Healthcare & the Constitution

America is counting down the days remaining in the Obama administration. What more damage can he do in the next two weeks? Well, keep in mind he’s been able to accomplish quite a bit during his tenure and he doesn’t show any signs of letting up. Let’s summarize:

The first target for Republicans will be Obamacare. Obama himself continues to act as if it’s doing just fine. The reality is somewhat different:

Democrats in the Congress are trying to rally the troops to defend the centerpiece of Obama’s vision, but their hope may be illusory:

They are going with the old tried-and-true strategy that they have used on every Republican from Ronald Reagan to the present day:

I remember back in the 1980s when Democrats sought to convince the public that Reagan was going to throw old people out on the streets to die. Not that long ago, Paul Ryan was pictured as pushing an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff. Perhaps this time the public will tire of that overused and thoroughly dishonest tactic.

So Republicans have the knives out to remove Obamacare from the public life, but there is not unanimity in the ranks over how to do it, whether anything is worth keeping, or how to replace it.

My solution for this is not a popular one. How about going back to the Constitution and reading it one more time? If we do so, we will see that there is no authority in that document for the federal government to legislate on healthcare whatsoever. Why not allow the market to work and then let states deal legislatively with anything that needs correction?

I understand the politics, all the accusations that Republicans would have to face if they followed my advice, but that would be the constitutional thing to do. Unfortunately, constitutionalism won’t even be considered.

The nation has become so dependent on federal outlays and policy from on high that it will take a massive re-educational effort to change that outlook.

Democrats can always play on that and promise the world, while those few Republicans who do take the Constitution seriously seem to have the more difficult task explaining why the government should be kept out of this.

Even though this last election is being portrayed as a rejection of government interference, far too many people have become, in the insightful words of C. S. Lewis, “willing slaves of the welfare state.” They want what is “theirs” from the government.

And Democrats are always on the lookout for creating more government dependence:

Have we really learned our lesson as a nation? Will principles ever make a comeback?

Don’t Do Stupid Stuff

The new Congress is now seated and ready for business. Already the Republicans have moved forward with repealing Obamacare. They put that provision inside a budget bill that doesn’t allow a filibuster. Maybe they are finally learning how to govern.

The Democrats find themselves in an unusual situation after this past election:

Democrat leadership is at a historic low, and prospects for the future are not the greatest:

With electoral devastation all around him, President Obama seems oblivious to the carnage:

He’s giving indications he will not go away quietly. He plans to live in Washington and speak out whenever he thinks the country needs his “wisdom.” It could make for an interesting next four years:

My concerns about a Trump presidency remain. He has made some good choices for his cabinet, seems poised to approve the repeal-and-replace strategy on Obamacare, and I’m grateful for his solidarity with Israel.

The big question for me will always be his character. One never knows what to expect from him. We could be in for a surreal ride:

Yet haven’t the past eight years been a sort of Twilight Zone as well? If Trump follows through and reverses Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders and actually puts a good person on the Supreme Court to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat, some of my concerns will be lessened.

Now, if only he will see that Vladimir Putin is not really a man to be admired . . .

That’s very good advice. Will he take it?

An Evangelical Scarlet Letter?

Increasingly, there is pressure on those of us who have always identified with the Republican party but who cannot bring ourselves to support Donald Trump to lay aside our objections and come together for the sake of unity. And to stop the ultimate horror: Hillary Clinton.

Many who were quite verbal in their detestation of Trump early on (such as former Texas governor Rick Perry) have done a complete 180, now saying he’s just marvelous. Perry, who had said Trump was “a cancer on conservatism,” “a barking carnival act,” and who called Trumpism “a toxic mix of demogoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican party to perdition,” later said he would love to be Trump’s VP choice.

poll-numbers

Ah, principle! It’s so ennobling.

I can’t go there.

There are so many reasons why I cannot that it has become difficult to encapsulate them in one simple blog post. One of the first impressions I had of Trump when the primary debates began was his simple-mindedness, his elementary-level vocabulary, and his complete lack of knowledge on issues of utmost importance.

forrest-trump

Forrest Gump, though, was likeable and never had an insulting, rude bone in his body. Not so Donald Trump.

tip-top-shape

His constant personal attacks on the other Republican candidates were legion. The ones that stay with me the most, of course, are those on Ted Cruz, who received the full treatment because he was the greatest threat to Trump’s ascendancy.

