Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

May Integrity Be Our Guide

Does anyone remember when Republicans thought deficits were a bad thing? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I can recall that the Obama spending was going to ruin the country.

Now, not so much, apparently.

Republicans, under the leadership [?] of Sen. Mitch McConnell, have joined hands with Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Democrats to pass a budget that continues to blow the roof off the deficit.

We’re over $20 trillion and still counting. But don’t worry, both parties are coming to our rescue.

I used to believe that Republicans were sincere about reducing spending. Ah, for those good old days when I could rest assured that there were adults in the Congress.

I don’t wish to overstate, as there are conscience conservatives who stand for principle, but it’s becoming painfully obvious that they are a distinct minority.

And all that talk about defunding Planned Parenthood? Well, talk is, as they say, really, really cheap. Sometimes satire sites get it absolutely right, as the Babylon Bee did the other day. Check it out.

Please know that I take no pleasure in pointing out all the hypocrisy. It’s disheartening, and I do continue to pray for the Christians among our representatives to come forward and stand with integrity. They have a hard job, I know.

Meanwhile, this exhortation seems appropriate:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11:3

Every Secret Will Be Brought to Light

I’ve been letting this whole FBI-Trump Dossier-Russian Collusion episode play out before attempting to comment much on it. It’s always best not to jump into something in the middle while it’s all still a muddle.

I naturally want to trust the FBI in the hope that it is fair and impartial in its investigations. It’s clear now that some agents haven’t lived up to that standard, yet it’s not an indictment of the entire organization, even if some people think it is.

What’s also pretty clear is that the Hillary campaign was behind the infamous Trump Dossier, thinking it would derail Trump in the election. There’s nothing surprising about that since integrity has never been a Clinton trait.

The Mueller investigation into whatever influence Russia had on the election has become a center of controversy as well, with partisanship on both sides seeming to overrule sound judgment. While I have my own concerns about whether this investigation is being conducted with all rectitude, I heartily concur with the aim of bringing everything to light.

One burning issue is whether the president will be called to give testimony. Apparently there is a division among his own lawyers as to whether that would be wise and/or appropriate. At the very least, it could be entertaining.

Politicians and political operatives tend to believe that they can get away with almost anything. Too often that has been the case. But they need to know that there is One who sees everything, no matter how cleverly they try to hide what they are doing. Jesus noted,

For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Mark 4:22

And there is that Day coming when nothing will be hidden ever again:

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14

Justice doesn’t always prevail in our day, but on God’s Judgment Day, He will have the last word.

Faith in God or Faith in Man?

Where does our faith reside as a nation? Simply putting “In God We Trust” on coins doesn’t really mean that we trust in God, does it? The god of America currently might be no more than a benevolent grandfather who isn’t really all that upset with what’s happening and who certainly wouldn’t want to damage anyone’s self-esteem.

However, that’s not the God of Scripture.

In my book on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, I try to deal with the views of both men with respect to America’s spiritual perceptions and with the future of Western Civilization. Reagan and Chambers differed in their predictions for the future. What can we learn from both? Let me share some excerpts from the book:

Whittaker Chambers had no doubts with regard to the evil that resides within man. His affinity for writers and thinkers such as Dostoevsky and Niebuhr, and his own experiences in his dysfunctional upbringing, within the communist underground, at Time, and throughout the duress of the Hiss case, leave little room for debate on that point of doctrine.

Reagan, meanwhile, seemed to hold contradictory views with respect to the nature of man. As he himself noted, he tended to see the good in people. At the same time, he recognized evil in individuals and empires alike; most of his life after Hollywood was spent trying to expose and overthrow what he believed was an evil system.

Chambers helped balance Reagan’s natural tendency to see primarily the good. Witness provided Reagan with a sobering reality. He said that Witness helped him learn the bitter truth “of that great socialist revolution which in the name of liberalism has been inching its icecap over the nation for two decades.”

My book is an examination of the quintessential Reagan optimism balanced by the sometimes bleak pessimism of Chambers. Yet both built their worldview on the same cornerstone of spiritual reality:

Reagan’s optimism was based on his Christian understanding of redemption. He had experienced his own personal redemption, he spoke of Chambers’s redemption from his former life, and he fervently asserted that God was poised to redeem the world from totalitarian communism.

Chambers, from the same basic Christian worldview, could not express that degree of optimism. He believed, as Reagan did, that God redeems individuals, but had a much more pessimistic view of that redemption rippling throughout society. Chambers’s perspective can be likened to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who foretold disaster for ancient Judah because of its apostasy while simultaneously calling the people to repentance.

