Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Category: Politics / Economics

THE MORAL CASE FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

 

 

Earlier today Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pulled from consideration a health care reform bill that was designed to replace Obamacare.  The speaker, it turns out, was unable to secure a consensus within his own party to get the bill through Congress.  Obamacare remains the law of the land for the time being.

The debate surrounding the bill reflects a logical dilemma underlying the American health care system.  Should the government take steps to insure that everyone has access to affordable health care?  One faction of the Republicans wants to keep the government out of the picture altogether.  Another faction worries about the political consequences of possibly millions of low income and high risk Americans losing their health insurance coverage.

The Republicans’ perplexity is understandable.  The American healthcare system had been plagued for decades with two major problems.  On the one hand there were large numbers of uninsured patients; and, on the other hand, health insurance premiums continued to rise at unacceptable rates year after year.  The U.S. would spend an enormous amount of money on health care each year, but often got less results than in other countries in terms of health outcomes.

One obvious solution to the problem would have been to adopt a single-payer national health insurance plan like that of Canada and many other industrialized countries.   But in the U.S. there is a strong tradition, rooted in the Constitution itself, of limiting the role of the federal government.  What else was it for which our ancestors fought in the American Revolution, if not freedom?  And so the Obama administration decided to take a different approach.  Adopting an idea that was originally conceived by the conservative Heritage Foundation, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it came to be known.  Republicans were appalled, partly because it involved an individual mandate.  The federal government was forcing people to buy something they didn’t necessarily need or want.  If this wasn’t tyranny, what was it?

Obamacare was a failure.  Not enough younger, healthy people signed up.  Insurance premiums skyrocketed; insurers dropped out of the program.  Something obviously had to be done, which brought us to the Republicans’ current dilemma: is the aim to get the government out of the health care business?  Or is it to make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care?

It is important to recognize that there is a moral dimension to this question.  Can we, collectively as a society, consciously leave a significant part of our population without health care?  Libertarians might be inclined to say “yes”: no one is “entitled” to anything, and our freedom depends on keeping the government out of our personal business.  But Christians should think twice before accepting this line of argument.

It must be remembered that we are first and foremost human beings, and that as human beings we are accountable to our Creator for our actions.  And what exactly does our Creator expect from us?

The question was once put to Jesus by a Jewish legal scholar.  “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25; NKJV).  Jesus in turn asked him a question: “What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?” (v. 26).  The lawyer responded by quoting Deut. 6:5 (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”) and Lev. 19:18 (“and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”).  Jesus commended him for having answered correctly.

But then the lawyer went on to ask a typical lawyer’s question: “And who is my neighbor?” (v. 29), and Jesus responded with His famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The story goes that a certain man was making his way from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was attacked by robbers who beat him severely and left him half-dead.  A Jewish priest happened to come by, saw the wounded man, and ignored him, going on his way.  Then a Levite, another Jewish religious official, came by, saw the same man, and also passed by.

Finally there came a Samaritan.  The Samaritans were a group of people who practiced an unorthodox hybrid form of Judaism, and were looked down upon with scorn by the Jewish religious establishment in Jerusalem.  This Samaritan, however, reacted differently to the situation than had the previous two passersby.  We’re told that “when he saw him [the injured man], he had compassion” (v. 33).  What he did next was most extraordinary.  First, he dressed the man’s wounds, “pouring on oil and wine.”  The oil, basically olive oil, acted as a salve; while the wine, containing alcohol, would have served as an antiseptic.  Having thus administered first aid, the Samaritan then placed the injured man on his own animal (perhaps a mule or donkey) and apparently walked the rest of the way to Jericho on foot leading the four-legged ambulance along the way.

Once in Jericho the Samaritan took the victim to an inn and there personally attended to his needs.  Then, when he was ready to depart the next day, he left the wounded man in the care of the innkeeper, paying the innkeeper two denarii, roughly equivalent to a working man’s wages for two days.  And perhaps most extraordinarily of all, he told the innkeeper, “. . .and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you” (v. 35).  Thus the Samaritan assumed the financial risk of caring for the patient – and the patient was a complete stranger!

The point of the story, of course, is that the lawyer had failed to understand what God really requires of us.  The lawyer thought that the question hinged on the definition of “neighbor.”  The point that Jesus wished to make, however, is that the key word is “love” – we are to love our neighbor, to be genuinely concerned for his well-being.  And love never asks the question, “Do I have to?”  Love responds to human need no matter where we find it.  This, then, is the basic principle of the moral law.  This is the responsibility that each one of us has towards God.

Some of my Libertarian friends will undoubtedly argue that this is an individual responsibility, that there is no biblical warrant for a state-run health care system, or a state-run welfare system for that matter.  And up to a point this is certainly true.  In the Old Testament the social safety net consisted of extended family relationships.  If your second cousin was in financial trouble it was your responsibility to act as a “go’el” or kinsman-redeemer to him, and come to his aid.  The New Testament church recognized itself as a spiritual brotherhood and took care of its members by practicing a form of communism (Acts 2:44; 45; 4:34,35).  Nevertheless all human beings are ultimately accountable to their Creator for their behavior, and they are not permitted to do collectively as a society what they are not permitted to do as individuals.  And the Bible makes it clear that God judges entire nations for their cruelty, oppression and injustice.  It remains to each society to devise the practical means by which pressing human needs can be met.

