Seeking Truth

Conservatives in general, and Christian conservatives in particular, are looking at a couple of events from yesterday and rejoicing. I’m pleased as well, but my pleasure at what transpired isn’t of the ecstatic variety.

Yes, the House finally passed something that would begin to peel back the onerous Obamacare, and yes, I do understand that sometimes you must do things in stages. From what I’ve read, the House bill does reduce funding to Planned Parenthood substantially. What puzzles me is how this works with the recent, atrocious budget bill that doesn’t touch that funding at all.

The mixed message is, well, mixed.

I would like to believe that stage one in the Obamacare repeal and replace will actually be followed by the promised steps two and three. Forgive me, though, if my faith is weak; when it comes to Republican promises, seeing is believing, unfortunately.

Then there was that executive order Trump signed that supposedly protected religious liberty. If you look at it with some degree of scrutiny, it appears to be more symbolic than real.

First, it directs the IRS to be more flexible. Are we really going to trust IRS Director John Koskinen, the protector-in-chief and prevaricator-in-chief from the Obama years, to follow this directive?

There is nothing substantive in this executive order; it is primarily show. It doesn’t do a thing to protect, say, a Christian florist or baker who seeks to stand by his/her conscience. But apparently it’s enough to make Christian conservatives rejoice publicly and declare Trump as our political savior.

I’m not trying to be exclusively negative here. The Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court is a relief. So far, he hasn’t “grown” and morphed into a swing vote, never knowing which direction he will go.

The House healthcare bill is a start toward the proper goal, but it still has to get through a divided Senate. Republicans walk a tightrope there, so nothing has solidified yet.

What about that wall?

Trump is one to make big promises. He loves the adoring crowds who roar with approval at everything he says, so he keeps saying more. Never mind that a lot of what he says is pure hype. Lately, he’s been saying some rather interesting things:

Those quotes certainly put him in the same league with those esteemed presidents, don’t they?

I know many of Trump’s loyalists don’t mind that he backtracks, or that he can be startlingly inconsistent, but it does bother me because principles matter. I’m still concerned that he refuses to release his taxes; all other presidents of late have done so. By refusing, he continues to fuel speculation on how he handles his own finances.

Lest you think that I’m being unbalanced in my criticisms of Trump, let me offer something to help balance it out:

For some reason, the media never cared about all the things Obama didn’t release.

My point today is to caution you not to become unbalanced yourself. Weigh each new law, executive order, and nomination in the scale of honesty and integrity. Don’t make a judgment too precipitously. Make sure you know what is real movement forward and what is not.

Seek out truth above all.

The Left Going Crazy, Trump Being Trump

Watching the cultural/political Left go crazy the past few weeks should be instructive to many Americans. Although there’s nothing really surprising about the “progressive” reaction to Trump’s presidency, their out-of-control rage, whining, and actual destruction of property offers a valuable lesson about the dangers of Totalitarian Leftism.

The University of California Berkeley retains an iconic status in the minds of those on the Left. They believe it is the place where free speech was born in the 1960s. That image is imaginary. Free speech existed long before the presumed free speech movement at Berkeley.

Recently, Berkeley is again in the news as riots have broken out on campus, complete with attacks on local businesses. No one is allowed to have a different idea at Berkeley; genuine free speech is a rarity on many American campuses—all in the name of tolerance.

As a university professor myself, I think I can assign a grade:

Conservative voices are either silenced or harassed in many of our cultural venues. Calm, reasoned debate no longer is the norm; emotions rule all too often:

Stakeholders on the Left are all upset that a woman who fervently believes children need better educational options is now confirmed as the new secretary of education. Apparently, working for school choice (I thought the Left loved “choice”) and donating tons of personal funds toward helping children get the education they need is now a disqualification for being the education secretary. Their reaction has become typical:

And of course there are all the organized and funded protests over a travel executive order that has been characterized undeservedly as a “Muslim ban.” Never mind that it was in accordance with previous legislation and similar to what other presidents have done; rationality and constitutionality are not part of the Left’s thought process anymore.

The real problem with that particular EO was the way Trump handled it and how it was applied to people who should not have been targeted. What Trump should have done is make a short address to the American people about what he was going to do and explain the precise nature of the order ahead of time, thereby short-circuiting some of the hysteria that erupted.

Instead, he just dumped it out there without sufficient explanation. That’s one of Trump’s ongoing problems. He just does things and doesn’t take into account the possible reaction.

He also continues to have a brain-to-mouth issue. In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, when asked about Putin, whom O’Reilly correctly called a killer, Trump came back with the quip that the US has done its share of killing as well.

