Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

Defining Social Justice

Good words and phrases sometimes get hijacked. I think “social justice” is one of those. Justice is synonymous with righteousness; the concept comes straight from the heart of God. Justice in social relations, justice in society at large, should be what we all aim for.

What, though, qualifies as justice in a society? Here are my ideas.

image-of-godFirst, social justice should mean we recognize the inherent image of God in each person and treat one another accordingly. It should begin with the most vulnerable and innocent—the pre-born. True social justice will do all that is possible to protect our future generation by abolishing abortion.

Second, social justice will recognize the commonality of mankind as one race. Lately, it has become unacceptable in some circles to say there is only one race: human. Yet, as we’re told in Scripture via the apostle Paul,

He [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.

That should wipe out animosity toward one another based on ethnic differences. We all descended from one human father and mother. God likes variety.

marriageThird, social justice will want to encourage a loving environment in which to raise children. That means support for the one man-one woman arrangement called marriage as established by God. It’s right on its face, but beyond that, studies show that children raised in a stable traditional family will feel more loved and will have a better future.

Single-parent situations, especially for single mothers, engender instability and increase the number of children who will live in poverty. Those children also will be more likely to follow the same pattern in their lives. That’s not social justice.

Fourth, social justice is achieved more often through a vibrant free-market, private-enterprise system that allows people to advance according to their merit, removing stumbling blocks for success that are often placed in their way by the government. If we really want to help people out of poverty, we will support this kind of economic liberty.

churchill-private-enterprise-quote

Think of our racial divisions at the moment and the poverty that is endemic in inner-city neighborhoods. What else do we find there? High abortion rates; 70% of children living in single-parent homes; government “help” that only creates greater dependence and makes people think they have no options in the free-market, private-enterprise system that works all around them.

ferguson-riotsThose factors are then magnified by inflammatory rhetoric that increases bitterness toward those who are successful and disdain for a society that has offered the greatest advantages the world has ever seen.

This is where the Christian faith steps in to point us all in the right direction. Those who are embittered need to understand that sin is sin, no matter how justified one might feel in that bitterness. Repentance from bitterness and racial rage is imperative.

Those who have material success also must understand that the Christian mandate is to reach out to those who are in need and use the prosperity God has granted to help others. It’s that personal connection—showing the love of Christ to those who think God’s love is missing—that leads them to the Truth.

As with the phrase “there is only one race—human,” so the comment “all lives matter” has come under attack. Supposedly, to use that phrase marks one as racist. Yet I see the opposite in Scripture.

I think of the most well-known verse, in which Jesus states,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

There’s also this reminder in 2 Peter, which states that the Lord is patient toward us, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Both of those verses make clear to me that all lives matter to God.

lives-matter

There’s also this in the book of Colossians, in which the apostle Paul writes of a spiritual renewal through Christ “in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

Ethnic distinctions mean nothing to God when it comes to relationship with Him. They should mean nothing to us as well with respect to our relationships with one another.

This passage from the book of Ephesians should be our guide:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

If we do that, social justice will be achieved.

The Adult on the GOP Ticket

Last night’s VP debate was very instructive, or at least it should be if anyone is listening to the lessons offered there. Mike Pence made a great case for himself being the presidential candidate and Tim Kaine did a fantastic impression of Donald Trump with his constant interruptions and overall boorishness.

vp-debate-2016

While thinking about how I would summarize what I saw, I read Erick Erickson’s wrap-up and discovered that he has already hit all the high points of what would be my summary. For instance, he begins by saying,

Mike Pence won the debate. The only people who dispute this are aggressive partisans. He won, in part, by coming across as the reasonable adult in the room with a calm demeanor and in part by pretending Donald Trump did not exist.

Pence had a tough job going in: trying to defend Trump’s outrageousness and lack of character. He did the best he could by ignoring the attacks Kaine made on the top of the ticket. In his pre-political life, Pence was a talk-show host and his comfortable manner in the public eye showed through clearly. In some ways, he reminded me of Ronald Reagan and his ability to communicate both ideas and warmth.

Erickson continued,

Mike Pence showed his command of issues, his ability to deflect criticism, and his likability. He defended conservative values in ways Donald Trump never could. He was an outstanding, articulate spokesman for life issues. He finally denounced a Russia that his running mate praises.

He then offered this interesting solution to the GOP’s problem and a prediction:

If the GOP could reverse the ticket, they should. Trump, no doubt, is going to passively aggressively attack Pence because Pence outclassed Trump in every way.

He ends his commentary with this bit of reality:

The only major hangup for 2016 is that when the pollster calls tomorrow, he is not going to ask about Kaine and Pence. He is going to ask about Clinton and Trump and that is still a proposition Donald Trump cannot win.

