Ethics Articles

Articles: Politics


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Mollifying centrism (, 050418)

Free Methodist Manual

Fulfilling Our Civic Duty (Christian Coalition, 970000)

Might vs. Right: Power does not corrupt (NRO, 021023)

Civic-Minded and Heavenly Good (Christianity Today, 021115)

Loyalty, How Quaint: The timeless importance of an old quality (National Review, 031124)

The Battle for the World’s Future (Christian Coalition International, Canada, 031200)

The Church of the Holy Primary (NRO, 040112)

Bogus rights (, 060208)

Does size matter? A review of Joel Miller’s Size Matters (, 060209)





>>Mollifying centrism (, 050418)


Michael Barone


On two propositions most good-hearted civic-minded people agree: It is good to have centrist politics, and it is good to have high turnout in elections. But what if it should turn out that the two are in fundamental conflict?


For that is what political history, here and abroad, suggests. Consider the 2004 election in the United States. George W. Bush, his opponents contended, with some justice, governed as anything but a centrist. Installed in office with a bare majority of the Electoral College, he pushed successfully for massive tax cuts, for conservative positions on cultural issues, for military action not only in Afghanistan, but in Iraq. You can make an argument that Bush has governed as a centrist, but it is not an argument that is widely believed.


As for his opponents, the Democrats in 2004 emitted rhetoric that was extravagant in its denunciations of Bush and all his works. The Democratic candidate who set the tone in the primary, Howard Dean, has told us that “I hate Republicans and everything they stand for.”


Yet this polarized politics, far from deterring Americans from going to the polls, produced huge voter turnout. 2004 total turnout was up 16 percent from 2000; John Kerry’s vote total was up 16 percent from Al Gore’s; George W. Bush’s vote total was up 23 percent from what it was four years before. Rarely in American history has turnout risen like this between two presidential elections. Non-centrist politics, whatever else you may say against it, brought voters to the polls.


Contrast this with the British election that will be held May 5. There, the government is in the hands of Tony Blair’s New Labor Party, a self-consciously centrist operation if there has ever been one.


Since taking over as leader of his party in 1994, Blair has jettisoned Old Labor’s policies of nationalization and government superintendence of the economy (one of Labor’s first actions was to free the Bank of England from government control). Little effort has been made to roll back the privatizations and reforms of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government. Spending and tax increases have been, by the standards of Labor Party history, modest.


But Blair’s centrism has not produced increased turnout. The popular vote for the Labor Party in the 2001 election declined from 1997. Labor Party strategists this year identify as their main problem low turnout from core Labor voters. Their Conservative opponents have taken care to promise relatively small cuts in government spending -- a Conservative MP who promised more was ruthlessly dropped from the ballot. Yet the Conservatives, too, worry, with reason, about low turnout.


Or consider the American election of 1996. Bill Clinton governed, mostly, as a centrist, especially after Republicans won control of Congress in 1996. His Republican opponent, Bob Dole, took pains to distinguish himself from the Gingrich revolutionaries in Congress. Yet overall turnout dropped from 1992 to 1996. It dropped even more as a percentage of eligible voters going to the polls.


All of this is not out of line with historical experience. Surges in turnout occur not when parties hug the center, but when they strike out to the extremes. William Jennings Bryan’s populism produced a spike in turnout in 1896, as did Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1936.


Look at record turnout years, and you will see voters motivated more by something like hate than something like love. The highest turnout as a percentage of eligible voters in the United States since 1908 came in 1960, when very many voters went to the polls determined to keep a Catholic out of office and very many went there determined to put one in -- the same impulses that produced the religious wars of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.


Or look back at the huge turnout of eligible voters in the years after the Civil War. These were the years when Republicans were accused of “waving the bloody shirt” and Democrats were accused of disloyalty to the nation. Politicians were in effect refighting a civil war that cost 600,000 lives in a nation of 38 million.


The point is that you cannot have all good things at once. Enthusiasm in politics usually contains a large element of hatred. You could see it in 2004 in the rants against George W. Bush and in the surges in turnout in central cities and university towns. You could see it as well in the surges in Republican turnout in exurban and rural counties, surges produced partly by affection for Bush but also by a hatred of cultural liberalism and moral relativism.


High turnout is produced usually by fighting faiths, not by mollifying centrism.


Michael Barone is a senior writer for U.S.News & World Report and principal coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics.




Free Methodist Manual


630.3.4 The Christian and the State


As Christians, we are citizens of the kingdom of God and of this world. We receive benefits from and bear responsibilities to both relationships. Our first allegiance is to God, but that does not release us from responsibilities to our own country if such relationships do not conflict with the clear teachings of the Scriptures (Romans 13:1-7). We recognize the sovereign authority of government and our duty to obey the law (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7). Thus, we bear the responsibilities of good citizenship.


630.3.4.1 Civic Participation


As Christians we pray for “all who are in high positions” (I Timothy 2:2) and are “subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” (I Peter 2:13). We actively participate in civic life by involvement in efforts for the improvement of social, cultural, and educational conditions (Matthew 5:13-16). We oppose degrading cultural influences (II Peter 2:4-10). We exercise the responsibility to vote.


630.3.4.2 War and Military Enlistment


We believe, however, that military aggression, as an instrument of national policy is indefensible (Isaiah 2:3-4). The destruction of life and property, and the deceit and violence necessary to warfare are contrary to the spirit and mind of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). It is, therefore, our duty as Christians to promote peace and goodwill, to foster understanding and mutual trust among all people, and to work with patience for the renunciation of war as a means to settle international disputes (Romans 12:18; 14:19).


It is our firm conviction that none be required to enter military training or to bear arms except in time of national peril and that the consciences of our members be respected (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29). Therefore, we claim exemption from all military service for those who register officially with the church as conscientious objectors to war.




Fulfilling Our Civic Duty (Christian Coalition, 970000)


BY ALL OUTSIDE APPEARANCES, FIRST COMMUNITY Church of Anytown, U.S.A., should be experiencing dynamic revival. They have an active ministry and a busy activity schedule.


In the last year members have prayed sincerely. The preaching has stressed confession and repentance from sin, and Sunday service attendance is up. Giving is stable and there are no major divisions in the church.


But instead of widespread revival, very little has changed. What’s wrong?


The answer for churches across the nation could be related to the moral crisis currently impacting our culture and government.


Evidence of this crisis continues to grow. According to The 1996 Index of Social Health published by Fordham University researchers, our nation’s social well-being has fallen to a 25-year low. The index score for 1994 was 37.5, compared to 77.5 in 1973. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently reported that teen drug use has doubled since 1992 and marijuana use among young people increased 141 percent in the same period. Violent crime is up 550 percent since the 1960s and in that same period there has been more than a 400-percent increase in illegitimate births.


Clearly such problems are spiritual and moral as well as political. But in many cases, elected and appointed leaders have made landmark decisions which have contributed directly and indirectly to this crisis in American society.


That is where our responsibility lies. As voters and participants in democracy, we share in government’s success and its failures. But too often, American citizens - and Christians - have turned their backs on the process. Only 55 percent of the nation’s eligible voters actually voted in the 1992 general elections.1 Among Protestant believers, slightly more than half - 55 percent - cast votes.2 In 1996, only 49 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls. Statistics for 1996 Protestant turnout are not yet available.


What priority does God place on participation in the election process? What is His burden for our government? What does he expect from us as citizens?


A careful consideration of Isaiah 1:10-17b provides some principles that demonstrate God’s passion for civil morality. If we carefully examine these verses, we will catch a glimpse of God’s moral expectations of our government as well as His expectations of us as citizens.


Shared responsibility, shared guilt (Isaiah 1:10)


About 150 years after the reign of Solomon, the Jewish people began to experience an unparalleled time of peace and prosperity. Both Israel to the North and Judah in the South were secure in their borders and successful in their industry. Unfortunately, national security and prosperity led to the people’s preoccupation with self-centered goals and their rejection of God’s priorities.


