Last week I posted on this blog how the “democratic process” at the Republican National Convention was a complete sham. So it’s only fair that I do the same for the Democratic National Convention, which did the EXACT SAME THING. Further proof of how little difference there is between the two main political parties in this country, and how little regard the parties have for the people of this nation:

President Obama said in his speech tonight, “No party has a monopoly on wisdom.” Apparently, no party has a monopoly on fraud, either.

A Power Grab in the GOP

A terrible erosion of liberty happened in our country today, but a lot of people weren’t paying attention.

A few days ago, Drew McKissick broke the story about an impending RNC rule change, and Michelle Malkin has been frequently updating the story over the last two days. You should also check out this letter from GOP delegate Morton Blackwell, who is a member of the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules. He knows what he’s talking about.

Here’s the short version: The RNC Rules Committee proposed a rule change that would allow future presidential campaigns to have veto power over delegates elected to the convention. In other words, the party is trying to centralize the nomination process at the expense of grassroots voters.

While much of the banter has focused on Ron Paul supporters, the outrage about this move comes from a much wider swath of conservative voters who respect the principles of republican government enough to not want to see any voters disenfranchised. For heavens sake, even Sarah Palin and Mark Levin took up this fight! It’s not terribly often I find myself agreeing with either of them, but I respect them both for taking a stand on this.

Ben Swann breaks down the issues involving the stripping of delegates for this year’s convention (which effectively prevented Ron Paul from getting a speaking slot at the Convention) and the proposed rule changes in these two videos:

What was the result of all this? Early this afternoon, the rules changes were brought to the floor for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner presided over the vote. Now, parliamentary procedure allows the chair to determine whether a consensus has been reached, but if it is unclear from the votes voiced from the floor that a consensus exists, there is supposed to be debate. Look at the following clip from today’s proceedings; is it clearly evident that the “ayes” outnumber the “nays”?

To my ears, the vote seemed pretty well evenly split… or at least close enough to allow for some debate and to take a more precise tally. Yet notice that Boehner eliminates even the possibility of debate by unilaterally determining that “the ayes have it”, even going so far as to say “without objection, a motion to reconsider is on the table”, which precludes the making of a future motion and makes the vote final (see here for an in-depth look at how Parliamentary Procedure works in the U.S. Congress).

As Dean Clancy tweeted:

If @SpeakerBoehner had been wielding the Speaker’s gavel instead of the GOP convention gavel, he wouldn’t have gotten away with that trick.

This was a complete travesty, and the RNC should be ashamed of itself. Many delegates were ashamed, and expressed that shame by walking out of the convention. Again, note that the objections (of which there were many, regardless of what Boehner said) came from many who were not Ron Paul supporters, though most of the media coverage of the dissent has focused on Paul delegates.

I’ll probably write more on this later, including how as a Ron Paul supporter I plan to move forward. For now, though, I just want to let today’s rule changes sink in.

If you’re a Republican, ask yourself this question:

Do the actions of the RNC and the Romney Campaign match in any way the rhetoric of “limited government” and “grass-roots” we’ve been hearing about, or does this remind you more of the centralization of power we’ve seen escalating in the last few decades, and especially in the last four years? Does this give you any hope of real “change”?

Too Big, Or Not Too Big? That Is the Question (and Has Been for Centuries)

As I wrote a few days ago, I believe that there are certain “high ideals” which nearly all Americans share, regardless of their political affiliation. The Framers of the Constitution called these ideals the “Blessings of Liberty”.

Today we proceed to one of the most basic ways in which people disagree over how best to “secure” these blessings.  What is the role of government in securing them? Is this a passive or an active sort of security? In other words, does the government exist primarily to protect liberties that citizens already have, or to provide them for us? There may not be hard and fast line dividing the two.

Typically, when we talk about the size of the government, this is what we are talking about. At the risk of oversimplification, a “big” government takes a more active role in the daily lives of citizens, seeking to provide for them the best possible quality of life. A “small” government puts more responsibility on individual citizens to provide for themselves, and is limited to activities (such as national defense, uniform laws, and fixing a “Standard of Weights and Measures”) meant to ensure that citizens are as free as possible to pursue their own best interests.

