The Calling & the Perspective

Today is commencement at Southeastern University. I’ve now been here four years, so many of the graduates this year started when I did. As I look back on these four years, they seem very short, in retrospect. They seem particularly short when I place them in context of the fifty-nine years I have now experienced. No, I’m not old—I’m seasoned.

I’ve been teaching at the university level for twenty-one years, yet it always remains fresh. Each semester I teach American history survey classes. One would think it might get boring, but it doesn’t. The mix of students is always different and unique. Those survey classes are also profitable for the kingdom of God. Bringing a Biblical perspective into American history is sorely needed in this day—and the students know so little of the history to begin with. In most cases, it’s not really their fault; they haven’t been taught.

I’ve also had the opportunity to develop some upper-level courses that take the students deeper. This semester I offered a historiography course that started with Biblical principles; we discussed just what it means to be a Christian who also happens to be a historian.

Then there was the course on Whittaker Chambers, a name unknown to most people. Yet his monumental autobiography, Witness, has made a profound impact on key individuals in America, most notably Ronald Reagan.

I firmly believe the Lord has called me to this missionary endeavor—yes, that’s precisely what it is. I’m taking the Gospel message into how we perceive the most basic events in our past, and then analyzing what is currently taking place in our society. Biblical principles form the grid through which we see all of life.

Thank you, God, for this very satisfying life’s work. My aim is to remain faithful to the call.

The Production of Wealth

President Obama to Wall Street this week: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

I always want to approach the topic of wealth from as Biblical a viewpoint as possible. First, I recall a couple of verses in Deuteronomy 8, where we are told, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

From this passage, I extract two concepts: first, no one should be haughty about their wealth—pride is condemned; second, God is the one who set it up so that we are able to produce wealth. There’s no indication that He hates the wealthy—rather, He makes it possible for people to create wealth.

We’re always admonished to use our wealth for God’s purposes, but there is really no limit placed on individuals with respect to how much they can earn. If they keep their hearts right before God, they will use their wealth to help others and grow His kingdom on earth.

It’s rather arbitrary, isn’t it, for Obama to declare that there is a limit to what a person should earn? Who, by the way, is going to determine what that limit might be? Why, the government of course.

Where is that found in the Constitution?

The president earned more than $5 million last year. Did he earn too much? That’s certainly more than I’ll see over quite a number of years. Maybe I should protest the “unfairness” of it all.

Let’s be serious. Obama is not opposed to wealth per se; he just wants to control it and direct it to his friends.

He will criticize others while doing the same himself. I think that’s called hypocrisy.

Then he directs businesses to get the economy moving again, but makes it difficult for them.

Congress is going to need more money to cover all the costs of its programs, so the wealth of the nation needs to be redirected—otherwise known as redistributed—to meet the needs of a voracious central government.

The hypocrisy runs rampant. Then they try to tell us that things really are getting better. In order to come to this conclusion, some redefinition of terms is required.

Have you noticed the similarity between that cartoon and the explanations we’re always given as the economy continues to decline? Well, the rate of decline is not as steep, we’re told.

There is one success story, though, in the midst of the bleakness on the job front.

God gave the ability to produce wealth. I believe He wants individuals to learn how to use it according to His precepts. The wealth belongs to those individuals, not to the government.

Do You Feel Nationally Secure?

I want my understanding of the responsibilities of government to be as Biblically based as possible. Scriptural passages that talk about the role of government seem to concentrate primarily on punishing evildoers and protecting the citizens.

That means we need law enforcement and courts of justice. We also need a military to defend against those who might want to attack us. If we fall down on either of those aspects of protection, we are in danger.

The Soviet Union is no more. We can thank Ronald Reagan and others who worked with him for that. Russia, in its latest incarnation, might become a threat again. It has been particularly unhelpful in our efforts to derail Iran from becoming a nuclear power. A nuclear Iran will attack Israel for sure; it also will be only too happy to sell some of its weapons to terrorists.

We have to be on the alert and vigilant—yet what are we doing? I noted in a previous blog that President Obama has a new nuclear strategy. Many fear it is leading us into dangerous territory by weakening our resolve to defend ourselves.

I’m not comforted by that either. There’s a lack of seriousness that emanates from the Oval Office on the issue of national security.

