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Morality and Politics in America

John Adams said a long time ago, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And the conservative Edmund Burke said, “What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” Here are some similar insights Alexis de Tocqueville shared in his book, Democracy in America*:

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

 “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“When a nation[‘s] well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”

 “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“A nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak.”

“What one must fear, moreover, is not so much the sight of the immorality of the great as that of immorality leading to greatness.”

“So religion, which among the Americans never directly takes part in the government of society, must be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”

“Religion is much more necessary in the republic.”

“In order that society should exist, and a fortiori, that a society should prosper, it is required that all the minds of the citizens should be rallied and held together by certain predominant ideas.”**

“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot… How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?”

No matter who ultimately gets elected, if what Adams and Tocqueville said were right, and I think they were, it’s only a matter of time before a pretty significant downfall of America. Many moral dominos have fallen, and I don’t so much mean abortion and gender confusion. I mean the more common and prevalent lack of virtue, which has precipitated more visible concerns. Now the only truth that is readily accepted is that there is no truth, only what is right for the autonomous self. Those were dominos. Those have been falling. 

America needs: revival. Not of the Republican Party, but of people set on fire for the true Savior. Revival is what would make people “moral and religious,” as Adams spoke of and which our Nation rests or topples on.

Whatever happens, Christians trust the One who has the government on His shoulders. The One who is “called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The One of whom it can be said: “Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Whatever happens, Christians can trust that God is very adept at using a remnant for His good purposes to highlight His glory and goodness. Perhaps America won’t be saved, but perhaps millions of Americans will be?!

*As an aside, I think it is interesting to note what Tocqueville said about wealth in America remembering that Scripture says, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Many have “noted the American obsession with work and the restless quest for the “almighty dollar” (Tocqueville, Democracy in America). Tocqueville also said, “The love of wealth is . . . to be traced, either as a principal or an accessory motive, at the bottom of all that the Americans do” (Ibid.). As well as, “One must go to America to understand what power material well-being exerts on political actions and even on opinions themselves, which ought to be subject only to reason” (Ibid.).

**Such as the reality of objective truth actually existing.

A few helpful resources before you vote…

Here are some resources and quotes I’ve found helpful in thinking about this years election…

I highly suggest that you check out Jonathan Leeman’s article: “What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting.” And I found Justin Taylor’s article “The Case Against Pro-Lifers Voting for Joe Biden” helpful too. Taylor quotes John Piper: “No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. Being pro-life does not make a person a good governor, mayor, or president. But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office.”

I recently read David Platt’s helpful book, Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask. You should buy it right now on Kindle. Here are a bunch of quotes from that book:

“This world is not a democracy. This world is a monarchy, and God is the King.”

“In the end, what’s most important, and what I am definitively advocating for based on God’s Word, is the realization that how we use our vote is a matter of faithfulness before God. For our vote is a unique privilege and responsibility that God has entrusted to us by his grace, and God calls us to use every means of grace he grants us to love him above all and love our neighbors as ourselves.”

“Even if we lose every freedom and protection we have as followers of Jesus in the United States, and even if our government were to become a completely totalitarian regime, we could still live an abundant life as long as we didn’t look to political leaders, platforms, or policies for our ultimate security and satisfaction. We can still have hope, peace, joy, and confidence regardless of what happens in our government, as long as… we look to Jesus alone for these things, and all of our hope hinges on him.”

“We are not worried or panicked about elections, no matter how important they may seem… Instead, we seek the kingdom of Jesus and his sinless righteousness with true peace and total confidence in his supreme reign. After all, we know that throughout history, leaders have risen and fallen. Presidents have come and gone. Through it all, one King alone has remained constant, and he is not up for election. Regardless of what president is chosen in our country, Jesus will be in control of it all.”

“According to God,… my concern in voting should not just be for me and my children but also for others and their children.”

“A clear takeaway from the book of Jonah is that we are to work for the spread of God’s love in all nations more than we are to seek safety, security, prosperity, and comfort in our own nation.”

“By God’s grace, we have been given so much as citizens of the United States of America. For all that God has granted us, we should be deeply grateful. At the same time, we follow a King who commands us to lay down our rights and use the grace he has given to love our neighbors as ourselves. This, after all, is the essence of the gospel that has saved us.”

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Rule #8: Respect and don’t steal other’s property.

“You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15).