The debate between large and small is certainly nothing new. This was the struggle between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists before the ratification of our Constitution. The Federalists wanted a strong central government (though I doubt any of them envisioned anything like the monstrosity we have today), and believed that the vast powers enumerated to the three branches of government in the Constitution were “the necessary means of attaining a necessary end”, as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 41.

The Anti-Federalists, on the other hand, believed that the Constitution did not sufficiently restrain the government. They warned that a strong central government would grow unchecked, infringing on individual liberties. The lack of a Bill of Rights topped their concerns. They also feared that the wording of the Constitution (particularly the clause under Article I, Section 8 that granted Congress the power to make all laws deemed “necessary and proper”) would allow elected officials to justify nearly anything in the name of “promoting the general welfare“.

While history shows us that the Anti-Federalists were right about a great many things, it was ultimately the Federalists who won the day. After a compromise led to the addition of a Bill of Rights (our first ten amendments), the Constitution was ratified, and the great American Experiment began anew. While there have always been Libertarian holdouts emphasizing small government and personal liberty, our nation’s central government has had a trajectory of growth since the beginning.

Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of small government advocacy in response to the exponential growth of our government in the last three decades. The so-called “Tea Party” has brought the debate back to the forefront, but today, just as with the Anti-Federalists, the small government message lacks organization, consistency, and a rallying figure. (Which is consistent with a Libertarian streak of decentralization; centralization lends itself to organization.) Small government advocates are people without a party.

As we have seen since the 2010 elections, the Republican Party has tried to market itself as the best political fit for Tea Party voters. Many people today consider the GOP as the party of small government. In today’s political culture, it is true that the Republican platform is smaller than the Democratic platform, but that’s sort of like saying that Saturn is smaller than Jupiter. Relatively speaking, one is smaller, but both are gigantic balls of gas.

This shouldn’t come as a shock. The Republican Party has always been a “big government” party. It was our nation’s first Republican President who freed the slaves through an Executive Order. This is, by the way, one argument in favor of government as an instrument for imposing morality. Once we decide that this was the right way to try to end American slavery (contrast this with the approach of William Wilberforce in England), though, we must also be aware that this is the exact same reasoning that drives Republican voters to seek a unilateral solution for making abortion illegal, and that our current President has given for the many executive orders he has issued. We can’t say that, on the one hand, this power in the President’s hand is good (as long as he is imposing our morality), while on the other hand it’s bad (when he is imposing something else). Doing so leaves us with no standard for morality other than popular opinion. It’s the “tyranny of the majority” that the Founders of our country (both Federalists and Anti-Federalists) were trying to avoid.

I’m not saying the slaves shouldn’t have been freed, of course, but this does provide an example of what I was talking about when I said that these were hard issues. Could there have been a “small government” solution that could have led to the end of slavery? Would it have led to better circumstances for Freedmen than the 100+ years of segregation, discrimination, and racial violence that followed emancipation (in both the North & South)? Would the 13th Amendment have been possible without Civil War? These questions are all rhetorical at this point, but worth asking in light of our country’s most pressing current moral crisis. They are the same sort of questions that we must ask if we ever hope to see the end of abortion.

Allow me to share a quote from Pastor Voddie Baucham, who perhaps frames this debate more simply than I have:

“The Federal Government must be held within the confines of its enumerated powers. This is important for Christians because we will not always have people in the White House with whom we agree (in fact, politicians will always let us down). What happens when we send a man to the White House with the express purpose of “changing the moral standards” of America in our favor, then, down the line we have a president who uses the same un-checked powers to promote moral standards with which we disagree? How’s that workin’ for ya?”

In the specific context of abortion, he continues:

“If there are issues we wish to address on a federal level, we have a federal remedy, and it is not the election of a President; it is the amendment process. This is less favorable to those who do not wish to do the hard work of changing hearts and minds in the marketplace of ideas [again, think Wilberforce]. However, the alternative is a quasi-monarchy (or oligarchy) that changes with the wind, and a view of the presidency that is both unbiblical and unconstitutional.” [comment mine]

While there are certainly some policy differences between our current president and most of this year’s crop of GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all agree in principle with Barack Obama (and every U.S. President in my lifetime… and then some) in one very significant way. All of them believe in a large government approach. All of them believe that the three branches of our government should work together to advance a political/moral agenda. The politics and the agendas are different, but the philosophy is the same.