If we Christians, then, believe that abortion involves the taking of innocent human life, and that physician assisted suicide is a violation of the Sixth Commandment, how can we morally justify withholding medical treatment from someone who is critically ill?  The only remaining question, then, is how do we pay for the treatment provided?

THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN AUTHORITY

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Thomas Jefferson famously stated in the Declaration of Independence that “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .”  And most Americans sincerely believe that – they routinely drive over the speed limit when the cops are not watching.  The law, in and of itself, means nothing to them.  But is Jefferson’s statement really true?

In the limited sense in which Jefferson probably intended it, it undoubtedly is true.  Human governments are, after all, institutions created by human beings for the purpose of establishing law and order in society.  Society could not function without government of some sort.  And so it logically follows that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”

But that does not mean, however, that individuals are free to disobey the government any time they happen to feel like it.  A lawfully constituted government must be obeyed except in cases when it is acting immorally.  If everyone took the law into his own hands it would defeat the whole purpose of government and chaos would ensue.

Respect for authority begins in the home.  And so it is that when the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus he had a special word of exhortation to the children of the congregation: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1; NKJV).  He then goes on to point out that this is, in fact, one of the Ten Commandments: “Honor you father and mother” (v. 2; cf. Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16).

Paul says “for this is right” (v. 1).  When he says “right” he does not just mean that it is technically correct.  The Greek word that he uses (dikaion) is usually translated “righteous,” and means “morally right,” i.e., in accordance with God’s moral law.  The idea here is that there is a certain form of behavior expected from us as human beings.  We have a moral obligation to Someone outside of ourselves, and our actions must be brought into conformity with His moral law.  And part of our moral obligation is respect for duly constituted authority.

We are confronted with the issue at the age of two, when we throw our first temper tantrum.  We didn’t get what we wanted and we responded with an outburst of rage.  It is total depravity in its rawest form, and if left unchecked it will lead to a lifetime of ruinous, destructive behavior.  It is the very opposite of that love for neighbor that God requires from us as His creatures.

Paul points out that this is the first one of the Ten Commandments that has a promise attached to it: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (v. 3).  In its original context in Deuteronomy, the promise refers specifically to the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, which God promised to bless if Israel remained faithful to Him (Dt. 11:8-17).  But there is also a broader sense in which human prosperity is tied to the soil, and is ultimately dependent upon God’s blessing on that soil.  We are the offspring of our parents, and a harvest is the produce of the land.  If we fail to honor our parents who brought us into the world, and upon whom we are dependent during our childhood years, we cannot expect the land to yield its fruit.  In this, as in other areas of life, we really do reap what we sow.

Respect for authority does not end at the parent – child relationship; it extends to other areas as well.  The apostle Peter could write: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (I Pet. 2:13,14).  Paul himself could refer to the civil magistrate as “God’s minister to you for good,” and exhorted his readers to “be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1-7).  Individual rulers, of course, are chosen by chosen by men, or at least come to power by human means.  But God is ultimately the Lord of history, and controls events through His providence; and thus the authorities can be said in some sense to be “appointed” by Him (NKJV) or “established” (NASV) or “instituted” (ESV) by Him.  Politicians may be dishonest, incompetent, or even corrupt, but society needs politicians nonetheless.  The alternative is rampant crime and chaos.  We are to respect and honor them for the office they hold; not necessarily their personal attributes.  When Barack Obama was in office, he was the President of all of us as Americans.  Now that Donald Trump holds the office he too is the President of all of us.  And both facts are true no matter what we may personally think of the views of either man.

What the Bible offers us, then, is a basically conservative social philosophy.  Yes, we are morally obligated to care for the disadvantaged in our society.  But we must respect and honor those who are in positions of authority.  Human society simply cannot function in the absence of authority structures needed to plan to organize tasks and maintain order.  We are ultimately accountable to our Creator for our actions, and He expects us to act responsibly in all our affairs.  “Rugged individualism is the essence of human arrogance, and is the opposite of Christian love.  It has no place among Christians.

 

WHY VOTE FOR A THIRD PARTY?

 

Darrell Castle

Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party’s candidate for President, has no chance of winning the current presidential election.  So why, someone might ask, vote for him?

First of all, in an election campaign in which two scoundrels are running against each other, it makes no sense at all to vote for one scoundrel just to keep the other scoundrel out of office.  As the Clinton Foundation and Trump University make abundantly clear, neither major party candidate in this election is fit to occupy the highest office in the land.

But are we not always in the position of voting for the lesser of two evils, it might be asked?  The problem here is twofold.  First of all, how can we really tell which is the lesser of two evils?  The adulterer or the enabler of another adulterer?  The one who mishandled confidential information on her private email server, or the one who stiffed his contractors?

But secondly, what if both candidates are absolutely disqualified from holding office?  If someone is fundamentally dishonest, routinely breaks the rules, and habitually takes advantage of others, he / she cannot be trusted with public office.  That person lacks the character to lead the most powerful country in the world.