That came across as Trump proclaiming a moral equivalency between an increasingly totalitarian Russia and the US. Putin finds ways to create suspicious deaths for those who criticize him; when has that been US policy?

Trump continues to harbor admiration for Putin and other strong dictators, and he somehow seems to think that America has been just as bad as other nations in how its citizens have been treated. Tell that to the 7 million Ukrainians starved to death by Stalin. Explain how the persecution and executions of Christians in communist countries compares favorably with how we treat our people.

This moral equivalence argument is fantasy land, and Trump needs to disavow it immediately. It reverses the realistic view that Reagan brought to policy in his day.

Donald Trump remains his own worst enemy. If he wishes to succeed as president, it’s going to take more than bluster and insults toward those who disagree with him. He’s going to have to learn some statesmanship. Will his basic character allow this?

Religious Liberty: A Crystal-Clear Message?

It would be wonderful if President Trump’s executive orders wouldn’t battle one another. As seems to be the case with everything our new president does, we get great news along with not-so-great.

I won’t diminish the great news. The latest in his series of executive orders is a win for religious liberty. Neither do I believe it attempts to write a new law or extend presidential authority beyond proper constitutional limitations. This EO merely establishes what already is ensconced in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Let’s rejoice over the following assertions in the EO (H/T to Erick Erickson’s wording on his Resurgent website):

  • It tells the entire federal government to respect federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions that make clear the free exercise of religion applies to all people, of all faiths, in all places, and at all times—that it is not merely the freedom to worship.
  • It notes that religious organizations include all organizations operated by religious principles, not just houses of worship or charities. And it follows the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in saying that religious exercise “includes all aspects of religious observance and practice,” not just those absolutely required by a faith.
  • It instructs all agencies of the federal government, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” to reasonably accommodate the religion of federal employees, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • It instructs the secretaries of health and human services, labor, and treasury to finally grant relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who weren’t exempted from the Obamacare abortifacient and contraception mandate.
  • It instructs the secretary of health and human services to ensure that all citizens have the ability to purchase health care plans through Obamacare that do not cover abortion or subsidize plans that do.
  • It instructs the secretary of health and human services to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against child-welfare providers, such as foster care and adoption services, based on the organization’s religious beliefs.
  • It adopts the Russell Amendment and instructs all agencies of the federal government to provide protections and exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to all religious organizations that contract with the federal government or receive grants.

That’s a tremendous list of assurances. As I’ve said, I will give credit where it is due, and this deserves our entire approbation.

So then why did Trump, the day before, allow an Obama executive order to stand that prohibits “discrimination” against gays when giving out federal contracts? While that may sound good to many, what it did was discriminate instead against Christian organizations that seek to aid the poor via contracts with the federal government. Those organizations would have to deny their basic beliefs about sexual morality and marriage before they can have an equal place at the table.

How does allowing that Obama dictate to continue mesh with this new EO on religious liberty, in particular that last provision that supposedly protects religious organizations seeking a federal grant?

Of course, my argument is that Christians shouldn’t try to get federal money at all. Let’s not intertwine our faith with government authority. Let’s not become dependent on funding from government to accomplish what God has called us to do.

Yet, it would be nice if the new administration wouldn’t send out conflicting signals. The message needs to be crystal clear. This whole matter of liberty of conscience is kind of a mess right now in our society.

I’ve noted before that Trump doesn’t really grasp the problem most evangelicals have with the LGBT agenda. He has no real issue with that agenda. We need to continue to pray that his understanding of Christian morality will become sharper over time.

Obama & the Constitution . . . Again

Tonight is President Obama’s final State of the Union Address. Finally.

I expect the viewing audience will be comprised of his eager followers and those who are political junkies only. I won’t be one of them. That may surprise some of you who think I live and breathe politics. I don’t. I love the Biblical approach to governing but am just as turned off by politics-as-usual as the majority of our citizens.

I have a deep devotion to the rule of law and the Constitution that established it in our nation. That’s one reason why I have ceased being interested in what our president has to say—he has no such respect for those concepts:

Kind of an Expert

He never tires of reminding us that he taught constitutional law. Unfortunately, teaching constitutional law is no indication that the teacher has any knowledge of how it is supposed to work. Well, perhaps he does know how it’s supposed to work; he just doesn’t like that approach. He’s far more comfortable being a law unto himself:

Shot Constitution

Why bother with that document when one has, as he has stated, a different way of governing?

Assaul Weapon

His latest foray into government-by-executive-only is his attempt to curb the Second Amendment, Constitution notwithstanding:

Ain't Big Enough

He has a different worldview, to say the least:

Kind of Suspicious

Why is he so concerned about guns? Watch his tears and you will be informed that it stems from a deep, abiding love for the safety of children:

Never Mind

Right. And that’s another reason why I won’t be wasting my time this evening watching the State of the Union Address. I will see plenty of excerpts later; meanwhile, I can use my time far more productively.