A vote for any of these candidates is a vote for the status quo. I agree with Pastor Baucham that this philosophy is not working. Unfortunately, most people in our country – even those who say they want to reduce the size of our government – plan to vote for a candidate that will continue America’s trajectory of growing government and shrinking liberty.

Ron Paul is the only candidate who truly advocates a smaller government, and has the voting record to prove it. While he is by no means a perfect candidate, and I do not agree with him on every point, I do believe that a smaller, fundamentally different approach to government is the only hope of reversing our country’s descent into oblivion. This is why I cannot and will not vote for a large government candidate from either party.

The Purpose of Government

With the political season in full swing, and my own state’s primary coming up in three weeks, I wanted to take the opportunity to write about how I approach political issues and the philosophy of government in general. Consider it an exercise in thinking in public. I welcome you to join me and to share your own thoughts as I go. 

The Purpose of Government

Let’s begin by taking a giant step back from the world of debates and sound bytes to look at the big picture. What is the telos of government? What’s it for? When we consider this question — specifically with regard to the United States government — there are some “high ideals” that I think nearly all Americans share, whether they identify as conservative, liberal, libertarian, or anything else.

I hope that we can all agree that in an ideal situation, each of our citizens would be healthy, prosperous, well-educated, and able to live at peace, safe from threats both foreign and domestic. Our nation would be internally united, well-regarded in the world, able to defend itself, but at peace with all other nations. Our leaders would be honorable statesmen who would rule justly, and predictably. And we would want to know that our children and grandchildren would be able to enjoy these same blessings.

Indeed, these are the very ideals that are explicitly stated in our Constitution. That document’s Preamble lays out its aims: “to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Before launching into a series of posts in which I’ll be sharing my own thoughts on how best to secure these blessings, as well as weighing in on a few of this election’s “hot button” issues, I believe it’s important to state two things that may be less obvious than they seem.

The first is that people disagree about the form that government should take to reach these goals. We’ve all seen political debates, of course, and we realize that some of these disagreements are vehement, but I think we too easily lose sight of the fact that these are actually very difficult issues to work through. It’s natural that some disagreement will arise (and great men have argued these same questions for millennia), but if our ideals are good ones, they are worth debating. When we oversimplify the issues, and think that our own solutions are “obviously” the correct ones, it causes us to villainize our political opponents. “Barack Obama hates freedom!” “Mitt Romney hates poor people!” “Newt Gingrich hates commitment!” (Okay, that last one might be true.) It would do wonders for the state of political discourse in this country if we could all charitably assume that, on some level (however high up), we really do all want the same thing.

The second is that the ideals listed above can only be attained by a truly moral society, which presents a problem. We are not a moral people. We can’t even agree on what morality is! So, the very best we can hope for is a compromise. We have to be willing to accept the fact that politics and politicians cannot deliver the ideal society that we all desire. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be as close to perfect as possible. It just means we have to think of it in the same way that we think about our sanctification: we work to conform our lives (or in this case, our nation) to the Ideal, understanding that perfection won’t be achieved until our Lord returns.

Some day there will be a perfect government. Every citizen of that great nation will be healthy and happy. No one will want for anything. There will be no poverty, no fear, and no war. The government will be upon the shoulders of a conquering King who is also the Prince of Peace, and in Him we will find the blessings of Liberty secured for ourselves and for our children.

In fact, Americans (and people around the world) have these political ideals precisely because they reflect the eternal Kingdom that God has promised. We were created for that place, and our hearts’ deepest longings are to be there.

Christians need to be engaged in the political process, but engaging in the work of Christ’s heavenly Kingdom must be our first priority. The true solution to any of our political goals is for more and more people to become like Jesus. National sanctification will not precede individual sanctification, and neither can happen when the people who have the Light hide it, looking for illumination elsewhere. No matter which candidate you support, remember where our help comes from.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” ~ Psalm 146:3-7

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” ~ John Adams


So far I have six more posts planned in this series, covering the size of government, economics, abortion, foreign policy, gay marriage, and education (not necessarily in that order). Is there anything else you would like to see me address relating to politics?

