Third-Party Options?

With respect to my stated conviction that I will not be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I’m repeatedly asked about options. They are few, and yes, I understand that no one on a third-party ticket is going to win the presidency. Yet it’s worth looking briefly at what some consider to be third-party options—a place to go without violating one’s conscience.

Gary JohnsonMost of the third-party attention is focused on the Libertarian Party and its nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Johnson was the Libertarian nominee in 2012 and earned only about 1% of the vote nationally. Some are saying that could change this year due to the overwhelmingly bad poll numbers for Clinton and Trump. Polls that show which one is leading the other must be understood in the context that, for many, that choice is between two equally disliked candidates.

I once flirted with libertarian ideology, mainly because I was drawn to its commitment to the free market and limited government. I attended a libertarian conference two decades ago that gave me greater insight into the ideology. I saw that, even though I could agree with libertarians on economic issues, there were other serious deficiencies in their thought.

Most of the libertarians I have met and have read about since then are so adamantly devoted to their definition of liberty that it is more like licentiousness. On what are normally called the social issues—abortion, sexuality, marriage—most libertarians believe you should just let people do whatever they want. It’s fine with them to allow abortion as a “freedom,” to be openly homosexual, and to endorse same-sex marriage.

Johnson fits into that category of libertarians. He is opposed to abortion restrictions and announced that he will stop smoking pot while running for president. Really.

Johnson is on record as saying Christian bakers should be forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. In an interview on Fox Business Network, he even stated that Jewish bakers should be forced by the government to bake cakes for Nazis.

This is libertarian? It’s certainly not limited government on that issue.

Overall, I think libertarianism is in conflict with basic tenets of the Christian faith and the Libertarian Party is not one that should receive support from Christians. I’m as opposed to it and to its nominee, Johnson, as I am to Clinton and Trump.

Darrell CastleAnother option might be the Constitution Party. It used to be called the National Taxpayers Party. I recall meeting with an official of that party in the 1990s and telling him that the name was too narrow, that it seemed to indicate an interest only in economic matters, while the party itself stood for the Constitution. I encouraged him to push for a name change. I suggested Constitution Party.

Well, a few years later, that’s exactly what it became. Did I do that?

I’ve always been interested in this party and have hoped, over the years, that it might develop more. If you peruse the party platform, you find that it is staunchly pro-life and devoted to the original intent and meaning of the Constitution. The only part of the platform with which I’m not fully in tune is its more isolationist foreign policy that seems to discount even support for Israel.

However, I’m willing to live with the party’s foreign policy because of its overall perspective on government. It doesn’t say we cannot go to war; it simply seeks to follow the Constitution’s precise language that a declaration of war by Congress must come first.

Its nominee, Darrell Castle, is a lawyer and a former Marine who served in Vietnam. Interestingly, he trained under an officer by the name of Oliver North. He has been married to the same woman for 38 years. He and his wife founded a Christian mission to homeless gypsy children in Romania.

The problem with the Constitution Party is that it has never seemed to be able to garner enough support to be on the ballot in all states. I also have been looking to see if it will begin fielding candidates for Congress and state-level offices. Unless I’ve missed something, that isn’t happening. If it were to do so, could it be a possible successor to a Republican party that seems to have lost its way?

If the Constitution Party is on the ballot in Florida, I may very well vote for Castle. If it is not, then what will I do?

I’m not sure if the Florida ballot allows write-ins, but if it does, I will consider that. If neither write-ins nor the Constitution Party are options, I will simply have to decline to vote for anyone for president.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be voting. I will gladly vote for Marco Rubio as senator and for Dennis Ross, my current congressman and a man of integrity.

There is still talk of the rise of a protest party among conservatives. We’ll just have to see if anything comes of that. But whatever transpires, I have to follow my conscience before God.

If Donald Trump wins, the Republican Party may never be what it was, and I may have to cut ties if it becomes even more Democrat-light. If Donald Trump loses, there may be hope that the party has learned a valuable lesson and will regroup with a firmer commitment to its purported principles.