The Week in Review

For today, how about a quick review of this week’s highlights? Or are they lowlights? You decide.

A Texas federal judge stayed Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. This was a jolt to the president, who has been very consistent throughout his presidency on this issue:

It's Illegal

Will he stand for this affront to his executive authority?

Banning Judicial

Then we had State Department spokesvalleygirl Marie Harf offering her solution for Islamic terrorism—all they need is jobs!

Root Causes

I can see the plea now:

Jobs

This “solution” appeared while President Obama was holding his “Violent Extremism” summit that never once acknowledged something called Islamic violent extremism:

Terrorist

Joe Biden couldn’t keep himself out of the news as he prepares his barrel-ride-over-Niagara Falls presidential campaign. Standing behind the wife of Ash Carter at his swearing-in as the new secretary of defense, Biden, shall we say, took the spotlight off the ceremony:

Joe Biden Awkward

I’m sure this has created a groundswell of support for him among the Democrat electorate:

Awkward

But certainly the most important event of the week—surpassing executive orders, jobs for jihadis, an extremism summit, and the latest Biden embarrassment—has to be this one:

Beagle

That has to warm the heart of every ordinary dog and/or person. There’s hope for us all.

Remember the Constitutional Crisis?

With all the ongoing fallout from Ferguson, some may have forgotten the major constitutional crisis we’re experiencing—a crisis brought on by a president who seeks to do whatever he wishes without congressional approval. It’s also crucial to remember that his recent executive order on illegal immigration was something he said repeatedly he didn’t have the authority to do.

Doesn't Support

He is actively ignoring a central element of the construction of our government:

Porous Borders

Obama’s comments on the Constitution throughout his political career have made it clear he doesn’t really agree with what the Founders established. He’s now trying to correct unilaterally what he considers to be its inherent faults:

Fixed It

The big question that looms before us is not so much what he will do in the future; I think it’s pretty well established that he will continue to ignore legitimate restraints on his authority. The big question centers on the opposition. Will Republicans step up and truly become an effective opposition? Will they take responsibility for moving us back toward constitutionalism or will they instead, out of fear of public perception—manufactured by a media that will do nearly anything to exonerate Obama—shrink into a complacent group eschewing bold action?

Might Blame Us

I’m holding out some hope the cartoonist is wrong.

Obama, meanwhile, goes his merry way, seemingly untouched by dismal approval ratings and the devastating results of the last election.

Still in Office

Sadly, we have to wait until January 2017 to anoint a successor. But if that successor is Hillary Clinton, our national nightmare will not be over.

Obama’s Strange Dichotomy

It’s a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, President Obama is fully engaged, while on the other, he’s about as disengaged as a president can be. What am I talking about? On his watch, government has become more intrusive than ever, yet America has nearly disappeared as a world power. I say that’s strange, but the more I think about it, it actually makes sense in an Obama kind of way.

He believes fervently that government direction and control over people’s lives is “better” for them. Government is wiser and more altruistic, in his view. Consequently, he takes over the entire healthcare system (or at least tries to—the jury is out on that, fortunately) and issues executive orders for things a president has no authority to do. Congress, he claims, is too slow and inactive, so he simply must do all of this on his own. He won’t let a little thing like the Constitution stand in his way. He even dares others to try to stop him:

Sue Me

“I have a pen and a phone,” he warns. “So sue me,” he taunts. Those statements won’t exactly go down as some of the most memorable in American presidential history:

Legacies

For the record, I think FDR’s famous line was rather meaningless, but that’s another entire blog post—I’ll skip my thoughts on that one for now.

So our president seems to want to put all Americans in a stranglehold when it comes to their individual choices and he seeks to amass more power for the executive branch than at any time in the American experience. Yet while he focuses on those goals, the world’s problems don’t seem to engage his attention much at all. America, he believes, has been the big bully in the world and needs to step back now. Mouth the right phrases once in a while—Israel has a right to defend itself—but don’t do anything to interfere with the drift into world chaos. In fact, send your secretary of state over to the hot spots like the Middle East and try to win Israel over to all of Hamas’s demands. This is a serious departure from traditional American foreign policy and a near-desertion of one of our staunchest allies.

What does President Obama do while conflagrations abound all around him? He continues to do what he does best:

Oblivious

And fundraisers—don’t forget fundraisers.

While he lives in his fantasy world of government largesse at home and abandonment of global responsibilities, the rest of us suffer the consequences.