Random Political Thoughts

Christine O’Donnell and the Constitution

First of all, I’ve been forcing myself to stay away from following midterm elections outside of my own city and state, so I’m sure there’s a lot of background I don’t know. Though I’ve gathered through links and status updates posted on Facebook that the Delaware race has been getting a lot of attention, I have literally not seen, read, or heard a thing about either of the candidates. I’m sure there’s more to this story than what I know, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I’m going only based on what I saw in this video, which I watched yesterday, for some reason.

To me, this video represents everything that’s wrong with politics in America. Were I a Delaware resident, there’s no way I could possibly vote for either of these candidates. Let me give just a few reasons why.

I respect Chris Coons for his honesty and consistency. Everything he says in this clip is 100% in line with his political philosophy. He doesn’t seem to have anything to hide. He has thought through the issues, and speaks with clarity on his positions and his interpretation of the Constitution. I just disagree with him on nearly everything, including his Constitutional interpretation. He’s wrong on evolution as an established fact. He’s wrong on abortion as a “right”, and his support for public funding of abortions is particularly unsettling. Also, the simple fact that there are pieces of legislation and judicial decisions “that we’ve lived with and lived under for decades” does not make them right, and does not obligate our politicians to necessarily protect and preserve them. What is a Congressperson’s job if not to represent the people and exercise their right to “alter or abolish” (in the words of the Declaration of Independence) forms of government — including former decisions by earlier generations of that same government — deemed “destructive of these ends”, which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? I say this fully understanding that my interpretation of those ends is quite different from Mr. Coons’… but that’s why he could never have my vote.

Ironically, though, I fully agree with Coons on education. While I disagree that evolutionism is an established fact while creationism is (merely) a “religious doctrine”, he’s absolutely correct in that the government has every right to determine what is taught in government schools. Home, private and parochial schools exist so that parents CAN have a choice regarding the education of their children. If learning the doctrine of evolution — not to mention all the other tenets of the government’s religion of secularism — is objectionable to Christians, then maybe our children should not attend public schools. It never ceases to amaze me that Republicans, and, most recently, the current crop of “Tea Party” candidates, are so adamantly opposed to socialism in any form, yet all of their education reforms are geared toward finding solutions within our system of socialized schools. Education, after all, was nationalized long before GM and Fannie Mae…

Christine O’Donnell, on the other hand, shows a complete lack of respect for our system of government. If American-style Democracy is to work, candidates must at least be civil toward one another. Her frequent interruptions of Mr. Coons and the timekeeper display the arrogance of which Tea Party candidates are all-too-often rightly accused. Her ignorance of the Constitution and its amendments is simply embarrassing for a candidate for such high office.

And while I might be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was trying to “trap” Mr. Coons into claiming that Thomas Jefferson’s famous words “separation of church & state” appear explicitly in the Constitution (they don’t), the first amendment’s establishment clause IS there, and, given Coons’ presupposition that “creationism” is a religious doctrine and not science, he was absolutely correct in his application of this clause to the topic at hand. The issue ought to have been this incorrect presupposition (“science” is a method by which truth claims — of which evolution and Creation are two — are investigated, not a group of truth claims in and of itself); questioning whether the first amendment actually says what it says is an error not worthy of the platform Ms. O’Donnell has been given.

I suppose the point I’m actually trying to get at is that the political process in America has devolved into an effort by political parties to find “electable” candidates, rather than for the people to search out the best candidate — one who will represent his or her constituency with integrity, and seek to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. Instead of civic-minded statesmen, we end up with elected officials who are merely the winners of popularity contests.

At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, it seems the “Tea Party” is guilty of the exact crime which led to its founding. Two years ago, Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide nearly swept the elections running on a platform of “change”. Rather than lay out a specific plan of action, many candidates seem to have won elections simply by being “Not Bush” or “Not Republican”. Conservatives rightly pointed out the dangers of this, and our country is already reaping the rewards of a willfully, insufficiently-informed electorate choosing likable but unqualified leaders.