Our first glimpse into God’s heart on this issue is in verse 10. When the people were able to choose and direct their civil leaders, and when the people allowed their leaders continually to defy God’s moral standards for civil government, God held both the people and the leadership accountable for the civil sins of the leadership.


The Lord, in the scathing rebuke of Isaiah 1:10, equated the rulers of Judah with the rulers of Sodom and the people of Judah with the people of Gomorrah. Because the leaders had abandoned God’s civil priorities of unbiased justice, relieving oppression and protecting the helpless (vs. 17 and 23), both the leaders and the people shared guilt before God.3


If we look back to the formation of their civil structure, we find that God commanded the people to appoint judges and officials to govern them (Deut. 16:18-20). God’s design and directive for His people gave them the responsibility for placing proper leaders in various positions of local leadership. This may not have applied to the final appointment of key leaders, such as each of the judges in the Book of Judges, or to the selection of kings, beginning with Saul. But it did apply to the appointment of various local leadership roles.4 And there is no evidence that God’s design for the Jewish nation had been canceled or rescinded.


Therefore, God placed the responsibility for the leaders’ sins as much on the people as on the leaders themselves. The leaders were guilty because of their actions. The people were guilty because they either placed the immoral leaders in leadership (reflecting their own corrupt desires), or they allowed them to be placed in and to continue in those positions (reflecting their own apathy towards the things which concern God).


Our system of government is different than that of the Jews in Bible times, but the Lord declares that He has absolute authority over and expectations of all governments.5 God has demonstrated throughout Scripture that he expects “secular” governments to keep His moral standards for civil government.6


Furthermore, ours is a government “...of the people, by the people and for the people.”


In the U.S., the burden of choosing and placing the nation’s leaders rests upon the citizens.


Because of our corporate participation (or lack thereof) in electing officials to office and holding them accountable while in office, we may ultimately share corporate responsibility for their actions and decisions. When these actions conflict with God’s priorities, we have the ability to influence or replace our elected representatives. When the citizens don’t make this effort, they face the prospect of corporate accountability before God for their leaders’ immoral policies and legislation.


Since our nation’s citizens bear the burden of choosing their leaders, they ultimately must bear the burden of responsibility for their leaders’ decisions and policies.


Finally, those of us who claim to follow the Lord’s teachings bear a higher level of responsibility.


We may be citizens of God’s Kingdom first, but we still are expected to function as citizens in this earthly kingdom. We have access to God’s moral standards for our civil government and, through our vote, we have direct access to the decision-making process in our nation.


We know what God expects of our leaders. If we are irresponsible in our voting or if we fail to vote, we cannot escape accountability before God. If we don’t hold officials accountable (as best we can) after their election, we may indeed share the burden of guilt.


When the people have a voice in choosing and influencing their leaders, and when they fail to address civil immorality through these legal means, God holds both the leaders and the people accountable for governmental sins.


Wasted worship (Isaiah 10:11-16)


Our second indication of God’s passion for civil morality is found in verses 11-16. Here we find that when God’s people abandoned His moral priorities in civil government, He rejected their worship.


In verses 11-15, God blatantly refused to accept the sacrifices, the assemblies and the prayers of His people. In rejecting them, He used extreme and harsh language that should have shocked the listeners.


But He went on to reveal that His rejection was based on the leaders’ (and so the people’s) failure to keep God’s most basic moral standards in civil administration (the priorities of unbiased justice, relief from oppression and protection of the helpless, vs. 17, 23). In verse 16 He declared that their neglect was “wrong,” demonstrating the seriousness of their neglect.


The leaders and the people knew God’s standards for governing, yet they failed to maintain them. While the population of Judah may not have been directly guilty of the offenses in the passage, they were still held accountable.


These verses clearly indicate that when God’s people knew His priorities in government and were able to implement them, yet they did not, they sinned, and blatant sin hindered worship.7 How is this passage relevant for us today? We participate in worship activities which could indeed be impacted by these truths. And while the New Testament may not refer to God blatantly rejecting our worship, it is clear that ongoing, unconfessed sin hinders our prayer, our worship and our fellowship with God. 8


Remember the admonition of James 4:17, which declares: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”


If we know the Lord’s moral expectations of our government, and if we allow civil immorality to continue through our silence at the polls, isn’t that indeed sin?


We can’t escape the possibility that these truths may indeed be impacting prayer, worship and fellowship with God in our local congregations.


Such dramatic consequences should inspire serious self-reflection. How many of us actually voice our moral convictions to our elected representatives?


When we know God’s desire on an issue and when we ignore that desire, it is sin (James 4:17).


As God’s people, we know His expectations and standards for our civil government. When we - by our silence at the polls or elsewhere - allow flagrant and unrelenting civil immorality, we sin. And when we knowingly continue in sin, our prayer, worship and fellowship with God is seriously hindered.


This does not suggest that the ultimate solution to our nation’s ills is political. It is not. Our nation’s primary ills are spiritual and can only be healed through the love and salvation God offers.


While believers cannot expect revival while living with unconfessed sin, we know from Isaiah 1:18 and 19 what we can expect if believers attempt to right themselves with God.


“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.”


As Christians, we are commissioned to deliver a message of hope and deliverance to a world in great need. In carrying out that mission, we must not ignore God’s direction for civic involvement.


John Revell is associate editor of the convention relations office for the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.




Might vs. Right: Power does not corrupt (NRO, 021023)


Jonah Goldberg


In late August 1929, in British-run Palestine, there was an Arab riot. Mobs of Arabs stormed Jewish homes and shops. Some Arab neighbors shielded their Jewish friends, even as British police provided only lackluster protection. But most Arabs — and most of the British constables — turned a blind eye to the destruction. British police chief Raymond Cafferata did his best, however. Cafferata later testified about one incident:


On hearing screams in a room I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as [an Arab] police constable named Issa Sherif from Jaffa in mufti. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out — shouting in Arabic, “Your Honor, I am a policeman.” …I got into the room and shot him.

This episode comes from Benny Morris’s history of Israel, Righteous Victims (considered by many to be mildly “anti-Zionist” — lest you think this is all so much pro-Israel propaganda). But I really don’t want to discuss Israel too much right now. Rather, I bring this up as a small illustration of another cliché that tends to addle much of our thinking these days.



In 1887, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton — a.k.a. Lord Acton — wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”


Of all the truisms to be found in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, this one may be the most revered as sheer genius on college campuses, op-ed pages, and idiot-radio. Alas, it is usually aimed at rich, white, conservative men and few others, but that certainly doesn’t diminish the passion or frequency with which it is invoked. And, as is so often the case with people who replace thinking with clichés, the people who use it are invariably wrong.


Acton was actually referring to a tendency among historians to let their judgment of Great Men be clouded in the light of their accomplishments. Acton believed historians should make moral judgments about the men they study. The “power corrupts” line first appeared in a letter responding to a request for Acton to review a history of the Popes by Creighton. Acton didn’t like Creighton’s refusal to judge harshly the Reformation-era popes (a.k.a. “the bad popes”). Acton wrote:


I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holder of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of history. If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then history ceases to be a science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the wanderer, the upholder of that moral standard which the powers of earth, and religion itself, tend constantly to depress.



Now, it’s obviously true that Acton, an eminent 19th-century liberal, had an abiding problem with powerful men who let their power go to their heads — but that’s not really what he was talking about. He was talking about the tendency of people to say, “But Hitler built the autobahn,” or “Think of all the good things Bill Clinton did,” or “Remember that Nixon created the EPA.” He wasn’t necessarily offering as a rule of thumb that as you get more powerful you get more corrupt. Rather, he was saying that as you get more powerful the standard you are held to by historians must be more, not less, exacting. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but that’s an argument for another day.


