Monday, October 23, 2006

Darfur Proposal

Twenty-five years ago I was coming to the end of my Marine Corps enlistment. I could run a mile in six minutes, a 5K in less than twenty minutes, a 10K in forty-two minutes, a half marathon in an hour and forty minutes, and I was an expert rifleman. I could hit a body-size target from five hundred meters with an M16 rifle 9 out of 10 times. I was also trained and capable of setting up a mobile weather station, tracking rawinsonde balloons, and determining fallout from NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) warfare. In short, I was a very average Marine.

The government of the United States of America spent four years paying for my training. I spent four years earning my pay by preparing for a time when my service as a Marine or as a weather specialist would be needed in warfare. Training for warfare was as close as I ever got to being needed.

I can still jog several miles at a time, but my days of running against a stopwatch have long since passed. I haven’t shot a rifle since leaving the Corps, and I wonder if rawinsonde balloons are still used or needed to determine upper air weather measurements.

However, since I believe there is nothing more important than opposing tyranny, I sometimes regret my time in the military came and went without involvement in any meaningful military operations. I still want to do something important in my lifetime to advance freedom. I think I could still contribute to a limited military operation and I believe there are others like me who would like the opportunity to do what we were trained to do, but never got the opportunity to do.

Darfur could be our opportunity. A military action to stop the bloodshed of innocent lives in Darfur wouldn’t require the best Marines or even the latest and greatest military equipment. All Darfur needs is an opposing military to stop the murdering. I don’t have the resources to move to Sudan and stop the genocide on my own. However, I am willing to go to Sudan and carry a rifle for a short period of time and do what is necessary to stop the genocide if the United States government would organize and finance a military operation and allow a few almost over-the-hill Marines to participate. Does anyone care to join me? How do we get started?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moral Discretion

In a perfect world, Dairy Queen would be open for breakfast, Chivas Regal would be sold by the gallon at Wal-Mart, and the only dilemmas anyone would ever face would be the consequences resulting from their own decisions and actions. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, nor will it ever be. People are constantly having to deal with the consequences of the decisions of others.

There are many individuals, groups, businesses, and governments who will abuse freedom to a point where other people are exploited, injured, or even murdered. When the decision and action of some removes the ability of others to freely decide for themselves, then good people need to step in and take action to restore the equilibrium where both side are equally free to decide. The action taken to restore equilibrium needs to be appropriate for the situation and can include both preventive and punitive measures.

The United States made a moral leap forward after Viet Nam when it discontinued the draft and instituted an all volunteer military. Allowing young men and women to choose membership in the armed forces has resulted in higher moral amongst the troops and a much more professional and successful military.

The United States could make additional moral leaps forward if the concept of free choice was extended to include the way military operations are financed and implemented. When available tax dollars are thrown into a big pot, just like tithe dollars in a Church, too much effort is spent fighting over how the dollars in the pot will be spent and too little effort is spent accomplishing worthwhile humanitarian goals.

An alternative to this big pot financing approach would be to allow tax payers more discretion over how their tax dollars are spent. Tax payers who earnestly believe the military action in Iraq was morally necessary could direct their tax dollars towards financing the military in Iraq while tax payers who believe a peace keeping force in Darfur is a moral obligation could direct their tax dollars to helping Darfur.

Since most people do tend to vote with their dollars and their efforts, government leaders would know with certainty how much support they have for a policy and how large or small a budget they have to work with. This type of financing would not eliminate all of the political hostility between parties and citizens completely, but it would reduce much of the rancor because no one would be forced to support government policies they oppose and everyone would be allowed to freely choose how to best use their resources and efforts for big and important humanitarian measures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Forcing Freedom?

Many Americans have decided that it is better for them personally to play the government game than it is for them to oppose the government game. These individuals and companies figure that it is more advantageous for them to compete for a piece of the government pie than it is for them to oppose the way the pie if financed. By following their basic nature and acting in their own self interest, they inadvertently contribute to a society where freedom is increasingly restricted.

Forcing tax payers to finance and participate in forcing public policy on others isn’t a very good application of the principle of human freedom regardless of how well meaning the intentions of the policies are. Freedom is not advanced when a government taxes its citizens in order to aid the poor anymore than freedom is advanced when citizens are taxed to fund a military action they don’t support.

Most of what is done by government would still be done freely by some citizens even if it was not financed by tax revenue. Companies seeking to profit like Federal Express and UPS have replaced the United States Postal Service by delivering packages faster and at a lower cost. Charitable organizations like The Red Cross, The United Way, and The Salvation Army, have excelled in providing services to the less fortunate. If there is truly a need, the private sector in a free society will fill the need either for profit or for charity.

The most important step in advancing Red Christianity is for all of us to quit trying to control each other for our own benefit, and in many cases, quit trying to help some people by controlling other people. Government does have a responsibility to provide basic security, but freedom can’t be bought with tax revenue and freedom can’t be advanced through more regulations.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hot Air

Right is better than wrong.