As professing Christians the problem is especially acute.  Can we excuse adultery and sexual assault in one candidate in order to prevent the other from pursuing the LGBT agenda?  Can we pick and choose among the Ten Commandments, and argue that adultery is less serious than abortion?  And by excusing the conduct of one who is openly immoral we betray our claim to be in favor of “family values” and “traditional marriage.”  What happens to our testimony then?

By why vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning the election?    Isn’t that a wasted vote?  Or even worse, a vote for the candidate we like the least?

It must be remembered that there is more to democracy than simply getting this or that candidate elected to office.  Ultimately it is the people who must decide the direction that the country should take.  But that requires an open discussion of the issues.  The pros and cons must be carefully weighed.  And that, in turn, requires our political leaders to engage in open debate.

The major parties, however, refuse to do that.  Their aim is to win elections, and to that end they tell the voters what they want to hear. They avoid telling the electorate the hard facts about the federal deficit, for example, or the breakdown of the family structure.  It is all promises, promises, promises.

It typically falls to minor parties to address the real issues facing the nation, the issues that major parties do not want to touch.  The Republican Party began as a protest movement against slavery.  In the 1860 election Abraham Lincoln won only 40% of the popular vote.  But he is commonly rated as one of our greatest presidents.

The real problem facing America today is the breakdown of public morality.  The sense of honor, integrity and duty has all but disappeared, and it has taken a terrible toll on family life.  Putting an immoral casino operator in the White House will not “make America great again.”  What is needed is a candidate whose words and actions speak of moral integrity and sound Constitutional principles.

We need a party and a candidate that will be a clear voice for the principles that made America truly great: sound moral character, productive labor and the rule of law.  What we need is a party and a candidate that will turn back to the vision of the Founding Fathers.  That party is the Constitution Party, and that candidate is Darrell Castle.  You waste your vote when you vote for someone who doesn’t believe in what you believe.  Vote your conscience.  Vote for Darrell Castle.  Let your voice be heard!

SEX AND POLITICS

donald-trump-hillary-clinton

The public has rightly been shocked at the revelation that Donald Trump openly bragged about groping women, and the subsequent claims by a number of women that he was indeed telling the truth – he actually had groped them.  But on this score Donald Trump is virtually the clone of Bill Clinton, and Hillary was in some ways her husband’s enabler.  It is a sordid state of affairs all the way around.

What is perhaps more disconcerting, however, than the private behavior of a pair of cads is the fact that on the matter of sexual morals the Democratic, Libertarian and Green parties are all basically the same – they have all openly embraced the “Sexual Revolution.”  In some ways Mr. Clinton and Mr. Trump are simply practicing what these parties are all preaching as a matter of principle – all forms of sexual activity are condoned, as long as it is between consenting adults.

The Libertarian Party platform, for example, puts it like this: “Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.  Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.  Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”

What the Libertarian Party is advocating, in effect, is the abolition of marriage as a legal institution.  “Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.”  According to them, people should not need a license from the state in order to have sex.  People should be as free to copulate as dogs.

But is this policy either safe or wise?  Virtually every human society since the dawn of history has defined, licensed and restricted sexual relationships, and for good reason.  They recognized that the stability of society as a whole depends upon stable marriages.

First of all, sex involves an intimate relationship between two different people.  According to the Libertarian Party it should be between consenting adults.  But at what point does it cease to be consensual?  Does “no” always mean “no”?  What if one of the parties is under the influence of drugs or alcohol?  Donald Trump would have us to believe that women simply couldn’t resist his advances.

But in a long term relationship the repercussions can be even more far-reaching.  What about emotional abuse?  Cheating on one’s partner?  What if one partner wants out but the other wants to continue the relationship?  What about finance and property rights?

But perhaps most serious of all are the consequences that our sexual behavior has on our children.  The inability to form committed, long-term relationships has left a multitude of children growing up in single parent families without good role models.  They are the victims of their parent’s irresponsible behavior.  This, in turn, results in neighborhoods riddled with crime, poverty and drugs.  And what should the government do about all of this?  The Libertarian Platform is not explicit on this point, but given the party’s general opposition to government interference in either the economy or our personal lives we can only assume that the answer is “nothing at all.”  Let them starve.

The plain fact of the matter is that because of our capacity to hurt each other human relationships must be governed by law.  Rights and responsibilities must be defined.  And ultimately democracy itself depends on the citizens being able to act responsibly in the family sphere.  When the family structure breaks down a paternalistic and even tyrannical government fills the vacuum.

Our Creator knows what is best for human society and His intention in the matter is plain and clear: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Marriage is supposed to be a formal, recognizable relationship, one that carries definite duties and responsibilities.  And sex outside of marriage is absolutely forbidden.  A man and a woman should make a formal commitment to each other first, and procreate afterwards.  That way children are brought up in stable, two-parent families raised by their biological parents, not by a series of mom’s shiftless boyfriends drifting in and out of the household.  The Libertarian Party’s policy is a sure prescription for social catastrophe.

In this election cycle there is only one political party committed to Judeo-Christian morality, the Constitution  Party and its candidate for president, Darrell Castle.  “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries . . .”