Today, the “power corrupts” syllogism has — like so many other things — been translated into a credo of personal morality. It insists that power makes you a bad person — i.e., self-aggrandizing, cruel, megalomaniacal, blind to all moral distinctions, and so on. And that just isn’t true. If it were, history would simply be the story of bad powerful men. And, while there most certainly were plenty of bad powerful men, there was also, for instance, George Washington. He might have become a king if he’d wanted, but he chose not to. He could have stayed president for life, but he chose not to. And, as NR’s Richard Brookhiser has chronicled, Washington remained a decent man, courteous to a fault in fact, as he grew in influence and power. Likewise, Abraham Lincoln — at whom certain libertarians love to throw the Acton quote — may have suspended habeas corpus, but the evidence seems fairly lacking that he was a corrupt man or that he grew more corrupt as he grew more powerful. Last I checked, Jimmy Carter didn’t become noticeably more praetorian for having had the arsenal of democracy at his disposal.


Obviously, power can blur judgments. But if absolute power corrupted absolutely, that would mean that all absolute monarchs and absolute rulers were equally — and absolutely — corrupt and therefore indistinguishable from one another. I’m no great student of such matters, but I can’t imagine it would be hard to disprove this. Couldn’t some kings be more corrupt than other kings even though they held roughly the same amount of power?


In fact, this clichéd notion — that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is an iron law of history — implies almost exactly the opposite message to what Acton had in mind. He wanted historians — i.e., us, humanity, society, etc. — to distinguish between the moral choices of powerful men. He explicitly rejected the idea that all powerful men are good — or bad. Acton believed that some popes were good men, who wielded their power wisely, and that other popes were bad men deserving of the historian’s obloquy. He would have been horrified to learn that people think he meant we should simply dismiss the whole lot of popes as equally contemptible.



So what does this have to do with a British police officer shooting an Arab police officer nearly three quarters of a century ago? Well, when it comes to a wide range of political issues, we’ve come to believe that “the powerless” are honorable and decent people, while “the powerful” are dishonorable and indecent. This partly has to do with the West’s often-admirable affection for the underdog and, truth be told, to a certain Christian-influenced affinity for the weak. But it also has to do with a certain brand of intellectual-sounding buffoonery — best typified by the likes of Edward Said (or, sometimes, Al Gore) — which says that power must always be challenged because, well, power is bad (the powerful, naturally, being defined as those whom Said dislikes).


In the international sphere, this tendency manifests itself in the endless bastardization of the phrase “Might doesn’t make right.” On the floor of the U.N., for example, this generally useful truism is inverted to mean “If you have might you cannot be right, and if you lack might you must be right” — and this, of course, is idiotic. But that doesn’t stop countless hordes of “activist-intellectuals” and feel-your-pain politicians from saying it.


The problem with this thinking is simple: It’s not true, and by pretending it is we invite disaster. The truth is that there are many, many, many powerless people who are awful and terrible people. And, not surprisingly, when they do get power they do terrible things with it. Hitler and Stalin, for example, were awful people before they came into power and — predictably — they were awful people after. Power didn’t corrupt them; it was merely a means by which they could more fully express their corruption.


The reason the Bush administration has turned its back on Yasser Arafat, to give another example, isn’t because they’ve concluded that power has corrupted him; it is because they’ve — finally — concluded that he is too corrupt to wield power. Following his years of terrorism, giving him a mini-state was like giving a man a zoo because he’s proved himself so successful at torturing small animals. Similarly, there is nothing in Saddam Hussein’s history that would suggest he had been a good man but was spoiled by power. Rather, he was a thoroughly evil man from the get-go, whose will to power was fully formed long before he ever had the opportunity to pull out his enemies’ tongues.


In 1929, two police officers were given the opportunity to do right. Each had power. Each made choices. One saw fit to murder and rape and to countenance the murder and rape of others; and one saw fit to put a stop to it. Both “used force,” as we like to say today. Indeed, the British police officer had more power, in many respects, than the Arab one did. Nonetheless, the former was less corrupt than the latter. One used force for right and the other used force for wrong. One saw power as an obligation to be just; the other saw it as a means to act on bloodlust and revenge.


The lesson here is an important one. Indeed, it goes to the heart of conservatism and notions of liberal democracy alike. In a state of nature, or simply left to their own devices, many or most or even all men may in fact be infinitely corruptible by power. Americans often brag about the genius of our checks and balances, but the greatest check we have on tyranny is a culture which creates men who do not want to be tyrants in the first place. Every generation the West is invaded by barbarians, Hanna Arendt wrote, we call them children. And in America we teach our children from an early age — by using, among other things, the bastardized Acton quote — that abusing power is a great sin. This is why our businessmen, our police, and our politicians are, as a rule, less corrupt than, say, Russia’s or China’s — because they were raised that way. To believe that power will corrupt anybody and everybody equally is to believe that raising good citizens is a pointless task.


In the international realm, the lesson is similar. The nations of the General Assembly can gripe about American imperialism all they like; they can assert that we’re not right because we have might to their hearts’ content. But only a fool would believe that many of these nations would be more responsible wielders of might than the United States and the West generally. Israel, for example, has the power to wipe out the Palestinians — but it doesn’t. If Yasser Arafat had that kind of power, the Israelis would either be dead or being plucked out of the sea by American rescue boats.


Western civilization has a lot of blood on its hands, to be sure, but that blood paid for some important lessons — including how to use strength when necessary and how to determine when it is necessary. We aren’t always right, but only an ignoramus would think that the “powerless” (and therefore allegedly virtuous) nations of the world would do better with such might (imagine, say, Robert Mugabe with trillions of dollars and a first-class army). The powerless simply haven’t learned many of those lessons, and so they are, understandably, more likely to be corrupt than virtuous. To give them power without educating them about the rules of civilization would be like giving that Arab police officer a badge and a gun.




Civic-Minded and Heavenly Good (Christianity Today, 021115)


How Christians should practice ‘right politics.’


“Progress often comes from hurting others.” That, according to Robert Kaplan, is Machiavelli’s cruel but accurate assessment of political reality. And that is why America’s political leaders today need a pagan rather than a Christian ethic if they are to defend American lives and interests. So says Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos (Random House, 2002). “Machiavelli,” says Kaplan, “believed that because Christianity glorified the meek, it allowed the world to be dominated by the wicked: he preferred a pagan ethic that elevated self-preservation over the Christian ethic of sacrifice.”


Exactly right, says Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas. “War becomes the great event in American life, because that’s when we send the young out to die and be killed . …It’s an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong god, Mars . …Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system” (quoted in Mark Oppenheimer, “For God, Not Country,” Lingua Franca, September 2001).


Kaplan the political warrior and Hauerwas the pacifist agree: it is time to break up a Christian-pagan political marriage that should never have taken place. Kaplan thinks Christianity’s private morality offers no public virtue. Hauerwas believes that Christianity’s greatest virtue is displayed when Christ’s followers renounce all use of violence. Furthermore, they say we can’t have it both ways. If you want to protect America and the best of its “private, Judeo-Christian morality,” says Kaplan, you will have to work publicly to uphold good pagan virtue for “the preservation and augmentation of American power.” On the other hand, if you want to be an undivided Christian, according to Hauerwas, you must relinquish the ungodly identification of Christianity with patriotism, and follow Christ, pure and simple.


Wrong and right politics


But are these the only two choices? Is there another way forward? Indeed, I believe the wholehearted following of Jesus Christ does entail a public ethos that stands in marked contrast to Kaplan’s pagan ethos.


Furthermore, Christ’s lordship sustains a role for human government that stands in marked contrast to the pacifism advocated by Hauerwas.


We need not dwell long on Kaplan’s contention that Christianity offers no public ethic. His book is typical of those who are largely ignorant of Christianity and read it only through the eyes of Kant, Nietzsche, and Reinhold Niebuhr. Nietzsche, like Machiavelli, rejected as a grave human error the soft, unmanly meekness of Christianity. Niebuhr, though, is said to be the most important public theologian of the 20th century. But his view of the direct public usefulness of the Christian love ethic was dim.