Throughout this campaign, many voters have had this reaction:

better-candidates

Well, at least one of the four fits the description of a better candidate. Too bad he’s not running for president.

How’s this for a hope? Pray for a Trump win, to be followed immediately by a Trump impeachment and removal from office, thereby putting Pence in the White House for at least the next four years.

Sounds like a wonderful dream-come-true to me.

Lewis & Socialist Britain: His Critique

c-s-lewis-2C. S. Lewis always claimed not to be interested in politics. To be sure, it was not a primary interest. Yet he often engaged in commentary and/or questions with his American correspondents over the state of American politics and government.

As the 1952 presidential election approached, Lewis turned to Vera Gebbert for her opinion on what was transpiring, asking her if even Americans really understood what was happening on their political scene. He told her about another American correspondent who had sent him eight pages of political analysis “so hot that they nearly burnt my fingers.” That correspondent had concluded that the Democrats should really be known as the “Dumbocrats” and were “a sort of mixture of Hitler, the Russian secret police, and the inmates of the village lunatic asylum.”

One cannot truly evaluate a person’s views of another nation in a vacuum.
Comparisons are necessary. What better way to evaluate Lewis’s views on
America than to look also at his views on the Britain of his day? If he entertained
a low opinion of British government and culture, would we say he was anti-British? Or would he merely be pointing out the problems that needed to be corrected?

When Nathan Comfort Starr sought to bring Lewis to America and Lewis had to decline, he did invite Starr to Britain, but not with a sterling recommendation, referring to Britain as “this luckless country.” In offering the same invitation to Warfield Firor, the image of Britain he used in the letter was “this bleak island,” and he wondered why Firor would even want to visit it. Why the bleak state of affairs?

For Lewis, the blame fell on the Labour government and its socialist policies, which not only ruined the nation economically but was siphoning off its liberties and making Britain a less-than-stellar partner for the United States. As he explained to Firor, the government always seemed to be thinking of ways to take more liberties from the people. “Try not to judge us by our rulers,” he pleaded.

vera-gebbertBy 1954, rationing in Britain finally came to an end, thanks to the new Conservative government. He informed Vera Gebbert he wouldn’t be needing her gifts anymore, but there was a possibility, if she really missed sending him all those items, that she might be able to begin anew, noting that if the Socialists ever regained the majority, she could once again show her kindness “by supplying us, not with little luxuries, but with the necessities of life!”

He continued to sound the warning, such as when Gebbert was thinking of moving permanently to Britain. While they would be glad to welcome her, she needed to know the truth: there would always be the threat of a revival of a government ruled by the Socialists, “which would finish us off completely.”

cover-on-ws-pageLewis also contrasted the blessings Gebbert had in America with the current state of England, saying, “Try living in ‘free’ England for a bit, and you would realize what government interference can mean! And not only interference, but interference in a ‘school marm’ form which is maddening.”

Then he added this quip: “There are times when one feels that a minister or two dangling from a lamp post in Whitehall would be an attraction that would draw a hard worked man up to London!”

So for those who think C. S. Lewis had nothing to say about politics and government, I offer these excerpts from my book as a counterbalance.

Debating My Conservatism

I’m going to begin this blog today with what some might consider an audacious comparison, but I hope you won’t misunderstand. In the current political climate, I find myself feeling kind of like how the apostle Paul must have felt when his apostleship was questioned. He had to provide a list of his bona fides to the Corinthians to show that he was the genuine article.

That is strange to Christians today because we take Paul’s word as authoritative. Yet in his lifetime he had to defend himself from accusations of being inauthentic.

No, I’m not like the apostle Paul in my ministry, neither in my effectiveness nor in the type of direct experiences he had with Christ. So let’s lay aside any thought that I am trying to say that.

However, I, like Paul, practically feel constrained to prove my bona fides now that I am opposed to Donald Trump’s candidacy. To some critics of my position, I appear as a pseudo-conservative, perhaps even a closet supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Perish that thought immediately, please!

I have been a conservative long before many of you took your first breath. From the first vote I ever made (I won’t give the year—it will come across as ancient history to some readers) I have always supported the Republican candidates, not only at the national level, but in all state and local elections as well.

I was defending conservatism in the liberal atmosphere of my master’s and doctoral programs at very liberal institutions.

I wrote a book on the Bill Clinton impeachment that gives the House Managers’ side of the story when I realized that the media had no desire to give them any credibility. My concern over media bias is longstanding.

book-cover-1My academic research has focused on conservatism and how it plays out in society. For evidence, I give you my book published last year on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers.

Further, I teach a course on Chambers and another on Reagan and the development of modern American conservatism. I do that in order to educate students in that history so they can have a degree of balance in their intellectual life, knowing that if they proceed into graduate studies, they need a firm foundation as they tackle the worldview they will be given there.