Christians just need to keep praying that God isn’t finished with this nation yet.

Liberty vs. License: Where I Stand

Comments from one reader of yesterday’s blog post leads me to want to explain something further. Yesterday’s post was concerned with the rush to judgment in Ferguson and the possibility that the greatest potential victim in this entire episode is the death of due process. There has been, in my opinion, too much pre-judging taking place. You saw it in the many nights of protest that included looting and rioting. You saw it in the statement of Missouri’s governor when he said a vigorous prosecution had to go forward. You saw it also in the arrival on scene of Eric Holder, who made it clear he empathized with the protesters. I questioned whether the DOJ would really conduct a fair and balanced investigation, based on Holder’s public position on the event.

Yes, I have serious doubts about the storyline being promoted by Michael Brown’s defenders. First, the main eyewitness was Brown’s partner in the manhandling of a store clerk and the robbery of the store just prior to the fatal incident with the policeman. Is this a trustworthy witness? There are also accounts of the policeman who fired those fatal shots being attacked by Brown. Who is telling the truth? All I’m asking for is an approach that gets all the facts first, then makes a judgment as to guilt afterwards.

I was asked by one commenter if I wasn’t concerned about how the police acted, and that this might be an indication of statist control of society. Let me be very clear here. Anyone who has ever read this blog on a regular basis cannot fail to understand that I sound the alarm on statism constantly. I firmly believe in the rule of law. The end-run the Obama administration always tries to make around the Constitution is a genuine threat to liberty.

That word “liberty” requires some explanation as well. Some people have a terrible understanding of what liberty actually comprises. It is not licentiousness. That’s why I can never be a libertarian politically. Ideological libertarians want nearly a non-existent government, not only in the economic and educational spheres (where I have substantial agreement with them), but also in the moral sphere (where I disagree with them vehemently). They replace the God of the Bible, who has ordained civil government for very specific purposes, with the god “Liberty.”

True liberty always includes personal accountability and a framework, in society, for order. Liberty to do whatever one wants is not true liberty, but license. What I saw on the streets of Ferguson, as business owners had to defend their private property from those who wanted to just grab things for themselves, was license. A police force must stand against those actions. The responsibility of the police is to protect the innocent from those who are out to hurt and destroy.

Did the Ferguson police go too far? There is an honest difference of opinion on that. I suspect that some of those business owners wish the police had been more of a presence than they were. Did the police charge the protesters, killing and maiming everyone in their way?  I didn’t see any footage like that, did you? In fact, they seemed rather tentative at times, worried perhaps about the reputation they were getting. That never would have stopped Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Castro. We are hardly on the verge of a police state, at least at the local level.

Now, does that mean I have reached a definite conclusion about the events of that night when Michael Brown died? Regardless of my leanings, which are based on what I have read and seen thus far, I nevertheless would have to continue to suspend any final judgment. If I were a resident of Ferguson, I would have a clear conscience sitting on a jury to decide this matter. I would look carefully at all the evidence and make my final judgment only after reviewing the facts as presented by both sides.

But there are some things that are clear to me:

  • Scripture requires an orderly society based on the rule of law.
  • Government is not a necessary evil, but an institution established by God to restrain evil and maintain order.
  • Rioting and looting are sinful actions that need to be met with the force of the government and put down with a force equal to the sinful actions themselves.
  • Guilt or innocence will be decided in a court of law, not in the media or on the streets by the loudest voices.

This is where I stand, and I make no apologies for my stance.

Constitution Day at SEU: Religious Liberty & Social Justice

On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine men put their signatures on a document intended to chart a course for the future of the fairly new United States of America. Each year, we commemorate that event as we celebrate one of the best set of by-laws ever created by a nation. At Southeastern, we always seek to use that commemoration to help students, faculty, and staff appreciate more fully what these men did, as they labored over the concepts and wording to be presented to the people for ratification.

In past years, we’ve been blessed to have excellent speakers for Constitution Day: John Ashcroft, the former attorney general; Charles Canady, the current chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court and a former congressman who served as one of the House Managers for the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton; and Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College.