With Hauerwas, however, we must spend more time. First, he does not stand alone. He speaks for a growing community of Christians who look to the moral theology of John Howard Yoder and to the biblical exegesis of theologian Richard Hays. All three men believe that Jesus Christ has called his followers to live as an entirely new community—a new polis (Greek for “city”). The members of this polis worship, evangelize, and pursue social justice together as an alternative society that lives in contradiction to the world.


In an important 1979 essay titled “The Spirit of God and the Politics of Men” (published in For the Nations, Eerdmans, 1997), Yoder argues that Christians should


be guided by the claims of God upon the one real world which he intends by the power of his Spirit to redeem. The choice or the tension which the Bible is concerned with is not between politics and something else which is not politics, but between right politics and wrong politics. Not between “spirit” and something else which is not spiritual, but between true and false spirits. Not between God and something else unrelated to God, but between the true God and false gods.


Hauerwas fully affirms Yoder’s call for a “right politics” of the Christian community. And that, Hauerwas insists, demands a politics of nonviolence. “That Christians are committed to nonviolence does not entail, as is often assumed, that Christians must withdraw from the world. The church of Jesus Christ must be in the world as he was in the world.” Yoder’s case for Christian nonviolence, says Hauerwas, “is compelling because his understanding and justification of nonviolence cannot be separated from the Christian conviction that God is our creator and redeemer. Yoder forces us to see that the doctrines of God and nonviolence are constitutive of one another” (With the Grain of the Universe, Brazos, 2001). Nonviolence is thus central to the church and “right politics.” And this should be on display in God’s new political community, the church.


To sum up, then, these authors believe Christians are called to live in an entirely new community, a new polis. And this polis should be characterized by, among other traits, nonviolence.


But are these ideas biblical?


Misuse of violence


Let’s begin with the issue of nonviolence. This is where New Testament scholar Richard Hays comes in support of Hauerwas and Yoder. Hays contends in The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996) that Yoder and Hauerwas are correct. From Matthew to Revelation, writes Hays, “we find a consistent witness against violence and a calling to the community to follow the example of Jesus in accepting suffering rather than inflicting it.”


Yet Hays handles the words violence and nonviolence in a way that obscures the scriptural texts he deals with. Violence, as Hays uses it, always denotes or connotes “inflicting suffering” on others, hurting or killing or forcefully taking advantage of others. Furthermore, violence is the word that all three authors use when referring to the actions of the military and police. Hays concludes that the New Testament teaches that violence can never be used in the defense of justice. Consequently, true Christian community can have no part in the political communities of this world. Instead it is an alternative polis, a different kind of city. It is a community with a government quite unlike that of the United States or any other country.


But Hays fails to take up the Bible’s actual language about the use of force. The New Testament does not use the word violence to refer to all uses of force. It, like the Old Testament, speaks of reprehensible acts of murder and killing. It also speaks of vengeance, retribution, and punishment. It says the killing of one’s neighbor is murder and merits punishment. Biblical writers do not portray the use of force to punish the murderer as a parallel evil, but as just retribution. The punishment of the murderer by a God-ordained government is just recompense, not unjust violence.


The argument turns on Romans 12 and 13. From Yoder’s highly influential The Politics of Jesus (1972) up through Hays’s Moral Vision, these three theologians interpret this passage as follows: God condemns all violence, including the taking of vengeance upon one’s neighbor. Instead, Paul urges Christians to return good for evil and to leave wrath to God (12:17–21). Consequently, since the responsibility of government includes the use of force against evildoers (13:3, 5), governmental offices are off-limits to Christians. That kind of government is part of the politics of violence and cannot be part of the Christian polis, or political community.


Quite in contrast to this interpretation, another one flows much more naturally and coherently from the epistle. Indeed, Paul, like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, tells Christians that they should return good for evil and turn the other cheek. Their lives are to exhibit loving service to their neighbors. Personal vengeance is off-limits because it grows from pride and self-seeking. Leave revenge to God, says Paul, because, as the Scriptures say, “ ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (12:19).


Yet it follows directly from this, according to Paul, that God has established governing authorities precisely in order to execute some of that divine vengeance (13:1, 4). Government bears this responsibility not as an extension of human vengeance but as a servant of God. Government is not the independently authorized power of Caesar, but “God’s servant to do you good” (13:4).


This is in keeping with the Old Testament and with the whole tenor of his letter. Paul is telling Roman Christians to recognize Christ’s lordship by loving and serving their neighbors for their good, in every office they may hold. They should do this by responding nonviolently personally to any attacks—and by allowing God, through the governing authorities, to execute any forceful judgment that may be necessary against those who do such evil things.


If Christians find themselves in positions of governing authority, they must recognize, as every official must, that they are servants of God’s justice. They are not personal vengeance-takers or representatives of vengeful friends and neighbors. In a position of political authority, their task is still to do good to their neighbors. But in this office, that will require punishing evildoers as well as commending those who do good. It is no contradiction for a Christian, on the one hand, to exercise restraint by not taking personal vengeance, and on the other hand, to exercise the responsibilities of a God-ordained office by executing God’s vengeance. In both cases one is called to act as a wholehearted, undivided servant of the Lord. And in both cases one must be willing to sacrifice one’s life for the good of one’s neighbors in carrying out that service.


Beyond alternatives


But the issues raised by these three thinkers go deeper than the narrow question of the use of force. They extend to the very identity of “Christian community.” The Christ presented to us by the Gospel writers and apostles is the one who announces upon his resurrection that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). He is the Lord before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess (Phil. 2:10–11). He is the one for whom all thrones and powers, all rulers and authorities, were created (Col. 1:16). Clearly, Jesus did not call his disciples to engineer the fulfillment of his kingdom by force, or to compel anyone to bow before the risen Lord (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43; Acts 1:6–8). Yet as these passages show, Christ’s lordship extends beyond the community of believers. The Christ whom we have been called to serve is not only head of the church but also the supreme authority in everything in heaven and on Earth (Col. 1:17–20). The implications of this confession for our life in society are huge.


Just as marriage and family life belong by creation to people outside the household of faith, so business and agriculture, science and art, schooling and government belong to all human creatures. I agree entirely with Yoder that the Bible is concerned with the difference between “right politics and wrong politics.” Christians should indeed be demonstrating faithfulness as a community by the way they pursue “right” families, “right” businesses, and “right” politics. However, in imagining that we should pursue right politics through the church as an alternative polis, Yoder, Hauerwas, and Hays confuse the Bible’s teachings on creation and redemption.


The followers of Christ are certainly a called-out community, called out from sin to become a community of obedience to God. But they are not called out of God’s creation. Think for a moment of the biblical language used to characterize Christ’s followers: bride of Christ, the children of their Father in heaven, brothers and sisters of their elder brother Jesus, joint heirs with Christ, a community of priests, disciples (students) in the school of a new teacher, and certainly citizens in Christ’s kingdom. The primary referents in all of these metaphors are the very creaturely realities in which the people of God live.


To live as a member of God’s family, I do not disown my parents but rather obey them as unto the Lord. Likewise, in order to participate in the Christian community as a citizen of Christ’s polis (kingdom), I do not take leave of my citizenship. Rather, I act as a citizen in obedience to the Lord in accord with teachings such as those in Romans 12 and 13. The church, then, is not an alternative to any of these creaturely realities. It represents, instead, the fulfillment of them all in Christ.


The three theologians confuse matters by speaking of the church as an alternative polis. They would equally confuse us if they spoke of the church as an alternative family, or as an alternative business enterprise, or as alternative school. The church is not an alternative to anything that God created for human development. Rather, the Christian community is that people whom God has restored to their creaturely callings as forgiven sinners, who are being redeemed by their Savior, Jesus Christ. The Christian community is composed of those who are learning to turn from habits of sinful degradation in all areas of life and seeking to demonstrate God-honoring earthly stewardship. Only when Christ’s kingdom comes in its fullness will God put the full “alternative” community on display. And of course at that point of eschatological celebration, the people of God will constitute the creation fulfilled.