But if Christine O’Donnell is any indication (not to mention some of the candidates in our local elections), the Tea Party movement seems to be resulting in the success of candidates essentially running on a platform of “change”, though that word has been avoided. If a person’s greatest electable asset is “Not Obama” or “Not Democrat”, how is this any better for our nation?


"Just vote 'em out" is not the answer...

Wilberforce and the Blessings of Government

Though my cynicism toward our political process is surely evident in my writing, I want to also make it clear that I do believe that the “American Experiment” of republican government is the best form of human government yet devised. One day, the government of this world will be placed on Christ’s shoulders, and of that government — and of the peace that it brings — there will be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7). Until then, we will be governed imperfectly by corrupt human authorities. All of our leaders are sinners; this is why we must pray for them! (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Even these imperfect forms of government exist for our good, because of God’s grace toward us. These authorities create and uphold laws which restrain much evil that men would do in the absence of government. Though there are definite biblical limits on the authority of human governors (God always reserves for himself highest authority), we are to submit to and support our leaders as much as possible (Romans 13). Where conflict exists, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), but this country was founded on principles that prevent these conflicts more than anywhere else in the world.

Over 200 years ago, William Wilberforce wrote in A Practical View of Christianity about this very thing, contrasting the merits of an admittedly imperfect British Parliamentary system with the anarchy of the French revolution:

“Consider well the superior light and advantages which we enjoy, and then appreciate the superior obligations which are imposed on us. Consider in how many cases our evil propensities are now kept from breaking forth, by the superior restraints under which vice is laid among us by positive laws, and by the amended standard of public opinion; And we may be assisted in conjecturing what force is to be assigned to these motives, by the dreadful proofs which have been lately exhibited in a neighboring country, that when their influence is withdrawn, the most atrocious crimes can be perpetrated shamelessly and in the face of day.”

I long for the day when I will live in the country of my true citizenship (Philippians 3:20), but until then I am thankful for the blessings which are afforded me by God in the nation of my earthly citizenship. I am awed by the superior advantages that we enjoy in America, and humbled by the superior obligations of government of, by, and for the people.

The greatest political obligation for American Christians continues to be our duty to pray for our leaders, and to support and submit to them in any way our conscience allows. This is something I gladly do, and will continue to do, whether Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, or anyone else holds office in authority over me.

Book Review: Liberty and Tyranny

“Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by Mark R. Levin

The word “manifesto” is defined as “a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, and motives”, and that is a fitting term for this book. There is no doubt that what Levin has written in this collection of essays flows from his passionate opinions — which, as might be expected of a radio talk show host, are in no short supply — about the state of American politics and governance in our present day.

I’ll be honest. I had never heard of this guy before I read the book. Few things frustrate me more than political talk show hosts, so I tend not to tune in to their programs. Apparently, though, Levin has made a name for himself as an “expert” in constitutional law, and has garnered quite a following, as evidenced by the fact that this book spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and was the #2 best-selling book on Amazon in 2009. Because so many people (including many of my friends and fellow church members) have read this book, I wanted to get in on the conversation.

I’m going to review this book a little differently than I do most books. Cyberspace already has plenty of point-by-point summaries of the political philosophy Levin outlines in this book, so I won’t go into that. Suffice it for now to say that his writing is very accessible, and he presents very concise and well-articulated arguments for most of the points he makes. Those who are fans of pundits in the Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck mold will likely find themselves in agreement with what Levin writes, and those who hold to an opposing view are not likely to be swayed by him. This is par for the course in punditry.

I’d like to focus this review on coming at this book from a different angle than most reviewers have done. I read this book — as I do all my reading — comparing its words to the Word of God. This was particularly fascinating with “Liberty and Tyranny”, because Levin has done much more than simply state a political philosophy. He has described a comprehensive worldview (“Conservatism is a way of understanding life, society, and governance“), covering issues ranging from political to economic to social to religious, and everything in between.