Iran doesn’t seem particularly impressed by the president’s new approach. What is he going to do if Iran gets nuclear weapons? What will his strategy be at that point? We need to hope it’s not this:

That certainly would fit into his worldview; after all, the rich are the real enemies, right? Oh, and of course certain other people:

Yes, he can be strong when he wants to be.

We need a different worldview in the White House. We won’t get an opportunity for that until 2012. A good start, though, would be a massive overhaul of Congress in 2010. It can be done.

Honoring the Government

Let me clarify something today. I can almost hear some readers of this blog thinking, “He criticizes the president and Congress so much that he can’t really have any respect for the government.”

The opposite is true.

I have the highest regard for the federal government. This comes from a reading of the Constitution, the debates over its ratification, and the character of many of those who helped bring it to pass. I believe the form of government set up by our Constitution is the best the world has seen, yet I also believe that it can work the way it’s supposed to work only if we maintain our Biblical principles.

Congress, in theory, is a wonderful institution. Initially, it allowed direct representation for the people and direct representation for all state governments. This provided balance and set up a federal system. When we changed how senators were elected, state governments lost all representation. That was a blow to the federalism essential for the Congress to function the way it was intended.

Further, as I stated in my last post, when individuals in Congress are allowed to set up their fiefdoms over which they rule imperiously, we have lost the character necessary for it to represent the people.

As for the presidency, the Constitution did not set up an all-powerful executive. It did give the president strong powers in certain areas, such as making him the commander in chief of the armed forces, but the president was not to be a monarch.

George Washington, I believe, had the proper attitude toward the office. He accepted it as a sacred trust, a responsibility thrust upon him by a people who had confidence in his leadership. Given a choice, he never would have taken the job; he would have preferred to stay at home and oversee his farms. Yet his country needed him to set the right precedents for the office.

As I tell my students, what we need today are people who don’t need to be president to have fulfilled lives. Far too many of those who aspire to the office see it as the apex of their existence. Many have been running for it [in their minds, at least] since they were teenagers. How many do so because they have the same attitude Washington had? How many do so because they simply want the authority that the office bestows? The latter are not the ones I want to entrust with that authority.

I know not everyone will agree with me that Abraham Lincoln also possessed Washington’s outlook. Yes, he was a politician who wanted the job. However, a closer look at his motives reveals a strong desire to use that office for good constitutionally. He had dropped out of politics until Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. That act, which opened a new area to slavery, incited Lincoln to reenter the fray.

As president, he bore a heavy burden. Those with Southern sympathies believe he was a tyrant. I must respectfully disagree. Although under tremendous pressure to change the nature of the country forever, he did no such thing. He merely took his job as commander in chief seriously as he tried to bring rebellious states under control. In the process, slavery disappeared. I used to be one of those who disliked Lincoln. Further study changed my mind.

We have had presidents since Lincoln who did their best to keep the nation operating constitutionally. Chief among those were Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. Others had strong impulses for changing the government in a way that would destroy the original intent of the Founders: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have been the most prominent.

Why do I critique the current Congress and President Obama so much? It’s because I have a deep respect for the original intent of this government. It’s because I have a heartfelt desire to see us maintain our Biblical principles and build upon them.

When one sees the foundations of a once-great nation crumbling, one has a responsibility to speak up. To do otherwise would be to share in the blame when it finally is destroyed.

Pushing Toward Disaster

Are you as tired as I am of thinking about this whole healthcare issue? Obama refuses to give up. I would admire someone standing by principles this strongly if only those principles were real principles based on Biblical bases. Unfortunately, his are not.

The nice thing is that every poll says a majority of Americans either reject the Obama approach or have serious concerns about it. Of course, that’s been true for months.

How can he continue to demand something when most people say no? Well, perhaps his view of the American people is a little different.

Yet he presses on. He’s in campaign mode again (as if he’s ever left it). He’s pushing hard, making promises to Democrats who are on the fence (like nominating one’s brother to a judgeship).

He seems to think that his arguments are rock solid, and that there is no alternative. A couple weeks ago, we went through the healthcare pretend-summit. I said before it happened that it was just a show, and that Obama didn’t really care what Republicans had to offer. That viewpoint has been confirmed. Everyone else should just keep quiet now and allow his plans to materialize.

A relevant fact, though, is that a kind of mini-Obamacare has already been tried in Massachusetts. It is currently foundering. Why would we want to emulate it?

The problem: it won’t simply be Obamacare that wrecks on the shore; it will be 1/6 of the nation’s economy.