Snyder-AndersonThis year, we reached into the Heritage Foundation, one of the premier public policy research arms in the nation, and were pleased to invite to campus Mr. Ryan Anderson, Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society. Anderson is co-author of a book entitled What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. He’s also an expert on religious liberty and the essential nature of a civil society.

Anderson offered two sessions: “Threats to Religious Liberty in America Today” and “A Conservative Understanding of Social Justice.” Personally, I was gratified to see how well attended both sessions were. I had hoped the subject matter would attract great interest, and I was right.

In the first session, Anderson spent some time laying the groundwork for what the Founders did for religious liberty. How can one understand what the current threats are if one doesn’t have a working knowledge of what was intended? America, he showed, set up a polity whereby no one would be persecuted for one’s religious beliefs. That didn’t mean, though, that the Founders were apathetic to religion; instead, they grasped the truth that government should not be the judge of religious truth. That goes beyond the scope of the civil government.

After surveying the attitudes and reasoning of the Founders, Anderson then turned to the various and ever-increasing threats we now face with respect to religious liberty. He cited a flurry of episodes just in the past few months that have seriously curtailed religious liberty in general, but more specifically, the liberty of evangelical Christians to practice their faith publicly. The Obama administration has pushed an agenda to change freedom of religion into freedom of worship, meaning we can do whatever we want within the four walls of our churches but must never allow those beliefs to affect the public sphere. The “rights” of minorities—in particular, homosexuals—trump religious liberty rights, at least in the minds of those at the helm of our federal government at the moment. Those in attendance—an overflow with some sitting on the floor—seemed appropriately impressed with the danger we now face.

Ryan Anderson Session

In his second session on social justice, Anderson contrasted two extreme views of that term—the rigid libertarian vs. the government welfare models—and showed the weaknesses of both. The liberal, progressive welfare state, he said, does not achieve genuine justice; it merely redistributes money and traps people in poverty. On the other hand, a too-doctrinaire libertarianism doesn’t take into account the common good; it simply advocates individual license to do whatever one desires. A truly Biblical and conservative position, he contended, recognizes the essential nature of the free market as the only path to a vibrant economy and the way out of poverty, while simultaneously encouraging those who succeed to actively work on behalf of those who are struggling.

Anderson’s presentations were cogent, articulate, and well-reasoned. Many who attended have told me how valuable they were to the ongoing conversation we need to have on these issues and how much they appreciated what he brought to the discussion. This is what a university should be. We saw it in operation this week.

Now, let’s work to preserve what we can of our Constitution. We dismiss its wisdom at our peril.

True & False Liberty

The latest political firestorm, the revelation of the extent of the NSA’s data-mining to include storage of records of nearly all phone calls placed by American citizens, has led to deep concerns about the liberties supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution, particularly the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. These concerns are showing up regularly in political cartoons such as this one:

Free from Unreasonable Searches

I share that concern. I believe in liberty. However, this controversy has also helped highlight two very different definitions of liberty, one I believe to be true and the other false. My worldview is Biblical, so I want to view everything through that prism. There is a Biblical basis for liberty, properly understood, that is not the same thing as modern libertarianism. In fact, I consider that movement, however right it may be on some points, to be destructive of true Biblical liberty.

Here’s the difference: pure libertarians put the concept of liberty on a pedestal as the highest virtue. They are devoted to the idea that everyone should be able to do whatever they choose without any government telling them what is right or wrong. That is not liberty; it is license, and there’s a big difference. Now, the best libertarians do say that one’s actions can’t bring harm to another; I realize that. Yet what is their standard for determining “harm”? Pure libertarianism doesn’t think there’s a place for government to legislate on matters such as abortion, homosexual behavior, or anything else they deem private morality. Man is free to do as he wishes.

Again, I am a great believer in free will; that’s one of my theological cornerstones. But freedom—liberty, if you will—exists only within a framework of eternal right and wrong, and it is always attached to personal responsibility. Yes, I am “free” to sin, but there will be consequences. My sins, and those of others, don’t affect me alone; they ripple out into society and damage others, even those sins that some think are purely private. What you are in private will eventually show up in public. What you do in the privacy of your home will affect your character adversely over time, and that will be detrimental to society as a whole.