So the question before me was: How does Levin’s worldview of “Conservatism” compare to a biblical, “Christian” worldview? I attempted to answer this question by determining the a priori assumptions upon which his worldview is based. All worldviews have certain underlying concepts of propositional knowledge which are assumed to be true and which inform proponents’ views on every aspect of life. For instance, a biblical Christian worldview assumes that God is real, that the Bible is His Word, and that everything He reveals to us in it is True. For more on this, see my review of Edgar Andrews’ book “Who Made God?

(Before going on, I should clarify that I am not attempting to create a false dichotomy between Christianity and political conservatism, but am merely comparing Christianity with the worldview of “Conservatism” as defined by Mark Levin.)

Right off the bat, Levin introduces us to the revered figures of his Conservatism (the Founding Fathers, and thinkers such as Adam Smith, Charles Montesquieu, and John Locke), and its sacred scriptures: the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The highest objective of Conservatism is the formation and preservation of “the civil society“. This society is characterized by “a harmony of interests” (quoting Adam Smith), and what Levin describes as “rules of cooperation that have developed through generations of human experience and collective reasoning that promote the betterment of the individual and society“.

This description is telling, as it reveals a basic belief in the evolution of society based on human experience and reason. This is the first assumption behind his worldview: Society will become better as men become wiser. The inverse of this belief is that society fails when people fail to properly understand these “rules of cooperation”, which is how he can justify the vicious name-calling of those with whom he disagrees (often calling them “stupid” or “morons”) that has earned his show such an infamous reputation.

This assumption also explains why Levin writes in chapter two, “Prudence is the highest virtue for it is judgment drawn on wisdom.” From a Christian perspective, the problem with Levin’s version of prudence is that it is based on wisdom built upon “generations of human experience and collective reasoning.” The Christian, too, holds prudence as a virtue. The book of Proverbs is replete with calls for prudence (in fact, one of the stated purposes [see Proverbs 1:4] of the book is “to give prudence”), but this is understood to be judgment drawn upon God’s wisdom, for all knowledge comes from Him (Proverbs 1:7). It is for this reason that the authority of Scripture is such an important assumption for the Christian worldview. It makes a great deal of difference whether our decisions are based on the Word of God or on some other source of “wisdom”. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God has “made foolish the wisdom of the world.” Therefore, we must base our every decision, and every aspect of our worldview, on the “word of the cross”, which is foolishness to the rest of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Levin’s “Conservatism” falls far short of this standard of wisdom. While he insists that the civil society requires a moral code based on “faith”, he fails to define the source of this moral code, or the type of faith that is required. The closest he comes is in mentioning that our rights are “endowed by our Creator” (a term penned by a Deist, not a Christian), and that our laws and policies are influenced by “Judeo-Christian values and traditions”, which is completely meaningless because “Judeo-Christian” is a nonsense political buzzword that cannot logically apply to either “values” or “traditions” (a topic I’ve addressed previously).

It is on the topic of faith where Levin’s arguments are the least consistent logically. First, he tells us that “the individual in the civil society strives, albeit imperfectly, to be virtuous — that is, restrained, ethical and honorable,” while rejecting “the relativism that blurs the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, and means and ends.” Later, he says “the individual has a duty to respect the unalienable rights of others and the values, customs, and traditions, tried and tested over time (another example of society’s evolution) and passed from one generation to the next,” and that faith “encourages the individual to personally adhere to a dogma that promotes restraint, duty, and moral behavior.”

There are two basic problems with this set of statements. The first is that not all dogmas are created equal. Not all systems of faith that “promote restraint, duty, and moral behavior” agree on the definition of moral behavior. What is virtuous and ethical to one may go completely against the “values, customs, and traditions” of another. While it is possible for these adherents of various belief systems to cohabit the same community peacefully, to say that civil society rests on “a moral code based on faith” begs the question: Which faith? Levin’s assertion that any dogma will do is itself a relativistic statement that blurs the very lines he seems so keen to protect.

The second problem is that his entire worldview is built upon a moral code with no foundation. This leads to problems when he makes statements like, “Unconstrained by constitutional prohibitions, what is left to limit the Statist’s ambitions but his own moral compass, which has already led him astray?” How can Levin make these kind of moral judgments without disrespecting the values, customs, and traditions of his opponents? His answer is a rather weak argument that essentially equates Secularism with Statism. In other words, he assumes that his political opponents are not just intellectually deficient, but morally deficient as well. Because they do not have a proper moral code, they are incapable of fulfilling their duty as citizens.