Christians may pretend in this age to live in a community they call an alternative polis, which among other things renounces the use of force for the sake of justice. But calling such a community a “political community” will not make it so. And in the meantime, the Kaplans of this world will go on deciding, with a pagan ethic, how to use military and police force. They have concluded that Christianity has nothing to offer, no criteria for judging the just and unjust performance of governments.


Instead, to be authentic Christians, to be able to serve our civic neighbors throughout the world, Christians need to be involved as real citizens in real governments, exhibiting a genuinely Christian public ethic. Such a responsibility will include working for the restraint of personal vengeance. And it will entail the exercise of official, publicly accountable punishment of those who commit crimes and unjust aggression.


Turning from injustice, faithlessness, hatred, and greed in every sphere of life requires constructive, communal service by those who are being redeemed from sin. When Christ, by the power of the Spirit, has finished making all things new, we will then be able to sing with the saints of all ages, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).


James W. Skillen is president of the Center for Public Justice (




Loyalty, How Quaint: The timeless importance of an old quality (National Review, 031124)




Even in our postmodern age 19th-century ideas like patriotism, loyalty, and treason still cause controversy. The recent news that some Arab-American and Islamic translators and chaplains at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay were either openly sympathetic to their captives or direct conduits to terrorist organizations in the Middle East might seem like an open-and-shut case of treason. And such perfidy is unfortunately not a new development in this current war. There were also citizens of the United States — most prominently John Walker Lindh — fighting for the Taliban and several dozen more Americans organizing terrorist cells here at home. Posters proclaiming “Bomb Texas, not Iraq” — along with speakers equating the United States with Nazi Germany while praising North Korea and Cuba — were not uncommon during televised peace marches on the eve of the Iraq campaign. A mere two years ago, on Halloween night 2001, only a few weeks after 9/11, the New Black Panther party and assorted Islamic clerics in America — Imam Abdul Alim Musa, Imam Mohammed Asi, Imam Abdel Razzag al-Raggad, and others of the various mosques in the Washington, D.C., area — cheered on the Taliban, venting racist, anti-Semitic (and subversive) propaganda in a time of war, and showed themselves somewhat pleased at the deaths of thousands of Americans. It was all broadcast live from the National Press Club.



Yet Americans of the present age are uneasy with such an absolutist idea as “traitors” who are “disloyal” to the United States. Of course, we can accept as treasonous a rogue FBI agent who is caught on tape selling secrets to the Soviets; but barring such brazen acts we find issues of loyalty more nebulous and not so clear-cut, and thus are hesitant to tell anyone what to do or think.


Part of our problem with “treason” is the age-old ambiguous nature of individualism within Western society. We mavericks feel little unease about leaving an employer, organization, or community when new allegiances so often promise us greater satisfaction and material benefits. Sometimes there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a transitory lifestyle that certainly leads to upward mobility; but the dividends of personal freedom and affluence also can promote a shallow and smug self-absorption in which thousands of private agendas rebel at the claims of the state’s own. It is almost as if individual Westerners believe liberty — the freedom to work, earn, go, do what they please when they please — is their automatic and assured birthright, an entirely natural occurrence owing nothing to the culture and countries that alone guarantee political freedom’s rare existence.


This modern unease with proclaiming allegiance to the state over one’s associates was best captured by the novelist E. M. Forster’s oft-quoted remark during the nightmare years of Nazi ascendance. “I hate the idea of causes,” he wrote, “and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” One wonders about what Mr. Forster’s life and work would have been like had he lived with his friends in a Nazi-occupied Great Britain. Such a promotion of rights over responsibilities is a long way from the carefully delineated path that Socrates walked between the dilemma of conflicting loyalties to the polis and to an individual’s sense of morality. While the old battle-veteran bravely chose not to renounce his own views when bullied by the democratic jurors at Athens, he also reminds us in the Crito that the citizen of a consensual society does not have the right to ignore or break the laws simply because he has found them inconvenient to his own ideology or political position. In fact, the manner in which Socrates confronts his accusers and awaits his execution is really quite conservative. His is a sort of patriotic non-violent martyrdom that does not destroy the fabric of legality, but seeks instead by the ultimate sacrifice to admonish — or better yet, shame — wayward citizens to be as good as the ideals of their own government.


The specter of Vietnam and Watergate also played a role in the modern American erosion of the notion of loyalty to country. During the 1960s we ignored the nuanced lesson of Socrates, and thus wrongly conflated the pathology of blind devotion to our elected leaders with something inherently wrong with the United States itself — as if Socrates’ Athens, not weak Athenians, was the problem. Thus we were relentlessly admonished about the pernicious wages of “loyalty” — as if the problem perhaps was too much, or the wrong kind of, patriotism per se, rather than the abuse of it by a few isolated apparatchiks. Two of the most infamous lines of that era, after all, were Lyndon Johnson’s braggadocio about the need for a trustworthy assistant (“I want his pecker in my pocket”), and Charles Colson’s purported brag that he was “prepared to walk over [his] grandmother” for Nixon.


The excesses of Vietnam and Watergate were wrongly chalked up not just to a rather paranoid Johnson or Nixon, but to a pervasive faith in government itself. America of the 1960s had not gotten over the recent hysteria about “loyalty oaths,” Hollywood Communist inquiries, and McCarthyism, and it could not really accept that the well-educated and idealistic Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss had been abject traitors. Indeed, a Charles Colson was seen as more of a threat to the republic than Jane Fonda, who actively sought an enemy victory and broadcast Communist propaganda to American troops in the field. The former was rightly jailed, the latter wrongly excused or even praised.


There have also been other contemporary ideological force-multipliers that helped to undermine the ideas of both “loyalty” and its antithesis “treason.” Multiculturalism — or the contemporary fad that no one culture inherently is any better than, or deserves to be privileged over, another — has made it hard to express faith in the United States as a singular country worthy of devotion and sacrifice. Inherent in the great addresses of a Pericles, Lincoln, or Churchill were appeals to citizens to ponder the beauties and values of their own civilization. Listeners were instructed to realize how lucky they were to live under such liberal regimes, and then asked to pledge in their private lives to protect and improve the commonwealth. In contrast, sometime in the 1960s and 1970s, frustrated by the slowness of progress on civil rights, furious over lingering economic disparity, and mired in shame about past abuses, our elites jettisoned the old American ideal of a melting-pot, multiracial society united by one culture. America was instead to be replaced with the romance of the salad bowl: Different ethnic and racial groups were to maintain their own core cultures as if they could still somehow in spirit remain full citizens of one country.



In one of the most paradoxical developments in American history, idealists on the left somehow convinced millions that America really was at heart a tribal society of white, male capitalists, whose easily caricatured literature and values reflected just those parochial interests. Under this revisionism the West went from a culture of universal ideals, blind to the particular circumstances of its adherents, to the property of a particular race (white), from a particular place (Europe). And from that distortion, it was an easy step to idealize the “Other” in similarly tribal terms — a Che, Fidel, Ho, or Mao offered “alternative discourses” that did not have to be adjudicated by traditional logic, morality, or practicality. No, their dogmas could be declared equally legitimate or even superior on the basis that they were from the Third World and of purportedly non-Western pedigrees.