For many libertarians, civil government is no better than a necessary evil. I understand how one may come to that opinion even apart from libertarianism just by watching the actions of an administration such as the one under which we currently suffer. Yet government is not an evil, not if I truly comprehend the Biblical explanation of its source and purpose.

God & GovernmentThe most basic passage in the Bible about government is Romans, chapter 13. If you read it carefully, here is what you learn:

  • God is the one who has established civil government authority.
  • We are supposed to obey legitimate authority.
  • Government is a minister of God for good.
  • Government officials bear the “sword” to bring judgment upon evildoers.
  • We are obliged to pay taxes for the maintenance of that government [sorry about that one].

Implicit in the passage is the opposite: if government doesn’t carry out its God-given authority and becomes an enemy of the good, promoting evil instead, one’s obligation to obey everything it says is modified. Otherwise, we would be making government our god; but government is accountable to the One who established it and set up its boundaries.

Consequently, there is nothing unchristian about criticizing a government that oversteps its legitimate authority and/or advocates evil behavior. When the IRS unfairly singles out conservatives, abridging their freedom of speech, we can resist that and call for remedy. When the DOJ attempts to criminalize journalism, we can demand a redress of this grievance. When the NSA chooses to collect phone records and e-mail communications from the entire population, we can remind them that the innocent are not to be treated as if guilty without due process of law. When an administration covers up a botched operation in Benghazi that led to loss of life, it needs to be called to account for its actions and inactions, and those involved hardly should be promoted.

So, in those instances, from my Biblical foundation, I fully support genuine liberty. But that’s not the same as having a predisposition against all authority and harboring a view that all government is inherently evil. What bothers me most, I think, is the tendency of libertarianism to morph into a kind of semi-anarchy. Yes, the collectivism of Marxist ideology is perverse, but a state of near-anarchy is not the solution. It is an evil in the opposite direction. Further, the unforeseen consequence of throwing off most civil government and societal regulations will be an unwitting return to heavy-handed rule via the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. Neither option is the Biblical way.

Therefore, while we should voice our concerns over violations of civil liberties, let’s avoid the temptation to dismiss all the proper functions of government: protection of its citizens from attacks both foreign and domestic, and the administration of justice by rewarding those who mirror Biblical morality and by meting out punishment to those who undermine that morality through murder, theft, and all other forms of evil.

Civil government comes from God. Now, let’s just make sure it does what God intended.

Salt, Light, & Truth

I’ve spent the past two days writing about the drift of our culture into acceptance of a type of sex God forbade. For many people, this whole issue is simply a matter of “democracy”—let the people decide what they want. When you introduce the moral element, they tell you that’s irrelevant. All that matters is that we are devoted to popular sovereignty. As a historian, I know that term well. The last time it was front and center in the political debate was prior to the Civil War. Popular sovereignty was supposed to solve the quandary of slavery. Let the people of the new territories decide for themselves if they want slavery or not. Stephen Douglas, the Illinois senator who championed this approach, infamously said slavery was not a moral issue.

Well, I can’t help but frame it morally. At its foundation, the push for same-sex marriage is a clear indication of our rebellion against the righteousness of God and His law. It is a perversion—and I use that word advisedly and with forethought—of the gift of sex. Only a people firmly rooted in Biblical truth can prevail against this headwind. Are we no longer that people?

Liberals/progressives, whose outlook is primarily secular, think opposition to homosexuality is foolish. Unfortunately, they are joined in this view by a growing number of those who continue to call themselves Christians. They adopt most of the progressive political agenda and attempt to stamp it with God’s favor. They are doing a disservice to the gospel, and the God, they claim to represent.

Then there are some conservatives who are abandoning the field of battle. Most often, that’s because they are little different than their erstwhile foes at the other end of the political spectrum. How can that be? They are basically secular also; their conservatism is not based on solid Biblical principles. So when the culture shifts, they have no anchor to hold them to their position. They attempt to mix political conservatism with moral relativism. It’s not a good mixture.