In case you have suffered from a type of political amnesia brought on by partisanship, let me remind you of a few of those. First, he questioned Cruz’s status as a natural-born citizen, despite the fact that Cruz’s mother was an American citizen and the fact that the law declares anyone born to at least one American citizen is a natural-born citizen as well.

This wasn’t Trump’s first time using this conspiracy theory. He was one of the leading proponents who questioned Obama’s birth. Now, I know many on the conservative side of the political spectrum still want to beat that proverbial dead horse, but it truly is dead.

Even Trump had to admit that a few days ago . . . sort of:

born-in-hawaii

Those in the know realize he was pressured into accepting it publicly by his advisors, but he continues to hint that it was purely a political move. What a surprise.

Did he ever apologize to Cruz for that foray into political manipulation? Right. Donald Trump apologizes for nothing.

He has never apologized for pushing a false story about Cruz having many affairs (never mind The Donald’s own personal life), nor for attacking Heidi Cruz (claiming he will “out” her for some deep, dark secret) and allowing a horrid photo of her to be placed alongside his model wife (third one, if you are counting—maybe more to come), nor for intimating that Cruz’s father was somehow involved with the JFK assassination.

And then he expects Cruz to endorse him?

I could also go into how he has taken positions contrary to traditional conservative policy; conservatives who used to oppose those positions now suddenly find them delightful because their nominee is proposing them.

excellent-shape

Ah, principle. It’s so ennobling.

Wait a minute. Didn’t I already say that?

In my view, those of us who will not vote for Trump are the ones holding more firmly to what the Republican party says it believes.

lost-my-party

Erick Erickson, a staunch voice against Trumpism, wrote an essay the other day that he entitled “Reconsidering My Opposition to Trump.” At first glance, that would lead someone to think he has now capitulated. Not the case.

The essay begins with a serious indictment of Hillary Clinton, ending with the words, “In short, I see the election of Hillary Clinton as the antithesis of all my values and ideas on what fosters sound civil society in this country. Further, she should be in jail.”

Then why not support Trump? While he goes into a lot of detail why even the threat of Hillary will not move him away from being anti-Trump also, these paragraphs get to the heart of it for me:

More importantly, while I think Hillary Clinton will do long term damage to the country, I believe Donald Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority. A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within [emphasis mine].

I see it happening even now. This past Friday I debated the merits of Trump and sat next to a Christian who argued that because God chose sinners, we should choose Trump. She argued that a bunch of other Presidents were terrible, immoral people so we should be okay with Trump. She argued that God chose Abraham, Samson, and David, so we should choose Trump.

I do not recall John F. Kennedy writing books bragging about his affairs. I do not recall Bill Clinton telling a television audience he wanted to have sex with his daughter.

How far a Christian must fall to justify the low morals of one man by tearing down the reputations of others in sometimes exaggerated manners. And I do recall God choosing Abraham, Samson, and David and all of them repenting of their sins. That repentance stands in studied contrast to Donald Trump who has three times said he never had to ask for forgiveness and only recently said his advance of the church, if he is elected, might be the only thing that gets him into Heaven.

My priority is the same as Erickson’s. I want the Christian witness to the world to be consistent. Support for an openly immoral man who sees no need for repentance undermines that witness. By the way, it also doesn’t help Donald Trump. When he sees all those evangelicals lining up on his side and extolling his virtues, how will he ever be brought to repentance? Fervent evangelical support may have the opposite effect and ground him ever more firmly in his sin.

Potential short-term political gain must be subordinated to long-term promotion of the kingdom of God. I’m afraid that Christians who tie themselves too closely to Trump will, figuratively, have to walk around later with a scarlet letter emblazoned on their Christian witness.

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.

Three Revolutions

Three revolutions: American, French, Russian.  A world of difference when you compare them.

The American Revolution, in my view, was not a revolution in the popular understanding of that term, whereas the other two were. In fact, my students know that I famously (infamously?) rename the American Revolution as The American War for Continued Self-Government.

Not very catchy, I know, but more accurate. I point to the fact that this perceived revolution was for the maintenance of the rights and liberties that were already granted. When the British government refused to acknowledge those rights and liberties, the colonists, in self-defense, were forced to take up arms.

The result was a government that certainly had some new and improved features, but it was hardly anything that overturned the basics of representative government that Britain supposedly upheld.