Race, ethnicity, and national origin excused totalitarianism and outright genocide in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and China. We feel the aftershocks of multiculturalism even today, from the ridiculous to the sublime — as students in California of Mexican heritage often attend segregated graduation ceremonies predicated on race at state-funded universities, while we award literary prizes to “African-American novelists” or “Native American poets” rather than simply to talented Americans who chose to write about the particular background and landscape they know best. Indeed one of the most disturbing symptoms of multiculturalism run amok showed itself during the recent California recall election, which witnessed the calculated metamorphosis of the once centrist and popular Cruz Bustamante into a shrill tribalist of the first order. Most Californians cringed — but kept silent — at his acceptance of illegal donations from the Indian gaming industry that had hired his brother, his advocacy for driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants from Mexico, his failure to denounce a MEChA manifesto that talked of “a bronze state for a bronze people,” and his later campaign commercials and whipped-up appearances before almost exclusively Latino audiences.


Relativism, and its twin utopian perfectionism, also make us uneasy with the idea of national unity and loyalty. These modern Sirens hypnotically whisper to us that since we cannot be 100 percent perfect, why even try? Who, after all, possesses enough morality, wisdom, or legitimate authority to promote “loyalty” — loyalty to what, to whom, when, where, and under what circumstances? We often quote Samuel Johnson’s famous warning that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” — but fail to note both that Johnson was talking specifically about false patriotism, and that elsewhere, on at least a half-dozen occasions, he praised both the patriot and the necessity of loyalty to one’s country.


Critical to this cynicism is the reductio ad absurdum, where the extreme and rare case is cited first, not last — and as the primary, not the last-resort, reason to deprecate loyalty: “How can I support a country that promotes racism? A military that bombs children? A president that was not really elected?” And when deliberately targeting civilians in a time of peace is simplistically equated to injuring civilians while bombing enemy soldiers during war — death being the common denominator that trumps all considerations of circumstance, chance, intent, and result — how can I pledge my support to America in Afghanistan? The relativist further proclaims “Not in my name” to armed defense, but still expects that same government to ensure that hijacked airliners do not vaporize him at work. Yet loyalty demands confidence in some ability of the state to determine right and wrong, which is then the fountainhead for requisite action under difficult circumstances. It is always easier to slur unabashed loyalists as unthinking Neanderthals (conjuring up Vietnam-era slogans like “My country right or wrong”) than to identify those who are sophisticated and disloyal as simple traitors.


Historical revision has done its part as well in destroying the old virtue of national loyalty. If we teach our youth that World War II was mostly the Japanese internment camps (never mentioning the context of a liberal governor and president, hand-in-glove, panicking amid wartime hysteria) and Hiroshima (always apart from the fear of a bloodbath when hitting the shores of the Japanese mainland) — while ignoring the Rape of Nanking, Guadalcanal, or MacArthur’s postbellum creation of a liberal Japanese society — then how can the citizen look to the past to galvanize his confidence in the present?


Yet to the classical mind it was never a question of whether an Athenian or Roman was free from error. Rather the only rub was whether his country was at least better than the alternative. For example, how often do American schools really discuss the debate over women’s rights or integrating the military after World War II in the context of how much worse the world outside the United States was at the time? Do we remind our students of the horrendous and bloody landscape between 1930 and 1950 beyond our shores — the mass murdering of races and religions in fascist Europe and Japan, the millions butchered in the Soviet Union and China, the tribal butchery and mayhem in Africa and India, and the iron-clad rule of dictators in Latin America? If one is taught, instead, that the United States has been the prime historical nexus of gender, race, and class pathology, then why should one feel any loyalty to it in the here and now?


Finally, the most recent manifestation of internationalism has done its part to contribute to the demise of loyalty and patriotism. This idea of being a citizen not of the United States but “of the world” is, of course, age-old in the West — a common enough, even trite, line from Socrates to Kant. But recent developments have elevated the concept from philosophical speculation to a common tenet of our growing therapeutic culture, as unquestioned as UNICEF cards, Nobel Peace Prize–winning opportunists, and cuddly banalities from a Kofi Annan.


Globalization now unites us with instant communications, from cell phones to the Internet. Its universal taste of blue jeans, T-shirts, and sunglasses makes us superficially identical through a universal fashion. And billions share the same predilections in film, music, and television. This homogeneity, of course, appears to break down more fundamental national differences — but in such a superficial way that only the naïve could think that because Mohamed Atta looked Western, lived in Germany, and attended a European university he surely would not mutter Koranic verses like a primordial jihadist as he rammed a jetliner into the World Trade Center.


The demise of the Soviet Union was another event that gave far too many elites the idea that the end of history really was on the horizon — as if disparate, but now mesmerized, tribes of the world would almost unconsciously ape the consumer capitalism and democracy of the West. For Europeans the disappearance of some 300 Soviet divisions on their borders persuaded many that the old international institutions — the U.N. particularly — that had long ago arisen from the ashes of World War II only to be subverted by the Soviet bloc could now at last fulfill their original liberal and dreamy intent.


Lost in all of this naïveté was any cold empirical reckoning that would have reminded us that an elected U.S. president and Congress, constrained by an independent judiciary and an iron-clad Constitution, were far better protectors of human rights and national security than a U.N. Security Council that was captive to a Chinese veto, or a U.N. General Assembly that included such brutal regimes as those of Zimbabwe and Libya. For the American who professes loyalty to the United Nations rather than the United States, a certain number of beliefs are required, among them the following: that Kosovo, Bosnia, and Rwanda were not preventable; that the sole democracy in the Middle East — Israel — really deserves to be targeted by over 50 percent of all U.N. condemnatory resolutions; and that U.N. peacekeepers are subject to a higher military code of conduct than the U.S. Marine Corps.



Does the insidious erosion of national loyalty in our country really matter? It does, because on a variety of levels patriotism is the only glue that holds a diverse people together, especially during a war. We should remember that a liberal state is rare in civilization’s history. Far more common has been the rule of the tribe or clan, to which individuals proclaim natural allegiance and then do not extend notions of justice to those outside their immediate kin group. In some sense, we have been plagued by just that kind of chaos in the Middle East — among tribal societies bound by first-cousin marriages and religious fanaticism, without any belief that the idea of “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” should transcend more immediate relationships with the family, local mullah, or ethnic enclaves. Contrast that separatism with Italian-, German-, and Japanese-Americans who fought their former fatherlands in World War II, John F. Kennedy’s declaration that his Catholicism was secondary to his Americanism, or the new political career of the immigrant Arnold Schwarzenegger that will put him ideologically at odds with dozens of his own in-laws.


The greatest advocates of the liberal state always sought to subordinate familial, ethnic, racial, and geographical loyalties — from the Athenian reformer Cleisthenes, who tried to diminish tribal affiliations at Athens, to our own Founders, who sought to craft government that would transcend the chauvinism of the local clique. To understand why a much smaller, much poorer United States could tragically send thousands to their deaths in the air over Schweinfurt, on the ground at Sugar Loaf Hill, and at sea on creaky tankers in the mid Atlantic — and has worked itself into a near national hysteria over battling enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq far less impressive than the Waffen SS or the kamikazes — we might take note of the last half-century of pernicious ideologies and mentalities that privileged self and tribe over the general interest of the state.


So we have forgotten the tenuousness of our own great experiment: Of all of civilization’s rare nation-states, the United States was by far the most extraordinary and ambitious in its efforts to forge one people from so many diverse backgrounds and heritages. We alone have tried to elevate a common adherence to a constitution and its ideals over primary loyalties to diverse religions, races, and ethnicities — to such a degree that it is impossible to determine how a typical American even looks or worships.


But if we in America — either from the prejudices of the ignorant or the cynicism of the elite and educated — decide that the United States is not, and should not be, different from other countries (and is surely no better), then there is no intrinsic reason why any of us would wish to sacrifice anything on its behalf. And if we feel that our personal rights are exclusively our own, why feel any responsibility to a consensual state that is supposedly neither creator nor guarantor of our freedom? If and when we reach that point of abject cynicism — and many equally impressive consensual societies have, whether Athens in 338 b.c., Rome around the mid-5th century a.d., Venice in the 17th century, or France in spring 1940 — then there is also no historical reason why we should continue to exist as a nation. And indeed at that point we will most certainly not.