“The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between

one man and one woman . . . No government may legitimately

authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what

God has instituted.”

(Constitution Party Platform)

THE GREEN PARTY’S MORAL DILEMMA

 

  Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein

          In this very unusual and unprecedented election cycle attention has been turned to possible third party alternatives to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.  One such alternative sometimes mentioned is the Green Party and its candidate, Jill Stein.

The Green Party has a very long and detailed platform, and a quick survey shows it to be very liberal and “progressive.”  Yet on closer examination we can see the underlying moral contradiction of the political left.

The party’s platform has a great deal to say about various kinds of “rights,” and in one sense it presents a very idealistic agenda.  But it raises the fundamental question of where these rights come from.  What exactly is their foundation?

The section on “Social Justice” begins by saying that “Historically, America has led the world in establishing a society with democratic values such as equal opportunity and protection from discrimination.”  But the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, “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 . . .”  And at one point the Green Party platform itself says that “We acknowledge the spiritual dimensions of life, and we honor the cultivation of various types of spiritual experience in our diverse society.”

But then the platform goes on, under the heading of “Religious Freedom and Secular Equality,” to call for “the elimination of displays of religious symbols, monuments, or statements on government buildings, property, websites, money or documents,” including the removal of the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of  Allegiance.

But if we are not “one nation, under God,” where do our rights come from?  At one point the platform mentions the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” which would imply that rights are man-made.  Something is “right” because everyone says so.  But that would mean that we are subject to the moral guidance of an international body made up of the likes of Russia and China.  Are foreign politicians like Vladimir Putin or the Chinese Communist Party really safe guides to right and wrong?

At other points the platform appears to appeal to raw pragmatism.  It points to a variety of social, economic and environmental problems, and takes it as a given that we would all be better off if these problems were resolved.  But that is tantamount to saying that what is right is what happens to be convenient at the moment.

But in the absence of any clear moral standard the platform is led into some perplexing contradictions.  Perhaps the most astonishing of all is its position on “Youth Rights.”  Remarkably that section begins with the statement that “All human beings have the right to a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”  That is, unless they have a right to life itself.  For in the section “Women’s Rights – Reproductive Rights” the party insists that “It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remain available.”  But if a mother has the right to terminate the life of her unborn child in utero, then the whole section about “Youth Rights” is utterly meaningless.  There is no guarantee that the youth will even make it out of the womb alive, let alone enjoy “a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”

All of this raises a profoundly disturbing question about the nature of morality itself.  Presumably the reason that women must have the right to have abortions is that “Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable.”  “Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls.”  Moreover, “The Green Party affirms the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex.”

“The Green Party affirms the right of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”  It calls for “ending governmental use of the doctrines of specific religions to define the nature of family, marriage, and the type and character of personal relationships between consenting adults,” and “the use of religion by government to define the role and rights of women in our society.”  And yet the platform itself notes that “Single mothers are the largest and most severely impoverished group in the United States, which explains why 22% of the children in our country live below the poverty line.”  Duh!

But if people have a “right to self-determination” and “to control their bodies,” why would they be required to do anything against their will?  And if the government cannot use religious doctrine to define sexual relations, then what does govern such relationships?  What would a society, free from such restrictions, look like?

The answer is, Donald Trump.  When asked about his numerous bankruptcies, lawsuits and use of eminent domain to force people out of their homes, and the fact that he hasn’t had to pay income taxes for a number of years, he replies by saying that he is a smart businessman who knows how to take advantage of his legal options.  In other words, his concept of right and wrong is whatever he can legally get away with.  For him life is all about the right of self-definition and self-determination.  Welcome to the Green Party’s vision for a secular America!

The Green Party, then, is caught on the horns of a moral dilemma.  It professes to believe in the lofty ideal of social justice; but it advocates a social philosophy of raw narcissism.  What it gives with the one hand (a vision of a just and humane society) it takes away with the other (the radical autonomy of the individual).  Absent some transcendent moral authority (God) we have exactly what we see today: a society of self-serving individuals looking for ways to game the system.  Any notion of character, duty, honor or integrity has all but vanished.

We must all face the fact that we live in a universe that was created by an intelligent Supreme Being.  And as human beings we are ultimately subject to His moral law.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8; NKJV)

HOMOPHOBIA?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton recently delivered a speech in which she declared, “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I would call the basket of deplorables.  The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it” (Wall St. Journal, Sept. 12, 2016).  It is a comment that is probably all too typical of the elitist mentality of America’s privileged class.

But what exactly did she mean by “homophobic”?  The dictionary defines “homophobia” as the “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality” (Random House Webster’s, 1991).  Christians, of course, if they are at all trying to be faithful to Scripture, regard homosexuality as a sin.  But does this constitute “homophobia”?   Is this an “unreasoning antipathy toward homosexuals”?

We most certainly do think that homosexuality is sinful; but that does not mean that we hate LGBT people.  The fact of the matter is that all of us as human beings are fallen sinners.  And we are called upon to love our neighbors as ourselves – even our enemies.  But granted that we are to love LGBT people, how should we treat them?  What is the most compassionate and humane way to deal with them?