Humility is much better and always preferable to arrogance.

However, there is no virtue in being humbly wrong or wrong humbly.

The science and the facts of Global Warming are available to anyone who cares to spend a little time on research and a little time in thought. The factors that play a part in the periodic warming and cooling of our planet are plentiful. Some of the factors that play a part are understood by science and some are not. However, our planet seems to have a self correcting mechanism that always keeps temperatures within certain ranges.

Currently, we are at the warm end of the range, but well within historic ranges based on available temperature recordings and best guesses. However, our knowledge of historical ranges cannot be calculated with the precision necessary for complete accuracy. Also, this warm end of the range has been very beneficial to agriculture and farming in many parts of the world.

In the future, science may better understand the affects of increasing or decreasing green house gases on our planet, like it is understood in a laboratory. However, at this point in time, anyone who advocates the use of the coercive power of government to reduce green house gases, including scientists, politicians, or religious leaders, is just plain wrong. Advocating government intervention with humility doesn’t make the advocate any less wrong or more virtuous.

The Price of Freedom

The unexpected difficulties the Iraqis are experiencing in establishing a stable democracy in their country has led many to believe that American style freedom and democracy is not compatible with some other cultures. There certainly are differences between Americans and other cultures that will determine how freedom is expressed, but it is ridiculous to claim some cultures don’t want or deserve freedom.

There are two other desires in the hearts of humans that compete with the human hearts desire for freedom. One is the desire for safety and security. The other is the desire to control and restrict the freedom of others. This desire to control and restrict the freedom of others is quite normal, but it can be quite evil when it restricts the God-given freedom of others.

The desire to control others can be as simple and innocent as a Pastor using guilt to manipulate members of his Church, a husband using threats to manipulate his wife, a salesperson using deception to manipulate his prospect, or a child using a popular toy to gain and restrict friendships. It can also be as complex and calculating as a politician using tax and redistribution policy to gain power or a terrorist using bombs and beheadings to spread fear and submission.

Freedom is the desire of every human. However, the paradox of freedom is that it can only exist when those who want to be free also allow others to be free. For freedom to exist, humans need to battle their own controlling nature, battle the controlling nature of others, and sacrifice some of their desire for safety and security. Churches, marriages, business relationships, and friendships would all improve if people were more willing to let others live freely without manipulative tactics.

Iraq is not having problems because Iraqis don’t want freedom. Iraq is having problems because so many of the participants in Iraq, including the American military, want to restrict the freedom of the Iraqi people. This is not a problem that will ever be solved, but it is a problem that can be reduced if those in positions of leadership will relinquish some of their authority to control and manipulate others.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reflections on My Last Post

These are the things I hate about blogs:

  • Writers who emote more than reason.
  • Writers who think they know more than most everyone else.
  • Arrogant writers who demand humility in everyone else.

These are the things I hate about my last piece:
  • See previous list.

I was going to edit my last piece, but I decided to leave it the way it is as a reminder to take breath after writing and before posting. My goal in writing is to think and write a little different than the crowd by presenting a reasonable alternative to the crowd. I’m not always contrarian, but I do have a tendency to consider zagging when everyone else is zigging.

Politics means different things to different people. Pastors have many reasons besides tax law to participate or not participate in the political process. Most Pastors probably just consider politics to be so divisive they would rather just avoid it all together.

I think freedom is essential to God’s plan for humanity. I am going to keep making the case for spreading freedom and participating in politics to promote and ensure freedom. However, I don’t want to leave the impression that I think I am smarter or that I understand Scripture better than those who disagree with me. I know my place. I’m just trying to use the brain God gave me and the circumstances I’ve experienced to understand God and Scripture and then write about what I believe.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Political Involvement

In a comment last week to my piece on exporting red Christianity, Derek referenced the IRS action against All Saints in Pasadena in his question and then Buz reminded me that Jesus rebuffed his disciples for expecting HIM to lead a political revolution.

The number of Christians and their leaders who don’t seem to understand the role of citizens in government or the role of Christians as citizens is appalling to me. I don’t include Derek or Buz in this group, so I am thankful for their comments and the opportunity to address this issue.

Throughout my daily reading, there seems to be an overreaction to the overemphasis of politics by some Christian leaders during the last few decades. The current wind and the current consensus seems to be that Christian involvement in politics has been a failure and it is time to get back to preaching the Bible without any political overtones. I’ve been to plenty of Churches the last few years which could use a dose of good Bible teaching, but I don’t think the Bible can be taught effectively without contemporary and relevant applications. Without appropriate applications of Biblical principles, a sermon would just be a history lesson.