Mr. Hanson, a classics scholar, is the author of Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think.




The Battle for the World’s Future (Christian Coalition International, Canada, 031200)


By Dennis Prager,


The world’s future is being decided at this time. Such moments are extremely rare in history. And when they have occurred, they have between two, not three, competing ideologies. But there are now three ideologies competing to shape the future of mankind. They are militant Islam, Western European secularism and socialism, and American Judeo-Christianity and capitalism. The first is being spread both peacefully and violently, the second is being spread peacefully, and the third is not being spread.


Though most people ignore the fact, almost all of the world’s believing Muslims believe that all of mankind should be Muslim. This, in and of itself, is not troubling -- after all, most Christians would like the whole world to be Christian, and most Westerners would like the whole world to democratic. What is troubling is that if only 10 percent of these Muslims are prepared to use violence to impose their religion on others, we are talking about 100 million people.


This is the reason about one million non-Muslim Sudanese have been killed in the last 15 years -- because they are resisting the violent imposition of Islam by the Islamic government in Khartoum. This is the reason for the Muslim-Christian violence in Nigeria -- Christians there, too, are resisting the violent imposition of Islam. And this is the reason for Islamic terror -- to weaken those countries, particularly the United States and Israel, that stand in the way of an Islamic takeover.


The second ideology seeking to dominate the world is secularism and socialism as practiced in Western Europe and supported by educated elites around the world. This is a primary reason for the anti-American demonstrations in Western Europe and in the United States. They were far more against America (especially the America of George W. Bush) than they were against war. Most of these people could not care less about the wars of the world. They have been silent throughout the mass murder of Sudan’s blacks, during the genocide in Rwanda, during China’s crushing of Tibet, and during Saddam’s wars against Iran, Kuwait and Iraq’s own Kurds. American and European “peace” activists have found those atrocities and wars quite boring.


Western European socialists and their American (and Canadian, and Latin American) supporters are as passionate about secularism and socialism as believing Muslims are about Islam. And they want to dominate the world as much as militant Muslims want Islam to. Their vehicles are the United Nations, the European Union, international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocols, and international institutions such as the International Court. Regarding the American way, there are serious impediments to its success.


First, while the first two ideologies -- Islam and socialism/secularism -- dominate many countries, the third ideology only dominates one -- America. There is no other country that claims to be Judeo-Christian and no other that has such strong support for capitalism and small government (the opposite of socialism). Therefore, while both the militant Muslims and the socialists/secularists have supporters around the world, American values have few. That is why America goes it alone -- with the partial exceptions of Israel and Britain, no other society has the same values as we do.


Second, neither Judeo-Christian nor capitalist values are secure in America. Many Americans, including almost its entire intellectual class, are as hostile to Judeo-Christian and non-socialist values as the militant Muslims and European socialists are.


Third, almost no one is teaching the next generation of Americans (as almost no one taught the present adult generation) what is unique, let alone superior, about American values. Our children are overwhelmingly educated by people who believe in Europe’s values, not in ours.


As neither China nor the rest of Asia, nor Africa, nor Latin America are offering an ideology that can dominate the world, either Europe’s, or the militant Muslims’, or America’s way of life will prevail. But the American way can only prevail if Americans believe in it. That is why, as important as the military and ideological battles against militant Islam are, the most important battle is the ideological one within America. But with America’s universities, unions, professional associations, mainstream news media, and one of its two major parties ideologically aligned with Europe, and with big businesses constantly undermining Judeo-Christian values, the battle within America itself for America’s unique values is far from won. And given that only America offers a viable alternative to both militant Islam and secularism/socialism, if we lose the battle here, humanity has a very dark future.




The Church of the Holy Primary (NRO, 040112)


Presidential candidates should stop the religion pandering.


Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean says he’s going to talk about his religious faith. But what’s that got to do with what kind of president he’d be?


Granted, George W. Bush is the most overtly observant Christian to hold the presidency in at least a quarter century. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark says he plans on making faith central to his campaign. The Democratic primaries also have drawn as candidates an Orthodox Jew and an ordained (Pentecostal) minister.


There’s obvious benefit in having someone who’s serious about living a moral life as president. But a few throwaway lines during a campaign don’t mean anything. After all, Bill Clinton knew how to talk about God and ostentatiously carried a Bible to church. He just didn’t know how to live his purported faith.


Howard Dean’s proclaimed religious fidelity looks equally convenient. He left the Episcopal Church because of a dispute over construction of a local bike path a quarter century ago. Since then his Christian commitment has not been much in evidence.


Now he says that his faith led him to sign Vermont’s civil-unions law, suggesting an interesting interpretation of Scripture. But he criticizes President Bush for letting religious belief influence the latter’s decision limiting stem-cell research. Dean’s attempt to demonstrate the consistency of these opinions has not been entirely successful.


But who cares if candidates are genuine believers? In a world in which the U.S. is fighting a war on terror, dealing with exploding budget deficits, struggling with a broken health-care system, and worrying about failed public schools that can’t even keep kids safe, intelligence and common sense are more important than piety and sincerity.


Although four years ago candidate George W. Bush identified Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher, Christianity’s concern with politics is only indirect. Every year the transcendent claims of the Gospel suffer the indignity of being enlisted for ephemeral political causes by partisans of left and right.


However, voters should be skeptical of any politician who claims to be acting in the name of theology. The Bible sets only general boundaries for political debate. The dominant message of the Gospel, as well as of the Hebrew writings, is man’s relationship to God and one’s neighbors. The Bible gives much more guidance on how we should treat people in our everyday lives than when we should coerce them, especially through today’s secular political order.


The state’s most fundamental role is to protect citizens from the sinful conduct of their neighbors. For instance, government should help preserve order — people’s ability to live “peaceful and quiet lives,” in Paul’s words — in a sinful world (1 Timothy 2:2). But even here, the exact means of achieving Godly objectives is left to man’s discretion.


Another recurring theme is reflected in Kind David’s observation: “The Lord is righteous, he loves justice” (Psalm 11:11). Thus, government is to be a neutral arbiter that protects all men in their enjoyment of God’s blessings. It certainly is not to become a tool to rob and oppress, a constant risk in every political system, including American democracy.


In its focus on process, Godly justice and righteousness are very different from the modern notion of “social justice,” which demands equal economic and cultural outcomes. However appealing may be some proposals advanced under the rubric of “social justice,” they are not matters of Biblical justice, which guarantees a fair civil government nestled within a larger culture in which the wealthy and powerful recognize their obligation — to God — to help those in need.


In the Old Testament, the government enforced many essentially “religious” rules, and some believers want those same regulations to be enforced today since they are “God’s law.” In a different country, in a different time, it would be a mistake for Christians who live in a society dominated by nonreligious neighbors to advance civil enforcement of essentially religious strictures. In the United States today, in contrast to the ancient Israelite monarchy, our elected officials govern a disparate people of disparate beliefs. Today’s state is designed to promote civil order and public good, not religious faith and individual salvation.


It should come as no surprise, then, that on most political issues Scripture is silent. Consider poverty. God’s concern for the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak is persistent, pervasive, and powerful. Little is clearer in Scripture than the duty of believers to care for those in need.


Notably, however, the Bible does not vest this responsibility in the state. Neither does Scripture proscribe a public role, but it implies that believers should fulfill their individual and corporate responsibilities before turning to government, and any state programs should not violate other biblical norms, such as family formation.


About many other current public controversies, like war in Iraq, tax cuts, corporate accounting rules, the Export-Import Bank, and bike paths in Vermont, the Bible offers little specific guidance. Rather, these usually are more matters of prudence than principle and fall within the permissive area of government activity. God has chosen to leave the issue up to us rather than to express his own preference.


Is Howard Dean really a Christian? The answer doesn’t have much to do with his — or anyone else’s — qualifications to be president.