We might be tempted to think that stealing isn’t relevant to us. We know it’s wrong and we don’t do it but that just might not be the case.

I was convicted of stealing when I was in college… I was stealing and I went to a Christian college. What was I stealing do you think?… Music. I was pirating music…

There are a lot of things people do that often is not considered stealing when it really is.

So, what does God say about stealing?…

1) What does God says about stealing?

God says, “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15). So, what does it mean to steal? It means to take something that doesn’t belong to you or to receive something in an unlawful way.

Even taking supplies from the church, from a hospital, or even a hotel is stealing. I read, “one hotel reported in its first year of business having to replace thirty-eight thousand spoons, eighteen thousand tiles, three hundred and fifty-five coffee pots… one hundred Bible!”[1]

So, there is all sorts of ways that stealing happens. “You don’t need to put panty hose over your face and sneak into a house to be a thief. You can steal in broad daylight, in the marketplace, whenever you defraud or deceive. ”[2] Scripture demands honesty in all our dealings no matter how small and insignificant they may seem (see e.g. Lev. 19:35; Deut. 25:15).

Stealing is more of a problem then it might at first seem. There is stealing, for example, on both sides of credit cards. “In recent decades credit card debt has risen from five billion to more than five hundred billion dollars.”[3] Not only that, but “each year Americans spend more money on various forms of gambling than they do on food or clothing.”[4]

One catechism says, “God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, but also such wicked schemes and devices as false weights and measures, deceptive merchandising, counterfeit money, and usury; we must not defraud our neighbor in any way, whether by force or by show of right. In addition God forbids all greed and all abuse or squandering of his gifts.”[5]

The Ten Commandments are hard but good. They function like a mirror. They show us our sin.

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Societal Analysis

It’s very interesting and perplexing to me that as a society we want and we are begging for and demanding what is good. We are acknowledging that things are very wrong in society. That seems to be the case no matter where you are politically, whatever side you find yourself on.

We acknowledge there’s a problem, but as Plato pointed out a very long time ago, good people make for a good society. That seems to make clear sense. Yet, society seems soiled. Thus, we have found the problem, and it’s me.

When someone is sick there’s a medical analysis. This entails five different elements:

  1. The Ideal (of what’s healthy)
  2. Observation (of symptoms/signs)
  3. Diagnosis (or analysis of disease/disorder)
  4. Prognosis (or prediction of cure/remedy)
  5. Prescription (or instruction for treatment/action for a cure)

I believe that society is in need of an analysis. What are we observing? What’s the problem? Can it be fixed? If so, how?

We are observing a lot of problems or symptoms: violence, racism, inability to patiently discuss important issues, pride, etc. What is the disease? The disease seems to be a problem with people. Many people lack goodness. What’s the cure? We must be good. What then is the solution? We must learn to be good. That is the prescription. That is the treatment.

This seems very shallow and very simple. But it is not. Stick with me.

If we want a good society, we must have good people. Yet, I’m not sure we even have an understanding of what “good” or healthy even is. Do we even have a starting place for what constitutes good or healthy? If not, how could we possibly arrive at a prognosis or prescription let alone be in a place to give a diagnosis?!

The English writer and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “What is wrong is that we don’t ask what is right.” We have no way by which to measure what is wrong and what is right. That is an obvious problem. You can’t build much with a standard that’s not standard.  

If good individuals make for a good society, as seems to make sense. Perhaps the first and foundational prescription is to return to the conviction that there is such a thing as “good.” And not merely what is good for the subjective individual, but a good beyond and above us that corrects us.

In any field of work you have to have a standard, a means to measure; a way to know what is healthy and what is not. We have an idea of when one is overweight because we understand that there is a range of healthy weight. How can we prescribe a cure when there is no standard for what is good or healthy? And how can there be hope when there is no standard of healthy?

We, as a society, for the most part, don’t have a clear way to say what is good. And we don’t have a pathway to make good people. If anything, we have many conflicting things shaping people. Porn is prevalent and it makes objects of people and materialism is too and it plays down the importance of people in place of the value of objects. Ours is a conflicted society. 

I believe the disorder in society comes from a plague more destructive than any pandemic, and that plague is sin. Its signs are everywhere. In my heart and actions, and yours too.

The diagnosis is deadly if not dealt with. The plague exponentially increases if not dealt with. It wreaks havoc on the scale of the Tsar Bomb. It leaves devastating effects on generations. It leaves gaping holes in individuals and is the downfall of society if not dealt with.