So I take a back seat to no one with respect to my foundational conservative beliefs.

This is all background for what I want to say about the first presidential debate, and I trust this will be my final comment on that.

While I had little desire to watch this debate, I’m glad I did. It only magnified what I already think and feel about the options offered us this year.

growing-ulcer

Trump’s advocates were hoping he would be such a change agent in this kind of format that he would take Hillary off her game. That didn’t happen, primarily due to his juvenile behavior.

trump-rattles-hillary

What I’m beginning to see now on social media and from pro-Trump commentators is a resort to conspiracy theories as to why he didn’t perform well. Hillary got the debate questions ahead of time. Her people sneaked a folder filled with who-knows-what to Lester Holt. She gave Holt little signals so he would know it’s time to help her out.

What a bunch of baloney (you may use that academic term anytime you need it). Hillary didn’t need any conspiracy to help her; she had Trump.

He lost this round big time. His advisors implicitly admit it. They are openly talking about how they have to change strategy for debate #2. You know, things like “prepare for the debate.”

Don’t succumb to the conspiracies. Face the facts.

champ

What distresses me most about this election cycle is the loss of intellectual integrity and the reactionary mood emanating from what I had hoped was a well-grounded, principled conservatism. Anger, fear, and personal attacks on those who continue to oppose the descent into constitutional nihilism has saddened me.

I’ve been accused of self-righteousness because I won’t board this Trump Train. I’ve been told I’m supporting Hillary simply because I find both candidates abhorrent. Am I really pro-life? Am I even a Christian if I can’t find the wherewithal to be on Trump’s side?

I’ve done my best not to accuse fellow believers who are planning to vote for Trump of not being Christian. Yes, I’ve laid out my reasons for why I think that’s a bad move, based on the Biblical principles I’ve taught for many years. But I do not question their faith nor will I ever castigate them for their vote. It’s not personal. I hope they will continue to be my friends.

After this first debate, what is the mood of the country?

dead-heat

Trump might win, although I think that less likely than a Hillary victory. If he does win, I will pray earnestly that he will turn out better than I thought. Be prepared, though, to be bitterly disappointed.

Trump Being Trump

Post-debate commentary continues unabated. As expected, all those immediate online polls showed a triumphant Trump. Never mind that they are all manufactured by the trolls who planned to overwhelm them regardless of how their candidate actually fared during the debate.

Trump likes to tout those polls as genuine. Does he recall (well, I’m probably asking too much of him there) how Ron Paul always “won” those online polls after primary debates? If he doesn’t recall, perhaps he can ask President Paul about them.

More sober and realistic analysis reveals a rather widespread opinion that Trump fell apart during the last half of the debate; the perception is that he stumbled badly. For me, that was just Trump being Trump.

If you are a Trump supporter and depend upon Sean Hannity for analysis, you will be comforted that Trump accomplished his mission Monday night. The downside, of course, is that you will be residing in Trump/Hannity World where reality is somewhat skewed.

There are a number of comic strips I follow daily. One of them, Non Sequitur, can be annoyingly progressive at times, but can also occasionally zero in on the follies of our present age. Today’s strip achieves the latter:

a-revelation

Maybe you’ve heard the old cliché that in America anyone can grow up to be president. Sadly, we’ve now reached that point.

And as Forrest Gump so eloquently remarked, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Debate Debacle

I did it. I forced myself to watch the debate last night. Well, I’m not sure debate is the proper term for what I witnessed, but I’ll go with the conventional term for now.

clinton-trump-debate-1

I will now begin my exercise in futility by offering my take on what happened. Why call it an exercise in futility? Because probably no one’s mind will be changed by what I say today. Minds were made up prior to the debate. No matter what, Hillary supporters will say she won and Trump supporters will say he emerged the victor.

Yet here I go anyway.

What I saw at the beginning of the debate was two calm candidates, both trying to impress upon the vast audience that they can be trusted to lead the Free World. Throughout the debate, the usual lies reared their ugly heads: Hillary with her e-mails, Trump with his business dealings and his birtherism, just to name a few.

truth-fairy

Hillary’s demeanor was smug most of the time, and she really pandered to her base with her comments about how the justice system is replete with systemic racism and police need to be retrained. Her statements about the administration’s wonderful deal with Iran were cringe-worthy.

But at least she kept her cool and didn’t have a physical breakdown from whatever ailments she suffers.

Trump was in familiar territory at the beginning when talking about the economy and jobs. For the first 15-20 minutes, he seemed to be in control and looked as presidential as it is possible for him to look.

Then Hillary attacked his business ethics. The game changed.

She apparently learned that the one way to get his goat is to attack the Trump Brand. He never lets that go, but will defend himself endlessly. And “endlessly” is how I can best describe his ramblings for the rest of the evening.