The answer is not to encourage them in their sin.  That would only lead them to their eternal destruction.  Rather what we should seek is their redemption.  Human society functions on the basis of a male / female dynamic.  Happy, well-adjusted people learn how to function successfully in that environment.  Seen from that perspective LGBT people are profoundly maladjusted.

But why do some people turn out to be “gay” in the first place?  The answer is not, as some would have us to believe, that they are born that way.  There is no hard scientific evidence for the existence of a “gay gene”; and there are, in fact, cases of identical twins in which one twin turned out to be “gay” and the other “straight.”

What, then, causes the difference?  Interestingly a compelling explanation comes from no less a secular liberal than the celebrated feminist author Simone de Beauvoir.  She devotes an entire chapter of her famous book The Second Sex (Vintage, 1974) to the subject of lesbianism.  In it she makes the interesting observation that “Sexologists and psychiatrists confirm the common observation that the majority of female ‘homos’ are in constitution quite like other women.  Their sexuality is in no way determined by anatomical ‘fate’” (p. 451).  “The psychoanalysts have strongly emphasized the importance of early relations established between the homosexual woman and her mother” (p. 463).  (Either the mother was overprotective or abusive).  De Beauvoir then concludes that “there is never a single determining factor; it is always a matter of choice, arrived at in a complex total situation and based upon a free decision; no sexual fate governs the life of the individual woman: her type of eroticism, on the contrary, expresses her general outlook on life.”  “Environmental circumstances, however, have a considerable influence on the choice” (p. 466).  Her final conclusion is that homosexuality “is an attitude chosen in a certain situation – that is, at once motivated and freely adopted” (p. 473).

[It has to be borne in mind, however, that as an Existentialist and feminist De Beauvoir is concerned to show that a female gender role is not determined by anything intrinsic to a woman’s being, but is imposed upon her by the surrounding society.  This may partially explain why she goes to such pains to argue that sexual orientation is a matter of external circumstances and voluntary choice.  And yet we are undeniably responsible for the way we react to our circumstances.]

That being the case, what is the most humane and compassionate way to treat LGBT people?  What is in their own genuine best interest?  In her campaign book Stronger Together Mrs. Clinton says she want to “Demand equality for the LGBT community” (p. 220).  She says, among other things, that she wants to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.  She wants to “continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions.”   And she says “we will end so-called conversion therapy, the harmful practice of trying to ‘cure’ LGBT and gender-questioning young people” (p. 221).  In other words, she wants society to treat homosexuality as a normal, healthy, and legally protected lifestyle.

But that would create the perception that, as far a sexual conduct goes. Anything and everything between consenting adults is permitted.  And that, in turn, would create even more social problems.  The “Sexual Revolution” has already left countless children in single parent homes, usually with no positive male role models..

Simply allowing people to indulge in their sexual fantasies does little to help them to become well-adjusted members of human society.  Nor does it deal with the underlying emotional traumas that led to the homosexual behavior in the first place.  And for parents not to give guidance to their “LGBT and gender-questioning young people” is nothing less than criminal neglect.  Thus accepting homosexuality as somehow normal places both society and the gay person at risk.  The most compassionate thing we can do to help a gay person is to help him confront the emotional scars of his past and accept his or her biological identity as either male or female.  Only then can he become a happy, well-adjusted member of human society.

But the real solution is salvation in Christ.  In salvation a person repents of his sins, commits his life to Christ, receives forgiveness, and is inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit.  “. . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6; NKJV).  The past becomes irrelevant.  The only real question is, what kind of person does God want me to be today?  And we learn to deal with the traumas of the past in a godly, Christ-like way.

What is needed is individual healing, not more social dysfunction.  Salvation is not “homophobia.”

AMERICA’S PROBLEM IS SPIRITUAL – III

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The end result of secularization is social chaos.  As moral restraints are removed social disorder ensues.

The apostle Paul puts it like this: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting . . .” (Rom.1:28; NKJV).  It is important to observe here the cause-and-effect relationships.  The root cause is our attempt to exclude God from our knowledge – to exclude Him from our worldview.  This results in God “giving them over to a debased mind.”    The word translated “debased” literally means “rejected after testing.”  Because we excluded God from our thinking, God abandons us to our own devices.  We have become “rejects,” as it were.  The result is that we “do those things which are not fitting,” or proper.  Our behavior is inappropriate.

How so?  Paul goes on to say that they were “being filled with all unrighteousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness . . .” (v. 29).  This describes their general attitude and their complete abandonment to it: they are “filled” with “all” of it.  People habitually do what is wrong (“unrighteousness,” “wickedness,” “maliciousness”) because their controlling desire for sex, material possessions, and whatever.  This, in turn, results in oppression and conflict: “murder, strife, deceit.”

The result is a whole list of what we euphemistically call “anti-social behavior”: these people are “whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents” (v. 30).  They hurt each other by word and deed.  There is even rebellion against parental authority.