The prognosis, however, thankfully reveals that progress is possible. But it will be slow and painful. And it entails admitting there’s a problem; a problem, a plague, not just out there in the world, out there in others, but in me.

When someone observes a ghastly problem and knows the cure we inherently know the right thing to do in that case. It is to cure. Humans often fumble around talking about problems and we hustle around trying to cure. But all the while only grasping at what it meant to be truly healthy. We half see and so we get the diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription wrong. We always have.

I believe, however, that hope is not lost. I believe Messiah Jesus, the Healthy One, has brought the cure. He who did not have the plague took our problems, our sin, upon Himself on the cross. He showed us the cure, it is Himself. It is love. Death is the only answer. Death to self. We must die to self, we must love.

We must turn from our prideful and sinful ways and trust in Jesus our loving cure. Jesus gives us 1) the ideal of healthy, 2) the observation about what’s wrong, 3) the diagnosis, 4) the prognosis, and 5) the prescription. Without the provision of those five elements the only prognosis is death.

Justice and the Just One

I was considering the word and concept of justice today so I looked up the definition of “justice.” The search returned a few definitions that stuck to me: “moral rightness,” “the quality of being just,” and “moral principle determining just conduct.” To understand or seek justice then, we need to have an idea of what it means to be “just” or “moral.” We have to have a “moral principle” whereby we can measure “just conduct.”

In America today we have calls for justice. Justice is right and good. Christians especially are called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Do the majority of Americans, however, know what “moral principle” we are basing our measurements of “just conduct” on? Do most Americans believe that there is a “moral principle” that guides us? If so, can most Americans articulate where our “moral principle” comes from?

It seems to me if the foundation for “moral principle” has eroded then justice does not have a foundation upon which to stand. Thus, I say this not because I am not for justice, I say this because I am for justice.

Perhaps with our calls for justice in America, we should also consider the foundation of justice: moral principle. Perhaps we should consider if justice can have a steady place on which to perch.

Perhaps we should also hear calls to return to moral principle and the bedrock of truth. Without truth, calls for justice ring empty.

I believe there is a basis for justice. Because I believe there is truth.

Jesus Himself actually said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth made tangible. He lived and walked justice. He is in reality what everyone should be and live.

I believe in justice and that we have a “moral principle determining just conduct” because the LORD has given it to us. Because He is righteous and “He loves righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) and “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).

“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”(Psalm 10:17-18).

Why do Black Lives & LGBTQ+ Lives Matter?

Why do black lives and LGBTQ+ lives matter? This is an important question because some people have views that don’t support the idea of lives mattering. For example, Charles Darwin, the most famous proponent of evolution titled his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life.  And in his book, The Decent of Man, he says,

“The Western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization…. The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”

Does a strict Darwinian view of the world lead to all lives mattering? It does not appear so. That’s why this question is important. Why do black lives and LGTBQ+ lives matter?

If we cut off our objective moral legs, we have no way to stand. If we say morality doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter. We can’t pick and choose. We can’t both say people are the way they are and have the desires they have and it’s fine and say it’s not okay for people to be certain ways and do certain things. That’s the crucial thing we need to consider.

Black lives matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. White lives matter. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But why?

That is a super important question and one that sadly isn’t receiving a lot of sustained thought. Why do black lives matter? Why do lives matter at all? Where do we get this concept? Is it true? 

Jesus said, black lives matter.[1] Jesus said, LGBTQ+ lives matter. Jesus said, all lives matter.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

But does Jesus matter? And if He doesn’t on what basis then are we saying all these lives matter? This may seem like a stupid question. We just know all types of lives matter, right? But do we?

The common view that many have is Darwinian evolution, that we came from nothing and we are going to nothing; from purposelessness to purposelessness. Where is meaning, morality, and lives mattering to be found?[2] Is there a basis for human rights?

Also, did the Roman culture, in whose hands Jesus was murdered say, all lives matter?[3] Did Joseph Stalin say all lives matter? Did Friedrich Nietzsche? Did Adolf Hitler? Did Mao Zedong? Is it even possible to say all lives matter or any lives matter when the highest maximum is have it your way and do what’s right for you? Could it be that “just as long as no one gets hurt” has been trampled upon and obliterated by “you can do whatever you want”? Objective NormsIf God is dead, and we killed him, as Nietzsche said, what follows? Perhaps Nietzsche was right, perhaps that makes all things permissible? Each person doing what is right in their own eyes, whatever that might be. Who is anyone, who or what is God, to restrain? …We are who we are and we want what we want and that’s nobodies business, right?