On most political issues, God provides us with principles to be applied with wisdom, rather than specific answers. Indeed, part of our Christian walk appears to be to work out our faith as we attempt to resolve problems in community with others.


In fact, believers’ most important duties lie beyond politics. Pope John II pointed to the importance of “a strong juridical framework which places [capitalism] at the service of human freedom in its totality and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious.” Government can provide the juridical framework, but the church — the world body of Christian believers — must help provide the ethical and religious core. For Christians politics is an important, but never the most important, calling.


— Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of several books, including Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics and The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology.




Bogus rights (, 060208)


by Walter E. Williams


Do people have a right to medical treatment whether or not they can pay? What about a right to food or decent housing? Would a U.S. Supreme Court justice hold that these are rights just like those enumerated in our Bill of Rights? In order to have any hope of coherently answering these questions, we have to decide what is a right. The way our Constitution’s framers used the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people and imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech, or freedom to travel, is something we all simultaneously possess. My right to free speech or freedom to travel imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. In other words, my exercising my right to speech or travel requires absolutely nothing from you and in no way diminishes any of your rights.


Contrast that vision of a right to so-called rights to medical care, food or decent housing, independent of whether a person can pay. Those are not rights in the sense that free speech and freedom of travel are rights. If it is said that a person has rights to medical care, food and housing, and has no means of paying, how does he enjoy them? There’s no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy who provides them. You say, “The Congress provides for those rights.” Not quite. Congress does not have any resources of its very own. The only way Congress can give one American something is to first, through the use of intimidation, threats and coercion, take it from another American. So-called rights to medical care, food and decent housing impose an obligation on some other American who, through the tax code, must be denied his right to his earnings. In other words, when Congress gives one American a right to something he didn’t earn, it takes away the right of another American to something he did earn.


If this bogus concept of rights were applied to free speech rights and freedom to travel, my free speech rights would impose financial obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium and microphone. My right to travel freely would require that the government take the earnings of others to provide me with airplane tickets and hotel accommodations.


Philosopher John Locke’s vision of natural law guided the founders of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence expresses that vision, declaring, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don’t have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.

Click to learn more...


Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we’d call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that’s exactly what thieves do — redistribute income. Income redistribution not only betrays the founders’ vision, it’s a sin in the eyes of God. I’m guessing that when God gave Moses the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” I’m sure he didn’t mean “thou shalt not steal unless there was a majority vote in Congress.”


The real tragedy for our nation is that any politician who holds the values of liberty that our founders held would be soundly defeated in today’s political arena.




Does size matter? A review of Joel Miller’s Size Matters (, 060209)


Review by Katie Favazza (bio | archive | contact )


“Imagine how happy we’ll be in a thousand years when we have a hundred times as many laws to improve our lives.” —Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy


T. J. Rodgers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, is a winemaker in Santa Cruz and in 2002 decided to turn his hobby commercial. He was refused a permit, however, because his vines grew thirty feet from the property line, and operations must be fifty feet from the line to be ‘safe.’ Ridiculous? Joel Miller thinks so: “It’s legal to plant the vines, harvest the grapes, squeeze the juice, ferment the must, age the wine, bottle it, and knock back draughts with merry abandon. Just don’t dare accept cash for it. A person can do everything but turn his hobby into a productive venture.”


The bigger, the better?  Not so fast, says Joel Miller in Size Matters , his original analysis of how Big Government hinders the founding values of our country. Miller sets up four parts to argue how Big Government’s quantifiable, negative impact “reduces family income, drives up the cost of housing and healthcare, hurts employment, misdirects entrepreneurial efforts, and stifles vital marketplace creativity and innovation.”  Miller’s text is a comprehensive, yet compact text that manages to delight as much as it informs.


The first part introduces the main themes, that is, the connections between the rule of law, Big Government’s growth, and the pursuit of happiness. Part Two examines the contribution of lobbyists, politicians, special interests, and bureaucrats in fattening the government, and Part Three explains how Big Government fetters commerce, prevents innovation, limits creativity, and increases the cost of living. The last part explores how Big Government supporters “push policies that limit individual choice in the name of the public happiness and end up encumbering government with too many tasks and individuals with too few opportunities.”


Miller brings a number of assumptions and assertions to the text, but he systematically affirms his opinions with incredible research. In Chapter 3, “Road Signs and Guillotines,” Miller outlines the fundamental differences between the monarchs that France and America overthrew within the same decade by casting them both against James Madison’s criteria for good government from Federalist 62: “First, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained. Some governments are deficient in both these qualities; most are deficient in the first.”  Miller continues by explaining why France is “beyond deficient in both” and ended up without a government that emphasized the pursuit of happiness; namely, because France’s rule of law was not “simple, unshifting, applicable to both government and citizen, and known by everyone” as America’s was designed to be (Miller quotes Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice regarding this. Post-revolution, representatives of the French national assembly carried their own guillotine “to dispense their own brand of justice on the spot” to citizens who didn’t know they were even breaking the law).


Big Government takes time to grow, as Miller demonstrates by relating figures to modern terms and updating figures that had shocked audiences in the past. For example, Miller draws attention to H.L. Mencken’s series of six columns in 1938, in which Mencken printed one million dots to represent the number of bureaucrats on payroll, and then informs readers that the federal government is about seventeen times that size. Miller also notes that the Federal Register totaled 75,676 pages in 2004, while the first six Harry Potter books add up to about 3,360 pages. Here, as in numerous other examples, Miller lets the government speak for itself. Similarly, the Code of Federal Regulations (147,639 pages in 2004) increases approximately 20,000 pages per year—20,000 new pages of compulsory statues and regulations, 20,000 new pages of law.


The book’s subject matter, and its dependency on good research, lends itself to a dry style, but Miller organizes anecdotes and statistics so perfectly that readers cannot help but stay interested and breeze through the chapters. His accessible style complements the extremely well-researched text, and this blend is Miller’s greatest strength.


Miller also discusses the broad spectrum of responsibilities that the government has given itself. “The Constitution,” he writes, “says nothing about [...] testing standards [...], presence of grab bars [...], what kind of gun a person can own [...], subsidizing pigs or corn or Big Bird [...], granting student loans [...], determining how much gas our cars should guzzle” and more. This truth hit me pretty hard, but before I chalked up Miller as an extremist, I read on. He continues, “This is not to say that these things are bad.

The point is only to say that—good, bad, or otherwise—the Constitution says exactly nothing about them.”   He also refers back to Federalist 62: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read.” In response to Madison, Miller reminds us that bureaucrats write most laws, not ‘men of our choice.’


Big Government limits the pursuit of happiness, but before admonishing all federal policies, Americans must take into account that government is necessary and, while keeping taxes and government spending low, the government still needs to ‘umpire’ the nation (to borrow Milton Friedman’s phrase). Miller is not suggesting that we abandon all laws designed to ‘protect individual rights,’ but rather that we evaluate the necessity of such laws in terms of their potential ability to limit the pursuit of happiness and that elected representatives be responsible for composing those happiness-friendly laws.


Self-published books are generally respected less than books that pass the impossible tests of big publishing companies. I worried that Miller’s book would dissappoint, as he is the senior editor of Nelson Current, the book’s publishing company.  However, the company delivers exactly what it promises on its website with Miller’s book: to “challenge the ‘status quo,’ question conventional wisdom, and provide compelling and thought-provoking alternatives.” What I first saw as a weakness turned out to be exactly what establishes Miller’s credibility and proves he is adequately prepared and experienced even to take on the subject. His point of view as an editor makes his writing and thoughts overall, strong. In 2004, Miller also released Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America. The idea of the government’s good intentions paving the way to hell is not a new subject for the writer and editor.


I recommend Size Matters to anyone who would like to add a comprehensive guide to Big Government to their bookshelf. Joel Miller proves over and over again that the excesses of the government are harming Americans left and right (pun intended), at all levels.