Finally, there is the complete absence of any redeeming social qualities.  They are “undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (v. 31).  Even in some pagan societies there is a recognition that honesty and compassion are positive qualities to be admired and encouraged.  But not in a society in an advanced state of moral decline.  There comes to be a jaded, cynical outlook on life, in which people are more or less expected to be dishonest and crooked.  Everyone is out to “game the system.”

Paul concludes by stating that the members of a pagan society, “knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (v. 32).    It is one thing to practice one’s misdeeds in secret; it is another thing to celebrate misconduct openly and to reward it publicly.  When society as a whole commends evil behavior, it has sunk to the lower level of depravity.

It is important here to note that Paul is not talking only about the sins of individuals, but about the mores of society as a whole.  Individually, as human beings, we are all “totally depraved.”  We have inherited from our parents a natural bias toward sin; and no matter how outwardly respectable we may seem to be to others, inwardly we are almost completely controlled by self-interest.  We often do the right things for the wrong reasons, responding to social pressure rather than to conscience.

But a human society as a whole will adopt certain norms and standards, depending on the local culture.  It will reward certain forms of behavior and punish others.  But as a given nation becomes powerful and prosperous it will have a tendency to question its earlier values and standards.  It becomes more “tolerant,” “diverse,” and “inclusive.”  The lessening of moral restraint, however, results in social disintegration.

Modern western society has traveled down this well-worn path.  Built on a foundation of Judeo-Christian morality, it listened to the siren song of such prominent atheists as Marx and Darwin, Freud and Nietzsche.  The mainline Protestant denominations tried to find a middle ground by adopting a liberal theology.  The sexual revolution, radical feminism and the “New Morality” ensued.  Eventually the highest court in the land gave legal sanction to abortion and sodomy.  We have become a thoroughly corrupt society, “knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

At the bottom of it, then, America’s problem is spiritual, and cannot be solved through the political process.  It is not so much this candidate or that, but an entire population that has lost its moral bearings and cannot tell good from evil.  America’s social problems are the result of its religious apostasy.  The answer to the problem, then, is not to vote for this, that or the other candidate – it is spiritual revival within the church.  The churches which profess to know the truth must humble themselves before God, confess their sins, and seek His blessing on their ministries.  The reason we are not seeing results is because the presence and power of the Holy Spirit are largely absent.  We need a fresh visitation of the Spirit, a fresh awareness of eternal reality, a genuine, heartfelt love for God and for our fellow man.  It is only when the church is what it ought to be that there will be any hope for America.

WHY CHARACTER MATTERS

 

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In this current election cycle we are confronted with an unpalatable menu of two presidential candidates, both of which have serious character flaws.  Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump are noted for being particularly honest.  In addition Mr. Trump has a reputation for being a ruthless, cutthroat businessman and a twice divorced adulterer.  In his campaign so far he has repeatedly made wild, unsubstantiated claims against some of his opponents and openly ridiculed others.  When called to account he has refused to back down or apologize.  Never in American history have we seen such a spectacle at such a high level.

Nevertheless the argument is being made in some Christian circles that a Christian must vote for Trump in order to keep Clinton out of the White House.  To vote for a third party candidate, or to stay at home, the argument goes, amounts to a vote for Hillary.  But this amounts to saying that we must vote for a rogue in order to keep a scoundrel from getting elected.  In either case we wind up with a bad president.  It is a bit like asking the voters to choose between the hangman’s noose and the firing squad.  We are dead either way.

But does character really matter in a presidential candidate?  Mr. Trump may not be a Christian, it is argued, but neither are most politicians.  And the policies advocated by the Democrats (abortion, homosexuality) are abominable.  So why not vote for “the lesser of the two evils”?

The fact of the matter is that character is important – it determines how a person will perform once in office.  A government position is a public trust, and as such it requires trustworthiness on the part of the person who holds it.  Someone who is corrupt, dishonest or unwise will routinely make bad decisions, or decisions that run counter to the public interest; and that, in turn, has an adverse effect on us all.  One does not make a thief the president of the bank.

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible has a great deal to say, in fact, about government and human relations.  Most of it was written by King Solomon, the ancient king of Israel who was renowned for his wisdom.  He certainly had much occasion to reflect on the principles of good government.

We much begin by asking, what is the purpose of government in the first place?  Why have a government at all?  The obvious answer is to protect the lives and property of its citizens from foreign invasion and domestic violence.  In order to do the latter the government must enact laws, apprehend criminals, try them in court and punish the guilty.  The ultimate goal is to establish justice.  “A king who sits on the throne of judgment / Scatters all evil with his eyes” (Prov. 20:8; NKJV – cf. Prov. 17:15; 24:24, 25; 25:2).

How well a government discharges its responsibility has an effect on everyone under its jurisdiction.  “The king establishes the land by justice, / But he who receives bribes overthrows it” (Prov. 29:4).  And this, in turn, requires good character on the part of those who exercise power.  “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; / But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2).  “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, / For a throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12).  If the civil magistrate is to administer justice effectively, he must not be a criminal himself.

So what, then, are the specific qualities of character required in a civil magistrate?  First and foremost is honesty.  The Solomon describes a dishonest person this way:

“A worthless person, a wicked man,

Walks with a perverse mouth;

He winks with his eyes,

He shuffles his feet,

He points with his fingers’

Perversity is in his heart,

He devises evil continually . . .”