How or where, then, do we get the concept of lives, any lives, ultimately mattering? The concept of lives mattering would be merely imaginary (a social construct). Perhaps good for America right now but not for all people at all times and places.

We can’t deconstruct everything and still have a basis which to say lives matter or to say that we must love others. We can’t both say we can do whatever we want and you can’t do certain things (like be racist or homophobic). 

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Better News Than Politics

How does the good news of Jesus speak to politics?

First, I think it’s important that we see and agree that the good news that Jesus brings is better news than politics has ever or could ever bring. Let’s look at a simple outline of some forms of government that God’s people have been under in the Bible:

  1. Government by God (in Eden)
  2. Oppression and Slavery (in Egypt)
  3. Tribal Leadership
  4. Monarchy
  5. Exile
  6. Roman Rule

Out of the six forms of government only one was perfect: Government by God. And even that got messed up because of human sin. Representative democracy as good as it is, is not perfect and never will be. It has worked well. But it is important that we realize that it will never be perfect.

Jesus brings better news than politics can ever bring. Jesus gets us back to perfect government by God. And He does so by giving His very own life. Jesus will make things forever right (Rev. 21).

Let’s not put our hope in any political promise. Let’s hope in Jesus and in His Kingdom. Jesus is the true King and Savior.

Second, the gospel tells us our ultimate citizenship is somewhere else. As Christians, we live knowing that we don’t have a permanent home here. We’re looking for the forever and perfect home that is to come (Heb.13:14 cf. 10:34; 11:10, 16; 2 Cor. 5:4), a home prepared for us by Jesus Himself (Jn. 14:2).

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Moral Order

The world has a moral order. Many are unwilling to concede that truth, however. But the world functions as if that is the case. Let’s take my kid’s classroom as an example.

In my kid’s classroom there is a telos, or goal for which the students gather. There are also specific means that are employed to reach that end.

The whole education system is predicated upon the goals of teaching things that are deemed important for the betterment and healthy functioning of the individual student and society. Various means are employed to best meet those goals. There are subtle disagreements of course. For example, people have disagreements over the best forms of discipline. But there is overarching agreement across America.

Think of the quintessential school. Perhaps for you it’s John Adams High from Boy Meets World or maybe Bayside High School from Saved by the Bell. Regardless, there is a quintessential school. There is something that is aimed for, something that is ideal. Read More…

A Pre-Civil War “Conversation” on Slavery

Introduction

In writing this I read and analyzed two pre-Civil War articles.[1] The first article we will look at argues in favor of the continuation of slavery. The second article is written in response to the first and argues for immediate abolition. After looking at both articles we will look at the differences between the two articles.

My thesis is that some, like Buck, advocated for the continuance of slavery mainly based upon the belief that slavery was permitted because it was similar to the slavery permitted in the Old Testament. Others, however, like Pendleton, argued against slavery because they believed it was inherently dissimilar to Old Testament slavery.

In Favor of the Continuation of Slavery

Since “the subject is one of great moment in its moral, social and political bearings”[2] Buck decided to write on the subject. “So that… [people] may be prepared to act conscientiously and intelligently, and have no occasion to repent of their action when it is too late to undo it.”[3] So, it was “under… these considerations [that Buck] consented to prepare a series of articles.”[4]

Buck says, “God approves of that system of things which, under the circumstances, is best calculated to promote the holiness and happiness of men; and that what God approves is morally right.[5] Buck then talks about the “nature and design of Human Governments.”[6] He says, “In searching the divine record, therefore, we shall find that form of government which, under the circumstances, was best calculated to promote the moral and social happiness of the people, was sanctioned and approved by God.[7]

The first form of government was the patriarchal, which Buck gives a brief analysis of. Next he lays out what he sees as being established through his belief that God has a good purpose for human governments. First, he says, “God has beneficent and gracious designs to be accomplished in behalf of the human family.”[8] Second, God is happy to use human and governmental instruments. Third, it is in accord with God’s infinite wisdom “to promote his beneficent and gracious designs in behalf of our lapsed and degenerate world.”[9] Fourth, a very powerful and enlightened leader is best suited to bring about the good that God intends for humanity.

Read More…

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