I like a couple of the memes making the rounds after the Brexit vote, as Britain decided to leave the European Union:
Learned Your Lesson

Before It Was Cool

The French Revolution may have been inspired, to some degree, by what happened in America, but the nature of it was altogether different. Whereas Americans fought for self-government, the protection of property, and liberty of conscience with a reliance upon Christian faith, the French divorced themselves from that faith and a bloodbath ensued. What did they achieve? They replaced an insensitive king with Napoleon Bonaparte, an unaccountable dictator.

The Russian Revolution also is known as the Bolshevik Revolution, led by the bloodthirsty tyrant Vladimir Lenin. He, and his successor, Josef Stalin, set up a socialist/communist state that attempted to destroy all religion and constitutional limitations, and became one of the most genocidal nations in the history of man. Stalin alone murdered 30 million of his own citizens.

So, no, I don’t link these three revolutions.

That’s why I love to teach American history and point to what the Founders sought to accomplish. The Fourth of July—the day the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved—should be a time for celebration.

I have to admit, though, that these last two Independence Days have been muted celebrations for me. The Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage occurred just prior to Independence Day 2015 and we have devolved since then.

Religious liberty is under greater attack than ever in our nation’s history. The Democrat party has given itself over completely to an anti-Christian philosophy. The Republican party, which is supposed to be the counterweight politically to the radicalism of the Democrats, has tied its future to a man totally unworthy of the presidential office.

Safe and Sane

Yes, my outlook is somewhat subdued today. The bright side of all this is a reminder that this world is not our final home and that no nation or government is our salvation. Our final home is in the presence of God and He is our hope and our salvation. Let’s keep our priorities straight and He still may have mercy on us.

America, bless God, and then He may have a reason to bless us.

Cyrus Trump?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s near-nomination, some Christian voices are now being heard telling us we should accept and/or rejoice over this development because God has always used leaders who don’t acknowledge Him. The prime example being pushed is Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire during the exile of the Jews in the Old Testament.

CyrusCyrus was prophesied by name by the prophet Isaiah. The account of Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple is found in the book of Ezra.

Trump, we are assured, is the new Cyrus. Even though he doesn’t believe he has to ask God for forgiveness for anything in his life, he will become the strong arm of the Lord as he takes down the false gods of political correctness, routs the denizens of the Washington, DC, swamp, and proclaims liberty once again throughout the land.

I would laugh if I didn’t feel more like crying.

Be careful with analogies. Cyrus was not exactly an elected ruler. The Jews had to deal with whatever whim entered the minds of both Babylonian and Persian kings. It wasn’t as if they said, “Look, there’s a pagan who is at least open to the possibility of allowing us to return to our land; let’s choose him.” Therein lies the difference.

Yes, God may work through evil rulers, accomplishing His purposes without them  even realizing they are carrying out His decree. It’s a whole other matter, though, for a people who have the privilege of choosing their political leaders to make a conscious decision to pick someone whose character and policies are at odds with God’s basic commands and requirements.

When choosing leaders in the church, we are given explicit instructions to focus on character. Just check out Paul’s first letter to Timothy sometime. So when it comes to advocating a political leader, are we to say, “Well, since the government is not a church, the character of the chosen leader doesn’t matter?”

Character always matters.

Suppose, just for a moment, you are responsible for choosing someone in an organization, business, community group, whatever, and you sit down with that person to gain some insight into the type of character he possesses.

Suppose, once more, that in the course of that interview, you discover that the candidate has openly mocked a disabled person by mimicking that person’s disability. Would that commend him to you as the right person for the job?

Again, what if, as you prod further, you find out that this candidate not only goes on Twitter rampages with rude, crude insults toward those he thinks have offended him, but he actually has posted pictures of spouses of those people, making fun of their looks.

Then, to top it off, the interviewee, apparently completely oblivious to his inane rantings, tells you that someone he doesn’t like might have been an accomplice in the assassination of a president?

If you could still want to continue that interview, you might ask about his fidelity to the beliefs and goals of your organization. If the response is “Look, I can be whatever you want me to be,” you might be excused for thinking the candidate isn’t really on board with what you want to accomplish.

Would you really recommend hiring such a person? Yet that’s what we are on the verge of doing in the Republican party right now.

Everyone is now talking about unity, but Trump doesn’t think it’s all that important; he can “win, win, win” without all those people who aren’t bowing down to his lordship:

King Trump

There’s another Biblical figure who didn’t acknowledge God, yet God used him to carry out a purpose. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. His purpose? To destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity.

If Trump resembles any ancient king, I see him more as a Nebuchadnezzar than a Cyrus. I just pray that our exile is shorter than the seventy years the Jews received.

Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.