(Prov. 6:12-14a)

He doesn’t say what he means; he disguises his real intentions, and his intentions are invariably bad – that is why he takes great pains to disguise them.  And what does he accomplish by doing this?  “He sows discord” (v. 14b).  People who have been cheated are rarely happy about it.  Most will desire revenge of some sort.

Dishonesty, however, eventually results in failure.  “Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; / Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy” (v. 15).  The pretense cannot be maintained forever.  Eventually the liar is found out and the scheme collapses.  “What a perilous web we weave / When first we practice to deceive,” as the old saying goes.  It is no wonder then, that “Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool, / Much less lying lips to a prince” (Prov. 17:7).

Beyond the question of basic honesty one can also look at a candidate’s basic temperament.  If he is proud and boastful, “wise in his own eyes” – “There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 26:12).  “Pride goes before destruction, / And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).  Does he speak before thinking?  “Do you see a man hasty in his words? / There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 29:20).  “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, / But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Prov. 15:28).  Does he slander others with false accusations?  It causes needless divisions and conflicts.  “A perverse man sows strife, / And a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Prov. 16:28).  How does he respond to criticism?  “Do not say ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; / I will render to the man according to his work’” (Prov. 24:29).

Mr. Trump, in fact, fits the biblical definition of a “scoffer”: “A proud and haughty man – ‘Scoffer’ is his name; / He acts with arrogant pride” (Prov. 21:24).  He is incorrigible (Prov. 9:7,8), and as a result knowledge eludes him (Prov. 14:6).  “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; / Yes, strife and reproach will cease” (Prov. 22:10).

In a democracy the people are supposed to be sovereign: the ultimate authority to make decisions rests with them.  Government officials are supposed to be public servants, serving the people.  The President of the United States arguably occupies the most powerful and important position   He is commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military.  He controls the nation’s nuclear arsenal, state secrets, and treasury.  He has sworn to uphold the Constitution.  The people, the voters who put him into power, are counting on him to perform the duties of his office in good faith and in the public’s best interests.  But if he / she is a liar and a crook, if his word cannot be taken at face value, the people’s trust has been betrayed and the president becomes a lawless tyrant.  Grasping and corrupt politicians are the undoing of a republic.

In this election neither majority candidate is fit for high office.  The evangelical community cannot afford to be identified with either one of them.  “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues’” (Rev. 18:4).

MORALITY AND THE LAW

 

Is America a “Christian nation”?  Most Democrats today would probably say “no,” or at least claim that America was founded as a strictly secular state.  As evidence they would point to the lack of mention of God in the U.S. Constitution.

Interestingly, however, no less a Democrat than President Barack Obama observed that “our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo- Christian tradition” (The Audacity of Hope, p. 218).  He noted that “Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – not only were motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes” (Ibid.).

Interestingly, however, when we look at the debates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 it becomes apparent that there was a variety of opinion among the Founding Fathers on the matter.  By far the greatest moral question facing the Constitutional Convention and the early Republic was slavery.  The slave trade was still very much alive in 1787 and slavery was an entrenched institution in some states, particularly South Carolina and Georgia.  The question arose at the Convention as to what to do about the importation of slaves.  Luther Martin of Maryland suggested either taxing it, in order to discourage it, or prohibiting it altogether.  He noted that “it was inconsistent with the principles of the revolution and dishonorable to the American character to have such a feature in the Constitution” (Madison’s Notes, Aug. 21, 1787).  To which John Rutledge of South Carolina replied, “Religion & humanity had nothing to do with this question.  Interest alone is the governing principle with nations.”  Several delegates, including both Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, wanted to leave the question alone.  But interestingly George Mason of Virginia, spoke out strongly against slavery, declaring that slaves “bring the judgment of heaven on a country.  As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this.  By an inevitable chain of causes & effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities” (Aug. 22).

So who was right?  Rutledge or Mason?  Slavery remained as an American institution, and seventy years later the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, tried to settle the matter once and for all.  Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, writing for the majority, asserted that black people “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order . . . so far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect.”  The problem, however, is that in God’s sight there is no essential difference between a black person and a white person: they are both human beings created in His image.  And while every human society must have its political and economic structures in order to function, no human being should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.   That applies to black slaves; that applies to unborn children.

And, just as George Mason had predicted, “providence punishes national sins by national calamities.”  On April 12, 1861 Confederate artillery opened fire on Ft. Sumter, and the Civil War had begun.  By the time it was over 620,000 soldiers on both sides were dead and the South lay in ruins.

Every civilized human society has had to struggle with the question of justice.  Does might make right?  To the victor goes the spoils?  Or is there some universal standard of morality that governs all actions of human beings?

The question is by no means new; it faced the citizens of ancient Athens.  In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias there is a fascinating account of a philosophical debate in which Socrates, one of the participants, challenges the conventional attitudes of the day regarding education and politics.  Is it all ultimately based on self-interest?  Or should we all be pursuing a higher aim in life?