One particular strand in the conservative movement is more libertarian than conservative. That group has never been wedded to Biblical morality anyway. They don’t want the government telling anyone what to do in the moral realm. Many of them support the mislabeled pro-choice position on abortion and have no problem at all with homosexuality. Their presence in the conservative coalition waters down its moral foundations.

The only saving grace in modern American conservatism, and in our politics in general, is the part of our populace that brings its Christianity to bear on our culture and government. They are the ones Jesus was referring to when He said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Salt preserves; light shows the way. Those in the church who have succumbed to the spirit of the age are the tasteless salt; they are no good for anything in this struggle. The responsibility therefore falls on those who still understand that truth is truth in all ages, and that it never changes. We need to preserve whatever remains of goodness in this land, and we need to be the ones who shine a light on the right path to take. Are we up to the challenge?

Voting Republican with a Clear Conscience

Now that Mitt Romney is the official Republican nominee for president, it’s time I shared a few thoughts on why I believe I can support him. As many of you know, he was not my first choice. He wasn’t even my second or third. In fact, as the primary season began, I pointed to two people as non-starters for me as the potential Republican nominee: Donald Trump and Romney.

During the primaries, I had flirtations with a couple of the candidates before settling on Rick Santorum as my favorite. My reasons for supporting Santorum were his basic Biblical worldview and his well-reasoned philosophy of governing. When the primaries ended, I had to come to grips with the reality that Romney would be the choice.

His deficiencies remain, as far as I’m concerned. I suspect he’s not a genuine conservative philosophically—that he doesn’t have a settled, principled position—and even though some will not like this, I am not enamored with a Mormon in the White House. I’m one of those who sees Mormonism as a deviation from Christian orthodoxy. However, a number of our presidents have not been Christians, despite their public avowals of faith. What’s worse, a Mormon or an adherent to a radical liberation theology that pictures Jesus as little more than the first Che Guevara? We already have that in our current president.

Yet while Romney is not my ideal candidate, he does represent a political party that is much closer to my ideals. Generally, the Republicans want what I want: basic moral values that emanate from Biblical roots, revealing itself through opposition to abortion and in favor of traditional marriage; the government limited to its proper functions; a free market economy; a national debt brought under control; a strong foreign policy stance that stands by its allies and has no problem recognizing its enemies. This is the vision of the role of government that I wish to see implemented.

Some say the Republicans are no different than the Democrats. I disagree. The platforms for the parties spell out the clear distinctions. Others, more nuanced, insist that Republicans are the lesser of two evils, but since they are evil as well, it would be wrong to vote for them. These are the purists who claim that you can find a political party with no hint of hypocrisy and devoid of evil. I say that’s impossible in this world. Wherever men congregate to make politics, disagreements, envy, egocentrism, and all sorts of evils will arise.

If I turn to the Libertarian party, for instance, what I see is a group with which I can agree on free-market issues but not on the social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Pure libertarianism is not Christian; rather than liberty, it promotes license in some instances. While there may be a minor party out there with which I could align, I want to support a party that has a chance to turn Obama and the Democrats out of power completely. The only party that can accomplish that is the Republicans.

You see, I don’t expect utopia from any governmental leadership. If Republicans take control of both the White House and the Congress, I will be able to find policies they are promoting with which I disagree. But they will not lead us down the same path the Democrats have taken. They will not embark on a national healthcare scheme; they will not push abortion on demand; they will defend genuine marriage; and if they know what’s good for them, they will start digging us out of our fiscal disaster.

Romney’s choice of Ryan as his VP has made my decision more palatable. Ryan, I believe, is the real deal when it comes to realizing we are on the edge of a precipice and must reverse course immediately. I agree with Romney’s first decision—his choice of a running mate. I hope it portends well for future decisions.