Reagan and Chambers held to the same faith, the same basics truths about life, yet they differed in their predictions of the future of freedom.

Shortly after Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated. Did this mean that the communist threat was no more? One of Chambers’s closest friends commented as follows:

Ralph de Toledano noted that when the “evil empire” collapsed, people asked him: “Would Whittaker Chambers still believe that he had left the winning side for the losing side?” He replied that Chambers, long before the collapse, had already seen “that the struggle was no longer between Communism and Western civilization, but one in which Western civilization was destroying itself by betraying its heritage.”

In essence, “Communism had triumphed, not in its Marxist tenet but in its concept of man—a concept which the West has accepted.” It goes back to Chambers’s insistence that there are two faiths and the West must make a decision: God or man?

One quote from Chambers’s classic Witness is a fitting ending for today:

God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom. He is the only guarantor. External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom. …

… There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.

Is America still open to Biblical truth? The jury is still out, in my view, but if you were to ask in which direction I lean, I would have to say that Chambers seems closer to the truth right now. We have made ourselves deaf, dumb, and blind to all the warnings God has sent us. Only a genuine reformation of thinking and practice can restore what we have lost.

An Appeal to Evangelicals

This post is not intended as a hit piece on Donald Trump. It’s simply a statement of a few facts and an appeal.

It’s now pretty well established (and I waited on this one) that Trump had a brief affair with a porn star (celebrity name: Stormy Daniels) after marrying Melania and four months after the birth of their son.

It’s also pretty well established—particularly by the abrupt silence of the woman in question after having given interviews earlier—that she was paid $130,000 in hush money.

Some will say, well, that affair was many years ago, so it doesn’t matter. But the hush money was paid during the presidential election campaign of 2016.

That’s not that long ago.

Evangelical leaders are, in effect, giving Trump a “mulligan” on his morality. That’s the term used by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Franklin Graham has come along and commented that Trump has never lied to him, so he believes the denials.

How does he know Trump has never lied to him? How does one confirm that, especially when Trump has shown a great penchant for lying throughout his life? All I have to do is think of things he said during the Republican primaries as he slandered his opponents.

But that’s Trump, right? We knew what we were getting. After all, I’m told repeatedly, we didn’t elect a pastor-in-chief. I agree. We didn’t.

Yet since when have evangelicals not thought it important to weigh in on the character of our elected officials? We thought it was of the utmost importance when Bill Clinton was dragging the Oval Office through the moral slime.

Now, we apparently don’t care.

As long as we get the policies we want, we will either look the other way (the passive approach) or go out of our way to provide excuses and rationalizations (the activist approach).

Lest you misunderstand me—which happens quite often—I am pleased with most of what the Trump administration is doing in public policy. My concern continues to be twofold: the damage being done to the Christian witness as we uncritically support immoral behavior; the damage being done long-term to American conservatism due to the Trump brand.

The pressing need among evangelicals (a term some have now chosen not to use because it has become so watered-down) is to be faithful to our higher calling as disciple-makers. We cannot fulfill that calling if we wink at sin in our society, whether it manifests itself in the media, on the campuses, or in the White House.

We need to be consistent with our message: sin separates from God; only through repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross can anyone be saved. And that applies to everyone.

If we fail to communicate that, we have failed in our primary mission. God is seeking those who will be faithful to that mission.

President Trump: One Year In

Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:8-9

I am not a prophet, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have the same mission as Jeremiah. It got to him at times, which led to the comment above. Jeremiah, all you ever talk about is the down side of things, his contemporaries complained. We’re tired of hearing that.

That’s my lead-in for assessing the first year of a Trump administration. Since most of you know my reservations about this man being in the Oval Office, you might be thinking you don’t want to continue reading this. Yet I hope you will.

Whenever I write about Trump, I know there will be two opposite reactions from those on the polar ends of the political spectrum. There are those who style themselves The Resistance who will not be happy with anything but a Trump impeachment. Unfortunately, the media is filled with Resistance types:

The other end of that spectrum is comprised of those for whom Trump can do no wrong, and even if he does, they readily provide an excuse or simply proclaim they don’t care.

I will never please either of those groups by what I write. However, I continue to try to help those caught in the middle to sort out what is good about the Trump administration and what is not. Those are the ones I’m addressing.

Last year, when Trump was inaugurated, I wrote this:

I will do my best to be an honest commentator as the Trump administration goes forward. I will not dump on Trump as a reflex action (I’m not a Democrat). I will give him credit where it is due.