By contrast, the Christian worldview does have a solid foundation for ethics and a clearly defined morality. The Christian is able to respect the religious liberty of others while simultaneously reproving immoral behavior and seeking to persuade others to share our faith, because morality is not the foundation of our faith. We have all sinned, and continue to sin. The only difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that Christians agree with God about our guilt, and have received His forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Levin also wrongly assumes man’s position before God. Instead of believing that men are “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and in need of a savior, he believes that men are merely “imperfect”. Instead of man’s being by nature evil (Ephesians 2:3) and unable to please God (Romans 8:8), Levin’s worldview requires the assumption that man is basically good (though “even good people are capable of bad things“). To his credit, this is at least consistent with the idea of a positive evolution of society, because a morality built on human experience and reasoning is dependent on the inherent goodness of Man.

So to recap, Christians assume that God is eternal and never-changing, and that the Bible is His authoritative Word regarding everything that exists, including morality. God’s Will — and objective moral code — has been the same since before Creation. Levin’s Conservatism assumes that life, society, and governance depend on the accumulated experience and reason of man, with a morality that hinges on rights supposed to have originated from an undefined Creator. This ultimately leads to a subjective morality judged by the “values, customs, and traditions tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next”. The difference in these sets of assumptions shows up in Levin’s conclusions in each of the essays in his book. Even in the points where the practical application of his philosophy of political conservatism intersects with what the Bible says about a given topic, there is a stark contrast in the motives for a given action. God is concerned not only with our actions, but with the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The actions dictated by Conservatism are naught but “rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).

For instance, in the areas of economics and the poor, the Christian and the Conservative ought to agree that it is the responsibility of the individual — as opposed to the government — to provide for the needs of the poor. However, whereas the Christian is commanded in Scripture to give to the poor (for in this way we image our Lord, who did not leave us in our condition of spiritual bankruptcy, and who owns all we have anyway), Levin’s worldview provides no incentive or moral reason to do so. In fact, he betrays his feelings regarding the “destitute and uneducated” when he describes the negative impact their immigration — legal or illegal — has on our civil society. The Conservative has no moral obligation whatsoever toward these people apart from faith in Christ. So while Levin and I may agree that governmental wealth redistribution is not ideal, we differ widely on the actual purpose of wealth.

Perhaps the most striking difference between Levin’s Conservatism and biblical Christianity is the stated chief end of each. Levin believes that “the moral imperative of all public policy must be the preservation and improvement of American society.” Nothing is to be done that does not result in the increased power and prosperity of the United States and her citizens.

Conversely, Christianity teaches, in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, that “the chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). Nothing is to be done that does not result in the glorification of Almighty God. All power and all wealth was created by and for him (Romans 11:36; Revelation 4:11). True Christians rejoice in poverty and in abundance; in power and in subjection. We may desire some of the same things that Conservatism desires, but our priorities are completely different. Those priorities — and our responsibility — remain the same whether the conservative, liberal/statist, communist, libertarian, anarchist, or whoever else runs the government.

We may be thankful to God for the many blessings He has given to this nation, not least of which is the ability to worship Him openly. But we must never forget that America is a gift; our allegiance is to the Giver.

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 3:18-20

Buy it here.

Book Review: The Federalist Papers

“The Federalist Papers” by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison

I’ve not yet read all 82 papers in this collection, but I’m almost there! These papers were written and published in several New York newspapers between 1787 and 1789, during a period of intense debate between the writing of the U.S. Constitution and its ratification.  The Federalists were in favor of ratification, while the Anti-Federalists — led by Thomas Jefferson — opposed it, largely on the grounds that it did not originally contain a Bill of Rights. These are difficult reading, but worth the effort. It’s amazing to see the way the great patriots of our nation’s founding era debated the fine points of legislation in a civil and respectful manner. We could all learn much from them!

I picked up a nice, hardbound copy of the Federalist Papers at Books-A-Million for just $10, but you can also read them for free online here. The Anti-Federalist Papers are online here.