Supporting a third party, especially the Libertarians, may draw enough votes away from the Republicans that we will be subjected to another four years of a radical presidency, years from which we may never recover. I’m not violating my conscience by voting Republican; I’m following my conscience. In politics, you rarely get the luxury of voting for someone who is precisely what you want. You have to go with the best you can get with a party that actually has a chance to win.

I compare this to the issue of abortion specifically. Personally, I want all abortions to be declared illegal. No innocent lives should ever be taken. Yet I will support any measure that reduces the number of abortions. There are those who won’t support what they call “halfway” measures; they want all or nothing. They will get nothing. And the abortion rate will continue unchecked.

I vote not to achieve perfection, but to move the political culture closer to the Biblical ideal. Any movement away from what we now have is a movement in the right direction. That’s why I can vote Republican with a clear conscience.

What about Ron Paul?

Today’s topic is the result of a request by a couple of Facebook friends. They want to know my views on Ron Paul. I will be as direct, succinct, and courteous as I can. I have no desire to “bash” anyone on the Republican side, but I will state my disagreements.

First, the positive: Ron Paul is a devoted constitutionalist. That, by itself, deserves praise. He seeks to get back to the Founders’ original intent for the government, and is keen to get rid of all the superfluities that have attached themselves to it over the decades, particularly since the New Deal. When he calls for holding to the authority granted to the federal government by the Constitution and not allowing it to cross that line, I am in complete agreement with him. I may not always agree, though, on where that line is.

Overall, my biggest problem with Paul’s concepts is that he is a thoroughgoing libertarian. Libertarianism—as an “ism”—is not based on Biblical principles. There’s a big difference between Biblical liberty, which is always coupled with responsibility, and unfettered libertarianism as practiced by some. True libertarians rarely see any real need for government beyond punishing one person for hurting another person. They certainly don’t claim that government is a good thing established by God; rather, they view it as a necessary evil. But there’s a difference between the idea of government being evil and those using a God-ordained government for evil. As much as I want limited government, I nevertheless recognize the need for a strong government in those areas where God has granted it authority.

I believe laws can be passed to set a moral standard for society; a true libertarian, like Paul, doesn’t think government has any role in determining a societal standard. However, even the staunchest libertarian has no problem with saying murder is wrong and should be punished by government. Isn’t murder a moral standard? Yes, there is a line where government should not enter [no government should ever pass “hate crime” bills, which punish people for what they think or believe], but it is perfectly permissible to say that homosexual marriage should not  be recognized as legitimate by law. Abortion, the taking of an innocent life, also should be banned.

Libertarians also want the U.S. to rarely get involved in other countries. I agree that we can’t poke our noses into everyone’s business, but there are times when what is happening overseas has a direct impact upon our national security. For instance, going to war against the Taliban was entirely appropriate. They were the engine that drove 9/11.

There’s where Paul veers into strange territory. He is more apt to blame the U.S. for the events of 9/11 than the perpetrators. He’s keen on critiquing our Middle East policy but has trouble seeing fanatical murderers for what they are. Whatever mistakes we might have made in the Middle East, they pale in comparison to the hatred that emanates from radical Islam. Does he really understand that? I don’t think so.

Then there was that odd comment about his opposition to a fence on the Mexican border. He seems to think the gravest danger there is to U.S. citizens who might want to flee their own country, but that fence might keep them in. It’s as if he believes we’re living in a nation in a similar situation to the former East Germany, where the Berlin Wall kept people on the communist side from escaping into free West Berlin. The proposed border fence with Mexico does not in any way resemble the Berlin Wall. The picture of thousands of American seeking refuge in Mexico is more than a little ludicrous.

So, I don’t support a Paul candidacy. I don’t trust that he will defend this nation from all enemies, foreign or domestic. What I fear the most is the possibility of Paul running a third-party candidacy, thereby allowing Barack Obama to win a second term. I’ve heard some Paul supporters say that is preferable to a lukewarm Republican. Again, I disagree. Even a lukewarm Republican will make some correct decisions [and a strong Republican Congress can help there]. Obama will never make a correct decision. For me, there is no comparison.

You asked. I answered. For what it’s worth.