If he follows through on his promises, I will say so. I truly hope he surprises me in new ways over the next four years, and my fervent prayer is that God will use him (whether or not he acknowledges that’s what’s happening) and those he has chosen to serve with him to help restore our spiritual and moral foundation.

When I do critique his actions, though, I also hope that my readers will realize I am doing so not out of personal pique but as a sober assessment of what he has done.

I have stayed true to that pledge, and as I assess what has transpired in the past year, I can definitely see some high points. Some of my fears have not been realized; I am relieved by a number of accomplishments of this administration.

What do I like?

First, I am heartened by the Trump administration’s support of the pro-life position.

Second, I appreciate that federal judicial appointments seem to be conservative, noting that the Federalist Society apparently is in charge of forwarding names of qualified people to be nominated.

Third, the economy is recovering from Obama-era doldrums, particularly the stock market, which indicates more confidence in the future.

Fourth, I already like the tax cuts passed by Congress; I see the result in my last paycheck.

Fifth, I’m encouraged by some members of the administration who can speak forthrightly. In particular, I’m impressed by Nikki Haley, our ambassador to the United Nations. The next president, anyone?

Those are the positives that stand out to me. I readily and gratefully acknowledge them.

You might have noticed, though, that I am crediting the Trump administration overall more than I am crediting the man at the top. There are good people in the administration that, I’m sure, are more responsible for these successes than the president himself.

Why do I say that? He is erratic. Just follow his tweets, if you can. One day he is in favor of a certain policy, then he reverses himself the next day. He publicly demeans anyone in his administration that he deems out of step with himself, apparently hoping they will resign.

In other words, Trump is still Trump. He’s the same man I couldn’t support in the first place.

Yet we must make do with what we have.

A number of commentators that I believe have integrity have offered assessments at this one-year anniversary. Let me share some of their thoughts. I’ll begin with Princeton professor Robert George, a staunch constitutionalist, who reminds us of this:

Social conservatives should be sober realists about DJT. His support for us, where he has given it (e.g. judges), is transactional. He does not share our principles nor has he lived (or aspired to live) by them. There is real danger of his discrediting them among persuadables.

Be clear-eyed, George counsels. Recognize foundational principles and realize the long-term danger of having none.

Erick Erickson, founder of The Resurgent website, has tried his best to be balanced, yet he remains concerned about those in the middle who will be turned off by Trump’s antics. He also is concerned about Christians tying themselves too closely to the president.

Along the way, conservatives are ceding moral arguments and policy arguments. There will always be partisans on the left who hate anything those on the right do. But they are not who conservatives have to worry about.

Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters. All of these people are not only increasingly alienated by Trump’s behavior but also by his defenders’ constant justifications for it.

At a time of growing hostility to people of faith in the United States and a collapse of morality, the evangelical embrace of Trump hurts their Christian witness and minimizes the number of sympathetic ears to their cause.

I have tried to make the case numerous times that our Christian witness is the most important aspect of our political involvement. We must be careful how closely we align ourselves with someone who may implode. We will lose by association.

Another writer, at Red State’s website, focuses on a similarity between Trump and Obama and offers this warning on the effects of “tribalism”:

There is not much thought that goes into such a worldview except blind allegiance to a person. It’s not as if we haven’t seen the same thing in years past. Barack Obama received undying adulation during his eight years in the White House. He was praised for every move he made, no matter if it was substantive or not.

That’s what idol worship looks like.

Now we’ve seen the same exaltation of Trump, a man whose questionable character and behavior would make his own MAGA disciples think twice about throwing their support his way but only if he was a member of that other political party. Again with the idol worship.

Let me conclude this survey of assessments with what I consider to be poignant words from commentator Susan Wright. For her, as for me, the primary concern is with Christians and our political alliances:

I’ve watched with a deep sorrow for this nation and the direction we’re heading, as over and over, even “Christian” supporters have said: I don’t care.

The fatigue of constantly covering for the man, near-daily pronouncements of, “What he meant to say was…” and a lot of moral relativism have brought us here.

I would suggest that many didn’t care about the numerous reports of sexual misconduct and a litany of provable falsehoods before the election. It’s how he got in.

Before, however, his supporters at least cared enough to make excuses for him. Now, they don’t.

To have large swaths of the nation shrug off the odious behavior of a sitting president does not bode well for our trajectory.

I’ve heard them say, “What about Clinton?” as if a former president of the opposing party’s foul behavior means we should have our own version, just to keep things evened up.