Removing politics from the list of appropriate applications of Biblical principles is a misunderstanding of the Bible and American politics. Citizens of American, especially those of us who area also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, do not have the liberty to stick our head in the sand like an ostrich and hope for the best. A turtle can withdraw to its shell, a Buddhist can sit in the corner and meditate, but a Christian is obligated to salt the earth. Salting the earth means involvement with society and involvement in making, changing, and enforcing the rules and regulations of our society. Citizens of the Kingdom of heaven must provide the salt because those who aren’t citizens of the Kingdom of heaven will be adding all kinds of other ingredients, most of which will have the opposite affect of salt.

The amount of involvement of the Church and the amount of involvement of the individual Christian in politics should be proportionate to the amount of involvement of government in the lives of believers. Smaller government would mean less involvement while larger government means greater involvement. Once again, the relationship between faith in God and freedom is obvious to those with eyes to see. Blue States with a lower percentage of believers like California, New York, and Massachusetts have high tax burdens and regulations compared to Red states like Texas and Utah with a higher percentage of believers and lower tax burdens and regulations.

I don’t agree at all with the message that was preached at All Saints in Pasadena which led to the trouble with the IRS. In fact, I may have more in common with Martians than I do with the members of that Church, but I do think it is the obligation of Pastors to include politics in a sermon when appropriate. I have nothing but contempt for any Pastor who would place their tax exemption above salting the earth.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One Without the Other

A person can become a Christian, be a Christian, and practice Christianity in any environment. However, some environments are better than others for becoming a Christian, being a Christian, and practicing Christianity. Christian leaders like to point out how times of trouble and persecution throughout history have been times when the Gospel message has been accepted by many. People do tend to look to God for answers and deliverance when they don’t have any answers of their own. However, people also tend to reject God when they don’t witness or experience the love of God.

If trouble and persecution are all that is necessary for the Gospel to advance, then Russia, Cuba, Cambodia, China, Iraq, Iran, many other countries, and almost all of Africa would be overrun with Christians. Communism may have been a complete failure at creating a prosperous and just society, but it has been very successful at destroying faith in God. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Freedom and faith are very related.

America has gone through some very tough times starting with the first settlers. But, unlike communist countries, Americans have had the freedom to choose and practice Christianity. Most American believers would claim America is great because of the early and on-going Christian influence. It works both ways. Christianity in America is also great [comparatively, not absolutely] because of American style freedom and American style private property rights.

Nowadays, Islam is equal to communism as a threat to freedom throughout the world. Islam wants to use government authority to impose Shariah law. It is important for non-believers to understand this difference between Islam and Christianity. Christianity thrives in an environment of freedom. Islam is a threat to freedom and will only appear to thrive in an environment of control.

The primary goal of the Christian Church is to explain how Christ died so that those who CHOOSE to believe in HIM will have eternal life. A significant part of achieving our goal as Christians is to defend and promote freedom along with private property rights throughout the world. One without the other is only doing part of the job of the Gospel.

Monday, October 02, 2006

God’s Economics

The notion that God is unconcerned about economic systems or economic transactions is absurd when the God being referenced is the God of the Christian Bible. Some economic systems conform to Scriptural order more than other systems and some economic systems and policies are completely anti-Biblical. For many years, Christian socialists have claimed that socialism is the economic system most consistent with Scripture. At the core of the Christian socialist argument is the belief that since sharing and charity are personal virtues prescribed in Scripture then these virtues should be mandated and enforced by government. Christian socialists believe that a government that honors God is a government that helps the poor by providing for the basic needs of the poor.

The Bible never mentions a time or records an event when God established private property rights. However, it is impossible to read through the Laws of the Bible without the understanding of the concept of private property. From very early in Leviticus, the Lord tells Mosses that it is wrong to steal or even to lie about finding lost property. The stolen or lost property must be returned along with a penalty. Later in Leviticus, God is even more clear: “Do not steal”; “Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him”; “Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight”. Additionally, “You shall not steal” is one of the ten commandments. The ten commandments have to be considered the highest priority of behavior for believers and the most important laws to God because Jesus made it clear that he did not come to abolish the law.

Christian socialists are flat out wrong about socialism and God. Government mandated sharing and charity is not a virtue, it is legalized theft enforced by the coercive power of government and therefore against God's commandment regarding stealing. The only economic transaction consistent with Scripture is an economic transaction where a seller freely exchanges something of value with a buyer. The seller is certainly free to give value without compensation in the form of a gift. However, any transaction where the seller is forced to sell at a price below what the seller would freely ask, or any transaction where a buyer is forced to buy at a price above what the buyer would freely pay violates the law of God because something a value is stolen; either by the buyer or the seller.

Government does not have the ability to determine the proper price of a good or service or the proper wage to pay for labor because the proper price is dynamic and constantly changing. The correct price for labor is the price someone is willing to pay for the compensation someone is willing to accept for the work being done. Similarly, the correct price of a good or service is the price a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept.