A Line That Should Not Be Crossed

Because I take Scripture seriously and consider it God’s direct Word to me for my life, I cannot ignore what I find in 1 Timothy, chapter 2:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I have to acknowledge, though, that this instruction is not easy for me. It’s not that I don’t want to pray for those in authority; I certainly want a tranquil and quiet life; and I have the same desire mentioned here that all would come to the knowledge of the truth.

What I seem to be lacking, if I may be completely open, is a solid hope that some of those I’m supposed to pray for can be spiritually awakened.

Have you ever felt that way?

What if, I tell myself, the one I’m supposed to pray for is so old and set in his ways—ways that are manifestly and overwhelming self-centered—that it would be a miracle for him to change?

What if the one in authority is so bound by an anti-Christian ideology that his policies aim to undermine Christian faith and practice, and that any change in that ideology is highly unlikely?

Those last two examples, in case you haven’t made the connection, relate to our current and previous president.

Yes, I know what God requires. Sometimes I do pray for them, but not as much as I should. I guess I lack faith that it will do any good.

What a horrible admission.

Yet the requirement remains nevertheless, and I will do my best to obey.

A distinction must be made, however. Sincerely praying for someone in authority who is not grounded in the truth and whose attitudes and actions are often contrary to godliness is not the same as becoming an apologist for that person no matter what he does.

There is a line that should not be crossed, but I’m seeing many of my Christian brothers and sisters crossing that line continually.

Whenever we excuse sin or whenever we torture Scripture to make ungodliness seem acceptable, we fail in our Christian witness to the world.

Whenever we shut our eyes and ears to facts, we align ourselves with dishonesty and falsehoods—and that is never the Christian thing to do.

He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. . . .

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.

Proverbs 18: 13, 17

We need to check our hearts. Do we automatically assume innocence for our “side” in a controversy and immediately ascribe evil motives to others? Do we find it too easy to accept a vast conspiracy as an explanation for charges we don’t want to believe but cannot bring ourselves to investigate honestly whether certain accusations might be true?

God calls us to honesty and integrity. He will settle for nothing less because He is the very essence of honesty and integrity. It’s well past time that we align ourselves with Him.

The Clintons & Character

Shouldn’t one’s history matter? What is it about the history of Bill and Hillary Clinton that would give anyone confidence in their character? I know some people will be upset with me for focusing on that. They will say that policies are what matter, not personal character. Well, I have a lot to say about the policies of both, but I won’t back down on the significance of personal character.

It was during Bill’s presidency that we heard the constant refrain from his backers that private character is not the same as public character, and that we should only look at what happens publicly in assessing someone. I respond that that is not the Christian way. What one is privately will ultimately bleed over into what one is publicly, and we need to be discerning.

We know, for a fact, that Bill Clinton did have sex with Monica Lewinsky, regardless of his protestations at the time. We also know this was not just a rumor fueled by some imagined “right-wing conspiracy,” as Hillary alleged. It was a revelation of the character of her husband. And frankly, I don’t see much difference between the two when it comes to character. Both can stand before cameras and tell blatant lies without blushing:

Honest

Some commentators, listening carefully to Hillary’s statements at her near-disastrous press conference last week, picked up on wording that was eerily familiar:

Is

Sadly, this lack of character may not derail her from getting the Democrat nomination, despite the growing fears from some in her party:

On Cliff

Even those on her side of the political aisle are beginning to say she doesn’t have any better qualification for running for president other than being a woman. We recently chose another “first” as president. How is that working out? A candidate has to have more going for him/her than just identity politics. Might I suggest we take a long hard look at character? For some voters, that would be a “first.”

Sage Advice from C. S. Lewis

God in the DockC. S. Lewis was a professor of literature, not a historian. That doesn’t mean, though, that he didn’t have some sage advice for those in my line of study. For instance, here’s a bit of solid guidance for historians in an essay called “Horrid Red Things,” found in a volume called God in the Dock:

A historian who has based his work on the misreading of a document may afterwards (when his mistake has been exposed) exercise great ingenuity in showing that his account of a certain battle can still be reconciled with what the document records.

But the point is that none of these ingenious explanations would ever have come into existence if he had read his documents correctly at the outset. They are therefore really a waste of labour; it would be manlier of him to admit his mistake and begin all over again.

Although he’s applying that directly to people like me who deal with historical documents, it’s really a principle that applies to everyone in any walk of life. Honesty . . . integrity . . . a willingness to acknowledge when we have been wrong . . . should be the hallmarks of one’s character. Christians, in particular, have an obligation to model these traits.

That’s a deep enough thought for today. If we take it seriously, we transform our relationships.

The Redistributionist President

Barack Obama was in full socialistic, redistributionist mode yesterday. At a speech before an audience at the “progressive” Center for American Progress, he called income inequality a “defining challenge” for the U.S. Memories of his comments to Joe the Plumber flood the mind. First of all, one must ignore the fact that income inequality has only increased on his watch; so if that’s what he calls a defining challenge, he’s obviously failed at meeting it.

For someone like Obama, it is a fundamental tenet that some people just have too much, and it’s the government’s job to take from the wealthy and give to those further down the economic ladder. This recalls comments he made back in 2010, when he argued, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Well, is it his responsibility to determine who has reached that point, if indeed such a point exists? There are some rich people I would like to see making even more money because they use it to promote the Gospel. Should the government step in and stop them? Let’s go back to a basic Scriptural principle—it’s not money that’s evil, but the love of money that leads us astray.

The president’s speech yesterday was full of all the progressive buzzwords and hobby horses: education spending; collective bargaining; minimum wage; Social Security; Medicare; and of course the omnipresent Obamacare. The progressive vision of how to create prosperity for all is for the government to shift the wealth around and get more of the wealth for itself so it can help us spend our way into prosperity. If that sounds a trifle contradictory to you, it only means you can think clearly:

Buck Would Stop Here

And don’t expect this administration to be honest about how its policies are working. We now know they fudged the unemployment numbers right before the 2012 election to make it appear things were rosier than everyone thought they were:

Fabricated Lie

Trust is not the hallmark of this White House. Honesty and transparency are in short supply. Why should we ever believe anything that emanates from that source? And given the progressive ideology that dominates, why would we want to give them even more funds to carry out their income inequality project?

Obama began his term of office with a national debt of $9 trillion; it’s now more than $17 trillion. How’s that spending-our-way-into-prosperity approach working out?

Honesty, Integrity, & Spurious Quotations

Those who read this blog regularly know that I believe America had a strong Biblical basis at its founding. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. Those of us who believe that, though, need to be careful in passing along quotations we have read in secondary sources to back up our belief. Let me give a few examples of spurious quotations we should avoid using.

George Washington was an Episcopalian who had his own family pew at the Pohick church near his Mount Vernon home. He served as a vestryman. I’ve read minutes of the vestry that show he even purchased the communion plates for the church. There are also a number of solid quotes that indicate his faith was genuine. There is one, however, that always comes to the forefront, but has no original source. He is often quoted as saying, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world [other sources say “a nation”] without God and the Bible.” Just the fact that there is a discrepancy in the exact wording should be a tipoff that something is amiss. While this is a wonderful statement, unfortunately, it cannot be traced back to anything Washington either spoke or wrote.

Then there’s this supposed quote from Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionists but by Christians. . . not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” As it turns out, this is actually a statement from the author of an article about Henry, and wrongly attributed to the Virginian of “Give me liberty or give me death” fame.

James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution, allegedly commented, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” This one fooled me for some time as it was just so perfect for the principle of self-government that I teach in class. I even used it in my book about Biblical principles and civil government until I had to face the reality that this statement doesn’t appear anywhere in Madison’s writings. Consequently, I removed the quote when it came time for a second edition.

We need to be honest. When I authored my book on the Clinton impeachment, I said the following in its preface:

My presuppositions are first and foremost Biblical in orientation. The grid through which I see the world—my basic worldview—is grounded upon Biblical principles. These principles form the basis for my values, my decisions, and my analysis of right and wrong. These principles also inform my understanding of the role of civil government, placing me on the conservative side of the political spectrum. . . .

But I am also an academic. The training I receive in academia requires that I follow the evidence wherever it may lead. I must be honest and cannot, in good conscience, misrepresent the facts. Properly understood, there is no dichotomy here. My Christianity and my academic training require the same standard. Academic integrity rests upon moral integrity, which I believe flows from Biblical faith. Consequently, when I undertake any research and writing project, I must be true to that faith.

That is my practice, and that is why I thought it important to shed some light on those false quotations. We undermine our position when we latch on to falsehoods to prove a point.

I have another one I want to highlight tomorrow. This one is actually a genuine quote, but it has been twisted out of context. It involves Thomas Jefferson.

See you back here tomorrow?

Honesty: Another Casualty of This Administration

Politics is not known overall for its forthrightness, but there are different levels of dishonesty. Some administrations have hidden certain facts from the American people for the sake of national security—sometimes bogus, but other times essential. I have no problem with the latter.

Other administrations have practically cornered the market on being disingenuous. While I didn’t expect any real answers from Elena Kagan last week in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, I was more perturbed than usual when she was asked if her legal philosophy was progressive and she responded:

Let’s be honest for a moment, please. Does anyone really believe that answer? Anyone who thinks that was a forthright statement has no grounds for ever being considered a credible analyst. Kagan is a convinced progressive who will do her best to overturn the Constitution even more than it is currently being subverted.

Then there was this big announcement from the president that we are now in the “Summer of Recovery.” Oh, please. This is another in a long line of dishonest pronouncements.

I am enjoined by my faith to respect government. I will do so. I have the utmost respect for the institutions set up by the Constitution. I have the utmost respect for the Constitution itself. I will respect the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the office of the President. That’s not the same, though, as having respect for those who hold those offices. Some people do not deserve respect.

We have an opportunity this November to restore a higher degree of honesty in our government. I would like Independence Day to have more meaning next year.