Socrates argued for the latter, but was never able satisfactorily to answer the question, where, ultimately, does this standard of justice and morality come from?  He had a sense that a human being if more than just a human body, that there has to be a principle of justice that ought to govern human actions, and even that there has to be an afterlife and a final judgment.  But he could not find a deeper explanation for this other than man’s pursuit of happiness.

The fact of the matter is that as human beings we have the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, and we cannot avoid the moral implications of the choices we make in life.  Was it wrong to drop an atomic bomb on a Japanese city?  Is it wrong to take the life of an unborn child?  How do we know?

None of us wants to live in a lawless society; nor do we wish to live under a human tyranny.  The Christian answer is that we were created by God in His image and are accountable to Him for the way we live our lives.  Morality originates with God Himself.  The safest protection for our liberties is to acknowledge them as having come from God: we “are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. . .”

HILLARY CLINTON AS PRESIDENT?

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            Last night Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated by a major party for President.  Her formal qualifications for the job are impressive: a graduate of Yale Law School, she has previously served as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, giving her experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government.  She is the consummate Washington “insider,” which in this election cycle may or may not be an advantage.

Mrs. Clinton has devoted her life to the pursuit of social justice.  Reflecting her Methodist upbringing she quoted in her acceptance speech John Wesley’s rule of life:

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

And yet in the same speech she expressed support for a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices (which we take as a reference to legalized abortion), and for LGBT rights.  In so doing she certainly thinks she is “doing all the good she can . . .to all the people you can.”  But is she really?

The problem is that the liberal, progressive” agenda on some of these issues puts the Democratic Part in direct conflict with the 6th and 7th Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Abortion violates the sanctity of human life.  The gay lifestyle undermines marriage as a committed, complementary relationship between a man and a woman.  The Ten Commandments, in turn, reflect God’s order for human society.

As human beings we have a moral obligation to obey the will of our Creator, no matter what we may think our individual self-interest may be.  But is it really in our self-interest to disobey God?  Are we really “doing all the good we can” by helping others to sin?  John Wesley certainly would not have thought so.  Neither should we.

A former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, quoted Micah 6:8 in one of his speeches:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(NKJV)

Significantly this exhortation is directed toward the entire human race: “He has shown you, O man.”  The word translated “man” is “adam,” the name of our common ancestor, and in this context includes all of his descendants, i.e. the entire human race.

The verse goes on to tell us “what is good,” and what “the Lord requires” of us.  It is a matter of a moral obligation that we to our Creator, and it is “good” – it is right and proper and beneficial to all concerned.

A part of that obligation is that we “do justly,” and that, in turn, means that the civil magistrate has a duty to

“Defend the poor and fatherless;

Do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy;

Free them from the hand of the wicked.”

(Psalm 82:3,4)

The underlying assumption here is that the strong and powerful will take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, and therefore the role of government is to “deliver” or “free” the poor from the rich and powerful.  Thus it is unconscionable that we would have a political and economic system that would leave a large segment of the population destitute and without access to healthcare.  As God judged ancient Israel, so will He judge us. On this point Mrs. Clinton is certainly well-intentioned.

We are also to “love mercy.”  It is a little hard to find an exact English equivalent for the word translated “mercy” (Hebrew: chesed), and scholars have long debated its exact meaning.  But it certainly includes the idea of kindness shown toward others and also carries along with it a kind of faithful and devoted love.  It is “mercy” in the sense of compassion shown toward those in need, and the word is sometimes translated “lovingkindness.”  Not only are we do display this quality; we are to “love” it.  So here again Mrs. Clinton is quite right to be concerned about the welfare of children, minorities, and those suffering from discrimination and injustice.

But the text also says that we are to “walk humbly with your God,” or as it might be more literally translated, “to behave humbly to walk with your God.”  We must be sufficiently humble to recognize that God’s ways are best, and bring our lives into conformity with His will.

The problem with the modern Democratic Party is that it wants to take a secular approach to social justice, and this raises the question of where our standard of justice comes from.  We tend to err on the side of individual autonomy – each individual should be allowed to decide for himself how he wants to live his life.  But when we ignore God’s will our efforts at social justice can be self-defeating.  By promoting “LGBT rights” we may think that we are creating a more inclusive and tolerant society.  But if in the process we create the impression that there are no rules, that any and every kind of sexual behavior can be tolerated, we wind up undermining family stability.  In the long run we create more social problems than we solve.  Lyndon Johnson famously “declared war on poverty.”  Today there is more poverty than ever, and the “Sexual Revolution” is a major reason why.  Pat Moynihan, an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration and later Mrs. Clinton’s predecessor in the U.S. Senate, pointed out the obvious fact that single parent families have to struggle to survive.  Why is there so much crime in the inner cities?  Because too many young men are growing up in single parent homes without good male role models.  What goes around comes around.

We do not help others by helping them to sin.  We help them by showing them the path toward redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  All of us live in a universe created by God; all of us are ultimately accountable to Him.  We can find happiness and fulfilment only when we come in line with His purposes for our lives – and His purposes are wise and good.  To love the sinner is to seek to free him from his sin.  Abortion and sodomy are unspeakable sins and are bringing down God’s wrath upon the nation.

Christians, pray for our country!