THIS: If you ever complained or showed outrage over Bill Clinton’s adultery and alleged sexual assaults, but you’re giving Trump a pass, you are a partisan and a hypocrite.

I don’t say this to condemn you, but to urge you to think, and hopefully, begin some serious self-inventory.

When we die, our spirits are not taken to Mar-A-Lago.

And yes, I absolutely know what I’m saying is not popular. I do know I’m stepping on some toes. Those might be the very toes that need to be stepped on, however. It’s worth it if it causes even one believer who has defended the indefensible to stop and consider what is right in God’s eyes.

Those are strong words, but I personally add my “amen” to them.

I am well aware that what I’ve written today will not be accepted by some of my brethren on the conservative side (where I also reside philosophically), but I would appeal to them to at least consider these concerns and not just react emotionally. After all, isn’t that one of our main criticisms of those on the liberal side of politics?

Let’s be clear-eyed. Let’s recognize what is good and what is not so good about Trump and his administration. I leave you with another comment I made a year ago, and which still is my heartfelt cry:

What I’m concerned about now is another group that perhaps can be labeled AlwaysTrump. These are people who will defend Trump no matter what, who will find a rationalization for everything he does, regardless of how unconstitutional or offensive his decisions/actions may be.

Here’s my appeal: don’t allow yourselves to be AlwaysTrump; never surrender your reasoning powers and your conscience; stand instead for principle; keep your integrity.

Tax Cuts & the Poor: Reagan & Now

When Ronald Reagan took office back in 1981, he had three goals: a tax cut to stimulate the economy; cutting back on federal spending and regulations; and building up the American military to a state of preparedness after a post-Vietnam demise.

He accomplished all of those except for the cutback on federal spending. Some blamed his military buildup for that, but the bulk of the increased spending was on the domestic side—Democrats who controlled the House wouldn’t allow any sensible reductions.

The tax cuts were supposed to kill people, according to many Democrats. Reagan was excoriated as a tool of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. That was untrue. Look at these figures comparing how households fared in income during Reagan’s terms:

I won’t try to explain the entire chart (examine it at your leisure), but it shows that of those who were the poorest households in 1979, 85.8% of them were in a higher income bracket by 1988. The re-energized economy of the 1980s helped the poor significantly.

Congress recently passed more tax cuts. Dire predictions emanated once more from Democrats—but as in the 1980s, those predictions are proving to be demonstrably false.

History can show us what worked before and what didn’t. So why are some people so immune from learning those lessons? It has to do with their worldview and the false philosophies that they believe as a result.

This has been your history lesson for today. You’re welcome.

Our Own Version of Newspeak

I read George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 way back sometime in my youth. Orwell, a socialist who saw the potential tyranny of socialism (read his Animal Farm for a withering treatment of Soviet-style communism under Stalin), displayed in 1984 just how bad it could get.

One of the words he introduced in the novel was Newspeak. It has now become part of our vocabulary. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term this way:

Propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meaning.

Vagueness and reversal of established terminology, giving new and often perverted meanings to words, has now become an art in our society. Here’s one cartoonist who has noticed how this has come into play lately:

We used to think that global warming meant the temperature is getting warmer. Silly us. Now we know that global warming creates record cold waves.

Tax cuts used to mean that people paid fewer taxes. Wrong again. Somehow, those evil tax cuts are going to make us pay more. Oh, and everyone is going to die very soon because of them.

On university campuses across the nation, free speech is under attack because it’s not really free speech anymore, but speech that oppresses certain classes of people. That cannot be allowed. The First Amendment must be abolished so we can be free indeed.

See how it works? No? Well, join the club.

Pernicious as these developments are in overturning basic logic and even threatening our right to speak our minds in public, there is a moral inversion that is not new. It goes way back, even to the beginning of the human race—and we see it rising in our day as well.

The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explained it this way:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,

Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

Abortion is the fulfillment of reproductive rights, not the murder of an innocent child.

Homosexuality/same-sex marriage is love in action, not a perversion of God’s gift of sex.

The end justifies the means: as long as you come out on top in the end, you are to be praised regardless of how you got there. Righteousness in the means one uses is outmoded and unrealistic. All that matters is winning.

Those are the examples that immediately come to mind, but there are more.

Have we reached our own version of 1984, albeit a few decades later? Are we allowing Newspeak to guide our thinking and short-circuit genuine logic?

Don’t follow the herd. Think as God intended you to think. Take a stand for truth even when that stand is a lonely one. God sees. He honors those who stand.