happened. That’s a necessary question, a good question to ask. I am surprised by how unprepared pastors are to answer it.

Usual response –

“We really don’t know why this happened.”

At which point the church board should have a meeting and fire the pastor!!!

For, in fact, we do know why it happened. What we don’t know is why certain people or communities are spared. If a media crew showed up in my town today, put a microphone in front of me and asked me why Pembroke, MA was not hit by a tornado or earthquake today, to that question I would respond, “We really don’t know why this happened”, the “this” being that we were not hit.

Christians know that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18). We do know that Jesus thought catastrophes were opportunities to get right with God. (Luke 13:1-5) What is amazing is that he spares most people everyday, when in fact the overwhelming teaching of the Bible is that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God and are therefore subject to what flows out of our coldness and hardness to God.

Does this make us hardhearted and unloving to say this? Well, no. But there is a way to say it and a way not to say it. Most pastors haven’t settled in their minds how to say it, particularly when they know that they way they say it will find its way into the media.

We live in a world that doesn’t work right. And there are moments when it erupts in unusual ferocity. The eruptions are signposts for us all to call upon Him as we weep and woundedly help the one fallen.  I can’t figure out why pastors and tv evangelists can’t say this.

Sure, what so many want to hear is that God loves everyone and didn’t want this to happen. But then again, I am not so sure that is what they want to hear. I think deep down they want to give real meaning to these catastrophes that goes beyond the “God is love but can’t really get around human freedom and natural catastrophes to help us” bromides that are thrown out by the religious community. These bromides help nobody.

In the midst of our life as usual routines, God calls us back to get right with Him. And as we minister to the broken in love, we seek to nurture people’s hearts by taking their questions more seriously than we seem to do.

John Stewart interviews David Barton

John Fea, author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, blogs on David Barton’s appearance on John Stewart’s show(part 1 and part 2. Barton makes his points, Stewart makes his points, and Fea blogs trying to give perspective on the debate. More links to Fea’s thoughts about David Barton are here and here.

No doubt about it, Barton is a fact machine. But the significant reality remains is that the Founding Fathers had the explicit debate about how directly rooted the new government would be in the Christian faith and the constitution they framed moved toward a more secular document. Barton’s argument is that a Christian nation was assumed and did not need to even be stated in the Constitution. But the fact remains that they explicitly argued this point and a direct connection to religion was not affirmed in the founding document.

Of course, while Barton’s method might not be wholly sound, the reality remains that the Constitution is rooted in a moral worldview and it is a worldview shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition. As our culture experiments with secularism there will be increasing pressure put on our Constitution to guide us through the times of burgeoning conflict.

Ultimately, I think the only way to resolve this issue is through a revived and vital church that has the power to shape culture even while it extends to all the right to choose. To try to make America a Christian nation through the legal process primarily cannot work.

The debate on Stewart’s show is a good one to have and Fea offers a balance, though he is clearly not on Barton’s side of this issue.

Mark Tooley’s response to the tepid and ineffectual response of the Religious Left to the bin Laden killing.

Tooley concludes in his article:

The Religious Left disbelieves or is profoundly uncomfortable with the teachings of their own Jewish and Christian tradition, which declare that there is human evil and that God ordained civil governments to repress evil where possible in a fallen world. Commonly the Religious Left confuses the church’s role, which is to offer grace and forgiveness, with the role of temporal authorities, which is to punish and deter wrongdoing. Adding to its confusion, the Religious Left disapproves of national loyalties, especially to the hegemonic United States, and instead dreams of a utopian world government that supposedly would better model God’s Kingdom. Naturally, the Religious Left rejects any pleasure over evil’s defeat, however imperfect, despite countless biblical celebrations, such as Miriam’s joyful song over the drowning of Pharaoh’s army during their pursuit of escaping Hebrews. And finally, the Religious Left is smugly elitist and remarkably stews over even the fleeting patriotic display of mostly liberal college students in Washington, D.C., New York, and Cambridge.

Elitist obscurantists like the Archbishop of Canterbury will continue to count imagined angels on needle-heads. But Religious Leftists’ inability to confront even an obvious evil like Bin Laden illustrates their moral inconsequentiality.

The whole article is here.