He started to constantly interrupt (his trademark tactic during all the primary debates), he became irritated, pretty much lost his cool, and practically came off the rails by the time the debacle was over.

Some of you will think I’m just projecting my dislike for Trump into my perception of how he handled himself, but honestly, how can anyone have watched the last 45 minutes or so and not seen him disintegrate before your eyes? It takes blinders of magnificent proportions not to admit that he melted down publicly.

And then, after all his incoherent ramblings, he had the lack of self-awareness to pontificate on how he had the “best” temperament. It was like watching a comedy routine.

All Hillary had to do for the final 20 minutes was stand there and let him demonstrate his incoherence. You could see the smile on her face and practically feel her relaxing. He was doing her job for her.

Please, listen objectively to this man. He never really answered the questions put to him but just repeated incessantly that things are awful and we need to do better. How? Where are the specifics? And when it came to foreign policy, he was in uncharted territory, showing the world that he didn’t even bother to prepare for this debate.

The birtherism issue was the most painful to watch. I won’t go into the details, but I dare you to make sense of what he said on that topic.

And please, don’t try to blame it all on the moderator. That’s a cop-out.

David French commented that after the first 15 or 20 minutes, it was like the SS Trump hit the iceberg, then backed up and hit it again just for fun.

French also said that if we hadn’t just lived through the first nine months of 2016, he would have to say that Trump was toast after this performance. What did he mean? Only that Trump should have been toast long ago, but this year we have entered into some kind of alternate reality in which somehow it doesn’t matter anymore that a presidential candidate is bonkers.

What bothers me the most is that people that I normally would trust to be intelligent will look at what happened last night and come away saying that Trump did fine. That is depressing.

So we have, on the one side, a failed secretary of state who put the nation’s security at risk with her e-mail server and who will continue the disaster of the Obama years if she is put in charge—and on the other side a clueless, self-absorbed pathological liar who will take us on his own unique downward path.

other-debate

If sanity were to prevail, neither of these people would be allowed to ever enter the White House, even as visitors.

The Cruz Reversal

ted-cruzSo now Ted Cruz has said he will vote for Donald Trump. He didn’t go so far as to say, when asked pointedly, that Trump is fit to be president; in fact, he deflected that specific question and went in a different direction in his answer. In his heart, I think he still knows Trump is unqualified for the office.

I had hoped the day wouldn’t come when Cruz would bow the knee to a con man. I remember all so clearly Cruz’s comments on May 3, the day Trump secured the nomination and the Republican party threw away its heritage.

On that day, after Trump incredibly floated the absurd idea that Cruz’s father was somehow implicated in the JFK assassination, Cruz said this (and I will quote at length):

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And, in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying. . . .

The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level – I don’t think this country’s ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, “Dude, what’s your problem?” Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. . . .

I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he’d pass the lie detector test each time. Whatever lie he’s telling at that minute, he believes it. . . .

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. . . .

donald-trump-3Donald is a bully. . . . Bullies don’t come from strength, bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There is a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes. . . .

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not gonna build a wall – that’s what he told the New York Times, he will betray you on every issue across the board.

I couldn’t agree more with Cruz’s words on that day. So what has changed?

Cruz says he has forgiven Trump for the insults and innuendoes about his wife and father. As a Christian, I certainly appreciate that Cruz has chosen not to allow bitterness to dominate. However, it is instructive to note that Trump has never acknowledged doing anything wrong, has not even uttered one word of regret for his lies, and acts as if Cruz owes him an endorsement, despite Trump’s despicable actions.

Trump now heaps praise on Cruz for having been a formidable challenger. In his mind, are they now best buddies? Hardly. If Cruz were to say something critical tomorrow, Trump would respond with his typical “loser” designation and say that he will find someone to run against Cruz in his next Senate race.

So why did Cruz make this endorsement? Theories abound. He himself says it’s because Hillary must be stopped and this is a binary election. In other words, the same old tired reasons given by every Republican who has capitulated to the Trump nomination. At least he’s not Hillary.

Never mind the future of the Republican brand; it has now morphed into the Trump brand.

So, I ask: Has Cruz really changed his mind about Trump’s acceptability as the nominee? Or did he not really mean the things he said back in May? Or is he more concerned about his own political future?

From what I’ve read from more than one source, Texas Republicans have been putting on the pressure and major donors have threatened not to support Cruz in his Senate reelection bid.

If that’s the real reason, I am simply sad because it will mean that another man has succumbed to the desire to maintain political office at the expense of principle.

Cruz has undermined his biggest supporters with this Trump endorsement. When he talks about principle and constitutionalism from now on, many will take it with that proverbial grain of salt.

I won’t judge Cruz too harshly at this point. One bad decision does not override everything good a man has done. But neither will I immediately respond to a call to arms for a 2020 presidential bid. He will have to earn my support all over again.